In the hopes that you'll keep reading to the end, rather than tell you up front my position on homosexuality for a Christian, I'll let you read my experiences. You'll be able to figure it out.
I realized there was an openly gay 17-year-old young man on our worship team only two weeks after I had started a new position as worship pastor. I guess you could call it my "initiation". I received an email from a worship team member asking me to look at the young man's Facebook page. This team member did not ask me to kick the young man off the team; they just wanted me to be aware and seek God on how to deal with it, if necessary.
Sure enough...the profile picture was of this young man and his partner with whom he was, according to his status, "in a relationship". My first response was that of compassion. My second response was shear terror. I didn't want to be that bigoted, intolerant, homophobic "church" person who singled out sins and judged people, so I messaged him to let him know that I had seen his relationship status and to find out if we could sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about it. Honestly, I just wanted to let him know he was loved and find out how he was dealing with his same-sex attraction as a Christian. Surprisingly, he was very open to the idea of meeting. We set a time and I began to pray about what God would have us talk about.
Unfortunately, that the was the last conversation I ever had with him. I wasn't prepared for what would happen that evening; I got a call from his dad (his parents attended church "off and on"). Obviously a loving and caring father, he wanted to protect his son from judgmental people like me. This is one thing I really respected about him. He began to share with me the background of how long they'd known their son was gay and that it didn't change their love for him. I affirmed this! He then went on to ask me the dreaded question I wasn't prepared to answer..."What is your position on being gay and will you allow him to continue to serve on the worship team?" Even now, I wish I could take back my response. Feeling pinned against a wall, I began to tell him what our church believed the Bible had to say about homosexuality and that while his son would always be welcome at the church, I could not allow someone in an openly gay relationship to serve as a leader on the worship team.
Immediately, I called my pastor to let him know what had just taken place. I told him exactly what was said and how it was said. He was so kind! He affirmed me to let me know I had done the right thing (even though, now, we both know it could have been handled better). Then he called the young man's father himself to talk about it. Later that evening my pastor called me back to let me know that the father expressed the same things to him and that they would be leaving the church. My heart was broken and I was exhausted!
Needless to say, word got out about what went down. The responses of church members were all over the place. Some showed incredible support. Others, depending on who they got the story from, thought I was a jerk for kicking him out of the church. I wasn't prepared to be misquoted. God had to teach me how to respond without being defensive. Once people heard exactly how the situation was handled, they were saddened but understood. I was grateful for my pastor's support through the whole matter.
A 23-year-old man who had been attending our church emailed me to let me know he was interested in auditioning for the worship team as a vocalist. With our teams having more female singers than male, I was excited to have a male vocalist who wanted to join the team. I asked him to give me a little background about himself along with answers to my usual questions..."Which service do you attend?"..."How long have you been going to the church?"..."Have you put your faith in Jesus?" He shared with me that he had put his faith in Jesus a long time ago and that his father was a pastor but he wasn't comfortable at his dad's church. He explained that he had served on a couple of worship teams before and understood the responsibility that comes with it. Then came the kicker: "I am currently a homosexual."
The thing that opened the door for discussion was how he prefaced his revelation with "I am not without issues, however." It indicated to me that he saw his identity as a child of God, not in his sexual orientation. This brought hope!
This was my response:
Hey _____,I went on to explain how I struggle with the sins of pride and gluttony. Then I continued:
I think it's really cool that you feel comfortable enough to be honest and transparent with me about your struggles. We need more of that in the church.
You're right, we ALL have different issues and no issue is worse than another....
...From what I can tell, you view your attraction to the same sex as a "struggle" that you're working through. If so, that's right where God wants you. It may be uncomfortable, but be assured that He's completing His work in you. I wish all Christians could come to this place in their walk with God. Unfortunately, what I've seen is that the struggle with same-sex attraction becomes too great for most and it's easier to accept it as "who they are" instead of as a result of our fallen nature that has been given to a child of the King for a specific purpose. Instead, they blame God. They don't like the feelings of guilt, so they quench the Holy Spirit and flesh out their sinful desires instead of realizing God's perfect design and unconditional love.I then went on to ask him specifics about how he was dealing with his same-sex attraction and offered to answer any questions and let him know I looked forward to getting to know him as a friend, artist and worship leader.
His response was almost immediate:
First of all, thank you for your understanding. Second, lately I've been realizing what this struggle is about. Honestly, through all my desires for a family, a wife, and being a pastor like my father have never left me. I have not been giving into my homosexual desires as much. Though, I'm not without fault. I've slipped. But every time I do, I stop and think and pray. I'm not perfect, but I'm trying. I find sometimes that too much time alone keeps me separated and in doubt. I want to be closer to people who can encourage me and help me if I fall, ya know. Thanks!While some would have been disappointed by his "slips" and used that as a reason to keep him from being on the team, I WAS ELATED! In his own way, he was expressing a desire to surrender to God and that's all I was looking for, no matter what his sin or how often he was messing up. I determined to be part of the group who would encourage and help him on his journey! That's why, after his audition, I asked him to become part of the worship team.
So... have I had homosexual Christians on my worship teams? YES! ...and I'm so glad I have! I've also had adulterers, liars, and envious thieves, but it's because they've all come to the place where they've realized their choices have broken the heart of God and they've experienced His grace and forgiveness.....over and over and over and over again. And I've had the opportunity to see God's grace produce life-change right in front of my eyes. So cool!