The Biblical Case for Gay Marriage

In Denver today, judges of the USA Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments for and against the ban on same – sex marriage in Utah. Next week, they will hear arguments for a similar case in Oklahoma. Both states are among the most conservative in the country, and where religion looms large. Much of the public opposition in both states is based on a religious belief that homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible, but the arguments in court will be secular, based on law and evidence, not theology and the bible.

gay union, in church

The Sexual Revolution Reaches the Catholic Church

When Pope Francis released his papal document “Evangellii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)” in November 2013, it was enthusiastically received for its sound, humane and profoundly Christian take on so many issues facing the modern world. One notable feature was the complete absence of any reference to gay marriage or homosexuality, and little comment on the broader topic of human sexuality in all its forms. This seems surprising: one of the first challenges facing the Church to be identified by the Pope’s advisory group of eight cardinals, was the challenges facing marriage and family in the modern world – and Catholic bishops in many countries have been closely identified with fierce opposition to gay marriage, and its supposed threat to the family.

However, the reason for this omission is clear. Right in the opening paragraphs of the document, Francis explains up front that he has not attempted to cover everything of importance, because some things “require further study”.  It has become clear in the months since, how seriously the Pope and his advisors are taking this imperative for further study into matters of marriage, family, and human sexuality.  The study now under way is seen in several forms, most notably a global consultation on marriage and the family; a re-examination of the theology and history (especially of divorce, and communion for those who have remarried); and the experience in some countries, of gay marriage and civil unions.

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“God and the Gay Christian” (Matthew Vines)

For over half a century, since the pioneering work of Canon Sherwen Derrek Bailey, bible scholars have been reassessing what was one a commonly accepted view that the bible strongly and obviously condemned homosexuality. By the twenty first century, what was once a trickle of revisionist books on the subject has become a torrent: a book search on Amazon with the terms “bible” and “homosexuality” will turn up many more titles which either reject the traditional biblical view, or accept that there is room for disagreement, than those still insisting that the biblical view is hostile.

These reassessments, applying particularly to the six “clobber texts” take many different forms, varying from scholar to scholar and from verse to verse.  Some follow Bailey in pointing to internal Biblical evidence that contradicts the idea that the destruction of Sodom was because of same – sex practices. Others, notably William Countryman, show that the Levitical prohibition was part of the Jewish purity code, and so is not applicable to Christians, just as compulsory male circumcision and kosher dietary laws are not. Boswell and others deal with Paul’s complaint in Romans about men who act “against nature” with other males, by reminding us that for those with an inherently same – sex orientation, it is heterosexual, intercourse that is truly unnatural – and so the apparent prohibition does not apply. Still others have examined problems of translation and mistranslation or argued that the problem lies not in understanding or interpreting the texts, but in applying them to modern conditions and understandings of sexuality.

God and the Gay Christian

Can you help to make “A Better Life” for LGBT Christiants?

Twitter message receieved, from  Matt Lynn@MattLynn :

@queering_church May I ask 3 mins to share my struggle for LGBT equality? I’d sincerely appreciate it:

When gay Christians come out, to family or in church, experiences vary greatly.

I’ve been lucky: my own family, friends and employer were immensely supportive, as I knew they would be. Later, in assorted Catholic parishes, I’ve experienced nothing but good will, and in my present parish, a great deal of encouragement for my gay activism.

For some, it’s more difficult, especially in the more evangelical denominations. Matthew Vines met with resistance from his congregation and disappointment from his parents. They however remained supportive, and Matthew and his father embarked on a joint program of close study of the bible, which gave them to confidence to deal adequately with opposition – and led to first, a powerfuland effective video on homosexuality and the bible, and later to the Reformation Project.

Others have an even harder time, all too often ending in attempted or completed suicide, after meeting rejection from church, family and employer. “A Better Life” is the title of a proposed documentary film that tells the story of one such gay Christian whose coming out experience hit the depths – but has come through to tell the story, of how a better life is indeed possible, for all.


A Handy Guide to (Medieval) Sexual Sin

The simplest response to the regular claim that Catholic teaching is “constant and unchanging”, is this useful flowchart, based on the medieval penitentials, and originally published in Brundage’s book, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe .

Medieval sexual sin

We are all familiar with the standard Catholic formulation that sexual intercourse is only permitted with a person of the opposite sex, in marriage, and open to procreation. If that seems harsh to those who are gay, or loving and committed couples who are not yet married, or to married couples wanting to delay child – rearing, it’s far less repressive than the restrictions that were once imposed.

As the chart shows, these also excluded a prohibition on sexual intercourse during the solemn seasons of Lent and Advent, and also during Easter week and Whitsun (Pentecost) week, on feast days, fast days, Sundays, Fridays, Or Saturdays. Those restrictions alone leave fewer than one third of the days in the year when intercourse is permissible, for anyone. Family circumstances could impose further restrictions. Sex was also prohibited with wives who were menstruating, pregnant, or nursing.

Even during the appropriate times when marital intercourse was permitted, there where further restrictions on how it was to be conducted:

Only in darkness, fully clothed, in the missionary position, without “lewd kissing” and ideally without taking pleasure from the act.

Oddest of all the restrictions (but one easily managed) was the prohibition on doing it in church.


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Prominent English Religious Leaders “Rejoice” in Gay Marriage

As England and Wales geared up for the start of same – sex weddings as of midnight early today, the Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition  held a press conference and issued a joint press release yesterday (Friday 28th), announcing that a range of religious leaders from diverse faith backgrounds had signed a letter of support for the dawn of marriage equality in England and Wales:

gay marriage, uk

We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.

Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, has released a statement in support, on behalf of CSCS:

The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality(CSCS) welcomes the support for same-sex marriage expressed by a number of religious leaders from different faith communities in a statement issued today, 28 March 2014. CSCS would also like to highlight the growing acceptance of same-sex unions, including their religious celebration, by grass-roots believers, congregations, and organisations from a variety of faith traditions.

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