Homosexuality and the Church - 1 of 3

I have been trying to write a post about my views on homosexuality, God, and the church for months and months. It is a terribly difficult subject, and one which gives rise to a lot of debate, dispute and even downright hatred. I did a fair bit of reading, in the bible and elsewhere, talked to some people, did a lot of thinking and praying, and I have to confess that in some ways I hadn't got a lot further forward in working my way through it.

Personally speaking, I've never really worried about this particular issue - because, as a monogamous heterosexual, it's just not an issue for me, but it is an issue, on many levels, for many people. There are those for whom it is a 'live' issue - homosexuals, politicians, church leaders, etc. And there are those for whom the church's traditional view is a stumbling block - something which they say prevents them from believing in the God of the Bible at all - which I find very sad. I have friends for whom it is an issue on several levels, so I really didn't think I should maintain my 'ostrich-like', head-in-the-sand, stance any longer. Hence my continuing to worry away at it, like the proverbial terrier with a rat.

Looking back towards the beginning of this particular journey, I began by doing the 'easy bit' - looking at what the bible has to say on the subject. Quite a bit, as it turns out... Though there are lots of other subjects on which the Bible appears no less scathing and condemnatory. In some ways, those passages make quite depressing reading. Let's just pick out one.

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

Not happy reading. Quite apart from what the Bible has to say, the church has long had a particular problem with sexual sin of all kinds - right back to at least St Augustine in the fourth/fifth century. Centuries of tradition don't help when it comes to clear, rational, thought on the matter.

I rehearsed all sorts of arguments in both directions, looked at all the scriptures I could find in both Old and New Testaments, and generally tied myself in all manner of theological and ethical knots, trying to square the circle and find a way whereby we could both satisfy the strictures of 'The Law' and yet welcome everyone into the church, whatever their sexual orientation.

Also the church, perhaps particularly the evangelical churches, has a bit of a problem with legalism - amongst other things a sort of almost unspoken set of rules along the lines of 'you couldn't possibly consider yourself a Christian if you...' One of the most prominent 'if yous' is that of being a practicing homosexual. So the church hasn't exactly welcomed gays with open arms. In fact, it has often been seen (not undeservedly) as hostile towards gays.

And then, in the past few weeks, the scales fell from my eyes - helped not a little by sermons from our vicar and his wife. I believe now that I'd been looking at the whole problem in entirely the wrong way. In my next two entries, I will try to explain why I think this is.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022