Last year, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA appointed a Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage. The committee was given two years to study how the theology and practice of marriage have developed in the Reformed tradition and the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community.

This adult education course tries to do something similar over an eight-week period for St. Andrew Presbyterian in Iowa City. Throughout this discussion, we hope to hear from class participants’ personal experiences and questions concerning sexuality and the Presbyterian faith.

For questions or comments, contact Jeff Charis-Carlson at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Class notes for Week 3

Discussion during the third week of class was curtailed slightly because of the celebrations for Kyle Otterbein and Heather Woodin. What emerged was a quick summary of the five families in the “For the Bible Tells Me So” video and the theological and parenting challenges those families face.

In the second third of the documentary, class members saw how Gene and Boo Robinson — after much therapy, prayer and study — decided to dissolve their marriage through a ceremony in which they released each other of their vows. The Robinson’s situation was contrasted against how Chrissy Gephardt decided to leave her husband for a lesbian partner. That decision, not surprisingly, left many class members uncomfortable with its implication for all marriages, regardless of the genders involved.

We also so how the Rev. Poteat came to terms with her daughter being lesbian. She realized that she had been focusing only on how her daughter was having sex and not on all the other things that add up to her daughter. She said she still doesn’t accept her daughter’s lifestyle, but she now can have a relationship with her.

The video also introduced:
  • A discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah (a passage that focuses more on homosexual rape and breaking the code of hospitality in the ancient world than on any same-sex relationships) and
  • An all too brief discussion of Romans 1 and what it means as a passages that continues prohibitions on same-sex relationships into the New Testament.

The discussion after the film focused on how amazing it is that few words in Romans 1 can have such important consequences for gays and lesbians who want to remain in the church. Ken Kuntz also gave a short lecture on how the Hebrew word translated “abomination” — which was discussed in detail in the previous week — gets used differently in passages throughout the Old Testament.

Rather than provide an clear answers on this issue, the discussion illustrated why this issue has remained so thorny for so long.

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