Vail Daily column: Set the record ‘straight’ on homosexuality and the church
May 12, 2017
Without any play on words with the title, this piece will attempt to approach the subject of the modern gay dilemma.
I belong to a men's Bible study group each Friday morning in Edwards, at which we study and discuss the Old and New Testaments with modern-day perspectives. The group is composed of a doctor, photographer, Realtor, hotel concierge manager, electrician, insurance broker, banker and lawyer.
Within that context, each of the nine of us is asked to speak each week to the group on a topic related to literature, media, academia and philosophy, none of which being as complicated as it may sound. Topics have included sin, Jesus' incarnation, eternity, heaven, hell and church disunity. I was asked to broach this topical topic.
For years, I have struggled to understand same-sex marriage, gays in the military and all matters homosexual. As a Christian, I'm often confused with the disconnect between tolerance and discrimination by the church, assuming as I did that the media's version of the church's stance on gays was harsh and non-inclusive. I couldn't have been more mistaken, as you will see below.
I was charged with the task of presenting to my peers recently an examination of the relationship, or lack thereof, between gays and the church at large, a daunting task, but the challenge intrigued me. The results surprised and embarrassed me, given my own homophobia quotient, and clarified the issue for me beyond dispute.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians (6:9–11): "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters nor adulterers, nor make prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
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In Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, one may read a more concise statement of traditional views and points to the core of my motivation to write this article; that the church, most Americans, soldiers, priests, politicians and me feel no hate toward gays whatsoever … how could we, anyway, without meeting any of them? The prior list of folk, including the church, only has issue with gay sex, not gay people. There, I said it.
Homosexual behavior (not people) is prohibited in scripture, (Leviticus 20:13) and led to divine judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:4-5, 12-13). Paul declared that God's wrath stands against such behavior whether practiced by men or women (Romans 1:26-27).
Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, but in the New Testament, he did condemn all forms of sexual immorality. However, regardless of how we interpret the Bible's teaching about homosexual acts, it is important to note the Bible does not condemn people for being sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. It is sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex that is prohibited by Bible teachings. Celibacy is therefore assumed to be proper within same-sex relationships, should the couple wish to consider themselves Christian, behaviorally speaking.
Churches have taken doctrinal positions regarding homosexual behavior:
• The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, according to the Vatican's website, http://www.vatican.va: "Tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
• The Southern Baptist Convention position statements, found at http://www.sbc.net, read: "We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy — one man and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.' The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ."
• The United Methodist Church's 2016 Book of Discipline Statements can be found at http://www.umc.org and reads, in part: "All persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.
"The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church. … Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."
• According to http://www.episcopalchurch.org, in 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance and pastoral concern and care of the Church."
In summary, the Bible accepts homosexuals, both men and women, to the faith. They don't, however, condone their sexual behavior. Churches welcome them willingly as they would adulterers, thieves and others seeking forgiveness. Outrage by those seeking tolerance on this issue should examine, it seems, their faith commitments, as the calling to Christianity is a choice, not a mandate, like Islam.
Note: Please don't shoot the messenger. This is a controversial topic.
Pat Mitchell is an Avon resident.
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