Homosexuality and the Church.

Should homosexuals be allowed in church?

Asked By: 
Donna
What would Jesus have done?

One way of answering your question is to posit the hypothetical scenario of whether or not Jesus would have done that. And I say “hypothetical” because both expressions, homosexuals and church, are anachronistic. They don’t belong in Jesus’ ministry. The concept of homosexuality, as we understand it today, did not exist in the 1st century Greco-Roman world, and the church had not yet come into being. But given these two caveats the answer is a resounding YES!

Let me explain. As you know, Jesus never excluded anybody from his group of followers. Actually, the opposite is true. He included everybody, he kept company with people that were regarded as marginal -tax collectors, sinners, and the like, to mention just a few -which provoked the negative reaction of the religious leaders of his time. And on the subject of homosexuality, he never said a word about it, as he did on other issues, such as divorce or poverty. Even more, he seems to have had a non-judgmental attitude towards same-sex relationships. In Matthew 8 he heals the servant of a Roman Centurion and the word used for servant, pais, means “lover boy”, which describes one of the partners in a common homo erotic practice at the time between a young boy and a mature man. So, regardless of if Jesus agreed or disagreed with this practice, at least he did not exclude the man from his liberating ministry. And on top of that he makes the Centurion an example of faith!

In your question you use the word “allow.” What do you mean by it? Do you mean that we should let LGBTQ people (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) attend church but never give them any real participation on account of their sexual orientation, even if they are more qualified than heterosexuals? Do you mean that we should provide them with an environment where they can be “healed” of their “condition”? Or do you mean that we should allow them in our midst so we can feel good about being compassionate? But, whose is the church anyway? Ours or God’s?  The answer is obvious. So, why should we think of ourselves as gate keepers? If God, in God’s inclusiveness as shown in Jesus’ ministry, does not exclude anybody, why should we? Or do we presume to be more righteous than God?

Perhaps “allow” is not the best word. Perhaps the question needs to be asked differently: “Should LGBTQ people be accepted as equal members in the church?” And for me the answer is a categorical YES!

Author: Osvaldo D. Vena, Th.D.
People of all sexual orientations are welcome in my church . . .
There are several issues that lie beneath your question and that also are responsible for the current fault-lines beneath sexuality issues in the church as a whole.
 
The top-level question that divides the Church today is whether homosexuality is an identity—something that a person is naturally born with—or a behavior that can be changed at will. A secondary question for the identity camp is whether a same-sex attraction is natural and good or somehow deficient. A secondary question for the behavior camp is whether the behavior is sinful or not. 
 
Then, underneath that primary set of questions, is the question that divides Christians on many other issues as well: Is the Bible a set of loosely-connected, legal passages that we can pull out individually to support positions, or is it a larger, connected story with a meaning that can only be fully understood when looked at as a whole?
 
All I can do is tell you how I have come to answer those questions in the hopes that it will be helpful to others who are struggling. 
 
Perhaps the most important thing I can say here is that my own position has shifted across my adult life, and that shift happened as I came to understand the Bible on a deeper level and as I listened to the stories of gay and lesbian friends and read both scientific studies and the news. So my answer isn’t an academic one; it’s the story of my own struggle as a heterosexual woman trying to understand something outside my own experience while being faithful to my baptismal vows and to the Christ that lives within my heart. Some Christians I trusted were telling me homosexuality was sinful and had Bible verses to back it up; and other Christians I trusted were telling me it was fine and had Bible verses to back it up. I was confused.
 
The first piece that became clear to me was that being attracted to a person of the same gender was an inborn trait that could not be changed. The single most influential statistic for me on that front was the suicide rate of gay and lesbian teens. Here’s an article showing the vast difference in suicide rates between LGBTQ teens and others: https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/19/health/lgbq-teens-suicide-risk-study/index.html. The rates are more than double for LGBTQ teens, and that article is just from last year when society as a whole is much more accepting than in decades past. It made no sense to me that people would take their own lives if we were simply talking about a behavior that could be changed. 
 
Meanwhile, the news showed me the behavior of supposed Christians who tortured and murdered gay people and marched around with signs about how God hated them. All that was clearly out of bounds for the loving God I had known since childhood, not to mention a bunch of commandments. After all, even if you took homosexuality to be sinful, it’s hardly the sin that gets the most ink in Scripture. You can count the passages that mention it without even taking your shoes off. Jesus doesn’t mention it at all, yet the Gospels have over 500 verses that warn about the problems of money and possessions. Hmmm. I began to suspect that the issue had less to do with the Bible and more to do with a culture that has had difficulty dealing with sexuality literally since our founding as a nation.  
 
So that led me back to my Bible, which back then I viewed as a book of laws that should be read literally. I thought every verse was basically equal in importance to every other and could be used independently of other verses. But that was already not working out very well for me as I tried to apply the Bible in that way to other parts of my own life. Clearly all verses were not created equal. The verse that tells me God wants the Tabernacle curtains to have exactly 50 curtain loops could not possibly be as important as Jesus saying that all of the law and the prophets could be summed up in the law to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. That would turn the Bible into a farce.
 
So I began to turn the Bible this way and that to see what kind of view could explain its staying power. I could see why some might be afraid of it—but what made people really love it? What drew people in and turned sinners into saints?
 
As I was doing that, which took years, I came to know gay and lesbian people on a personal level. They were classmates in seminary, members of my church, relatives of my friends. I saw their struggle and heard their stories. In some cases I heard the stories of how I had hurt them by not accepting them as they were. And yet they didn't cast me aside, even though I had done that to them. They still treated me with kindness and welcomed me. I realized that they were behaving in a more Christlike way than I was. And I asked myself who the real sinner was.
 
I determined in the end that it was me. I had let a rigid and legal view of Scripture blind me to the greatest story ever told—the story of God’s love for every human being on the earth and the promise that if we return that love to God and model God’s love for others, all others, God will help us regain the paradise that we lost. Everything else was all written to bring us to that end. And at last I came to the place where I have been for the last two decades: Homosexuality is an identity, not a behavior. And that identity, like everything God created, is good. I wrote apologies to those I had hurt, and my heart was freed like the heart of the Grinch on Christmas morning.
 
For me, 1 John 4:7-8 sums it up well, “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.” It now seems wildly backwards to me that the thing ripping churches apart is not people being gunned down in the streets or spewing hate at each other. We are literally splitting up churches and denominations because we think the greatest sin is the “wrong” people loving each other. Really? That’s the hill we want the church to die on? Of course I didn’t always see it that way, but now it seems so obvious that I’m embarrassed for my younger self.
 
People of all sexual orientations are welcome in my church, in my home, in my family, and at my table; and I pray that one day we all will focus on the logs in our own eyes rather than the specks we perceive in others.

 

-- Rev. Anne Robertson 


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