Ethics: Which Pastor, Anger or Homosexuality?

What would you do Wednesday!

The following scenario was built upon an actual question that was asked to a group of Christian men about which pastor they would choose in a given situation. Read on.

I also believe that a measure of homophobia has existed in many Southern Baptists. My evidence? I asked a group of professing Christian men in my town this question several years ago:

Suppose your church has been searching for a pastor. After months of meetings and interviews the final two candidates have been selected. At this point in the pastoral search process it is time for both candidates to go before the congregation. (Maybe your local church does not operate this way, but play along for this scenario.)

Led by the search committee chairman the congregation is gathered. Both men sit next to each other facing the congregation. After some Q&A, it is announced that there will be one last question before everyone casts their votes. The committee chairman notes that each man is equally qualified and very similar in their approach to ministry. Mutterings of agreement can be heard from the congregation. The last question before the vote is asked.

What is your greatest failing and greatest struggle?

Candidate 1 says that, before coming to Christ, he killed a man in a fit of rage. He is occasionally tempted by his temper, but by the grace of God he consistently strives to put that sin to death.

Candidate 2 shares that, before coming to Christ, he was a practicing homosexual. He is occasionally tempted by same sex attraction, but by the grace of God he consistently strives to put that sin to death.

Which candidate would you choose?

Which candidate do you think the original group of Christian men chose?

Let's connect!

tagged as , in Culture,morality

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel June 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

The information given would not be enough for me to make a choice between them. Each candidate admits to committing gross sinful acts before coming to Christ (admittedly, one was a bit more severe than the other). Each candidate (presumably) has been born again by the Spirit and is by that Spirit mortifying the deeds of the flesh. Unless it was revealed that one of the candidates was not “beyond reproach”, as the Scripture phrases it, neither admission would disqualify the candidates from the pastorate.

2 Mark June 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Daniel, thanks for your comment. Any thoughts on what answer the group of men gave who were originally asked such a question?

3 Daviss Woodbury June 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm

As the one who asked the men this question, after any others have ventured their guesses, I’d like to shed some light on the conversations that followed. Thanks for bringing the issue to light. I was afraid it had gotten lost in the flurry of comments over at Voices.

4 Daniel June 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Well, given that the post mentions evidence of homophobia in churches, I’m going to guess that the church went with Candidate 1.

5 Dan Smith June 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm

The fact is that sin is sin and neither is worse than the other, although by human standards the murderer who still struggles with anger is disconcerting. Both of these men now have powerful testimonies. This alone is not enough to make the decision.

6 Kenneth Osbourne June 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

Neither man is qualified for the ministry. Assuming each is sincere in his profession, they may be received as Christians, but not hold office? Why? In the words of Martin Luther, a born-again believer is both justified and sinful. He is forgiven, yet still retains his old nature. The deeds of the past do not magically vanish because one has come to faith.

I don’t believe the story is true. A competent search committee would have known about the scandals before the congregation meeting, never mind the last question. Worse, this hypothetical reminds me of those old public school values clarification exercises where kids are forced to choose between evils with no lawful options.

7 Bart Barber June 23, 2011 at 10:33 am


I hope that the story is not true. But I would not advise you ever to risk anything substantial on the presumption that search committees are always competent.

8 Mark June 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hi Kenneth,

First, the question is a real question and it was presented by Daviss (see above comment) to a group of men in his town. I hope he comes back to shine some light on the post-conversation as he said. I took his question in put it in a hypothetical situation for the post.

So I can more clearly understand you I’d like to ask about your statements, “He is forgiven, yet still retains his old nature. The deeds of the past do not magically vanish because one has come to faith.

In light of Paul’s claim in Acts 22:4 that he killed Christians (“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women“(ESV)) Would you say that the Apostle Paul should have been disqualified from ministry?

9 Dan Smith June 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

Sadly, in American Christianity, I doubt Paul would have been given a fair shake.

10 Mark June 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

You reminded me of this post Apostle Paul Shunned By Christians.


11 Daviss Woodbury June 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm

For the record, the situation with the pastoral candidates was hypothetical, but the conversation I had with some professing Christian men in our town was very real. The hypothetical situation came out of a discussion regarding the categorization of sins. We talked about the fact that we tend to have the really vile sins that we condemn, the sort-of-bad sins that we gossip about and then eventually forgive when we determine the person has atoned, and then the acceptable sins we all practice and overlook. So, to make my point, I presented the situation to these men as though they were the ones on the search committee.

They agreed that, if they were honest, they would be more likely to choose candidate 1 than candidate 2. They also admitted that it shouldn’t be this way, but that they viewed certain sins as “forgiveable” and others as leaving a permanent stain or stigma. They speculated that part of the reason for this may be that all of them had been tempted to sinful expressions of anger, but none of them claimed to have been tempted by homosexuality. Hearing this, I presented the situation again, only this time with a former adulterer and a former homosexual (so that we were dealing with 2 different expressions of sexual sin). Again, they said that, if they were honest, they would be compelled to give the nod to the one who had given in to heterosexual lust rather than the one who had given in to homosexual lust.

Let me be very clear that these men were lamenting this bias in their own hearts. They desired to be rid of this attitude toward brothers of sisters in Christ who had been washed by the blood of Jesus. But in being completely transparent, they admitted that their attitude toward sin in general was not as strong as their attitude toward this one particular sin.

While I believe the term “homophobia” is a politically and socially charged term, and I wish that maybe Al Mohler would have used a different word, I understood what he meant when he said it in Phoenix. I submit this as limited, anecdotal evidence that there is a measure of what we might call “homophobia” (or what I prefer to call “bias against certain sins”), not only among Southern Baptists, but among American Evangelicals in general.

I hope this helps advance the conversation and stimulate us to carry the transforming message of Jesus to all those who need to be redeemed, whether homosexuals, murderers, or adulterers. And I pray that, when they join the family of faith, that we might be able to say with Paul, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

12 Mark June 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm


Thanks so much for sharing the follow-up conversations. I appreciate the honesty of these men and their realization that they need to change their attitudes.

I appreciate your insights.

13 Daviss Woodbury June 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm


I’m interested in your opinion on this. What sins or categories of sins committed prior to conversion would disqualify an individual from ministry/eldership/the pastorate? I’ve heard people argue that divorce and remarriage prior to conversion might disqualify, but you seem to broaden that to include other things as well. Anyone else can chime in with their opinions as well. I’m just curious.

14 Carl Holland October 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm

This was quite an interesting post. I even went and read some of the related material linked herein. I have had struggles myself with treating homosexuality as its own class of sin. Sin is sin, and it all can be forgiven. This is a very difficult and delicate issue that I believe needs to be addressed more thoroughly in our churches. Daviss, you brought up a subject in your last comment that had already crossed my mind before I got down to it, and that is whether of not divorce before “conversion” would be a disqualifier. Are we getting too deep into things and becoming too legalistic? Are any of us truly qualified for ministry due to our sin? If “sin is sin,” where do we draw the line? Or should we even be drawing one? ALL of us have a COMMAND to ministry by the “Great Commission,” so should there truly be qualifiers? Are we missing the point of “grace?” Thank you for such a thought provoking post. This is certainly not a clear-cut, black and white issue.


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