This is a repost of a blog I wrote back in January. Why am I recycling posts? Partly because it’s late, I’m tired and I wanted to put something up tonight. But, I was also reminded of this when I read the story of Reverend Jane Spahr. Rev. Spahr, now a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church, performed marriage ceremonies for 16 gay couples in violation of PCUSA policy. Here’s my take on the subject of homosexuality:
I’m probably going to regret this, but I’m doing it anyway. First things first: no, I’m not gay. I say this because today’s topic is divisive enough without extra distractions. I’m writing this due to something I read on “Jesus, The Radical Pastor”, by John Frye. The entry in question is titled “Jesus Goes Postal“, in which Frye contends it was not Jesus’ sole intent to clear the vendors out of the temple when he went off, he was also sending a message that the exclusion inherent in Judaism and displayed in the Temple was over. Frye makes his point best:
“Exclusion in the Name of faith. The Temple in Jesus’ day maintained a rigid hierarchy of who was closest and farthest from God. God-seeking Gentiles? Hey, let’s build a flea market in their spot. Never mind there are all kinds of markets already available on the Mount of Olives. Competition is good. Who cares that the traditional laws forbid carrying your wallet into the Temple area? This is AD 33! Get with the times. Your wallet: don’t leave home without it. But, keep the women out. Keep the cripples out. Keep the Gentiles out. Keep the am ha’aretz out! We are Jewish, well-bodied, well-educated, righteous men. We’re in! By his unexpected drama, Jesus declared that the days of exclusion were over. Are Christian gays welcomed into our ’sacred space’?”
It was that last sentence that caught me. Not too long ago, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina amended their Articles of Incorporation to say that a church was not in “friendly cooperation” with the Convention if they “knowingly act, approve, endorse, support or bless homosexual behavior” That’s verbatim from their website, by the way. What happens to churches not in friendly behavior? Ask Broadway Baptist Church in Texas. The Texas convention terminated a 127 year relationship with that congregation because they were too lenient with homosexual members. The Oklahoma convention passed a resolution that asked businesses, organizations and government to restrict their grants to two types of families: those with a headed by one man and one woman and those with single parents. Doesn’t that sound welcoming? But, at least they’ve taken a stand, however wrong-headed. Here’s what my own Methodist church’s Book of Discipline says about homosexuality “Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” But, “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals* are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
*Footnote –- “‘Self-avowed practicing homosexual’ is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual.” Wimpy, mealy-mouthed and lame.
What’s all the hubbub about homosexuality? According to those opposed to it, it’s based on scripture. Not that there’s a lot of scripture on the subject. In fact, Jesus himself never mentioned much about sex in general outside of adultery. Most of the condemnation comes from the Old Testament. Mosaic Law seems pretty harsh about the subject. But, it’s also pretty harsh about other things . Like stoning adulterous women (but, not men); sacrificing children to Molech; that if a man dies childless, his widow is to sleep with his each of his brothers in turn until she becomes pregnant so that the dead man’s line continues and others even more outlandish by our standards. We don’t any of these things anymore. Why? Culturally, we have progressed from such things. Yet, if you apply the same measures to homosexuality, you’re accused of “moral relativism“, which has become a club fundamentalists use to beat up anyone who disagrees with them. Morally relative or not, the current view on homosexuality marginalizes a large group of people and that’s contrary to the Gospel.
Think about this: Who did Jesus spend most of his time with? The elite, chosen Pharisees and devout Jews or the dregs of society, including prostitutes, tax collectors and lepers. You know the answer without even looking it up. And, when confronted about who he was with by the Pharisees, Jesus responded that these were the people he came for. The poor, the disenfranchised, the outcast. In His words, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”. If he was here today, who would he be hanging around with?
Finally, I come to the question posed in the title of this entry: Gay and Christian? That is, can you be a practicing homosexual and be a Christian also? Some would argue not. That continuing the sin of homosexuality somehow supersedes belief. I notice, however, that any sins these folks might be complicit in aren’t mentioned. Funny how that works, huh? For myself, it’s not my place to say who’s in and who’s out. Mine is to love everyone as Jesus loved: unconditionally and without reservation.