“EVANGELICAL CHURCH WELCOMES GAYS”
1. Let me read an article that appeared in the Religion Section of the Los Angeles Times on April 5, 2003:
Evangelical Church Welcomes Gays. Christ Chapel is theologically conservative but not anti-homosexual. It takes a stand against promiscuity. By Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Reporter.
The congregation at Christ Chapel had just finished singing the last stanza of a rousing evangelical hymn when Pastor Jerrell Walls planted himself to the side of the lectern and called for prayer.
Walls stood in silence —head bowed, jaw set., hands clasped against his chest. In the next instant his arms swooped upward in praise, as if snagging a blessing from heaven.
“Your salvation is secure if you say yes to Jesus Christ,” he declared, winding into his sermon. “It’s not about what you are doing or who you are,” Walls said. “It’s about what Jesus is doing for us.”
Christ Chapel is a Bible-believing, Jesus-praising, hymn-singing evangelical church. When the pastor quotes Scripture, members open their Bibles and follow word for word. Many take the Bible literally. One middle-aged man, for example, told a recent visitor that God can’t be anything other than male because the Bible uses only the pronoun “he” in referring to the Almighty.
Christ Chapel is also a gay and lesbian church, one of a small but growing number of gay evangelical or Pentecostal churches that are filling a spiritual niche.
Liberal mainline Protestant churches have been reaching out to gays and lesbians for years. So, too, have the Metropolitan Community Churches, a predominately gay and lesbian denomination.
But the believers at Christ Chapel want to come “home” to a church like the one that many of them grew up in--evangelical, theologically conservative--but one that is also friendly to gays.
“MCC began in a day when there were no other choices,” said the Rev. Tom Hirsch of Dallas, founder of the Alliance of Christian Churches, a loose association of 42 evangelical and Pentecostal churches run by and ministering to gays and lesbians. “We don’t want to be ghettoized. That’s the biggest thing happening. People in the gay community don’t want to be ghettoized.”
The growth of small, independent lesbian and gay churches not only offers more religious choices, according to those who have followed developments, but a coming of age of gay spirituality.
Many gays and lesbians say they are grateful for the welcome that liberal mainline Protestant churches have extended to gays, and the pioneering work of the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded more than 34 years ago in Los Angeles by the Rev. Elder Troy D. Perry. The MCC, organized in 1968, remains the dominant player among gay churches. It claims 300 member congregations with 40 000 members in 18 countries.
But some gays find the MCC uncomfortable as a spiritual home. They object to the liberal theological takes on the Bible, the lack of emphasis on the lordship of Jesus, and, at times, what they see as a failure to forthrightly advocate monogamous sexual relationships.
Those attending evangelical and Pentecostal gay churches say they have hungered for the kind of clarity about Jesus that Walls preaches every Sunday.
“That’s one thing that drew me here,” said Andre Jacinto, 53, who has attended Walls’ church for three years. “It was preached. It was said and it wasn’t apologizes for. It wasn’t tiptoed around. Jesus is Lord, simple as that. Get over it.”
Walls says his congregation is “pretty fundamental” in its beliefs and teachings. “We do stick to the Scripture as God’s word,” he said.
There is, of course, one area of scriptural decree that congregants at Christ Chapel challenge. In most conservative evangelical and Pentecostal churches, homosexuality is a sign of man’s fallen state. Members of those churches take literally the biblical declaration that homosexual relations are an “abomination.”
Like liberal clergy, Walls said those Scriptural passages must be read against the backdrop in which they were written.
“As you interpret those passages with those things in mind you realize it was not talking about homosexuality in general, but specific acts -- promiscuity, temple prostitution and abuse,” he said. Those are the only areas we see it talking against, and that would be true, gay or straight.”
Walls, a Nebraska native, grew up in the Pentecostal tradition, where speaking in tongues and spiritual healing was as much a part of faith as an unbending view that homosexuality is sinful.
Today he urges monogamous, committed same-sex relationships, but for pastoral reasons doesn’t press the point, he says, “We’re not going out and taking notes of who’s at the park, who’s at the bath houses. But when they start presenting they want help, we’re more than willing to help.
What he tells members of the congregation, he says, is that once they realize God loves them as they are, the door opens to the Holy Spirit.
“Then they start coming to me and saying, ‘You know what, I go to circuit parties. I’ve done all these things. I still do some of this stuff. I still go to the parks,’” he said.
He tells them change sometimes takes time. But, as another clergyman observed, change in a positive direction —even if barely perceptible —is in itself holy.
“If you end up at the park, don’t beat yourself up and run, from God. Run to God. You’ve got brothers and sisters in here that will support you. You can talk to us,” Walls tells his members.
“We’re not going to throw you out. We’re not going to put you up front and condemn you. We’re going to lovingly help you know that maybe next time, instead of going to the park, you may call a friend and say, ‘Let’s go for coffee.’”
For many of those who are showing up at places like Christ Chapel, it’s been a long road. Many felt forced out of their home churches because of their sexual orientation. Some have still not come back, even to a gay-run church. The memories remain too painful.
“Probably the majority have prayed for this to go away. They tried various avenues to not be gay,” Walls said. “I’ve run into people who can’t attend here because it brings back so many bad memories, even though they know they’re safe here.”
For those who do attend, gay churches are filling a spiritual need and simultaneously bending some old ways of looking at sex.
“It’s an unfolding tradition which in many ways is what the apostles did. They had an unfolding revelation of who Jesus was and is,” said the Rev. Neil G. Thomas, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood. “So each one of us is very much writing our own book of revelation or our book of the apostles because of our own experience of the divine today.”
In creating their own churches, gays and lesbians are taking a page from African American history and from the feminist movement that produced feminist theology, said the Rev. Malcolm Boyd, a Los Angeles Episcopal priest and author. In l977 he became one of the first gay priests in his church to declare his sexual orientation.
Black slaves saw themselves in the Biblical stories of the Israelites being held in bondage in ancient Egypt and in Moses leading them to a promised land. Feminists looked to goddess myths in their search for an authentic identity, which they felt had been denied them.
Life experience and spirituality, Boyd said, are inextricably linked in the existential questions of life. “Why do gay people exist? Well, God created gay people. And why does anybody exist? Because God created us all with a purpose,” Boyd said.
Or, as Christ Chapel member Shari Armstrong wryly observed after church one recent Sunday morning, “If God knew me before I was even conceived, I’m sure he wasn’t walking around going, ‘Ah! She’s gay! Who saw that coming?’”
2. There are at least three ways in which this newspaper article should be responded to:
1A. First, BY POINTING OUT THAT THE ARTICLE ITSELF IS PROPAGANDA
Just a few observations of the article show that its intent is to advance the homosexual agenda:
1B. First, the newspaper article assumes that there is nothing wrong with a homosexual lifestyle, refers to homosexual “church” members as believers, and asserts that so-called gay “churches” fulfill a spiritual need. I vehemently object to each of these assumptions.
2B. As well, the newspaper article slyly connects the homosexual agenda with other groups’ agendas.
1C. Here is a statement that appeals to the sympathies of shallow evangelical Christians who have no real discernment: “‘That’s one thing that drew me here,’ said Andre Jacinto, 53, who has attended Walls’ church for three years. ‘It was preached. It was said and it wasn’t apologized for. It wasn’t tiptoed around. Jesus is Lord, simple as that. Get over it.’” Okay.
2C. Here is another morsel for foolish professing Christians to chew on: “Christ Chapel is a Bible-believing, Jesus-praising, hymn-singing evangelical church. When the pastor quotes Scripture, members open their Bibles and follow word for word. Many take the Bible literally. One middle-aged man, for example, told a recent visitor that God can’t be anything other than male because the Bible uses only the pronoun ‘he’ in referring to the Almighty.”
3C. Here is the statement that appeals to the Jewish reader, who knows from history of the European ghettos his ancestors were forced to live in: “We don’t want to be ghettoized. That’s the biggest thing happening. People in the gay community don’t want to be ghettoized.”
4C. Now comes the appeal to the Black reader: “Black slaves saw themselves in the Biblical stories of the Israelites being held in bondage in ancient Egypt and in Moses leading them to a promised land.”
5C. And if you are a feminist: “Feminists looked to goddess myths in their search for an authentic identity, which they felt had been denied them.”
6C. There are tidbits placed in this article for almost everyone to identify with, in an attempt to create sympathy and foster tolerance for gays, gay lifestyle, and gay “churches.” Various statements are made that appeal to different groups, and the only “church” member beside the pastor who was quoted was Hispanic.
3B. The main thrust of the article can be seen in this statement: “But the believers at Christ Chapel want to come ‘home’ to a church like the one that many of them grew up in--evangelical, theologically conservative--but one that is also friendly to gays.”
1C. Do you see the kind of subtlety here that reminds you of the serpent in the garden of Eden? It is as if the members of this gay “church” are saying, “We want to go back to our old church, with everything just the same, evangelical, theologically conservative. We just want you to be friendly to gays.”
2C. I have been the pastor of this church for almost 18 years, and I have never myself behaved, or seen anyone in this church knowingly behave, in an unkind or disrespectful way toward a homosexual or a lesbian. And churches that I am familiar with behave in similar fashion.
3C. What militant homosexuals frequently find intolerable is not how they are treated by Bible believing Christians, but what opinions are held about their lifestyle and their need to be delivered from such sins by Bible believing folks, as well as by what kind of preaching they hear in this church.
4C. But hold on a moment! Fornicators hear strong sermons against fornication in this church. Adulterers hear strong sermons against adultery in this church. Drug users hear me rail against the illicit use of drugs. I also reflect the Bible’s distinct opposition to murder and abortion and extortion and drunkenness, and a whole host of other sins. But this does not mean we do not welcome sinners. Gays oftentimes object to their behavior being categorized as sinful, and they insist that we accept their lifestyle as being morally equal to our own. But it is not.
2A. Next, I Respond BY POINTING OUT THAT THE CHURCH FEATURED IN THE ARTICLE IS DOING GREAT WRONG TO THE MEMBERS
1B. It is quite obvious from the newspaper article that the featured “church” does not follow Biblical guidelines for dealing with sins. But the very first instructions the Lord Jesus Christ gave to the church were instructions for dealing with sins.
2B. The church is supposed to be the pillar and ground of the truth. What happens, then, when the church begins to twist and distort scripture so that sin is no longer sin, so that God is no longer holy, and so that Jesus Christ is some caricature Who did not suffer and bleed and die for real sins?
3B. In the article the pastor of the gay “church” is said to promote “monogamous, committed same-sex relationships.” But what is that supposed to mean? In the eyes of God, there is no difference between the man who commits fornication with twenty different women and the man who commits fornication twenty times with the same woman. In each case there are twenty sinful deeds. And the same is true with homosexuals. Sinful sex is sinful sex, no matter who the sinful sex partners happen to be.
4B. So, instead of the church being a lighthouse from which the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, instead of the church being a place where sin is preached against and Jesus Christ is held up to be the Savior from sins, that “church” is a place where sinners gather to persuade themselves that they are okay, that their sins are not sins, and that they are reconciled to God when they are not.
5B. By the way, it is not only gay “churches” which shirk their duties and avoid their responsibilities. There are so-called fundamental congregations that have homosexual church members or homosexual attendees whose wickedness is tolerated. And by tolerated, I do not mean there is anything wrong with greeting people courteously and being kind and gentle to them. I mean, the so-called Bible believing pastors will not preach pointed and particular sermons against homosexuality, so those sinners can be brought under the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit and guided to saving faith in Christ.
6B. My friends, if homosexuals are in attendance then homosexuality needs to be preached against. If adulterers are present then adultery needs to be preached against. If liars are present then lying needs to be preached against. If thieves are in attendance then stealing needs to be preached against. To not preach passionately and powerfully and persuasively against a man’s sins, or against a woman’s sins, is to sin against that sinner and to make their lot in life even worse than it is. May God deliver us from pastors and their churches that do not preach against men’s sins, whatever they may be.
7B. Preaching against sins is profoundly important, because such preaching makes use of the Law. And why is a preacher’s use of the Law important? Two reasons:
1C. First, “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3.20. How is someone to know he is a sinner but by proper application of the Law, which is preaching against sins?
2C. Second, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Galatians 3.24. How is a sinner to be guided to Christ without the proper application of the Law, which necessarily requires preaching against sins?
8B. So, a church whose pastor does not preach against sins is a church and a pastor who conspire to do wrong to the sinners who attend. Sinners benefit when their sins are preached against, and some of those sinners whose sins are preached against get converted.
3A. Finally, I Respond BY POINTING OUT THAT THE HOMOSEXUAL LIFESTYLE IS VERY WICKED
1B. Did you know that for decades the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality and lesbianism as one of many types of mental illness? At this time the American Psychiatric Association no longer lists homosexuality and lesbianism as a mental illness. Why not? Because they yielded to pressure from the gay lobby and decided it would be best not to. Don’t get me wrong. I do not think homosexuality or lesbianism should be listed as an illness, since it bears no more markings of illness than does drunkenness. It is sinful and damaging behavior, not illness.
2B. Please keep in mind that I did not say that homosexuality and lesbianism were sins committed by people I hate. I do not hate homosexuals and lesbians. Quite the contrary. Every person I have ever known to be a homosexual or a lesbian has been someone I have loved and shown kindness to. But at the same time, I recognize that God’s Word clearly shows homosexual behavior to be sinful, and very destructive.
3B. How does God’s Word show homosexuality and lesbianism to be sinful behavior? In several ways:
1C. First, by showing that God’s ideal for sexuality is one man and one woman in marriage. God joins together a man and a woman, Mark 10.9, not two women or two men. When two men or two women depart from God’s ideal they are wrong, and they commit sin.
2C. Next, God’s Word shows homosexuality and lesbianism to be sinful behavior by showing that sex of any kind outside the bounds of marriage is sinful. First Corinthians 6.9-10 reads, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
3C. If you know a homosexual who claims that the term “effeminate” or “abusers of themselves with mankind” is “not talking about homosexuality in general, but specific acts -- promiscuity, temple prostitution and abuse,” as this article does, then you can inform them that the best Greek lexicon of New Testament and early Christian literature available argues that Paul was not limiting his comments to promiscuity, temple prostitution and abuse.
4C. Finally, God’s Word shows homosexuality and lesbianism to be sinful behavior by showing that homosexuality and lesbianism is the consequence of God having already begun to judge sinners for their wickedness. Please follow along as I read Romans 1.18-32:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
1. My response to this newspaper article has been measured. I have not responded to this newspaper article by showing that the homosexual lifestyle is really a death style more than it is a lifestyle, though I could have.
2. I could have cited government sources that show what the mortality rate is among practicing homosexuals in comparison to heterosexuals.
3. Instead, my goal has been to shine the light of Scriptural truth on a sinful practice, in the hopes that each of you will more clearly see how wicked and perverse such behavior is.
4. What homosexuality and lesbianism is about is not how they feel, or how they believe. Instead, it’s what they do. What they do is wrong . . . because God says it’s wrong.
5. Now, brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand to sing.
1. My text is Hebrews 12.14. Please stand and read silently while I read aloud: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
2. The first portion of this verse has to do with your duty toward man. The later half of the verse has to do with your duty toward God. I want to focus your attention upon the last portion of that verse: “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
3. I remember the first time in my life that God jolted me with the profound truth contained in those few words. Dr. Arthur Houk was praying. And in his prayer he made mention of the fact that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. I was shocked, amazed, thrilled, by what he prayed, and I’ve never forgotten it.
4. My friend, do not pretend or suppose that this truth has to do with your standing, or with some pronouncement. No. This truth has to do with your experience. There is no escaping it.
1A. GOD IS HOLY
1B. The holiness of God is the biggest problem a sinner has, because sin is an outrage to the holy God. Why so? Sin is a defilement. Sin is a contamination. Sin is an uncleanness. Sin is what keeps sinners out of heaven.
2B. Imagine, then, a sinner who, in the face of God’s Word, and in the face of gospel preaching, and with the pretext of being a Christian and serving God, defiantly claims that his heart’s treasure, the wicked deed that he clings to, is no sin at all, but is simply an alternate lifestyle.
3B. That is what we find happening in gay “churches.” But such behavior does not happen in gay “churches” only. Such behavior is rampant in most of our evangelical and so-called fundamental churches.
4B. Refusal to acknowledge that sin is what God says it is, denying the nature of the sinful deed, denying the damage done by the sinful deed, refusing to acknowledge the heinous nature of the crimes committed against God, is the profoundest kind of offense to God’s holy nature.
5B. This is what happens when homosexuals deny that their homosexual deeds are sinful, are wrong, are defiling, are damaging. They insist that what they do is not wrong because they want to do it, because they have an appetite for such sin, because they are in the grasp of such sin. But cannot the same be said for addiction to alcohol, for addition to drugs, for the compulsion to steal or gamble, for the appetite to commit fornication?
6B. God is holy. He determines and decides what sin is, not you and not me.
2A. SIN IS DAMNABLE
1B. First John 1.9 declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This word “confess” does not mean naming each and every sin so that you might obtain forgiveness for each of them, one at a time. Omolegew, the Greek word for “confess,” means to concede that something is factual or true. If we concede that our sins are the despicable deeds worthy of punishment that God says they are, then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness.
2B. Thus, there is a definite connection between a sinner’s admission that his sins are sinful and obtaining forgiveness and cleansing. So long as you deny the nature of your sins, so long as you refuse to concede that what God says about your sins in His Word is on target, you will not find forgiveness and you will not be cleansed.
3B. What does that tell us, then, about the homosexual who claims that his homosexual behavior is normal and natural and not at all sinful in the sight of God? It tells us, #1, that he is an unsaved man in rebellion against God. It tells us, #2, that until his attitude toward his sins changes he will remain lost and undone.
4B. But understand, this applies to any sinner who refuses to own up to the sinfulness of his sins, be he a Don Juan who thinks his womanizing isn’t so bad, a drunkard, a thief, covetous, a railer, an extortioner, or whatever. Sin is damnable. So damnable, in fact, that the wages of sin is death, Romans 6.23.
3A. JESUS SAVES
1B. That is, Jesus rescues, Jesus delivers. But what does Jesus save from? What does Jesus rescue from? What does Jesus deliver from? He saves, rescues, delivers sinners from their sins, Matthew 1.21.
2B. But what sinner wants to be saved from something he doesn’t think is wrong? What sinner wants to be rescued from something he doesn’t think is damnable? What sinner wants to be delivered from something he doesn’t think is criminal?
3B. So, you see, it is necessary to preach against sin, so the sinner will come to see that his sin is dragging him into Hell. It is necessary to preach against sin, so you will come to see that your wicked behavior dooms you. Otherwise you would never want to be rescued, delivered, saved, from your sins.
4B. If you get saved by Jesus and you are a drunkard, you will be delivered from your drunkenness, and from your other sins. If you get saved by Jesus and you are a fornicator, you will be rescued from your fornication, and from your other sins. And if you get saved by Jesus and you are a homosexual, you will be salvaged from your homosexual behavior, and your other sins. I guarantee this because Jesus saves people from their sins.
4A. Finally, WITHOUT HOLINESS YOU WILL NOT SEE THE LORD
1B. I promise you that without holiness you will not see the Lord, because without holiness no one will see the Lord. But you need to understand what holiness, in our text, is.
2B. This word “holiness” does not refer to the absolute moral purity and cleanness that properly describes God. Neither does it describe the Lord Jesus Christ, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens,” Hebrews 7.26.
3B. No child of God is ever sinless this side of heaven. Indeed, anyone who says that he is without sin has identified himself as a lying hypocrite, who is not a Christian, First John 1.8.
4B. But this word does show us that “personal dedication to the interests of” God identifies that person who will someday go to heaven, who has been truly converted. This word refers to consecration, to growth in the experiences of personal holiness.
5B. Thus, if you continue in your sins you will not see the Lord. If you continue in the adultery, if you continue in the fornication, and yes, if you continue in the homosexuality, you will not see the Lord. Why not? Because if things continue on in your life the way they did before it, is obvious that Jesus did not save you from your sins, and because you do not have an ongoing dedication to the cause of Christ, an ongoing commitment to personal consecration, and ongoing expression of hatred toward sin and desire to be godly.
1. It is a great tragedy that the homosexual community has become so politicized and radicalized that they brain wash and propagandize people into linking the homosexual person with the homosexual act, as though they were one and inseparable. But that is not true.
2. Just as no drunkard is so identified with his boozing that there can be no thought of the drunk and his liquor as an inseparable unity, so it is with the homosexual.
3. Imagine the drunk inseparably linked to his booze. He is thereby doomed. He is undone. His only hope is to separate him, in his own mind and heart, and in his behavior and practice, from his boozing. You see, when that happens the drunkard can turn from his sin and come to Christ, Who will save him from his sins.
4. And so it must be with the homosexual if he is to have any hope of being saved from his sins. See the sin for what it is. Recognize that sinning was not the original nature of man. Sinning is an unnatural act. So, as with any other sin, homosexual behavior is an unnatural act and a defiant and rebellious sin. It is not normal, or natural, or necessary.
5. I close with this comment. Gay “churches” rather typically describe themselves as welcoming and affirming congregations. They welcome anyone to their “churches” and purport to help all kinds of people by affirming whatever they are, whatever their practices and sins are.
6. We are not that kind of church. We are a welcoming and transforming ministry. We lovingly welcome into our midst anyone whose appearance or behavior or intent is not disruptive to our worship and ministry. But we are not satisfied to stop there. Our desire, and our goal, and our commitment, is to see each sinner transformed by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, to see sinners saved from their sins, and to see that transformed person walk in newness of life.
 Los Angeles Times, Saturday, April 5, 2003, page B22, by Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Writer
 Matthew 18.15ff
 First Timothy 3.15
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 135.
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 708.
 Ibid., page 10.