Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
For some it was simply too much to bear. An embarrassment. Our Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had, after decades of study, decided that gay and lesbian persons, even those in lifelong committed relationships (there were no legal marriages at the time) could serve openly as pastors in our denomination.
The truth is that gay and lesbian persons have served faithfully as pastors of this Church for a long time. They did so under two rubrics. One was a 'don't ask, don't tell' rubric, which welcomed the service of gay and lesbian pastors, as long as we didn't know they were gay or lesbian. The second rubric was simply put that they could serve as long as they didn't love anyone.
Now things were changing. I had one colleague in particular who, at the synod assembly following the decision, related how he was simply embarrassed and ashamed to be part of this Church. In his mind, homosexuality was simply so sinful that to allow gay and lesbian pastors to serve openly in this Church was simply beyond belief. How could we be so foolish? How could we abandon the scriptures? Deep shame is what he felt, enough so that he chose to leave this Church in which he grew up and had served for nearly thirty years as a pastor.
We acknowledge that there are a variety of convictions out there with respect to homosexuality. Some are convinced it is sinful. Some not.
But when has sinfulness ever precluded one from serving as a pastor? "There is no one who is righteous, no not even one", Paul writes. Not even one. Therefore, we're kinda stuck with sinners serving as ministers of the Gospel.
But sinners that are called with a holy calling, not according to their works, but according to God's own purpose and grace.
Paul, even while he was still breathing threats against the Church, was called with a holy calling. It's not as though God waited until Paul had repented and reformed his life before calling him. Paul's call came as he was on the road to Damascus, intent on rounding up all the Christians there. But God saw something in Paul and called him into the service of the very Church he was trying to destroy.
Do not be ashamed then about the Gospel. For all of us, rely on the Gospel as the power of God to save us. No one, all, and nothing. No one is righteous. All are saved by grace. And nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul learned this, and shared it with us.
And its nothing to be ashamed about.