April 25, 2008

African Delegates Could Block GLBT Acceptance at Methodist Convention

According to a report in The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog (one of the better sources for religious news I've found), if it was strictly up to American delegates of the United Methodist Church's General Conference, the denomination's official position on homosexuality could very well change.

This report says that many Americans would be in favor of no longer classifying homosexuality as against biblical teaching, but there is strong opposition to that coming from African delegates:

Among the delegates I chatted with was Boniface Kabongo. He's a student at Africa University and a pastor from the Congo, and this is his first General Conference. He's part of a much larger African contingent of delegates than at the last General Conference, in 2004. This reflects the growth of the UMC in Africa.

He said the African delegates are opposed to ordination of non-celibate homosexual pastors in the UMC.

"I don't think any delegate from Africa can accept this," he said.

Many American members of the UMC favor changing the denomination's official position that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Many also would like to see the church open itself to non-celibate gay pastors. But the growing influence of the conservative Africans doesn't bode well for such changes.

Mr. Kabongo said that the Africans would also likely oppose any restructuring of the UMC intended to give the U.S. churches the chance to adopt for themselves a more accepting position on homosexuality.

Click here to read the rest of the story from The Dallas Morning News.

April 24, 2008

It's Interesting What You Can Find Out When You Look

When I first started attending Believers Covenant Fellowship, I had to be right with the idea of GLBT equality in the Kingdom of God before I could join in covenant with the ministry. I asked questions of Apostle Dale, Pastor Brenda and others, and I also researched multiple viewpoints concerning the "clobber passages" from the bible so often used to condemn homosexuality.

I concluded that those clobber passages were misinterpreted and misrepresented and that the bible clearly did NOT condemn homosexuality. A student at the University of North Carolina recently went through a similar process as an assignment in one of her classes and wrote about it for the Washington Post "On Faith" section. Not surprising, she reached a similar conclusion to mine:

I wish I knew Greek and not just to keep the fraternities straight. My debate for Intro to New Testament class was entitled “Resolved: The New Testament Condemns Modern Practices of Homosexuality,” and I was assigned to the negative side with two other students. We hinged most of our argument on the fact that Paul and other New Testament writers did not know modern homosexuality as we know it.

We discussed how early Greco-Roman society had no concept of a defined “sexual orientation” and how in some areas it was socially acceptable for adult males with wives to have sexual encounters with young pubescent boys. Clearly different from our society, but arguing that Biblical rules don’t transcend time always brings in the scary question of where to draw the line. (“Love thy neighbor” seems pretty transcendent.) In that regard, we decided to focus our argument on a language we knew nothing about and years of translations and mistranslations even the best scholars can’t seem to sort out. Things got a little complicated.

The New Testament refers directly to homosexuality in three different places: Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10, and 1 Corinthians 6:9. Paul and the author of Timothy use various Greek words for the sinful and sexual acts they describe, especially this really sticky one “arsenokoitai” that does not appear in any literature that pre-dates the Pauline letters. “Arsenokoitai” has been translated into English as “sodomite” or “homosexual offender” but may be more ambiguous than Christians tend to think. Much of our research was based on John Boswell’s 1980 book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. He believed the Romans passage was more a warning against acting outside one’s natural sexual inclination, and the 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians passages were actually speaking against prostitution.

With a few coherent points made here and there, my debate group and the other group monotonously went back and forth for fifty minutes, quibbling on a couple Greek words and certainly changing no one’s mind about homosexuality in a single class period. John Boswell was a devout Roman Catholic his entire life, and for me it was impossible to separate his interpretation of Scripture from his attempt to be true to both his faith and his sexual orientation. No two Christians have the exact same faith. We see in Scripture what we want to see—especially when we have thousands of translations to look at. I gave the opening statement and stated with conviction that the New Testament does not condemn modern practices homosexuality. I also wrote an essay for that same class that gave the full argument for why it did.

What’s a Christian to do? My youth in a slightly-liberal-leaning Episcopal congregation would lead me to answer, nothing. My church was in a heated discussion about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to have their picture together in the church directory, like all the other families. Our minister gave a sermon one Sunday, saying he’d decided what to do. He wasn’t putting any sinners’ pictures in the directory. He held it up. Every page was blank. Maybe translation isn’t the issue. After Romans 1:26, it wouldn’t hurt to keep reading to Romans 2:1.

To save you from looking it up, here are the Romans verses:

Romans 1:26-27 (NIV): 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Romans 2:1 (NIV): You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

People have a really bad habit of forgetting that second scripture, don't they?

April 23, 2008

Inter-denominational Faith Video Supports Same-Sex Marriage

The folks at an organization called California Faith for Equality put together a nice video with members and leaders of various denominations supporting marriage equality. According to the site Good As You, the video was posted on You Tube and also God Tube. You won't find it ont he latter anymore, however. God Tube pulled the video off its site, apparently because of its support for that infamous "homosexual lifestyle."

Well, we support GLBT people here and are happy to link to the video. It's refreshing, sincere, and well worth watching.

Click here to see the video.

April 22, 2008

Christian TV Host Comes Out

From Out & About, (Nashville, TN):

Local Nashvillian and host of The Remix, a popular Christian youth show, Azariah Southworth, announced today that he has come out.

“This has been a long time coming. I’m in a place where I’m at peace with my faith, friends, family and more importantly myself. I know this will end my career in Christian television, but I must now live my life openly and honestly with everyone. This is my reason for doing this,” Southworth says.

Southworth has been hosting and producing the popular Christian TV show, The Remix for a year and a half. It is in syndication and can be seen in more than 128 million homes worldwide. It averages more than 200,000 viewers weekly on one of three networks. It has featured major Christian acts such as Jars of Clay, Avalon, Superchick, Building 429 and Rachael Lampa.

Southworth has been featured in national publications such as Charisma Magazine and many other national Christian media outlets. “I know I will be cut off from many within the Christian community, and if so, then they didn’t get the point of the life of Christ. I believe by me living my life honestly and authentically now, I am able to be a better person and a better Christian. We all know there are so many other gay people in the Christian industry; they’re just all scared. I was scared, but now I’m no longer afraid,” notes Southworth.

It is a real shame that Southworth was forced to make a choice--be a representative of Christian media or be true to who he is. After all, if the spirit of Christ is in us, how can we be deceptive about who we are and find peace?

Hopefully, Azariah Southworth will now know peace, and perhaps at least a few Christians will ask if there is anything really different about him now than when he was a popular host of a Christian program?

Perhaps some will ask if Southworth's public acknowledgement of being a gay man really does make him less of a Christian. Since he is being true to how God made him, I suggest that he is now following God's will more closely and bringing more pleasure to the Lord.

April 21, 2008

A Gay Breakthrough in Judaism

Christian denominations are hardly the only ones who discriminate against GLBT people, especially when it comes to ordination. There has been a recent breakthrough in the Jewish faith, however, with two gay students enrolled at a Jewish seminary. Hopefully forward thinking like this will continue to spread within Christian denominations still closed to ordination of GLBT people.

I seldom if ever post anything about Judaism, but this past Saturday, our church held its annual Passover Sader. While it wouldn't be confused with one at a synagogue, it was still inclusive of many of the 4,000 year old traditions. Why a Sader in a Christian church? Well, the Last Supper was a Passover Sader, wasn't it?

From the New York Times:

Aaron Weininger stood in the ballroom of a Florida hotel last April, a college senior given the compliment of leading the Passover Seder for an audience of university administrators. He reached the sentence in the Hagaddah that implores each generation to feel that it was the one liberated from Egypt. There were few passages in the liturgy he had known better or longer.

In this particular moment, though, the words rippled with new meaning. One week earlier, the leading seminary of Conservative Judaism had dropped its longstanding ban on admitting, teaching or ordaining openly gay students to be rabbis. Ten days later, Mr. Weininger had his interview at Jewish Theological Seminary, seeking to be the first person to break those barriers.

“That line of the Haggadah spoke so directly to me,” Mr. Weininger, 23, recalled in an interview. “To feel what it was like to be liberated from a narrow place. Egypt can mean different things in different generations. And I felt like I was on the threshold of crossing the sea, of leaving that place of narrowness. I hadn’t reached the Promised Land yet, but I was on my journey.”

As Passover of 2008 commences Saturday night, Mr. Weininger, along with Ian Chesir-Teran, is one of two gay rabbinical students at J.T.S., as the seminary is routinely known. Their presence has essentially, if not always easily, settled decades of roiling debate within the Conservative movement over homosexual members of the clergy.

Click here to read the rest of the NY Times story.