In my previous post, I mentioned a letter that Scot McKnight received from a worship pastor asking for advice about a young gay man in his church who wanted to be a part of the worship team. You can read Scot McKnight’s original post here. Scot had Andrew Marin from The Marin Foundation post a reply to the letter. Then, recently, Scot posted his response to the comments that have been received in those two posts. Please take the time to click on the links and read those posts.
Well, I invited some responses from your all if this situation were happening in children’s ministry, and I did get some very thoughtful (and more civil than on Scot’s blog) responses. Thank you to Dean, Matt and Desiree for sharing your thoughts.
Here are my thoughts:
Like I said in my previous post, dealing with issues like this aren’t as easy as we pretend them to be. Our knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well, someone like this young man who sees nothing wrong with homosexuality — even if he believes that he is to remain celibate until marriage or civil union — cannot be involved anywhere in children’s ministry. There are other areas for him to be involved.” The problem with following through on this immediate reaction are two-fold.
First of all, if you are thinking that, then every other ministry leader in your church probably will react the same way and act accordingly. This results in this person being herded from one ministry to another and being rejected by multiple people in leadership. I can only imagine what a process like this would do to anyone! This young man has come to the conclusion (after his honest searching and praying) that he has been created with an orientation to be attracted to the same sex. Whether we agree with that or not, that is his reality. What is he supposed to do when, seeking to be involved in his faith community, he is rejected for something he believes he had no choice over?
The other problem with simply saying this young man cannot be involved in children’s ministry at all denies that he has anything to offer God and the faith community in the area of children. We are at risk of putting a broad label on this young man and others in his situation and saying they are of no value to us or the ministries we oversee because they are gay. (And we wonder why Christians are labeled at anit-gay, homophobic, and hateful… but that is another conversation…) We deny that that those who have reconciled their homosexuality with their Christianity (for now) are incapable of growing closer to God in other areas of their lives. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not advocating that homosexuality is within the plans God has for relationships; I’m not. What I am saying, though, is that all of us have areas in our lives that we are “working on.” We need to be sure that we are open to people who are in the process of life transformation even when that life transformation does not happen in the way we would like it to. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to do the transforming and which areas are transformed in what order. It is our job as Christ followers to facilitate that life change and lovingly journey alongside others who are growing. Can that be done with those living a homosexual lifestyle without condoning or affirming the lifestyle? I think so, but you have to be willing to struggle with the tension there… the tension between your belief that they are wrong in being gay and their honest desire to follow Christ.
So, what would I do? Becasue neither I nor my faith community affirm that practicing homosexuality is within the bounds of what God had in plan for relationships, I would not have this young man in a leadership position. This broadly means being a small group leader or a team leader. I would have no problem with this young man being involved in checking in, helping out with tech, building sets, administrative help, and probably some other areas as well. All this is conditional on this young man passing background checks and on a spiritual journey that is heading towards Christ, which is no different for anyone involved in the children’s ministry that I oversee.
With all that being said, if you are a ministry leader faced with a situation like this, you need to involve those in leadership above you (your immediate supervisor, pastor or board… depending on how your church is set up) in the decision process. Ultimately, there should be communitiy guidlelines that this falls under. Hopefully, those guidelines, while holding true to convictions and beliefs, deal with someone like this young man with love, understanding and acceptance of who he is and his desire to follow God without affirming practices you do not agree with.
Now, you may choose to deal with a situation like this in a different way. That is OK. Much of what you do will be determined by your community, statement of beliefs and leadership. The guiding principle I would say is that we should rarely deal with people in a black and white manner. Very few situations are simple circumstances of right vs. wrong. We need to be willing to meet people where they are and struggle through the mess to see where God is in all of it in order to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s work in restoring each of us to the image of God we were created to be.