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What Does the Bible Actually Say About LGBT Equality?

In my last post, I mentioned that in the mid-1990s the Friends of Jesus community in Wichita, Kansas produced a white paper on their biblical understanding of gay and lesbian Christians. A commenter asked whether a copy of this document is still available. It is!

The following is a statement prepared by the Friends of Jesus intentional community in 1994, after prayerful reflection and study around the question of God’s intention for LGBT people in the church.

A Paper On Homosexuality and Christianity

Prepared by the Friends of Jesus Community for Dialog with our Christian Friends in September, 1994

“Come, let us reason together, says the Lord.” – Isaiah 1:18

Believing that the living Christ will continue to teach those who are eager to hear God’s truth, we Friends of Jesus Community members have been examining since 1991 our thinking and our feelings about homosexuality. The Holy Spirit has been speaking to us through friendships with gay and lesbian people and through information provided by recent scientific, historical, social, and biblical scholarship.

In 1991 we became aware that two women providing good leadership for one of our programs were a lesbian couple. This knowledge created a dilemma, because their ministry in our neighborhood was needed and they were (and are) our friends. Since the women did not feel able to take part in resolving the questions their continued leadership would raise, the Friends of Jesus Community reluctantly decided to lay down a valuable program rather than risk a destructive confrontation with Mid-America Yearly Meeting and with African-American churches in the neighborhood. When that decision was made we lacked clarity, as a group, about whether Christians can be non-celibate homosexuals.

The lesbian women were hurt by our decision, but a relationship was maintained. In the summer of 1993 the Friends of Jesus decided to do a careful study of this issue, beginning with Bible study, because other closeted homosexual Christians were confiding in some of us. Despite the difficulties of approaching matters of human sexuality, we have continued to study, pray, and discuss the issues involved. We have also worshipped with a Wichita congregation whose members are mostly homosexuals. Out of our experiences and study we have come to these understandings:

    • Sodom’s sin was probably inhospitality, not homosexuality. Even if Sodom’s men did threaten homosexual rape, the story has nothing to do with loving sexual relationships.
    • It is clear that male homosexual activity is condemned in Leviticus, but equally clear that followers of Jesus do not take most of the levitical laws literally.
    • Jesus addressed many issues, but according to the New Testament he never talked about homosexuality.
    • It seems likely that Paul’s references to homosexual behavior are about heterosexuals who choose it or about prostitution. No New Testament passage is primarily concerned with the question of homosexuality in general.
    • It is hard to see how faithful, loving homosexual relationships violate the teachings of Jesus or biblical principles.
    • It is a good idea to be suspicious when culturally powerful interpreters use scripture against the less powerful. The Bible has been misused to resist scientific discoveries, democracy, separation of church and state, the anti-slavery movement, women’s rights and ministry, labor laws, the civil rights movement, and the peace movement.
    • Celibacy is a calling for some Christians, both homosexual and heterosexual, but should not be demanded of all homosexuals.
    • We have experienced authentic Christian worship with homosexual brothers and sisters, and know that God uses gays and lesbians in Christian ministry.
    • Homosexual Christians today should be viewed in the same way the earliest Jewish Christians approached the issue of including “non-abstaining” gentile
    • Christians. In Acts 10 Peter is scandalized at the thought of gentile impurity, then changes his mind when he sees God’s Spirit poured out on them.
    • The Holy Spirit is not limited by sexual orientation. Heterosexual Christian churches are being called by God to move beyond condemnation of homosexuality and uneasy toleration of homosexual Christians.
    • Homosexual orientation is no more chosen than a heterosexual orientation is chosen. We have found little evidence that people who are exclusively homosexual can change or should try to change.
    • There is no “homosexual lifestyle” any more than there is a “heterosexual lifestyle.”
    • Homosexuals should not have to hide their orientation in order to be part of the body of Christ.
    • Heterosexism is in many ways like racism.
    • It is sinful to repeat slanderous stereotypes of homosexuals such as these: they are threats to our children; they recruit and seduce heterosexuals; they are promiscuous; they could change their orientation if only they would; they are people damaged by poor relationships with their parents; they have an agenda to destroy heterosexual family life.
    • Faithful, monogamous love is spiritually, physically, and socially healthy for homosexuals and heterosexuals. Mutual love, respect, and equality are the marks of non-exploitive relationships.
  • Lifelong covenanting is good for both heterosexuals and homosexuals and should be blessed by the church.

The Bible may not give us clear guidance about including homosexuals in the Christian community. But it does give clear guidance about including those who have received the Holy Spirit and join us in confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.

  • James Breiling

    Wow! An early, thoughtful and comprehensive articulation That is still relevant today. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s still amazingly fresh today, even 20 years later!

  • Paul Ricketts

    What Does the Bible Actually Say About LGBT Equality?

    • charlesburchfield

      all ppl all the time. is all all? i think every knee shall bow, every tongue confess. This means to me all are in store for introduction of their consciousness to the reality of the holy spirit, inclusion in the kingdom and pleasures forevermore at the lords side!

  • Scott King

    Thanks…that is beautiful and so very true…..
    It helps me find trust again in the midst of a difficult time of what feels like rejection among my faith community

    • Thanks, Scott. I’m glad this is helpful!

  • SettingTheRecordStraight

    Thank you so very much for posting this. It moved me to tears, and has really coalesced what I have felt for a long time… well, “felt” is a bad word, rather how I have been convicted in regard to the issue of how the church treats homosexuality. This is so bang-on.

    • I’m so glad this struck a chord with you! 🙂

  • Robertson / Robertson 2016

    So at best we have an argument from silence and at worst willful interpretation, if not intellectual dishonesty.

    “It is clear that male homosexual activity is condemned in Leviticus, but equally clear that followers of Jesus do not take most of the levitical laws literally.”

    (1) For the Jewish Christians, there is no distinction made between what is cultural and what is moral in matters of sexuality. (2) There are sexual practices condemned in Leviticus (immediately before and after this verse) that we do, in fact, observe and receive literally. (3) When Paul writes to the Jewish Christians in Rome, Leviticus serves as the moral backdrop for “unnatural relationships” and he writes assuming they share his judgment before turning the lens back on his audience: “What then? Are we better off? (Romans 3:9)

    “It is hard to see how faithful, loving homosexual relationships violate the teachings of Jesus or biblical principles.”

    When Jesus is approached with the issue of divorce, he anchors the language of sex and marriage with God’s creative intent: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?…For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”). For the Christian, the marriage event gravitates to a higher plane of meaning than mere sexual commitment, and is a witness to our account of world history. We believe that God created woman for man, and just as the two sexes are joined together in holy union, so Christ will one day bridge the two halves of existence that is heaven above and earth below. It is not for us a partnering on the same side of living.

    While the church should extend love and grace to those sexually attracted to others of the same sex, she must not yield her account of world history to cultural accommodation. The power of the redemption story is that God is at work to make things right in our lives. But how can we profess that God will make right what we don’t also confess to be wrong?

    And for one who in your ministry makes it a point to voice the challenge that the Gospels make for our personal safety and for our finances, I find it hypocritical to remove this challenge when it comes to our sexuality. The Scriptures lay claim to private morality, both in and out of the bedroom.

    • Mike

      Thank you. What is apparent to me is that the LGBT community, particularly those attempting to enforce an aggressive agenda, are following the same strategy that all of the cults have followed through history…the twisting of God’s word to accommodate its agenda rather than, in faith, submitting
      to His authority as the Lord of the universe.

  • Randall Bridges

    From history, Quakers have been way ahead of the time in fighting for equality (ex. African Americans freedom, Women’s Rights). I agree very much with you and wish the Friends were a little more forthcoming on the subject of homosexuality. It made me happy to see that Friends were more welcoming farther back than I previously knew. However, I believe that just like heterosexuality, homosexuality should be practiced monogamously.

  • Mike

    So…i’m curious. why was my post “removed”…? Was my refusal to march to your drum beat intolerable?

  • RavviOli

    WHAT IS GOD’S WORD TO US about homosexuality. It is the warp and woof of the very fabric of our moral fabric. The feel good approach is not in the Eternal’s plan. Don’t ask me what God said, read it for yourself. Need help? a good concordance and a lot of prayer goes a long way.

  • SaludoVencedores

    Just to pick one (contentious) statement: “Celibacy is a calling for some Christians, both homosexual and heterosexual, but should not be demanded of all homosexuals.” What is your Biblical basis for this statement?