Below, I’ve posted a link to an interview with Rev. Dr. Arlo Duba, a seminary professor whose personal journey in relation to equality for LGBT Christians is remarkably similar to my own.
As a Christian who still considers himself to navigate (mostly) within the bounds of the evangelical and catholic faith, what I appreciate most about Duba is his grounding in biblical fidelity.
I hate the fact that polarization in our churches has led so many to the assumption that the relationship between LGBT equality and the Bible is “either/or”. Too many on the extreme left dissect and ultimately dismiss the Scriptures as a unique and central source of revelation and enlightenment. Too many on the extreme right refuse to look at the Scriptures with a new set of eyes. They will not allow the Scriptures themselves to challenge long-standing theological and cultural assumptions.
If this argument is going to bear any fruit in our churches and in our denominations, it has to be a biblical argument. If we allow our theological disagreement to deteriorate into a free-for-all over church property, then I believe we have all (on both sides) betrayed the Gospel of Christ and created a bloody spectacle worthy only of the Jerry Springer Show.
Those closest to me know how strongly I support the dual-cause of marriage and ordination equality for LGBT people in my church. I think the relationship between LGBT equality and the Bible is “both/and”, not “either/or”. I believe a biblical case can be made for our cause and I hope to call on others, especially my fellow pastors and biblical scholars, to join me in building it.
To those who work with me for LGBT equality in church and society: Let’s bring it back to the Bible, for it is there that we will find what we need to take our stand for the freedom of all God’s children.
To those who disagree with me on this issue: Let’s keep reading the Bible together. Let’s read it as much as we can with as many different people as possible (including those who are different from or disagree with us). Let’s let our sisters and brothers challenge our assumptions about the Scriptures. Let’s let the Scriptures challenge our assumptions about our sisters and brothers. We might not agree at the end of the day, but at least we will have sought the will of God together. At least we will have (hopefully) grown in our love for God and our neighbors. And that’s what God truly wants from all of us.
Wherever you stand, take a look at Arlo Duba’s words, posted at the link below. There are seeds here that have the potential to grow into authentic and fruitful theological discourse.
4 thoughts on “My Mind Was Changed”
His take on the eunuch seems to push somewhat farther than exegesis will allow. the mere openness to the consecration of one who has been “mutilated” is already enormously significant and seems to be the more likely the intent horizon for Luke.
You know Barrett, that i really care not a whit about ordination policies (you also know that that is more because I really don’t take the church all that seriously) but I think I do agree with his closing affirmation (I am not sure exactly what he means by lines 3 and 4.)
I know I would definitely affirm that God wants to get everyone as his children.
Aaron, I think you’re right regarding Luke’s specific intent. It would be an anachronism to apply a modern category such as “sexual orientation” to the term “eunuch”.
However, it’s worth noting that the “mutilation” of the eunuch was specifically sexual in nature. So, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that the eunuch was someone who was marginalized from participation in the religious community for reasons related to his sexuality. Broadly speaking, the same can be said of LGBT Christians in today’s churches.
For me, the stronger argument lies in the overall drift toward inclusivity indicated in Luke-Acts (and elsewhere in the New Testament). The Church becomes more and more diverse as the narrative progresses. Samaritans, Antiochians, and Gentiles are all eventually swept up in the movement of the Spirit. At each step along the way, the Church faces controversy but overcomes it by following the path of gracious openness.
I take one’s sexual orientation to be inborn and part of the Imago Dei and not a symptom of brokenness. Likewise, I believe one’s expression of her or his inborn orientation to be potentially holy or unholy, depending on whether or not said expression is consistent with the law of love as Christ established it.
I admit of several assumptions in the previous paragraph. These beliefs of mine stem from my relationships with LGBT Christians who did not “decide to be that way”. They also stem from the loving and lifegiving relationships I have witnessed between partners of the same sex. My conclusions arise as I reflect on my own relationship with these friends in the light of Scripture as I understand it.
As a result, I believe that LGBT Christians should be fully and equally included in the Body of Christ as they are, just as the Gentiles were allowed to do in the first century. Gentile Christians were not forced to undergo the rite of circumcision. Nobody said, “You can be Gentile in church, as long as you act Jewish.” In the same way, I don’t think LGBT Christians should be forced into celibacy or “ex-gay” conversion therapy. I don’t think anyone can legitimately say, “You can be gay in church, as long as you act straight.”
I believe the presence of these, our sisters and brothers in Christ, can only enrich the Body of Christ.
Nice one Barrett. I like your response. I do have a few comments, more for curiosity as to how you understand stuff and (in line with my m.o., with which you are very familiar) to clarify.
I absolutely agree with your observation of the inclusive path in the NT. I am curious how you deal with the diverse community’s continued adherence to the moral precepts of Torah as authoritative for living and how this relates to LGBT Christians. Also, particularly in Luke-Acts, it is not a path/principle of gracious openness that overcomes the previous boundary lines. It is the observation of the existential movement of the Spirit. The observation of this presence trumped the principle of closed exclusivity.
I remain agnostic as to whether sexual orientation is inborn and and so will not base judgment on that. However, to link sexual orientation with the Imago Dei is highly problematic. Most crudely, since God has no sexual orientation in what way does a person’s sexual orientation image God? More subtly and more importantly, I really don’t think that sexual orientation is the sort of thing that fits with the Imago Dei. This is because I believe it is incorrect to take the Imago Dei as the sum of human capacities that reflects God. I know that this is by far the dominant view but I believe it is mistaken. Rather, the image of God indicates presence: that humanity was designed to be the actual presence of God in the world.
As to acceptance into the community, it is my job to love as Jesus loves and to search for and recognize the movement of the Spirit and act accordingly and allowing this to override any social constructs.
Sorry for the delayed response. I’m in the middle of a particularly hectic week with PC(USA) ord exams coming up on Friday.
As for the community’s continued adherence to Torah, I’ve read several Messianic Jewish commentators who have noted the similarity between the moral precepts laid out for Gentile believers in Acts 15 and the precepts of God’s covenant with Noah after the flood in Genesis. To this day in rabbinical Judaism, these laws constitute the basis upon which a Gentile can be considered “righteous”.
I can understand the distinction between “moral” and “cultural” precepts in the Torah. Honestly, I’m not sure what I think about that distinction. It makes a degree of sense (after all, most Christians aren’t too up in arms about tattoos or bacon these days). But on the other hand, I’ve seen it used by arguers on both sides of the LGBT argument to dismiss their opponents’ views. The application of the moral-cultural distinction seems to be somewhat arbitrary. From my perspective, it’s all “cultural” in the sense that it arose out of a particular historical context. However, it’s also all “moral” in the sense that this was a community that sought to discern and obey the voice of divinity.
I’m not sure I totally understand what you mean by Imago Dei (although I seem to remember having that conversation with you at some point in the past). I use that phrase in conjunction with the term Sin as an expression of the duality of human nature. I see the Imago Dei as that within us which is “good” and reflects something of who God is, while I take Sin to be that within us which stands in opposition to God.
I’ll leave it there for now, but I’ll follow up later with my thoughts on how one’s sexual orientation can reflect the Imago Dei.