The Bible’s Viewpoint
Can a Homosexual Be a Minister of God?
IT WAS January 1987, and Robert Arpin was dying of AIDS. That, in itself, was no longer newsworthy. But Robert Arpin was a priest, one of a growing number of openly declared homosexual clergy.
In recent years not only are homosexuals “coming out of the closet” but they are also coming out of the seminaries. An underclassman at the Catholic University Theological College in the United States told the National Catholic Reporter: “I would estimate 60 to 70 percent of my class is gay and an equal figure for the seminary.” Commenting on the trend of homosexuality in seminaries, Anthony Kosnick, editor of Human Sexuality, said: “It’s far more common than I ever thought.”
Various religions have voiced a wide spectrum of views on whether a homosexual should be a minister or not. Many people, though, are not interested in opinions shaped by current trends but, rather, in what the Bible says. What, then, is God’s standard for ministers? Does a homosexual qualify?
Priests in Israel
In ancient Israel the standard for priests of Jehovah God was high. (Leviticus, chapter 21) Since they represented the Most Holy One, they had to remain spiritually, physically, and morally clean. “Anyone who touches the altar is to be holy,” God commanded. Thus, when Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, and his sons were installed as priests, a seven-day ceremony was held to sanctify them for their sacred duties.—Exodus 29:37.
The priests were also responsible to teach God’s Law and, along with the judges, to see that it was enforced. (Malachi 2:7) Included in that Law was a clear condemnation of homosexuality. God decreed: “And when a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing. They should be put to death without fail.” (Leviticus 20:13) Consistently, the priests would have to live by that same Law.
When the priests failed to uphold divine law, they were censured, as in the case of one high priest, Eli, and his two immoral sons. (1 Samuel 2:12-35; 4:17, 18) Later, in the prophet Ezekiel’s day, Jehovah said: “[Israel’s] priests themselves have done violence to my law, and they keep profaning my holy places.” Because of this, God rejected them.—Ezekiel 22:26, 31.
The Christian Standard
The standard for those taking the lead in worship in the Christian congregation is also high. Among the qualifications listed in the Bible, note these: “irreprehensible,” “moderate in habits,” “sound in mind,” “qualified to teach,” “[having] a fine testimony from people on the outside.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7) Thus, a Christian overseer must be blameless. His view of what are proper and improper practices must be based on the Bible, and his own conduct must not close the minds of those he seeks to teach. Does a homosexual meet those Scriptural standards?
Before writing the above guidelines, the apostle Paul warned Timothy about some members who desired “to be teachers of law.” Timothy was to command these disturbers of the faith “not to teach different doctrine.” Next, he warned Timothy of “persons lawless and unruly, ungodly and sinners,” and then he specifically identified “men who lie with males” as being “in opposition to the healthful teaching.” (1 Timothy 1:3-11) Surely, one who leads a congregation in worship must not hinder the beneficial teachings of the Bible either in word or in life-style.—Compare Romans 2:21.
The force of this admonition is also seen in what Paul wrote to Titus in Crete. In setting requirements to “ordain elders” (King James Version), he stipulated their being “free from accusation,” “righteous,” “self-controlled,” “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching.” (Titus 1:5-9) Included in that “faithful word” was Paul’s earlier letter to Christians living in Corinth, which stated that “men who lie with men” would not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Holding to “the faithful word” would enable a minister “to reprove those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9) How can a homosexual minister reprove others when his own life-style contradicts “the faithful word”? On the contrary, the apostle Peter said of “false teachers” that “many will follow their acts of loose conduct.”—2 Peter 2:1, 2.
‘I Shall Reject You’
Consider also this: In a vision, the prophet Zechariah of the sixth century B.C.E. saw high priest Joshua clothed with befouled garments. How could he have them cleansed so he could continue as priest? “If you obey my laws and perform the duties I have assigned you,” God said, “then you will continue to be in charge of my Temple.” (Zechariah 3:7, Today’s English Version) To individuals who fail to obey divine laws, including those laws that prohibit homosexual practices, God says: “Because the knowledge is what you yourself have rejected, I shall also reject you from serving as a priest to me.”—Hosea 4:6.
Therefore, may a homosexual be a minister of Jehovah God? No. Persons who do not qualify according to the “healthful teaching” contained in the Bible are not true ministers of God.—Titus 2:1; 1 Timothy 1:10; see also Romans 1:24-27, 32.
[Picture on page 13]
How can a minister accurately teach others when his own life-style contradicts “the faithful word”?