How should our churches handle gay couples and "married" gay couples?

If not professing salvation, welcome them. Otherwise unwelcome them.
40% (4 votes)
If not professing salvation, aggressively include them in church life.
0% (0 votes)
If professing salvation, exclude them until they want help to correct their lifestyles
30% (3 votes)
Unwelcome them in general so they do not present a poor role model to families
0% (0 votes)
If saved and not repentant, encourage church attendance but not deep participation
20% (2 votes)
Other (try to approximate to avoid this choice if possible)
10% (1 vote)
Total votes: 10
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There are 33 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

With President Obama going public about his endorsement of gay marriage, it seems as though this issue is going to escalate and that gay marriage will eventually become common place. Gay couples are already common place. The Andy Stanley fiasco is an example of trying to reach gays and the pitfalls that can carry.

This is a big, uncomfortable issue. How does the fundamental church interface with gay couples who visit or are interested in attending our churches? How do we strike the balance between wanting to be an influence for Jesus Christ, avoid accepting a lifestyle that is fundamentally anti-scriptural, and creating a family-friendly congregation?

This carries with it the tension between wanting to be a loving church that reaches the unlovely and wanting to be a pure church. Tough stuff, this. I suppose I am starting this post so you can think for me. Please do so!

"The Midrash Detective"

Jim's picture

Challenge and teach them in private.

Unrepentant gays should not be permitted to unite with the church.

The day an unrepentant gay is permitted to join my church is the day I will withdraw my membership

Jim's picture

Abstaining gays (individuals with same sex affinity) should be accepted into the church if they accept the Biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage (presumes they are professing believers with a walk consistent w their profession)

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim,

In the words of Richard Nixon, "Let me make things perfectly clear!"

I am a typical baby boomer and not too much into membership (I believe in it for accountability reasons).

I am talking about ATTENDANCE and participation in church events that do not require membership.

Hopefully no one on SI would argue that we should allow non-repentant gay couples to join our churches.

"The Midrash Detective"

Teri Ploski's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jim,

In the words of Richard Nixon, "Let me make things perfectly clear!"

I am a typical baby boomer and not too much into membership (I believe in it for accountability reasons).

I am talking about ATTENDANCE and participation in church events that do not require membership.

Hopefully no one on SI would argue that we should allow non-repentant gay couples to join our churches.

Do you allow any unbelievers to attend and participate in events that do not require membership? Why should gays - professing believers or not - be any different? Membership, and the rights, responsibility and implications that come with it, is totally different.

Jay's picture

#4 doesn't make a lot of sense either. We're supposed to be salt and light to the world, and excluding a group of people from church just because of their sin would seem to be contrary to scripture. We wouldn't exclude a cohabiting unsaved heterosexual couple from church, right? So why would we exclude a cohabiting unsaved homosexual couple?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I think we treat them just like any other lost visitors. First, we are instructed to treat those in unrepentant sin as lost (leaving their eternal state in God's hands). Second, we teach as normal. As long as they are not disruptive, they come and learn. As Jim mentioned, it would be the same as with an unmarried, cohabitating pair of college students who visit the church.

Always important to remember that church is primarily for the saved, not the lost.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rev Karl's picture

Teri Ploski wrote:
Do you allow any unbelievers to attend and participate in events that do not require membership? Why should gays - professing believers or not - be any different? Membership, and the rights, responsibility and implications that come with it, is totally different.

What does a church do when a couple living in sin (whatever the sin)

  • continues to attend,
  • continues to participate in the activities of the church (Sunday activities, Wednesday activities, social activities, for years),
  • professes salvation and follows the Lord in believers' baptism...
  • but does not stop living in sin?

(I do not want to get into a deep theological discussion about if they are truly saved if they continue to live in sin. If we take them at their word, and they say they have become believers, but continue in sin, but are not members, waddya do?)

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
professes salvation and follows the Lord in believers' baptism...
but does not stop living in sin?
If they have professed faith and been baptized, they should be members, and thus subjects for church discipline. This is one reason a NT ecclesiology on baptism is important. The idea that someone can "receive the word and be baptized" without being "added" is faulty ecclesiology, it seems to me. Baptism is the public confession that you are in the body of Christ and therefore eligible to be put out of the body of Christ for not living like the body of Christ.

Think about how tangled this might become: You have a same-sex couple officially married by the state, complete with all marital rights, who also have children. They come to your church and get saved. What do you advise them to do?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Larry wrote:
Think about how tangled this might become: You have a same-sex couple officially married by the state, complete with all marital rights, who also have children. They come to your church and get saved. What do you advise them to do?

This is my motivation to ask these questions. I think we have a lot to prepare for and hash out (if we have not already done so). I haven't yet. One concern is sort of related to that article about the downside of Family Integrated Sunday Schools. An extension of that is namely that church should be a place for children to see examples (I do not embrace that idea per se, except in the sense that elders and leaders should be examples). This stuff gets real thick, depending on the nature of your church.

If your church is into reaching the lost big time, I think you may take one perspective. If your church is more family-unit keep ourselves pure oriented, I think it may take a different approach. So please keep chiming in from your various perspectives.

I think this is an important thread, and we need to hear as many viewpoints as possible.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Larry wrote:
Think about how tangled this might become: You have a same-sex couple officially married by the state, complete with all marital rights, who also have children. They come to your church and get saved. What do you advise them to do?

This is my motivation to ask these questions. I think we have a lot to prepare for and hash out (if we have not already done so). I haven't yet. One concern is sort of related to that article about the downside of Family Integrated Church. An extension of that is namely that church should be a place for children to see examples (I do not embrace that idea per se, except in the sense that elders and leaders should be examples). This stuff gets real thick, depending on the nature of your church.

If your church is into reaching the lost big time, I think you may take one perspective. If your church is more family-unit keep ourselves pure oriented, I think it may take a different approach. So please keep chiming in from your various perspectives.

I think this is an important thread, and we need to hear as many viewpoints as possible.

"The Midrash Detective"

Rev Karl's picture

Larry wrote:
If they have professed faith and been baptized, they should be members,... [SNIP ]

In the case I witnessed, the couple (In this case, male/female, cohabitating, unmarried) was baptised, and they were told they could follow the Lord in Belivers' Baptism, but they could not become members of the local church. Yes, they are members of the universal church, but they did not fill out a membership request form for the local church in which they were baptised.

I have to apologize. I know that the OP of this thread refers specifically to responding Biblically to homosexuality. I am not trying to hijack the thread. However, I believe that the principles of dealing with sin apply to both situations. I appreciate the input to edify and strengthen me, if no-one else.

However, here is where the two issues separate. You can talk about fornication or adultery, and those people will blush slightly, perhaps drop their heads in shame, and then go on ignoring you. However, if we should DARE to even read a verse of Scripture which condemns homosexuality, the accusations of "hate speech" rain down upon us. How do we speak the truth in love without drawing unto ourselves accusations of hate? Or is that even possible in our society today?

Robb C's picture

Larry ][quote wrote:
Think about how tangled this might become: You have a same-sex couple officially married by the state, complete with all marital rights, who also have children. They come to your church and get saved. What do you advise them to do?

This is a very good question. One that is difficult to answer. My first reaction is that they should in some way end the homosexual relationship and stay closely involved with their children. The marriage is not recognized by God so I don't think that it would be a divorce. It would be a very hard thing to do for them, but didn't we all have sin that we had to get rid of when we became Christians and then had to deal with the consequences the best we could. But I am open to other opinions. I don't see a good solution but I would hope alot of prayer and council would be involved.

I bet our churches should also get ready for the person or organization that is intereested in destroying the church and will force the issue by demanding churches marry gay couples or demanding membership. What is our plan for that? :~

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~ Eph. 5:15-17

Jay's picture

Rev Karl wrote:
Larry wrote:
If they have professed faith and been baptized, they should be members,... [SNIP ]

In the case I witnessed, the couple (In this case, male/female, cohabitating, unmarried) was baptised, and they were told they could follow the Lord in Belivers' Baptism, but they could not become members of the local church. Yes, they are members of the universal church, but they did not fill out a membership request form for the local church in which they were baptised.

I have to apologize. I know that the OP of this thread refers specifically to responding Biblically to homosexuality. I am not trying to hijack the thread. However, I believe that the principles of dealing with sin apply to both situations. I appreciate the input to edify and strengthen me, if no-one else.

However, here is where the two issues separate. You can talk about fornication or adultery, and those people will blush slightly, perhaps drop their heads in shame, and then go on ignoring you. However, if we should DARE to even read a verse of Scripture which condemns homosexuality, the accusations of "hate speech" rain down upon us. How do we speak the truth in love without drawing unto ourselves accusations of hate? Or is that even possible in our society today?


Hey Rev. Karl -

No, I see it the exact same way that you do - we treat both cases equally, since both cases are clearly sin in God's eyes.

I'm not sure why the couple that you referenced was allowed to be baptized if they were cohabiting and both claimed to be saved; baptism is a public witness to the fact that a person wants to follow Jesus. You can't follow Jesus if you love your sin too much to give it up. For that couple, they'd need to either separate and then get baptized or just go down to the judge and get married, then get baptized. You can't come to Jesus and say you follow him, but only to the point that you want to. It's all or nothing.

As for hate speech - well, that's a lost battle already. We have to be faithful unto death to what the Bible teaches, and disregard the accusations of hate speech.

@ Robb - you're right; a judge in my church was forced to perform the first same sex adoption in NYS against his wishes; he knows for a fact that he was chosen by the 'couple' on purpose. I'm sure someone will approach my church about performing a gay wedding at some point, so we've already prepared for that by inserting verbiage about marriage being only for man and woman into our constitution. Wink

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
In the case I witnessed, the couple (In this case, male/female, cohabitating, unmarried) was baptised, and they were told they could follow the Lord in Belivers' Baptism, but they could not become members of the local church.
IMO, that's faulty ecclesiology.

Quote:
Yes, they are members of the universal church
Really? I am not sure I would grant that.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
My earlier posts addressed church MEMBERSHIP.

I'm not sure how you can keep non-members from the so-called life of the church: attending SS, worship, fellowship times, Et cetera

I am not suggesting that we do, but I have asked people not to return a couple of times in my many years -- but not for those reasons.

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The question is rather vague. That is to say, who knows the two homosexuals are just that, homosexuals, the Pastor(s), Elders(s), Deacon(s) a few members, or many members and so on. As well, if only one person knows or a few and the homosexuals do not display their perversion then it is likely they can be permitted to be present.

But as well, one might need to ask (I have Pastors and Elders in mind), if indeed these leaders know that the two men are just that, homosexuals, what are their intentions so as to be clear. There are many factors which would determine how homosexuals are received.

What must always be of greatest consideration to the leaders is the welfare of the flock. A person who may view their perversion as normal or acceptable must be given limited access, if any at times, to a congregation when they are gathered together. Now what contact occurs outside of meetings where the authority of the local assembly is removed and it is in another context, well that is that church member's business as to what influence he or she does and does not allow.

Rev Karl's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
In the case I witnessed, the couple (In this case, male/female, cohabitating, unmarried) was baptised, and they were told they could follow the Lord in Belivers' Baptism, but they could not become members of the local church.
IMO, that's faulty ecclesiology.

Quote:
Yes, they are members of the universal church
Really? I am not sure I would grant that.

OK, you went exactly where I did not want to go. So let me rephrase.

What does a church do when a couple living in sin (whatever the sin)

continues to attend,
continues to participate in the activities of the church (Sunday activities, Wednesday activities, social activities, for years),
but does not stop living in sin?

Jay's picture

You continually confront them about their sin - not for the sake of bullying, but because sin is not supposed to be tolerated in the lives of believers.

Matthew 18:15-20 is applicable if the sin is ongoing and flagrant.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Rev Karl's picture

Jay wrote:
You continually confront them about their sin - not for the sake of bullying, but because sin is not supposed to be tolerated in the lives of believers.

Matthew 18:15-20 is applicable if the sin is ongoing and flagrant.

So you apply church discipline to individuals who are not on the membership roll of the local church they are attending?

The church invites non-members to attend all the time. And, in this case, these visitors have made no committment to abide by the local church constitution and bylaws. How do you apply church discipline to someone who has not agreed to abide by your rules?

(I am not saying your are wrong, and I am not arguing with you. Just looking for practical advice in application.)

ChrisC's picture

karl, i think you're confusing the modern use of 'member' as people on an official membership roll with the new testament use that seems to be much looser and may not have had any official roll at all. i don't think jay is talking about one-time or occasional attenders, but lots of churches have people who meet any normal new-testament definition of member even if they aren't on an official roll.

besides, i don't think matt 18 is meaning to kick the offender out of the church. the offender has refused to respond as a brother, so he is to be invited again to genuinely join the brotherhood.

Rev Karl's picture

ChrisC wrote:
karl, i think you're confusing the modern use of 'member' as people on an official membership roll with the new testament use that seems to be much looser and may not have had any official roll at all. i don't think jay is talking about one-time or occasional attenders, but lots of churches have people who meet any normal new-testament definition of member even if they aren't on an official roll.

besides, i don't think matt 18 is meaning to kick the offender out of the church. the offender has refused to respond as a brother, so he is to be invited again to genuinely join the brotherhood.

I'm not confused. (Thank you for your gentle approach! Lol

I believe the OP probably refers to one-time or occasional attenders.

I took the thread one step further (I hope I did not stray improperly from the OP), and made the reference to people who meet any normal new-testament definition of member even if they aren't on an official roll.

Those who visit the church without "church experience" usually have the corporate model in mind, and do not have a good understanding of the New Testament use [of the term "church" ] that seems to be much looser and may not have had any official roll at all.

In our congregation, we have several regular attenders (let's call them "Friends of the Church") who have chosen not to be listed on the church membership roll. To our knowledge, they are living in obedience to the Scriptures and honoring Christ with their lives.

However, in the past, we have had those who attended regularly, but continued to live a life that was quite obviously outside of the teachings of Scripture.

My question is, where do you draw the line? Where is the balance? At what point does a faithful congregation change the focus from welcoming sinners to come hear the gospel, to protecting the purity of the ministry and the Testimony of Christ? How does the congregation make the teachings of Scripture clear and understood without drawing unto itself unwarranted accusations of hate speech and lack of Godly love? (Or is that possible anymore?)

ChrisC's picture

Rev Karl wrote:
My question is, where do you draw the line? Where is the balance? At what point does a faithful congregation change the focus from welcoming sinners to come hear the gospel, to protecting the purity of the ministry and the Testimony of Christ?
i'm having a hard time imagining a scenario where you have enough interaction with someone who only attends a few times a year to determine a serious enough fault that would result in a matt 18 solution. but at some point as you go up the spectrum to weekly attender, you could have enough interaction to discover some fault. and at that junction is where some stages of matt 18 could begin. and depending on the nature of the fault, it might never be something that could threaten the rest of the ministry or you could have someone who is trying to convince everyone that Jesus is only the son of God and not an equal part of the trinity. and at every incident, our responses should not only be about the truth, but also love, grace and the other fruit of the Spirit (jas 3:17).

Rev Karl's picture

OK, let's see if we can make the line less fuzzy.

Case 1 - A long term situation: A member of the church (Saved as an adult, did not grow up in the church, did not raise children in the church or in the Word) has an adult son/daughter cohabitating outside of marriage. He invites the adult child and significant other to come to church, hoping and praying that sitting under the sound of the Word, among God's people, will encourage repentance. The couple continues coming to church with the extended family on a regular, weekly basis, for over a year. The couple is encouraged to make things right, but continues to live outside of the teachings of Scripture. How should that be handled?

Case 2 - a Once and Occational situation: Our churches are under attack. There are leaders who have vocally, publicly stood for the principles of God and Morality, who have been forced to publicly confront homosexuality. (I think of a NY judge, mentioned by Pastor Roof, who was chosen by a homosexual couple to be forced to perform a same-sex wedding under compliance with recent NY law. The judge was targeted specifically because of his public stand against homosexuality.)

There will come a time when homosexuals will flagrantly walk in to our churches with the sole purpose of provoking a reaction, and trying to make the body of Christ look bad. How should that be handled?

ChrisC's picture

case 1: i was first going to split this into two sub-cases of whether or not the couple was claiming to be believers or not, but the more i thought about it, the more i realized that it didn't matter. either they claim to be believers but refuse to act like it or they don't claim to be believers and are acting like unbelievers. in either case, they should be welcomed in church like any other unbelieving attender.

case 2: not real sure i see this as a case of churches under attack. judges have a responsibility to uphold the law whether or not they agree with that law. a judge who can not uphold the law should step down. there are all kinds of legal hetero marriages that are nothing short of dishonorable. does this judge think he is approving those marriges by officiating?

Rev Karl's picture

ChrisC wrote:
case 1: i was first going to split this into two sub-cases of whether or not the couple was claiming to be believers or not, but the more i thought about it, the more i realized that it didn't matter. either they claim to be believers but refuse to act like it or they don't claim to be believers and are acting like unbelievers. in either case, they should be welcomed in church like any other unbelieving attender.

case 2: not real sure i see this as a case of churches under attack. judges have a responsibility to uphold the law whether or not they agree with that law. a judge who can not uphold the law should step down. there are all kinds of legal hetero marriages that are nothing short of dishonorable. does this judge think he is approving those marriges by officiating?

So it looks like the response is, in any case, for whatever length of time:

ChrisC wrote:
... they should be welcomed in church like any other unbelieving attender.

Thank you for your help in sharpening me today. Smile

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think that most churches are public churches, welcoming anyone who walks in the door. This helps churches reach people and forge relationships with family and friends of church attenders, as well as people in the community.

If I look at case 2, and if it becomes a common occurrence, we will have to choose whether we wish to be very private (in essence NOT welcoming the public) or to just accept that people attending our churches does not imply that we approve of the lifestyle of those who attend. We sort of are already there (i.e., we do not view attenders as necessarily representing the church), but, in an age when good Christians resist becoming members (out of conviction or fear of obligation), we are going to have an identity struggle.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm late putting my POV in, but FWIW...
I'd handle it the same way I'd handle a pair of heterosexuals who are cohabiting.

  1. If unbelievers, welcome them as unbelievers and teach the gospel
  2. If professing believers but unrepentant, welcome them as unbelievers and teach the gospel (once the general process of Matt 18/2Thess3/1Cor5 has been followed)
  3. If professing believers, unrepentant (yet) but "open" and growing in grace, welcome them per 2Thess3... admonish as a brother (there is some time implied in 2 Thess 3.15 and context... how much is a case by case thing)

    In all of these cases, in a congregational-polity church, you could not admit them as "members," so their involvement would be limited.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron's comments seem pretty comprehensive. However, there is a difference between a gay couple (esp. men) in this regard:

When a man and woman come to church , it is not apparent that they are living together or they may even be married without rings. They might be dating. So it is possible to think the best and the environment is not affected. When two women come together, they could easily be room mates, widow friends, etc., When two guys come --esp. if they are obviously more than friends, the atmosphere changes.

But I do think Aaron's basic paradigm does cover it all --for a church concerned about reaching out and incorporating new people. Other more introverted churches, however, may be more concerned about protecting their kids from exposure to gays. There are congregations made up entirely of home schoolers and family integrated. Sure would be good to hear a response from someone in that type of church. Would you still use an Aaron approach?

"The Midrash Detective"

TerryK's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jim,

In the words of Richard Nixon, "Let me make things perfectly clear!"

I am a typical baby boomer and not too much into membership (I believe in it for accountability reasons).

I am talking about ATTENDANCE and participation in church events that do not require membership.

Hopefully no one on SI would argue that we should allow non-repentant gay couples to join our churches.

Edited to say that I misread your post. I repent in sackcloth and ashes {< a little humor}

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 5:23