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January 16, 2013

Comments

Veronica Zundel

Malcolm, I understand where you are coming from, but you say nothing about what you think gay Christians are actually supposed to do. Jesus affirms celibacy as a valid calling (a calling he himself seems to have had) but he never says 'celibacy is a calling for some heterosexual people but for all homosexual people'. Of course he could not have said this, since he could not have understood sexual orientation in the terms we understand it today. However this is the implication of your blog. It has been well demonstrated that 'ex-gay' therapy does not work, except perhaps for a minute minority. As a pastor, how can you say that those people in your congregation who are homoerotically oriented are denied the love, commitment and support of a lifelong relationship, including the richness of a satisfying sex life? (I am presuming you only endorse civil partnerships for non-Christians, although perhaps I am presuming wrong?). Your theology is coherent (though I disagree with some of it, because although I love the Bible and take it seriously, I don't accord it the same status most evangelicals do), but I cannot see what the pastoral implications of this are. I also have to say that for me the defining centre of evangelicalism should not be the Bible per se, but the Jesus who is revealed in it.

Liz

Thanks Malcolm I found this really helpful.

Rachel

Thank you - well written, pastoral and faithful.

Ianchisnall.wordpress.com

Many thanks for your words Malcolm which like those of Steve Chalke and Steve Clifford in his item on the ea website bring so much wisdom and insight into a place where there has been so much hot air. All three of you and many more of us are part of one Church that is called both to unity and to reach out to people who you correctly admit have been failed by the Church. My experience of working with many people whose identity includes a sexuality which most of the church has rejected for many decades, is that they are disinterested in your theology or mine or those of the two Steves. However they are interested in how welcome they are made to feel by people who claim to believe in the acceptance of all that you refer to in your comments.

I hope there will be not too many more responses by heroes such as you and Steve Clifford before the Church admits to its behaviour which many within the LGBT community see as persecution and attempts to understand the life experiences which sadly too many churches have presumed does not happen here!

David Campbell

Thanks Malcolm, a good balanced and compassionate response. Very helpful

John  Glass

Excellent Malcolm - coherent,cogent and written from the heart of a pastor and the mind of a theologian

Gordon Malcolm

Maclolm a very well written and balanced article on what is a very challenging subject.

Andrew Whitman

An extremely helpful response Malcolm - many thanks! I've been reflecting afresh on John 8 recently, the woman caught in adultery... Jesus coupling non-judgmental forgiveness and thereby 'inclusion' with a call to ongoingly repentant discipleship (the repentance, as ever, generated by the kindness of God - Romans 2.4). If we disconnect the cost of following from the heart of the gospel - whatever the nature of our struggles - we begin to lose its transforming power in the process. Then, for example, inveterate thieves may continue to steal as new believers rather than learning to work and thus share with others (Ephesians 4.28). And personally, approaching 40 years on the Christian road, I still need transforming today as the second of the 3 tenses of salvation!!!

Charlotte Gompertz

Thank you Malcolm. I am concerned by your overuse of the term 'homoerotic'. Although the dictionary definition 'arousing sexual desire centred on a person of the same sex' seems simple enough, as a society we always equate the word 'erotic' with something naughty, sordid, dark and ever-so-slightly dirty. I don't believe you would use the word 'erotic' to describe a heterosexual relationship so why for a gay one? It makes me assume that you assume all gay relationships are 'dirty' which I hope isn't the case.

If it is, of course this is precisely one of Steve Chalke's points:

"One tragic outworking of the Church's historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneness, secrecy and fear. It's one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle - but shouldn't the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?"

Brian Davison

A very gracious response, but in one aspect I feel you have been unfair.
you say:
The simple, prophetic question that shapes everything else is this: What will we do with the Bible? We can justify our morality, explain away our shallowness, be absorbed by our culture and became a pale imitation of the Bride of Christ that we are called to be – all we need do is place the authority of God’s word under our desire to be inclusive or loving or welcoming.

This is unfair to those who are genuinely wrestling with what the bible says on the matter, to what circumstances it speaks, and how we apply what it says.
The simple question is what do we think scripture is saying to us at this time about this issue.
Those who argue for committed monogamous gay relationships argue that the bible is specific about promiscuous sex, but does not yet know of committed relationships (gay marriage) so we must work out the application from it's teaching on sex, commitment, and it's condemnation of promiscuity.

It is fair to argue about what the bible says and how closely it relates to the present question.
It is fair to argue about how the principles work out today, and how our culture influences what weight we give to what principles.
But it is not fair to argue that this is a matter of placing the authority of God's work under our own desire (whatever that desire may be). Many I have debated with are genuinely seeking to discern the voice of scripture on something that is unique to our time.

I say this not to argue for either view, but from listening carefully to both.

Gary Gibbs

Thanks very much for taking the time to write with such clarity on this issue, Malcolm.

Malcolm Duncan

Thanks Brian. I have sympathy with your view, but would argue that Scripture is clear about same sex unions and that we are culturally reading backwards into the context and shaping our reading of it through a modern lens too much when we assume that Scripture does not know of committed gay relationships. You are reading approval into silence I think. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond and may we continue to learn from one another.

Charlotte - I use the term homoerotic to indicate a difference from same sex attraction because I think confusion between the two is unhelpful.

Veronica, thanks for your comments. I think you are in danger of doing precisely what I articulate as an issue of concern, reading back from acceptance / inclusion into Scripture and crafting Scripture to fit our context rather than the other way around.

Thank you all for your comments, thoughts and reflections.

Sarah Hurst

Thanks for taking the time to explore this so fully Malcolm. It is great to have a balanced, considered, gracious piece to reflect on and refer people to. It is great to have your voice in the conversation...

Robert


Malcolm, you say Steve is starting "with what our society describes as ‘inclusion’ and read it back into Scripture", go on to imply that Steve is suggesting that "‘loving your neighbour’ demands ... blind acceptance of their behaviour or lifestyle", and later that "Steve is replacing this historic position of the bible as the source of our authoritative reflections on piety, conduct and behaviour (including sexual ethics) with a lens that is shaped more by our society’s desire to be ‘inclusive’ than God’s revelation of what is right and what is wrong and His desire to ‘include’".

I don't see any of these in what Steve wrote (take for example "Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising. Casual and self-centred expressions of sexuality – homosexual or heterosexual – never reflect God’s faithfulness, grace and self-giving love").

What I see is someone who genuinely loves God, genuinely loves and serves people and is genuinely commited to wrestling with Scripture and with Truth.

You've said "The Bible’s teaching and the historic teaching of the church on the issue of human sexuality seem to be one of the clearest threads of Scripture to me".

Steve explains that it may not be as clear as traditionally thought, yet you seem to just skate over this with "I do not believe we are free to change this ... To do so is, indeed, to move beyond the authority of Scripture and to instead hold Scripture under the authority of our culture", which I do not see Steve doing. (Steve also notes that the historic teaching of the church has been flawed before, including the position of the Sun and support for slavery.)

Peter Guinness

Thank you Malcolm for this clear identifying of the underlying issue. I agree that the trajectory of the Bible, is clear on this issue. As to the charge that Jesus makes no comment on same-sex issues is to forget that the Judaic interpretation of Genesis 2 which he re-iterates himself, namely, "A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife." is interpreted as meaning (a) leave mother and father - no incest (b) a man and his wife - no homosexual practice and (c) cleave to his wife - no adultery. And by Jesus's day the last point was extended to - no polygamy.

Ian Whitley

Malcolm, although I don't agree with your conclusions with regard same- sex marriage and what Sripture does or doesn't say on the matter I do agree whole heartily that we should discuss this in a loving way and not let this become a hurtful argument played out in public that reinforces the view of many that the Gospel is increasingly irrelevant.

I do think you are slightly guilty of doing the same thing that you accusing others of doing when you speak of culturally reading back into scripture to fit our views. When you respond to Brian's comments you infer he is wrong to assume that Scripture did not know of committed Gay relationships and he is reading approval into scilence. Surely you as wrong to assume Scripture did know of committed Gay relationships and you are reading disapproval into the same scilence.

Peter - your inference of what Jesus meant when he re-iterates Genesis 2 is valid but it is just that an inference you can not know 100% that Jesus had homosexual practices in his mind when he said what he said.

Malcolm Duncan

Dear Robert,

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate them. I guess the inherent difference for me is that the act of reading current accepted norms back into Scripture is in itself an act of placing today's accepted norms in a formative positiion and Scripture in a reactive position. I've been very clear that I believe Steve is also wrestling with Scripture - my point was that as he does he reaches one particular conclusion (which I think give current culture and morals more influence than they should have) and I reach a different conclusion as I wrestle with the same texts. I hope I am not skating round the Scriptural issues, but I am grateful for you laying that challenge at my feet. I simply don't see the confusion in Scripture that Steve is suggesting. There is, actually a vast difference between the issues of slavery, women etc and sexuality, and I do address those issues. The tone of Scripture grows and develops over all the former and fresh reflection and thought on the Scriptures themselves lead to solidly grounded exegesis, hermeneutics and pastoral practise. The issue is, and Steve acknowledges his himself, there is no such 'flow' in Scriptures position on sexuality. The only way you can reach that is by replacingteaching on sexual practise with the notion of 'promsicuity'. This is a fundamentally erroneous step, in my view. That leads me to your comments Ian - thanks so much for the gracious way in which you articulate them, too. I am not sure I agree that the step to change the clarity of teaching on heterosexual marriage (which leads to monogomy as the desired if not followed pattern for Israel and the clear and unequivocal context of sexual activity in the New Testament) is defensible. There seems to me to be a re-iteration of the marriage principle by Jesus in various contexcts as well as Paul and Peter. You will know that some of the particular lists of words that describe attitudes and moral behavious prohibited by God include particular words which sound old fashioned but are actually quite helpful. If one interprets some of them as pointing toward promsicuity rather than homosexual practise, you end up with duplicating lists, which is surely some indication that those words are being misinterpretted? You are, of course, right, all of us may be guilty of eisegesis, in fact perhaps we should acknowledge that honestly. I can't see Scripture through any lense other than my own. Somehow, though, I think we should, as much s possible, let the words mean now what they meant then, in context etc. I simply can't see how many of the texts that deal with this issue can be 're-interpretted' into much broader definitions without serious gymnastics logically, linguistically and theologically. Those gymnastics may be what some folk choose as right, I can't.

Thanks again everyone.

You may well be right in your question as to whether

Bev Murrill

Thanks Malcolm. Well thought through and deliberate in its love and its clarity. Very helpful.

GrahamNind

Very helpful article. You said "The Bible’s teaching and the historic teaching of the church on the issue of human sexuality seem to be one of the clearest threads of Scripture to me." I agree wholeheartedly with this and I think that it gets to the crux of the issue. There really is very little room for manouvere.
Thanks Malcolm

Croy_sue

A useful thread to prepare us to give a credible account to seekers . Evaluate and explain personal conclusion

Robert

Malcolm, thank you for your response.

There are only and handful of verses in the Bible that can refer to homosexual behaviour, most if not all of which deal with the subject using euphemisms (which complicates precise understanding).

Would you agree with Steve's analysis of Romans 1, which he describes as "perhaps the most often quoted New Testament passage by those who reject all homosexual expressions of sexuality", and if not, why not:

"New Testament references to homosexuality refer to the kind of wild, same-sex, extra-marital promiscuity which we now know was common in Roman culture and also formed an integral part of much of their popular religious practice.
[It is common knowledge that from the early Republican times of Ancient Rome it was considered natural and unremarkable for adult males to be sexually attracted to and to pursue teen-aged youths of both sexes. Pederasty (a homogenital relationship between a man and a pubescent boy outside his immediate family) was regarded as normal and condoned as long as the younger partner was not a freeborn Roman. No moral censure was directed at the adult male who enjoyed penetrative sex acts with either women or males of inferior status, as long as his behaviours revealed no weaknesses (it was regarded as unacceptable to take the part of the passive partner), nor infringed on the rights and prerogatives of his male peers]

On reflection, a careful reading of Romans 1 – perhaps the most often quoted New Testament passage by those who reject all homosexual expressions of sexuality – reveals exactly this point. A considered analysis of the passage demonstrates that it is far more straightforward to understand Paul’s words as a condemnation of sexual experimentation, promiscuity and shrine prostitution than a rejection of same-sex relationships per se.
[It is into this hedonistic environment, rife with promiscuity, that Paul writes an encouraging pastoral letter to the infant church in the capital city of the empire]

Gay and lesbian Christians just do not fit the picture of idolatry outlined by Paul in verses 22 and 23: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” The apostle is clearly describing a group of people with a very different profile. This, of course, means that the “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…” of verse 26 cannot be a reference to them.

This conclusion is reinforced by verses 29-32: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Even the most superficial reading of this list of characteristics demonstrates that they just do not describe homosexual Christians nor, for that matter, the vast majority of other gay and lesbian people seeking to live within a faithful, monogamous, life-long intentioned relationships. Thus, their situation simply cannot be what Paul had in mind. Idolatry, promiscuity and shrine prostitution are what Paul is addressing in Romans 1 – not same-sex relationships between faithful and committed partners."

Damion

Hi Malcolm

Thanks for your thoughtful article.

I'm interested to know whether you believe gay people have a choice in their behaviour.

Judith

Thank you Malcom for your courage to post this article.
I agree with you in some points, in some not.

I must agree with Veronica, that you did bring many arguments about inclusion and acceptance vs. agreement, which is an important part of the discussion. But you didn't bring many arguments about wheter or not the scripture sees homosexuality as sin, instead you dismissed the question with a simple "The Bible’s teaching and the historic teaching of the church on the issue of human sexuality seem to be one of the clearest threads of Scripture to me."

Please explain your reasons for such thinking to us, because as far as I understand the comments above, it seems to not be so clear to all of us, including me.

I also agree with you that it is our responisbility as fellow christians, not to change people but to point them to the One who can change us.
But as Damion already wrote, isn't that a major question of the discussion?
What if homosexuals can be born with their tendency? What if some of them cannot change their behaviour? (Just try to think yourself into their situation. Would you be able to become homosexual just because the people around you want you to feel that way, although it goes against all your feelings and instincts?)What if their passion burns so "they cannot control themselves"?
The bible offers a way out of this situation in 1. Corinthians 7,7-10:
"I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
Of course, Paul speaks of that in context of men and women. But wouldn't it be unfair if it was okay for heterosexual not to have the self-discipline to control their passion and to therefore find a partner and marry, but not for homosexuals?
Is it fair to ask more of them than we ask of ourselves?

Also there seem to be quite some christian homosexuals, who find that their feelings stay the same although they honestly come to Christ. Why? Are they doing something wrong? Is it their fault? Or is it maybe because God is allowing them to stay the way they are?

My intuition tells me, that homosexuality is not right, but "contrary to nature", but in my opinion intution is way too less and too predetermined by culture as to decide about such an important topic.

Please forgive me if I brought apparently unnecessary arguments. I am neither a theologian nor a native English speaker, I'm just a future pastors-wife who is honestly seeking to understand Gods will in this very important issue in order to know how to react in future situations.

How would your practical advice be in dealing with homosexuals in church?

God bless you to be a blessing

Andy Hickford

Thank you Malcolm for your wise and gracious leadership here on such a painful but vital issue.

Vasu Vittal

Dear Malcolm

Am so encouraged in how you have sensitively juxtaposed a response to the issue.My simple conclusion is that interpretting scripture is a meta cerebral exercise. It requires the author of the Bible to illumine one's understanding. Thank you for writing sensitively and I shall pray for the challenges the issues poses overtly in your culture while it may be covert in ours. It still does not alter it's nature.

Much Blessings

Vasu

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