After being "outed" by a GLBT magazine and being placed on leave, the Rev. Tom Brock returned to Hope Lutheran Church on Sunday.
He didn't preach to the Minneapolis congregation of some 450 people. But he admitted to his flock for the first time that he struggles with same-sex attraction.
It's a struggle he's had since college but the Lutheran pastor has never given in to the temptation. He has been attending a Catholic accountability group called Courage and has always believed and continues to believe that homosexual behavior is a sin.
It's been a difficult past five weeks for him, he said, since Minnesota's Lavender magazine exposed Brock's struggles to the public. In a questionable move, Lavender reporter John Townsend attended the Courage support group meetings undercover and recounted Brock's confidential stories in the June edition of the magazine.
The GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) publication implied that Brock had acted out on his attraction to men. But the longtime Lutheran pastor said the magazine got it "totally wrong."
"I'm a 57-year-old virgin," he asserted.
Brock may have initially had some anger toward the Minneapolis-based magazine but he told The Christian Post Tuesday that by the grace of God, he was able to forgive them rather quickly.
He added, "I do pray for their salvation because their point of view is that you can behave like this and there's no problem with it and biblically that's not true."
His same-sex attractions weren't quite a secret. He not only had his support group but he also talked to some close friends about his struggles.
"I've had personal support for many years," he said. "I just never got up in the pulpit and told everybody 'look, this is my struggle.'"
Nature vs. nurture
Trying to recall how long he's had same-sex attractions, Brock said, "I knew for sure I had a problem in college. Even looking earlier, I can see signs."
The 57-year-old pastor remembered attending a conference – possibly a Love Won Out conference which equips Christians with how to respond with truth and grace to people struggling with homosexuality – and hearing a psychiatrist talk about the hundreds of people he had counseled.
"He said he has never met one man in all of his clients who when he was a little boy had a close relationship with his father," Brock recounted.
"My dad was kind of distant," he said.
Brock doesn't believe that people are born a homosexual. If anything, he believes it's more nurture than nature.
"I don't see anything biblically that would justify the belief that God makes you a homosexual," he explained. "Biblically, we all believe in original sin, that we're all born sinners. I don't believe there's a gay gene or that we're born gay.
"My belief is early in life, there's a breakdown between the child and the same-sex parent" (like a son not getting a masculine identity from his father).
But even if a "gay gene" were to be proven – which Brock highly doubts will happen – the Minneapolis pastor said it still doesn't change anything.
"The fact that you're born with a sinful inclination doesn't give you the right to practice it," he stressed.
Interestingly, the conflict between his inclination toward men and what he believes Scripture states clearly never sent him running from God. He never questioned the Bible's stance that homosexual behavior is a sin and at the same time was never shaken in his faith.
"I knew I was a sinner and that I needed a savior so it actually drove me to Christ, not from Him," he said. "In a way, it strengthened my faith."
Still following Jesus
Since the exposure, the Hope congregation has been very supportive of Brock. After weeks of looking into the matter, a task force at the church found the pastor credible. Brock was previously the senior pastor for 21 years but is now just a pastor.
"I can't tell you how wonderful they've been," Brock said, adding that it's a conservative Bible-believing church.
Hope Lutheran is a member of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. The congregation left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America nine years ago over its increasing liberal direction on homosexuality and over abortions that are covered in the ELCA healthcare plan for staff.
"Last year is when they (ELCA) decided to allow practicing homosexual pastors and that's causing a lot of churches to leave but we left nine years ago over that direction that it was going but even more so maybe is the fact that the ELCA pays for abortions with offering dollars and that just so grieved us."
Last August, the ELCA's chief legislative body voted to approve a resolution allowing gays and lesbians in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as clergy. In the AFLC, practicing homosexuals cannot be ordained or serve as a pastor.
"They would never believe like many do in the ELCA that as long as you really love each other you can have a gay sexual relationship. That's just not them," Brock said of the conservative denomination.
Though his struggles have been made public and he still currently "[has] temptations," Brock said he plans to continue to preach the same message that if you don't repent of sin and come to Christ, you're not going to heaven.
But he has one new message he can share: "I have this struggle. You can have this struggle, say no to it and still follow Jesus."
He's not planning to go back immediately into the Hope Lutheran pulpit. He said he's going to take some time to heal and also work on plans for the church's TV ministry expansion.
"The plan is I'll be back hopefully fairly soon. Just, we got to work all that out," he said.
And when he returns, his sermons will eventually be beaming to 20 cities across the country, in addition to the Twin Cities.
As for going back to his Catholic support group, Brock isn't sure whether to return. He may start attending a different group, he said.
In the meantime, he said, "I'll still be accountable to people."