The National Congregations Study recently published its latest report of America’s churches, synagogues and mosques. It finds more racial and ethnic diversity in our pews, more encouragement of hand-waving, amen-shouting and dancing in our aisles, and less connection to denominations, doctrines, and rules that might impede growth.
The study also found that more congregations than ever before accept gays and lesbians in active membership and in church leadership. Roman Catholics and white conservative evangelicals are the exception: the percentage of Catholic churches permitting full membership and leadership roles for homosexuals has fallen significantly, while only four percent of white conservative evangelical churches permit gays in leadership roles.
Why are most denominations going one way on this issue while Catholics and evangelicals are going the other? The answer you get depends on the person you ask. To some, Catholics and evangelicals are homophobic and bigoted. Their opposition to homosexual activity is viewed as oppressive and backwards, akin to those who opposed civil rights in the 60’s. To others, Catholics and evangelicals are holding fast to biblical morality on this issue while others trade God’s word for cultural acceptance.
As an evangelical who believes that Scripture forbids homosexual activity, I am clearly in the latter camp. The question for Christians like me is not so much what we believe as how we express our beliefs. We can be so harsh on this issue that homosexuals perceive us to be condemning them. Or we can be so conciliatory that they do not know what God actually says on this issue.
While we must engage cultural issues by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), it is also truth that we must speak. God exposed false prophets in Ezekiel’s time who “have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace.” This was the analogy he used to describe them: “When the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash” (Ezekiel 13:10). But he warned that when divine judgment comes, “I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare” (v. 14). If the foundation is cracked, whitewashing the walls will not prevent their collapse.
I was recently driving through Dallas, headed west on I-30, when I encountered an eastbound accident that blocked the entire freeway. For miles, vehicles were at a standstill. As I drove further, I came upon cars headed eastbound with no idea of the problems ahead. If there was any way I could have warned them in time for them to turn around, I would have.