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February 28, 2005

Comments

ianvh

Hugo, I have to admit that I am not very familiar with the Episcopalian/Anglican church. I do not understand how your church can justify behaviour that is defined as immoral in the Bible.
As a Christian, I whole-heartedly believe the whole Bible to be true. The Bible describes homosexual relationships as sinful in Romans 1, 1st Corinthians 6, and 1st Timothy 1 (to name a few passages). I don’t think Biblical passages condemning homosexual behaviour can be ignored. While I would never advocate for the church to condemn homosexuals, I do believe that homosexual acts should not be supported by the church.

The restrictions that the Bible places on sexual behaviour are not just limited to homosexuality. The Bible also outlaws sex outside of marriage, and it talks of escaping youthful lust. I believe that this is the word of God, and therefore I believe that it is in societies best interest to encourage societal avoidance of non-Biblical sexual practices.

As their part in this, churches should not be in the business of blessing same-sex unions.

I will admit that I am from a different background than you. I have been raised in a rural community where no one would openly claim to be homosexual. I have never talked to someone who, in conversation, has told me that they are gay. I am not familiar with the homosexual community at all. I do not hate people who are gay, I would love to meet some just so I can discuss this with them, and understand their perspective.

I know that the large majority of your readers will disagree with me, and also that many will not understand my belief in the Bible. I don’t want you all to tell me to stop believing, that is a different topic. But can you help me understand why you believe a church should bless same-sex unions?

As a Christian Canadian, I have been hesitant to jump onto the “don’t allow gay marriage” bandwagon that every other Canadian Christian has (seemingly) jumped on. However, I do not understand how I can continue to profess to be a Christian and support homosexual relationships when the Bible clearly states they are inappropriate. You seem to do so, and I am wondering how you justify your position.

Caroline

Thanks for this blog, Hugo. I've spent longer discussing this same subject at Organicchurch (follow the link if you want).

I am not so calm about schism as you are. It seems to me that as we witness to a God of grace, we should be working like mad to establish gracious relations with others who disagree with us. This seems to me to be a crucial point.

We have to admit that there is a tension in what the scriptures say about Homosexuality. It isn't at all clear what was meant in the key passages usually trotted out as proof-texts. So how can we find a way of working through this, how can the Spirit of Unity work his wonder?

Sadly many are not concerned, many are more willing to be shown as correct and true then struggle to communion.

I do like your contrast of the terms communion and unity. How can we learn to differ and not seek to win or control? Several years ago I found Riane Eisler's rhetoric of Partnership Relations very helpful in this regard.

Charla

I'm impressed with the work you are doing at All Saints, you are trully a remarkable person to give your time and talent to the church and to the community. I have attended services at All Saints and I must confess that it is a congregation with tremendous energy and outreach. When my kids were younger I almost switched over to your parish, but the kids were acolytes at our own parish and we never made the change.__ I just want to say that you are appreciated and that the Anglican Church could definitely use more people like you.

Creeping Jenny

The concerns Ianvh raises seem pretty pertinent to me, although one man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, as they say. I gave up on Christianity when I became convinced that it was anti-Biblical and anti-establishment to support homosexual relationships. If you can show that we're wrong, then you'll probably be doing both me and Ianvh a world of good.

Hugo

Folks, I do recommend reading some of the fine posts on the net about what Scripture really says about homosexuality. Here's one recent sermon:

http://www.whosoever.org/v9i2/ntsermon.shtml

The fact is that nowhere in Scripture is there a concept of loving, committed, homosexual relationships -- there are condemnations of individual acts, but those are usually (like Romans 1) in the context of idol worship.

Besides, most of our conservative critics have already accepted divorce, long hair on men, women in the priesthood, and legalized gambling -- all things about which Scripture is at least as clear as homosexuality. If they are as opposed to these things as they are to homosexuality, they have some moral authority -- if not, not.

hydropsyche

We Presbyterians have been dealing with this as well. I once heard a moving sermon that talked about Paul and Barnabas deciding to part ways even though they continued doing the work they both agreed was important. For better or worse, this hasn't happened yet in the PCUSA, but it's important to remember that people of faith can agree to disagree.

John

Tripe. There were absolutely loving and committed relationships between men and men and women and women in the ancient world. Gagnon does a good job of demonstrating this. And, most conservative churches (including mine) have strong statements about divorce, long hair on men (one word: No), we ordain women with their husbands, and we campaign against gambling. And as for women and divorce, they may be permissible under certain circumstances; the affirmation of homosexual practice never.

Hugo

There were absolutely loving and committed relationships between men and men and women and women in the ancient world.

John, you're right -- but they are in no way the subject of any of the traditional proof-texts against homosexuality.

erica

Hugo and anyone else who cares to answer:
what do you think about an argument from ontology- male and female created in God's image, marriage therefore as a specific reflection of God?

Percy

I grew up in the Catholic Church. I converted about 12 years ago to the Anglican camp because I liked the more liberal outlook. This topic is only an issue because the Anglican Church is so liberal. In other religions (Catholic) it is unimaginable because 'children' cannot come from homosexual unions.

Personally, I think that people should be able to do whatever they please. But having the church take an official stand in favor of homosexual unions would probably destroy the Anglican Church.

Toots

As a Christian, I whole-heartedly believe the whole Bible to be true. The Bible describes homosexual relationships as sinful in Romans 1, 1st Corinthians 6, and 1st Timothy 1 (to name a few passages). I don’t think Biblical passages condemning homosexual behaviour can be ignored. While I would never advocate for the church to condemn homosexuals, I do believe that homosexual acts should not be supported by the church.

Well, the Bible also says not to mix your fibers or eat shellfish or pork, and that the punishment for stealing is death. Does your church speak out against these things?

Hugo

Gosh, Erica, the argument from design is far too tough for me to tackle here. Suffice it to say that I think we make a mistake when we assume that all God's creation has a clear, functional purpose. Pleasure and delight and joy are reason enough for Him to create all that is. Most deep and intense and lasting romantic relationships involve connections on levels that go far beyond the physical, and Lord knows, I've seen plenty of GL couples who could complement each other as well as any straight pair I've seen.

And as Nancy points out below, the whole notion of complementarity is difficult to struggle in the violently hierarchical world of the Old and New Testaments.

Kristin

Just visiting your site for the first time. Greatly appreciate your perspective. Will be back!

NancyP

Lest you forget, women were close to being property in the Biblical era. There were some limits as to what a father or husband could do to a daughter or wife, but not many. And some women WERE property (concubines or slaves), the enemy tribeswomen who were left over when their fathers were killed in battle.

You simply did not have sex with an equal being in pagan antiquity. There had to be a superior and an inferior. In homosexual relations, this was typified by sex between mature man and teenager, by sex between mature man and his mature male slave, or occasionally between a mature man and a mature free man several steps lower on the social scale. Generally, mature male "bottoms" were regarded as being womanish, of very low, contemptible status, whereas mature "tops" were not regarded as what we think of as homosexual, but as uncoded "men" who had some variety in their sex life and probably had wives and children. Lesbian relations were generally considered to be not worthy of notice - after all, there was no risk of compromizing the legitimacy of any offspring, and since women were not allowed to dispose of themselves, lesbian relations could always be interrupted by forced marriage. The "goods" (women) were not materially "damaged", and were available for trade. In heterosexual relations, the inequality was built in since the woman was always considered inferior. Jesus' insistence that married women couldn't just be discarded for any whim was a fairly radical abrogation of the rights of the husband/"owner" - giving the wife some rights. Before this, husbands might avoid divorcing a faithful but older or infertile wife simply to avoid social, economic, or political consequences from the wife's natal family.

The Hebrews had the procreative needs of a smaller, politically and economically insecure agrarian people. More children equalled more need for land, and more soldiers, and more dominance of the local economy. It isn't so surprising that they opposed nonprocreative sex. It was a luxury that the Roman urbanites could afford but that the Israelites could not afford.

We are very different from the Jews, Jewish sectarians later called Christians, and pagans of Biblical times. The concept of covenant relationship of two men or two women would never have occured to any of the three groups.

John

Response on my weblog. We are not bound by OT ceremonial law. We are bound by OT moral law, and the commands of the New Testament. Among which is the condemnation of homosexuality.

Hugo

I'll put your response in the post, John.

Tara

While the differences between Jews and Samaritans may be considered obscure and unimportant by you, I don't think either Jews or Samaritans would agree. Yes, there are still Samaritans in the world (not many) and they practice a tradition that has very little to do with Judaism.

Not your main point, I know, but it doesn't seem nice to leave that kind of thing as fact.

Also I'd point out that
a) the bible has nothing to say about lesbians
b) whether the prohibition against male homosexuality is ceremonial or moral is not a clear cut question - is a prohibition against a man descended from the Cohen (priestly) line marrying a divorcee moral or ceremonial? What about the prohibition (by penalty of death) against having intercourse with a menstruating woman? Spilling seed outside a woman's womb?

I don't think there is any such thing as reading the Bible without interpreting it, but of course it's natural for each person to think that THEIR interpretation is the most natural, or not even an interpretation at all.


obadiahslope

Hugo,
seems to me that you should not (shamelessly or otherwise) rip off Worldvision's 30-hour famine. Fairs fair. If you want to support ERD then you should develope something new. Shouldn't be too hard in a creative parish like yours. But there is an ethical issue here.
And where to you Americans get off having only a 30-hour famine..downunder it is a 40-hour famine!

NancyP

OT does not mention sex between two females. NT does, once, in parallel with sex between two males, in Romans 1:26-28. In that context, it is a bad habit that people fall into because they are pagan idolators (of Caesar, the Roman pantheon, or indigenous Baal/Asherah-type gods). Jews have other bad habits, outlined in the next chapter.

I think people focus on uncommon sexual practices of other people because it is a lot less scary to do so than to focus on the fact that they are enjoying all sorts of luxuries while other people are homeless, and that the Bible has more to say about care for the poor than about male-male or female-female sex.

NancyP

WorldVision didn't invent the concept of fasting and donating the money saved to the poor. That has been around for a very long time, and is done by Jews and Muslims as well as by Christians as a routine part of religious duty.

obadiahslope

nancy,
a fair point. But I think Hugo should try and put a respectable difference between his ERD event and the Worldvision one.

Hugo

Which is why we are calling it Fast Relief in all of our publicity. The techniques are inspired by World Vision, but the name and the branding will be distinct.

Stephen

"I think people focus on uncommon sexual practices of other people because it is a lot less scary to do so than to focus on the fact that they are enjoying all sorts of luxuries while other people are homeless, and that the Bible has more to say about care for the poor than about male-male or female-female sex."

Really, Nancy, this is just an insipid, gratuitous and self-congratulatory slap-down. Let me try it in kind and maybe we can get into one of those online pissing matches that is more maturabatory than instructive.

Thsoe who promote same-sex unions are clearly unable to promote any sort of discipline in their own lives and therefore are unwilling to suggest that other follow Biblical strictures around sexuality -- all they can pomote is a cheap grace 'cause it keeps them from looking at their own sin. Lord knows they couldn't be motivated by a sincere belief that affirmation of homosexuality is a just end for Christians.

Is it possible that those who believe that homosexuality is not a bibical understanding of sexuality do so with motives that are not more (or less) pure than anyone else who engages in this debate?

Stephen

Hugo

Stephen, you wrote:

"maybe we can get into one of those online pissing matches that is more masturbatory than instructive."

Now, there's an interesting mix of images for my little brain.

NancyP

I am pointing to the millions of Americans who claimed that "moral values" were the main motivator for their vote. Yet many of these, perhaps most non-minority "moral values" voters, are perfectly happy to see Bush and Republican governors cut back on health care, heat, housing, and education for the poor, just so they can continue to have low taxes and afford that new car every 3 to 4 years. I can't know the private thoughts of everyone in the blogosphere, but I don't think it too controversial to contend that it is more popular politically to pass a law against same-sex marriage and civil unions than it is to pass a law exempting the very poor from paying income tax. Some conservative Southern state, probably Alabama, home of Roy Moore's rock (the controversial public display of 10 commandments in the state courthouse), was urged by its conservative Gov. to exempt people making less than about $5,000.00 a year from state income tax, on the grounds of Christian charity, but that referendum failed with the same set of voters that idolize Moore and his own idolatrous antics with the 10 Commandments statue. So before you get all huffy, Stephen, take a look around you. Notice what the popular radio preacher James Dobson goes on about - homosexuality is one of his main topics, if not THE main topic. I have heard 20 to 50 times more on homosexuality than on duty to the poor from the popular nationally syndicated radio preachers. Those preachers stay on the air because people listen and donate - if a message about caring for the poor were popular, the radio preachers would be doing more of it. I am not saying that all Christians ignore the poor in their own communities or elsewhere in order to get a feel-good moment by condemning "those evil gays", but lots do.

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