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.