January 20, 2017

Drawing A Line In The Sand

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  [John 8:6, NLT]

I have a friend—let’s call her Gwen—who is searching for a new church. This is a popular pastime in Tulsa. Church-hopping is an artform for many here in T-town. But Gwen is looking for a good reason. The church she was attending moved to a new location further away from her house. So I talked with Gwen about the church I attend, inviting her to come visit if she wanted to.

“Are you open-minded?” she asked. “Are you inclusive in who you accept?”

I knew why she asked those questions. Gwen is in a same-sex marriage. But she also wants a church that teaches the Gospel, not just a motivational message. I immediately told her that of course, we would gladly welcome Gwen and her partner. Then I mentioned this to several friends at my church, friends who have been walking with Jesus for many years. To my surprise, these friends seemed less than excited to welcome a same-sex couple to our church. Oh, they said, they’d be welcome to visit, but as far as becoming part of the church, involved in small groups or helping with the kids, well, that would have to wait until they repented and were “delivered” from homosexuality.

A line was being drawn in the sand, a line that was clearly delineated and expected to be observed.

Softball is an American function of midwestern churches. Various denominations are represented in softball leagues, so it is not surprising that in addition to three Baptist churches in a church league in St. Clair, Missouri (about fifty miles west of St. Louis) and two other evangelical churches, St. John United Church of Christ fielded a team. That is until recently. The pastors of the three Baptist churches said they would no longer play St. John in the recreational league. That church’s crime? Using too many ringers? The St. John clean-up hitter suspected of steroid use? No. St. John United Church of Christ hired a bisexual pastor. At that, the Baptists decided they wouldn’t play them any longer. St. John then withdrew from the league so as not to cause any dissension.

“Three congregations said they were uncomfortable playing our team because I am their pastor and I am an out bisexual person,” said the Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell, 27, “which is surprising because I don’t even play.”

“We believe that God’s word speaks clearly about boundaries, and that lifestyle is outside of those boundaries,” the Rev. Ben Kingston, Bethel Baptist’s pastor, said Tuesday from behind the backstop.

Darnell, fresh out of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, came to St. John to replace its previous pastor in October, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the Rev. Johnny Dover, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church and the league’s commissioner, heard a rumor that Darnell was gay.

“I called their coach and asked if it was true,” Dover said.

Dover, Kingston, and the Rev. Wyatt Otten, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, decided their teams could no longer play against a congregation that had deliberately called an openly bisexual man to be their pastor.

“We call ourselves a Christian softball league,” Kingston said. “And if we call ourselves that, we want to be that.”

[You can read the whole story here.]

A line drawn in the dirt just behind home plate.

Let me say this right now. Read this carefully. I’m going to boldface this so you don’t miss it.

Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible makes this clear. 

And sexual sin does carry more weight than, say, gossiping, due to the way God has made us humans. Our bodies cannot be separated from our souls and spirits. When we sin with the body, it affects us in very deep ways. Sex is sacred, and the wrong use of sex can hurt many. There is a difference between saying “I sinned by eating that extra chocolate bar” and “I sinned by sleeping with my neighbor’s wife.”

Allowing a sexual sin to fester can be damaging to a church. Paul dealt with this directly in his first letter to the Corinthian church. I know this is a long passage (the whole fifth chapter), but I can’t find anywhere to edit this.

I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.

Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.

12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5, NLT)

So there is a definite difference between dealing with admitted non-Christians and with those who have declared themselves Christians. I know it’s the hip, emergent, socially-correct thing to be totally inclusive to any and all, but that was apparently not Paul’s way of dealing with such issues.

My question is this: Where do we draw the line in the sand?

How much should an openly gay person be allowed to participate in the church? Can they sing and worship the Lord? Can they partake of communion? Should they be allowed—not solo, but with one or two others—to help in the nursery? (Let me clarify: No one should be allowed to be in with a group of children by themselves.) At what point are we to put a person out of the church because of their sexual orientation?

Then we need to go on from there. What about a couple living together outside of marriage? Let’s ask the same questions about such a couple. What about a registered sex offender? Should that person even be allowed in the doors of the church?

Obviously these are difficult questions to answer, and I don’t expect us to solve this dilemma easily. There are no easy answers. Yes, I know Gwen’s question—“Are you inclusive in who you accept?”—is a loaded question. It carries the weight of her agenda with it. But it’s a question that needs to be answered.

Does that line in the sand extend all the way to whom we spend time with in recreational activities, such as softball? Would you quit a church bowling league if you found out one of the members was gay? Could you join in with a book club that meets at a church if one of the other readers was a lesbian?

The most important thing to consider in all of this is where is Jesus standing? This is not about culture wars or morality. This is about becoming more like Jesus.

Jesus drew in the sand when confronted with a woman caught in a sexual sin. We don’t know if he was writing words or drawing pictures, or if he just drew a line. But in his words that followed, it seems he was inviting all—the woman who sinned, the judges, and those ready to carry out the sentence of death—to come over to his side of the line. And that is the good news.

Comments

  1. dumb ox says:

    Where do we draw the line? Given the earlier post regarding “Normal Isn’t Enough”, no one can be included. I think we’re all living our own version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – hiding our failures, brokenness, and sin behind pious masks so that we all are not kicked out the door. I understand the tension; grace is not about changing the rules or lowering the bar; rather, grace is far more scandalous that this. Grace dares to say there is One who fulfilled all righteous on our behalf. Sanctification is impossible without that foundation of grace. It may be far more difficult to realize that someone walking into church may have other much more compelling but less obvious struggles than that of sexual orientation. I think selfishness, unforgiveness, and bitterness are far more destructive than sexual sins. There are seven deadly sins; the church only seems to have a problem with one of them. I’ve said it before: sexual sin always seems to be driven by something else – some far less obvious struggle. Perhaps one might be far more teachable if he or she is treated as a complete human being, not just pigeon-hole by one sin. We need to drop the scarlet-letter approach to dealing with sin.

    • Interesting that you mention the Seven Deadly Sins. I’ve heard plenty of Christians scoff at the idea of Seven Deadly Sins, and say things like, ‘There are no minor or major sins; there’s just sin. All sin is equally offensive to God.’ And perhaps they’re right about God in that respect, but it seems equally clear that not all sin is equally offensive to Christians.

      Probably it’s a human thing. There’s no way we can treat every sin the same; hating my brother may have the same effect on my soul as murdering him, but I’m sure he prefers that I do the former rather than the latter. So as long as we’re going to see some sins as more serious anyway, perhaps the Seven Deadly Sins is not such a bad way to go. It does, after all, include a quite broad range of sins, of which we are all regularly guilty of at least one (and, moreover, have not infrequently incorporated as semi-permanent features of our lifestyle). And bearing that in mind is going to make me less eager to condemn others for sins I’ve never been tempted to when I am aware that the sins I AM tempted to (and often commit) are just as deadly. I can’t hold myself above, then, and blameless. Instead, I am made firmly conscious of my own desperate need for grace, at least equal to if not greater than that of those I would label as ‘Them’.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’ve heard plenty of Christians scoff at the idea of Seven Deadly Sins, and say things like, ‘There are no minor or major sins; there’s just sin. All sin is equally offensive to God.’

        That’s because the Seven Deadly Sins are of ROMISH origin.

        “If we sit only because enemy Christians kneel, that is Protestantism taken to it’s most sterile extreme.”
        Evangelical is Not Enough (from memory)

        And perhaps they’re right about God in that respect, but it seems equally clear that not all sin is equally offensive to Christians.

        But in practice, SEXUAL sin is Most Offensive to God. And not only Sexual Sin, but the exact Sexual Acts the Righteous sniffing out the Sin of Others would never ever do.

        “FAAAAG! FAAAAAAAG!! FAAAAAAAAAAAAG!!!”
        — one of the background characters from “Masked Man” by Lenny Bruce, from the time Masked Man outs himself and Tonto to the end of the skit

        • It’s interesting that you should say that. I can’t remember a verse that says that sexual sin is the most offensive to God. In fact, the only verse I can find that comes close to talking about things God finds most offensive is in Proverbs 6:16-19.

          “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension amongst brothers.”

          No mention of any sexual sin there, although I suppose they could possibly be included in some of the vaguer ones. But there are things in there that I have seen regularly in many churches. Haughty eyes is one, and people who stir up dissension is another. So I think that saying that God finds sexual sin more offensive than these things may not quite be correct.

      • dumb ox says:

        To clarify, lust is listed nearest that the seven-deadly-sins list comes to addressing this issue.

  2. These are great questions Jeff.

    There are no easy answers (as you said) and it’s a complex issue. Orientation and desire is one thing but practice is another.

    Accepting gays in a congregation should be a no brainer. If they can’t find refuge in the church and the gospel where will they go? Their sin is neither irredeemable nor unforgivable. The issue however is that many of them don’t recognise it as a sin and want the rest of us to treat is as “normal” because “they were born that way” (the answer to which is “yes” fallen human beings are born with all sorts of dispositions to sin).

    Where I think we get tied up in knots over this is when we expect them to change in a week from something that they struggled with (or enjoyed) all their lives. There is no deadline we can impose on such cases, but allow God’s Spirit to work and do as he will. We need to accept also that the orientation and desire may take a while to go or it may never leave them at all. This is where we need to be careful that desire and practice are not the same thing.

    From a pastoral point of view, if we allow them to participate in ministry of sorts we would have to let the unrepentant adulterer in as well and we can’t discriminate.

    So I think there is a delicate balance between loving them and accepting them like any other sinner, while making it absolutely clear what the biblical position is on homosexuality and not blur the lines and water down the severity of the sin. If we love them we owe to tell them the truth in love, while displaying remarkable patience and giving them room to deal with it.

    If they recognise their sin and are struggling with it, I would take that as a good sign because it tells me the Spirit is convicting them. Where I worry is when I see defiant gay people flaunting their gayness in your face and demand that you treat it as normal, to which I say “yeah you ARE normal, a normal sinner that is”.

    Regarding participation in communion, it’s a tough one and maybe someone more qualified than me can chime in.

    Finally, I think the two worse things that the church has done to the gay population that is interested in attending church is to (1) single them out as worse than other sinners and put undue attention on their condition and (2) the polar opposite of distorting the meaning of the biblical text and doing exegetical pilates to convince others that homosexuality is not a sin. Both IMO are doing the gays a great disservice.

    (John from Down Under)

    • Robin C says:

      John, what a great response.

      • Amen.

        IMHO, it is NOT a matter of orientation but of practice.

        And I don’t think we can admit “practicing gay activist Christians” to full communion or leadership roles , as the term is an oxymoron.

        As others have pointed out, the same would go for an openly cohabitating hetro couple, especially if they flaunted the fact. (Are other engaged couples struggling with sex before the wedding? Probably, but they aren’t asking to be blessed for sinning, either) It comes down to RECOGNITION of one’s sins and some EFFORT to “go and sin no more.”

        • Michael says:

          “IMHO, it is NOT a matter of orientation but of practice.”

          I agree. And in a related point, I think that American Christianity could really benefit from recovering a respect for celibacy as a good, healthy route for Christians (gay or straight) to take. (Actually, I should say that it isn’t just a healthy route–it’s as much of a calling as marriage.) So often, marriage is seen as almost a right. It’s assumed that everyone is supposed to be married, that God has someone for everybody, etc. From that perspective, for someone to say “I am gay, but I choose to be celibate based on what I believe the Bible teaches” is not enough; they have to pray the gay away, because how will you be married and have straight Christian babies if you’re not attracted to the opposite sex?

  3. br. thomas says:

    Maybe we should draw a line based on not what we are against or opposed to as “Christians” or church members, but rather what we are for as followers of Christ . And, I wonder if Peter’s words may help us to discern a way forward: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins ” 1 Peter 4:8 Maybe it’s better to err on the side of love instead of erring on the side of excluding others from the possibility of experiencing the Good News lived out in the lives of Christ-like ones. Just a thought.

    • Adrian Z says:

      ‘…to err on the side of love…’

      Wouldn’t life be different if this was our position on most things

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Can a good Christian keep company, or come unto one of another nation? Can he even keep company with a centurion? Why, yes: “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Of particular note is that there is no suggestion that Cornelius resigned from the Roman army and stopped being a centurion. The rest of the chapter (coincidentally found in last Sunday’s lectionary) is also on point, including verse 47: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”

    • Great reply and great advice. Even on those less divisive occasions, but especially on those more divisive occasions. 🙂

      I used to get really bent out of shape on this one, and was probably really unloving along the way, but the question I had to ask myself are, “What are the stakes for me?”

      Why was I so much more invested in issues about sexual orientation?
      Do I have, or have I ever had, same sex attraction?
      Do I have any friends with same sex attraction?
      If no, then why do I care so strongly about this issue, even more about this issue than other issues of faith?
      Why should I be angry and draw lines in the sand on this specific issue?

      Then I would ask other questions. . .Am I loving my neighbor? Am I caring for the poor? It seems as if my life of faith is often filled with all of the things I don’t do, as I a result, I am so thankful for grace and find it really hard to condemn others.

      In addressing this issue, I cannot help but draw a comparison between myself and the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler, was pretty self righteous, and he felt as if he had done everything right. With this in mind, he wanted to follow Jesus.

      In pointing to LGBT people, drawing lines in the sand and excluding them, I cannot help but feel a little like the rich young ruler, someone who lived an outwardly righteous life, but who had a blind spot, you could drive a truck through.

  4. David Cornwell says:

    “Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible makes this clear. ”

    Really hesitating to argue with you, but I’m not sure it is that clear. Many disagree with that assertion. I don’t want to get into the reasoning, which I’m sure you probably already know. So– arguing, or stating another position really wouldn’t work, would it? And there isn’t enough room on this blog to contain the comments.

    So– my comments on this piece end here!

    I’ll be back later.

    • Ahhh… did God really say….?

    • Yes, that’s certainly one part of the problem with finding any one line in the sand: there are lots of us who don’t think homosexuality is a sin. We don’t think the Bible is at all clear. And it’s kind of hard to have the conversation when we don’t even agree on the basic premise.

      • Agreed Laura. Without the basic premise being sorted out then it’s pretty much impossible to converse properly on this.

      • +1

      • humanslug says:

        In defense of those who believe that homosexuality is a sin, scripture certainly seems to identify it as a sin, and the church, excepting the past two or three decades, has been pretty consistent and universal in this assertion.
        As far as arguments to the contrary, all I’ve heard thus far are some vague references to Greek definitions and ancient cultural differences.
        If there is some quality, comprehensive biblical scholarship on the issue — fairly unbiased scholarship that isn’t joined at the hip with current cultural and/or political agendas — then I have yet to find it.
        Can anyone recommend a book or article or website that would fit the bill? I’d really like to do some further study into the matter.

    • Thank you David for saying it so well . I have to remember this style for future discussion.

    • +1

      The nearly 1,000 comments in Rachel Held Evans’ recent blogposts about this topic make it clear that for many Evangelical Christians the Bible or God does not make this clear.

      • Or rather that people, regardless of what they think about homosexuality, don’t like how the standard evangelical response is to scramble to make laws (aka “culture wars”). I saw her post on a ton of friends’ Facebook page — many of whom would affirm what Jeff said.

    • I think that engaging in homosexual sex is a sin, but I accept that there are reasonable arguments that it is not and that I might be wrong, so I simply don’t make a big deal out of it. I absolutely do not consider having a homosexual orientation but not being sexually active to be a sin at all and think that celibate homosexuals deserve to be greatly commended for that and unequivocally welcomed in the church – which they normally aren’t.

      My biggest disagreement with this is the argument that sexual sins are worse. The big difference between eating a chocolate bar and sleeping with my neighbors wife isn’t the sex, it’s the neighbor. If you change that around so the comparison is Eating a chocolate bar or having sex with my girlfriend I see minimal difference. If you switch it completely around and compare eating my neighbor’s chocolate bar with having sex with my girlfriend then I’d say the chocolate bar thing is much worse – because it’s my neighbor’s. For the record I genuinely think that speeding is usually worse than consensual non-marriage violating sex because I’m am intentionally risking the lives of my fellow drivers just for my own convenience.

      • Ryan Nathaniel says:

        If what I think you’re saying here is what you’re actually saying, I have to disagree. You say that eating your neighbor’s chocolate bar is worse than having sex with your girlfriend because the chocolate bar doesn’t belong to you. But if you’re not married and you are having sex, you are taking something that doesn’t belong to you, too. Both actions are a form of stealing, and the latter is far, far more significant. I’d much rather you took my future wife’s chocolate bar than her purity.

    • Danielle says:

      This is my inevitable difficulty with engaging in this discussion as well. Although I fully admit that I could be wrong, and I fully appreciate how weighty it is for me to say this, at this point I am simply forced to the conclusion that the bulk of non-Biblical evidence points to homosexuality not being “disordered” in the way that many evangelicals and official Catholic teaching describe.

      So, right of the starting gate, I’m turning the horse and running in another direction.

      The base problem, from my perspective, is that you simply aren’t going to be able to maintain that homosexual persons ought to “feel accepted” in your church when you are simultaneously tell them that this acceptance is conditional upon them acknowledging that they are ‘disordered persons’ and accepting a certain level of continual church censure and discipline for not committing to celibacy. Understand, I know you think you can have it both ways, but the person you are talking to would think about the same thing I would think if someone told me, “Yes, we accept women at this church. However, we hope that you acknowledge that feminine traits are inherently disordered, and we ask that you prayerfully suppress them as much as possible.”

    • Yup. Just pop into the apologetics section of the Metropolitan Community Church website, and you will see the most theatrical exhibition of hermeneutical gymnastics of all history. People will use the Bible to justify anything they want. That is where tradition comes in as an anchor for interpretation. When somebody says, “The church for 2000 years has been wrong about this issue,” I say there is a foul stench of ulterior motives.

      • Jack Heron says:

        Traditions, of course, are composed of people – composed of the very same people who will use the Bible to justify anything they want. Tradition is important, you’re very right, and should make us stop and think. But it should not stop us thinking.

        • Nicely put. I like to include with Scripture and Tradition the rest of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (reason and experience), but there is a ranking of priority there. Christians will always use all four, and recognizing that is the first step to rightly prioritizing their authority.

          • David Cornwell says:

            Wesley always believed that scripture was primary and the basis on which the other three depended. Or at least that’s how I understand him.

      • Danielle says:

        Would you say, then, that all gestalt shifts are automatically unjustified? Or simply that they are very serious matters?

        • If I wanted to argue that the Church was always right and never changed her positions on any issue, I’d be Roman Catholic. I believe in semper reformanda, and these are very serious matters. However, usually when somebody wants to throw out the official position on something the church actually has been consistent on for centuries, it just seems it’s usually to conform with their social agenda, and not from theological principles derived from diligent scriptural exegesis.

          • Jack Heron says:

            But what happens when their social agenda is itself derived from diligent scriptural exegesis? Or from other, equally rigorous, considerations? We can’t dismiss arguments just because people proposing them have an agenda (we all have agendas, of course), or because they’re keen to do everything at once and impatient of those slower to be convinced. I hear a lot of people critiquing some strands of modern Christianity by dismissing them as ‘progressive’ or ‘social gospel’. While I appreciate that being progressive or socially relevant is not in itself the end we’re aiming at (I wrote that essay a few months back criticising both excessive love for and excessive disdain for progressivism, you might remember), there is a danger of ignoring cogent arguments because we’re too busy sneering at the cheerleaders standing next to them.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            And yet the church was for many centuries perfectly happy to condone slavery. It even had scriptural texts to back this up.

    • Thank you David. I’m late here as usual but this is what I wanted to say.

  5. great questions here. this is my question as a pastor: where will i and where will my congregation draw that line?

    this is the question i’ve been asking as this issue has come to the forefront in many a conversation over the past month. what am i supposed to do when someone who has been serving comes out? what should i do when a homosexual couple comes to church? i’m in youth ministry, so this has become a huge question among my students. can my gay friend come to youth group? he doesn’t think he can. he doesn’t think he’s welcome. can he come and hang out?

    so many questions. so much to wrestle with. thank you for creating a space to ask and struggle through questions with grace and integrity.

    • Jesus hung out with tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, and whores, some of the most excluded and marginalized people and “sinners” of his society. He seemed much more concerned about loving and accepting EVERYONE first and working out being “righteous” later. I think we evangelicals in the West especially get this backwards and, intentionally or not, want people to get their problems worked out first, especially the ones we find particularly offensive, and then we’ll accept them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Only accepting them when they become (or at least act) just as RIGHTEOUS as US.

        Or maybe not — can’t have them Just as RIGHTEOUS as US, because then how could we pull rank on them with Our RIGHTEOUSNESS?

      • sowarrior says:

        “I think we evangelicals in the West especially get this backwards and, intentionally or not, want people to get their problems worked out first, especially the ones we find particularly offensive, and then we’ll accept them.”

        Is this an acknowledgement that homosexuality is a problem?

        I often hear people say that Evangelicals are so judgmental but that Jesus taught forgiveness. My question to such people is, “What is it that needs to be forgiven?”

  6. I believe that the Bible is quite clear on the matter. Not that it makes it any easier.

    But the church should never be in the sin affirmation business.

    We had a gay man in our congregation for several years. He was on the church council. He read the Scriptures on Sunday. He was well respected and well liked. Then he wanted to make an issue of his homosexuality. He wanted it to be openly known and accepted. It was known, but it was never made an issue of. Now he wanted to make an issue of it. The pastor told him that this would not be acceptable and that if he wished to pursue this course any further, then he might start to look for another congregation, which he did.

    The same thing would happen with me if I wanted to say that gluttony, or drunkeness was alright. I’d be asked to leave, as well.

    Homosexuality is a particularly difficult sin, but it is sin nonetheless. The church needs to hold the line on sin and take it seriously. We are all blatant sinners in one form or another. But we ought never affirm it, or worse yet, advocate it.

    • Touché Steve!

    • Perfect!!!

    • cermak_rd says:

      How clear is the Bible? And if it is, does it matter? It’s also “clear” that women should cover their hair and remain silent in church, that families should be patriarchal, that birds of prey should not be eaten and that women should have a ritual bath after their menses each month.

      As I perform an autopsy on my loss of faith in Christianity, I find points where I started to lose faith. One of those points was while proofing a document that put out the pro-slavery arguments from the Bible. It came to me that if that book could not settle THAT question, then what practical good was it at telling anyone how to live?

      • Matt Purdum says:

        Cernak, you’re too smart for that. You know good and well that the Bible is an unfolding narrative not a list of rules. Next time I’m told the Bible forbids shrimp scampi, I’m just gonna scream.

        • cermak_rd says:

          I don’t know why. I didn’t mention shrimp (though as a matter of fact, I try to follow the dietary laws, so I can’t have shrimp specifically because of that! FYI I find bacon and ham to be far more of a sacrifice than shellfish).

  7. The key question is whether or not homosexual sex is sinful. If yes, then there’s no reason to treat them differently than any other unrepentant sinner. If no, then there’s no problem to deal with.

    Of course, there should be no argument that inclinations by themselves should separate anybody from the church. Everybody has sinful inclinations.

    • I agree with you completely Boaz – that is the KEY question.
      Even if it is a sin though I can’t see how it gives a bunch of pastors in a softball league the right to define who is or is not a Christian. If it was about leadership within the church body it would be fair enough but to refuse to play with gays just because they are honest about their sexual orientation – that’s really sad.

  8. If anybody is going to be judged, monitored, or expelled, let it be the homophobes.

    • Cedric Klein says:

      Who, of course, are defined as anyone less accepting of homosexuality than the accuser is,

      • Of course. One must hate and fear gay people if one disapproves of their lifestyle or finds it disordered and out of line with God’s will (for those who consider themselves “gay” and “Christian” and “sexually active”)

        • To turn your question around, why do you assume I hate and fear homophobes (i.e., anti-gay people) merely because I find their behavior disorderly and out of line with God’s will?

          If you think it’s right to expel people from church for being gay, then why can’t people be expelled for failing to love their neighbor?

    • Gerald : it would be helpful if you could define what ‘homophobe’ means to you.

      • I said “if.” In this case, the homophobes are the ones calling for gays to be excluded or treated differently than everybody else.

        • Thank you for replying although I am still not clear what you think is homophobic. Do you think someone who opposes same sex marriage is always homophobic?

          • I was referring to this specific case, in which church members object to the presence and/or membership of gays. Like racism, homophobia ranges from extreme hostility to unconscious prejudice.Opponents of gay marriage may well belong at the mild end of this spectrum, if they are otherwise well-intentioned.

    • Let’s just say bullies. I can admit to being a homophobe, because it freaks me out that another guy might be looking at me that way I look at some of the women jogging around my neighborhood. I choose to realize that we are both just sinners and it gives us some common ground. That and be thankful that I’m not nearly as attractive as the women jogging in my neighborhood.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Maybe “homophobe” means someone who has unresolved, unacknowledged negative feelings or attitudes towards homosexuals. A true homophobe would demonstrate those feelings or attitudes in the way they use Scripture to affirm their rejection or ostracism of homosexuals, or in the emotional reaction they would have to the thought of being associated with a homosexual or having a significant interaction with a homosexual.

      The problem with this definition is that, just as professed Christians claim that individuals who are LGBT refuse to acknowledge that their sexual lifestyle is a sin, homophobes refuse to acknowledge that their negative attitudes toward the LGBT community is based in an unhealthy fear, which is also a sin.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Problem is, HOMOPHOBE (TM) has become a Thoughtstopper Snarl Word, just like RACIST (TM), GOLDSTEINIST (TM), or LIBERAL (TM).

      I remember one gay sexual predator who played the HOMOPHOBIA! card on you if you wouldn’t let him have his way into your pants — to him, THAT was HOMOPHOBIA!

      (Guy was the first non-straight I ever encountered, and that colored my views for a LONG time afterwards. Actual pickup line he tried on me, in the middle of a “Good Cop/Bad Cop” mind game: “Everybody’s Bi, HUG, you’re just in denial about it — and if you just let me demonstrate (nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean know what I mean…” And when I said NO, he played the HOMOPHOBIA! card off the bottom of the deck.)

  9. I want to turn this around and discuss a problem I myself have with my christian compassion. What do you do with people whose heart is in the right place, but when the subject of homosexuality comes up start talking really bizarre stuff about Paul. Part of me wants to mention, that of course Paul isn’t talking about homosexuality anymore than he talks about schizophrenia, those are modern categories that describe the modern categorization of extant phenomena. And that, I find it weird that when we talk about the big sins Murder, rape, theft, we acknowledge that the definition of these sins are not absolute, and that their definition change from culture to culture and time to time. Murder is defined as an unlawful killing, and therefore is culturally dependent, the commandment against theft is not an argument against taxation, or a endorsement of a certain economic system of private property. And yet, for some reason when were talking about unatural sex acts, we seen to have an ironclad definition, unchangeable, that closely corresponds to what a bunch of 19th and early 20th centery bigots believed.

    • [somehow my laptop posted this before i was done]

      So, my first instinct if I was in a group activity that wouldn’t allow a gay person to join, is to quit at once, because what a bunch of disgusting bigots, but maybe I shouldn’t. Jesus calls me to be compassionate towards sinners, I should accept that some people believe very wrong things, but I worry that staying in such groups might make people think that I endorse those terrible views, so I’m not really sure what to do.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Really bizarre stuff about Paul”?

      I assume you mean Romans 1 focusing on the one verse about homoerotica while completely missing the entire thrust of the Decline Narrative that forms the chapter. St Paul may have been using that as a specific example of Decline because it was such a taboo among the Jews.

      But then, breaking up what were originally continuous narratives into Chapters and Verses makes it easy to think of them as completely-disconnected Zip Codes…

  10. Pastors and Elders Mothers and Fathers will answer for how well they guarded the flock. My home has rules which serve our best interests. That when I am outside my home I am respectful to others does not require me to embrace them and receive them into my home and give them great access and famailiarity with my familY particularly when their way of life clearly runs contrary to the principled and deep convictions of my family. In fact such actions of indiscrete reception, while some wish to admire themselves in the mirror thinking how enlightened they are and self-righteously looking down on others who would “guard the flock” are rather the naive ones.

  11. Adrian Z says:

    Is there anything that seems to polarize the Christiansphere than the ‘homosexuality’. To be honest, I have for the first time started to take the time to really listen to and examine the scripturally based arguments made by gay Christians. I am not yet convinced of their position but to realize that there are positions that are based on much more than a starting point that ‘I am gay’ and so will make scripture fit my world view.

    To listen to thoughtful and rational approaches that are not loaded with emotion and and pro-gay rhetoric is refreshing. (actually would be good if christains would follow this approach on other divisive topics). suppose I am just saying that there are arguements I had not ever heard let alone considered, and for the sake of brothers and sisters in Christ who honestly hold these positions, I want to be prepared to give them the same time and thoughtfulness I would hope my brethren would give if I held to a particular position on a particular matter.

    For me at least the process of openness, irrespective of my conclusions, is important for me if am to hold an authentic position on the matter. And no matter the position to treat all as I hope they would treat me

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Is there anything that seems to polarize the Christiansphere than the ‘homosexuality’?

      In short, NO. Though Evolution and GOP Presidential Candidates come really close.

    • cermak_rd says:

      complementarianism.

  12. I wonder how many Christians actually know someone who is gay? It’s a complex and difficult issue and the Bible does not have all the answers. If it did…how many people would be on this blog to begin with? I see it is as “the world is flat” which Christians also used to espouse.

    For many fundys sin is always something the other person does. Never themself. That is the classic fundagelical definition of sin. And given how many evangelicals treat, laugh, have a cold heart, view as the enemy, etc… those that are gay I think many evangeliclas have forgettied their right to talk about this issue.

    • Oops typo…. I meant forfeited in the last sentance.

    • I imagine most do. My wife’s uncle was gay and died from AIDS. I had a number of gay friends at University (3 of whom were involved with Campus Crusade), and one of whom died of AIDS. I have also had two openly gay colleagues at work.

      • Is there a quota? Do blood relatives “outrank” friends? Can I “count” dozens of my (late) hospice patients? (AIDS was killing Disney creative folk left and right several years ago in Orlando.)

        We are falling into all sorts of logical errors here. Knowing more gay people, understanding their struggles, feeling compassion for them, having more of them in my home….none of that changes the underlying moral question.

        Do I love my niece? Of course. Do I think she is misguided? Yes (for unknown reasons, I know about a dozen lesbians who ‘discovered’ their homosexual orientation after happy marriages-as reported by THEM, not me-and raising children.)

        AND—although this does NOT change the moral question—data and my experience show a high margin of abuse in these relationships. Not at all sure if this applies to gay males or not.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      I imagine most KNOW OF someone who is gay, but they do not really KNOW someone who is gay. By the way, you could replace “gay” in the previous sentence with “black” or “person of color” or “atheist,” and the same rule applies.

      • Using myself as an example. My best man at my wedding is black. We do a wilderness canoe trip together each summer. My business partner is an atheist. He joins us for Christmas dinners most years. Am I an exception? At least not in Canada.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Without knowing your full story, Michael, I would say that you are a great exception. That’s one reason why I try as much as possible to make a distinction between “professed” Christians and “true” Christians.

      • I taught Sunday School with an open lesbian who now has a child with her partner, and I stood with the congregation as the baby was baptized.

        Statistically, I think it would be very difficult to NOT know someone who was GLBT. I live in the most conservative of Southern states and I know and hang out with plenty.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      For many fundys sin is always something the other person does. Never themself.

      Eagle, THAT is the root cause of a LOT of this. And it’s been around for a long time:

      “I Thank Thee, LORD, that I am Not Like that Publican over there…”

    • You’re quite right, Eagle. I’ve had a couple of colleagues who were openly gay. One was a passionately atheist lesbian lass and we actually got on extremely well. It turned out we had a lot in common, despite our divergent beliefs. It’s different when you know someone. You can’t just deal in myths anymore; they won’t get any traction. Conversely, with some mutual respect, you can maintain a relationship without sacrificing your principles as well. It’s not always easy but it’s better than living in a ghetto.

      Also, I should point out, there were no Christians who espoused that the world is flat. Read Dante.

    • I have friends who are gay, black, women, illegal immigrants, unemployed, single in their 40’s…. so I definitely have the right to discriminate! On a more serious note, I think that all Christians know people who are gay, even the most fundamentalist in their cultural ghettos. The question is, do they know about it? Probably not, because dogmatic hierarchies of sin discourage transparency.

  13. Steve Porter says:

    Boy, do we REALLY need to clarify our terms when talking about this issue. Why? Because it’s not just an “issue”, it’s about people that Christ died for. Justin Lee from the Gay Christian Network has written about how to clarify the conversation here: http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/post/21504173822/the-problem-with-homosexuality

    • Justin Lee is thoughtful and well spoken. I recommend that our iMonk readers review the interaction with Justin over at Rachel Held Evans’s blog:

      1. http://rachelheldevans.com/ask-a-gay-christian

      2. http://rachelheldevans.com/ask-a-gay-christian-response

      • Regarding the whole “Side A” and “Side B” thing…why is celibacy such a horrifying prospect? It just seems like celibacy is a path that God gives you, not one you choose, when in actuality someone can chose to be celibate. Or in other words, it feels like celibacy is taught as something you are relegated to instead of an actual valid choice in life.

        I think this is because marriage is so often talked about and esteemed in our culture and churches that its the only option that people think is valid for life and if you’re not married then there is something wrong with you. So people grow up thinking that marriage is the only path in life, not realizing that many great saints of the past chose celibacy (Paul for instance).

        Celibacy allows you to devote your entire life to the service of God. You do not have to devote any of your energy to serving a spouse, but instead can devote it all to serving God. I think that if celibacy was presented, or even *gasp* encouraged as an acceptable choice in life the whole gay relationship in the church wouldn’t be nearly as big of deal as it is. But since we are so sold out to the American Dream in this country marriage is espoused as the “right” path and if you choose celibacy then there is something wrong with you, or you’re gay.

        I have to run for a bit, but I will be happy to explain more of my thoughts on this if there is interest.

        • Michael says:

          Agreed. Celibacy is a calling that far too many have forgotten.

        • Danielle says:

          I think what people are objecting to is the idea that one particular group of people are must be celibate, when another class of people are encouraged to marry.

          • Danielle –

            This is likely the case, which is why I think it would do a lot to restore celibacy as a valid, and even encouraged (to a healthy extent), option for every disciple of Jesus regardless of whether they are straight, gay, bi, whatever. Ideally this would, eventually, put the focus back on following Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, strength because others would, ideally, be inspired by those who chose to remain celibate for the sake of the gospel and would do the same, and they would inspire others, and so on and so forth.

            This is probably not news for the majority of people on IM, but somewhere along the line the church forgot that its primary purpose was to spread the gospel and good news of Jesus, not itself. If somehow that focus was regained I think this issue, among others, would be much less prominent.

          • Not so in the Catholic Church. Marriage is considered important, but so is celibacy, either Professed or personal.

          • Danielle says:

            I understand what you chasing here. However, I don’t think expecting all homosexual Christians to be celibate necessarily promotes the cause of celibacy as a special calling. First, it comes across as a convenient way to deal with the “problem” presented by homosexuality as an issue, rather than as a championing of celibacy per se. Second, if you contend that all homosexual persons are called to this life, doesn’t it remove the idea that this is a special calling?

            What would promote the cause of celibacy would be argue that hetereosexual and homosexual Christians alike — including those who might otherwise have married and made little Christians — may in fact be called to this path as a way to serve the church. As Patti points out, Catholics do this. Protestants, not so much. At one time, I entertained the idea of intensionally remaining single, and I don’t remember anyone promoting it. And I know plenty of people in ministry who had a hard time getting a post without a spouse. The attitude seems to be, “If God wants you in ministry, he’ll give you a wife…” or sometimes even, “If you’re really healthy and normal, why don’t you have a wife?”

        • Completely agree with you on this but it’s easy for me to say as I’m married so I don’t have to face this reality at least at the moment. Churches are now paying the price of marginalising anyone who isn’t in a ‘normal’ family unit – ie mum and dad plus kids.
          We’ve been excluding people for so long we’ve forgotten how to be inclusive. If we are going to say to gays (and straights for that matter) that celibacy is the only God honouring option as a disciple then we have to provide the kind of good intimate friendships and family that they quite rightly want.
          I would really love to hear from people who are celibate out of choice – straight or gay – we need to listen to them, support them and change our ways.

        • Holland says:

          I love this. I´m 35 and have been celibate my whole life. It´s not a sexual choice that many people understand. Sometimes I don´t understand it either, actually. I am transitioning into a pastoral career and interviewed last weekend for a church. My celibacy was the biggest cause for concern around the table. A robust theology of sexuality must include a good discussion of celibacy, whether long-term or life-time.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          It just seems like celibacy is a path that God gives you, not one you choose, when in actuality someone can chose to be celibate. Or in other words, it feels like celibacy is taught as something you are relegated to instead of an actual valid choice in life.

          I think this is because marriage is so often talked about and esteemed in our culture and churches that its the only option that people think is valid for life and if you’re not married then there is something wrong with you.

          As someone said on a comment thread here some months ago:

          “Inside or outside the church, If you’re not doing Somebody, You’re a Nobody.”

      • Jack Heron says:

        I’d like to recommend Rowan Williams’ essay ‘The Body’s Grace’, which I think has a lot to say on missing or flawed aspects in our debates on sexuality:

        http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm

  14. I have sat through many meetings over the years of people arguing questions similar to this until they had no strength left to argue, people passionate on both sides. There are no easy or comfortable answers. What I have learned about evangelism and proclaiming the gospel to my community is that evangelism is relational before it is spiritual. You will never have the opportunity to share the gospel with any group in your community if they think you hate them. These are times when we need to rely upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit more than we ever have in the past and maybe that is the point, how we respond, how we discern God’s direction and how we treat another is more about us and what God through Christ is teaching and our spiritual formation in Christ than iis about someone else, at least for this moment in time.

  15. cermak_rd says:

    As a non-Christian, I have no horse in this race. I think it, like complementarianism, is just a quaint thing that Christians argue amongst themselves about, while the rest of the world has moved on. But I will say that I see a big difference between not allowing gay people to become members of a church or leaders of a church and refusing to play a softball team because the pastor of its sponsoring church is not straight. I see no theological justification for that. It just looks an awful lot like bigotry.

    • Phil M. says:

      Well, the rest of the world excluding the 1.6 billion Muslims…

      • cermak_rd says:

        Sure I guess I should have stated the rest of the US and France, Canada, Germany, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, and a few others.

        Actually, since Muslims recognize themselves as minorities in these countries, my hunch is that they will be easier dealing with gay issues than Christianity in the US. When you’re a minority religion struggling to be accepted in your culture, you might accept members who are less than perfect because there’s safety in numbers. Also, the Islamic faith (not the culture) doesn’t really have all that much to say about this topic.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Actually, even though they are a minority faith tradition in America, much of the Islam world has a much harsher rejection of homosexuality than mainstream American Christianity. Most professed Christians ostracize LGBT folk or condone their ostracism, either through their silence, or through active suppression. Many Islamic communities not only do this, but also punish homosexual activity with imprisonment or worse. Both faith traditions have equally odious reactions, but I would not jump to the conclusion that Islamic communities manage gay issues within their community any better than Christians.

        • You think Christian is harsh on gays? Islam is still in the Levitical stage! (With the exception of Sufism, the brand I expect to catch on most in the West).

        • Danielle says:

          Or it might make them harsher. Groups that see themselves as embattled enclaves may crave members (and respectability). But they may also in the business of defining themselves against the larger culture. So running contrary to mainstream ideas on hot-button issues can help to maintain religious or cultural identity.

    • Actually, I would say that the Western, modernized caucasian world has “moved on.” There’s a tad bit of snobish elitism in assuming that all people still wrestling with this issue are backwards and unenlightened, because the vast majority of the world is still bound to a traditional understand of sexual roles (and of marriage, too). The third world especially throws the balance WAY off. *But those people are so dumb, they don’t really know what they’re talking about. If they went to ivy league and had the benefit of a liberal arts education, of course they would see issues of sexuality our way!*
      (* indicates sarcasm)

      • cermak_rd says:

        You know, I would consider any society that doesn’t accept women as equal partners to men to be backwards and unenlightened by definition. Traditionalism empowers those who have always been in power. It’s not a good thing.

        • I was referring more to the gay issues than the equality ones. Though I’d agree with you there, woman’s sufferage, for example, is a relatively recent idea, so it may take some time yet to catch on. It will, no doubt. But complementarianism isn’t about sufferage or equality; it’s about the divine delegation of roles.

          • “It’s about the divine delegation of roles.”

            *sigh*

            No, it’s not. It’s about the Gospel-distorting/denying authoritarian imposition of Patriarchal hierarchicalism and gender restrictionism on the New Creation Body of Christ in which “there is not male and female.”

  16. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

    Jeff wrote: “At what point are we to put a person out of the church because of their sexual orientation?”

    I think there’s a problem in this sentence. Namely, about what “sexual orientation” means. To most folks my age, the term refers to how one self-identifies and to whether or not one is sexually attracted to people of the same gender as oneself. To many folks of previous generations, it’s more an issue of sexual behavior than of inclination, identity, or attraction. In the passage quoted in the body of the post, St. Paul is specifically dealing with sexual behavior.

    In the rubrics of the traditional Books of Common Prayer (here in the US that would be 1928 and prior), the minister is instructed as follows: “If among those who come to be partakers of the Holy Communion, the Minister shall know any to be an open and notorious evil liver, or to have done any wrong to his neighbours by word or deed, so that the Congregation be thereby offended; he shall advertise him, that he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he have openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former evil life, that the Congregation my thereby be satisfied; and that he hath recompensed the parties to whom he hat done wrong; or at least declare himself to be in full purpose so to do, as soon as he conveniently may.” It then instructs the minister when it might be necessary to kick the issue up the chain of command to the bishop (usually when you’re dealing with folks who refuse to reconcile with each other).

    It definitely seems to me that “open and notorious evil liver” can refer to those who are in open sexual sin whether it be homosexual sin or heterosexual sin. But the issue is, again, one of behavior rather than of identity. There were times in my past when I ought to be turned away from Holy Communion because of sexual sin. And, of course, in those times I made sure to go to churches where I wasn’t known, full well knowing that I ought not be admitted had they known me. How messed up is that?

    But again, this has to be addressed in terms of behavior, not inclination or identity, if we’re going to follow the example set forth in the Scriptures.

  17. The first two lines of this song are helpful to me, because if i dare to admit “my” sin I will be less focused on “your” sin.

    Mine is the church where everybody’s welcome.
    I know it’s true ‘cause I got through the door.
    We are a dazzling bouquet of every kind of flower.
    Jump in the vase, ‘cause we’ve got space for more.
    -“A Dazzling Bouquet” by Bret Hesla

  18. Phil M. says:

    I don’t know if I can answer your questions very easily. Honestly, in most of the churches I’ve been involved in I don’t think there were homosexuals beating down the doors to get in. They knew they weren’t welcomed from the get-go. For some reason, with this particular issue, Christians have it in their head that it’s OK to call homosexuals names, make jokes about them, etc. And, yes, I saw plenty of this stuff growing up, and was from people in leadership, not just the pew-sitters.

    There is an irony at play in all of this, though. For years, I’ve heard evangelical pastors encourage people to publicly confess their sins and not keep things hidden. Well, here we have people who are brave enough to admit where they are, but what do they get for it? We further ostracize and condemn them. It just reinforces the notion to everyone in the church that whatever their sin is, they’ll be better off if they keep it well hidden. I don’t know how people can’t see that this is what this type of thing breeds.

    • Why would a person who is gay or deals with homosexuality even want to be a Christian? It astounds me and boggles my mind! Some of the most unloving and self rightous people I have met are Christians. I’ve heard Christians say that harshest, ugliest things about gays. Some of what I’ve heard over the years includes the following:

      1. Putting gays in the same catagory as pedophiles.
      2. Talking about how sick gays are and what jobs they should not have (ie..government, teaching, military, etc..)
      3. The threat gays pose to the family and US culture.
      4. How HIV can be a blessing and solve the problem

      I mean…why would a person who deals with this issue want to be a Christian or go to church? It astounds me. Who here wants to go to chruch just to have the %^&$ kicked out of them. Hey it happened to me…I know how it feels, and after confessing regular guy lust stuff I can empthize with many gays on this issue.

      Here’s the problem Christianity is going to fall down into one of two camps. It’s either for the broken and crushed or the perfect. Now I know what the Bible says about Jesus saying that the healthy do not need a doctor but the sick do, etc…, etc…, etc… (Yawn….it’s challenging to know the Bible and yet see how fundys translate it…) But it’s also clear from what I saw that the doctor doesn’t even belong in the church due to their policy of keeping the sick out. Thus Christianity is a faith system for the perfect.

      Why would a gay person want to be a Christian? it’s healthier to not be one.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Didn’t think I’d have more to say on this, but just a quick word:

        You nailed it once again Eagle.

      • Tokah Fang says:

        We want to be christians because we love and believe in Christ. It’s not like we’re picking a social club, here. If your conviction is that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life, there isn’t really any option, is there?

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          this will always be a divisive issue. and it will never be one that will be acceptable/compatible to those on both sides of the issue…

          there will always be an awkwardness factor regarding those Christians of a same-sex lifestyle being invited & incorporated into a faith community. for most of us with family an/or friends that are openly homosexual, should an invite to church be part of the ‘being inclusive’ graciousness we might want to offer???

          or should we be hospitable in our homes or in other venues without the added pressure of a church situation that cannot ever be a perfect situation where Christian charity & godly conviction could be expressed all the time from every other member/attendee???

          sometimes we make our own problems become overly pronounced by how we force the issue even if our intentions are the purest in our own eyes. this issue isn’t going away or getting less offensive/awkward for all of us regardless of sexual orientation, personal conviction & living out our faith as we best understand it. there is still much to be learned & much love/charity to be expressed without the need to find out where the line is drawn within the faith community we are members of…

          Lord…have mercy on us. 🙁

      • Matt Purdum says:

        A gay person might want to be a Christian when he or she realizes that the Jesus story told in the New Testament is historically true. Can’t understand why that would be “mind-boggling.”

      • Eagle – You have a lot of “guts” blasting Christians, and especially “fundys” for being “unloving and self-righteous.” Seriously? Do you ever read what you write? Is yours a true statement about some Christians? No doubt! Can you lump all believers into the same category? I think not. The matter of homosexuality, as it relates to the teaching of the Bible, is a very difficult one. (see I Cor. 6:9-11) Are we to love ALL people? Absolutely! Are we to make fun of certain groups of people, and say nasty things about them? No way! I keep thinking about how Jesus would handle the situation. Would he say, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more,” or would he say, “…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish?” Would Jesus perform the marriage ceremony for a same sex couple? Anyway, I enjoy reading all the posts to see what others are thinking. To be sure, I have my own sin issues to deal with, as do we all. God Bless.

  19. ISTM that if sexual intimacy and activity need not strictly and only be for procreative purposes, then the “Traditional Christian” teaching comes down to: “Only and always insert Tab A into Slot B. And there must always be both a Tab A and a Slot B.” But if you allow for non-coital sexual intimacy and activity for “married” couples, then there really is essentially and actually no or no meaningful difference between non-coital sexual activity between opposite sex persons and the same between same sex persons.

    • “Traditional Christian” teaching is not about how the sex is performed, but between whom. The rules don’t prescribe the details of the function, but the relationship: Lifelong, marital monogamy.

      • I am guessing you’re saying that the only proper “between whom” is “between a male person and a female person.”

        If so, what are the definitions of “male” and “female”:

        External/genitalia?

        Chromosomal?

        Hormonal?

        What about XXY or XYY persons?

        What about persons with ambiguous genitalia?

        • Um, no. “Between whom” is a husband and wife, not any couple simply because one is male and the other female. If you are having a hard time differentiating between “male” and “female,” then language has ceased to become a helpful arbitrator of ideas. Give me a break. Ambiguous genitalia and chromosomal abnormalities are the exception, and not norms. The Bible doesn’t give them specific prescriptions.

      • So “marriage” is about two people who “correspond to each other” becoming “one” as partners in a lifelong closed commitment without regard to how or if they engage in sexual intimacies.

        • Would you suggest that a legitimate Scripture would police marital bedroom ethics to a “t”? Are you looking for a Bible that gives specific instructions for every exact detail of life? Let me know if you find one. In the mean time, ideals like love, self sacrifice, being considerate, and do no harm (which can be found in the Bible) serve as guiding lights in conjunction with a bit of common sense. But if “male” and “female” are concepts too difficult to delineate, then I suggest that no sacred writings or ethical treatise is going to be of much value.

  20. Ignore Paul. Try to be like Jesus of the Gospels.
    I have a dear friend who was a Meth addict. She tried and tried to kick the habit and kept falling back into it. That is, until she was accepted into a church that did not judge her in spite of her past failings and then they allowed those failings to become part of her strength.
    For my part, it’s a church that I wouldn’t feel comfortable in. (I don’t speak in tongues). But it is a church that reaches out to the unwanted by those who think you have to act a certain way to be a part of a church.
    My friend has been drug free for years now. She relishes life, loves her church and her family and is now a servant and minister in the name of Christ.
    If the church had thrown her out for her sinful nature, she would probably be dead by now.

    • Russ–I think the story of your friend is very instructive. She recognized the destructive influence of drugs in her life and found a church that was willing to come alongside her redemptively, rather than judgmentally. Now she is drug-free and serves as a minister of her Savior.

      What I didn’t see in your friend’s story was a demand that the church view her addiction as something to be affirmed and celebrated as an essential part of who she was.

      • Jimbo-I’m not sure what they affirmed and celebrated in her. They reached her.

        I’m personally not going to cast any stones. That’s not my place.

      • Jimbo….EXACTLY what many of us keep trying to say. She wanted to get away from sin, not bring her dealer with her and shoot up Sunday mornings.

        And NO I am not equating the behaviors, except for the part about overcoming sin rather than applauding it as “NOT SIN”.

  21. When I read this what jumped out at me was; Should there even be such a thing as a “Christian” softball league. That is such an affront to the purpose of the Gospel!!! Why do we need to go out of our way to isolate ourselves from society? Having a “church” league makes sense, then you can interact with other churches no matter their “doctrinal purity.” But in a sense, that ridiculous Baptist pastor is correct. By declaring it and all who participate as “Christian” now you have to treat softball like Holy Communion! How crazy is that?

    Where should the line be drawn with unrepentant sin? Looking at the first century Church, maybe at leadership and Communion. In only the most extreme cases, fellowship as well.

    • Michael says:

      “…now you have to treat softball like Holy Communion!”

      Except church softball games happen more than once a quarter.

    • You raise another point of which I must publically confess on I Monk in all my repenting of my involvement in fundagelicalism.

      I will never, EVER coach a softball team again at a fundagelical church, in a “Christian” league. Here are some fine memories…

      1. Watching teams cheat, steal, lie, manipulate, etc.. When it’s “us” vs. “them” and the “them” are the Catholics, Mormons, or your former Methodist church the ends justify the means.
      2. Salivating at the prospect of playing the Mormon church because…”Boy” as someone once involved I really wanted to show them.
      3. Seeing unsportsmanlike conduct in levels that would the Chicago White Sox of 1919 fame be honorable… 😯
      4. Seeing the poor umpire caught in the middle. I wonder if he believes in God today after what Christian softball teams have put him through?

      So again I Monestray I repent of playing softball…. I guess this can be cured by watching the Washington Nationals or Baltimore Oriels! 😛

    • This also stood out to me, TPD. (Tulsa Police Department?) We should not segregate ourselves any more than we already are. And Eagle, I, too, will no longer coach a church team. I was shunned by those I who had been my friends because I dropped them from leadoff to seventh in the batting order, or because I replaced them in the field. No, I’ll spend my time watching my Reds—or, tonight, watching some good college baseball right here in Tulsa.

  22. Do you suppose that this issue is so difficult to nail down for a reason? Perhaps it was designed to be difficult, set up to be confusing and vexing, simply so we would have the opportunity to engage not only with each other but with the world on a deeply personal level? We look for lines to draw so we can see who is on what side of that line. Once position has been established, we can fall back on our assumptions about people on that side of the line and then treat them accordingly. But, when we have a hard time drawing a line, we have to operate on an individual basis. I don’t know if we should be looking for a line to draw, but for a way to approach some ones heart with truth and grace. The lack of clear lines, not regarding the sin issue but how to deal with the people involved, presents an opportunity like none other.

  23. We had an interesting discussion in my Bible study recently around Acts 10:15, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

    Suppose someone is divorced and remarried. Clearly God’s design was that they and their first spouse be faithful until death, but something happened to so damage that relationship that it was no longer possible. Is it acceptable… to allow such a person to worship with us? To be a member? Recognizing that the first relationship cannot be repaired, can a church perform a second marriage and ask God to bless it? If two people are remarried, should we as Christians try to convince them to split up and return to their first partners? Or do we seek to support them in being faithful to each other, instead? Even though that divorce wasn’t God’s original plan, isn’t God able to make that new marriage “clean” and bless it?

    Now, suppose someone is in a committed homosexual relationship. Most likely something happened in their life, something that was in no way their own fault, so that they are not attracted to the opposite gender and never will be. Isn’t it possible – I’m not saying this is the only way to view it, but isn’t it at least possible – that the same questions apply? That for that person to be able to be in a loving and committed relationship is actually God working around the brokenness to bring that person some measure of blessing and wholeness? Isn’t it possible that God can make that relationship “clean” too?

    Or is that farther than we are able to imagine the power and love of God stretching?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      That is a very interesting concept. Would it be too much of a stretch to assume that that verse implies that something was once “impure,” but God somehow makes it “clean.” I think the hypothetical of a remarried, previously divorced couple is a great example. Seems like it would be horrible to require that couple to break up, then return to what may have been a very unhealthy and, in some cases, dangerous relationship.

      In the same way, if two men or two women are involved in an intimate, healthy relationship through which they find the emotional, mental, social, and spiritual support that they need, could it be equally horrible to require them to break up and enter into a relationship in which they are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy? Perhaps more importantly, should we let medical professionals and counseling and/or clinical psychologists determine what is healthy, or should it be left up to the Church laity to decide?

  24. Marcus Johnson says:

    It is interesting that when professed Christians think of “homosexuality,” we only think of sexual activity between people of the same biological sex. No one considers same-sex couples of sharing any other type of emotional or social intimacy. Same-sex relationships also include sacrificing time, money, and energy to provide financial, emotional and physical support (and a significant amount of support more than heterosexual couples, since same-sex couples enjoy less privilege in most societies). I wonder why we always seem to boil LGBT orientation down to just sexual activity.

    Also, does anyone else find it interesting that Jeff Dunn inserts the entire fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians, yet nothing in that chapter refers to homosexuality? The sin in that chapter revolves around a man who is “living in sin” with his stepmother. There is no further explanation about whether the man married his stepmother, or is having sex with his stepmother, or if he forced himself on his stepmother (I would assume this is because the Corinthian church already knew the nature of this situation). More importantly, nothing about that passage refers to or mentions same-sex intimacy.

    • ummm…..because without sexual attraction and intimacy you are describing really close FRIENDS.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        That’s definitely true, Pattie. I’m just suggesting that in order to have a real discussion of homosexuality, we have to talk about more than just sexual activity. No one would observe a man, crying at the bedside of his dying male partner, and try to define that scene according to sexual attraction. However, scenes like that and many others are part of a same-sex relationship, too. Let’s not diminish this to just sexual activity. That’s all I’m suggesting.

  25. OKAY…Let’s cut the to the chase on this issue of gays. What will solve the problem?
    Well after all the Focus on the Family material I had seen in the years I was a fundy…it’s pretty clear.
    If people just marry and have a 1950’s vintage white, middle upper class, Ozzie and Herriot or June and Ward Cleaver marriage that will solve all problems.

    I mean consider…

    Marriage will solve the problem of divorce.
    Marriage will solve the problem of pornography.
    Marriage will solve the problem of evolution.
    Marriage will solve the problem of state funded public education and the threat they pose to the faithful.
    Marriage will solve all the church’s problems.
    Marriage will solve the problem of Bible literacy.
    Marriage will solve the problem of alcohol.
    Marriage will solve the problem of drug use.
    Marriage will solve the problem of what is being shown on television.
    Marriage will solve the problem of atheism.
    Marriage will solve the problem of young people leaving the church.
    Marriage will solve what music is playing on the radio.
    AND gosh darn it…marriage should also solve the problem of homosexuality! 😛

    If those darn gays just get married that will solve the problem! 😯

  26. dumb ox says:

    If we are going to enforce lines in the sand, let’s be thorough about this, ok? First, Jesus said that anyone who lusts in his or her heart has committed adultery; therefore anyone who lusts in his or her heart is a sexual sinner and is not welcome in church. To uncover who truly has lust in his or her heart, churches will need to replace confession with interrogation procedures, perhaps involving lie detectors and sodium pentothol . Churches could hire former CIA operatives to perform water-boarding on all members to uncover the truth that lies within. Members caught lusting in their hearts will need to undergo reprogramming therapy, to make them have only nice, wholesome desires. Anyone who fails these treatments will be publicly humiliated, bullied, and kicked out of church for good. Churches could then network and share lists of those guilty of wicked hearts to prevent them from moving from church-to-church, endangering our children with their abnormality.

    • In the OT adultery was defined by the state of the woman. E.g., if a married man had sex with an unmarried or unbetrothed woman, he was not committing adultery.

      Also, the commandment not to lust for or covet another person’s WIFE was grouped in there with the commandments not to lust for or covet one’s neighbor’s [other] property.

      I.e., adultery was taking another man’s property, which you did not have a right to.

      So, considering the Greek word gynê can mean either “woman” or “wife,” and Matthew is the most “Jewish” of the Gospels and presupposes an understanding of the OT by its readers/hearers, an argument could be made that Jesus was referring to lusting for another man’s wife, not simply lusting for a woman of any married or unmarried state. Which means that a lot of Christian men may be needlessly being made to feel guilty about – or beating themselves up over – their natural sexual desires for women who do not belong to another man.

      • dumb ox says:

        I was being completely facetious, but I that is an excellent point.

      • Wrong. You just equated natural sexual desires with lust. One is given by God, the other is the fruit of evil. It’s the same as saying that those with homosexual desires are guilty of homosexual activity. Not true. It’s what you do with these desires, in thought, word, and deed, that determine whether or not it is sin. Also, since women were treated as property, unmarried women were considered the property of their fathers. That is why anyone violating an unmarried women was required to, under Levitical law, pay steep compensation to her father, AND take her as his wife. You might argue this is technically not adultery, but you can’t argue that it wasn’t considered sin. Which of the 10 commandments would you put it under? Or are they not a comprehensive enough summary of God’s law?

        • Well, there you go. In order to solve this issue we need to, once again, deem women and children as property.

          So, does that mean if a man lusts after another man it’s okay because they would both be considered property owners or owned by no one but themselves?

          Lesbians, however, would be instantly doomed…

          • Levitical law was harsh, but it was tailored to a harsh time/culture. Levitical law didn’t require people to see women as property, but it addressed the Israelites in a context where that view was prevalent. Who wants to live under that? It has certainly never been taught as such in 2000 years of Christianity. Levitical law, though, never addressed lust, only sexual acts.

        • Isaac / Obed says:

          Bingo. Lust is a way of entertaining and focusing on that sexual desire or attraction rather than the desire or attraction itself . Miguel hit it on the head. And even then, Jesus’ teachings on this subject included a good dose of hyperbole. While lusting may be “adultery of the heart,” actual adultery is a much more serious issue, temporally speaking.

    • To uncover who truly has lust in his or her heart, churches will need to replace confession with interrogation procedures, perhaps involving lie detectors and sodium pentothol . Churches could hire former CIA operatives to perform water-boarding on all members to uncover the truth that lies within.

      —-

      Indeed why not go all the way! Let’s have full blown polygraghs amongest fundagelicals. Nothing short of a full blown interrogation. Indeed let’s bring former members of the CIA into this! 😛 Didn’t tithe? Maybe water board a church member until they agree to follow their Elder (Hebrews 13:17) Gay? Maybe fundys can establish their own little Guantanomo Bay to those who confess homosexuality. Let’s just keep them separate from the rest of the Christians and rush them through military tribunals. 😛 We can also have strict discopline actions with membership covenants as well. Not a member !?! Maybe they can borrow some of Saddam Hussein’s interogation techniques to break a person into becoming a member.

      OH THE JOY!!!! 😯 Oh wait….we already have some of this..it’s called Neo-Calvinism

      • dumb ox says:

        “Oh wait….we already have some of this..”

        Indeed. Truth is stranger – and more disturbing – than fiction.

      • Well, I guess the question is whether you want your church to be a refuge FOR sinners, or a refuge FROM sinners. Ok, I’ve got my cheesy cliche quota for the day.

    • NOW that would be interesting dumb ox…. To see Mark Driscoll or CJ Mahaeny go through a polygraph. Maybe it would teach them humility 😉

    • cermak_rd says:

      Isn’t the e-meter used by the Scientologists during their auditing, a primitive lie detector? There ya go, a little healthy syncretism!

  27. Marshall says:

    The sexual sin that Jesus explicitly reproaches is adultery, which he frames as a lapse from commitment to one’s original marriage vows. Event that is forgiveable, divorce is permitted, but remarriage is not: I believe because the second vow conflicts with the first. (full disclosure: I, as a never-married man, “married” a divorced woman, and it failed with great harm to all. But I wasn’t a practicing Christian in those days and knew no better.)

    There is a difference between saying “I sinned by eating that extra chocolate bar” and “I sinned by sleeping with my neighbor’s wife.”

    Exactly so, and Paul is condemning the Corinthians for bragging about the man who is sleeping with his father’s wife. The concept of sexual faithfulness is under attack. What does that have to do with a same-sex pair in a life-long exclusive committed relationship?

    If homosexuality is “unnatural”, still God created homosexuals as they are, as He created some with anger management problems, with addictions, with mental and physical handicaps. All part of Original Sin, all to be dealt with through *faithful* love and mercy. Jesus said that it is best to be chaste, but that is not given to all. Therefore it is our duty to extend to all our brothers and sisters the liberty we take for ourselves.

  28. I hate to address such a complex issue with naive simplicity, but:
    At what point are we to put a person out of the church because of their sexual orientation? Never! Church discipline is for willful, unrepentant sin, not temptation. When orientation is used to justify sinful behavior, then it crosses the line. The question is all about justification.
    A couple living together outside of marriage? Absolutely. That is clearly sin. A pastor who will not address this is a coward.
    Does that line in the sand extend all the way to whom we spend time with in recreational activities, such as softball?
    Absolutely not. It shouldn’t extend past the communion rail. Homosexuals, open, closeted, practicing, and celibate should always be welcome to come receive the preaching of God’s word, even if they cannot fully accept it. They should be as welcome in the church as any non-believer.

  29. ‘Homosexuality is a sin. The Bible makes this clear.’

    When phrased like this, it difficult to know if one is referring to ‘act’ or ‘orientation’. The bible might say that certain sexual acts are prohibited, but is it a sin to experience same-sex attraction? For that matter, where does sexual preference come from come from? I don’t know. But by stating that ‘homosexuality is a sin, we imply that the attractions themselves are sinful, and, thanks to the essential role that sexuality plays in modern identity constructions, that LGBT people themselves are ‘wrong’ in someway.

    Is that what we want to say?

    • +1. Good distinction, imo.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      That’s why we have to address sinful behavior, and not get caught up in identity politics.

    • You’re right, I should have been more clear. Homosexual behavior is a sin, the same as heterosexual behavior that is described as sin is sin. Yet the behavior starts in the heart as Jesus often says. Thus, we circle back to when does orientation end and behavior begin? Like I said, tough questions.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        Well, in terms of Church discipline, behavior starts at… behavior. Acting. Doing something. That’s when discipline kicks in. The more subtle teaching form of discipline, discipleship, kicks in even before the point of temptation, proclivities, or “orientation.” We help people deal with their temptations and struggles through preaching and teaching. When those struggles turn into what the Book of Common Prayer calls “notorious evil living” that “the Congregation thereby be offended” we have to step in with discipline. But discipline is always for the purpose of bringing about repentance, not the elimination of temptation and struggle. This isn’t about being thought police. And if discipline is practiced at the Communion rail, it rarely will need to go beyond that to the point of “un-Churching” someone, as they will typically either repent or leave of their own accord.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Actually, a discussion of sinful behavior really should incorporate a discussion of identity. I know mainstream Christian denominations like to reject this idea, because it adds more complexity to the discussion of homosexuality, music, race and gender, etc. than what we care to tackle. But a complete and thorough dialogue that evaluates the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality has to include a discussion of same-sex orientation identity; refusing to do so is like trying to run a car engine without an alternator.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

        Absolutely. Our identity as Christians ought to be in Christ first and foremost, not in our sexual proclivities. Part of maturing and growing as a disciple of Jesus is surrendering to his Lordship and reshaping our identity to conform to Him. That’s what discipleship and spiritual formation means: our identities are being shaped into his identity. Our behaviors are being shaped into his behavior. Both of which are lifelong processes that we never realize while our flesh is still in its fallen state.

        Before our Lord we have no rights. That’s what being under a Lord means. HE dictates the terms, not us. Fortunately for us, he is a Lord who delights in mercy and is long-suffering. He’ll deal with us even when we’re not fully submitted. But make no mistake, that’s something that he’s CHOSEN to do; he is under no obligation to this. As followers of Christ, we should never be in a position where we are hating anyone, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what their sin is or where they are in their walk with the Lord. But we also must never be at the point where we’re justifying our sin and trying to convince ourselves and our brothers that its not sin, no matter how strong a temptation it is. Of course, the reality is that for both of these things (and many others) we fail miserably as disciples.

        And thus our prayer is ever “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on ME a SINNER.”

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          You’re so close, Isaac, but it still seems like you are sugessting that our identity as Christians blot out any other coexisting identities. Each of us still has an individual identity that is impacted by our race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, educational background, etc. Those facets of our identity, and the experiences that we have as a result of that identity, make our relationship with Christ something unique. I get the intention of what you’re trying to say, but it still seems that you are trying to simplify something that is really complex.

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

            Well, this *IS* an internet blog! There’s only so much complexity we can deal with here 🙂

            Identity, especially sexual identity is certainly complex. Those that want to oversimplify the discussion by pulling a nature/nurture dichotomy, for example aren’t really that helpful. So, yeah, I get what you’re saying. And I’m sure the fact that same sex attraction isn’t something that I struggle with skews my perspective on this issue a bit and makes me look at things in a more simple way that those in the midst of it would.

            However, I totally struggle with sins that the mainstream culture thinks are no big deal but that classical Christianity denounces. I deal with stuff that is too shameful to admit in certain circles and that when I do discuss it even among folks that I trust I can’t help but weep at my shame and brokenness. I get feeling like I’ll never fit into this ideal or that ideal because of things that others would consider a choice but I have no control over.

            Really, I think most of us do in some area of our lives or another. Hooray, we’re human.

            But that’s why I gotta run to Jesus and to his Bride. Where else am I gonna go? The weird thing is, sometimes I find myself getting just a *little* bit better. Just a bit. Not much, not often, but sometimes. And it’s almost always in spite of myself and only attributable to Jesus doing something cool behind the scenes.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Isaac, I think I agree with you now. Go God!

  30. When we get into these discussions I always find the methodology of some interesting. It goes something like this:

    John committed sin X, and although we think it is wrong Christians nonetheless seem to tolerate it.

    Ken over here is committing sin Y, how is it much worse than sin X? Since we tolerate X then why not Y?

    If I follow that line of reasoning all the way through to its conclusion, why is anything wrong?

    The problem I see is that in the end it becomes an excuse not to agree with God about the dreadful cost of sin, instead it becomes another justification for sin. And if we dare point this out we are accused of being unloving.

    It is not my place to tell anyone (even myself) that sin is okay. I cannot say that because Christians have not upheld marriage vows it is okay or right to affirm that homosexual behaviour or any other sin is okay.

    When we do this type of thing we are comparing ourselves amongst ourselves. I do not think we can ever overemphasize the ability for the human heart to engage in self-deception or rationalize almost any behaviour.

    For the Christian that is why we have to struggle with scripture and what it says. We have to see the wickedness in our own hearts (yes, in mine, Ken’s heart). Then to allow the scripture to change and dominate me. Yes, it says I should extend mercy. But it does not give me license to redefine sin in my own favour, or in favour of my political party, race or church.
    And on this issue of homosexuality I see some of you doing all you can to somehow redefine it as okay and chip away at what scripture and history say. And I don’t think any of us have the mandate to do that. We have to recognize the cultural forces that are at work in the current time that would have us say almost anything is okay.

  31. I feel that the only church which has a leg to stand on with regard to objecting to married same-sex couples in their congregation is the Catholic Church (and perhaps the Orthodox ones, I don’t know how divorce works with them). All other denominations/sects of Christianity that I know of allow for divorce and remarriage. Anyone living in a relationship where one person was previously married (excepting adultery and death) is committing sin on a daily basis, the same way that those in a same-sex marriage are.

    The message is not just that sexual sins are worse than other sins, but also that some sexual sins are worse than others. Specifically, the sexual sins that they engage in are horrors that we cannot allow near our children, but the sexual sins we engage in are the results of love and are therefore not only forgivable, but not really sins in the first place.

    I am not advocating that churches treat people who were married more than once as bad as they treat those in same-sex marriages. I am instead asking that they treat those in same-sex marriages as well as they treat those who were divorced and remarried. (I understand that there are some churches that treat divorce as bad as homosexuality. While I think this is horrible, I do have to admire (in the way that I can admire people I disagree with incredibly but who live by their principles) their consistency.)

    In one of the previous comments, someone wrote in, and I think this is true, that the church lost all moral standing on dictating marriage when they did not object to no-fault divorce coming through.

    Of course, under the Bible, abuse is not sufficient grounds to allow the divorced to get remarried, so even the fault based divorce system had it’s flaws there.

    • Both the Catholic Church and many Protestants could learn a thing or two about the “divorce,” remarriage, etc., passages in the New Testament and the Bible, remarriage. A good place to start would be with David Instone-Brewer’s work:

      http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/index.php?page=david-instone-brewer

      Of course, if the RCC has taken an “infallibility” position on its teachings related to the above, then no amount of evidence to the contrary will matter, except for those who believe in Truth over Tradition.

      • *sigh*

        One more time, “Infallibility” ONLY refers to official Chruch doctrine. These are items of faith, and there are very few of them.

        Everything the Church says and teaches is NOT infallible……really!

        End of Catholic PSA!

  32. Again with the Paul quotes about sexual morality!! When will it end? What did Jesus say about same sex relationships? Anything? Nothing?
    I can’t even bring myself to wade through these 100+ comments because I imagine it’s the same old arguments, and I can’t do it again and again. If I do I may be deemed insane, as I should. We either need to change the script or just move on. We can’t continue to say the same things over and over. That’s not evolving….that’s devolving as the rest of the world moves on.
    I don’t want to play these games anymore.

    • 🙂

    • Sigh. And I get just as tired as hearing “what did Jesus say about same sex relationships”. But if I hear you correctly, if scripture is silent, or maybe I should say our understanding of scripture is that it is silent on a particular issue, then it’s ok to do (insert whatever here…….)?

      So just thinking out loud here, He was asked about divorce. And in his response maybe he did indirectly say something in that he pointed to the order of creation being male/female, and further noted the husband/wife relationship in his response. It would seem to me if same sex relationships are an accepted part of God’s order, then it begs the question why didn’t He say something, anything, about that?

      • See Don, here we stand on opposite sides of a line. Feel better now?

        • Actually Debra I feel quite fine, although my back is bothering me a bit today. But thanks for asking.

          And there’s no need for snarkiness. I’m simply pointing out an argument based on silence isn’t necessarily the best way to build a case, one way or the other.

          So rather than throw short little snips my way, perhaps you’ll engage in a cogent conversation in which you’d address my second paragraph. I certainly don’t have the answers to this, yet when I read His response on divorce, He does point to male/female as the order of Creation. And it still makes me wonder why He didn’t say anything regarding same sex relationships.

          • Sorry for the double post. Having computer issues today.

          • Why didn’t he say anything about same-sex vs divorced heteros? I don’t know either, but one thought is that he didn’t have an issue with same sex couples. That’s my whole point…if the “sin” of same sex relationships was going to keep me from inheriting the kingdom, why didn’t he say something about it?
            And Don, if you have issues with snarkiness, why are you coming back at me with more snark? I could answer that for you, but I will not.

          • Or another thought might be it wasn’t an issue as he was addressing a Jewish audience whose perspective was based on Mosaic Law, so there would be no point in calling out something as sin as they already knew it was.

            And you are right, no sense in fighting snark with snark. I apologize for that.

  33. “Again with the Paul quotes about sexual morality!! When will it end? What did Jesus say about same sex relationships? Anything? Nothing?”

    Since Paul’s writings are considered Scripture, then Jesus (the Trinity) did speak about it.

    “That’s not evolving….that’s devolving as the rest of the world moves on.”

    That depends on what one considers “devolving” and moving “on”.

    • “That depends on what one considers devolving…”

      Meriiam-Webster: Devolve: to degenerate through a gradual change or evolution

      • Sorry, I know what it means, I was just wondering if you could specify how things are devolving.

        • Probably not to suit you, but my thoughts are this; there is always motion, so if a thing, i.e a discussion about same-sex issues, isn’t progressing it is degressing. It can’t be neither.

          I will say one more thing on this issue, and then I will go to work and forget all about this comment board.
          No one is going to seek answers with more urgency than a young gay person born into a preacher’s family. I have done the work, I have sat silent with God and have sought Him. He has given me peace in this matter, and the only reason I really engage here is on the off chance there is a young person seeking answers for the same questions I struggled with for years. I truly am not here to convince you Rick, a grown man capable of coming to your own conclusions.
          Peace Rick.

  34. I’m a little surprised that you called out homosexuality as a sin, as compared with the spin that even conservatives seem to preach now, that homosexual behavior is the sin. You’ve managed to single out a whole class of people as being cursed with an extra special dash of wickedness in them. Is the gospel saying to me that all have sinned but I have sinned even worse? Then shall I beg to be allowed into a group who upholds me as their scapegoat for this era? Naw, I decline the invitation. On the cross, Jesus ended this stuff. God pulled apart the sky and shouted at us, ‘No more scapegoats, never again!’ You intone the Bible, emphasizing that it is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Though, I’ve not read the verse that says, ‘Homosexuality is a sin.’ You’ve made that up. And when you do quote from the Bible, particularly- Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed- you refuse to do what it explicitly says, and instead tell Gwen that you are inclusive. Nope, dude. You can’t do this. Either grow a pair and hand her over to Satan, or rethink your made up perspective. The Good News is abundant life. When a gay teenager trapped in your lousy thought system kills himself, the blood is on your hands. This is not philosophical musing for gay people, but instead this is real, harmful, bad, Bad News.You could preach love and bring salvation, but you opt for self loathing and scapegoating because it makes the heterosexuals in the congregation feel better about themselves. My years of following Internet Monk are done because I’m not allowed into your Kingdom of Earth. My advice to Gwen is this: Stay as far away as you can from Jeff Dunn because you are not his friend, you are just his project.

    • ++1!!

    • Hmmm.
      Would love to know how calling something a sin is scapegoating someone.

      My sin has been gluttony and I am overweight because of it. I am exercising and watching my diet, but it is not easy. So if any fat person (of which I am one) gets discouraged from reading this and offs himself, I am to blame?

      Sorry, can’t see the logic there. Agreeing with what both scripture and tradition have labelled sin cannot be twisted around to say that it is sin.

      I believe that God calls me to admit my sin, and accept His grace, and walk in newness of life. There was never a promise that it is easy. We as humans hate that word SIN. And I am myself a sinner and do things I do not want to do. But I agree with God that it is wrong and will walk on in His grace.

      • Carmelbec says:

        Some might argue that your “gluttony” is a result of living in the fallen world of industrialized food production, toxic environmental contaminants, widespread ignorance about good nutrition, and resulting chemical disbiosis in your body which programs your body to desire more bad food and hold on to excess weight through insulin and leptin resistance. It’s something far from what God designed for us. Is there something wrong here? With you? With the world we live in? Is knowing that something isn’t the way God intended going to keep you from being accepted in the fellowship of believers? Even if you aren’t “fixed”? Even if you show up with Krispy Kreme? (You might find yourself quite popular, in fact!). I’m not picking on you, just pointing out how our “sin” is sometimes so much a part of us. Though our human need to eat food is more integral than the need to have sex, it is only one aspect of who we are, it doesn’t define us. Can we accept that there are plenty of things which keep us from living out God’s original design for humanity, while accepting the good in the human? Maybe even what’s good about the doughnut?? I am still torn on aspects of this issue, but I can’t ignore the human element, Jesus never did.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I am not engaging in any type of self-hate here, in fact obesity is a common American problem. But I have come to recognize that remaining there means significant health risks, some of which I have already felt (sleep apnea). And you do not see many overweight 90 year olds!

        So I am working at it. The gymnasium, watching eating, consults with a dietitian. And I am seeing results!

        To make it concrete, what do I think about overweight people who insist airlines give them 2 seats and they pay the same fare? Or the guy who gorges out at McDonalds for years and changes from a person to a place and then wants to sue them? I do not have a lot of sympathy and think that it is boorish.

        Having said that, my point is that we all struggle with things the bible calls sin. And I think the area of sexuality is no different. The danger is when we come to the point that we declare it is normal and then insist everyone around us believe the same, and modify their lives and opinions accordingly.

  35. I am always amazed at how knowledgable straight folks are on the topic of homosexuality and LGBT people. Someone in one of the previous comments asked the question, “Well, now we have to define what one means by sexual orientation…” Really?

    Have any of you asked a gay person what all of this means to them? Have you any of you asked a gay person what it is like to go through “ex-gay” reparative therapy, sometimes for years, only to not succeed in being “fixed”/ Have any of you walked with a gay person on the brink of despair, depression, and suicide because all of the tidy formulas prescribed by a strict literal interpretation of 6 verses in the Bible (assuming these interpretations include loving, committed same-sex relationships and not issues of sexual power, violence, or exploitation) hasn’t worked for them, and they are left wondering if God really does care.

    Well, rest assured: most gay people will figure out that the gospel really does not include them and they will never darken the doorsteps of your church (or even ones that proclaim themselves to be open and affirming) ever again, and your status quo will continue undisturbed. *Sigh*

    • “Have any of you walked with a gay person on the brink of despair, depression, and suicide because all of the tidy formulas prescribed by a strict literal interpretation of 6 verses in the Bible (assuming these interpretations include loving, committed same-sex relationships and not issues of sexual power, violence, or exploitation) hasn’t worked for them, and they are left wondering if God really does care?”
      Yes I have, and it wasn’t pretty, and it did involve confiscation of all razor blades. He is still an evangelical and convinced that God loves him. His challenge is excruciating and exacerbated by evangelical culture, but his faith is stronger, because the Gospel is for everyone. Jesus came for sinners. Homosexuals are as welcome in that club as myself, or anyone else.

  36. The longer this conversation goes on (on this blog and in the particular Christian subcultures we each inhabit) the less interested I become in participating. When I read things like “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality” or “don’t listen to Paul” or “the Church was wrong about slavery and it’s wrong about this” (as if there’s some kind of moral or theological equivalence between slavery and LGBT angst), I realize that we don’t live in the same conceptual or theological space at all.

    If we jettison Paul because we’ve decided he’s a sexist and a homophobe, are we also going to dump his views on justification? Hey, there’s an idea. If we excise those pesky epistles, then the soil from which the Catholic/Protestant split arose is gone and the churches can reunite. Voila, two problems solved at once!

    If we jettison the Hebrew scriptures because we don’t like the teaching on sexuality, do we assume Jesus was quoting a faulty document? How then are we to trust anything he says? He might as well be quoting the Qu’ran. Or will we keep only the parts we like…you know, some of the Psalms and Isaiah.

    Here’s a straw man I’m weary of hearing: “If you’re going to accept the OT teaching on sexuality, then you’ve also got to stop wearing blended fabrics, you have to kill your disobedient children, etc.” The reasoning here is, “Fundamentalists believe every verse is literally true and equally important. You don’t agree with me, therefore you are a fundamentalist. Thus your position is inconsistent.” Problem is, A. Even fundamentalists don’t use that hermeneutic, and B. I’m not a fundamentalist. I interpret in a pretty standard way: if the NT affirms an OT teaching, it’s still valid. If not, then it’s not applicable to life in the Body of Christ. I realize that’s nuanced, but it renders the “all or nothing” straw man irrelevant. When you use that argument with me, you’re talking past me, not to me.

    My point (and I do have one) is that if we use only the gospels, avoiding their OT underpinning — and if we remove or ignore Paul’s interpretation of the life and work of Christ — and if we reject 2000 years of teaching about marriage and sexuality because we’ve decided that “people back then were all stupid”, we have no continuity with what went before us.

    Is that what we want? To re-invent the Church because of this issue? And what will we do if our children follow our lead and do the same? What foundation will we stand on to reason with them?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to jettison Paul, or denounce him as a racist or a homophobe or outdated. We do, however, have a responsibility to put what he wrote in context. These epistles were delivered at a particular time in history, to a particular audience, for a particular reason, and any interpretation of his works which ignores that misses the point. Also, we know and are learning more about sexual orientation identity than what we did two millenia ago, and a discussion which jettisons that knowledge base is just as fruitless as a discussion which jettisons the message of the gospels or the epistles.

      • You say “It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to jettison Paul, or denounce him as a racist or a homophobe or outdated.” Have you actually read this thread?

        You say “We do, however, have a responsibility to put what he wrote in context. These epistles were delivered at a particular time in history, to a particular audience, for a particular reason, and any interpretation of his works which ignores that misses the point.” Of course. Shall we apply that same statement to all of scripture, or just Paul? Are there sayings of Christ which are similarly outdated or obsolete? Which ones? By what standard do we judge this?

        You say, “Also, we know and are learning more about sexual orientation identity than what we did two millenia ago,” This is the “people were stupid / ignorant back then” argument that essentially renders all of scripture obsolete. Do you really think Paul didn’t understand that some people are by nature drawn to members of their own gender? I’m sure he did, just as he understood that heterosexual men are by nature drawn to every pretty face and body they encounter. It isn’t and never has been an issue of orientation. It’s an issue of observing God-given boundaries with respect and self-control.

        By selectively contextualizing the parts of scripture we don’t like because they no longer fit with our Enlightenment and Romantic notions of personal rights and self-fulfillment, we effectively rip them out of the canon. The modern liberal / neo-evangelical / emerging Protestant church is neo-Marcionite.

        Scripture contextualizes us. It is a unified narrative, ever-living through the Spirit, which is to be absorbed and lived, not a “text” to be deconstructed and analyzed to suit our (sinful) prejudices.

        • Danielle says:

          “This is the “people were stupid / ignorant back then” argument that essentially renders all of scripture obsolete.”

          You are setting up a bit of a strawman here. I agree heartily that people in the past we not stupid. Further, I content that we are not all that clever. However, people are shaped by their contexts (then and now), and people have limitations even when at their best. So we’re stuck asking hard questions.

          I don’t think this means that one must conclude that everything in Scripture or church tradition is obsolete. You can let out a little bathwater, without losing the baby.

          And you might need to let out some bathwater, if someone’s muddied it up too badly! In such a case, you have to trust that the baby is tough enough not to turn to jelly and go down the drain.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          That was a pretty big response, so it will take a while to break it down, and I have to do it in pieces:

          1. You say “It doesn’t seem like anyone wants to jettison Paul, or denounce him as a racist or a homophobe or outdated.” Have you actually read this thread?

          Not only have I been reading it, but I’ve also been making numerous posts as well. It seems like your interpretation of Paul’s epistles in terms of homosexuality is what is being questioned, not the inherent truth of what is being questioned.

          2. You say “We do, however, have a responsibility to put what he wrote in context. These epistles were delivered at a particular time in history, to a particular audience, for a particular reason, and any interpretation of his works which ignores that misses the point.” Of course. Shall we apply that same statement to all of scripture, or just Paul? Are there sayings of Christ which are similarly outdated or obsolete? Which ones? By what standard do we judge this?

          We have to do that for the entire portion of Scripture. It was not written in a vacuum, and pretending that it was distorts the truth that the Spirit was trying to convey through these writers. Every single book, chapter, and verse of Scripture was written in a specific context, and before we apply these words to daily practice, we need to do more than just lift the words off the page. That leads to proof-texting, a habit which can be very dangerous and leads to misinterpretation.

          3. You say, “Also, we know and are learning more about sexual orientation identity than what we did two millenia ago,” This is the “people were stupid / ignorant back then” argument that essentially renders all of scripture obsolete. Do you really think Paul didn’t understand that some people are by nature drawn to members of their own gender? I’m sure he did, just as he understood that heterosexual men are by nature drawn to every pretty face and body they encounter. It isn’t and never has been an issue of orientation. It’s an issue of observing God-given boundaries with respect and self-control.

          No one, least of all me, would claim that these people were stupid or ignorant; they wrote from the knowledge base to which they had access. However, knowledge is evolutionary in nature, and we have to find a place for Paul’s words alongside our continually expanding knowledge base. There is an interesting blog post on this website about how ancient Israelite writers perceived the world, as a sphere, not a globe. They were not stupid for believing that; we just have access to more scientific discovery than they did. I would no more call them stupid than I would call a precocious first grader stupid for not having the same intellectual development as a Ph.D. student.

          Unfortunately, there really is not enough in the writings of Paul to make any clear assumptions about what he knew about sexual orientation (if he were, this blog would either be much smaller, or ten times as big). We cannot read a couple verses and assume anything about what Paul knew. I’m not saying he was not brilliant for his time (he really was), I’m just saying that the evidence is not there.

          4. By selectively contextualizing the parts of scripture we don’t like because they no longer fit with our Enlightenment and Romantic notions of personal rights and self-fulfillment, we effectively rip them out of the canon. The modern liberal / neo-evangelical / emerging Protestant church is neo-Marcionite.

          I don’t advocate, and will never advocate, the selective contextualization of parts of Scripture, whether I like them or not. I believe ALL of Scripture must be contextualized; otherwise, we are scraping the meaning of these verses and missing the real truth beneath them. “Contexualization” doesn’t mean that “it applied to these people in this way, so it doesn’t apply to us”; it means “this text applied to these people in this way so, in the same ratio, this is how it applies to us today.” Deconstruction and analysis are the tools of critical thinking, the way we break something apart to see how it works. Both Jesus and the apostles were serious deconstructive analysts, not because they wanted to destroy the teachings of the Torah, but because they wanted to establish a paradigm shift that continues to progress to this day. It is not inherently evil, so I’m not sure why you feel threatened when people on this site practice critical thinking.

          5. Scripture contextualizes us. It is a unified narrative, ever-living through the Spirit, which is to be absorbed and lived, not a “text” to be deconstructed and analyzed to suit our (sinful) prejudices.

          Anything that lives grows and evolves over time, or it dies. Deconstruction and analysis help us understand how it grows and evolves. The way you seem to be describing Scripture, I would think it is awfully static, a characteristic that is totally antithetical to that of any living thing.

          Phew, that’s a lot of writing!

  37. David Cornwell says:

    “Homosexuality is a sin.”

    Ok, I wasn’t going to comment further, but out in my car today I had some thoughts!

    “Drawing a line in the sand” is subject of this piece, but then a real line being drawn very quickly as “Homosexuality is a sin”. Whether one agrees with this or not, this is drawing of the line as a negative. Homosexuality becomes “the sin.” When one uses a negative as a Christian standard, then one’s finger points outward to the “other.” This always happens, regardless of what the negative standard might be. I’ve seen all kinds of these lines in my lifetime. That’s one of the reasons I am so skeptical of this one.

    On this blog I’ve seen a lot of talk concerning traditional church teaching, the rubrics handed down by the great fathers. Be very careful with this one. Many atrocities have been committed over church teaching. Traditionalists don’t necessarily have the last word on anything. The earth, after all, isn’t flat. Jews aren’t sons of the devil, etc, etc, etc.

    We would be better off drawing our lines in the sand from a different perspective. Most people here take a strong stand on “grace” for instance. We hear about radical grace. I believe in that. A Christian who doesn’t believe might have his foot on the other side of the line. Grace covers a lot, for instance our own sins, that we so much want to hide from public. In fact we want to hide them from ourselves.

    Another line is “forgiveness.” Jesus seemed to take this one very seriously, if I’m correct. He was not happy with Pharisees on the other side of that line.

    Another, for me, is the Resurrection and the promise of a New Creation. I’m fairly literal with that one, but interpret it however you wish so long as it conforms with the risen Jesus that appeared among them. Right off hand I don’t remember who He condemned to hell after the His crucifixion and resurrection.

    There are others also. The traditional creeds are mostly positive, although they just cover a few “essentials.”

    • David, you know that I am champion of radical, scandalous grace. As a matter of fact I take a lot of heat for my stand that grace means we can go and live however we want and will still be forgiven. (Yet I always add this: If, once we have been saved by grace, we continue in our sins purposefully, then I doubt we have really tasted of that grace.)

      And God’s forgiveness is higher than up, stretches farther than east from west, and is deeper than deep space.

      Still, there are many things God calls sin in both Old and New Testaments. All can be forgiven. I did not mean to make “homosexuality is a sin” a line in the sand, and I know others don’t see it clearly as I do. My whole point–and perhaps I didn’t make it clearly–is that Jesus came to save sinners, not the self-righteous. Now, having said that, where do openly practicing homosexuals fit into a local church? I could ask the same question thus: How does an openly adulterous man or woman fit into the local church. That is the tough question.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Jeff, thanks for your clarification. I probably over emphasized the “homosexuality is sin” bit, as it does make me defensive. It took me many years to arrive at my present stance. And I don’t mean to imply that I have the last word, and maybe even I’m wrong. But grace covers errors in interpretation, doctrine, and even practice, in my opinion. Otherwise who among would have salvation?

        I agree with your point here. I’ve wrestled with the same principle in the past, and struggled to know just where the line might be in church participation, not so much on this issue, but others just as serious. Frankly I’ve never arrived at a satisfactory answer.

  38. Christiane says:

    The alignment of far-right politics with Christian ‘conservatives’ has led to a very strange new religion that targets many who are poor, or female, or minority, or immigrant, or LGBT or _______ (fill-in-the-blank) . . .

    Not sure about applying the word ‘Christian’ to public policy that would target the human rights of any group of our citizens. No. I don’t think you can do that with integrity.

    A Christian person does not sit in judgement, saying ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like that other sinner’.
    And if a Christian person chooses to align themselves with a political party that harasses minorities, they need to go back to the Gospels again, and again, and again, until they realize that harassment is not taught there.

  39. John M. says:

    My, what a load of comments on some tough questions. I have two immediate thoughts and they may be related.
    1) All this arguing reminds me of why I most often stay away from church.
    2) Thank God I’m not gay. (Don’t know if that makes me the Pharisee.)

    I have one true story with regards to this topic, this experience “evolved” my view on homosexual relationships.

    I went to high school with a young man who is gay. After college he moved to a large city in another state and eventually fell in love with someone. He had a half-sister who for a time went to a fundamentalist type church where I did.

    During a revival at that church some years ago she got saved along with her husband or boyfriend. A few weeks later our pastor was called to help break up a screaming fight in the street between them, a while later they left our church. The girl became, or was addicted to meth, and had several children by several men. So many in fact that eventually she was court-ordered to have a tubal ligation. The last I knew she was still in jail.

    Meanwhile her gay, older half-brother built a career and remained with his partner, eventually moving back to our home state. He adopted one of his nephews while his half-sister was in jail. The boy was still a baby, badly malnourished and covered in sores from lack of being properly cleaned.

    That baby, now a teenager; is a heterosexual, straight A student. He is about the same age as my youngest son, and his parents have been together for the same number of years I have been married to my wife.

    As I said this story is true, these people are real.

    I wonder who, if any, honored the sanctity of marriage? I wonder at whom we should cast the stone? I can tell you that now I would never want to deprive two people of loving one another, of raising a family and staying together through the years of life they might have. And, once I did.

    Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Excellent story. Thanks.

    • Christiane says:

      Thank you for that story. Thank God for the goodness of those who cared for the nephew.
      This just goes to illustrate that people are ever so much more than just their sexual orientations. It’s about time that was understood much better in our society.

    • You are absolutely (and I do use the word rarely) right about “these people” being “real.” I honestly see little to nothing wrong with many of the homosexuals I’ve met. Sure they have a sexual attraction to the same sex, but other than that, they are just as productive, mature, kind, and caring as any other “normal” person I’ve met.

      Seriously, what’s the issue here? Are we just straining so hard to bend our intellectual honesty into telling us homosexuality is wrong when by in large our hearts tell us that perhaps it’s completely okay?

      As Wiggenstein once said, “Don’t think! Look!”

  40. Not that anyone cares, but this will be my last comment on this blog.

    The official position of my denomination is that while gays and lesbians are persons of sacred worth, like everyone else, they are also sinners like everyone else, and their sexual behavior is not compatible with the teaching of the Church. I agree completely with this position. There is no precedent for same-sex marriage in scripture. Since scripture is also pretty clear that God’s original intention for humanity (which has been restored in Christ) is fidelity in heterosexual monogamous marriage and celibacy in singleness, homosexual intimacy falls outside these boundaries … as do adultery, fornication, pornography, etc… all of which are therefore sexual sin.

    Gays and lesbians ought to be treated the same as other sinners in our churches. If we would exclude an unrepentant adulterer from participation in some ministry or activity, we should do the same for practicing homosexuals. Likewise, if we would allow participation by, say, a man addicted to pornography, we ought to allow participation by gays and lesbians. No better treatment, no worse. All sinners. If we’ve treated LGBTs poorly, we’ve been wrong. I admit this.

    That being said, I really don’t care whether or not the state allows some type of contractual unions between persons of the same gender. In fact, if it will quit the continuous griping from the LGBT community, then have at it. They have access to almost everything already that such unions would give them, but if they really want the official recognition of the state, fine by me. It’s a POLITICAL issue, not a church issue, because regardless of what the state decides, the church should never under any circumstances perform or recognize same-sex unions, for reasons I’ve already listed, any more than we should condone or accept flagrant adultery. In fact, if my denomination — or the state — ever mandates that I do same-sex unions, I will resign as pastor.

    This I believe, and I don’t hate gays and lesbians. I love them as much as any other sinners. I feel sorry for them, as I do others who struggle with urges that fall outside the boundaries God has set. Life’s a b*tch, ain’t it?

    This I believe, and I am not, and never have been, a Republican, or a right-winger of any political persuasion. Inexplicable, isn’t it?

    I come to this blog because I like the outside-the-box theological thinking I sometimes see here. I like the willingness (generally) to try to step back and be objective about every position, not just the ones I don’t like.

    Lately, I’ve noticed a trend. A lot of posts about subjects I consider belonging primarily to worldly politics, like same-sex marriage. If I want that, I can go to Salon.com.

    For the record, I don’t like John Piper’s teaching either. But not all those who follow him are “far right-wingers” as a recent comment described them, and all who oppose him are not “progressives.” I thought I had a found a suitable place to hang out here at intermonk. Apparently I was mistaken. My bad.

    Over and out.

    • “Life’s a b*tch, ain’t it?” Ah, I think I remember Jesus saying the exact same words in the Gospel of Matthew!

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      A little knowledge is a lot to swallow. Too bad Reed can’t hang. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t grieve away the Spirit.

    • David Cornwell says:

      ” They have access to almost everything already that such unions would give them,”

      This isn’t factual. I can make a list of just how that is not true.

  41. JoanieD says:

    We are talking a lot about sexual sin here and what Jesus had to say about it. I note that in the 21st chapter of Matthew, chief priests and the elders of the people are questionning Jesus. Jesus ends his response to them with, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Matthew 21:31) So, here we have prostitutes who Jesus says will enter the kingdom of God. Does he mean that they are repentant, non-practicing prostitutes? I don’t know. He certainly did not make that clear.

    I have to say that some of the things Jesus says are confusing to me. We have him advising disciples about how to deal with unrepentant sinners in their group and says if they refuse to listen, “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17) and then in the next section, he talks about the need to forgive people over and over again (“seventy-seven times” was the creative wording). I have heard some people say that the words about treating them as you would a pagan or tax collector meant that you should show them even MORE love, because they need it. I don’t think that is the majority’s take on what he means by that, though. And of course, you can say that we can forgive people even if we banish them from our gatherings. But I just don’t know. I would not feel loved or forgiven if I was ousted by a group.

    No matter what we would like the books of the BIble to say and mean (including the Gospels, which I love) the writings are often confusing, conflicting, unclear. We often read passages (even in the New Testament, including the Gospel books) that make it sound like unless we are very, very holy, we will not enter the Kingdom of God. And then you get the thief hanging beside Jesus who asks Jesus to remember him and Jesus says he will be with him in paradise. And Jesus asks his Father to forgive the people who are nailing him to the cross. So, when scripture passages are confusing or conflcting to me, I just have to revert back to the “golden rule” about treating others as you would like to be treated.

    I don’t know the answers to what God wants from us in regard to sex outside of marriage of one man and one woman. If the only choices are a lifelong marriage between one man and one woman or you are celibate, then so many of us just will not make the cut! We have had sex before marriage; we have divorced and remarried; we have married a divorced person; we had sex with another person while we were married; we are gay or lesbian in a sexual relationship. Are we all doomed? Or are we all saved if we just decide to turn celibate? I really don’t know the answer. I just find it difficult to picture Jesus turning his face away from all these people. It seems that in the Gospel books, Jesus is more outraged by behavior that is non-caring, superior-acting, life-denying than he is with those who are violating the accepted sexual code.

    • Brother Bartimaeus says:

      Joanie – Thank you for your always thoughtful and humble comments.

    • Excellent as always, Joanie.

    • Christiane says:

      when I read your comment, Joannie, it made me think:
      ‘maybe ‘holy’ and ‘humble’ mean the same thing in the Kingdom of Our Lord

      • JoanieD says:

        Thanks for your responses, Brother Bartimaeus, Jeff and Christiane.

        And Christiane, your statement that “maybe ‘holy’ and ‘humble’ mean the same thing in the Kingdom of Our Lord” is very interesting. I will ponder upon that. It scares me sometimes when I read the passages about how holy we have to be to enter the Kingdom of God. I KNOW for sure that I am not that holy. But if holy means “humble” at least that could maybe, just maybe, be a possibility. With all the mistakes I make, I get lessons in being humble on a daily basis! But holy in the sense of being “perfect” in all ways is just so far from what I am.

        And in terms of sexual sin, here is mine: I have been married for almost 33 years, but before we were married, I lived with the man who is now my husband while he was still married, though separated from his wife. So, now I am married to a divorced man. I can’t keep it straight what the Church at large considers me (adulteress? fornicator?) but I have been to a priest who gave me “special dispensation” to receive Holy Communion. I can’t even remember if he really felt I needed that, but I know he basically told me not to worry about it. And he told me that if it would cause even more harm to leave my husband, then it would be best to stay married if that is what I wanted to do. But I have always felt badly about the fact that my presence in Tom’s life caused grief to his first wife. But they still have a lot of contact (they had two children together) and most people do not understand how I “allow” as much contact as they have. They talk on the phone a lot. But Tom was a single child so he has no siblings and his first wife does connect him to some of his history and there is the children and grandchildren to consider. I love their children and their grandchildren!

  42. Note to Chaplain M. I think the iMonk blogger team could make some room for young Miguel. 🙂 He has earned his stripes today, though I haven’t visited here in a while.

    John

    • Miguel and many others have really done a great job today. Comments have been strong and challenging–but (for the most part) respectful. This is the kind of dialogue that needs to occur to help work thru these kinds of issues.

    • Adrian Z says:

      Hey JFDU

      What part of OZ are you in. I am a brisbaneite but have long wondered about how many members of the imonastery reside in our part of the world

      Cheers

      Adrian

      • G’day Adrian. I’m in Brisvegas as well. Work in the Valley.

        • Adrian Z says:

          JFDU

          Have been wondering for a while of starting a meetup under the patronage of the internet monk. Wonder if there are any others in our part of the world. Nonetheless a coffee sometime?

          AZ

    • Even though Miguel and I have some differences of opinion and likely theology, I have benefited from and enjoyed his engagement on this thread. Yes, he’d be an interesting contributor to iMonk.

      And I always remember … what can seem like heated comments or exchanges online can actually be more reflective of the medium than the ones making the comments. I.e., sometimes people and comments can come across as more direct or blunt or confrontational than if the exact same things by the exact same persons were being said in person at a table with the engagees drinking cups of coffee or glasses of beer.

      So, like the saying, “Measure twice, cut once,” it’s sometimes best (and I often fail to do this) to read through a comment two or three times before responding – and then sit on your response for a few minutes and re-read both the comment and your response before hitting “Send.”

      • Josh in FW says:

        Amen

        • I ERASE about half the comments I type, for that exact reason……sounds good in my head, but reads as strident, ugly, or just dumb when I re-read it.

  43. Some personal stuff first

    I thought this trivia might help since this point was raised several times during the discussion.

    I have known more gay people than I can remember. My wife and I have worked under gay bosses for years. I had gay colleagues. One of my professional mentors was gay (she was heterosexually married for years and then defected to homosexuality). I have been in social outings with gay people. One of my good friend’s son is gay.

    My most important encounter with a gay person however was the guy who introduced me to the gospel, who at the time was a practicing homosexual and I had known him for years from my pre-Christian life (no, not through homosexual encounters). I liked the guy and he was one the smartest people I had ever met. To make matters more interesting ? he had stopped practicing homosexuality and even got married to a lovely Christian girl, but by the time he shared the gospel with me he had lapsed back and was having homosexual encounters. (Hence my initial comment up the top about orientation and desire that it may stay with the person for life).

    However unlike the popular trend, he never justified his homosexuality by trying to reinterpret the Bible to make him feel better about himself. In fact he told me point blank, “John I am living in sin and if I stay this way I know I’ll end up in hell, but that doesn’t change God’s truth and who Christ is, which is why I need to tell you about Him”.

    After a long period sin had hardened his heart and he resigned to the fact that he wanted to “get out” but it was beyond his own ability to make it happen and it would take divine intervention and nothing less. Well, thankfully this has a semi-happy ending because he ended up going back to his wife and now lives as a married heterosexual though I am convinced that the same sex attraction is still there and he deals with it whenever it rises up.

    Now to da Bible

    So many have asked if homosexual practice is a sin and mentioned that the Bible is unclear. No need to delve into a detailed analysis and a PhD style thesis. Let’s just stay with a straight forward passage from Romans 1:26-27

    For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    Of course reading the whole chapter for context helps because this is not a chapter “about homosexuality”, it is simply one of the many sins mentioned.

    Now at the risk of stating the obvious, if these “passions” are called “dishonourable” and folk’s relations were exchanged “contrary to nature” (which btw justifies the use of plastic apparatuses to consummate gay sex to compensate for natural anatomical function) and men committed “shameless acts with men”, I don’t think you need to be a Greek scholar to figure it out. Average common sense and an IQ of 50 should to the job.

    One of the common straw man set up in defence of “homosexuality is NOT a sin” is that the passages are unclear and difficult to interpret. We can figure out how to operate a smart phone and follow instructions from an IKEA manual on how to assemble furniture, yet we struggle to understand that “men committing shameless acts with men” means…it’s probably wrong *sigh*

    If we can conclude from this passage that homosexuality is NOT a sin, then the guy who secretly meets his mistress on Thursday nights can say “it’s not a sin because I believe God wants me to be happy”.

    John

  44. John M. says:

    Honest question. If a society gives one no means to be loved and accepted, and provides no avenue to express that love and be monogamous in a legally recognized way; what avenues are left for those people?

    To use your example the married man meeting his mistress, that man should have remained faithful to his wife. That he did not, is his sin. Homosexual people, if I understand this view, have the higher burden to never physically act on their desire even in a monogamous way. In other words, no sex, no relationship, to do so is to sin. To me that is a much higher standard than for heterosexuals.

    I understand celibacy, but even Paul acknowledged that not everyone was called to that path. I certainly was not. Earlier I said thank God I am not gay, this was not facetious, or just to be thankful for having avoided the abuse and shame gay people experience. But, to also acknowledge that I could not be celibate and I would be branded an unrepentant sinner as such.

    To me this differentiation is an unbearable burden crushing others. Please help me see how it is not so.

  45. @ John M

    In answer to your question:

    If a society gives one no means to be loved and accepted, and provides no avenue to express that love and be monogamous in a legally recognized way; what avenues are left for those people?

    Firstly, this discussion here is not about what society should do but what the church should do. I’m afraid the terms “loved and accepted” introduce a false logic to this debate because they create the assumption that if you don’t condone homosexual practice it means you don’t really love and accept homosexuals.

    The gospel call is to all. Serial killers, rapists, drug dealers, suicide bombers, mafia bosses, paedophiles AND goody-two-shoes moralists and self-proclaimed pietists. All are welcome to COME as they are but not to STAY as they are. As scripture declares,

    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)

    Let’s be real though; saying “No” to ungodliness and passions is easier said than done. Sanctification is both messy and slow. To some it takes weeks, months or years to cut loose from old sinful “habits”. It even gets more complicated than that if people were living together. There are substantive, financial and legal issues that need to be addressed and it all takes time which is why the church needs patience and wisdom to deal with such cases.

    Whatever the circumstances though, a person of genuine faith will at some point display a desire to let go of their old lifestyle even though they may struggle and take a while.
    Your other point:

    Homosexual people, if I understand this view, have the higher burden to never physically act on their desire even in a monogamous way. In other words, no sex, no relationship, to do so is to sin. To me that is a much higher standard than for heterosexuals.

    I couldn’t agree more, that’s why we mentioned in the beginning of the discussion that this is not a simple and easy issue. By the same token however, there are plenty Christian singles who have unfulfilled desires because they can’t find someone to get married and they have to control their sexual appetites or simply their desire for permanent companionship.

    In a parallel sense, a paedophile who becomes a Christian may continue to experience these urges yet we can’t encourage him to act them out.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Do we still have to do that thing in which pedophilia is the only sin comparable to homosexuality? Really? Why is it that pedophilia and bestiality are the first things we go to?

      • It’s a legitimate comparison and goes to the issue of sinful desires longing to be acted out. However the comparison is invalid for those who don’t regard homosexuality as a sin. But for those who do, it highlights the point that if you wouldn’t condone a pedophile acting out their sinful desires, why would you give the homosexual a free pass?

      • JFDU, how dare you single out pedophiles and beastophiles (bestialists?) like this!

        As Marcus so eloquently said above in an earlier comment,
        “… a discussion of sinful behavior really should incorporate a discussion of identity. I know mainstream Christian denominations like to reject this idea, because it adds more complexity to the discussion of homosexuality, music, race and gender, etc. than what we care to tackle. But a complete and thorough dialogue that evaluates the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality has to include a discussion of same-sex orientation identity; refusing to do so is like trying to run a car engine without an alternator.”

        Substitute “pedophilia” or “bestiality” in for “homosexuality” / “same-sex” and I think you can see my point. Some people are simply born with a desire to be intimate with children or animals, and that is an integral part of their identity. Who are we to call that wrong? And no need to fall back on those old Hebrew scriptures condemning such things here. After all, as Marcus said so eloquently in another earlier comment, “They were not stupid for believing that; we just have access to more scientific discovery than they did. I would no more call them stupid than I would call a precocious first grader stupid for not having the same intellectual development as a Ph.D. student.” We know so much more now about these kinds of things than they did.

        In any case, Jesus never taught anything about pedophilia or bestiality, did he? He didn’t condemn them and neither should we. Our understanding of truth must evolve.

        It’s all about love, people. Love and affirmation.

        What? What’s that? That’s not what Marcus was getting at? Oops. N.e.v.e.r m.i.n.d.

        *sarcasm font off*

        Sorry for chiming back in after swearing off, Marcus old buddy. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and I couldn’t resist. You can go back to high-fiving David and Danielle now.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Assuming that we agree that homosexuality is a sin, consensual sexual activity between people of the same sex is not inherently unhealthy, illegal, or a forcible act; both pedophilia and bestiality are considered nonconsensual, unhealthy, illegal, forcible acts of aggressive behavior. Just because they may involve sexual activity that originates with sinful desires doesn’t mean that we can speak of them in the same breath, any more than we could compare swearing to beastiality. I understand why we may feel the need to associate homosexual activity with every other deviant sexual activity, but by comparing it to pedophilia and bestiality, we tend to (perhaps unintentionally) classify homosexuality in a category of nonconsensual, illegal, forcible acts of aggression on someone else, assigning it a stigma which it may not deserve.

          Can we compromise here? Let consider the behavior of some of the disciples of Jesus. Whether by nature or nurture, they could be impulsive and aggressive. Occasionally, it resulted in acts (i.e., turning children away from Jesus, lying about their relationship with Jesus to avoid possible arrest, etc.), which were neither illegal or unhealthy, but were still sinful in nature. I seriously doubt we would make the claim that those acts were comparable to bestiality or pedophilia, and neither would Jesus, even though they are all sinful acts. I can consider the validity and rationale of an argument that places homosexuality in that context, just not in the context of “it’s just like pedophilia and bestiality.”

          Reed, I never suggested that this issue was about “love and affirmation.” I would never be so sentimental and dismissive to take that position. It’s about identity, our personal insecurities, and how deep we are really willing to go to understand what God’s intent was when he relayed this message through Paul. If you are really a pastor of a church, and this is the way you converse with people outside of your faith, then I seriously question whether or not you are actually operating within the spirit of Christian leadership. I will be more than happy to high-five Danielle and David over your absence from this forum.

          On the other hand, JFDU, I appreciate your rebuttal. Let’s keep talking, but let’s do it rationally, okay?

          • May I quote you, Marcus?

            “A little knowledge is a lot to swallow. Too bad Reed can’t hang. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t grieve away the Spirit.”

            “Well, David, unfortunately, it looks like our facts scared off Reed. See what you happens when you try to speak facts and truth into a conversation?”

            Could you have been any more condescending? I don’t respond well to that kind of thing. It’s a weakness and I struggle with it daily. Perhaps it’s your tone, not your “facts,” that I don’t care for.

            “If you are really a pastor of a church, and ‘this is the way you converse with people outside of your faith’, then I seriously question whether or not you are actually operating within the spirit of Christian leadership.”

            Pot. Kettle.

            Like I said, it’s a struggle for me and why I keep coming back to these blogs, I’ll never know. I keep hoping for civil discourse, then I get dissed or patronized by someone like you, and give in to the temptation to respond. I’m not proud of it.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Actually, Kettle, this Pot does not claim to be a pastor. I happen to hold church leaders up to a higher standard than the average layman, mostly because Christian communities vest them with a higher authority than the average layman.

            As for my comments, I never patronize, but I do dis, mostly when I read comments that suggest that someone is speaking from personal insecurities or willful ignorance. My only suggestion to you is that if I offend, you may want to get a thicker skin before you read my responses.

          • Here’s a radical idea, Marcus. It’s possible for someone to take a different position from yours, not because they’re insecure, not because they’re willfully ignorant, but because after years of study, prayer, and ministerial experience, they actually believe something other than what you espouse.

            The pot and kettle thing BTW referred to your “the way you converse with people” comment. Your earlier comment “They were not stupid for believing that; we just have access to more scientific discovery than they did. I would no more call them stupid than I would call a precocious first grader stupid for not having the same intellectual development as a Ph.D. student.” speaks volumes. You must see yourself as the Ph.D. and anyone who doesn’t see things your way as the precocious first grader. Do you presume to stand not just above the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, but above the Apostle himself? That seems to be your stance with those on this blog who hold a position different from yours. I.e., this comment from you to Isaac: “You’re so close, Isaac…” Spoken as one who knows to one who doesn’t , not as one peer to another, struggling together to understand a very difficult issue.

            A suggestion: consider reading Chapter 16 “Homosexuality” of Dr. Richard Hays opus “The Moral Vision of the New Testament.” Dr. Hays is Dean and Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, considered by most evangelicals to be a bastion of liberalism. No one knows Paul better than Hays. He deals with this far more eloquently and accurately than I have, or can. You may disagree with him, but I don’t see how you can simply write him off as ignorant, insecure, or homophobic.

            As for your expecting me, or any other clergy, to come to a blog with one hand tied behind our back, that’s really not fair, is it?

            I’ll say again: your tone set me on edge. I responded sarcastically. I’m not proud of it.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            I am very much aware that my tone sets you on edge, Reed, but your interpretations of my interpretation of your interpretation of Paul’s writings are still so over-the-top inaccurate, I don’t understand why you think I should take you seriously. No one but you drew the conclusion that I find the writings of the apostles as stupid and outdated. The child/Ph.D. analogy was only intended to show that the increase of knowledge in fields of study such as comparative religion, clinical psychology, genetics, and sociology inform a great deal on the issue of homosexuality and its validity as an acceptable identity. Science and literary analysis are not natural enemies of Scripture; they give Scripture context and definition, and assist us in the affirmation of valid beliefs. If you are not prepared to accept that, then you already came to this discussion with one hand tied behind your back.

            I should point out that there are several people on this blog with whom I disagree, but I can tolerate their responses, even the sarcastic ones, because if they attempt to interpret my statements, they do it right. You haven’t done that yet.

          • Quoting the aforementioned Hays, p.398: “…the etiology of homosexual orientation is not a significant factor for the formation of normative Christian ethics. We need not take sides in the debate of nature versus culture. Even if it could be shown that same-sex preference is somehow genetically programmed, that would not necessarily make homosexual behavior morally appropriate. Surely Christian ethics does not want to hold that all inborn traits are good and desirable.”

            It’s not that I don’t know about the findings of the experts, or even that I disagree with them. I’m sure they’re probably right about the genesis of same-sex preference. It’s just that it’s not relevant. For example, from a combination of genetics, upbringing, and my cultural milieu, I’m a heterosexual man; I like women. If not for the God-commanded restraint of monogamy, I would be after any pretty girl that would have me. That’s my preference. But my calling is to keep only to my wife. So I exercise self-restraint, for her sake, for mine, and for Christ’s, by the grace of God. I have my lapses; my eye wanders and occasionally I let my thoughts linger too long on an attractive woman. Guilty as charged. I take it to the Cross and there I am reminded of my identity in Christ. If I were, God forbid, ever to actually be physically unfaithful, I’m confident that even that would not put me beyond the forgiveness I already have in Christ. It might put me beyond my wife and children’s forgiveness, because the consequences of sin are not so easily erased. If I were to have such a lapse and make it habitual, would I forfeit my salvation? Good question, for a different thread. I can’t help but remember that when the women taken in adultery came before Jesus, he told her to go and sin no more. Had she been back the next day, and the next, I’m pretty sure his answer would have been the same.

            My point is this: just because I have urges towards other women, those urges are not sanctified, no matter where they originated. A psychiatrist could tell me it’s because of my relationship with my parents, and be right, and it wouldn’t change a thing. My calling is to monogamy.

            I know no marital outlet exists for those with same-sex preferences. I’m truly sorry for gays and lesbians, but I didn’t make the rules. There’s simply no precedent for same-sex marriage in scripture unless you want to ignore the clear sense of the text. I said already that same-sex civil unions are fine by me but they have no place in the Church. As Dr. Hays says on p.402, “The church should continue to teach — as it always has — that there are two possible ways for God’s human sexual creatures to live well-ordered lives of faithful discipleship: heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence.” I — and my denomination, the United Methodist Church — agree.

            So I don’t buy the argument that modern science renders certain scripture obsolete. If you’re not saying that Romans 1:26-28 is no longer relevant, then what exactly are you saying about it?

            I can buy that science helps us understand certain things better, but if I’ve come to the conclusion that a particular passage has been shown to be false because of a modern finding, it is I, not scripture, that is mistaken. (And no, I don’t believe science has rendered the first chapter of Genesis obsolete. Genesis 1 is poetry, not science. I appreciate the work of John Walton of Wheaton (“The Lost World of Genesis One”) in this regard.)

            The problem here between us, Marcus, (besides mutual incivility) is what I said in my initial comment in this thread: on either side of this debate, we argue past one another. We inhabit different conceptual and theological space. If I believe homosexual practice is a sin (vs. same-sex preference, which is not) and someone else says it isn’t, what else is there for us to talk about, other than how we ought to treat sinners (i.e., one another) in Christ’s Church?

            You seem to be a well-read person with good intentions. I assume from your comments that you are in fact a practicing Christian; I have no reason to doubt that, even if I think you’re mistaken about this issue. I apologize for my harsh treatment of you earlier; I knew even as I typed it that it was not right to be so sarcastic, regardless of my opinion of your position.

            Blessings to you in all that you do which glorifies God, and mercy to you in all that doesn’t. It’s the same thing I wish for myself.

  46. This is a delicate and complex issue. I have a B.S. in molecular biology and was a scientist for a time. This has partly informed my perspective. Our genes and early development in the womb, effect our sexual development and ultimately our “orientation” and level of comfort with sexual intimacy. Male and female brains develop differently in the womb. There are people born who are not well sexually defined physically or mentally. They are troubled and need love and acceptance. On the other hand, I believe there are others in the gay community using that identification as a cover to engage in a promiscuous lifestyle inconsistent with biblical teaching and unacceptable in the Church.

    It seems we follow a doctrine of entitlement today. “I’m entitled to be happy.” I’m entitled to intimacy.” “I’m entitled to be accepted regardless of my actions.” It’s no crime to pursue happiness, intimacy, and acceptance. However, the entitlement doctrine says you can pretty much do whatever it takes to get them.

    On the other hand, I also went to Bible school out of high school. I see this as not only a human issue, but, a biblical issue. When I hear people saying the Bible isn’t clear on homosexuality, I’m pretty sure it’s because they don’t want clarity. Other activists seem to accept what the Bible says about homosexuality but readily dismiss the Bible as antiquated while acknowledging it contains many beautiful and inspirational parts. They take an a la carte approach to the Bible stripping it of any authority. This may be okay from a devotional perspective because you’re better off reading the Bible than not reading it. However, this can’t be the position of the Church.

    Biblical authority only applies to the Church. However, I believe gay activists who aren’t believers force their way into the Church so biblical authority will apply to them so they can take issue. Here’s a story illustrating that. My step dad worked for Almy while women were fighting for ordination within the Episcopal Church. He was at his Almy booth following a conference that decided to allow the ordination of women. Women came rushing to his booth after the conference to order vestments. Unfortunately, Almy did not have vestments for female priests yet. He vividly remembers their ugly anger and hostility directed toward him and Almy. He apologized and explained that Almy was going to immediately design and make vestments for women but it would take time. However, nothing he said could calm them down. Over the next couple of years, he said he noticed that most of those women were no longer there. It appeared to him they had moved on to their next cause.

    Anyone who cares for the Church and the many issues this topic addresses for the Church will want to approach this issue slowly. Those with a single issue activist mentality will want to quickly push through their agenda. The Church needs to keep these single agenda people from controlling the discussion. How, I don’t know.

    So, who is troubled finding intimacy with ambiguous sexuality verses someone who is deceptively promiscuous? Who cares for the welfare of the Church verses someone who is a single issue gay activist? The parable of the tares and wheat come to mind. Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. I don’t think I should attempt to discern who is sincerely troubled verses who is promiscuous. However, the authority of the Bible for the Church as a whole and how it’s interpreted is important to me as a Christian and I believe that is the prerogative of the Church to determine slowly and not in a desperate rush. In the parable, the servants were frustrated with the problem. How to wisely handle the reality of the wheat and tares in the Church is a difficult problem requiring wisdom that I don’t have an answer for.

    Sorry this is so long. I didn’t intend to write this much when beginning my comment.

    • Well said. I’ve found that it’s not difficult in practice to maintain a tension between biblical integrity and compassion for gays and lesbians. I’ve been ministering to them for 17 years. What is difficult, as I’ve proven by my loutish efforts in this thread, is expressing this tension in writing. You’ve done what I wished I had. Thank you.

  47. @ MJ
    I appreciate your invitation to keep talking “rationally”.
    You make a valid point that paedos and beasties are not apples-with-apples comparisons with homosexuals as the latter is consensual but the former is not. My reference to them was not to prove that they are the same category as homosexuality, but similar insofar as all three may be born with a disposition toward those practices.
    Ultimately, after lengthy and circular discussions one has to return to the Scriptures. My way of thinking on this issue is probably over simplistic and linear for a lot of folks tastebuds, but I am moderately optimistic that it can withstand scrutiny. As you would appreciate for rational discourse to take place, all emotional bias and pet peeves have to be set aside (I’m not saying you personally display emotional bias but many that jump in these discussions from both sides, do).
    Romans 1 attaches moral value to homosexual practices and pronounces a moral judgment against them. This moral benchmark is set by God himself through Paul, the scribe of the divinely inspired epistle. An honest reading of the text makes it inescapably obvious, which is why you hear appeals calling for microscopically linguistic examinations of the original Greek text and application of cultural relativity to challenge the church’s historical understanding of this issue in case it got it wrong for centuries. In my mind this cries “it sounds too judgemental and backwards to be true today, so let’s study the ancient cultures and Greek grammar to determine if still applies”. For us who choose to anchor our understanding to the plain reading of the text, these appeals sound like a quest for an escape route.
    Notice that my assertions in the previous paragraph are loaded with some basic presuppositions.
    A) God exists
    B) God is the author of morality
    C) The Bible reveals God’s moral will to mankind and every book of the Bible is therefore divinely inspired
    D) Paul is a human conduit communicating God’s will through the inspired text
    If one rejects all these basic premises then homosexuality becomes an A-moral issue and that’s the end of the discussion. For those of Christian orientation (to use very broad strokes) but still unsettled, the battle is fought fiercely on the last two points. It makes sense that if you can’t muster the courage to accept the premise that “yes the Bible condemns homosexuality but I don’t care”, the next best thing is go down the route of casting doubt on the common interpretation of the text, cultural application and throw science in the mix with “studies show that some are born with a genetic disposition towards…”
    BTW the fact that science proves that there is such thing as a homosexual disposition at a genetic level, does NOT disprove the Biblical position. I say it actually validates it. How? After the fall all creation deviated from its original purpose and design and came under God’s curse. The earth was not designed to spit lava and swallow up villages, or bounce with earthquakes to flatten cities, or tsunamis, floods and droughts. People were not created to be born with deformities and joined to the hip or missing a limb. Why would it be a surprise that one can be born with a “de-formed” (I use the word etymologically) sexual orientation?
    And here’s an irony. People born with physical deformities (e.g. siamese twins) where possible they get operated on as their parents do not accept that the way they were born is “normal”. Yet when it comes to the sexual orientation issue, some insist that their orientation is normal “because they were born that way”.
    IMO if you exclude the dynamics of the fall in the “born this way” discussion then Lady Gaga is right.

    John

  48. TAKE 2 (formatting flopped sorry)

    @ MJ

    I appreciate your invitation to keep talking “rationally”.

    You make a valid point that paedos and beasties are not apples-with-apples comparisons with homosexuals as the latter is consensual but the former is not. My reference to them was not to prove that they are the same category as homosexuality, but similar insofar as all three may be born with a disposition toward those practices.

    Ultimately, after lengthy and circular discussions one has to return to the Scriptures. My way of thinking on this issue is probably over simplistic and linear for a lot of folks tastebuds, but I am moderately optimistic that it can withstand scrutiny. As you would appreciate for rational discourse to take place, all emotional bias and pet peeves have to be set aside (I’m not saying you personally display emotional bias but many that jump in these discussions from both sides, do).

    Romans 1 attaches moral value to homosexual practices and pronounces a moral judgment against them. This moral benchmark is set by God himself through Paul, the scribe of the divinely inspired epistle. An honest reading of the text makes it inescapably obvious, which is why you hear appeals calling for microscopically linguistic examinations of the original Greek text and application of cultural relativity to challenge the church’s historical understanding of this issue in case it got it wrong for centuries. In my mind this cries “it sounds too judgemental and backwards to be true today, so let’s study the ancient cultures and Greek grammar to determine if still applies”. For us who choose to anchor our understanding to the plain reading of the text, these appeals sound like a quest for an escape route.

    Notice that my assertions in the previous paragraph are loaded with some basic presuppositions.

    A) God exists
    B) God is the author of morality
    C) The Bible reveals God’s moral will to mankind and every book of the Bible is therefore divinely inspired
    D) Paul is a human conduit communicating God’s will through the inspired text

    If one rejects all these basic premises then homosexuality becomes an A-moral issue and that’s the end of the discussion. For those of Christian orientation (to use very broad strokes) but still unsettled, the battle is fought fiercely on the last two points. It makes sense that if you can’t muster the courage to accept the premise that “yes the Bible condemns homosexuality but I don’t care”, the next best thing is go down the route of casting doubt on the common interpretation of the text, cultural application and throw science in the mix with “studies show that some are born with a genetic disposition towards…”

    BTW the fact that science proves that there is such thing as a homosexual disposition at a genetic level, does NOT disprove the Biblical position. I say it actually validates it. How? After the fall all creation deviated from its original purpose and design and came under God’s curse. The earth was not designed to spit lava and swallow up villages, or bounce with earthquakes to flatten cities, or tsunamis, floods and droughts. People were not created to be born with deformities and joined to the hip or missing a limb. Why would it be a surprise that one can be born with a “de-formed” (I use the word etymologically) sexual orientation?

    And here’s an irony. People born with physical deformities (e.g. siamese twins) where possible they get operated on as their parents do not accept that the way they were born is “normal”. Yet when it comes to the sexual orientation issue, some insist that their orientation is normal “because they were born that way”.
    IMO if you exclude the dynamics of the fall in the “born this way” discussion then Lady Gaga is right.

    John

  49. To paraphrase the 2nd Earl of Rochester: I used to have theories about homosexuality; now I have a homosexual friend, and no theories.

    I was particularly touched by the fact that he took the time to ‘out’ himself to me personally, knowing that I was a Christian (and that Christians aren’t known for their loving acceptance in this domain).

    What can I do but love him? Saying that, I’m not being soppy, religious or a super-Christian. For the moment, I just can’t find any other reaction in my heart. For the rest I just don’t know. I don’t know what to think about his ‘orientation’, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to integrate him and his partner into the life of my family, nor how to field my daughters’ questions.

    Thus far, I don’t think I’ve said anything particularly controversial.

    But the question was about where we draw ecclesiastical lines. And that’s where we don’t seem to be able to agree.

    One of my pet theories is that “if honest people can’t agree on a particular question, maybe they’re asking the wrong question”. Might this be the case here?

    What is this ‘drawing a line’ thing about? Isn’t it about controlling access? Access to church life, access to Communion, and (dare I say it) access to God? We feel obliged to determine who is in and who is out.

    I’m not saying that it’s wrong to do so, I’m not even sure what a church with ‘fuzzy’ boundaries would look like. Just that so far (in this discussion), it doesn’t seem to be working very well.

    Here is a quote from Michael Dee S, from this very blog, on this very same topic. Please print it out and stick on the wall in your church:

    “If we try to answer this question in a way that is bound to the “truth” side of the equation, we will likely be looking for an answer that is absolute and binding in all places, times, and situations. No matter how much we desire to be compassionate and loving concerning our final response to the question, the fact will be that we will end by dehumanizing the person we apply the “truth” to. This is the lesson Jesus repeatedly sought to demonstrate to the religious leaders of his day. “Truth” in our hands will always kill.”