Re: Homosexuality

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Mon Aug 20 2001 - 12:42:02 EDT

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    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
    any better.

    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
    that fashion.

    "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
    a choice.""

    Yeah, I have to agree. That there are such is, as far as I have studied,
    a "fact."

    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
    can see?

    "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
    sort of
    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.)

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