Ecclesiastical Ineptitude:
Why is the Church Failing to Minister
to Youths and Adults Struggling with Homosexuality

by David Vann

Some may think me presumptuous in asking this question, and indicating that the Church is inept in dealing with such an issue. Many believe that the only responsibility of the Church is the proclamation of the Law. A skimming of the Pauline epistles will quickly dispel this myth. Over half of the New Testament was written to Churches to guide them in their faith, and a few of the epistles were actually written to individuals to strengthen them in their faith. And in this day, when we are losing so many of our teenagers to the gay lifestyle, the Church is placing the blame solely on the shoulders of society's permissive attitude toward homosexuality (Recall Jerry Falwell's recent condemnation of the purple Teletubby.). This is extremely irresponsible and hateful. Alas, we do not lose all of these to the gay lifestyle; some of them commit suicide. So much for the Law. I guess Paul was right when he said that the Law brought death to us because of inherent sinfulness. I propose that there are several areas where the Church has failed regarding homosexuals. First, the Church does nothing to combat the sexual volatility of society at large. Second, ecclesial homophobia, the only recognized alternative to permissiveness, has created a "holier than thou" social dynamic, where condemnation, alienation, and psychological torture have become primary ministerial policy concerning homosexuals. Third, the Church seldom asks its heterosexual membership to obey the Biblical mandate of death to the self to the degree to which it requires the same of its homosexual parishioners.

One may ask what I mean by sexual volatility. It is a concept that I understood for two years before my Professor of New Testament Greek, Steve Hoskins, used it in class as the explanation for the lack of respected celibate orders in Protestant Evangelical congregations. Sexual volatility is a widespread attitude that simply mandates that a person invest an inordinate amount of his/her identity real-estate in his/her sexuality. Remember, that goes for heterosexuals, as well as homosexuals. Let me give a personal example. I am studying for the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I started college, I was affiliated with a denomination which will remain unnamed here. As a minister in training, I surrounded myself with other such students, and with seasoned ministers. What I found was shocking. I had already resigned myself, joyfully, to a celibate lifestyle, due to my homosexual orientation. I often considered the monastic life, but I am not Roman Catholic, nor will I ever be for theological/doctrinal issues. Being Protestant/Evangelical, there was no monastic life. There is no service reserved for people who have every last resource to give to God. I was in perfect position for complete service to God, but the Church has no official place for voluntary celibates. When I discussed the issue with my fellow students, they became agitated to the point of fighting. Remember, these are our future ministers. They, for some (unknown?) reason, believed that the Bible said that ministers should be married. When I showed them New Testament evidence to the contrary, they accused me of "proof-texting," a hermeneutical technique employed by politicians and debaters in which the text is ripped from its context according to a predetermined agenda.

But it did not stop there. My Church History Professor spoke extremely harshly of the celibates, and said that the Bible actually condemned ascetic practices. He was proof-texting. He said that sex was OK within the confines of marriage, but when I asked him what were those people to do who could not marry, he simply said that everyone should be married.

In short, the Church places entirely too much emphasis on sexuality. She follows the world, instead of combating its sinfulness. If I ever have another minister ask me when I am getting married, I will not just give him a kind, "when hell freezes over," but an entire discourse on why statements like those have planted seeds of self-hatred into our youth. How many times did I hear from pastors while I was growing up, "How many girlfriends do you have?", or, "Haven't you found a girl to date yet?", or, worse yet, "When are you going to start dating like the other boys?"? In essence, the ministers were reinforcing the world's idea that it is important to be sexually active at a young age. Sexually active?!? Yes, that is what I mean. You tell me that the activities of dating are not sexual in nature, but I will proceed to show you up for the unthinking swine that you are. "But David," you say, "holding hands does not even involve the genitals." I agree, it does not. But what would you say of two young men walking down the hallway holding hands, or worse, in a full embrace, or, even worse, engaged in a passionate kiss that would provoke cheering from a male/female couple. Why would these things be disgusting or offensive when two males do them? You would probably say because it indicates that these to boys are homosexual. What? You can discern someone's sexual orientation from their non-sexual, non-verbal activities? Well, call the psychic friends, they have a spot open. Of course these things are sexual, or you would not assume that two males, or females, engaged in such activities, were homosexual. So this is the first point, that the Church encourages sexual activity, even at a young age, and before marriage. This works fine when everyone is heterosexual, but when a person, for some bizarre reason, be it hereditary, biological, psycho-social, or a combination of these, is attracted sexually to members of the same sex, it blows up in the Church's face. The Church cannot continue to propagate sexual volatility and expect its homosexual members to hang around. We tell heterosexuals that it is O.K. for them to have expression of their sexuality, even proper, but send the homosexual youths the message that something is wrong with them because they can't seem to muster the interest in the opposite sex. And you scoffed when I used the word ineptitude.

OK, so we have established that the Church's acceptance of the sexual volatility of the unbelieving not only plants the seeds of homosexuality, but also the seeds of guilt and self-hatred. The water and cultivation comes from another phenomenon I call ecclesial homophobia. After the Church offers no alternative within herself for dealing with sexuality in a righteous fashion, She decides, when someone is between 16 and 24 years of age, that it is time to abruptly end communion and fellowship. But even before that, in the early years of puberty when most homosexuals are realizing where their predilections lie, they are constantly getting the impression that being homosexual is, in itself, wrong. I experienced this at about the age of eleven or twelve. I literally starved myself in fasting because I thought that I was dirty for having the feelings that I had. I was hospitalized for major depression when I was sixteen because suicide seemed the most logical option. I often prayed that God would let me die before I had the chance to sin against Him by, and I am not joking, having an erection. The Church could not find a solution, a counter to permissiveness, except for hatred. I am sorry, but Jesus would not have followed such a path. He did not tell gentiles to be Jews, he told them to behave rightly. From the earliest beginnings of the Church, there were those who were "eunuchs for the Kingdom of God." And unless impotence or cryptorchidism was a disproportionately rampant phenomenon in 1st Century Palestine, we are left wondering what the correct interpretation is. We know that it is by choice, and that it is honorable, to live a life of celibacy for the sake of the Gospel and the Saints of the Lord. How many protestants are there who are honored because they decide that God is more important than sex. However, for the exclusively homosexual male, who cannot be retrained (And some can. The statistical portion of gays who are retrainable is roughly equal to those who were somewhat bisexual to begin with) to be heterosexual, the only viable option is holy celibacy. But that is blocked, both by the sexual volatility of the Church, and by the self-hatred that is cultivated in the adolescent who cannot seem to be attracted to the opposite sex.

This last offense of the Church is a big one. We are told, as Christians, to die daily to the flesh, to mortify its deeds. But the Church has chosen not to command that as strongly from Her heterosexual segment as from Her homosexual demographic. There is a double standard. The straight people enjoy full communion, and get to date, hold hands, kiss, touch, as long as these are not carried "too far." However, the homosexual is not only required to be celibate, but also completely unromantic. To drive the wedge further, many churches do not believe that a homosexual is walking in faith if s/he is still attracted to the same sex. What do Church leaders expect? They foster the sexual volatility of society, condemn through subtext and sermon the young homosexual, and then set up a double standard without even giving them the honor that was given by Jesus himself to voluntary celibates. Still, the error is correctable. Just hold the heterosexual masses to the same standard that the homosexuals have to endure. And see how many of them stick around in your Churches.

OK, the time has come for my not-so-standard disclaimer. I am going to be a minister, and understand what kind of spiritual glass bowl that I am building for myself. But I have also suffered at the hands of the Church. And if leaders truly love humanity, then they will heed my words. I do not speak or write just to condemn, but before a reparation is made, the offense must be uncovered. I pray daily for the Church. I pray for Her leaders. And I pray that the God who can heal any pain will help the Church to pour oil and wine into the wounds that they have created in the hearts of so many. May God Bless all who read this.

Note Added April 11, 1999:


My Own Position On Homosexuality:
Presuppositions With Which You Might Want to Acquaint yourself before
Sending any more Flame E-mail

OK, I have received a significant response to a paper (above) I wrote about the Churchís mishandling of the social and religious problem of homosexuality and sexuality in general. First, a few people actually realized that I was writing from a Christian perspective and that I do not condone any sort of homosexual activity. A few people, however, were under the false impression, some probably deliberately, that I was advocating a tolerance for sin in the Church. To these people I would say, "Learn to read and think from the perspective of Christian Love (see I Corinthians 13) and do not be so hasty to think the worst of anyone who says anything that might sound corrective." We all have failed God. By extension, we have all failed the Church. When we sin, we sin against the Church. So, to say that the Church has perpetrated any wrong is as foolish as saying that some Nation has the capability of malevolence. No, people sin, not organizations. So I apologize for saying that the Church has done anything wrong, but if you replace the phrase "the Church" in my papers with "a substantial number of Christians and Church leaders," it would be correct. Thanks to the power of computers, I will probably post such a revision. I will not say that a problem does not exist, however, when it obviously and painfully does.

I would also like to tell you what I believe about scripture.

I. It is true.
II. I believe it unaltered.
III. It is the Word of God.
IV. It is the Final Authority on All matters of Faith.
V. It condemns homosexual liaisons and lust.
VI. It condemns any heterosexual preoccupations with sex.
VII. It preaches Love.
VIII. It preaches Forgiveness.
IX. It preaches Righteousness and Holiness.
X. It condemns Hatred in all forms.
XI. It condemns Vengeance.

I hope that this statement of my presuppositions will enable you to understand more fully anything I write in the future on the subject of Christian faith. And I warn you, you probably will hear pain, maybe even anger. Chalk it up to my youth, my experience, or my humanity, but do not question my acceptance of the Word of God. I was wrong to assume that most people would understand that I was writing from this perspective to begin with, so I am posting this in response. Any intelligent flamage, not having to do with these core values, would be quite welcome. And if the other paper has a positive impact on you, do not hesitate to send me e-mail, even if you have to do so anonymously, as one chaste Pastor had to do to protect his ministry.

David Vann

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February 24, 1999, April 11, 1999.
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