A response to the petitions and resolutions
that are pro-gay A paper submitted by Jeff Thurman, Pastor Stromsburg-Polk UMC
Petition number five in the first few WHEREAS statements says,
"the Nebraska Annual Conference has undergone a church trial because of charges filed
against an Elder (pastor) who performed an illegal "covenanting ceremony" for
persons in a same sex relationship and whereas this event stimulated much reflection,
thought, prayer and dialogue around the diverse theological perspectives
Our Annual Conference and denomination are in the midst of a
vigorous debate between Christians and homosexuals and those who support homosexual
behavior. This shouldn't be surprising in and of itself. If author and commentator Dr.
Dennis Praeger is right when he says the Judeo-Christian ethic is responsible for the
Western World's disapproval of homosexuality, then conflicts between the Church and the
gay rights movement are not only understandable, they are inevitable.
Within our Annual Conference as well as in the denomination as a
whole we have a vocal groups that push what can be called "Pro-Gay theology."
Pro-Gay theology, much like the broader gay rights philosophy seeks legitimization (not
just tolerance) of homosexuality. Pro-Gay theology takes a step further by redefining
homosexuality as being God-ordained and morally permissible. Gay pastor and author Mel
White writes, "I have learned to accept and even celebrate my sexual orientation as
another of God's good gifts." What exactly is "Pro-Gay Theology?" Pro-Gay
theology is the cornerstone of the "gay Christian" movement which is comprised
of whole denominations like the "Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community
Churches," as well as gay caucuses within mainline denominations, such as
"Reconciling Congregations, MFSA, Affirmation, and Cornet."
Although Pro-Gay theology claims a conservative theological base,
it includes additions and revisions to basic, traditional ethics. First, homosexuality is
seen as being God ordained. As such, it's viewed as being on par with heterosexuality.
Again, Mel White points out quite accurately, that "If you don't see that premise
(that God created homosexuality) then gay marriage looks ridiculous, if not insane."
But for homosexuality to be seen as created by God, the traditional understanding of
homosexuality needs to be discredited. This is done in three basic ways.
I. Social Justice Arguments
First, prejudice against homosexuals is blamed for the
understanding that most Christians have of the Biblical references to homosexuality. These
arguments can be summarized as "Social Justice Arguments." Petitions numbered 8,
12, 13, 14, 15 and Resolution number 33 all use this argument to some extent in the
presumptions stated in the "Whereas" clauses. Social justice arguments are
effective because they sound so good. They demand an end to homophobia and insensitivity;
who wants to say they are against such goals? But just as the question "When did you
stop beating your wife, Mr. Jones?" assumes (without proof) that Mr. Jones has been
beating his wife, so the pro-gay social justice arguments assume (without proof) that gays
are victims, and that the conservative church is largely responsible for their victimhood.
There are three main social justice arguments. The
first is that homosexuality is inborn. Pro-Gay theology will refer to Simon Le Vay, a
neuro-scientist, and his study of the hypothalamus. They will refer to psychologist
Michael Bailey of Northwestern University and his study of twins, and they will refer to
Dr. Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute who studied genes.
In all three cases the research of these scientists
has not only not been duplicated by others but in other studies has been contradicted. The
most damaging response is that it is illogical to assume that inborn means normal or
morally acceptable. Even if homosexuality is someday proven to be inborn, inborn does not
necessarily mean normal. Any number of defects or handicaps, for example, may be inborn,
but we'd hardly call them normal for that reason alone. Why should we be compelled to call
homosexuality normal, just because it "might" be inborn?
Second, inborn tendencies towards certain behaviors
(like homosexuality) do not make those behaviors moral. Surely we're not going to say that
violence, alcoholism and adultery are legitimate because they were inherited. Immoral
behavior cannot be legitimized by a quick baptism in the gene pool.
Third, we are a fallen race. Human beings are
sinful. We cannot assume, then, that because something is inborn, it is also God ordained.
There are mental, psychological, physical and sexual aspects of our beings that God never
intended us to have. Inborn does not mean "divinely sanctioned."
Cannot be Changed
The second Social Justice Argument is that
Homosexuality cannot be changed. This argument draws heavily from the social sciences, as
it must, because the Bible supports no such claim. In fact the scriptures speak just the
opposite. They state that we can be changed and transformed. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The
"unchangeable" argument is not only misleading but also damaging to homosexuals.
The Kinsey Institute reported in 1970 that 84% of the homosexuals they studied had shifted
their sexual orientation at least once. This argument is also illogical in that is assumes
if a condition is unchangeable it is therefore desirable. For the sake of argument,
suppose it could be proven that homosexuality, as a condition, is unchangeable-that no
amount of prayer, counseling or efforts of any sort could make a homosexual become
attracted to the opposite sex. What then? Should that change our view of homosexual
behavior as being sinful? Hardly. There's no contingency in any scriptural reference to
any kind of sin, in the Old or New Testament, saying: "Thou shalt not do thus and
so!" ("Unless, of course, you tried hard to change, went for prayer and
counseling, and found you just could not stop wanting to do thus and so. If that's the
case, then thus and so is no longer a sin. It's an inborn, immutable gift and you can
The Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh, whatever it
may have been, was unchangeable; despite his prayers for deliverance, God allowed it to
remain. But it certainly was not desirable (2 Cor 12:7-9). Other conditions-alcoholism,
for example, or various addictions-are widely believed to be unchangeable, and have to be
coped with daily. That hardly makes them desirable, natural or God-ordained.
The third Social Justice Argument is based on Alfred
Kinsey's much quoted statement, "10% of the male population is gay." If this is
so how could so many people be wrong? Dr. Kinsey's argument is vastly exaggerated. Kinsey
did not claim 10% of the population was homosexual. His wording was plain, 10% of the
males survey in his study claimed to have been homosexual for at least three years. They
had not necessarily been homosexual all their lives, nor would they necessarily be
homosexual in the future. Future studies by the Kinsey Institute, in fact, would confirm
that sexual orientation is not necessarily fixed, and may change throughout a person's
lifespan. Second, Kinsey's 10% is misleading. His data was not taken from a population
that accurately represented American men. 25% of the men surveyed were in prison, many of
whom were sex offenders. Naturally, a higher incidence of homosexuality would be found
among prisoners, especially sex offenders, many of whom may have been in prison for
homosexual behavior. (In the 1940s that was quite possible; today, thankfully, people are
not incarcerated for homosexuality.) Subsequent studies have disproved the 10% claim. USA
Today reported on April 15, 1993 a new survey of 3,321 American men indicating 2.3% of
them had engaged in homosexual behavior within the previous ten years; only 1.1% reported
being exclusively homosexual.
II. General Religious Arguments
The second way the traditional understanding of homosexuality is
undermined is through "General Religious Arguments." Petitions numbered 5, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, and resolutions numbered 34 and 35 use parts of these arguments
in their assumptions in the "Whereas Clauses." A recent George Barna poll showed
that 66% of Americans no longer believe there is such a thing as "absolute
truth." More disturbing, was the fact that 53% of those not believing in absolute
truth identified themselves as born again Christians, 75% of who were mainline
Protestants. If "absolute truth" no longer exists, even in the minds of half the
"born-again" population, it logically follows that doctrine, and the Bible
itself, is given less credence. In short, self-identified Christians in the 90s are
Biblically ignorant. Doctrine has become less important than good feelings; indeed, a USA
Today survey found that, of the 56% of Americans who attend church, 45% did so because
"it's good for you," 26% went for peace of mind. Specific doctrines, the
pollster noted, seemed unimportant. If the notions of "truth" and
"doctrine" are becoming unimportant to Christians, can the idea of
"sin" hope to survive? Probably not; 25% of Christians polled in 1993 believed
sin to be "an outdated concept." The gap between truth and modern practice has
become so large as to allow any number of false (albeit "nice") ideas to enter
the church, creating a mentality that says, "Let's all get along without conflict,
shall we?" We desire something that is warm and fuzzy. Doctrine, on the other hand
sounds cold, difficult and demanding. A desire for "warm and fuzzy" without a
commitment to truth makes the general religious arguments of the pro-gay theology all the
more palatable. Unlike the social justice arguments, these arguments are more
"religious"; that is, they appeal to general religious themes of harmony and
goodwill, while bypassing issues of the fallen nature, sin and obedience. To the
Biblically ignorant they can pass for truth; in the light of Scripture, though, they have
no leg on which to stand.
Since they are more religious in tone than social arguments,
these arguments can be answered almost exclusively in Biblical terms. Remembering that
members of the gay Christian movement say they believe in Biblical authority, these
arguments are best answered with a call to return to the objective truth of the Bible, in
lieu of the subjective winds of human experience and understanding.
Not Forbidden by Jesus
There are four main religious arguments. The first
is Jesus said nothing about homosexuality." The idea being that if Jesus did not
specifically forbid a behavior, then the behavior must not have been important to Him.
Stretching the point further, this argument assumes if Jesus was not manifestly concerned
about something, we should not be, either.
This argument is misleading for four reasons. First
it assumes the Gospels are more authoritative than the rest of the books in the Bible.
Second, the argument assumes the Gospels are more comprehensive than they really are. Some
of the Bible's most important teaching does not appear in the Gospels. The doctrine of
humanities old and new nature, the future of Israel, the explanation of spiritual gifts,
let alone what we have in the Old Testament, are not found in the Gospels. To put it
another way, are we really to believe that Jesus did not care about wife beating or
incest, just because He said nothing about them? Are not the prohibitions against incest
in Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, as well as Paul's admonition to husbands to love their
wives, enough to instruct us in these matters without being mentioned in the gospels?
There are a number of evil behaviors that Christ did not mention by name; surely we don't
condone them for that reason alone! Likewise, Jesus' silence on homosexuality in no way
negates the very specific prohibitions against it, which appear elsewhere, in both the Old
and New Testaments.
Third, the argument is inaccurate in that it
presumes to know all of what Jesus said. Fourth the argument assumes because Jesus said
nothing specific about homosexuality that He said nothing about heterosexuality as a
standard. In Mark 10:6-9 Jesus was presented with a hypothetical question: is divorce
lawful? Instead of giving a simple yes or no He referred to Genesis and more specifically,
to created intent as the standard by which to judge sexual matters.
I'm Born Again
The second religious argument is "I'm a
Born-Again Believer and I'm gay. How can that be if homosexuality is wrong? The message is
that if a person is truly born again and homosexual, the two must be compatible. The
argument is illogical in that it assumes if one is a Christian, and if one is loved by
God, then what one does must be all right in God's sight. It is not the scope of this
paper to argue over eternal salvation but let us remember that Christians do not
automatically become non-Christians just because they are sinning. But neither does their
salvation legitimize their sin. In other word, being a Christian is no indication, in and
of itself, that your life is pleasing to God. Saying, "I'm a Christian and Gay"
proves nothing. The question shouldn't be can a person be homosexual and still belong to
God? Rather, is homosexuality right or wrong according to the Bible?
The third religious argument is "I attend a gay
church where the gifts of the Spirit and the presence of God are manifest. How can that be
if homosexuality is wrong?" The argument is that if God's presence and gifts are
manifest in a gay church it is evidence that God accepts and blesses homosexuality. The
argument is misleading in that it assumes God's gifts or presence are an indication of His
approval. God may very well be present in gay churches. But that does not mean God
condones homosexuality. The Corinthian church certainly had genuine believers and the
gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet you would not argue that God approved of jealousy,
immorality, lawsuits, and selfishness which were also in the Corinthian church.
What we can assume is that first, if God has given
someone a gift of the Spirit, that gift may continue to operate even if the person is
willfully sinning. Examples would be effective pastors who are involved in sinful
behaviors. Second, the gift or God's presence is a sign of grace, not approval. Scripture,
not spiritual dynamics, determines legitimacy.
The fourth religious argument is "My lover and
I are in a monogamous relationship, and we truly love each other. That can't be wrong.
This is the argument that justifies the actions of Rev. Jimmy Creech. This argument is
misleading in that it assumes love sanctifies a relationship. Love is wonderful but it is
not enough to justify a relationship. An unmarried Christian couple may be very much in
love; if they become sexually involved before marriage, it will still be sin, no mater how
much love went into it. A married man can fall deeply in love with a woman other than his
wife; that will never sanctify adultery. Likewise, two men, or women, may be in love.
Their love may run very deep; they may pledge fidelity to each other and live as happily
as a married heterosexual couple. Again, that will not, of itself, justify a homosexual
relationship. Scripture places boundaries on human relationships, offering no compromise,
even if love is present and desires to cross those boundaries. If a form of sexual
relating is wrong, it remains wrong no matter what degree of love goes along with it.
III. Scriptural Reinterpretation
The third way Pro-Gay theology attempts to undermine the
traditional understanding of homosexuality is through the reinterpreting of scripture.
There are four main passages of scripture that speak of homosexuality, they are Genesis
19:4-9, the destruction of Sodom, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, the Levitical law, Romans
1:26-27, on natural and unnatural, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 where
Paul uses the phrase "arsenokoite" (homosexual).
This paper would become much to long to examine each text and how
the Pro-Gay theology group attempts to reinterpret them. In short, in each case they
attempt to demonstrate that homosexuality, as they know it, is not the issue. They will
argue that hospitality (Sodom), cultural purity (Leviticus law), and heterosexuals who
were trying to be homosexuals or male prostitution (natural and unnatural in Romans and 1
Corinthians) were the issue. When the scriptures are closely examined the arguments are
untenable. If hospitality was the issue in Genesis why did Lot respond by saying
"don't do this wicked thing and then offered his daughters to the men? To eliminate
the passages of the holiness code out of Leviticus that deals with homosexuality means you
have to remove all the passages that deal with sexual relationships in that section,
including sex with children, siblings, and animals. To say Paul knew nothing of modern
homosexual behavior and was referring only to male prostitutes is nonsense. There is no
such thing as true homosexuality and false homosexuality. Paul simply described the
behavior, regardless of its motivation as unnatural and wrong.
I have written this paper in order to urge you to vote against
the petitions, resolutions, and conference program that aim to change the language in the
Discipline. This is not done out of homophobia or hate. It is urged out of love and a
desire for our church and denomination to remain true to the Scriptures.
This paper was mostly taken from a revised article "A
Strong Delusion: Confronting the Gay Christian' Movement," by Joe Dallas
(Harvest House 1996).