Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Churchwide Assembly Decision on Homosexualtiy and the Ordinary Parishioner

A woman from a church to which I once belonged wrote to ask what I thought of the ELCA decisions on homosexuality and to express her distress about the ordination of a lesbian minister. I thought long and hard, and prayed long and harder, and wrote the following:

If we go through and quantify Bible passages, the most prominent theme is economic injustice. Throughout the Bible, we find prophets and Jesus and the early Christians telling us that what most distresses God is poverty; there are literally over 2,000 passages that talk about the subject. God doesn't require us to live in complete equality, so that everyone has exactly the same amount of money, but God does require us to work towards a world where everyone has enough: enough food, adequate shelter, a change of clothes.

We do not live in that world.

As I read God's word, I honestly don't find many passages about homosexuality, or sexuality of any kind. By my count, I've found roughly 12-20 passages about homosexuality. And I'm not sure those Bible writers were talking about the homosexuals whom I know, homosexuals in loving, committed relationships. Paul uses the word "pornea," which scholars tell us describes more of a boy prostitute kind of relationship. And the main piece of Bible text that's used in discussions about homosexuality comes from Leviticus. Leviticus is full of rules which I don't intend to follow, like separating milk from meat, and isolating menstruating women. It seems like a rule book from a very distant time, and I don't think that God intends for us to adopt those rules.

Lutherans believe that we know most about God through what we know about Jesus. Jesus trumps the Old Testament. And Jesus was very quiet on the issue of homosexuality or heterosexuality or any other kind of sexuality. But Jesus talks over and over again about the sin of allowing people to live in poverty when we could do something about it. Jesus talks about the sin of exclusion, as he goes about his ministry of having dinner with the outcast of society (women, taxpayers, the unhealthy). I'm not sure that Jesus would be a family values kind of guy. He talks about how we have to leave our families--and everything else we hold dear--to follow him.

In terms of what the ELCA has decided, I approve of those actions. I don't believe that homosexuality is a choice, at least not for most people (I have met several women who were terribly abused at the hands of men, who decided to only have romantic relationships with women). I can't believe that God would create 10% of the population, the 10% that is homosexual from birth, as a mistake. Lutherans believe that God gives us our sexuality as a gift and that we are required to not be abusive in our sexual relations.

Thus, I like the idea that all Lutheran ministers must be in either single or in committed, long-term, monogamous relations. It makes sense to me.

I also like that the ELCA leadership realizes that we don't all agree on this issue. I like that after decades of vicious fighting, we've agreed that we can disagree. If church members don't want to have a lesbian minister, the Bishop or the national leadership will not require it.

Again, I think that if we could have a conversation with God, God would not be as distressed about homosexuality or abortion or divorce or those other social issues which have divided the church recently. I think that God would be horrified at the rising inequality between rich and poor in our world. I think that God would be interested in hearing what we're doing to help improve the lives of the poor, whether in this country or across the planet. I think that God would look at my monthly budget and be very angry about the fact that I spend so much on frivolous things, while pregnant women sleep on the cold concrete streets down the road from my house and much of Africa suffers from war, hunger, AIDS, and weather-related ravages and across the planet, women suffer from unspeakable violence and we've never had more slaves in human history than we have right now. I imagine asking God how God feels about homosexuality, and God saying, "I really want to talk about the huge number of orphans in the world and how we should cope with that reality."


Pastor S. Blake Duncan said...

Thank you for sharing this - it is very powerful. Blessings...

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Thanks for reading!