Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Answering "LGBTQ Ordination Resource"

We received the document below in reply to the pro-inclusion resource we produced. We intend to give a full response, but in the interest of fairness we first present this document unedited and without comment that you may evaluate it on its own merits. We thank Rev. Tom Hobson for engaging with us in a substantive way and welcome further discussion from him or any other interested parties.


Here is Rev. Hobson on what he would emphasize from his response, as communicated to Doug via email:

"The two elements of mine I would lift up above all the others are: the thrice-repeated "the two [man and woman] shall become one flesh" as the central Biblical teaching on sexuality; and my insistence that both OT & NT forbid all sexual behavior outside this context, regardless of whether or not it is loving and mutual.  Loving, mutual same-sex  relations are well-documented in Paul's world (see my Outlook blog "A Progressive Myth", 10/4/10), and the burden of proof is on those who deny that they existed (and are forbidden) in the Bronze Age world of the Hebrews.  A lot of this material is in a book I have recently finished for which I am currently seeking a publisher: What's On God's Sin List For Today?, including discussions of OT law, sexuality, alcohol and drugs (including marijuana and opium in the Biblical world), and gambling (which was well-known in the NT world, but not condemned until after 200 AD)."

By Rev. Tom Hobson, Ph.D., Biblical Exegesis

Here are brief point-by-point answers to the 11 objections to homosexual ordination and the 12 arguments in its favor presented by Rev. Doug Hagler and Rev. Aric Clark. We begin with their answers to objections:

“Homosexuality is an abomination.” [My advice to conservatives: skip this argument. It is not central to our case.] Non-kosher food is an “abomination” (Deut 14:3), not to God, but in the sense that it is to be utterly despised by Jews. Jesus sets aside the kosher food laws for Christians (Mark 7:19), but there is nothing else in the Hebrew Bible described as an “abomination” that is not reaffirmed as sin in the New Testament other than cross-dressing (Deut 22:5). Male and female prostitution are specifically an abomination “to YHWH” (Deut 23:19), as are any form of idolatry, witchcraft, adultery, homosexual behavior, bestiality, and incest. Non-kosher food is the only ritual-cleanliness category for which this term is used.
It is claimed here that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 does not describe a “committed, monogamous relationship between two people of the same gender” because this was “not a category considered in Bronze Age Middle Eastern thought.” No such distinction was necessary. In both Leviticus and 1 Corinthians, we see that love, consent, and commitment are irrelevant. Both active and passive partner are held equally guilty, no matter what their motives or the quality of their relationship.

“Homosexuality is the ‘sin of Sodom’.” How can you deny the obvious?? One can say that intended rape is the real issue, but clearly implied is the sense that Sodom is depraved because they demand sex with their own gender. Homosexuality is never named specifically in other Biblical references to Sodom because the audience already knows the story (although see 2 Pet 2:7, which connects Sodom with the sexual sin of aselgeia). Ezekiel mentions inhospitality, but it also says Sodom did “abominable” deeds, an obvious categorical reference to the abominations named in Leviticus (Ezek 16:50).

“Homosexuality is like pedophilia or bestiality.” True, we cannot lump homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia together, but why is the person who is attracted to children to be viewed as dirt, while everyone else is loved by God? The real issue is not whether those who practice same-sex intercourse are loved by God, but the fact that all three practices in question here both grieve God and harm the person who does them.

“Homosexuality is like incest or polyamory.” The Bible does NOT teach the goodness of behaviors that it tolerates in its characters. That is a deliberate falsehood. The Bible’s central teaching is stated three times, in the Torah, by Jesus, and by Paul: “The two [man and woman] shall become one flesh.” God intends sex only for a lifelong one-flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Any other practice is a departure from God’s intention, including fornication, concubinage, polygamy, and divorce.
What 50% of Americans practice is serial monogamy, not polyamory. With regard to Christian leadership, we regard divorce as sin redeemable by repentance and fidelity to one’s subsequent spouse. In the current debate, we are being asked to affirm homosexuality, not as sin redeemable by repentance, but as a good gift of God and a human right.

“Homosexuality is unnatural.” When we say “unnatural,” we mean that God did not design us to do this. In his book What We Can’t Not Know, Budziszewski argues from God’s design: Our lungs were designed to take in air, not food. The same is true for the issue of practicing sexuality in total defiance to God’s design.
Same-sex relations are a part of nature. But so is sex between different species. So are cancer, schizophrenia, and AIDS. So are black widows and praying mantises who kill and eat their mates, and mackerel who kill purely for sport. “Go and do thou likewise”? And again, why is the natural sexual attraction to children not a part of God’s good creation? If we get rid of our arbitrary notion of consent, and/or if we can ever prove (as some in the APA have tried to do) that sex with children can sometimes be healthy, our objection to it becomes pure hatefulness.

“Homosexuality is dangerous and/or unhealthy.” Homosexuality is no more or less dangerous and/or unhealthy than heterosexual immorality when practiced to the same degree. Both should be avoided.

“Homosexuality is a choice.” We concur that same-sex desire is not a choice. As in the case of substance addiction, the choice is how we respond. We expect a pedophile to make the right choices in response to their attraction to children, even though they did not choose to have these desires. Those with same-sex attraction who choose not to get involved sexually with their own gender tend to have more success breaking free from their desires than those who do become sexually involved.

“Sexual orientation can be changed with ‘reparative therapy’.” The claims that reparative therapy is a cruel hoax are sweeping and unsubstantiated. Reputable reparative therapy has been shown to have a 70% success rate in reducing unwanted same-sex desire, a rate comparable to substance addiction treatment. Both kinds of treatment have a similar rate of recidivism, but no one claims that treatment for addiction is useless or harmful.

“Homosexuality damages society and/or traditional marriage.” Here I defer to page 13 of Alan Wisdom’s article “Is Marriage Worth Defending?” (http://www.theologymatters.com/TM100216.Part1.pdf) He argues that divorce and adultery around us tends to erode the marriages of all married couples. The same would be true for cohabiting couples, and for the acceptance of gay marriage as simply one more lifestyle option.
Again, I reject the claim that the Bible approves of eight different kinds of marriage. The marrying of female captives after a one-month waiting period is the Bible’s unique humane alternative to what everyone else in the Near East: rape and sale into slavery. Marrying a slave promoted her to family status; what’s wrong with that? Jesus rejects polygamy, and Leviticus 18 makes it extremely difficult, since it forbids marriage to any in-law. The only reason we do not favor levirate marriage is because we no longer have the same level of concern for preserving offspring for a man who has died. And the supposed forced marriage of a rape victim is actually marriage of a girl who has been seduced, which the girl’s father can prevent if the male is a jerk. (Here is a case of gratuitously seeking to distort the Bible by exaggeration to make it sound unworthy of belief.)

“Paul condemns homosexuality.” Hagler and Clark’s reading of Romans 1 bears no resemblance to the text or context. Clearly, in Romans 1, homosexuality of both kinds is presented as a warning light for the depths of human depravity, not a gift of God if only it were practiced properly. It is not “cherry-picking” to take Paul’s sin list in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 as timeless and universal, both because it reaffirms many Old Testament commands that carried a death penalty (indicating their seriousness), and because it warns that those who continue such practices “shall not inherit the reign of God.”

“Ordaining LGBTQ people makes it harder to work with churches in the rest of the world.” The Two-Thirds World is a reminder to us that our rejection of Biblical sexual ethics is a heresy of Western white revisionists.

The following are responses to the writers’ positive arguments:

“Justification is by faith.” Here is where the writers, in the words of Jude, “twist the grace of God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4). “Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist” (1 John 2:4; see also 1 John 3:6). The issue is not pure sinlessness (1 John 1:10 says we make God a liar if we claim we are sinless), but the unrepentant persistence in sin. 35 years ago, I never thought I would find myself quoting James’ “Faith without works is dead” and insisting on repentance, but that’s because I never dreamed there would be such open rebellion against the will of Christ within the church.

“We are sanctified by the Holy Spirit and gifted for service.” Not without repentance! Sexual immorality “should not even be named among you” as an acceptable Christian form of behavior (Eph 5:3). The issue is not what we have done in our past, but whether it has stayed in our past, or remains part of our present lifestyle.

“LGBTQ persons have clearly demonstrated spiritual gifts for ministry.” So have many heterosexual offenders, whom we rightly exclude from ministry if they cannot desist from their behavior. Powerful preachers and teachers who are living in defiance of God’s revealed will are a threat to the peace, unity, and purity of the church.

“We call unclean what God calls clean.” Nowhere do the writers ever demonstrate that God calls same-sex intercourse clean.

“We are made a community of equals in Christ.” Equality is not the issue.

“Jesus is silent on homosexuality, and nowhere in the Bible are loving monogamous LGBTQ relationships dealt with at all.” False on both counts. Jesus says more about homosexuality than he does about the environment, health care, and numerous other issues. Aside from affirming the central teaching of the Torah on sexuality (quoted above), Jesus also names the sin of aselgeia on his sin list in Mark 7:22. Aselgeia is a term used by Jews for shocking violations of the sex laws of the Torah beyond adultery and fornication, and is likely to have been his term for homosexual behavior. The burden of proof is on those who claim that the Bible’s prohibitions of homosexual behavior do not deal with loving mutual LGBTQ behavior. The term Paul uses in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy is a generic masculine noun, “he who has koitos with a male.” There is no indication that the act is not loving and mutual.

“Our first and most important ordination is baptism,” “The priesthood is composed of all believers,” “Exclusion LGBTQ of persons adds nothing of value to the ordination standards we already have.” What a watering-down of ordination into meaninglessness! It ignores Paul’s teachings in 1 Timothy and Titus about the necessity of leaders sending the right message by their manner of life to those they lead and to outsiders. One gets the impression that as long as one has a baptismal certificate, one’s manner of life, calling, and gifts are irrelevant. The writers state that “chastity in singleness” does not begin to address the social reality of the average American who starts having sex at 16 and does not marry until 28. Apparently the crowd and the Gallup Poll determine God’s truth, and if 60% of pastors seduce their parishioners, then God had better get rid of our outdated standards. Seriously, we know we will never stamp out domestic violence and substance abuse among our people, but we rightly allow zero tolerance for them, no matter how prevalent they may become.

“LGBTQ persons already serve in other denominations and organizations, proving dire predictions false every day.” This claim ignores what’s going on in the Anglican communion and the ELCA at the moment. Give it time. Unlike the UCC, we are a connectional church, therefore we have yet to see what will happen when we overturn our standards. And if the Bible is merely a book full of fairy tales, then yes, a church with LGBTQ leaders will not be much different from a church without them.

“No church that does not choose an LGBTQ minister, Elder, or Deacon will ever have to ordain one.” Nonsense! An empty, false promise if there ever was one. The movement for LGBTQ ordination is based on it being a fundamental issue of justice. Justice cannot allow injustice to coexist with it in the same house. The permission to ordain women, within 20 years became the requirement to ordain or else. Already the GA has voted to require local churches to pay for pension and medical benefits for gay partners, whether it violates local conscience or not. We know it will not stop there.

“The church is currently lending tacit support to mocking, bullying, torment, and exclusion suffered by LGBTQ persons.” The people who practice bullying do not care what we in the church think about homosexuality or the use of violence, and they do not bother to bully or torment those who fornicate, abuse alcohol or drugs, or commit domestic violence, all of which we also oppose. And I will not be surprised if someday, those who support LGBTQ ordination will support the mocking, bullying, torment, and exclusion of those who hold the historic viewpoint on sexuality.

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