The Associated Press reported on the return to the pulpit of a Minnesota Lutheran pastor. He'd taken some time off after a gay publication crashed a support meeting for those facing unwanted same-sex attraction. The journalist did so under false pretenses and it created quite a bit of a firestorm because the pastor in question was a vocal opponent of changing church doctrine to affirm homosexuality. Okay, so he's back in the pulpit and reporter Patrick Condon has a write-up of what happened since June, when this all went down:
A Lutheran pastor in Minneapolis who opposes homosexuals being allowed to lead congregations said Monday he is attracted to men, but that he's not a hypocrite because he never acted on his urges.
The Rev. Tom Brock told The Associated Press he has known for years he is sexually attracted to men, but doesn't consider himself gay because he never acted on it.
The language we use to discuss sexual issues can be very loaded. But I thought this report did a pretty good job of explaining the difference between self-identifying as gay versus same-sex attracted. This is an issue I've thought a lot about as I know more than a few men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex but who do not identify as gay. This may be difficult to understand for some folks but it's actually something shared by many Christians. In this way of thinking, inclination toward a given activity is not the determinant for engagement but, rather, what they believe God has to say about the given activity.
It's important for reporters to be respectful and neutral about sexuality whether or not they agree with the choices made by those they're covering. And that goes for those who embrace same-sex activity and those who discourage it. I think most of our coverage problems could be improved by working a bit harder on our language choices.
Still, there were some confusing paragraphs in the story:
Brock's broadcasts, in which he espoused conservative viewpoints on a number of scriptural issues, brought him some measure of prominence in Minnesota. He testified at the state Capitol about his opposition to same-sex marriage, and he was one of the most vocal opponents of the decision last summer by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy. ...
As for Brock, "He's free to do what he wants to do and say what he wants to say," [outing reporter John] Townsend said. "But he will have less credibility on that now, I'm afraid."
This is a fine quote to include, but I have no idea what it means. The story should explain why Townsend believes that Brock has less credibility -- as opposed to more. I'm sure he has a reason but I have no idea what it is.
On the other hand, the following characterization could have been better supported than this one:
Brock said even if scientists were to establish definitive proof that homosexuality is genetic, that wouldn't deter his views. He said he believes people who engage in homosexual acts will go to hell, but he doesn't believe that makes him a bigot.
"My message doesn't change at all. I still think homosexual behavior is a sin," Brock said. "Because I struggle with it doesn't make it right."
The first paragraph and the "supporting" quote don't match at all. While I'm Lutheran, I'm not the same denomination as Brock. So I suppose it's possible that he believes engaging in homosexual acts means you'll go to hell. But if he does, that is something that would be extremely weird for a Lutheran to say. It doesn't match with the information on his church web site and it doesn't match with the one sermon I listened to from the web site.
So if he did say that, you simply have to quote his exact words as proof. And if not, I'm wondering if the reporter is confused, thinking that declaring an act sinful means that you think folks who practice it are going to hell.