Reverend Bradley Schmeling is pastor of the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and he is objecting to a bishop’s attempt to have him defrocked. The reason that this bishop is seeking to remove Schmeling from ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is that Schmelling is a practicing homosexual. According to the Associated Press,
“Schmeling and his supporters say the policy barring sexually active gay pastors is discriminatory by forcing them to refrain from sex, while heterosexuals only have to wait for marriage.”
Schmeling is right about one thing. The church’s policy is discriminatory, as all church policies should be when it comes to establishing the criteria for its leadership. Among other things, the scriptures teach that the sexual norm for Christian elders/pastors is monogamous, heterosexual marriage (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These scriptures clearly discriminate against all other kinds of unions.
The reason that God calls church leaders to these standards is not because pastors are called to a different morality than parishioners. On the contrary, God calls pastors to exemplify the Christ-like holiness that is required of all Christians (1 Timothy 4:12). No Christian (especially a pastor) is allowed to engage in behavior that is clearly condemned in scripture, and homosexual conduct is one such behavior (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-11).
Homosexuality is a flashpoint in the contemporary culture war, but no one should mistake what the real issue is with Rev. Schmeling and his church. The root problem is that this church (and sadly so many others) have decided to forsake biblical authority in favor of worldly opinions. Yet the Gospel calls people to be disciples of a Man who will brook no rivals to His opinion.
That means that the meaning and purpose of human sexuality are not things that people get to make up as they go along. God determines such things, and He intends for marriage (and indeed the sexual union itself) to display the glory of Christ’s love for His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-33). God is supremely concerned about the display of His glory in Christ, and therefore He is extremely concerned about the display of His glory in marriage. Thus, divorce, infidelity, homosexual relations, spouse abuse, fornication, and the like are evil precisely because they distort the glory of Christ’s redemptive love for His church.
Any Christian who cares about the glory of Christ is concerned about the sanctity of marriage. Thus churches must be discriminatory in more ways than one if they are to glorify Christ. So we should pray that St. John’s Lutheran Church might awaken to the Gospel of the One who is glorified in the union of one man and one woman in marriage.