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‘Gay, but celibate’

But time to be very wary …

‘Gay, but celibate’


Imagine this scenario. You’re an officer in an evangelical church. The congregation has been thriving and the spirit is good.

But now comes a thunderbolt. Your assistant pastor has just made it known to your church’s leaders that he struggles with a lifelong sexual attraction to other men. Not only that, but he has begun, through social media and otherwise, to let the public know about this. Through his dress, manner, and associations, he demonstrates his preference for a personal identity and lifestyle that is frequently associated with homosexuality. But he assures you that there’s no cause for worry, since he is sexually celibate.

How’s a church to respond? Well, probably not by doing what the Roman Catholic Church has been doing for the last few generations. By most accounts, the Catholic hierarchy has willingly trained and ordained priests who self-identify or are otherwise known as homosexual—all on the promise that they will be celibate. But those promises have been violated to such a degree that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has called for the “eradication” of “homosexual networks” within the clergy that are now “widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, [and] religious orders.”

Archbishop Viganò points specifically to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, previously the powerful archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been widely and credibly accused of abusing his power over many years in order to sexually exploit seminarians and young priests. As to sexual abuse of minors, Archbishop Viganò points to the report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which found that over a period of more than 50 years, the vast majority of “child” victims of priests were male (81 percent) and were aged 10 to 17 (86 percent).

Offering positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., noted in August that “in the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual—almost exclusively homosexual—acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all.” Bishop Morlino explained: “There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the [publicly]-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia—this despite clear evidence to the contrary.”

The Roman Catholic Church in America is now paying dearly for buying into the theory that men who embrace a homosexual identity can be church leaders—so long as they promise “chastity.” It is a theory that has been tried and found wanting.

Protestants and evangelicals should be forewarned. Reaching out with helpful compassion to those entrapped by homosexual temptation is one thing. If some of us need to be taught how to be more welcoming on that front, such is altogether within the spirit of this column. There are those who suffer from same-sex attraction who do not celebrate homosexuality as an identity, and who resist their temptation appropriately without inviting scandal.

But offering, or even allowing, positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.

Bishop Morlino is kind but firm when he says: “For my part—and I know I am not alone—I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin. And, as one who has tried—despite my many imperfections—to lay down my life for Christ and His church, I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His people.”

So the next time you’re confronted with a candidate for leadership in your own church (or school, or mission, or other institution) who boasts that he is “gay but celibate,” you may do well to remember the clear and present agony of a growing host of your Catholic brothers and sisters. Every single one of the priests who stand guilty of sexual abuse started with a promise of chastity.


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  • BobK
    Posted: Fri, 09/14/2018 10:44 am

    As the article says it is not wise to celebrate same-sex attraction even if one promises celebacy personally.  However, it is also not wise to hide it.  Single pastors and church leaders (like the apostle Paul) will have sexual temptations.  We need to see those who struggle with heterosexual and homosexual sin as the same.  The world tells us they are different and homosexuals "can't help it and must be who they are."  But the Bible says differently and treats us all the same.  We are all sinners, but the Holy Spirit can help us all to be holy.  Honesty will help put people in the right positions as well.  Don't ask a theif to count the offering, don't let a heterosexual man have a slumber party with the teen girls, etc.  But is it safe to be honest in our churches?

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Sat, 09/15/2018 03:21 am

    "people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders"  Whoa, there's a hard bit of truth there. Joel, thank you for saying something that is extremely unpopular with many of our countrymen but, frankly, needs to be said. You look older to me so I think you'll be OK but for our younger truth tellers I fear the day is approaching when a person will be jailed for expressing such sentiments.

  • VISTA48
    Posted: Mon, 09/17/2018 12:01 pm

    Sexual sin is devestating because it is so very personal. I remember how violated I felt after a thief broke into my house several years ago. How much worse is it when your body is violated? The church needs to be a lot less accommodating of adultery and fornication, homosexual or heterosexual. Church leaders guilty of either one should no longer be in ministry. Period.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Mon, 09/17/2018 03:59 am

    According to the Bible, there is no such thing as a celibate homosexual.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Sin is a behavior, not a kind of person.  You can't have a celibate homosexual, just like you can't have a robber who never robbed, a murderer who never murdered and so on ...

    All sin originates in the heart.  Jesus spoke of sins of the heart, saying hate is murder in one's heart and lust is adultery in the heart.  Homosexual lust in the mind is also sin.  Homosexuality is sin whether it is practiced or not.  So it is contrary to God's word for any Christian to condone it. 

    The church needs to stop thinking like the world, accepting the false notion that certain people are inherently homosexual.  They are not.  They are normal people commiting normal sins.

  • DV
    Posted: Mon, 09/17/2018 11:09 pm

    Wesley Hill wrote a book, "Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness & Homosexuality," that would be worth reading. Your library may have it. I believe I learned about it two years ago through World magazine. 

  • SamIamHis
    Posted: Mon, 09/17/2018 12:54 pm

    Well said, Joel.  I have long been fearful of the evangelical church giving a special place to the sin of homosexuality and of allowing same sex attracted individuals to celerate their abnormal desires instead of dying to them.  There is no indication that the early church found this to be the correct way to love people, to let them stay in their sin or to celebrate deviant desires.  Jesus died to set us free.  We all have to lay down the sins that beset each of us on a daily, sometimes hourly or by the minute basis. 

    I gave my personal testimony before our congregation and I didn't white-wash what my sin looked like or how I struggled with drugs, alcohol and sexual sin. But praise be to God that is an old story that has been rewritten by our wonderful Savior.  My final testimony today is all about Him, not about me.  There is no idea or plan of man that makes us right in our sin or that allows us to soft pedal sin.  It is only God's great plan of saving us from our sinful selves, solely by the precious blood of Jesus, that makes us overcomers.

  • LP
    Posted: Wed, 09/19/2018 09:00 am

    I can appreciate Mr. Belz’s sentiment here, as clearly Protestants don’t want to follow the lead of Catholics in this area. But total exclusion of gay people from leadership in Christian institutions (as the second-to-last sentence implies) is not the only way to avoid going down the same road. In fact, this stance would only seem to encourage closeted gay church leaders to stay closeted forever to avoid losing their jobs! Not to mention it would push intelligent, gifted people with much to offer the Church, but who happen to struggle with same sex attraction, to leave evangelicalism and find spiritual homes elsewhere, as so many already have. These aren’t theoretical people, though Belz paints them as such—I’m honored to have been taught by Wes Hill, and he is only the best known of a large and vibrant “side B” community. Instead of pushing celibate gay brothers & sisters away, or keeping them in hiding, why not encourage evangelical churches to be creative in finding ways to include and support them in leadership, while also protecting against possible sexual abuse, whether homo- or heterosexual? I’m envisioning accountability groups, policies against 1-on-1 adult/child interactions, etc. These problems haunt churches of all stripes, and categorical exclusion can’t be the answer. 

  • JennyBeth
    Posted: Thu, 09/20/2018 12:43 pm

    As long as people buy into the lie that our lusts have anything to do with our identity, they will always eventually act on those lusts. I'm daunted by how often I've heard in evangelical churches the idea that we should teach young people "healthy views about their sexual identity"--taking for granted the idea that our lusts make our identity and their fulfillment is the fulfilment of our personhood. I've got to hand it to the devil, this creative lie has been spectacularly effective.

  • BLW
    Posted: Sun, 09/23/2018 09:14 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Belz. Sin is sin, but the difference in homosexual and heterosexual temptation is that heterosexual desire has a legitimate result, homosexual desire does not.

    As for pushing those with homosexual desire into hiding by excluding them from leadership, the same could be said about any who have sinned in a way that disqualifies them from church office.

  •  Nathan's picture
    Posted: Mon, 09/24/2018 10:56 pm

    When a sinner repents, he no longer identifies with his sin. You never hear Christians identifying as " lying Christians" or "murdering Christians" or "porno Christians". This man's identity is in the world and his sinful lusts, not Jesus.