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

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Should a Pastor Participate in the Gay Games? by Pr. Robert Niehus — 13 Comments

  1. No. It is not appropriate.

    His participation could very easily be understood to be be acceptance of homosexual behavior as not contrary to God’s law.

  2. Would this be an appropriate text? “If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience – I do not mean your conscience, but his.”

    It would seem that one has [*ahem*] Christian liberty to do pretty much what one wants to do athletically, including competing in the gay games. On the other hand because the name “gay games” is like the meat coming out with a big sign saying “compliments of Baal.” A pastor’s participation might well give both Christian and non-Christian the wrong message.

    “Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best.” Gack. What a nauseating culture in which we live. A happy, positive culture.

  3. From the website for the Federation of Gay Games:

    The purpose of the Federation of Gay Games is to foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the nongay world, primarily through an organized international participatory athletic and cultural event held every four years, and commonly known as the Gay Games.

    From Chicago Mayor Daley’s opening address to the 2006 Gay Games:

    Unfortunately, not every place is as open and welcoming as Chicago. In various countries around the world, gays and lesbians still encounter violence, police harassment, censorship and discrimination.

    In this country, many states – and even the federal government – continue to propose anti-gay legislation because politicians consider it an easy way to win votes and divert attention from more critical issues.

    So there’s a lot of work to be done before gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people enjoy all the rights afforded to the rest of society.

  4. The same thing he does about the unionism in the youth gatherings in his own Texas district, Todd. [But of course, he’s already come out in favor of unionism, so I suppose that’s a bad example.] 🙁

    Say it isn’t up to him, talk to the DP. 🙁

  5. This is not a sign of the end times. It is a indication that someone did something offensive and foolish. Pastors do such all the time. I think the only issue here (again and again) is that there is no discipline, no supervision, and our DPs are not doing their jobs.

  6. No, it is not acceptable, and again, this is just one more sign of the total lack of spiritual oversight and discipline from the leadership in this synod. I reiterate my belief that the leadership of the LCMS, regardless of what they say or affirm in public, are determined to take this synod in the direction of the ELCA.

  7. “The purpose of the Federation of Gay Games is to foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the nongay world, primarily through an organized international participatory athletic and cultural event held every four years, and commonly known as the Gay Games.”

    Perhaps this LCMS pastor was confusing this concept of respect with condoning the behavior. We can show respect by loving the sinner, but we still ought to speak against the sin.

    I would be curious to know what he preaches in his pulpit.
    Was this a case of him “practicing what he preaches”?
    Does he teach that homosexuality is a sin?

  8. The Pharisees of Jesus day made a big deal about how he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. It makes me wonder how he would have fared today in some of our so-called “confessional” Lutheran circles. I suspect he would have been accused of being a heretic for not condemning prostitutes who were caught in the act by zealous steadfast brothers. He would be told that saying vague words like “go and sin no more” are not strong enough and that they should have been told by him – in stronger words – that they were going to hell.

    It is not for us to judge how ministry is done in GLBT circles. One could very easily be in favor for rights for gays, just like the population in general can be in favor of rights for other religions (i.e. non Christian).

    The days, in the late 16th century, in which Lutherans evicted Jews for not being Christians in the cities, probably set back Jewish mission work to a considerable extent – and also led to the seeds of the holocaust. When will we learn that the Kingdom of God is not helped by hate and bigotry?

  9. Anonymous #12,

    You are the king of non sequitur. Your reply is bogus. No one has said anything even close to your comparison with evicting Jews from our cities.

    No one has asserted that we ought to stone practicing homosexuals. We are simply asserting that Christ’s church should not promote homosexuality. Are you so that thick in the head that you will not address the issues that we have raised?

    Please answer this question. Should Christ’s church promote homosexuality?

    While you are at it please answer this question. Is it possible that I as a pastor require of other pastors that they take down promotion of the gay agenda from their websites and at the same time be willing to live with tax collectors and sinners?

    I will answer that one for you. The answer is yes. I am that man. I expect that those I walk in synod with would uphold Biblical morality. I also do not condemn sinners. (If you would please read carefully the posts on this website you will see there is no condemnation of sinners. That has been assumed by you – so guess who the Pharisee is?) I live with, eat with, even sleep with sinners every day. I would bet that I have spent more time in vomit filled, urine soaked motel rooms and street corners than you seeking out sheep who have fallen into sin.

    In addition, the pastor in question did not participate in the gay games in order to evangelize. It would be just great if he had done what Jesus did with the tax collectors and harlots. With the woman at the well, Jesus convicted her of her sin. With the harlot he had her confess, forgave her and then told her to go and sin no more.

    If it is an issue of gay rights, the pastor in question can be in favor of rights for gays without participating in the gay games.

    By the way, speaking of rights for gays, are you in favor of gays having the right to marriage? We are with President Kieschnick on this one and oppose such rights.

    I am looking forward to your response.

    Pastor Rossow

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