reason for living

Gay priests?

Can a homosexual man or lesbian woman hold the Christian priesthood?

In the year 2003 the issue of homosexual priests in the Christian community became headline news in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America.  Sometimes it was hard to understand what all the fuss was about but then it also seemed that there there were a lot of words, lots of heated emotions and not a lot of rational thought ... the ideal ingredients with which to prepare a dish of confusion and muddled conclusions.

In the debate that took place many people expressed the view that the notion of a gay priest was contrary to Christian scripture and an abomination in the eyes of God.  Another large section of the debaters expressed the view that so long as the person involved was able to serve the people spiritually then the person's sexuality was really not relevent.  Another view often expressed was that it didn't matter whether the relationship between the would-be priest and his partner was heterosexual or homosexual so long as it included love and commitment.

Ahhh ... So many people uttering so many words ... and barely one of them relevent to the topic!!

Here at R4L the notion of a gay priest is considered to be an abomination, a terrible evil that should never have been considered.  However the reasons that led to this conclusion are somewhat different from most of those that were expressed in the public debate that surrounded the isssue.

The principle reason that the notion of a gay priest is abhorrent is quite simply that the notion of any priest in the Christian comunity is abhorrent.  The priesthood was necessary before Jesus died on the cross but, with his death, the priesthood became not only unnecessary but downright unhelpful and was abolished, not by man, but by God.  The supposedly Christian organisations that expended so much time and energy and words debating whether a gay man could be a priest had clearly failed to understand a rather important point about the Christian faith.

A priest is a person who acts as a go-between for God and other men.  The priest acts as an intermediary or middle-man to ensure that the deity is approached in the right way and not offended, and to ensure that any messages from the deity to the ordinary people are properly transmitted and understood.  In addition it is common for priests to act as teachers or instructors.  In the Jewish faith the priesthood was ordained by God and was the priests were required to perform various services on behalf of the ordinary Jewish people.  The priests were needed because ordinary people were unable to approach God by themselves or to perform any of the sacrifices that the Jewish religion required.  However in the person of Jesus, God came to the world of humans and lived among humans as a human.  Jesus is the God who came to man because man could not come to God.  In Jesus, God is no longer far away, unknowable and unapproachable but, instead, God is very approachable.  Before Jesus died he promised his followers that after his death he would send the spirit of God to them to teach them and to remind them and encourage them.  More than that, Jesus promised his followers that through the spirit, he would come to live within them.  Thus, for a Christian, there is no need of an intermediary, no need for anyone to act as go-between.  Indeed since God dwells, by his spirit, within the Christian an intermediary or go-between is actually impossible.  In a relationship that is described as man in Christ and Christ in man, there isn't any gap where somebody else can stand between the two.

The concept of a Christian priest is, therefore, not only somewhat silly but actually borders on the blasphemous since it implies that Jesus' death was not effective, that his death was not sufficient for men to be rescued from sin and that, somehow, an intermediary is still required in order that God should not be offended by his broken and dirty creatures.

A Christian has unlimited, immediate and unrestricted access to God because God, by his spirit, dwells inside the Christian and consequently a Christian has no need or use for a priest.  Jesus did not tell people to go to the temple or to the priest, he called them to himself.

The abolishment of the priesthood is therefore the principle reason that it is wrong and evil to attempt to make a gay man into a priest.  However it is constructive to continue the discussion to see whether a gay man can usefully fulfil one of the roles of service that the new testament does mention.  For example, is it acceptable for a gay man to be a teacher of the Christian faith?  Is it possible for a gay man to lead others to Jesus Christ?  Is it acceptable for a gay man to take a pastoral role, like a shepherd looking after sheep?

Most people already understand that nobody is perfect and therefore there can be no such thing as a perfect Christian.  Nowhere in the world will a man or woman be found who has character with no blemishes.  As the scripture says, “all have fallen short of the glory of God, there is nobody who does what is right.”  So, given that everybody is imperfect there can be no perfect Christian teachers, no perfect Christian pastors, no perfect Christian evangelists.  The next matter to be resolved is whether homosexuality is morally wrong and, if so, whether it is wrong to an extent that it disqulaifies a homosexual person from being a teacher or pastor or evangelist within the Christian world.  Let us deal with these two questions individually:

Is homosexuality wrong, or, in Christian language, is it a sin?

The quick answer to this question is “yes, homosexuality is wrong and homosexual acts are sinful.”  The apostle Paul in his first letter to the christians at Corinth includes homosexuality in his list of character defects that will prevent a person from entering the Kingdom of God.  Another article discusses this in greater detail so it won't be covered here.

Having established that homosexuality is wrong it is next necessary to determine whether a homosexual person is disqualified from a role of service within the Christian community.  There is no straightforward answer to such a question although one or two simple points can be made. 

God always works through sinful people; as mentioned already, no-one is morally perfect and free from all sin. 

When a person becomes a Christian, by putting their trust in Jesus and depending on him and following him, they do not usually find that their day-to-day circumstances are immediately changed.  Nor will all of their attitudes nor their understanding of the world be immediately fully transformed.  Coming to know God takes time and learning to live as God created us to live also takes time.  Consequently a person who considered themselves to be homosexual immediately prior to becoming a Christian will probably find that after becoming a Christian they continue to have homosexual patterns of thought and to associate closely with homosexual people including, possibly, a homosexual partner.  In this respect a homosexual person is no different from any other person who has been actively engaged in immoral behaviour.  For example, a heterosexual unmarried couple who are enjoying one another sexually are most unlikely to decide to sleep in different beds on the day that one or both of them becomes a Christian.  Similarily a person who works in a gang of thieves will possibly continue to associate with the other gang members and might continue to be tempted to steal from other people, even after becoming a Christian.

... to be continued when I have some more time ...

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