Review: 'The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals'

Jed Stuber  ·  Jun 27, 2018

The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals makes important contributions to an ongoing discussion about sexuality, perhaps the most pressing issue facing the church in our day. The coauthors include Samaritan members Tim and Joseph Bayly, father and son, who are both pastors.

The main idea of the book is that by failing to use the language God uses in His word we equivocate, which the dictionary defines as “using ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself.” Our equivocation deprives people of the opportunity to hear the truth, feel appropriate shame, and find salvation in Christ.

It is a failure of courage. A failure to love. A failure to be a faithful Gospel witness.

This challenge is sure to offend some, but Tim Bayly’s perspective cannot be easily dismissed. He has spent decades in the trenches of ministry to the sexually confused, abused, and depraved, and has much wisdom to offer, learned from both his successes and failures.

The key Bible passage considered in the book is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (KJV).

There are two different Greek words in this passage that have always been understood and translated to refer to two different categories of sin that describe different forms of homosexuality—“effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.”

However, recent translations conflate the two terms with the phrase “those who practice homosexuality.” This error is the root cause of a host of problems, say the authors.

One of those problems is a growing movement in the church that encourages people to go ahead and embrace their homosexual identity as long as they don’t act it out. For example, the Revoice conference to be held this month in St. Louis has drawn criticism for this reason.

Tim Bayly shares a cautionary story about this kind of problem in the book. His church is located in a city with a very active homosexual community so his church has an active ministry to homosexuals. Many have placed their faith in Christ and been welcomed into the church family. Some have left their sin and never looked back while others struggle for years to overcome it as the church comes alongside them through counsel and discipleship.

Bayly confesses that early in his ministry he failed to clearly counsel men struggling with being effeminate—that their behavior was sinful and that it would keep them out of the kingdom of God if they did not repent. He saw effeminate men give in to homosexuality and fall away from the faith, despite the best efforts of the church to help them. Bayly admits that he had failed them at a critical early point in their struggle, and he publicly repents for his failure in the book.

But he doesn’t let that stop him from learning from his mistakes and pressing on:

“We never stop working with the effeminate, gays, and lesbians. Some are single, some married, and some get married. They love us and we love them. We hug and kiss them—remembering the New Testament’s frequent command, ‘greet one another with a holy kiss.’ We are in their homes and at their tables, just as they are in ours, eating with us and our children. Those who repent and believe, we baptize and welcome to the Lord’s Supper. Those who are unrepentant, we bar from the sacraments until they repent and believe. Those who go back to the pit God dug them from, we plead with them to return to Jesus” (Kindle Location 297).

Bayly has challenging questions for those who are equivocating about sin that the Bible clearly confronts. Would we tell a thief not to worry about his desire to steal as long as he refrained from swiping stuff? Would we tell a husband that his adulterous fantasies are OK as long as he doesn’t act them out? Would we tell a child molester his “pedophile orientation” is acceptable as long as he doesn’t commit crimes? How about an angry person contemplating murder?

Bayly’s point is that we ought to be able to see that this is folly that runs counter to Scripture.

But how have we come to the point where Christians are holding conferences with this slogan: “Supporting, encouraging, and affirming gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and LGBT Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic Christian tradition”?

Bayly sheds light on the current dilemma by sharing his personal history. When he and his wife were first married, they accepted feminist ideas uncritically. Then when Bayly took his first church as a pastor, he found the church had ordained a sixteen-year-old girl as one of their elders. Bayly’s denomination had a policy requiring equal numbers of men and women serving churches as pastors and elders. Things became very difficult in his marriage and church and it finally dawned on him that the rejection of Biblical truth was the fundamental problem. Thankfully the Bayly’s marriage and the branch of the denomination they were serving in recovered. God graciously led the church to repent and return to Biblical principles of ministry. Men admitted fault, took responsibility for the problems, and began to serve earnestly. In a few years there were no longer any women who wanted to be elders. 

Bayly sees his personal experience as representative of the larger historical progression. Why are churches that we associate with strong statements of faith, such as a high view of Scripture, now falling into compromise on sexual issues? He says the church has failed a series of tests in his lifetime. We failed to recognize feminism’s flattening of sexual distinctions. We failed to confront fornication and adultery becoming more common and infiltrating the church. Next the church failed to deal with rising divorce rates and went along with no-fault divorce. It is no wonder that we find ourselves unable to respond to the challenges of an increasingly decadent culture: pornography everywhere, any stigmas regarding sexual perversions gone, homosexual “marriage” the law of the land, and transgenderism flailing against the reality of God’s created order by mutilating body parts and destroying health with hormone injections.

It is a desperate state of affairs but Bayly offers hope that it is not too late to correct our mistakes. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, and we should not be ashamed of it. This is no time for hand wringing about the decline of culture around us, Bayly says. It is the church that leads the culture, and the responsibility lies with us. If we are going to effectively minister to homosexuals—if we truly love them in the name of Jesus Christ—then we have to learn from our mistakes and get to work.

There are many other topics of interest addressed in the book:

  • Ways Christians are falling for subtle shifts in language that have dangerous implications: “Godliness is not heterosexuality,” “sexual orientation,” “gay Christian,” and “such are some of you”, and “living out,” etc.
  • Why do Christians still believe that homosexuality is biologically or genetically determined, when even secular scientists and homosexual leaders have rejected this notion?
  • Christian leaders are retreating from the idea that homosexuals can be helped to overcome sinful desires through counseling because half a dozen states have passed laws against such counseling. Freedom of speech and religion are under attack and equivocation won’t help.

Additional resources