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Apologetics

HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BIBLE: six articles (and more)

[Corrected, slightly amended, 24/4/2017)

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” (H L Mencken)

One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas. (Victor Hugo)

Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion. (Arthur Koestler). (Sad, Arthur?).

John Maynard Keynes: “When the ‘facts’ change, I change my mind. And you sir?”

Imagine a bell curve… 

Radicals are on the left; next to them are Progressives; to the right of them are Conservatives; and on the far right are Traditionalists.

Radicals are driven, mostly, by anger at injustices served up by dominant authority-figures and structures to marginalised people and groups.

Traditionalists have fear as their dominant emotion. They’re afraid of change and cognitive dissonance. (For example when I send Traditionalists/Conservatives to this article to be informed by various ‘experts’ they don’t bother, and don’t get back to me).

Disclosure: I – Rowland Croucher – have moved from a Conservative to a Progressive stance on most of this (I was media spokesperson for the Victorian Festival of Light in the 1970s. See here for a brief summary of my position in the 1980s). I did this by listening to LGBTI folks’ stories (dominant themes: pain and rejection), studying the science (all relevant major Western scientific bodies assert ‘they were born that way’), exploring Biblical hermeneutics again on the topic, and even identifying with lgbti’s by marching in the 2014 Sydney Mardi Gras. (See here for ‘100 Revs’ colleague Matt Glover’s reflections on that event.) My story is similar to that of Presbyterian theology prof/pastor Mark Achtemeir

A little further – important – note. I am critical of Radicals to my left, who won’t allow people to change their opinions at their own pace. And I’m critical of the Traditionalists whose motto on all this seems to be ‘Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up.’

And I’m critical of myself when I don’t live up to this admonition by St. Paul:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore them, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Gal. 6:2 MSG.

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Welcome to one of the most important collections of articles – dealing with a most ‘fraught’ topic – on this website. The ‘Marriage Equality’ debate in religious/political contexts has rightly been described as the fastest paradigm-shift in the history of human rights.

Today (14/7/2014), the story of a gay man who’s just come out of his painful closet – Australia’s most successful Olympic athlete Ian Thorpe – is everywhere in the public media. (The ABC NewsMail’s headline: ‘Ian Thorpe says he concealed sexuality out of fear’. Ian is now one of the three highest-profile gay men in Australia – with Federal Greens politician Dr. Bob Brown and retired High Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby.

First start here: A well-respected ‘Elder’ among Australian LGBTIs is Anthony Venn-Brown, a former Pentecostal pastor/evangelist. Here’s his good overview article: 8 Reasons Why the Church Got it Wrong About Homosexuality. A book which is highly commended for both Progressives and Conservatives – Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-Vs-Christians Debate, by Justin Lee, the founder of the Gay Christian Network. Justin, from a Southern Baptist background, tells his own story. Simple, readable, gentle, fair to all sides in the debate… Even though Justin is gay, and his background fundamentalist/ conservative, it’s important to start with someone’s story, not the toing and froing of scholars arguing about hermeneutics.

Or here if you’d prefer a video: One of the best… (excerpted from For the Bible Tells Me So) –

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YamgndPI5eI
And now the best article I’ve ever read on this subject: Dr David Gushee argues that the Church throughout its history has persecuted Jews, and we’ve used the same arguments to ostracise LGBTI people.

If all that’s whetted your appetite, and you’re ready to do the ‘hard hermeneutics’, grab a coffee to keep you alert and read every word of Nigel Chapman’s well-argued apologetic.  For his excellent more recent version, visit here .

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MARRIAGE EQUALITY . An issue which is very topical: Here’s my article published in Gesher (Journal of the Council of Christians and Jews, Victoria Inc., November 2014) on  Same-Sex Marriage

Good article by Professor Gary Bouma (Sociology of Religion) and others. Alan Austin on Marriage Equality. Time Magazine on Evangelicals and LGBTI issues…

Or, if you want an up-to-date take on Same Sex Marriage (Rowland Croucher, Stuart Edser et. al.) start here .

Two articles on Homosexuality and the Bible – by Daniel Helminiak and Alan Austin. Here’s a sermon on this broad subject by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And a new book by a Presbyterian Evangelical, Mark Achtemeier.

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See here for Australian [Progressive Anglican] biblical scholar/philosopher Keith Mascord’s two excellent articles posted December 2012 on Homosexuality, the New Testament and Today, and Homosexuality, the OT and Today. And for one of the best articles by a leading British Evangelical Steve Chalke, read here. More on Steve Chalke (by Tony Campolo). 

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LGBTI PARENTING is a hot issue for many. Here’s a note I received recently from a friend:

LGBTI parents have to really want to be parents – they have to go out of their way to adopt and/or to arrange surrogacy.  They don’t just fall into it. This tends to suggest that they will be better parents on average (and is not to suggest that all straight parents ‘just fall’ into parenthood, of course!).

Secondly, all LGBTI parents are aware that the kids are mainly being exposed to only one sex and all the ones that I’ve met take extra effort to ensure that the kids are exposed to a variety of role models.

Although I’m aware of a few published papers questioning the efficacy of gay parenting, I’ve seen analyses of those studies noting that they were comparing broken families (ie one parent left to form a LGBTI family) to intact heterosexual families. This is rather unfortunate as it effectively slews the results making them ineffective as studies. Without a doubt there are bad gay parents; just as there are bad straight parents, but the existence of a few bad apples doesn’t prove that everyone is bad.  In fact, I know many amazing LGBTI parents and many amazing straight parents.

This is a link to a meta-study researching some 76 studies, most favourable, a few raising questions.

http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-wellbeing-of-children-with-gay-or-lesbian-parents/

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On a lighter note:

two gay unicorns...

Here are two 200-word summary articles I sent to The Age newspaper.

17/7/2014:

Contra Peter Curtis (Letters July 17), a very good case can be made for Marriage Equality being pursued by Senator David Leyonhjelm as a matter of civil rights. Just this week our media reported Australians overwhelmingly support the senator’s stance (‘Support growing for same-sex marriage’, The Age, 15/7/2014).

And it might surprise Mr Curtis that a majority of Christians under 50 in the Western world are in that cohort as well. They’ve not found in their Bibles any prohibition against loving, faithful, life-long unions between same-sex partners.

(Some) Christians did ‘lead the charge’ for the abolition of slavery and for universal suffrage/ women’s rights. And also – perhaps more pointedly – Christians were both pro and con the abolition of the ‘crime’ of miscegenation (marriage between races) in the U.S., Apartheid and Nazi German societies. The scientists finally persuaded them that some races were not inferior to others. Ditto with scientists and same-sex orientation today.

Currently, 16 nations (three of them – the UK., Canada, and NZ – with conservative-led governments) support Same-sex Marriage.

Peter, my brother, it’s coming to a nation near you! It’s simply a matter of ‘when’.

(Rev. Dr.) Rowland Croucher

(National Chaplain, Freedom2B LGBT community).

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(14/5/2012). This was published in slightly truncated form:

If the 150 doctors opposing gay marriage do not speak for the AMA, the conservative religionists among them do not speak for me – an Evangelical Christian – either.

Three ‘aha experiences’ have powered my journey away from being Victoria’s media spokesman for the Festival of Light in the 1970s to my current role as national chaplain of the Australian Christian LGBTI group Freedom2B.

First: hearing the stories of hundreds of LGBTI people convince me they had no choice about their sexual orientation. Who am I, ‘straight’ and happily married, to condemn them to life-long celibacy and loneliness?

Second: the unanimous verdict of groups like the American Psychiatric Association which removed homosexuality from its list of ‘mental disorders’ in 1973.

Third: the near-unanimous consensus among peer-reviewed biblical scholars that the Holiness Code in Leviticus, and St. Paul’s two or three proscriptions against same-sex behaviour have nothing to say to ‘homosexuals’ freely relating to one another as committed partners.

Two excellent recent Australian books are Justice Michael Kirby’s A Private Life and psychologist Dr Stuart Edser’s Being Gay, Being Christian.

(Rev. Dr.) Rowland Croucher

 

The church around the world is currently wrestling with a complex paradigm-shift: what to do with our LGBTI (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex) sisters/brothers.

In my view these articles – and the links below them – comprise all you need to know about what the Bible teaches on this important subject. (Rowland Croucher, February 20, 2014).

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GLOBAL ATTITUDES AND PERSECUTION:

The Global Divide on Homosexuality – Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 4 June 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch (who played Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) signs an open letter to pardon 49,000 men convicted of being gay…

Olympic Committee Adds Anti-Discrimination Clause for Host Cities – Time, 24 September 2014

For the first time in history, a majority of Americans live in States where Same-Sex Marriage is legal.

All Out Russia4Love Campaign

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KEY ARTICLES:

Homosexuality for Dummies: written by a 21-year-old! Update: Matthew Vines scored a full page on this subject (some time in May/June 2014) in a recent Time Magazine.

Professor Lew Smedes (Ethicist): ‘Yes, it does seem to me that our embrace of divorced and remarried Christian people did indeed set a precedent for embracing Christian homosexuals who live together.’ Homosexuality and Divorce: Why Not Treat them the Same?

Another article with a similar approach…

Professor Walter Wink (Biblical scholar) : ‘The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well. The real issue here, then, is not simply homosexuality, but how Scripture informs our lives today.’ Homosexuality and the Bible (Walter Wink).  Update: Walter Wink dies (May 2012).

Professor Keith Dyer (New Testament scholar): ‘Do we really have to go here yet again? Yes we do. Not because of pressure on the church from gay lobby groups or because of some new argument that will change peoples’ minds on the issue. The attitudes of people are changed not by arguments or exegesis, but by personal encounters with a friend or a family member who is found to be homosexual and Christian.’ A Consistent Biblical Approach to (Homo) Sexuality

James Alison: Jesus Invites Everyone to the Party!

Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher (Counselor of clergy and church leaders with John Mark Ministries): ‘How can I, a heterosexual (currently ‘coming out’ as an ex-Pharisee), who’s been very happily married for 57+ years tell anyone they have to accept their lonely/celibate existence due mostly to factors utterly beyond their control? (The priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable would certainly have had their conservative theology all sorted out, but the wounded wayfarer is still bleeding on the Jericho Road.)’ Christians and Homosexuality 

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A good comment on Baptists, Freedom and Marriage Equality by Simon Holt (Collins St. Baptist Church, Melbourne).

Dr Stuart Edser: Being Gay Being Christian, and Marriage Equality . Excellent!

And here’s a well-researched article by a gay retired Baptist pastor

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FURTHER NOTES:

Ex-Gay Researcher Admits He Was Wrong

Dr Robert Spitzer, a leading US psychiatrist, interviewed over 200 people who had gone through various ‘ex-gay’ programs and published a paper in 2001 saying that a change in their sexual orientation was possible if they were ‘highly motivated’. His study was then subsequently quoted by many ex-gay groups, Christian counselling services and churches as evidence that ex-gay programs work and homosexuality can be cured.

In an April 2012 interview with magazine The American Prospect, Spitzer said that he has asked for the 2001 study to be retracted and that he recognises the faults in the study and agrees with many of those who were critical of the study’s results.

Spitzer says ‘The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.’

He has since tried to speak with the editor of the Archives Of Sexual Behaviour about writing a retraction but he been denied.

You can read more here. And here

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Comment from a thoughtful Facebook friend:

Thanks for these articles, Rowland.

Three of them are excellent. Outstanding.

Just a bit gobsmacked at Professor Wink saying “Persons committing homosexual acts are to be executed. This is the unambiguous command of scripture.” He says it over and over.

It is not true. The Leviticus commands have been explained clearly to apply to very specific situations – not all same-sex activity. In fact, very little.

Then again: “No doubt Paul was unaware of the distinction between sexual orientation …”

What? Paul almost certainly would have been aware of this. Does Prof Wink think the push for same-sex unions began in San Francisco in 1969?

“Paul’s unambiguous condemnation of homosexual behaviour in Romans 1 must be the centrepiece of any discussion.”

Just nonsense! Paul condemned two specific practices out of the extensive range of same-sex activities.

Then again: “Paul knew nothing of the modern psychological understanding of homosexuals as persons whose orientation is fixed early in life, persons for whom having heterosexual relations would be contrary to nature …”

How does Prof Wink know this? No evidence for this at all.

And again: “… consenting adults who are committed to each other as faithfully and with as much integrity as any heterosexual couple … was something Paul simply could not envision.”

Really? Why not? Sounds extremely dodgy knowing what we do of same-sex unions in antiquity.

Fortunately the other articles correct this:

Dr Croucher: “The life-long exclusive/faithful commitment of two persons of the same sex was extremely uncommon in the ancient world (except occasionally among aristocratic elites).”

Uncommon, yes. Extremely? Not sure.

Prof Dyer is probably most accurate: “Just what he would have said about two homosexuals in a committed and mutually enriching relationship is not at all clear. Such relationships were kept quiet then, as they still have to be for many today – and especially in the Church.”

Yes, they were probably discrete, but they certainly existed and were well known to have existed.

Rowland, thanks for posting these.

On your comment: “All you need to know about …”

I wonder if it might be helpful for more exploration of the history of same-sex unions sanctified by the Church since its inception. There is a growing body of evidence showing hostility to gay unions is a relatively recent phenomenon.

This has implications for how we read and apply the texts. And how we progress the discussion within the Church.

Merci. Bon soir.

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archbishop godophobic

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Now, a miscellany of ideas/opinions. When these accumulate, we’ll put them into a separate article:

ANTHONY VENN-BROWN: WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER, WE BELIEVE

AUTHOR // Anthony Venn-Brown

Society has forever tried to tell homosexual people what they can and can’t be.

You can’t exist and we will take your life, they tell us. Indeed the last hanging of a gay man in the British Empire happened in Australia in 1867. Some African and Middle Eastern counties still have the death penalty for homosexual men.

‘We will remove you from our society and lock you away for your crime of being gay’ – in every Australian state, they once said. But state by state that law was abolished; the last being Tasmania in 1997.

‘You are sick, mental health professionals told us, and we will cure you with electric shocks, drugs, aversion therapy and lobotomies. But in 1957 Dr Evelyn Hooker’s research demonstrated that self-identified homosexuals were no different in social adjustment than the general population. Finally in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

‘You can’t be proud of being gay or lesbian, you should feel ashamed’, they told us. We hid in closets. But then we defied that, came out and once a year march in Pride celebrations to remind society and ourselves there is nothing to be ashamed of.

‘You can’t maintain long-term relationships’, we were told, and even in our own community some chose to believe that lie. But our relationships have stood the test of time and last as long as heterosexuals: some twelve months, some several years and some a lifetime.

‘You can’t be parents or raise well-balanced children’, they told us. But our families are as loving, supportive and strong as any ‘normal’ family. Some better.

For decades we have been told that ‘you can’t be a Christian, religious, spiritual and gay’. But in 1968 Rev Troy Perry dared to reject that belief and, a year before Stonewall, met in a lounge room in Los Angeles with several other Christians and birthed the Metropolitan Community Church. The gay Christian movement, once non-existent, has grown exponentially (google ‘gay christian’) and 86 separate denominations in 46 countries now welcome and affirm LGBT people.

Some within our community preach the same message conservative churches do. Take your pick they say. It’s one or the other. You can’t be both gay and a Christian. This is not helpful, especially to young gay people growing up in a faith community, and we should reject that message whoever is preaching it.

We live in a democratic country. And in a democratic country you can live, love and be proud as a gay person and you can choose to be an atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jew.

We’re here, we’re queer, and we believe. Churches are getting used to the new reality and so should our community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anthony Venn-Brown

Anthony Venn-Brown never imagined he’d be quoted in the gay press or a leader in the LGBT community. In another life he was a married father of two and popular preacher in Australia’s mega-churches. As an author, educator and public speaker, he is passionate about overcoming ignorance and misinformation about sexuality in the religious world. In his spare time – oooops, there doesn’t seem to be any. Follow him on Twitter @gayambassador

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I found a very interesting video of a paper delivered by Cody Sanders at a Baptist Conference on Sexuality and Covenant. He is an ordained Baptist Minister “married” to Ben, another ordained Baptist Minister – a very rare breed.

Cody’s paper is about half way down on the left and goes for about 40 mins. Well worth listening to. Hope you enjoy it.

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When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Egypt. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay “wedding” is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 – 518) explained that, “we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. This is not a case of simple “adelphopoiia.” In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus’s close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as “erastai” or “lovers”. In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiated in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, “Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union”, invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to “vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints”. The ceremony concludes: “And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded”.

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of the Same Sex Union”, uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell’s academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and commitment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.

http://anthropologist.livejournal.com/1314574.html

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Great piece about how progressive Christians are beginning to win .

Wind shift in church gay union match

By Alan Austin – posted Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Midway through the final quarter of the grand final between Christians and Jews who believe homosexuality to be an abomination and those who don’t, the wind has changed direction.

Progressives suddenly find themselves kicking with a stiffening breeze. And although they’re still behind on the scoreboard there’s a chance – unthinkable just a couple of years ago – of a surprise win.

At stake is not just the composition of synagogues and churches. These are only minorities nowadays. But in many countries religious bodies have major influence on public policy. Especially in the U.S, Eastern Europe and parts of Africa.

For example, Uganda’s anti-homosexuality legislation – popularly known as the Kill the Gays Bill – is strongly backed by U.S. evangelicals.

The last two months April and May 2012 may be the period of play when the conservatives lost their home ground advantage.

In a major turn in the game, American psychiatrist Dr Robert Spitzer declared that the findings of his famous 2001 research showing ‘highly motivated’ people could change from gay to straight were false.

This is huge. Spitzer’s work has underpinned most religious reorientation therapies for a decade. And it has sustained much of the anti-gay doctrinal teaching.

Spitzer’s findings had certainly conflicted with other scientific knowledge, such as from the animal kingdom, which concluded long ago that same-sex orientation was normal, healthy and unchangeable. And they were contradicted by other psychiatric research. But there they were. The Pray-the-gay-away groups always had Bob in the coach’s box.

So for Spitzer to recant is a big goal to the progressives. Their claim that sexual orientation is a God-given gift now has overwhelming support.

In a related setback for anti-gay Christians last month, Marcus Bachmann’s counselling clinic in Minnesota (U.S.), was sprung ‘counselling’ clients that they could change from gay to straight. The clinic – run by husband of Michele Bachmann who God told to run for president – had previously promised it would never do such a thing.

So Christian anti-gay clinics not only rely on dodgy science but also bear false witness.

In Australia the match took a decisive turn when six Catholic bishops in Victoria came off the interchange bench in April and wrote to the faithful urging them to lobby MPs regarding the proposed federal legislation to allow same-sex marriage. They were against it.

This prompted a counter letter signed by clergy supporting the legislation. Signatories – who now number nearly 80 – include Jewish rabbis, a Buddhist priest and prominent Protestant bishops, elected church officials and evangelical leaders from across Australia.

The second, progressive letter pretty much overwhelmed the first in both media coverage and impact on decision makers in Canberra.

The Australian Senate sought public submissions from across the religious spectrum. Of the thousands received the most scholarly and soundly researched appear to be those of progressives such as Professor Bill Loader.

Plays within the Catholic Church have been just as intriguing. Penalties for and against.

Sustained congregational applause greeted Seattle priest Father Tim Clark in April when he blocked a shot by his own Archbishop over Washington state’s marriage equality law. The church hierarchy is urging the faithful to campaign against legalising gay marriage. Six local parishes have refused to comply.

The same week, the Vatican rebuked America’s Catholic nuns for ‘serious doctrinal problems’, including on homosexuality. The pope has appointed a bishop to investigate the nuns.

These plays followed intensifying match pressure earlier. Influential cardinal Carlo Martini, now retired, publicly split with the Vatican in March and expressed support for same-sex unions. As this arrived so did a scathing attack on the U.K. Government’s proposals to legalise gay marriage by top U.K. Catholic cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Also in March a priest in the U.S. was suspended after refusing communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral. So it’s a puzzling game plan.

The score had already gradually begun to even somewhat in 2011.

The conservative Presbyterian denomination in both Scotland and the U.S. moved last year towards welcoming gay couples into membership and accepting LGBTQ people in leadership.

The Anglican Church in rural Gippsland, Australia, appointed an openly gay priest to a parish post. The ensuing tackles were fended off comfortably by the local bishop. Many similar appointments were made around the world.

The John Jay Report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops brought into the open the reality of over-representation of active homosexuals in the priesthood.

The number of prominent lay Catholics supporting gay marriage increased. Added were former U.K. PM Tony Blair and ex-Premier of NSW Kristina Keneally. More than 260 theologians signed the document Church 2011 supporting civil unions for gay couples among other reforms.

Conservatives can still point to the scoreboard with satisfaction. But suddenly the game has got a lot closer. Especially now Barrack Obama has ripped off his tracksuit and run on to the field.

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

Think carefully about this:

“Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation.

“Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.” (A British Church of England bishop, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam).

Now, a quote from Daniel Batt (Facebook, 12 September 2012):

Many Christians risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust, whereas I know of no book on Christians who tried to save homosexuals from the Nazi camps…

The first thing any church leader needs to say is “sorry” to the LGBT community, on behalf our our crazy cousins in America, on behalf of our forebears for drawing up the death penalty and criminal laws for homosexuality, for generally not acting like Jesus and for on the whole, fighting most efforts for LGBT equality as they have come up over the last 40-odd years, for sending vulnerable young men to kooky counselling sessions to “cure them”, for clearly playing a role in the high suicide rates of gay males. . . . and a dozen other things I could mention…

This link says that “It is estimated that some 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals”. The key word is estimated, because the figures vary and some suggest it could have been as high as 200,000.

Since the anti homosexual law, Paragraph 175, was not repealed after the War, countless homosexuals remained in jail, because they were assumed to be legitimate prisoners.

So of all the groups who received reparations for persecution by the Nazis, homosexuals got nothing. Paragraph 175 wasn’t even repealed until the 1960s.

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Conservative/other approaches:

To get two broad approaches, start here to chase articles by Australian/ Canadian ethicist Margaret Somerville (a Conservative approach). And here for Ben Witherington’s Beliefnet article ‘Was Sodom into Sodomy’? Also here for Dr. Mark Durie’s (conservative Anglican) critique of equating homosexuality and slavery in our hermeneutic. Another of Mark Durie’s articles: (Four Research Issues Relating to Same-Sex Marriage). Two books:  Sexegesis (best by conservative Australian scholars) – in response to Five Uneasy Pieces. Another progressive contribution to this debate: Pieces of Ease and Grace.  The Archbishop of Canterbury’s conservative stance is here.  Graham Cole’s fascinating and thorough overview of history/theology titled Sexuality and its Expression: With Special Reference to Homosexuality is here .

And some conservative organizations – like Exodus International – are radically changing their position, or even closing down. See here . Others, like Living Waters are still operating. 

Meanwhile: the loony right is represented by this

~~

Finally:

Let's talk homosexuality and Bible

 

Rowland Croucher

Last edit (but there’s more to be added in terms of updating this material) – April, 2017.

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Why am I not surprised that Prof Boswell died of AIDS related complications? Self-justification is an all too easy trap for anyone to fall into. Shades of Mead, Kinsey et al.
    Here is an academic assessment of Boswell’s Irish rite claims. http://davidould.net/?p=3919

    Posted by Rod | February 6, 2014, 11:32 am
  2. I have been a campaigner for gay rights for 30 years. I have no problem with gay relationships and I think the Biblical material does not show what people say it does and I say that as a clergyman, but I will leave that detailed argument to other theologians.

    But I do have a problem with calling those relationships “marriage”. I am happy for church blessings on gay couples, I am happy for them to have equal rights before the law, but the relationship is not, IMO, a marriage and so we need to use new titles for this relationship. Does not make it any better or worse than straight marriages, just different. My parallel would be that men and women are equal, but different and I would not want to have to use some generic term that did not reflect a persons sex and the differences between them.

    Posted by Raffles | January 30, 2014, 2:21 am
  3. Accepting gay “Marriage” is quite different from accepting divorces and re-married people. Marriage is scripturally a union specifically between a husband and a wife. We can’t change what’s set clearly from Genesis because of social fads and lobbying groups. The Church should endorse Marriage as a holy union, not bend to social pressure. There’s a big difference between homosexual orientation and gay unions. The former we must be sensitive about, and many people live single lives. The later is about gays emulating and hijacking a heterosexual union. We must support people who are attracted to the same sex, and their celibate lives – that many people share. Gay “marriage” is a conflict of terms, and must be shunned.

    Posted by Vivienne | January 24, 2014, 8:54 am
  4. We have just had over the past 3 years. Major destructive earthquakes in Haiti, Chili, Japan, and New Zealand.
    Think back during your primary schooling, do you ever remember a period of destruction like that? Now this of high school and University can you recall a period as such?
    The almighty is a God to be greatly feared and reverenced,
    If you have complimised the word you need to repent..or face Him for it.
    Samuel

    Posted by richasher48 | January 24, 2012, 4:34 am