Leading A Church In A Time Of Sexual Questioning


  • “Pastor,” in tears, “my daughter just came home from college and told me she thinks she is a lesbian. We don’t know what to do.”
  • “Pastor,” in confusion, “a seventh-grade girl told her group she is bisexual, and has a crush on another girl. Should we let her come on the retreat?”
  • “Pastor,” in hope and trepidation, “my partner and I would like to dedicate our beautiful daughter, Charis. Would the church let us do that?”

It would not be hard to list more, “Pastor, . . .” questions like these that test our spiritual discernment. If you have been in church leadership for long, you have already had to address complicated, soul-wrenching issues like these.

Ultimately the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake because the unchurched, especially younger people, are keenly watching how churches respond to LGBT+ people. My hope is that local churches will become:

  • Loving communities where LGBT+ people can feel wanted and welcomed, and can flourish in the life that Christ offers them.
  • Pillars of truth where the foundations of marriage are respected as being a lifelong one-flesh bond between a man and woman.
  • Lights to the world who shine brightly with love and justice for all people.

I believe…

* Church leaders need to provide clear theological leadership about sexuality. But few pastors have a robust theology of sexuality. In a biblical theology of sexuality, we can see that sex is a good gift, but it is not essential for a good life.

*We have lost a fuller theology of the purposes of sex in marriage. There are four clear purposes of sex in marriage: sex celebrates a couple’s union, has the potential of creating children, brings joy, and displays God’s exclusive love.

*As pastors, it’s important to develop our own convictions about being both a Christian and gay. There are five different ways the term “gay” is commonly used: sexual roles, behavior, identity, attraction, and orientation. Distinguishing these is crucial for ministering well in this area.

*We find guidance from three conversations Jesus had related to sexuality: the woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and the “sinful” woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7).

*Many church leaders are caught between two factions: those from conservative backgrounds can have a hard time showing grace to LGBT+ people, and those formed by today’s sexual ethic can have a hard time standing for truth; as a result, they judge each other. In Christ there is no tension between grace and truth, so we can show amazing grace without compromising truth and provide space for people to differ and to grow.

*In order to practically lead churches to show grace and stand for truth in the messiness of a fallen world, we should consider our tone as well as our theology, our personal posture as well as our theological positions. Recognizing our human sinfulness, we can learn to apply practical wisdom principles such as “welcoming all and affirming none.”

*We can apply theological principles to practical questions such as: preaching on the topic of sexuality, and deciding about attending a same-sex wedding. We can gain wisdom on issues such as membership, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, dedicating babies, how to handle overnight retreats, and how to effectively minister to LGBT+ students. And we must address what’s been called, “church discipline,” i.e., how to respond to ongoing sin in the church for all people.

 

—Bruce Miller, author of Leading a Church In A Time Of Sexual Questioning

 

How To Use This Book

Because local church leaders need to be unified on this controversial and nuanced topic, I recommend you read this book together as a leadership team using the discussion questions after each chapter. Use the book to help you develop your shared convictions and discover practical principles for your particular context. If you have not faced these issues already, you will. Be prepared. I encourage you to order the book for yourself and for your team.

 

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