Questions for Gay Friendly Pastor?

I am conducting an email interview with a female pastor who is also the author of a forthcoming book on reconciling homosexuality with Christianity — in essence, saying that there isn’t any problem being GLBT and Christian. The book is touted as a “A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians.”

What questions would you like her to answer?

  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    How does she deal with other religious figures that consider homosexuality an abomination? Does she worry about her church fracturing over the issue?

  • Ron in Houston

    My question would be this:

    “Define what it means to be a GLBT Christian.”

  • Larry Huffman

    Do you mind being hypocritical, especially in a teaching and guidance role?

    When and where did your god inform you to ignore large parts of his doctrine?

    Did your god happen to enlighten you on any one of a hundred areas where christianity is at odds with what is considered ethical by societal standards or is this the only thing he wanted to clear up?

    The basis for my questioning is simple: The bible…the only representation of the christian god’s word…never has changed. Further…being against homosexuality, while wrong, is only the tip of the iceberg. So god’s law is actually in harmony with homosexuality, but women are still second class citizens? Slavery is still condoned in the bible? Homosexuality is still considered wrong by anyone who believes the bible literally. As they should, if they profess a belief in the bible. The bible does not have any provisions for ignoring or mutating it’s words. It is pretty clear about itself. It considers itself the true, actual, non-metaphorical word of god and history of his chosen people. Any changes to that is from man. period. There can be no other explaination…save it be a revelation from god (the mormons actually did revise much of what was said and claimed it was from god).

    So, unless this pastor has revelation from her god that these changes of viewpoint should occur…then it is just her human and ethical side making her feel this way. That is not wrong…in fact, most excellent!! I wish all pastors had this revelation. But…why stop there? Just examine the fact that you just made your part with your god’s word publically. Why not part with all of the other nonsense too? Then look at it what is left and see if you can believe anything that also included what you just deemed improper.

  • Anthony

    Not quite a question, but I would like her to be aware of an emerging evolutionary hypothesis for homosexuality – homosexuality as a result of sexually antagonistic selection. It has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, and last month made the cover of Psychology Today. This hypothesis incorporates all known data regarding homosexuality (twin studies, sibling studies, birth order studies, kin fitness studies, etc) AND provides a common evolutionary basis for the phenomenon.

    There are many, even atheists, who still believe homosexuality does not have a Darwinian explanation – but that is simply not the case in the literature. To the contrary, it would be surprising (given the complexity of our sexual selection adaptations) if homo sapiens did not produce a small percentage of homosexuals in its populations.

  • Anne

    How can I talk to other religious people who damn homosexuals and oppose gay marriage? What arguments will convince them homosexuality is okay with your God?

  • Erp

    Not sure what to ask. Maybe why be christians?

    I note she is United Church of Christ which, I believe, is the most liberal of the major mainstream Christian churches (not to be confused with the Church of Christ which is conservative nor the Unitarian Universalist Association which may be more liberal but isn’t strictly christian). Note that liberal christians (theologically) don’t take the Bible literally. The problem for gays and lesbians may be more in the churches that cover a wider range (e.g., Catholic and Episcopalian/Anglican) or are strictly conservative.

    The Anglicans are having a massive struggle about gays and lesbians with a lot of bitterness. They range from New Hampshire whose bishop is in a civil union to Nigeria where the archbishop has called for serious criminal penalties for those engaging in homosexual acts. See http://www.integrityusa.org/lambeth2008/index.html

  • http://AgnosticOracle.livejournal.com AgnosticOracle

    Historically enlightenment values have often been adopted by liberal Christian denomination and eventually spread to become the default Christian position. You find abolitionist and gender equality sentiments among the Quakers as early as the 17th century. However it wasn’t until after the American Civil War that opposition to slavery started to approach universal status among American Christians. While to this day the Catholics and many fundamentalist still insist on lower status for women in their church hierarchies.

    Do you expect it to take 200 years for mainstream Christianity to adopt more enlightened views such as your own on LBGT issues? If not why?

  • Ron in Houston

    Erp

    No offense, but you need to read what you write before you post it. After two readings I got what you were saying, but at first reading it sounded like Gene Robinson was in a civil union with a Nigerian bishop.

  • Jarrad

    I would like to know how she personally reconsiles being a GLTB Christian with the bible verses so often used to persecute homosexuals.

    I would also like to know her feelings on pre-marital sex in general.

    Finally, I would ask her what she recommends for enrolling others in this line of thought.

  • Erp

    Ron,

    Sorry, long day tracing networking cables, and, I suspect I write a slightly different dialect of English. I certainly didn’t intend to imply that Gene Robinson was in a civil union with Peter Akinola.

  • krissncleo

    Why would you support a religion that (generally) does not support you? They claim that their “book” tells them so and that it is the word of the “great surveillance camera in the sky”, but that is (wrong) interpretation. It is like gays and lesbians in the military. They don’t want you, but you faithfully do your duty, which is quite admirable. I have support for the gay and lesbian community and if there is a desire in that community to practice religion and be in the military (even though I don’t approve of either) then more power to you and good luck.

    Kriss

  • Pseudonym

    Larry Huffman:

    Do you mind being hypocritical, especially in a teaching and guidance role? When and where did your god inform you to ignore large parts of his doctrine?

    My question for you: Does agreeing with fundies help reduce your cognitive dissonance, or does it just help with building strawmen?

    OK, now my question for Candace: There are some people in the church who genuinely believe that homosexuality is part of their identity, and a gift from God. Others disagree. There are others who genuinely believe that God has “cured” them of homosexuality. Others disagree. Should both groups be accommodated? If so, how? If not, why not?

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org/ cognitive dissident

    What does she think about theory (which I first read in John Shelby Spong’s Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism) that Paul might have been gay? This theory, as Spong explained it, has some interesting implications for the New Testament’s stance on homosexuality; I’d be interested to hear her take on it.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Question 1:

    How do you decide which parts of the Bible are divinely inspired truth, and which are mistaken and harmful pieces of human bigotry? And if the answer is any version of “looking in your heart,” what do you say about the millions of other people who look in their hearts and come up with a completely opposite answer?

    Okay, that came out a little snarkier than I’d intended. And it’s pretty much the same question I’d ask any progressive, non-literal believer. Still a valid question, though, and one I’ve never received a satisfying answer to.

    Anyway. On to Question #2:

    What is your attitude towards other Christians who are hateful towards gays and lesbians? One of the main complaints atheists have about progressive Christians is that they’re unwilling to speak out strongly against fellow Christians with bigoted and hateful beliefs. Will you speak out in no uncertain terms about the Radical Religious Right? And if not, why not?

  • RobertP

    I’m a former Southern Baptist – now atheist – gay man who, ironically, is sorta glad that I was brought up in such an oppressive and hateful religion. If it wasn’t for that I may not have questioned things and wouldn’t be the atheist/humanist/Bright I am today.

    With all that said I really appreciate anyone who is willing to work to help stop hatemongering within the religious communities…

    I would ask her:

    1) What can you, and others like you, do to help enlighten other spiritual/religious leaders that it’s best for them and their flock to stop the intolerant hate speech against GLBT people?

    2) Can you blame GLBT people for sloughing off religions after being treated so poorly for so long?

    3) Does it matter to you whether being GLBT is a “choice” or not? Do you discern between being “created” GLBT or the possibility of a fluid sexuality over a lifetime? [A side note here: I don't care how people come to love and be attracted to other people, regardless of gender. Sexual orientation doesn't have to be concrete over one's lifetime]

    4) How do you feel about GLBT people (single or couples) adopting children?

    5) Do you have any reservations about children learning at a young age about GLBT people? [I, of course, don't mean sexual activities, but about people loving each other.]

    6) Do you think GLBT people should be granted the right to marry each other?

    7) Do you see GLBT people and their relationships as absolutely equal to heterosexual people and their relationships? In every way?

    Thanks,

    ~Robert

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Do you think that there is a battle for minds on this issue? Do you think there is a way to present homosexuality in such a way as it seems more compelling to accept a different sexual orientation then it is to treat it as an illness which needs to be cured?

  • Daniel Hoffman

    What is your authority for judging this issue?

  • Darryl

    Huffman is correct. It may be inconvenient for you liberal Christians, but the Bible clearly slams homosexuality. Edit your own version that leaves out the parts that are stupid and have done with it, but don’t try to convince us that it doesn’t mean what it says.

    There are some people in the church who genuinely believe that homosexuality is part of their identity, and a gift from God.

    I think gay people, aside from individual achievements, make a good, special, and necessary contribution to us all because of their gayness, and time will only further bear this out.

  • Siamang

    I’d like to respond with a bit more measured tone. Here is someone wanting a dialogue and kind of getting their head cut off. But I think that the reaction here is instructive.

    So my question would be this:

    To put it mildly, I think we can say there’s a large amount of hostility toward religion over this issue. This issue has been a phenomenal moral failure on the part of organized religion around the world, and serves to show us that religion absolutely fails as a force for moral leadership in a changing society. Indeed, it is a moral trailer… so late to so many core moral issues that it wallows and even trumpets bigotries thousands of years old as if they were moral successes. While society changes, religion digs in its heels… dragging us back to the dark ages.

    Given religion’s track-record… late to the gay rights movement… late to the fight against AIDS… late to the women’s rights movement… late to the civil rights movement… late to the environmental movement… How do you argue FOR inculcating new generations of GLBT individuals into a set of moral codes written when women, children and *livestock* had roughly equal rights? When these individuals and their progeny grow older, will they be voices against the next necessary moral change in society? Will they be the ones raising their voices against the rights and equality of the next group to come along or against the next environmental threat, medical crisis or social need?

  • llewelly

    The bible appears to describe male homosexuality as an abomination. Yet studies show that discrimination against gays is the principal cause of the high suicide rate young gay men suffered from for so long (which has fortunately declined in recent years, due to reduced rates of discrimination). Further, long term studies of gays who have been through ‘ex-gay’ ministries show that these gays suffer from greatly increased rates of depression, suicide, and other serious mental disorders (when compared with gays who have not been through ‘ex-gay’ ministries). I view this as evidence that the bible sometimes commands people to commit immoral acts that result in the suffering and deaths of others. If these acts are the result of misinterpretations of the bible, does that not imply that the bible is a moral minefield, which the majority of past and present christian societies have failed to interpret correctly? Why use a moral guide that is so difficult to understand and so easy to misunderstand?

  • Pseudonym

    Darryl:

    It may be inconvenient for you liberal Christians, but the Bible clearly slams homosexuality. Edit your own version that leaves out the parts that are stupid and have done with it, but don’t try to convince us that it doesn’t mean what it says.

    On the contrary, the Bible clearly says nothing whatsoever about sexual orientation. You know as well as I do the usual passages that get trotted out on such occasions, so you should also know that exactly none of them mention sexual orientation. So it’s simply incorrect to say that “the Bible clearly slams homosexuality”.

    There are, of course, some passages which mention specific sexual practices. Which specific misbehaviours they are intended to address is a matter of some debate, and at any rate, this is for historians to work out.

    Even if they do refer to certain homosexual practices in general (as opposed to being in response to specific misbehaviours), that would still only pose a problem to people who take the Bible literally.

    For someone like me who follows the teachings and practices of Jesus, well, he didn’t mention any specific sexual practices at all. He didn’t approve of adultery, and that’s about it.

  • Pseudonym

    Siamang, I’m not from the US, but I understood that the civil rights movement was largely led by religious people of one form or another. Was that not the case? (I realise that some religious groups were late to the party, or completely anti.)

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    Why do you feel it’s necessary to ignore the anti-homosexual parts of the bible? Why don’t you just realize that the Bible really IS a hateful book, and that gay people would be much better off throwing away the Christian part of their identity? You can be good without believing in the hateful philosophies of Christianity.

  • Siamang

    Clearly Dr. Martin Luther King was religious, to be sure.

    But if it were true that the majority of religious people in America in the 40′s 50′s and 60′s were supporters of the civil rights movement, it wouldn’t have taken decades.

    We’re talking about an era when the majority of whites supported segregation, and the majority of whites were Christians. It’s not like most Christians were pro-integration, but it was being held back by the throngs of atheists!

    Christianity can certainly claim its heroes among the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately it can also claim legions of villains, including the KKK.

    But there would be no need for a movement at all if Christianity itself was a force for moral leadership.

  • Pseudonym

    Siamang, it seems to me that you’re using some quite selective evidence there. Or perhaps the problem is the majority of Americans were reactionary, rather than the majority of Christians.

    Picking one more example, environmentalism very closely associated with hippies, which were in turn associated with George Harrison-style Hinduism and trendy hip Christianity (see Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar for more examples of 70s trendy hip Christianity). Some of my earliest Sunday school memories from the mid-to-late 70s involved a lot of ex-hippie environmentalism.

    Going back further in history, I can think of a lot of social movements led by religious people and organisations, including the labour movement, the animal welfare movement and the anti-slavery movement.

    The point is that I think it’s wrong to say that “religion” in general was “late” to most of these social movements. Some of them, for sure. But many of these movements were led by religious people and organisations.

    We’re talking about an era when the majority of whites supported segregation, and the majority of whites were Christians. It’s not like most Christians were pro-integration, but it was being held back by the throngs of atheists!

    You’re also talking about an era when the majority of black people were probably anti-segregation (I’m just guessing here, don’t know much about it) and the majority of black people were Christians, too. Moreover, it’s also not like most non-believers were pro-whatever, and they were being held back by throngs of Christians.

    This is the problem that one has when claiming things about “religion” in general: Almost no generalisations are accurate.

    BTW: Historically, non-believers have generally pretty much followed the popular prejudices of their day, though again there are some notable exceptions.

    But there would be no need for a movement at all if Christianity itself was a force for moral leadership.

    I’m not claiming by any means that many social movements have been resisted by reactionaries inside Christianity or other religions. The thing is, if the majority of the population is reactionary (as they often are), and the majority of the population is religions (as has historically been the case in English-speaking countries), then it’s inevitable that this will happen.

    It takes time to win over a large population no matter what the issue. We can see it now in Christianity, inside mainline and liberal denominations. Those in a leadership position are often more liberal than most of the congregations. It takes time to win them over if you don’t have a tradition of telling people they must do this lest they burn in hell. This is especially hard if you don’t believe in hell in the first place.

  • Dylan Armitage

    This falls a bit out of the pattern of questions being asked, but I still think the answer would be interesting.

    What is your take on the semi-recent split in the Episcopalian Church, the Diocese of the San Joaquin seceding from the Episcopal Church and joining the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, over the two opposing views of homosexuality?

  • http://szelidolajfa.blog.hu teri

    How does she interpret those passages of the Old and New Testament that are about homosexuality?

  • http://www.religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I think Christendom should hold an international theological convention to adopt a common dogma to unify Christianity. This convention should consist of all the leaders of all the various denominations and sects within Christianity including Catholics (Roman and Eastern Orthodox), Protestant (all denominations), and any other Christian sect with a large following. The goal of the convention should be to edit the bible text to remove ambiguity and clear up its true meaning for all Christians. So after the convention, there will be just one re-written bible for everyone to use that unambiguously has God’s true Word. And in support of the right to keep and bear arms, all convention participants should have with them loaded hand-guns with plenty of ammunition. Imagine… ;)

    And if the participants of the first convention cannot reach consensus (or maintain a quorum), then new participants should be recruited. This cycle will continue until the goal of the convention can be met.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Jeff,
    1/ The eastern orthodox ain’t catholic
    2/ There is no need to rewrite the Bible text to do that, all we have to do to dispense with multiple translations is to dispense with multiple languages and adopt a single world language.
    3/ The right to bear arms is in the American constitution but not the Bible. Not being an American I am not bound by your constitution.

  • TXatheist

    Why be a xian when the bible clearly condemns homosexuality?

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org/ cognitive dissident

    I’m curious about her thoughts on the pro-LGBT arguments found in the following books:

    Daniel Helminiak What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality
    Robert Goss Jesus Acted Up: A Gay and Lesbian Manifesto

  • Siamang

    Pseudonym, you wrote:

    The thing is, if the majority of the population is reactionary (as they often are), and the majority of the population is religions (as has historically been the case in English-speaking countries), then it’s inevitable that this will happen.

    Yes, but my point is that if Christianity was a force for moral leadership, we should see corrolation. We don’t.

    The point is that I think it’s wrong to say that “religion” in general was “late” to most of these social movements. Some of them, for sure. But many of these movements were led by religious people and organisations.

    I think these leadership groups represented a small slice of the pie of believers. Yes, we now, with the benefit of hindsight, can point to Dr King, for instance and say “wow, he did it.” And ignore the millions of Christians who were vociferously (and in some cases, violently) for the exact opposite.

    So my question is, will today’s GLBT Christians lead the next civil rights movement, or will they do as (IMO) people like Jesse Jackson did, which is turn his back on, and actually fight AGAINST, the next civil rights movement (gay rights).

    It takes time to win over a large population no matter what the issue. We can see it now in Christianity, inside mainline and liberal denominations. Those in a leadership position are often more liberal than most of the congregations.

    My point is, and I think it’s clear in the case of gay rights here, is that this “winning over the population” runs much slower within religious groups than it does in the society at large. Hence the lag, where today in 2008, people are still in church arguing about the equality of women.

  • http://newref.blogspot.com/ James

    My question is this:

    Do you think the whole gay issue with the church is simply one part of a larger struggle/riff; the struggle between strict literalistic interpretations of the Bible, and more open or liberal interpretations?

    Those of us on the Christian Left always seem to find ourselves at odds with the Christian conservatives/fundamentalists on issues like homosexuality, literal interpretations of the creation parable, etc. We are accused of not truly believing in the Bible, while in fact the fundies are guilty of “selective literalism;” you see them protesting gay pride events, but not Red Lobster, when clearly the Old Testament says shellfish are an abomination. We liberal Christians tend to take a broader look at the truth of the message of the Bible; love God and love your fellow humans. Don’t judge, but practice sacrificial and unconditional love. Like Rev. Gene Robinson has said, “the Bible is the best witness we have” about God, but I don’t believe in worshiping it. The Old Testament laws were for a specific people at a specific time, and the Old Testament as a whole was writen by men who were trying to understand God as best they could at that time. Our understanding of the Bible, and of God, must continue to evolve. The Church no longer uses Scripture to back the idea of a geocentric universe. The church (even the Southern Baptists) no longer use Scripture to justify slavery.

  • http://uncrediblehallq.net/blog/ The Uncredible Hallq

    Here’s my advice Hemant–spend a little bit of time brushing up on what theologians have said about the Bible, so you know how to try to get her to commit to a specific position. A good starting point is asking her about what the smarter evangelicals will say, that everything in the Bible is true when you interpret it according to the original intent. You also hear some theologians talk about what the Bible “teaches,” with the idea that there are things in the Bible that are just said incidentally but not “taught,” and only the “teachings” are what are infallible. Ask whether she thinks appropriate interpretation would mean finding what the author meant. What limits there are to how the Bible can be reinterpreted. Etc.

    The reason you want to be careful here is that the stock answers can be equivocal, so you have to probe a little to get a definite answer to a lot of basic questions.

  • llewelly

    Jeff:

    I think Christendom should hold an international theological convention to adopt a common dogma to unify Christianity.

    It’s interesting that you should say this in a thread about Christianity and homosexuality. A rather large and venerable Christian church, the Anglican Union, recently disunified itself over the very issue of homosexuality. I expect we will continue to see further splits.

  • http://http: grazatt

    Is she trying to proselytize non christian people?

  • Iztok

    everything in the Bible is true when you interpret it according to the original intent.

    That is just it. Short of ability to ask the original author there is no way to know what original intent was. It could be one of many ways one interprets. There is no way to know for sure.

  • Pseudonym

    Siamang:

    Yes, but my point is that if Christianity was a force for moral leadership, we should see corrolation. We don’t.

    Surely we would only expect to see that if Christiantity were one movement, one organisation, one thing. It isn’t.

  • Erp

    My guess is

    1. that groups/people on the periphery tend to be leaders (either reactionary or radical). Groups in the mainstream tend to be conservative
    2. that religions can provide existing structures (both mental and organizational) that can help peripheral groups/people to be effective (instead of building them from scratch)

    Hence small religious groups such as Quakers or some of the Black Churches tend to lead on social issues. Large churches (or at least their leaders) such as the Roman Catholic Church are conservative.

  • Siamang

    Surely we would only expect to see that if Christiantity were one movement, one organisation, one thing. It isn’t.

    Yeah… if it were based on the unambiguous teachings of one moral leader, or one Divine Force…. Then there might be a little bit more continuity.

    But my point still stands… taken as an AVERAGE, on the whole, counting all the Christians in the country…. they lag the general population in civil rights issues.

    So my question to Reverend Chellew-Hodge still stands: why bring GLBT individuals into a worldview with a poor track-record in fighting bigotry? Will they not be the Jesse Jacksons of tomorrow?

  • Pseudonym

    Yeah… if it were based on the unambiguous teachings of one moral leader, or one Divine Force…. Then there might be a little bit more continuity.

    Indeed.

    This is no different, of course, from any other human movement, including most of the social movements that you mentioned. Democracy, for example is not one thing. Nor is feminism.

    But my point still stands… taken as an AVERAGE, on the whole, counting all the Christians in the country…. they lag the general population in civil rights issues.

    I can’t quite remember the specific demographics, but isn’t “all the Christians in the country” (by which, of course, you refer to only one country) pretty much “the general population”?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X