Ministers speak: Gays are not sinners

There’s too much hate in the world today and far too much of it is based on what some claim is the “word of God.”

Religious fundamentalists claim homosexuality is a sin.  I disagree.  So do a number of ministers who know a hell of a lot more about what is said in scripture about those who seek the companionship of others of the same sex.

“There is nothing in the Bible or in my own theology that would lead me to believe that God regards homosexuality as a sin,” says Rev. Dr. William R. Stayton, a Baptist minister, associate professor of psychiatric and human behavior at LaSalle University’s graduate department of religious studies.

Dr. Stayton holds a master of divinity from Andover Newton Theological School and a doctorate in psychology from Boston University.

“God is interested in our relationship with ourselves, others, the things in our lives and with God (Matthew 23:36-40),” he says.  “There is nothing in the mind of God that could be against a loving, sexual relationship, freely entered into, without coercion, among sincere adults whether gay, bisexual or straight.”

In answer to a question on whether or not the Bible condemns homosexuality, Dr. Stayton says:

There is nothing in the Bible regarding homosexual orientation. In fact, the Bible does not concern itself with sexual orientation. It does speak out probably against gang rape, male prostitution for religious purposes, and pederasty (sex between an adult and youth). I lead bible study programs on this subject and am convinced that the Bible does not address the issue of a person’s sexual orientation.

Bishop John S. Spong has written 11 books and 50 published articles on religion.  He is a phi beta kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina and holds a masters in divinity.

When Bishop Spong is asked if God regards homosexuality as a sin, his answer is:

Some argue that since homosexual behavior is “unnatural” it is contrary to the order of creation. Behind this pronouncement are stereotypical definitions of masculinity and femininity that reflect rigid gender categories of patriarchal society. There is nothing unnatural about any shared love, even between two of the same gender, if that experience calls both partners to a fuller state of being. Contemporary research is uncovering new facts that are producing a rising conviction that homosexuality, far from being a sickness, sin, perversion or unnatural act, is a healthy, natural and affirming form of human sexuality for some people. Findings indicate that homosexuality is a given fact in the nature of a significant portion of people, and that it is unchangeable.

Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, “I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good’.” . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed, and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world.

Ask the Bishop about what the Bible says about homosexuality and he answers (in detail):

There are few biblical references to homosexuality. The first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is often quoted to prove that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But the real sin of Sodom was the unwillingness of the city’s men to observe the laws of hospitality. The intention was to insult the stranger by forcing him to take the female role in the sex act. The biblical narrative approves Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters to satisfy the sexual demands of the mob. How many would say, “This is the word of the Lord”? When the Bible is quoted literally, it might be well for the one quoting to read the text in its entirety.

Leviticus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, condemns homosexual behavior, at least for males. Yet, “abomination”, the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexuality, is the same word used to describe a menstruating woman. Paul is the most quoted source in the battle to condemn homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and Romans 1: 26-27). But homosexual activity was regarded by Paul as a punishment visited upon idolaters by God because of their unfaithfulness. Homosexuality was not the sin but the punishment.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with arsenokoitus, or male prostitute, was meant to refer to the passive and active males in a homosexual liaison.

Thus, it appears that Paul would not approve of homosexual behavior. But was Paul’s opinion about homosexuality accurate, or was it limited by the lack of scientific knowledge in his day and infected by prejudice born of ignorance? An examination of some of Paul’s other assumptions and conclusions will help answer this question. Who today would share Paul’s anti-Semitic attitude, his belief that the authority of the state was not to be challenged, or that all women ought to be veiled? In these attitudes Paul’s thinking has been challenged and transcended even by the church! Is Paul’s commentary on homosexuality more absolute than some of his other antiquated, culturally conditioned ideas?

Three other references in the New Testament (in Timothy, Jude and 2 Peter) appear to be limited to condemnation of male sex slaves in the first instance, and to showing examples (Sodom and Gomorrah) of God’s destruction of unbelievers and heretics (in Jude and 2 Peter respectively).

That is all that Scripture has to say about homosexuality. Even if one is a biblical literalist, these references do not build an ironclad case for condemnation. If one is not a biblical literalist there is no case at all, nothing but prejudice born of ignorance, that attacks people whose only crime is to be born with an unchangeable sexual predisposition toward those of their own sex.

Another Episcopal Bishop, R. Stewart Wood, Jr., graduated from Dartmouth, holes a master degree in counseling from Ball State University, and both a masters and doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary.

Does God regard homosexuality as a sin?

“No,” responds Bishop Wood. “Our sexual orientation is a given, something we discover about ourselves — some might say “a gift from God”. How one relates to others — caring or exploiting — is the source of sin.”

What about the Bible? “I am aware of the concern for certain homosexual acts and see no addressing [in the Scriptures] of the condition or orientation,” he answers.

These “men of God” answered questions on attitudes toward homosexuality posed by “Parents and friends of Lesbian and Gays,” a group that tries to deal with the stereotypes against those with alternative lifestyles. In a recent report, the group found many other ministers and theologians of different faiths who said the same thing: God does not consider homosexuality a sin and the Bible goes not object to homosexuality.

Methodist Bishop Melvin Wheatly Jr., an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church, says:

The preponderance of evidence now available identifies homosexuality to be as natural a sexual orientation for a significant percentage of persons as heterosexuality is the natural sexual orientation for the majority of persons. Homosexuality is an authentic condition of being with which some persons are endowed (a gift from God, if you please), not an optional sexual lifestyle which they have willfully, whimsically or sinfully chosen. Certainly one’s sexuality — heterosexual or homosexual — may be acted out in behaviors that are sinful: brutal, exploitative, selfish, superficial. But just as surely, one’s homosexual orientation as well as another’s heterosexual orientation may be acted out in ways that are beautiful: tender, considerate, mutual, responsible, loyal, profound.

As for the Bible, Bishop Wheatly says:

The Scriptures at no point deal with homosexuality as an authentic sexual orientation, a given condition of being. The remarkably few Scriptural references to “homosexuality” deal rather with homosexual acts, not with homosexual orientation. Those acts are labeled as wrong out of the context of the times in which the writers wrote and perceived those acts to be either nonmasculine, idolatrous, exploitative, or pagan. The kind of relationships between two consenting adults of the same sex demonstrably abounding among us — relationships that are responsible and mutual, affirming and fulfilling — are not dealt with in the Scriptures. Dealing with those relational realities is one of the tasks we are about in our time.

This goes against others who claim God considers homosexuality a “sin” and labels such actions as “perversion.”  The theologians who speak out in favor of gay behavior who know a lot more about religion and the Bible than many of us.

The religious and Biblical theologians quoted here suggest those who condemn homosexuality are guided more by personal biases of their own and not by any valid claim from a divine power or religious text.

I agree.  I see too much hate, too much discrimination and too much bigotry that is wrapped in Biblical misquotes and misinterpretation.

Hate is a sad human trait and it is used by too many to rationalize their claims of support from a God that many others, with valid religious educations and experiences, do not share their biases, discrimination or bigotry.

I was raised to believe in and support a God that is loving and tolerant. The God that is referenced in too many pulpits today is unknown to me.  When God is misused to justify hate and intolerance, it is time to walk away from such purveyors of misinformation and seek a better path with a God that they do not know or his teachings they do not preach.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse