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HOMOSEXUALITY – Scriptural Contexts Presentation

I stand here before you because of the homosexuals I know, almost all in the context of ministry.
I can say unequivocally, that each of them experiences the same grace, the same mercy, the same
forgiveness, and the same love of God… as heterosexuals do.
What I cannot say with equal honestly is that they each experience the love of Jesus Christ in
their various communities…just as heterosexuals do.

Thus, I’d like to begin with Jesus’ Great Commandment, Matthew 22.37-40
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you
mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: “You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.

I would like for us to keep these words of Jesus in the forefront of our minds during this time…There
are no exceptions to the love of God or those who qualify as “our neighbor”…there are NO
EXCEPTIONS to the love we are called into when we worship God and Jesus Christ. As the community
of St. John’s, love and welcome are where we firmly stand.

As we begin, we must recall that we, as Episcopalians, are also encouragers of the LIVING WORD:
not one that is codified, or cast into stone. We look for where the word interfaces with life and faith
as we experience it. But the heart of the disagreement on homosexuality clearly begins in Scripture.

OLD TESTAMENT

GENESIS
For the sake of time, we’re not going to deal in depth with the pass. in Genesis that is often…
and erroneously… linked with homosexual behavior; i.e., Gen. 19. 1-29 ..but it should be
mentioned.

Angelic visitors have left Abraham’s to visit Sodom When they arrive, they find they must
spend
the night in the town square…as dangerous then as now…Lot, invites them to his home…in an
act of hospitality.
The ostensibly heterosexual males of the city of Sodom attempt to gang rape the two angels.
Their wish is neither for homosexual sex, nor sex that entails genuine love, but to
demasculate or humiliate the angels, by using them as women.1

The important distinction that derives from this Genesis pss. is the differentiation between
sodomy and homosexuality. Sodomy originally meant forcible homosexual sex or rape.
Sodomy is NOT homosexuality…though it has come to mean that in the last century.

Of course, we all recall that Lot offers the men of Sodom, his daughters…another horror in
itself.
Worse than that…when Lot and his daughters leave Sodom, the daughters later get Lot drunk
so that he might impregnate them, so fearful are they of never marrying.
NOT exactly the good models of sexual behavior throughout!

LEVITICUS

We will begin our discussion specifically with Leviticus (meaning things Levitical or priestly,
sometimes known as the ‘manual of the priests’), as it blatantly condemns homosexual
behavior.

18.22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
20.13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an
abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

1
The Rev. Dr. Walter Wink. “Homosexuality and the Bible, source unknown.
1
Ellen Davis, author of an article entitled, “Reading Leviticus in the Church”, finds it ironic that so
many of our deepest disagreements have their origin in Lev….considering so few have actually read
the book!2

However…Leviticus is part of our canon…and we will not ignore it.


 These two passages above come from the chapters of Lev. commonly called the Holiness Code
(chapters 15-26).

 The Holiness Code is generally dated to the early exilic period, a century of two later than the rest
of Leviticus…

 It is a new synthesis of Torah produced in the light of the cataclysmic events of the late sixth
century, ie, the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Jews throughout the middle east…the
Babylonian captivity.

 Lev. is written as exhortation, encouragement, as well as stern warning by priestly writers…


almost as a new “constitution” for Israel in exile, all those who have survived the destruction of
Jerusalem, and are now living in Egypt and Babylon.3

 Maintaining Israel’s religious, cultural, and ethnic distinctiveness is the main issue for this
ideological material…it is material intended to be taken as a whole…there is no sense of
prioritizing one prohibition over another.

 The point of the Holiness Code is to clearly express Israel’s distinctiveness from the cultures
around it. The prohibitions come from Israel’s self-understanding as a people of the One God.

 This system of holiness separates Israel from the practices of Egypt, from whence they’ve come…
and from Canaan, the land to which they had come. In that light, both lands function
metaphorically as outsiders who embody the unacceptable way of life…though we will find
that alien residents who follow Israel are exempt.

Activity
Now let’s get into our Bibles! Please share if you’ve brought your own…and we have some available
as well. We’ll look at the Holiness Code chapter by chapter. I’d like you to note the abominations
and prohibitions in the chapters we talk about.

Group I Chapter 17: v. 3 If a lamb or goat is slaughtered outside the camp, and not brought
in as
a sacrifice…guilty of bloodshed, and cut off from the people…yet, goes
against Deut. 12. 15, 21 which allows the same….

v. 8 Anyone who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it
to
the tent of mtg, to sacrifice it to the Lord, shall be cut off from the
people.
Why? striving for holiness for the whole community, not just self.

v. 10 If anyone of the house of Israel eats any blood, I will set my face
against that person, and cut them off from the people.
Why? blood is life…

Group II Chap.18 v. 6 None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to “uncover
nakedness”
of any of your kin (which idiomatically means, to have sex)….incest
v. 19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while
she
2
Ellen Davis. PhD. “Reading Leviticus in the Church”, Virginia Seminary Journal, Winter 1996-97, p 31.
3
Ibid, p. 31
2
is in her menstrual period. woman UNCLEAN during this time
v. 21 You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech,
and thus profane the name of your God.
v. 22 see above…homosexuality
v. 23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal….perversion

Most of these sexually oriented abominations are regarded as such because, the
Hebrew pre-scientific knowledge assumed that the male semen contained the WHOLE of
NEW LIFE. The woman provided only the incubating space! Thus the spilling of semen
for NONCREATIVE PURPOSE, either
during masturbation, homosexual acts, or coitus interruptus was tantamount to murder.
In light of this, NOTE: female homosexual acts are not mentioned at all in the OT.
Also, remember that in Israel, all person were assumed to be born heterosexual.
They had no sense of what we now call “sexual orientation”…[which we will discuss at
length next week.] Thus, any homosexual activity is assumed to be a choice. Certainly,
there are those who continue to believe that.

Note that incest, bestiality, & homosexuality are the last of the prohibitions (beyond the
10 commandments) that we currently claim! What is the difference between them?: incest is a
generally a predatory behavior when it is a parent/child relationship…certainly, bestiality
is as well; the strength of each comes from one’s power or authority over another,
unlike homosexuality which is consensual in nature.

Group III Chapter 19 Some repetition of 10 Commandments: You shall be holy, bec, I am
holy;
revere your mother and father, keep my sabbaths; do not turn to idols
or cast images for yourselves.
v. 5 When you eat a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord, offer it in such a
way as to be acceptable…it shall be eaten the same day or the next
day…
anything leftover is to be consumed in fire; if it is eaten on the 3rd day,
it is an abomination.
v. 9 When you reap, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather
the gleanings…leave them for the poor and alien.
v. 11 You shall not steal; deal falsely, lie to one another; not swear
falsely
by my name
v. 13 You shall no defraud your neighbor, not keep for yourself the
wages
of a laborer until morning; revile the deaf or put a stumbling block
before
the blind; you shall fear your God.
v. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgement; not be partial to the poor
or defer to the great; with justice shall you judge your neighbor.; you
shall
not slander among your people, nor profit by the blood of your neighbor;
you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your
people…
v. 19 You shall not let your animals breed with a different kind, sow your
field w/ two kinds of seed; or put on a garment made of 2 diff. materials
v. 26 you shall not practice augury or witchcraft; not round off the hair
on
your temples, or mar the edges of your beard; you shall not make any
gashes in your flesh for the dead, or tattoo any marks upon you…
v. 30 You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sactuary
v. 35 you shall not cheat in measuring…

The life of holiness…ethical teachings of OT…holiness is understood as more than


just ethical excellence; it is behavior that imitates God’s behavior. Again, each of these
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is of equal importance to the other…no prioritizing, no sorting…each equal weight when
behaving in a holy manner worthy of God.

Group IV Chapter 20 v. 2 Any who give up offspring to Molech…shall stone them to death
v. 9 Any who curse father or mother shall be put to death…
v. 10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the
adulter and the adulteress shall be put to death; same if incest, lying
male with male, animal,
v. 25 You shall make a distinction b clean and unclean animals, bird and
anything with which the ground teems…see Ch. 11, Lev. includes
anything that chews cud,, has divided hooves, is permissible, EXCEPT
including pig, hare, camel; all in the waters that have fins and
scales…
others are detestable; some birds are detestable, tho not all; all
winged insects w/ 4 feet!; creatures that swarm the earth…lizards,
mice
v. 27 A man or woman who is a medium or wizard shall be stoned to
death

Here we find the penalties for various infractions…mind numbing…for most of us


would be dead now if for no other reason that curse our father and mother…remember
your teenage years?!

Now some prohibitions/regulations for priests:

Group V Chapter 21 v. 1 priest must avoid corpse contamination…the worst form of


defilement,
as the corpse is the most extreme form of unholiness…; can be in
presence of corpse of nearest blood relatives: NOT HIS WIFE OR HER
FAMILY
v. 13 priest can only marry virgin of his own kin; widow, divorced
prostitute
are considered defiled…that is raped…
possibly pregnant, thereby protecting the priestly line
v. 17 no one who has a blemish or a broken foot/hand, or lame or blind,
or
mutilated face or dwarf, etc., etc.….may be a priest.
…which we now understand as discrimination against the handicapped.

All of these are meant to proscribe to Israel, a way to consolidate their community as
separate from the Gentiles among whom they lived.

Where then is the crux…the density…of the meaning of the Holiness Code for us as
Christians?

 Obviously we have left behind most all of these prohibitions and abominations. What is left is
basically the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20. 1 –17)…and the prohibitions of incest,
bestiality, and homosexuality…WHY?!

Do we consider the ritual regulations as time-conditioned & dispensable? Most definitely,


yes. Why then should the moral prescriptions continue to be binding?

 According to EDavis…there is NO SCRIPTURAL BASIS for this differentiation of ritual vs. moral…
neither is heavier or lighter in meaning…or in Law. Even Orthodox Jews don’t regard them in the
same light.

Where then IS this density of meaning in determining holiness?

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For Christians and Jews alike, Jesus’ summary of the law in Luke esp. clear:
 Deuteronomy 6.4-5: the Shema …states Israel’s sole devotion to the One God, the central tenet
of Judaism: “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
 The tradition in both Judaism and Christianity make no less importance the second
commandment, given in Lev. 19. 18: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself…”
 From the beginnings of the written OT, the word of Torah was kept alive, by continual
conversation and study…esp. by priests, scribes, etc.4 ED
 Akiba, a 2nd c. teacher of Judaism, calls “the great principle of the Torah” 5 Lev. 19.18 “You shall
not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your
neighbor as yourself.
 Reinforced later in Lev. 19.34, “As a native among you shall be to you the as the stranger who
resides with you; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (ED
transl)
Rabbi Hillel states…THAT is the Torah…the rest is commentary.”6

NEW TESTAMENT

 Clearly, homosexuality in the OT must be weighed against the New Testament. But we as Xians
have no such automatic process of engaging the Scriptures as faith communities in the same way
as Judaism has…we must work…and work hard… to re-imagine the scriptures for our time.

 As Episcopalians, we believe the Bible to be inspired by God and written by mankind, with all
their inherent fears and prejudice woven in! EVERY translation …and there are many various
translations now… holds someone’s interpretation of the original languages…Hebrew or
Greek…and sometimes the prejudices of the translator or his time as well. I will point out some of
those discrepancies as we move along.

PAUL7
Besides Leviticus, Paul’s writings are the source of most persons’ knowledge of homosexual
condemnation. His catalogues of lists of virtues and vices…or praise and blame… are those most oft
quoted. We focus upon Paul, as Jesus never mentions sexuality in any form in the gospels.

But remembering that every translation is also an interpretation…I am hoping that we have several
different versions of the Bible here tonight. For I believe you will find some interesting differences.

We will look at several different


Catalogs of Virtues (praise) or Catalogs of Vices (blame) from Paul:
Romans 1, 7; I Corinthians 6; Galatians 5
Hopefully we will also have time to look at the two post-Pauline catalogues: I Timothy; Ephesians 5

 In each set of catalogs, particularities are less important than the cumulative effect of listing
numerous traits
 5 in a list was considered the basic or minimum number required in ancient rhetoric
 Of vices, 110 are listed in the NT…sexually oriented vices number _____

4
Ibid,
5
Ibid. p. 32
6
Ibid. p. 32
7
Ray Collins, “Sexuality in Paul”, lectures from June 9, 2003.
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Romans is considered one Paul’s authentic epistles…certainly the most complete
explanation of salvation through grace and the most complete development of Paul’s
gospel.

 In Rom. 1.17: Paul states, “The one who is righteous/upright will live by faith.”

 Following in vv. 18-32: Paul rails against gentiles and idolaters as sinners

 vv. 26-27: Here for the first time, lesbianism is referred to...perhaps Paul’s equality of sexual
practice, for recall Lev. makes no mention of female homosexuality. The point here that is
repeated 4 times (vv. 23, 25, 26, 27) is that humanity exchanged the authentic for the
counterfeit…exchanging the glory of God for idols, and for degrading passions. A person’s
natural activity (heterosexual relations) is exchanged for unnatural activity (homosexual
relations). By exchanging what is natural for a person for what is unnatural for that same
person, the counterfeit activity becomes idolatry in itself.

REMEMBER, Paul understands homosexuality as a voluntary choice to be condemned; however for


true homosexuals (male or female), “natural intercourse” is not an option: orientation & tenancies,
unknown to Paul , are considered INVOLUNTARY, rather than a choice to be made… therefore
condemnation using Paul’s word. is becomes nearly impossible

 Then follows 1. 29 ff: the longest list of vices, yet NOT ONE is sexual! “They were filled with
every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice, Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,
craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil,
rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

 2. 1-11: Following this list of vices and warnings we hear Paul say, “Therefore you have NO
EXCUSE, WHOEVER YOU ARE…WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS; FOR IN PASSING JUDGMENT ON
ANOTHER, YOU CONDMEN YOURSELF, BECAUSE YOU, THE JUDGE, ARE DOING THE VERY SAME
THINGS. there is no favoritism with God…not even for Jews! EVERY SIN is abominable to God!

Jews held no distinction between physical and mental sins -- that distinction arrives with the
Hellenistic culture…again all are equal . In Hebrew, words, thoughts, even sins if you will, can be
ranked only by constant repetition: the more often a word is repeated, the power it gains. The same
is true in Greek. When we look at Paul’s lists of vices…that repetition cannot be found when
speaking of homosexuality

 In I Corinthians 6. 9-11 we find wrong-doers who will not inherit the kingdom of God…because
they are all idolaters
 Fornicators … adulterers … male prostitutes … sodomites … (NRSV & NIV translation)
Have we other translations here? The American Standard Version uses “homosexual” for
“sodomites”… but remember, true sodomy is homosexual rape! so “sodomite” MIGHT be a
reasonable choice, EXCEPT THAT ‘sodomites’ is mistranslated from the original Greek…or
misinterpreted when one returns to the original Greek of Paul’s time.

 ‘Male prostitutes’ in alternate translations: ‘self-indulgent’, ‘effeminate’


Greek: arsenokoiku, a word coined by Paul, meaning ‘male prostitute’
Out of 110 vices in NT, arsenokoiku is used only twice;
Used again in I Timothy 1.10 and here translated as ‘homosexuals’
Prostitution…male or female…is again creating idolatry out of sexuality…and thus is
wrong…sinful

 ‘Sodomites’ in alternate translations is often translated as ‘homosexuals’


Greek: malakoi, variously translated as sodomite or homosexual in English translations
Occurs only ONCE in all of the NT …which already removes it from a place of power in
Greek…
AND in the Greek dictionary, the word is never translated as either sodomite or
homosexual, rather

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“fine”, “one who lives the nice life”, “one who doesn’t like to get their hands
dirty”, “one who likes everything ‘just so’”; the closest malakoi comes to
homosexual is ‘effeminate’; see Luke 7.25ff: “What then did you go out to see? Someone
dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on malakoi / fine clothing and live in
luxury….”

It would be interesting to know WHEN exactly, the original intentions of these Greek words
were left behind…and reinterpreted by translators. Particularly, since the word “homosexual” did
not enter the English language until 1892! Obviously it should never appear in the NT at all!

I Thessalonians 4. 3-5
 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of
you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the
Gentiles who do not know God….”
 Even Jews are lustful, but gentiles don’t how to control their desires… promiscuity the issue.
 The point of the passage is to convince Jews of gentile sins…period!

Galatians 5. 16ff
 “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication (adultery, incest…not lawful relationships),
impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissension,
factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…”
 Each of these holds the possibility of destructiveness to the community…this is not about
individuals…again, sexuality is not in question

Ephesians 5
 Be imitators of God….but fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be
mentioned among you…entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; …be sure of this,
that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater) has any inheritance
in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Again and again, Paul speaks of “impurity”, “idolatry”, “adultery”, and “promiscuity” to the
exclusion of sexuality. Thus, there are no doctrinal grounds for inhospitality to, or blanket
condemnation of, homosexuality in Paul’s writings. Paul writes to the community, the Body, of Christ
may be lived in the fruits of the Spirit…first and foremost. We see this clearly, when looking at the
values to be esteemed in Paul’s writings (Galatians 5.22ff;etc.)

JESUS
1. NO statements about homosexuality at all.
2. Words about marriage, adultery, divorce…all upholding the inherent goodness of
RELATIONSHIP… for it is in good relationship that we come to know the nature of Godself.
 strengthening, life-giving, wholesome loving care for another
 committed relationships in which both partners hetero or homosexual, are made
complete by the presence of another.
3. Remember too, that Jesus in John 13. 34-35…actually extends his second commandment…as
given in the synoptic gospels.

“I give you a new commandment…that you love one another. Just as I have love you,
you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you
have love for one another.”

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QUESTIONS

1. Why didn’t God address HOMOSEXUALITY in the 10 Commandments?

2. Why have we been able to ignore so many of the rest of “God’s commands”, and continue
to
hang on to the prohibition against male homosexuality. (word is “ish”…man)

3. How has homosexuality risen to the top of the list of prohibitions?


 Do we simply fear anything that is “other”?
 Are we still experiencing the effects of our austere Victorian view of sex?
 What effects does Freudian psychology have upon our vantage?
 How has inerrant reading of scripture affected our views?

4. Does our view…whatever it might be…limit the power of God to do a “new thing”…”box
God in”? I, for one, am never willing to say God cannot change…or lead us to change
Scriptures are rife with God’s changing God’s mind…leading us to new insights as well.
 Adam and Eve…didn’t kill them after their original sin
 Backs off when Abraham calls God to task about killing the people of Sodom and
Gomorah..”for the sake of…finally,…just ten good people” (Gen. 18. 16 ff)
 Jesus’ discussion with the Syro-Phoenician woman who badgers him to at the least
grant her the crumbs from the table that dogs are allowed to consume

5. Does recognizing homosexuality as an unchangeable orientation thus mean that all sexual
moral values will be diminished? How can we determine which will continue to be
‘criminal’ or
against our Christian moral principles…and which are allowed?
 Is the differentiation found in whether the sexual practice is consentual or forcible?
 Predatory behavior is never acceptable…for the rights of one person are violated,
whether it is a spouse, a child, or another.
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6. Can we differentiate between what is consentual and what is predatory behavior?

THEOLOGY Questions for Week #2

 How do we keep God alive and speaking to us if we do not reinterpret for our times &
circumstances? How do we keep God before us a ‘the living God’ and not a God cast into the
stone of scripture?

 Where is God in the midst of this crisis?


 Can God be saying different things to different people? How? Why?
 What is God trying to say to us in this detour?
 How do we think we know what God is saying? SCRIPTURE, TRADITION, REASON
 Scripture
 Tradition: What do the years gone by, the policies, the reality, past crises have to tell
us?
Look at other crises:
 the break with Catholicism;
 the creation of the Epis. Church USA;
 the dissolution of slavery;
 the disagreement over women’s ordination
In each instance, it has required a PRECIPITATING EVENT…not proactive discussion
to finally push us into the REAL discussion….
 Reason: the thinking processes of logic, analysis, and synthesis
 Experience including prayer, worship, and fellowship with both hetero- and
homosexuals
 Openness to our constantly changing world and new possibilities
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 Repudiating a world that is black and white…has never been…will never be…
no matter how much we might want it, feel more comfortable with it
 Looking at the Greek use of the word love, there are 3 varieties:
 philia, friendship, the love between those share relationship
 agape, the unconditional love between persons, or between God & persons
 eros, the love of desire, the deep physical love between 2 people
Are we asking homosexuals to never experience eros when we ask them to remain
celibate? Didn’t God create us all for intimate relationships?
Some would say that it is no different than other priests…like me…who are single…
and thus called to be celibate…but at least I, and others in my same position,
hold the possibility for a sanctioned relationship. At this time, homosexuals
do not have that possibility.

PSYCHOLOGICAL & PSYCHIATRIC Vantage:


 Differentiate between “homosexuality” and “pedaphilia” and other legally aberrant behaviors
 Discuss the “goods” of the marital relationship…compare to the “goods” of same-sex
relationship
 Can all law-abiding citizens demand to have equal access to the “goods” of citizenship?
 Likewise, can a baptized Christian demand to have equal access to the possibilities of their own
faith?
 If not, where do we draw the line? Do we “allow” GLT to attend church? can they receive
communion? can they participate in activities, classes, etc? will we take their money?

ETHICAL RESPONSE, Bishop Jane Dixon


 Does baptism insure equal access to all the benefits of church membership? Should it?
 Can we withhold parts of our communal life based on homosexuality or any other sinful behavior?
Indeed, would any of us be “qualified” if sin was the issue?
 How are we called to respond to homosexuals?
 Can we, should we, allow God to make the judgments…or is that our job?

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