An Open Lettert to LCA Chief Theologian Dr Jeff Silcock. Sexual Orientation Vs Activity. You Haven’t Thought This Through!

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

I LOVE The Daily Show. It is a comedy/ news show. I love the show*s opening  rider…

The show you are about to see is a news parody. Its stories are not fact checked. Its reporters are not journalists. And its opinions are not fully thought through.

The Lutheran Church of Australia*s Theological think tank, the CTICR, are about to release a paper on homosexuality in the lead up to the National Synod of the Church. They appear to be dragging their feet in releasing the paper in time for it to be adequately reviewed prior to the Synod.  An advanced copy of the paper shows that they have every reason to be hesitant about releasing it for public scrutiny.

Indeed, it appears as if it has not been fact checked and the views expressed have certainly not been fully thought through. Unfortunately, the CTICR is not a  theological parody. They are real theologians and their opinions have a very real and immediate influence on the lives of the hundreds of gay people who are under the care of the LCA.

I address my critique of the paper in the form of an open letter to the chair of the CTICR, Dr Jeff Silcock.

Dear Dr Silcock.
My understanding is that after 6 years of study the CTICR have not recommended any changes to the Church*s existing statement which declares *homosexual activity* to be sinful, disordered and diseased.  Therefore, as there is no change to its theological position,  the Church continues to hold to a strange piece of theological wizardry namely, that homosexual propensity is not sinful but that homosexual activity (whatever THAT means) IS sinful.

Let me cut to the chase. When it comes to defining sin, I don’t believe it is theologically valid to separate propensity from activity. As far as I know such a separation has never  been attempted in 2000 years of theological thought. Now, only in the last 50 years, the question of homosexuality has forced some  theologians who are determined to continue their discrimination against one particular group of people to come up with this brand new category. 

Things That Are  Sinful By Activity But Not By Propensity.

1. Homosexuality.

2. Umm….  Umm.


Jesus made things pretty clear about the way we are to understand sin. In Matt 15. he said…

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person…

The context of this passage is telling. The disciples asked Jesus about defilement, uncleanness, wrongness, bad stuff that just shouldnt be. Many Hebrews of the day thought that defilement, uncleanness, wrongness came from external things, the things one ate or touched. Jesus changes the focus entirely. He said that the source of this wrongness is internal. The wrongness lies in the heart and so out of the heart flows wrong activity.

This is not an orphan verse. It confirms the thoughts expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount where he identifies sin, first and foremost, as the desire that gives birth to the action.

Matt 5. 27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So, the source and the activity are inseparably linked.

This is also the conclusion that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod came to in their 1978  evaluation of the LCA statement on homosexuality.

 In Christian thought sin has always been defined first as the seed/ the thought/ the feeling/  the inclination/ the propensity/ the heart… and then (and only then) sin is understood to be the activity that may flow from that source or grow from that seed.

Christian tradition has developed a helpful way of understanding sin. The Seven Deadly Sins define sin as that which flows from base desires.  The Seven Deadly Sins were not activities… rape, murder, picking one*s nose, or barracking for the Eagles Football Club. The Deadly Sins were desires, inclinations of the heart or propensities … lust, gluttony, pride ,sloth, greed, wrath and envy.

Dr Silcock, I contend that it is theologically invalid to define any sin as an activity alone as if the propensity from which it flows is not also considered sin.

One simple test… Apart from Homosexuality, name another activity that is considered sinful where the propensity from which it flows is not.

I am willing to enlightened but… I can’t think of one.

As I said earlier… Now, only in the last 50 years, the question of homosexuality has forced some theologians who are determined to continue their discrimination against one particular group of people to come up with this brand new category. 


Dr Silcock, I was recently talking to a prominent LCA theologian and member of the CTICR. In a moment of surprising honesty he said to me…

Of course the propensity and the activity are both sin. That can’t be denied. But the issue here is a pastoral one rather than a specific theological one.

I pressed this CTICR member on the exact meaning of his statement. He said that although he agrees that propensity and activity are always linked… although the seed always gives birth to the deed and both are deemed sin… it is not very *pastoral* to come out and say so.

What the…?!

There is nothing un-pastoral or uncaring about calling sin, sin or shining a light on the wrong in someones life.  In fact, one might say that our most trusted and loved friends are the ones who are willing to sensitively and carefully do precisely that.

  • Neil. You seemed to be filled with anger  and that aint good. It is sneaking out of you in ways that hurt both you and the people around you. How can I help you work through that?
  • Neil. Your pride gets the better of you too often. You put yourself and your own feelings above others, even those closest to you . It does you and them harm. Is there some way we can turn that around?

Dr Silcock, it is a nonsense to suggest that it is un-pastoral to name the wrong in the lives of those we love. And when we name, we name the propensity, the activity and all of their consequences and there is nothing uncaring or un-pastoral about it.

So, why the reference to *pasotral* concern? Why the reluctance to call both the propensity and the activity sin?

Can I hazard a guess?

I think that, with the question of homosexuality, things feel different.  It feels harsh to you to call someones sexual orientation sinful. I think I know why that is.

Dr Silcock, unlike our sect-like LCMS cousins from the US, I suspect that you have a very compassionate heart. You look at my gay friends and you know that their sexuality is essentially the same as yours and mine. It is a part of the way that God has *fearfully and wonderfully* made them. As with our sexuality it is an essential part of their humanity and is inseparably tied to every relationship they form whether that be a specifically sexual relationship or not.

Yes, I think I know why it feels harsh for you to call someones sexual orientation sinful.  It feels harsh because it IS harsh. Not only is it harsh to condemn someones sexual orientation it is down right soul-destroying. The negative consequences of such damning judgements are measured in the deaths of young Christian gay people who suicide at a far greater rate than any of their peers.  And so you rightly recoil from such a condemnation on homosexual orientation.

But then you fail to embrace the logical and theological consequences of your own position.

You have discovered the wheel but you fail to put it on a cart.

You reject the notion that the world is flat but fail to accept  its roundness.

You reject the idea that the sexual orientation of my gay friends is sinful yet you fail to allow them the natural expression of that same orientation.

To me, in all my heterosexual glory, you say the following.

Your sexual orientation is an essential part of your humanity. It is created by God and is God*s good gift to you.  It can and should be acted on in good and God pleasing ways.

And yet, here is what you appear to be saying to my gay friends.

Your sexual orientation is an essential part of your humanity. It is created by God and is Gods god gift to you.   However the minute you act on it the essence / the nature of it changes. It suddenly become an evil thing. Suddenly it is sin and God is no longer pleased.

How are my young gay friends supposed to deal with that? How are they meant to healthily process all of the natural God-given feelings that arise from their sexual orientation. What are they supposed to do when they meet someone they are attracted to and those feelings are reciprocated. How are they supposed to deal with the fact that your desire is to cut them off from the possibility of a God pleasing life of intimacy, care, companionship and growing old with the one they love?

Dr Silcock, I know that this will sound harsh but I will say it anyway. I say it because this issue is important. In fact, I don’t believe that anything else you are working on even comes close. I say it because in your position of power you hold the lives of hundreds of LGBT Lutherans in your hands.

Your half-baked and inconsistent theology takes the good and godly gift of sexuality and wraps it up in a putrid blanket of prohibition. That blanket is woven from nothing but fear and prejudice.


Inclination and activity are always combined for good or for ill. My inclination of lust, greed and anger give birth to all manner of activities that harm me and those around me. My inclination toward love and compassion  give birth to actions that create and affirm community, family and *life in all its fullness*.

Dr Silcock, let me state the obvious. The only healthy, decent and theologically consistent way forward is for us to accept that our sexual orientation, gay and straight, is a part of how God made us. Gay or straight, it is Gods good gift to us. Gay or straight it is to be celebrated. Gay or straight it is to be expressed in relationships that build up self, family and community. Gay or straight it is to be expressed fully, completely and intimately with our life’s partner.

This is what honours God…

Because it was God who said…

*It is not good for the man to be alone.*