George Murphy wrote, in part:
" Your concern is, I think, to be supportive of individuals of homosexual
orientation who want to live responsibly in committed relationships. I
would like to do that as well and I think that there are
ways of accomplishing that which are consistent with a Christian ethic."
This is a "backhanded" way of expressing it. Of course I agree, but I go
beyond that expression. The word "supportive" bothers me. I tried
substituting the words "accepting" and "tolerant of" and they don't fit
My claim is is simple. I find no scriptural support for regarding
committed homosexual relationships and committed heterosexual
relationships in any way differently. Yes, there is a definite 90:10 --
or possibly 95:5 ratio between the two -- perhaps even more skewed than
that. But such a measurement does not really have anything to do with the
I tried substituting for the words "of homosexual orientation" in the
above the words for "of different skin color." That substitution,
perhaps, makes my point, for neither you nor I would write a sentence in
"But I am also concerned about the state of the church as a whole, and
think that we can't ignore the existence of forces in society which would
tend to do away with any expectation of faithfulness or commitment in
connection with sexuality. A quick look around at the cultural scene
will show, I think,
that I'm not being paranoid about this."
I share that concern, and you know well how my denomination, PCUSA, has
and is struggling with it. Now I see two possibilities here; (1) that the
acceptance of committed same-gender relationships as normative will make
that problem worse; (2) that it will make it better. My initial reaction
is that it will make little difference, but I also would argue that even
if (1) is the case, that does not justify the demonization of one class
of people. And make no mistake about it -- these people ARE being
demonized, segregated, refused common community services, ignored in the
courts, and, in far too many cases, physically abused. By "Christians."
"The question of inclusion of bisexuals among the "sexual minorities"
seems a small one but if the church doesn't give it a hard look it has
the potential to disrupt any attempt to deal with sexuality with
theological integrity. The kind of "line" I'm talking about here is not
one of declaring persons with bisexual orientation (if there are such)
unpersons but of saying to them, as far as their sexual expression in a
committed relationship goes, something on the order of "You have to make
Yeah, I have to agree. That there are such is, as far as I have studied,
I am thinking of one lady, married 20 years, children, whose husband
passed away. She now lives with another lady in a domestic relationship.
We have talked a little about this; she is probably a "bisexual." In both
relationships, as far as I know (I don't really probe these kinds of
things) she has regarded the relationship as monogamous. She is, BTW,
currently studying to be a minister in her church, which has a policy of
not ordaining active homosexuals. How this will all work out, she says,
is up to the Lord; she is just following her call.
GM: "If the kind of commitment we're talking about is a real possibility
for a significant fraction of male homosexuals, I think that many
Christians would be prepared to recognize some type of homosexual union,
even if they are seen simply as the best way to deal with a less than
ideal situation. But if not, not."
JB: "That's probably true, but irrelevant as far as my own position is
concerned. Like the "lost sheep," it would only take one instance."
GM:"Here the difference in emphasis that I noted earlier comes out again.
I agree that we need to
support the 10% but also think the church needs to be careful about
making an important change in its theology & ethics of sexuality without
doing as well as possible to be sure that it's not opening itself up to
much more radical & unforeseen changes demanded by the 90%. The parable
of the lost sheep is a parable, and can't be pressed in all points. If
going after the lost sheep means exposing the 99 at home to a pack of
wolves then the shepherd had better check out the fences & alarm system
before setting out in search of the 1."
Point well taken, but I'd ask how long are we to accept the abuse of one
class of people because we fear other hypothetical ills? We've been
"checking out the fences and alarm systems" for centuries; what more
would you have the church do before making right the obvious wrongs we
"Demands for change over the past ~ 40 years have now become very urgent
but, in light of 2000 years of Christian history, we can afford to take a
little bit of time to make decisions."
If you were Matthew Shepard's mother, I suggest you'd not say that. If
you were the lady I cited above, who perceives a call of God to serve in
the ministry, and knows her church will denigrate her for it, you'd not
say that. It sounds as if you are saying (I know you are not, but it
sounds like you are) "It is OK for the abuse to continue for awhile for
we must do this thing right."
Analogy. Suppose I am a very poor swimmer, and I stand by the poolside
while you are drowning. I suggest you would rather I rescue you in an
awkward manner, poorly, than wait until I take swimming lessons.
I came on a quotation that says, for me, why I must take the position I
have, and accept the flak (not from you, of course) that results:
I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act;
but I do believe in a fate that falls on men unless they act. G. K.
I have to act. I have no choice.
GM: "I want to be clear that I'm not trying to just stall off any change
in the church's teaching & practice. What I would envision eventually
happening would be the legalization of committed homosexual relations by
the state, that conveying the same legal benefits as far as health care,
inheritance, &c as heterosexual marriage, though it would not be
"marriage." The church could, in cases in which it was satisfied that the
appropriate sort of commitment existed, bless these civil relationships,
in somewhat the same way that a church blessing can be given to a civil
marriage - though again without the language of "marriage." These
committed homosexual relationships would not be seen as an expression or
sign of God's full intention for humanity, like marriage, but as
something more on the order of a "just war" or divorce in some
circumstances. I.e., they are the appropriate way of dealing with life
in a creation which has not yet reached its fulfillment, and in which
God's will is not fully expressed and the effects of sin must be
OK. You wish for the state to act first, then we, the church, will get
involved. Well, that would be better (an awkward way of rescue) than
zilch. Sort of like how much of the church had to be dragged, kicking and
screaming, into the recognition that persons with different skin color
had equal rights to persons of Caucasian extraction. I'd like for the
church, just this once, to be a leader in this.
Your last sentence implies that you still see "sin" in a committed
homosexual relationship. My claim, of course, denies this. I suppose that
if I still saw "sin" in such a relationship, I might be more favorable to
your view above. But I'd also be asking why an inherited condition, one
which is unchosen in most cases, one which is not wanted in many cases,
must necessarily place upon some human beings such a burden. I have real
difficulty putting my mindset into that framework.
GM:"Something like that last paragraph seems to me to be necessary for a
recognition of homosexual relationships that has some continuity with the
Christian theological tradition. But I'm not very sanguine about it
being acceptable to many people. A lot of conservatives will reject any
acceptance of homosexual relationships, even if they're to be seen as the
best of bad choices. And many homosexuals will reject any suggestion
that their relationships lack anything possessed by heterosexual ones.
(& this in spite of the fact that, theological considerations aside, they
obviously are lacking at least one thing, the ability to procreate within
the boundaries of that relationship & without technological
intervention.) & it still leaves a lot of other questions - e.g.,
ordination - open. Nevertheless, I think this is the approach that
should be pursued."
A fair statement. Of course homosexual couples CAN procreate, and many
do, adoption being one easy (not to the courts of course) possibility.
I really appreciate your taking my rantings on this subject seriously,
and making me think through the issues more than I have. I think you
understand where I'm coming from, and even though we are not in total
agreement on all aspects, that understanding I treasure.
John Burgeson (Burgy)
(science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
humor, cars, God's intervention into natural causation, etc.)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Aug 20 2001 - 12:47:39 EDT