Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

The Sin in Our Own House

I’ve been struggling with some thoughts for a couple of weeks, now, on a very controversial theme.  Several recent experiences have coincided to prompt me to think about sexuality, especially homosexuality.   Let me give you pieces and then I’ll try to put them together.  

The Spring Leadership magazine, which I received a couple of weeks ago, deals with various addiction and recovery concerns, including addictions that pastors face, and how the church can deal with them.  This is a really good volume, both for insight into specific addictions, but also more generally for churches who want to think about engaging missionally in our culture.  

The first article especially caught my attention, in part, oddly perhaps, because of an email conversation I’ve had recently with a gay man.   The article features the ministry of Craig Gross, the Porn Pastor, the guy who started XXX Church (an internet ministry to people with porn addictions).  He and his family have moved to Nevada from Michigan in order to work more extensively with sex workers and other people caught in the web of this sin.   

And now to the point: In the interview, he refers to a study which found that nearly half of pastors surveyed (48%) admit to porn addiction.  He then ponders whether this fact is the reason churches are generally not dealing very well with this problem.  

Enter my email conversation with a gay man from Iowa, who is understably following closely the constitutional changes in his State.  The heart of our conversation had to do with gay marriage.  

I hold what would be considered a traditional view of marriage and homosexuality, so I wound up expending a good deal of energy explaining myself to this guy.   I’m often frustrated with the terms and lines of argument (or lack thereof) used to talk about this most difficult of topics.  I always wind up trying to distinguish myself from the hard-line Right Wing stridency while speaking (gently) for a traditional view.  

Whenever I get involved in such conversations, and particularly recently, I become painfully aware of our Christian hypocrisy.  Our inability to deal with heterosexual sin with appropriate love and discipline is perhaps the biggest roadblock of all to working out our differences over gay marriage.  

United Methodist Annual Conferences across the country will soon be voting to ratify a number of constitutional amendments.  There are several good reasons for these changes, but traditionalists are worried about potential impact on the gay marriage questions.  So, we’re starting to gear up for floor debates.  I dread them.  

Straight people, we must make some courageous moves toward getting our own houses in order, if we want to have any moral ground whatsoever upon which to stand when we talk about homosexual practice.  The log is in our own eyes.  Certainly we can’t wait until we’re near-sinless before we engage the issues.  But if the statistic about pastors and porn is true and if we face the fact that very few congregations deal well at all with any kind of sin, much less sexual sin (does anyone remember fornication, adultery and divorce?) then it becomes almost impossible for us not to look like utter Pharisess.


April 28, 2009 - Posted by | Christian Spirituality, General, Ministry, Pop Culture, Religion, The Church, United Methodism | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I would be interested in your opinion on this post…


    Comment by correctmyreligion | April 28, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m not sure if you want my comment here or on that blog, so maybe I’ll do both (but say the same things both places).

    1. I think the irony of the social acceptance of watching men beat each other bloody while not wanting to watch men kiss is indicative of the fact that we do choose our list of actions to approve and disapprove. Human society always discriminates.

    2. I can’t say that I agree with the left-handed logic (I’m left-handed, so I offend myself) in the blog. “If I do not feel morally troubled at the violence witnessed in blood sport, then I should not feel morally troubled by two men kissing,” produces a certain kind of non-sequitur, I think. I actually do feel morally troubled by some of the sports mentioned.

    3. Ah, the question of love. Can two men love each other in an analogous manner as a man and a woman love each other? I know it seems obvious to a good number of people that it is so, but this one is not so obvious to me. I understand the difficulty of my seeming bigotry here, but I think I have reason for the hesitance to accept the functional equivalence.

    Comment by steverankin | April 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. The church needs to have leaders who are clean vessels for the Lord to use. If a pastor is caught in porn addiction, he will be less likely to preach against it or come down hard against other sins.
    As Christians, we are not perfect and sinless. When we speak out against sin, we speak to ourselves as well. I think the distinction here is living in sin verses (in rebellion & unrepentant) verses another who is a sinner but is repentant and keeping short accounts with the Lord. Those who are in rebellion (48%) have no power to preach against sin, but the other 52% do.

    Comment by prepare4battle | April 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. I’m not sure I’d say the 48% are in rebellion. Sin is more complicated than just rebellion. It’s also a sickness. I’m not trying to let anyone off the hook. Sin has to be addressed, regardless of how we describe it. Christ died for us not only when we were enemies of God, but also when we were weak and helpless (Romans 5:6).

    Comment by steverankin | April 29, 2009 | Reply

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