Should a Pastor Participate in the Gay Games? by Pr. Robert Niehus

(Pr. Niehus is one of our regular columnists. His column is titled “Church News Watch and Commentary.” His beat is the Chicago area, the Northern Illinois District and the church at large. His posts can be found on the Regular Columns page.)

There is a saying that goes something like this, “example is a language that all people understand.” Needless to say, much can be communicated through our actions whether or not a single word is ever spoken. Body language is particularly powerful, and physical presence can often be perceived by others as a silent form of support.

As we exercise our God pleasing practice of closed Communion, confessional pastors remind their parishioners that by joining others at the communion rail, without speaking a word, they are affirming a common confession and a united front to all who may join or observe them as they receive the blessed Sacrament.

In an October 22, 2008 press conference held in St. Louis, MO, L.C.M.S. president Gerald Kieschnick is on record affirming a resolution adopted at the 2004 Missouri synod convention that stated, on the basis of Scripture, marriage is the “lifelong union of one man and one woman.” The resolution urged members of LCMS congregations “to give a public witness” from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual marriage.

President Kieschnick went on to say “In the present context, we and other Christians cannot be silent, since such silence could be viewed as acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle,” and, “We recognize that it is necessary to respond to this behavior with the same love and concern with which we address all other sins committed by human beings, including those inside and those outside the church,” he continued, “We do so without apology, yet with deep humility and respect, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when and where such repentance occurs.”

Well, now the problem. I recently learned of a pastor in my own Northern Illinois District who participated in The Gay Games held in greater Chicago land in 2006. When I spoke personally with this pastor he made it clear to me that he did not see a problem in participating in these games, explaining that he saw it purely as an athletic challenge and that he “could have used an alias” if he so desired. I have also spoken to the district president of the NID from whom at the time of this writing I have not received a response. To be fair, here is the statement of participation from the “Gay Games” website.

The Gay Games are open to anyone. There are no qualifying events, no minimum or maximum requirements, and no mandatory affiliations. The Games are built on the founding principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best, and promote a supportive environment, free from bigotry, where participants achieve success by their own measure.

This situation is particularly acute for me because I serve in a community that has a vocal and large presence of those who promote the gay and lesbian agenda and as a pastor I am constantly battling this mindset. My stand as an LCMS pastor is compromised when a fellow LCMS pastor participates in the Gay Games.

Now my question for you Steadfast Lutherans,

Is it appropriate and God pleasing for an ordained pastor in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to participate in an athletic event deemed the “Gay Games?”

Rev. Robert M. Niehus
Christ Lutheran Church, Oak Park, Illinois

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