For years, there has been evidence that major sections of the US Mainline Protestant churches, and Protestant denominations in Europe, have been substantially reconsidering their attitudes to same – sex relationships. The evangelical churches on the other hand, like the Vatican oligarchs, have seemed much more monolithic in their continuing opposition. Appearances can be deceptive. I have noted before a few indications that some Evangelical leaders, like some key Catholic bishops and theologians, and in the secular world, some conservative politicians in the GOP, are not simply reconsidering, but becoming active straight allies for queer inclusion in church, and social equality.
|Jay Bakker: Not Your Typical Evangelical
At the Huffington Post, there is a useful analysis of the “Evangelicals’ Great Gay Awakening
” by Cathleen Falsani, herself an Evangelical who writes that when as a student she learned that some of her classmates had come out as gay, her first response was to pray for them.
For most of my life, I’ve been taught that it’s impossible to be both openly gay and authentically Christian.
When a number of my friends “came out” shortly after our graduation from Wheaton College in the early ’90s, first I panicked and then I prayed.
What would Jesus do? I asked myself (and God).
That last question, so fundamental to young Evangelicals’ thought processes, was crucial. She realized that although Jesus in the Gospels is not reported as having said anything at all about homosexuality, he did say a great deal about love. So, she determined to love, and to love unconditionally, even as she remained unsure if homosexuality is indeed sinful.
Now, her views have been transformed – just like those of other younger Evangelicals – heavily influenced by a growing band of Evangelical theologians who are concluding, just like their more liberal Mainline counterparts, that the traditional view of homosexual relationships as strongly condemned in scripture is mistaken. Much of her account is based on the new book Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society
, by Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Messner. The arguments she repeats will be familiar to my regular readers:
- Leviticus condemns (male) homosexuality – but likewise eating shellfish, cutting your sideburns and getting tattoos were equally prohibited by ancient religious law. Leviticus prohibits interracial marriage, endorses slavery and forbids women to wear trousers. Deuteronomy calls for brides who are found not to be virgins to be stoned to death, and for adulterers to be summarily executed.
- The New Testament words that are commonly translated in the Bible as “homosexuals/homosexuality” actually refer to male prostitution, and not to loving relationships.
- The few texts that even appear to be critical of homosexuality are heavily outweighed by the abundant verses emphasising God’s love for all his creation. Bakker’s conclusion is clear: homosexuality is not a sin.
“We must weigh all the evidence,” Bakker writes. “The clobber scriptures don’t hold a candle to the raging inferno of grace and love that burns through Paul’s writing and Christ’s teaching. And it’s a love that should be our guiding light.”
Bakker is not alone among Evangelical leaders. Falsani says that
Tony Jones, a “theologian-in-residence” at Minnesota’s Solomon’s Porch, one of the pre-eminent “Emergent” churches in the nation, echoes many of Bakker’s arguments. Peggy Campolo, wife of evangelist Tony Campolo, has been saying this kind of thing for years, despite her husband’s disagreement.
I have named several others in previous posts on these pages.
In the ongoing struggle to achieve full welcome and inclusion in church for queer Christians, the struggle on the ground may appear long and fruitless, with some small visible signs of progress overshadowed by the continuing hostility of so many. We must never forget though, that in the longer term perspective, progress has been remarkable over just the last twenty years – a mere blink of an eye in the time scale of salvation history.
Progress in the Mainline and European Protestant churches has recently become visible and noteworthy, but it is not that long ago that they too seemed to be intractable in their opposition. While the Catholic and Evangelical establishment views right now seem permanently fixed and unlikely to change, they are not really all that different from that of the more liberal groups twenty or thirty years ago, when voices for reform existed, but seemed to be a small minority, unlikely to make any impact.
The record shows that minority groups calling for reform have steadily increased in influence, and are achieving notable landmarks for inclusion one after another.
Is it really so unlikely that over the next twenty or thirty years, Catholics and Baptists will similarly see dramatic increases in calls for reform, and achieve some victories? We must take heart from this, and use it to boost our determination and fortitude as we continue to push for full LGBT inclusion – even in the face of apparent hopelessness, and some inevitable setbacks.
We will triumph in the end, we will find a true inclusive welcome in Church. The Bible demands it.Recommended Books:
- Bakker, Jay: Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society,
- Countryman, William:Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today
- Helminiak, Daniel:What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
- Rogers, Jack: Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church