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, October 20, 2009

Class Notes for Week 6

Sunday’s class was a response to traditionalist scholar Robert Gagnon’s challenge that the “burden of proof” now lies on the proponents of change to explain how the consequences to individuals of enforcing the biblical prohibitions against same-sex acts are greater than the consequences to the church of ignoring the testimony of scripture and overturning thousands of years of tradition.

The final third of the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” offers several examples of the consequences to individual Christians as well as to the church in general.

* The psychological damage done to families when parents are taught — often by groups like Focus on the Family — that they must not accept the lifestyle choices of their teenage or adult children who come out as gay or lesbian. The consensus of the psychological and psychiatric communities — with some minority dissent — holds that homosexuality is no more a disorder than heterosexuality is. To try and “treat” same-sex attraction can only result in, at best, pushing children away and, at worse, inflicting deep psychological harm.

* The church has lost many good and faithful members who, after recognizing themselves as gay or lesbian, see no place for them left in their congregation. Or, even worse, they see no place left for them in God’s kingdom.

* The suicide rate for gay and lesbians — especially teenagers — is well above that of the general population. Some traditionalists offer this statistic as evidence of the self-destructive nature of homosexuality identity. But open and affirming advocates say the statistic is a natural, human response to isolation, secrecy and abandonment. “Closets are places of death,” said the Rev. Mel White.

* The church’s stance sanctions homophobia, what Harvard Divinity School Professor Peter Gomes called, “the fear and loathing of homosexuals.” No member of St. Andrew would condone violent, hate-filled acts committed against any human being. And no member of St. Andrew would agree with the actions of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in their picketing at funerals and worship services with signs that read, “God Hates Fags” or “Fag Church.”

But the scholars and pastors interviewed in the film find a thin line between hating the sin and hating the sinner. The open and affirming folks say the church’s view of homosexuality as unnatural and ungodly directly contributes to the cultural forces that give rise to violent, homosexual acts and rhetoric.

(The final third wasn’t all doom and gloom. It also provide bit of closure for the Poteats who, although they won’t accept their daughter’s lifestyle, continue to have a strong relationship with their daughter. And it also shows the ordination of Gene Robinson and its encouraging impact on open and affirming advocates from other denominations.)

Our conversations after the video raised questions about:

* How open and affirming St. Andrew would be to any of its teenagers who were questioning their own sexuality.

* How much the documentary polarizes the debate to seemingly be between advocates of complete acceptance and advocates of complete intolerance.

* How this debate plays out in the church on the international level, especially in the Anglican communion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for sending in your comment. Because this is a moderated forum, it will need to be reviewed before going live. We'll try to get it on the site as quickly as possible.