Minn. pastor who opposes homosexuals in the pulpit says he's attracted to men, still a virgin

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.

In June, the Minnesota gay magazine Lavender reported that Brock was a member of a support group for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction. Brock's church, the Hope Lutheran Church, placed him on leave while a task force looked into the matter. The Rev. Tom Parrish, the church's executive pastor, said the investigation determined Brock's story checked out.

"I am a 57-year-old virgin," Brock told the Hope Lutheran congregation during services upon returning to the pulpit on Sunday.

Brock and Parrish would not share the full task force report, but Parrish said its members could find no evidence Brock ever had sex with men. They confirmed that Brock sought counseling and enlisted another minister as an "accountability partner" with whom he frequently discussed his struggles.

Brock said he intends to step down as senior pastor at Hope Lutheran, but will retain his affiliation with the church and still preach there from time to time. Having preached on Twin Cities cable access for about 20 years, he told the AP he hopes to take his broadcasts to a wider national audience with a new message: "You can have this struggle with same-sex attraction, say no to it, and still follow Christ."

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.

Hope Lutheran split from the ELCA in 2001, taking issue with the denomination's stance on gay clergy and abortion. The church joined the much smaller Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, but Brock has remained critical of the ELCA as it continued to liberalize its gay clergy policy.

A few months ago, the publisher of Lavender got a tip that Brock was attending meetings of Courage, a Catholic support group for people trying to resist same-sex urges. A freelance writer attended the group posing as a prospective member, then wrote about Brock's attendance there — a move viewed by many as journalistically unethical.

John Townsend, the article's author, said Monday he felt Hope Lutheran had the right to reinstate Brock and he hoped the pastor's openness would make members of the congregation more sympathetic to gay people.

As for Brock, "He's free to do what he wants to do and say what he wants to say," Townsend said. "But he will have less credibility on that now, I'm afraid."

Brock said he has personally forgiven Lavender and Townsend for publishing the piece, though he insists it contained erroneous information. He said he probably won't continue to attend Courage meetings, but will keep seeking counseling and spiritual guidance to overcome his same-sex attractions.

Brock said he does not believe people are born gay. "I think we're all born heterosexual actually, and then stuff goes wrong," he said.

He said he can't conclusively identify the origin of his own attraction to men, but said he believes it's related to a distant relationship with his father, who is now deceased, as well as having an older brother who was more athletic and, Brock felt, got more affection from other family members.

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."