Churches essential in ministry to those with same-sex attraction, Allberry says in lecture
“Often, we treat homosexuality as if it’s a kind of self-contained issue on its own, and we don’t quite know what to do with it because we’re not anchoring it in what the gospel tells all people to do,” said Allberry. “Jesus says all of us need to repent and believe in the gospel.”
Allberry is associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, United Kingdom, and author of Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction. He shared his testimony, including his struggle with same-sex attraction, and lectured about Christian engagement with homosexuality in a series of lectures hosted by Boyce’s Center for Gospel and Culture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
According to Allberry, the Bible’s prohibition of homosexuality should not be the first thing Christians talk about. Instead, he said, Christians need to treat homosexuality like other sins rather than treating homosexuality more seriously. The church needs to call all people to repentance and acknowledge that temptations may linger, but in Christ, Christians are new creations.
He began the first of his two-part lecture, “Homosexuality and Ministry,” explaining the Bible’s teaching about marriage. Referencing passages from Genesis to Revelation, Allberry said that marriage foreshadows the spiritual union between Christ and his church.
“Marriage is the joining together of like and unlike to reflect the marriage of Christ and the church,” he said. “We believe what we do about homosexuality because of what we believe about marriage. When we talk about marriage, we will soon be talking about the gospel.”
Allberry further said that a study of scriptural teaching about marriage leads not only to conversations about the gospel but also about homosexuality: “Just from what the Bible says about marriage alone, we would know what to think about homosexual practice.”
From 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Allberry emphasized homosexuality “is a gospel issue because people’s eternities are at stake.”
Paul encourages the Corinthians with the beauty of the gospel. “Such were some of you,” Paul writes. But in Christ, “it’s no longer who they were, but who they are,” Allberry said. “Repentance is possible. We have been washed and sanctified and justified. I am now most myself when I am pursuing holiness.”
In his second lecture, Allberry suggested ways Christians can better minister to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Church leaders must teach the Word of God, which will lead to exposition about difficult topics, including homosexuality, he said.
Church leaders need to make homosexuality a safe topic to discuss, according to Allberry, who said Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with same-sex attraction. Allberry also emphasized the helpfulness of remembering that same-sex attracted Christians struggle with other sins, too. He encouraged pastors and leaders to remember that homosexuality, like other struggles, does not define a Christian — Christ does.
Congregations need to celebrate a biblical understanding of sexual identity, which is eternal, he said, and is defined by the human body, not feelings. Sexual identity feelings are like sinking sand — unreliable and inconsistent — and ultimate fulfillment is found in Christ, Allberry said.
Church leaders also need to honor singleness in the church, he said. Long-term singleness is a viable means of human flourishing. Churches need to provide a safe, family-like environment for the old, young, single and married, he said, and rediscover the art of friendship among Christians.
“There is a theme of friendship in Proverbs: you can’t live a wise life without friends,” he said. “In Proverbs, friendship is a soul-to-soul relationship.”
Church leaders need to encourage church members to become family. From 1 Timothy 5:1, he highlighted Paul’s words to Timothy that older men and women should treat younger men and women like sons and daughters. And church leaders need to provide pastoral care for all sheep, including those who struggle with same-sex attraction, he said.
Ultimately, he said, when the whole church lives according to Scripture, the world will see people with diverse issues flourishing. “If you take the church away, God’s truth has no outlet in the world. We are, as the church, to uphold the truth and commend it to the world around us,” he said.
And as Christians commend the truth in a loving way, he said, they will gain credibility with the world.
“The way we will most gain credibility is if people see those struggling with same-sex attraction in our churches flourishing far better than they would have in the gay community,” he said.
Audio from Allberry’s lectures is available at sbts.edu/resources.