Monday, December 18, 2006

Episcopal bishop: Church torn apart

By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Monday, December 18, 2006

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh said Sunday he was not surprised by the decision of two prominent Episcopal parishes in Virginia to leave the church and join fellow Anglican conservatives.
"These congregations represent the same kind of faithfulness and Christian orthodoxy we represent here in Pittsburgh," Bishop Robert Duncan said. "All of this is part of what's happening in the Episcopal Church as many seek to stand where the church has always stood."
Parishioners at Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church voted to cut ties with the Episcopal Church. They plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akniola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a "satanic attack" on the church.
Four other Virginia parishes have left, and eight more are voting or will vote soon whether to follow suit, according to the Virginia diocese.
The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the global Anglican Communion, has been under pressure from traditionalists at home and abroad since the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. Nationally, Episcopal researchers estimate that at least one-third of the nearly 115,000 people who left the denomination from 2003 to 2005 did so because of parish conflicts over Robinson.
Robinson's appointment and the blessing of same-sex unions have torn the church apart, said Duncan, who has forbidden such services in the diocese's 66 parishes, which serve 20,000 people.
"It's the innovation that's torn the church apart. All of this gets blamed on the conservatives. The conservatives haven't changed. We're standing where we always stood," he said.
Duncan said the number of local congregations wanting to move in the direction of the national church has fallen from 13 to nine, and he expects more to have second thoughts. No local parishes have broken away.
"The Christian faith, being a revealed religion, you cannot change its faith or its ministry," he said. "Any church that turns away from it finds itself in deep trouble."
Seven of the 100 U.S. Episcopal dioceses have threatened to break from the denomination but have so far stayed put. Duncan said there has not been consideration of the Pittsburgh diocese's breaking away.
"Our view is that the national church has left its own constitution and we're standing where we always stood," he said. "We are the Episcopal Church here. We have not changed our beliefs or the way in which we stand."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My answer to a New York Times reporter and how she reported it

My answer to a New York Times reporter and how she reported it

by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Dec. 16, 2006
(For a pdf version more suitable for printing, proper formatting, and pagination, go here.)

On 11/29/06, Neela Banerjee, religion reporter for The New York Times, emailed me to ask my views on “gay evangelicals” and about whether I thought "such a term can be honestly used." On the same day I emailed my response. She took two quotes from my response for her article in the Times on Tuesday, Dec. 12, entitled “Gay and Evangelical, Seeking Paths of Acceptance” (front page, continued on p. 18; temporarily available on the web here). She was pleasant in her email. However, her handling of my response merits some comment and qualification. Here is the excerpt from the article that quotes me, along with the immediate context of her article and with boldface added to the quotations of my words:
But for most evangelicals, gay men and lesbians cannot truly be considered Christian, let alone evangelical.

“If by gay evangelical is meant someone who claims both to abide by the authority of Scripture and to engage in a self-affirming manner in homosexual unions, then the concept gay evangelical is a contradiction,” Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, said in an e-mail message.

“Scripture clearly, pervasively, strongly, absolutely and counterculturally opposes all homosexual practice,” Dr. Gagnon said. “I trust that gay evangelicals would argue otherwise, but Christian proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture.”

In fact, both sides look to Scripture. The debate is largely over seven passages in the Bible about same-sex couplings. Mr. Gagnon and other traditionalists say those passages unequivocally condemn same-sex couplings.

Those who advocate acceptance of gay people assert that the passages have to do with acts in the context of idolatry, prostitution or violence. The Bible, they argue, says nothing about homosexuality as it is largely understood today as an enduring orientation, or about committed long-term, same-sex relationships.

For some gay evangelicals, their faith in God helped them override the biblical restrictions people preached to them. . . .
Here is the email that I sent Ms. Banerjee, from which she extracted the quotes (I have placed the quotations in boldface):
Dear Neela,

Are there “gay evangelicals”? Yes and no.

YES: Well, there certainly are self-described evangelicals who experience homosexual impulses and, more, affirm these impulses as something good--just as there are evangelicals who both experience various sinful impulses and sometimes even wrongly attempt to justify these impulses from Scripture. For example, there are evangelicals who attempt to justify sexual relations outside the covenant bond of marriage (i.e., evangelicals who are also fornicators). The apostle Paul’s “first” letter to the Corinthians rebukes the Corinthian Christians for affirming an incestuous relationship between a member of their community and his stepmother (chap. 5) and later goes on to warn the Corinthian believers not to be adulterers, men who have sex with other males, or men who have sex with prostitutes lest they risk not inheriting the kingdom of God (chap. 6). Such persons who are “one spirit” with Jesus scandalously involve Christ in a sexually immoral “one flesh” union. So the phenomenon of Christians acting in ways that are contrary to the call of the Christian gospel, and even affirming such behavior, is as old as Christianity itself.

NO: But if by “gay evangelical” is meant someone who claims both to abide by the authority of Scripture and to engage in a self-affirming manner in homosexual unions, then the concept “gay evangelical” is a contradiction in terms--all the more if one understands “gay” to be a self-constructed identity that seeks to justify and gratify preexisting homosexual impulses. It is a contradiction in terms because Scripture clearly, pervasively, strongly, absolutely, and counterculturally opposes all homosexual practice. I trust that “gay evangelicals” would argue otherwise but Christian proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture (see my website at for this; start with my critique of your colleague Nicholas Kristof at and work your way to my critique of a recent book by Myers/Scanzoni at So to construct a self-identity around behavior that Scripture deems to be an egregious instance of sexual immorality, all the while claiming to be an evangelical Christian who upholds the authority of Scripture, is to engage in a self-contradiction. At best one might speak of “self-deceived gay evangelicals.”

Since Jesus himself would have found any self-affirming, unrepentant homosexual activity to be appalling, putting the perpetrator at risk of not inheriting the very kingdom of God that he proclaimed (see pp. 56-62 in my article cited in the last link above), he would have rejected any attempt to construct an identity around the affirmation of homosexual impulses as incompatible with the call to Christian discipleship. To be a true disciple (learner) of Jesus one must (according to Jesus himself) take up one’s cross, deny oneself, and lose one’s life. So the expression “gay Christian”--not just “gay evangelical”--is a contradiction of terms, just as “self-affirming polysexual Christian” or “self-affirming adulterous Christian” is a contradiction of terms.

We all sin and are regularly in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. But there is a difference between this and engaging in serial, unrepentant sin of a severe sort. Jesus called the adulterous woman out of sin, “lest something worse should happen” to her. The church should do the same in love for self-professed “gay evangelicals.”

Hope this helps.


I appreciate that Ms. Banerjee quoted parts of three of my sentences, which is more than most scholars espousing a position against homosexual practice could expect to get in a major newspaper heavily invested in promoting homosexual relationships, like The New York Times. Yet there are several corrections and comments worth noting here:
Ms. Banerjee misconstrued my remark “Christian proponents of homosexual practice have not made their case from Scripture” to mean that such proponents in my view had not even tried to make a case from Scripture. To this Ms. Banerjee responds in the article: “In fact, both sides look to Scripture”—as if I were unaware of this obvious fact. She then goes on to explain—again, as if I were unaware—that “those who advocate acceptance of gay people assert that the passages have to do with acts in the context of idolatry, prostitution or violence” and not with acts in the context of “an enduring orientation, or about committed long-term, same-sex relationships.”
Now it should have been obvious to Ms. Banerjee that I knew about the frequent attempts on the part of many to neutralize the Bible’s clear opposition to homosexual practice. My publications on the subject of the Bible and homosexual practice over the last 6 years have dealt with all of these arguments in detail. Had Ms. Banerjee checked out the links that I provided her, or read any of my print publications on the subject, she would have known this. She would then have realized that my point was that Christian proponents of homosexual relationships have failed to make a good and convincing case from Scripture. (See the links above and, added to these, my recent extensive critiques of Jack Rogers’s recent book on the subject of the Bible and homosexuality, on my website; start here and then proceed here, here, here, here, and here.) The idea that Scripture says nothing against loving homosexual behavior entered into by homosexually oriented persons is akin to arguing that the Bible poses no obstacle to committed incestuous unions engaged in by consenting adults or that the New Testament is open to committed polyamorous (multiple-partner) unions entered into by confirmed “polysexuals.”
To her credit, when I pointed out this error, Ms. Banerjee acknowledged in an email that she had misunderstood me and apologized. I appreciate that. I doubt, though, that the Times will issue any public correction.
In answer to Ms. Banerjee’s question about whether the term “gay evangelicals” can be “honestly used,” I said “yes and no” and explained both responses. Ms. Banerjee noted only the “no” part of my answer. My response is considerably more nuanced than the Times article would suggest. Of course, on an empirical level there are people who claim to be both “gay” (involving a self-affirmed identity around the acceptability of homosexual relationships) and “evangelical” (involving a belief in Scripture’s supreme authority for matters of faith and practice). But, since Scripture cannot be made serviceable to the acceptance of homosexual practice, it is a contradiction in terms to claim that one is an “evangelical” while affirmingly constructing an identity based on behavior that would have appalled all the authors of Scripture, to say nothing of Jesus.

Ms. Banerjee was not quite accurate in characterizing my position as claiming that “gay men and lesbians cannot truly be considered Christian, let alone evangelical.” This way of wording things can convey a meaning different from my stated position to her, namely, that the term “gay Christian” is “a contradiction in terms”—“just as,” so I noted in my email to her, “‘self-affirming polysexual Christian’ or ‘self-affirming adulterous Christian’ is a contradiction of terms.” First, I made clear in my email that I understood “gay” as a label for someone who not merely experiences homosexual impulses but who, more, “engages in a self-affirming manner in homosexual unions.” Clearly, someone can be a Christian and experience homoerotic desires, just as Christians experience an array of sinful desires on a daily basis that ought not to rule their lives. Second, a person can even be a Christian while engaging in a self-affirming manner in homosexual practice, just as (again noted in my email) Paul dealt with the case of an incestuous Christian in 1 Corinthians 5-6. However, such a person would be a Christian at risk of exclusion from God’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11 and often). So a “gay man” or “lesbian woman” who calls him- or herself a Christian while engaging in serial, unrepentant, and self-affirmed homosexual activity could be “considered” a Christian who is at risk of not inheriting eternal life.

Ms. Banerjee left out my concluding word on the importance of love and the distinction between succumbing to homosexual temptation out of weakness and actively affirming the homosexual behavior that one engages in. Such a note might have provided some balance to an article that otherwise appeared to be working hard to paint a sympathetic portrait of self-affirming “gay evangelicals.” It is also puzzling that Ms. Banerjee didn’t solicit any quotes from Christians who “take up their cross and deny themselves” as regards homosexual impulses.

On Ms. Banerjee’s behalf I can say that I’ve seen far worse reporting on this issue. At least Ms. Banerjee solicited my comments, was polite, and actually used most of three of my sentences. Moreover, she ended her article on the helpful note that relatives of one “gay Christian” in a homosexual relationship tell him, “We love you, but we’re concerned.” These features of her article and reporting should be applauded even as we continue to seek improved reporting on the subject of Christianity and homosexuality from the Times and other major media publications.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., is a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. He can be reached at

Saturday, December 16, 2006

TEC Revolt

Episcopal Rift Drawing Near Point of Revolt
NY Times

For about 30 years, the Episcopal Church has been one big unhappy family. Under one roof there were female bishops and male bishops who would not ordain women. There were parishes that celebrated gay weddings and parishes that denounced them; theologians sure that Jesus was the only route to salvation, and theologians who disagreed.
Now, after years of threats, the family is breaking up.
As many as eight conservative Episcopal churches in Virginia are expected to announce today that their parishioners have voted to cut their ties with the Episcopal Church. Two are large, historic congregations that minister to the Washington elite and occupy real estate worth a combined $27 million, which could result in a legal battle over who keeps the property.
In a twist, these wealthy American congregations are essentially putting themselves up for adoption by Anglican archbishops in poorer dioceses in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who share conservative theological views about homosexuality and the interpretation of Scripture with the breakaway Americans.
“The Episcopalian ship is in trouble,” said the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, one of the two large Virginia congregations, where George Washington served on the vestry. “So we’re climbing over the rails down to various little lifeboats. There’s a lifeboat from Bolivia, one from Rwanda, another from Nigeria. Their desire is to help us build a new ship in North America, and design it and get it sailing.”
Together, these Americans and their overseas allies say they intend to form a new American branch that would rival or even supplant the Episcopal Church in the worldwide Anglican Communion, a confederation of national churches that trace their roots to the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, is now struggling to hold the communion together while facing a revolt on many fronts from emboldened conservatives. Last week, conservative priests in the Church of England warned him that they would depart if he did not allow them to sidestep liberal bishops and report instead to sympathetic conservatives.
In Virginia, the two large churches are voting on whether they want to report to the powerful archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality who supports legislation in his country that would make it illegal for gay men and lesbians to form organizations, read gay literature or eat together in a restaurant. Archbishop Akinola presides over the largest province in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion; it has more than 17 million members, dwarfing the Episcopal Church, with 2.3 million.
If all eight Virginia churches vote to separate, the Diocese of Virginia, the largest Episcopal diocese in the country, will lose about 10 percent of its 90,000 members. In addition, four churches in Virginia have already voted to secede, and two more are expected to vote soon, said Patrick N. Getlein, secretary of the diocese.
Two weeks ago, the entire diocese in San Joaquin, Calif., voted to sever its ties with the Episcopal Church, a decision it would have to confirm in a second vote next year. Six or more American dioceses say they are considering such a move.
In the last three years, since the Episcopal Church consecrated V. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives with his partner, as bishop of New Hampshire, about three dozen American churches have voted to secede and affiliate with provinces overseas, according to The Episcopal News Service.
However, the secession effort in Virginia is being closely watched by Anglicans around the world because so many churches are poised to depart simultaneously. Virginia has become a central stage, both for those pushing for secession and for those trying to prevent it.
The Diocese of Virginia is led by Bishop Peter James Lee, the longest-serving Episcopal bishop and a centrist who, both sides agree, has been gracious to the disaffected churches and worked to keep them in the fold.
Bishop Lee has made concessions other bishops would not. He has allowed the churches to keep their seats in diocesan councils, even though they stopped contributing to the diocesan budget in protest. When some of the churches refused to have Bishop Lee perform confirmations in their parishes, he flew in the former archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. George Carey, a conservative evangelical, to take his place.
“Our Anglican tradition has always been a very large tent in which people with different theological emphases can live together,” Bishop Lee said in a telephone interview. “I’m very sorry some in these churches feel that this is no longer the case for them. It certainly is their choice and their decision. No one is forcing them to do this.”
The Diocese of Virginia is also home to the Rev. Martyn Minns, a main organizer in the global effort by conservative Anglicans to ostracize the Episcopal Church. Mr. Minns is the priest in charge of Truro Church, the second of the two historic Virginia parishes now voting on secession.
Anglican rules and traditions prohibit bishops from crossing geographical boundaries to take control of churches or priests not in their territory. So Archbishop Akinola and his American allies have tried to bypass that by establishing a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Archbishop Akinola has appointed Mr. Minns as his key “missionary bishop” to spread the gospel to Americans on his behalf.
Mr. Minns and other advocates of secession have suggested to the voters that the convocation arrangement has the blessing of the Anglican hierarchy. But on Friday, the Anglican Communion office in London issued a terse statement saying the convocation had not been granted “any official status within the communion’s structures, nor has the archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”
The voting in Virginia, however, was already well under way, with ballot boxes open for a week starting last Sunday. Church leaders say they need 70 percent of the voters to approve the secession for it to take effect.
If the vote is to secede, the churches and the diocese will fight to keep ownership of Truro Church, in Fairfax, and The Falls Church, in Falls Church, Va., a city named for the church.
Henry D. W. Burt, a member of the standing committee of the Virginia Diocese, grew up in The Falls Church and recently urged members not to secede. He said in an interview: “We’re not talking about Class A office space in Arlington, Va. We’re talking about sacred ground.”
Neither side says it wants to go to court over control of the church property, but both say the law is on their side.
At one of the four Virginia parishes that has already voted to secede, All Saints Church in Dale City, the tally was 402 to 6. But that church had already negotiated a settlement to rent its property from the diocese for $1 each year until it builds another church.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said in an e-mail response to a request for an interview that such splits reflect a polarized society, as well as the “anxiety” and “discomfort” that many people feel when they are asked to live with diversity.
“The quick fix embraced in drawing lines or in departing is not going to be an ultimate solution for our discomfort,” she said.
Soon, Bishop Schori herself will become the issue. Archbishop Akinola and some other leaders of provinces in developing countries have said they will boycott their primates’ meeting in Tanzania in February unless the archbishop of Canterbury sends a second representative for the American conservatives.
“It’s a huge amount of mess,” said the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina, who is aligned with the conservatives. “As these two sides fight, a lot of people in the middle of the Episcopal Church are exhausted and trying to hide, and you can’t. When you’re in a family and the two sides are fighting, it affects everybody.”

Ireland High Court Rules Against Gay 'Marriage' Citing Harm to Children

Refuses Recognition of Lesbian "Marriage" Staged in Canada

By Gudrun Schultz
DUBLIN, Ireland,
December 15, 2006 (

- The Ireland High Court yesterday rejected a lesbian couple's demand to have their Canadian "marriage" recognized in Ireland, in a landmark ruling closely watched by both sides of the international marriage debate.Justice Elizabeth Dunne decided against the claim of Dr. Katherine Zappone and Dr. Anne Louise Gilligan, who had argued that the State and the Revenue Commissioners had violated their constitutional rights by refusing to assess them for taxes as a married couple, the Irish Times reported yesterday. "Marriage was understood under the 1937 Constitution to be confined to persons of the opposite sex," Justice Dunne wrote in her lengthy ruling. "Having regard to the clear understanding of the meaning of marriage as set out in the numerous authorities opened to the Court from this jurisdiction and elsewhere, I do not see how marriage can be redefined by the Court to encompass same sex marriage."Dr. Zappone, a public policy research consultant member of the Human Rights Commission, and Dr. Gilligan, who lectures at St. Patrick's College in Dublin, are homosexual activists who have been pursuing a change in Ireland's marriage laws that would permit homosexual couples to legally marry. When Canada passed homosexual marriage legislation in 2003, the pair traveled to Vancouver, B.C. in September 2003 to 'marry', and then used their Canadian 'marriage' to attempt to force recognition by the Irish government.Justice Dunne rejected the couple's argument that international acceptance of homosexual 'marriage' was reason enough for re-evaluation of Irish law."The Plaintiffs referred frequently in the course of this case to the 'changing consensus' but I have to say the there is little evidence of that," she wrote. "The consensus around the world does not support a widespread move towards same sex marriage. There has been some limited support for the concept of same sex marriage as in Canada, Massachusetts and South Africa together with…three European countries…but, in truth, it is difficult to see that as a consensus, changing or otherwise."In her 138-page ruling, Justice Dunne expressed concern about the effect of same-sex marriage on children, saying the lack of conclusive research into the results of homosexual parenting made it necessary to reserve judgment on the issue."[T]here is simply not enough evidence from the research done to date that could allow firm conclusions to be drawn as to the consequences of same sex marriage particularly in the area of the welfare of children."The United States-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy commented on the Irish court decision, saying:'Of particular interest may be the court's discussion about the evidence purporting to show no difference between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by married couples. The judge accepted testimony about the methodological shortcomings of available evidence and said: "It also seems to me having regard to the criticism of the methodology used in the majority of the studies conducted to date that until such time as there are more longitudinal studies involving much larger samples that it will be difficult to reach firm conclusions on this topic."' 'The court concluded that the Irish Constitution's explicit reference to a constitutional right of opposite-sex couples to marry justified the legal distinction between same- and opposite-sex couples in the marriage law. The court further noted, however, that the marriage law was further justified by concerns with the 'welfare of children' since in the absence of good research, 'the State is entitled to adopt a cautious approach to changing the capacity to marry.'"Justice Dunne said the decision to grant legal recognition to same-sex couples apart from marriage should be up to the legislature, not the courts. Currently in Ireland, legislation has been proposed that would permit homosexual couples to enter in to civil unions with some of the legal benefits given to married heterosexual couples.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ted Haggard's "Sin"

Ted Haggard's "Sin"-- Jon Pahl
Now that some of the dust has settled from the unfortunate fall of evangelical leader Ted Haggard -- who has confessed to being a "sinner" to his congregation -- we can achieve some longer-range perspective on what it all means.
I agree with Martin Marty that Rev. Haggard, along with his family and all those involved in this scandal, deserves compassion, and one wishes him peace (see "Considering Ted Haggard's Plight," Sightings, November 6). But Haggard's letter to his church reveals a truncated understanding of sin and a failure to recognize how the movement he led as President of the National Association of Evangelicals is in part responsible for his plight.
Like most evangelicals, Haggard is the theological heir of Saint Augustine, finding sin in pride and lust. Unlike Augustine, however, Haggard sees pride and lust as personal attributes. "I alone am responsible," he asserts in his letter. "I created this entire situation," he reiterates. And yet a third time he says, "It was created 100 percent by me."
Augustine has a more sophisticated understanding of the origins of sinful desire. In his Confessions, he reveals how sin arises from within a social nexus. In the famous account in Book 2, he describes stealing a bunch of pears with a gang of his friends. He did this not because he was hungry, but because it was transgressive. He and his friends constructed a foul desire and then he acted on it.
A similar dynamic can be observed among many conservative evangelicals with regard to homosexuality. By targeting gay sex as "sin," the religious right has mobilized "values voters." But by scapegoating homosexuality, they draw attention to it as "temptation." As Haggard puts it: "There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life." It is as if the religious right's culture war has played out in Ted Haggard's soul. As an individual willing to carry the blame as a "sinner," he acted out the scapegoating that has in part organized power for the movement he led.
In its mild form, this scapegoating of homosexuals has been expressed in "Defense of Marriage" laws, one of which passed in the recent elections in Colorado. Haggard was a vocal supporter of these laws. Such tension between his public person and his private behavior must have been excruciating. A more extreme form of this logic has led to movements like that of the Rev. Fred Phelps's "God Hates Fags" campaign. Passion for "purity" against homosexual desire has been used to rally evangelical righteousness, and to round up voters.
Consequently, those who feel homosexual desire and who are also persuaded by the logic of a Phelps will likely bear a degree of self-hatred that leads to isolation and repression. Haggard would appear to be in such a position. "For extended periods of time," Haggard writes, "I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach."
But what Haggard does not seem to recognize, as Augustine did, is how his desires were in part the result of what he believed and taught. Augustine demonstrates that a dirty desire is desirable precisely because it is dirty. Similarly, Haggard, I believe, was actually possessed by the social constructions of the very movement he led. He suggests as much when he reveals that "when I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me." But a problem can only dominate one in this way when it is constructed as a problem. If, say, gay sex were considered good within a committed, loving, and publicly recognized relationship, it would not pose a moral threat.
According to Augustine, an individual either participates in God, who is gracious and life-fulfilling love, or one falls into lust, which is prideful assertion of one's desires to dominate. The religious right has had plenty of experience with domination lately. It is more than a little disturbing, then, that Haggard, in his letter, imagines that he will be "healed" when his "sins" are "dealt with harshly," and when, with the "oversight" of leading anti-gay pastors Dr. James Dobson, Jack Hayford, and Tommy Barnett, he is "disciplined." (Dobson has since withdrawn from the counseling team.)
It is unlikely that those in this group will actually confess their collective responsibility for Haggard's sins. To do so, they would have to acknowledge the systemic violence they have accepted and promoted by scapegoating homosexuals. Policies produce practices, and when a taboo is constructed, it invariably becomes a temptation.
Prior to his fall, Haggard had been an admirably clear voice for broadening evangelical activism to include support for environmental causes and attention to poverty as a religious issue. One might now hope that evangelicals and others continue to learn through his example -- by recognizing with Augustine how desire is rooted in a social nexus.

Jon Pahl is Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and a Fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Steinmetz: No neutral corner

No neutral corner
Being Anglican in a time of angry polarizationDavid C. Steinmetz Special to the Sentinel Posted November 26, 2006
Almost overlooked in the media frenzy over the spectacular fall from grace of megachurch pastor, Ted Haggard, was the installation on Nov. 4 of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the 78 million-member Anglican Communion.Like Nancy Pelosi, who will become the first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, Bishop Jefferts Schori is also a pioneer, becoming at her installation in the National Cathedral the first woman ever to preside over an Anglican province in the nearly 500-year history of the Anglican Communion. Both women assume their new roles in troubled times.
The Anglican troubles began in 2003, when the Episcopal Church decided to consecrate an openly gay man as the bishop of New Hampshire. This act ignited a religious civil war that spread rapidly around the world.Conservative Anglicans regard the election and consecration of an openly gay bishop as a repudiation of biblical authority. In their view, gay sex is a forbidden activity for Christians, as St. Paul and the holiness code of Leviticus make clear. Indeed, conservatives regard attraction to members of one's own sex as a disordered form of love that needs to be overcome rather than expressed -- a traditional position recently reiterated by the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.Liberal Anglicans -- including Jefferts Schori -- disagree. In their view, homosexuality is not a choice. Human beings are born gay. They no more choose to be gay or lesbian than they choose to be tall or short. What they can decide is whether to be promiscuous, taking their pleasures where they find them, or to be faithful to one partner in a lifetime commitment of mutual love and respect.Liberals believe that Jesus calls heterosexuals to a life of sexual fidelity as heterosexuals and homosexuals to the same standard of fidelity as gay and lesbian. Both are included in the general call to holiness, and no one stands outside the circle of God's loving acceptance.And that is where the argument stands at the present time. Simply put, the two opposing positions, liberal and conservative, could not be more sharply different. Either gay sex is a disordered form of love and needs to be renounced, or it is part of God's good creation and needs only to be faithful.This polarized state of affairs has left moderates in the Anglican communion depressed and dispirited. Moderates are people who are appalled by the willingness of both liberals and conservatives to accept schism as the price of defending the truth, however differently both sides define "the truth."They agree with the late Reinhold Niebuhr that God's quarrel is not with this or that faction of the human family. God's quarrel is with the whole human race, white and black, male and female, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, gay and straight.Jefferts Schori echoed Niebuhr when she suggested that the present crisis in the Anglican Communion is not the fault of liberals only or of conservatives only, however much each side would like to blame the other. The crisis represents the failure of everyone, liberal and conservative alike, to nurture, love and pray each other into the greater holiness and wisdom these trying times demand.Speaker-designate Pelosi faces a similar crisis. Can political liberals and conservatives declare a truce in their culture wars long enough to identify and work collaboratively toward a common good? If not, the failure will not be the fault of conservatives only or of liberals only. The failure will be the fault of both. Or, as Pogo once memorably put it, "We have met the enemy and it is us."Of course, the question is always posed in morally sharper terms to the church than it is to society in general. After all, liberal and conservative Anglicans are joined to each other by the waters of baptism, a bond they believe is thicker than blood. They share a common history and liturgical tradition, celebrate an identical list of saints and martyrs, laugh at the same self-deprecating jokes, support many of the same charitable projects, recite a common creed, and participate in a common Eucharist.If, given these shared memories, Anglicans cannot love and forgive each other, whom exactly can they love and forgive?David C. Steinmetz is the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of the History of Christianity at the Divinity School of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Please join Gene for a lively conversation"

Working for Justice and the Common Good
The Struggle for Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Within Religion November 2, 2006, 9:00am – 10:30am
Featured Speaker: Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New HampshireModerated by: Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director, Faith in Public Life Welcome and Introduction by: Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President for External Affairs, Center for American Progress
As the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, Gene Robinson has faced both hostile opposition and support from both religious and secular communities. His election in 2003 triggered a struggle within the worldwide Anglican church over human rights for gay men and lesbians—a struggle that reflects tensions and rifts within the larger society today.
In working to uphold ideals of respect and compassion and in fighting divisiveness, Bishop Robinson has been an outspoken defender of the common good. Drawing upon his extensive experience as a leader in faith and social justice work, Bishop Robinson will discuss the struggle for inclusion and equality within his faith tradition and other institutions. Please join Bishop Gene Robinson for a lively, important conversation.

Go here.

Here's what some blog had to say about it:

The following is from a talk by Gene Robinson to the Center for American Progress, on the topic of Working for Justice and the Common Good. It took place on the third anniversary of his becoming the bishop of New Hampshire. Initially, I was thinking I would just try to summarize it, but there is a lot of good stuff here, so I ended up largely transcribing about the first third of it. Will share more in a future post, and in the some of the parts toward the end of the talk/interview, I'll have more of my own thoughts to share.Bishop Gene Robinson: Micah said "love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God". For the Episcopalians in the crowd, there is a typo in the prayer book--whoever did the typesetting transposed that into "love justice and do mercy." That's been in there since 1979. And I think that's the temptation that we have, which is to just *love* the notion of justice, and be perfectly willing to do those merciful acts of charity. But not do the hard work of justice.And who is the common good for? This year (in the liturgical cycle) we are reading from the Gospel of Mark. It's the oldest, "lean and mean", "Cliff's Notes" version. Gene mentions being a proponent of studying the Gospels in terms of how they depict "what did Jesus know, and when did he know it" with regard to who he was and the nature of his mission. In the Gospel of John, which is believed to be the latest written, Jesus seems to know all.

In Mark, Jesus seems to be figuring it out as he goes along--which to Gene makes sense, because if God chose to live a completely human life, we don't know what's going to happen an hour from now. "And I think that's how Jesus lived his life, so, as you read Mark's Gospel, you can begin to see Jesus kind of putting all this together in his mind...I think Mark's Gospel gives us an idea of the development of Jesus' self-understanding.Gene goes on to set the stage for telling a story that Robinson sees as a turning point in Jesus' self understanding.

You can read more of it here.

E-m-i-l-y ?!?!?

Below you will find Lutherans Concerned Executive Emily Eastwood writing:

"Many of you have expressed interest in the progress of the case that Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod has elected to bring against Pastor Bradley Schmeling seeking Bradley's removal from the roster of ELCA clergy. As you know Bradley asked that I serve on his team of legal advisors. I will continue in this role through the disciplinary proceedings. At this point in the case and while pre-hearing negotiations are underway there are still a few things I am able to share with you that I think will be of interest.
The hearing officer (judge), technical and facilities advisors, and the disciplinary hearing committee (jury) have been chosen. The hearing committee is made up of 12 members, 6 from the ELCA and 6 from the Southeastern Synod elected rosters of disciplinary committee members. Bishop Mark Hanson chose the hearing officer and advisors. The Executive Committee of the ELCA chose the 6 members of the committee from the ELCA roster. The synodical members were selected according to elected term with those most recently elected chosen first. In accordance with the rules, Bradley was allowed to select one clergy and one lay person from the ELCA roster of potential committee members.
Although Bradley preferred that the disciplinary proceeding be held in open hearing, Bishop Warren has elected to close the proceedings. When the accused is an individual, as in this case, the ELCA Rules Governing Disciplinary Hearings give the Bishop, as the accuser, an absolute veto over whether the hearing is open or closed. This means that visitors will be denied access to the proceeding. I understand that many of you may want to come to Atlanta during the hearing to support Bradley and his congregation and to see for yourselves what unfolds."

But is it true that the Bishop elected to close the hearing? Or does the constitution say it will be closed unless all agree that it should be open?

We hope that the truth that comes out will be seperable from the spin that LCNA puts on it.

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Atlanta situation

by Richard O. Johnson, associate editor
Forum Letter November, 2006
Copyright 2006 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. All rights reserved.

Action on the “what do we do about gay clergy” front has now moved to Atlanta, where Southeastern Synod Bp. Ron Warren has filed formal charges against Pr. Bradley Schmeling. The pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Schmeling admitted some time ago that he was in a “committed relationship” with Darin Easlin.

Where few bishops have gone before

Warren, of course, has now gone where several other ELCA bishops have refused to tread. The bishop has declined (understandably and probably rightly) to discuss the case with Forum Letter, but as we’ve tried to piece the story together, it runs something like this:

Bp. Warren was aware of Schmeling’s sexual orientation, but Schmeling had told the bishop that he was in compliance with the requirements of Vision & Expectations, the ELCA document stating that pastors “who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.” Schmeling assured the bishop that if that ever were to change, he would let him know.

Read the whole article here.

The Pastor Bradley Schmeling case

Here is an update on the Atlanta situation from the Lutherans Concerned/North America website (

"November 21, 2006

Update on the Pastor Bradley Schmeling case

Many of you have expressed interest in the progress of the case that Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod has elected to bring against Pastor Bradley Schmeling seeking Bradley's removal from the roster of ELCA clergy. As you know Bradley asked that I serve on his team of legal advisors. I will continue in this role through the disciplinary proceedings. At this point in the case and while pre-hearing negotiations are underway there are still a few things I am able to share with you that I think will be of interest.

The hearing officer (judge), technical and facilities advisors, and the disciplinary hearing committee (jury) have been chosen. The hearing committee is made up of 12 members, 6 from the ELCA and 6 from the Southeastern Synod elected rosters of disciplinary committee members. Bishop Mark Hanson chose the hearing officer and advisors. The Executive Committee of the ELCA chose the 6 members of the committee from the ELCA roster. The synodical members were selected according to elected term with those most recently elected chosen first. In accordance with the rules, Bradley was allowed to select one clergy and one lay person from the ELCA roster of potential committee members.

Although Bradley preferred that the disciplinary proceeding be held in open hearing, Bishop Warren has elected to close the proceedings. When the accused is an individual, as in this case, the ELCA Rules Governing Disciplinary Hearings give the Bishop, as the accuser, an absolute veto over whether the hearing is open or closed. This means that visitors will be denied access to the proceeding. I understand that many of you may want to come to Atlanta during the hearing to support Bradley and his congregation and to see for yourselves what unfolds.

Since the hearing is closed visitors are invited to join St John's for services and prayer around the cross. St John's Lutheran has posted on its website the following dates and times for Prayer at the Time of Trial:

Thursday, January 18, 2007 7:00 pm EST
Liturgy of Prayer and Footwashing
The Rev Barbara Lundblad Preaching

Friday, January 19, 2007 7:00 pm EST
Prayers at the Cross

Sunday, January 21, 2007 10:30 am EST
Festival Sunday Worship
The Rev Gladys Moore Preaching

The liturgies for these services will be available on the St John's website by mid December. Individuals and congregations, not in Atlanta, are asked to convene services using these liturgies in their own locales. Services in support of Bradley and St John's held all over the ELCA and perhaps even in the ELCIC will send a message to the wider church and to the public that the church universal is watching and waiting and calling upon the Holy Spirit to be present in the hearing helping the hearing committee to discern the will of God in this case.

The Bishop's counsel has expressed concern about possible media attention to the case, and has asked that Bradley and his team agree to total media silence. Bradley and his counsel have not and will not agree to media silence. Ironically, the Bishop's own announcement on the synod website of his filing of charges against Bradley prompted the first media inquiries about the case.

Because Bishop Warren is asking that the most severe form of discipline, removal from the clergy roster, be imposed on Bradley in the name of, and on behalf of, the entire ELCA, and because the larger church has been engaged in discussion of the ELCA policy concerning gay clergy, the entire church has an interest in knowing what is being done in its name. In contrast to the Bishop's desire for secrecy, Bradley's counsel have expressed their interest in transparency in this process, pointing out the larger church's interest in knowing how these matters are being handled and its need to have confidence in the integrity and fairness of both the process and of decisions made on behalf of the whole denomination.

The ELCA rules limit each party in a closed hearing to only two official representatives, usually counsel. Bradley's counsel asked the hearing officer to permit the attendance of a limited number of additional people, but the hearing officer indicated that he would leave the parties to reach their own agreement on this matter. Bradley's counsel requested that the Bishop agree to the attendance of members of Bradley's immediate family, including his partner Pastor Darin Easler, another close friend and myself. The Bishop's counsel has responded that the Bishop's agreement on the attendance of family members would be conditioned on an agreement to total media silence. If media silence is the only option, then Bradley and his counsel will be entering the hearing room alone.

Bradley and I know that his case is about much more than whether one pastor is removed from the roster. We know the filing of charges has caused deep pain for most if not all of you, the members of LC/NA. This case is about every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person, called to ministry or not. It is about parents, siblings, children and allies. The ELCA and Bishop Warren said "yes" to Bradley time and again, and in so doing said "yes," in a way, to us. Bradley kept his promise and came forward with the news of his partnership with Darin. Many of us have done the same, choosing authenticity and integrity to the church closet. How the ELCA will act in this process and what it will decide impacts Bradley most of all. Still we stand with him, knowing that the verdict and the penalty, if imposed, are just as surely directed at all of us. God watches with us, longing for justice. "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Rom 8: 37-39.

In this time of preparation, I ask that you keep Bradley, his legal team, Bishop Warren and his counsel, the hearing officer, advisors, the hearing committee and the members of St. John's Lutheran in your prayers. May the Holy Spirit infuse this process that all members of the ELCA will find ways to live together faithfully in the midst our disagreements, ways that are life giving rather than life taking, ways that celebrate ministry and the good gifts of the creator, ways that confirm the call of God empowering all to answer Amen, let it be so.

Emily Eastwood
Executive Director

Friday, November 17, 2006

In South Africa, the Reasons for Defending Marriage

CAPE TOWN, South African, NOV. 17, 2006 ( The president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference asserted that "homosexual marriage" is contrary to the natural law, and undermines the family and the foundations of society.

On Tuesday the South African Parliament approved same-sex "marriage" by a 230-41 vote after an intense debate. Proponents defended the measure as a way to combat all forms of discrimination.

Last month, at the request of a parliamentary Committee of Internal Affairs, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, archbishop of Durban, issued a statement explaining why the Catholic Church holds a position that is opposed to same-sex "marriage."

"We agree that the civil and moral law are different things, but we also say that man-made laws cannot legitimize what is against the natural moral law," explained Cardinal Napier.

Moreover, legalization of same-sex unions undermines the family, noted the cardinal: "Across cultures and different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family," and is seen "as a loving and lasting relationship between a man and a woman, a relationship that is open to new life and the future of the human race."

Across various religious beliefs and cultures, "the family is seen as the basic unit of society" and the latter owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage, stated the 65-year-old prelate. "Marriage as we know it is recognized by the state because it contributes to the common good," while "homosexual unions do not exercise this function."

Such unions are also against the good of children, as being placed in the care of a same-sex couple would deprive them of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood, the cardinal said.

This is "a grave injustice to these children who would be compelled to grow up in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development," he added.

See Cardinal Napier's full statement here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why the multi-various sproutings of delusions of self-justification?

Culture of Vice
Robert R. Reilly
Robert Reilly notes that a society can withstand any number of persons who try to advance their own moral disorders as public policy. But society cannot survive once it adopts the justifications for whose moral disorders as its own. This is what is at stake in the culture war.

In The Ethics Aristotle wrote, "men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives." This is also true when revolutionary changes are cultural. What might these "private" reasons be, and why do they become public in the form of revolutionary changes? The answer to these questions lies in the intimate psychology of moral failure.

For any individual, moral failure is hard to live with because of the rebuke of conscience. Habitual moral failure, what used to be called vice, can be lived with only by obliterating conscience through rationalization. When we rationalize, we convince ourselves that heretofore forbidden desires are permissible. We advance the reality of the desires over the reality of the moral order to which the desires should be subordinated. In our minds we replace the reality of moral order with something more congenial to the activity we are excusing. In short, we assert that bad is good.

It is often difficult to detect rationalizations when one is living directly under their influence, and so historical examples are useful. One of the clearest was offered at the Nuremberg trials by Dr. Karl Brandt, who had been in charge of the Nazi regime's Aktion T-4 euthanasia program. He said in his defense: "...when I said `yes' to euthanasia I did so with the deepest conviction, just as it is my conviction today, that it was right. Death can mean deliverance. Death is life."

Unlike Dr. Brandt, most people recover from their rationalizations when remorse and reality set back in. But when morally disordered acts become the defining centerpiece of one's life, vice can permanently pervert reason. Entrenched moral aberrations then impel people to rationalize vice not only to themselves but to others as well. Thus rationalizations become an engine for revolutionary change that will affect society as a whole.

The power of rationalization drives the culture war, gives it its particular revolutionary character, and makes its advocates indefatigable. It may draw its energy from desperation, but it is all the more powerful for that. Since failed rationalization means self-recrimination, it must be avoided at all cost. For this reason, the differences over which the culture war is being fought are not subject to reasoned discourse. Persons protecting themselves by rationalizing are interested not in finding the truth, but in maintaining the illusion that allows them to continue their behavior. For them to succeed in this, everyone must accede to their rationalization. This is why revolutionary change is required. The necessity for self-justification requires the complicity of the whole culture. Holdouts cannot be tolerated because they are potential rebukes. The self-hatred, anger, and guilt that a person possessed of a functioning conscience would normally feel from doing wrong are redirected by the rationalization and projected upon society as a whole (if the society is healthy), or upon those in society who do not accept the rationalization.

According to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, for example, all those reluctant to participate in his rationalization for killing people (including, it turns out, some who are not even ill) are the real problem; the judicial system is "corrupt," the medical profession is "insane," and the press is "meretricious." Of the coroner who found nothing medically wrong with several of his victims, Dr. Kevorkian said that he is a "liar and a fanatical religious nut."

The homosexual movement's rationalization is far more widely advanced in its claims. According to Jeffrey Levi, former executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "We (homosexuals)_ are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a right to protection from wrong. We have a right - as heterosexuals have already - to see government and society affirm our lives." Since only the act of sodomy differentiates an active homosexual from a heterosexual, homosexuals want "government and society" to affirm that sodomy is morally equivalent to the marital act. "Coming out of the closet" can only mean an assent on the level of moral principle to what would otherwise be considered morally disordered.

And so it must be. If you are going to center your public life on the private act of sodomy, you had better transform sodomy into a highly moral act. If sodomy is a moral disorder, it cannot be legitimately advanced on the legal or civil level. On the other hand, if it is a highly moral act, it should serve as the basis for marriage, family (adoption), and community. As a moral act, sodomy should be normative. If it is normative, it should be taught in our schools as a standard. In fact, homosexuality should be hieratic: active homosexuals should be ordained as priests. All of this is happening. It was predictable. The homosexual cause moved naturally from a plea for tolerance to cultural conquest. How successful that conquest has been can be seen in the poverty of the rhetoric of its opponents. In supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, the best one congressman could do was to say, "America is not yet ready for homosexual marriage," as if we simply need a decent interval to adjust ourselves to its inevitable arrival.

The homosexual rationalization is so successful that even the campaign against AIDS is part of it, with its message that "everyone is at risk." If everyone is at risk, the disease cannot be related to specific behavior. Yet homosexual acts are the single greatest risk factor in catching AIDS. This unpleasant fact invites unwelcome attention to the nature of homosexual acts, so it must be ignored.

The movement for abortion is equally expansive in its claims upon society. The internal logic of abortion requires the spread of death from the unborn to the nearly born, and then to the infirm and otherwise burdensome individuals. The very psychology of rationalization also pushes those involved with abortion to spread the application of its principles in order to multiply the sources of support for it.

If you are going to kill innocent persons you had better convince yourself and others that is "right," that you do it out of compassion. Thus, Beverly Harrison, a professor of Christian ethics at Union Theological Seminary, contends that abortion is a "positive good," and even a "loving choice." Jungian analyst Ginette Paris thinks it is even more. In her book, The Sacrament of Abortion, she calls for "new rituals as well as laws to restore to abortion its sacred dimension." Defending the right to partial-birth abortions during the recent U.S. Senate debate, Senator Barbara Boxer assure her colleagues that mothers who have aborted their children by this means "buried those babies with love." If abortion is love, then, indeed, as Dr. Brandt said, "Death is life."

Abortion is the ultimate in the larger rationalization of the sexual revolution: if sex is only a form or amusement or self-realization (as it must be when divorced from the moral order), why should the generation of a child stand in the way of it, or penalize its fulfillment? The life of the child is a physical and moral rebuke to this proposition. But the child is too weak to overcome the power of the rationalization. The virtual reality of the rationalization is stronger than the actual reality of the child. The child succumbs to the rationalization and is killed in a new "sacrament."

With over 35 million abortions performed since 1973, the investment in the denial of the evil of abortion has become tremendous. Anyone who has witnessed the eruption of grief and horror (often coming many years after the event) in a woman confronting for the first time the nature of what she has done in an abortion knows the lengths to which people must go to prevent its occurrence.

Thus the changing attitudes toward abortion can be directly traced to the growing number of people, including fathers, doctors, and nurses, with the need to justify it. As reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of people who think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances has declined from 21 per cent in 1975 to only 15 per cent in 1995. The proportion who support abortion in all circumstances has increased from 21 per cent to 33 per cent in the same period. This change has taken place not because pro-abortionists are winning arguments, but because of the enormous increase in the number of those with a personal, psychological need to deny what abortion is.

Controversies about life, generation, and death are decisive for the fate of any civilization. A society can withstand any number of persons who try to advance their own moral disorders as public policy. But it cannot survive once it adopts the justification for those moral disorders as its own. This is what is at stake in the culture war.

Robert R. Reilly is chairman of the Committee for Western Civilization.

This article was first published in National Review. Copyright © 1996 National Review It can be found at the Catholic Educator Resource Center website.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Megan Writes Her Own Press Release: "Consortium of San Francisco Lutheran Churches to Ordain a Queer Pastor on November 18th."

All the best, Megan!

Shrimp here: Of all the human people I have met venturing on dry land, Megan is the most upfront in her radical revisionism of what it measn to be Lutheran. She seems to truly believe that she has an inside on what Martin Luther would say about her.
I think she actually shows that the ELCA is in deep epistimological problems. I'm only sorry I didn't hear of this earlier. I suppose the ELCA's only hope is to help San Francisco start their own denomnation and let similar minded people from around the ELCA join them.

by Megan Rohrer Wednesday, Nov. 08, 2006 at 6:29 PM

Consortium of San Francisco Lutheran Churches to Ordain a Queer Pastor on November 18th.

A consortium of Lutheran churches in San Francisco are set to ordain an openly queer person to minister to the homeless in San Francisco, in direct conflict with official policies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Christ Church Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, St. Francis Lutheran and St. Mary and St. Martha Lutheran plan to ordain Megan Rohrer on Saturday, Novemeber 18th, 2006 in a service to be held at Ebenezer Lutheran Church at 3pm. The action follows the ordination of Erik Christensen that happened on October 21st at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Chicago. Both Eric and Megan were approved for call by the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP).

The Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley and president of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, remarks: "I thank God for Megan and for the courageous witness of Bay Area Lutherans! Megan is a wonderfully gifted candidate for ordination and will make a terrific Lutheran pastor.”

On August 27th, Ebenezer became the first congregation to vote to call Megan (see Like most ELCA congregations that have called ECP roster members, Ebenezer is one of Lutherans Concerned/North America's Reconciling in Christ congregations. This vibrant parish in the heart of San Francisco is known for its cutting edge ministry and "re-imaging" what it means to be church. With its focus on feminism and gender, this congregation is an excellent match for Megan theologically.

Megan explains, "As an extraordinary candidate for ministry, I feel that my access and privilege oblige me to speak openly about the queerness of scripture on behalf of and for the sake of my queer kin. This does not mean talking about queer things all the time, or that I minister only to or for queer people. Rather, it means that I am called to be honest not only about my own queer gender and sexuality, but also about the diverse sex, gender and sexuality constructions in scripture, the nature of God and in the body of Christ."

On January 20th 1990, St. Francis and First United became the first congregations to defy the ELCA, when they called and ordained Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart and Jeff Johnson. On January 22nd the ELCA filed charges against St. Francis and First United which lead to the expulsion of both congregations from the ELCA.

In the 16 years that have past since the ordination of Frost, Zillart and Johnson, the ELCA’s discipline of churches who call sexual minority pastors has been very inconsistent. For example, in 1997, the Rev. Steven P. Sabin was tried and defrocked because of his partnership while serving at Lord of Life Lutheran in Ames, Iowa. Yet, no disciplinary action was taken in 2001 when Rev. Sabin accepted an illegal and “irregular" call to Christ Church.

Rohrer’s ordination comes after the ELCA completed a four year process of “study and discernment” in preparation for a vote in August of 2005 on the issues of gay clergy and same-sex blessings. At that time, the church voted not to change its official church policy allows lesbian or gay persons to serve only if they take a vow of celibacy. However, in response to the policy of the national church, the Sierra Pacific Synod voted at their 2006 synod assembly to commend “the office of the Bishop of this Synod for its exercise of the discretion explicitly granted by the ELCA’s governing documents, and encourages that the Bishop’s office continue to be guided by restraint in the administration of those policies only applicable to sexual minority rostered persons” (resolution 06-06).

It is unclear how the Bishop will respond to the congregations that are calling Rohrer and ordaining her. The Bishop may choose restraint, or to follow the lead of Bishop Ron Warren of Southeastern Synod, who has filed formal charges against out Pastor Bradley Schmeling on August 8, 2006 for "behavior incompatible with the character of the ministerial office."

Rev. Johnson sees Megan's ordination as another opportunity for Lutherans to confront the policy this policy. “Megan’s ordination not only bears witness to her gifts, it is also a strong repudiation of the policy of discrimination and forced celibacy that continues to captivate most Lutherans throughout the United States and the ELCA. I hope that more and more Lutherans will see fit to ignore this policy and find extraordinary ways to circumvent it."

Megan and members of the calling churches will be available for comment 30 minutes before the service and for 30 minutes after the service.

3:00 p.m. Saturday, November 18th, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 678 Portola Dr.

6:30 p.m. Saturday, November 18th, Christ Church Lutheran, 1090 Quintara Street.

MORE DETAILS: (Click on the ordination link at the top of the page.)
or: (Megan Rohrer’s Ordination Homepage)
or: Welcome Ministry office telephone: (415)776-5552x310 (between 11am and 5pm pacific time)

Megan Rohrer: 415-827-2587
Ebenezer Contact: The Rev. Stacy Boorn; 415-731-6470
Christ Church Lutheran contact: The Rev. Steven P. Sabin; 415-664-0915
St. Francis Contact: The Rev. Dr. Robert Goldstein; 415-621-2635

Megan Rohrer
The Welcome Ministry
1751 Sacramento St
San Francisco CA 94109

Original article is at Print comments.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"undermining traditional marriage; and criminalize any public criticism of homosexual conduct.."

THE AGENDA describes how homosexual activists plan on recruiting your children into the lifestyle; how they’re undermining traditional marriage; and how they will eventually criminalize any public criticism of homosexual conduct. (It’s already happening in Canada where the gay agenda is well advanced.)

Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts has said of THE AGENDA: “This powerful and hard-hitting book lays bare the reality and risks of the homosexual agenda.”

Author Rev. Louis P. Sheldon has issued a call for all Christians to actively oppose the homosexual agenda.

Order it here.

New York Plans to Make Gender Personal Choice

New York Plans to Make Gender Personal Choice
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Published: November 7, 2006
Separating anatomy from what it means to be a man or a woman, New York City is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery.

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Forum: Gay Rights

Should people be allowed to alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery? Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.

Applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years, but there would be no explicit medical requirements.

“Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery. It’s the permanence of the transition that matters most.”

If approved, the new rule would put New York at the forefront of efforts to redefine gender. A handful of states do not require surgery for such birth certificate changes, but in some of those cases patients are still not allowed to make the change without showing a physiological shift to the opposite gender.

In New York, the proposed change comes after four years of discussion among health officials, an eight-member panel of transgender experts and vital records offices nationwide. It is an outgrowth of the transgender community’s push to recognize that some people may not have money to get a sex-change operation, while others may not feel the need to undergo the procedure and are simply defining themselves as members of the opposite sex. While it may be a radical notion elsewhere, New York City has often tolerated such blurring of the lines of gender identity.

And the proposal reflects how the transgender movement has become politically potent beyond its small numbers, having roots in the muscular politics of the city’s gay rights movement.

Transgender advocates consider the New York proposal an overdue bulwark against discrimination that recognizes an emerging shift away from viewing gender as simply the sum of one’s physical parts. But some psychiatrists and doctors are skeptical of the move, saying sexual self-definition should stop at rewriting medical history.

“They should not change the sex at birth, which is a factual record,” said Dr. Arthur Zitrin, a Midtown psychiatrist who was on the panel of transgender experts convened by the city. “If they wanted to change the gender for all the compelling reasons that they’ve given, it should be done perhaps with an asterisk.”

The change would lead to many intriguing questions: For example, would a man who becomes a woman be able to marry another man? (Probably.) Would an adoption agency be able to uncover the original sex of a proposed parent? (Not without a court order.) Would a woman who becomes a man be able to fight in combat, or play in the National Football League? (These areas have yet to be explored.)

The Board of Health, which weighs recommendations drafted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is scheduled to vote on the proposal in December, and officials say they expect it to be adopted.

At the final public hearing for the birth certificate proposal last week, a string of advocates and transsexuals suggested that common definitions of gender, especially its reliance on medical assessments, should be abandoned. They generally praised the city for revisiting its 25-year-old policy that lets people remove the sex designation from their birth certificate if they have had sexual reassignment surgery. Then they demanded more freedom to choose.

Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said transgender people should not have to rely on affidavits from a health care system that tends to be biased against them. He said that many transgender people cannot afford sex-change surgery or therapy, and often do not consider it necessary.

Read more here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality... (see Sept 19 comment)

There I, Shrimp, wrote:

Yes he did! No he didn't! Yes he did! No he didn't! Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't!Yes he did! No he didn't!Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't! Yes he did! No he didn't! Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't!Yes he did! No he didn't!Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not!Yes he did! No he didn't! Yes he did! No he didn't! Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't!Yes he did! No he didn't!Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't! Yes he did! No he didn't! Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not! Yes he did! No he didn't!Yes he did! No he didn't!Did too! Did not! Did too! Did not!

So annoying. Read the last few chapters of Revelation. Pornos is any sex outside of marriage (yes, between a man and a woman). So, Jesus did not have to say anything about homosexuality in order for us to know the answer to the question you didn't bother to ask...

Unless anyone wants to take a stab at being the first to make the case for homosex sex to not be sinful this blog is dormant.

Really, make the case. No one can. All they can do is break the rules. There we are. No posturing.

And I am really sorry if that does not seem compassionate. I think this whole issue is a complete fiasco, I wish it would never have reached this stage, in the church or in politics. It has gotten to the point that an NPR reprter can call someone "Anti-gay" when what the actual terminology should be "Against change in traditional understandings," but no one calls them on it becasue that is what "their base" really thinks. Oh well.

Get out and vote.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Website Offers Support For Adult Children of Homosexuals

New Website Offers Support For Adult Children of Homosexuals
October 11th, 2006 posted by kendall at 12:33 pm
She had every daughter’s natural need for affirmation, but that was something her homosexual father just couldn’t give his little girl.

Now in her 40s, Dawn Stefanowicz knows there are others like her — others who as children ached with silent hunger for that missing connection. To help them, she has set up the first website that specifically addresses the impact of homosexual parenting from the adult child’s perspective.

“It pierces the inside of you when you know the truth. Men who struggle with their own masculinity cannot affirm femininity,” she said. “Six-year-olds cannot tell you how they’re being impacted. We can’t comprehend what we went through until we’re adults.

“People aren’t comfortable sharing this, but keeping it hidden hurts children,” she said. “The secular media is not carrying the message that this impacts children long-term.”

Now an accountant and home schooling mother of two, Stefanowicz and her husband of 22 years live in Ontario.

Her website,, went online in early September. It outlines her childhood story, which includes being exposed to nude beaches, “gay cruising” sites and sexually transmitted diseases. The website lists scientific studies and news articles, secular and religious support groups, and confidential contact information.

Her Christian faith and counseling helped Stefanowicz come to terms with her past and with the biological father whom she loved but lost to AIDS.

In the past three years, she has testified in the United States and Canada on behalf of marriage protection laws, and she appeared Sept. 21 on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock.” Her autobiography, Out from Under: Getting Clear of the Wreckage of a Sexually Disordered Home, will be out in 2007.

Read it all

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Robert A. J. Gagnon's answer to Mark Powell: Does the Bible Regard Same-Sex Intercourse As Intrinsically Sinful?

A Lutheran layman writes:

"The essay by Mark Allan Powell, professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, is found in the book Faithful conversations: Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality (ed. James M. Childs, Jr.: Fortress Press, 2003), which you may recall was at the time promoted as a study guide for ELCA churches. This was a book (of generally pro-homosex essays) initiated by the ELCA seminary presidents in response to a churchwide mandate to study the feasibility of blessing homosexual unions. From that collection, some regard Powell's essay "The Bible and Homosexuality" as being the most important.

In his essay, Powell lays out the grounds for his belief that the church can and should make exceptions (from the Bible's consistent proscription of same sex intercourse) and yet still remain within a spectrum of "biblically consistent views".

Mark Powell's essay has attracted the attention of Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Dr. Gagnon acknowledges that Mark Powell is a well-published scholar who generally has high regard for the authority of Scripture in the life of the church, and states: "that so far as pro-homosex treatments by biblical scholars are concerned, Powell's is one of the better ones".

But that seemed to only inspire Dr. Gagnon to write an exhaustive point / counterpoint analysis of Mark Powell's essay. The unabridged version of Dr. Gagnon's analysis ( 33 printed pages) is found on Dr. Gagnon's website.
and an abridged form appears (along with other essays) in the book Christian Sexuality: Normative and Pastoral Principles (ed. Russell E. Saltzman; Minneapolis: Kirk House, 2003).

In my opinion, Dr. Gagnon has again succeeded in his stated goal of showing ". . that a "biblically consistent view" does not permit "exceptions" to a normative stance against homosexual practice. Rather, the gospel of the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ call for maintaining an exception-less stance against homosexual practice in the context of an outreach of love to those violating such a standard."

From the conclusion of Gagnon's essay:

"A sexual relationship is about much more than intimacy in the context of lifelong commitment.[44] It is about merging (interlocking, fusing) with another who is structurally complementary (congruous, compatible), “becoming one flesh” through a sexual relationship, and learning to integrate holistically with another who is neither too much like oneself, nor too much unlike on a structural level. Intimacy with one’s parent, child, circle of close fellow believers, or even beloved pet is a wonderful thing. Adding sex to the mix, however, changes completely the dynamics of the relationship. Intimacy turns into a desire to merge sexually. Explaining why introducing sex into such intimate relationships is wrong is not easy to do; it requires a certain intuitive and instinctive sense. We are arriving here at a “prime number” of human sexuality, a reality not easily “divisible” into logical, measurable, or scientific analysis.

Powell does cite the incest analogy to show that the capacity of some same-sex unions for love and commitment “is not sufficient” for meeting a “heavy burden of proof” for exceptions to the biblical norm. Yet he then goes on to say that the relevance of the incest analogy is limited significantly by the fact that

people involved in incestuous relationships do not usually maintain that they are so incest-oriented that a meaningful nonincestuous sexual relationship would be impossible for them. The pressing point for the Church with regard to homosexuality occurs over this issue. (p. 35)

The flaw in this observation, however, is that “sexual orientation” does not take precedence over the issue of too much structural sameness. Even apart from the fact that homosexual acts are often—perhaps most often—conducted by people who are not “exclusive” homosexuals (category 6 in Kinsey’s terms), would Powell or anyone else want to sanction a man-mother union even if there were an “orientation” involved? Obviously not. It’s just too weird.

If issues of commitment, monogamy, and longevity take a back seat to the core value of non-incestuous unions, then the question of whether “yearning for a life-partner” can be satisfied through some other means is quite beside the point. For there are no guarantees that an individual engaged in incest will find another life-partner. Regardless of the person’s prospects for some other relationship, incest is too grave an offense to be warranted under any circumstances. It transcends all matters pertaining to life-partners. This is even more true of same-sex intercourse. Whether or not the individual develops an attraction later in life for members of the opposite sex—something that no one can predict in advance—is a secondary concern in relation to the self-idolatry of attraction to one’s own sex.[45]

C. On the burden of proof
This leads us to another flaw in Powell’s approach. Any overturning or even significant modification of a biblical value must directly address the reasons for the Bible’s position. For example, it is not enough to prove that the sole expression of homosexuality in antiquity was an inherently exploitative form (pederasty or cult prostitution) or that the knowledge of an entrenched, innate, and exclusive homosexual orientation was inaccessible to the ancient mind—two claims that, at any rate, are false. One must also prove that the Bible condemned homosexual practice primarily on the grounds of the exploitative mismatch created by pederasty or on the grounds that all participants were capable of experiencing sexual satisfaction with the opposite-sex. Otherwise, even if these claims were valid (and they are not), they would still have little relevance for ascertaining the deficiencies in the Bible’s reasons for condemning homosexual behavior.

As noted early, Powell contends that anyone who wants to argue for exceptions to “what appears to be a unanimous judgment of scripture” has to meet a “heavy burden of proof” (pp. 28, 35). Unfortunately, Powell then proceeds at points to argue as if such were not the case. He believes that “we cannot know for certain what Paul would have prescribed for the redeemed Christian who continues to have homosexual impulses [and][46] to engage in homosexual activity that is neither promiscuous nor exploitative”; nor can “speculation” over what Paul “might have thought” be “determinative for the Church’s deliberations” (p. 31). Wait a minute: When does “a heavy burden of proof on anyone who wishes to argue for exceptions” kick in, if not here? Doesn’t Powell’s burden-of-proof criterion require him to assume that Paul would not have made any exceptions for “the redeemed Christian who continues to have homosexual impulses [and] to engage in [nonexploitative] homosexual activity”—unless powerful and unambiguous historical evidence to the contrary can be adduced? To meet the “heavy burden of proof,” Powell would have to demonstrate, among other things, that:

(1) Paul almost certainly could not have been aware of theories in the ancient world regarding a congenital basis for at least some forms of homoerotic attraction.

(2) Paul did not think sin could be associated with entrenched and exclusive innate desires.

(3) Paul’s primary reason for viewing same-sex intercourse as an egregious wrong had to do with an assumption about homoerotic desire as voluntary and nonexclusive, and homosexual relationships as inevitably exploitative, rather than with any notion about structural incongruity.

As it is, Powell never establishes a single one of these points. Indeed, the historical and literary contexts for Paul’s remarks about homosexual behavior do not permit any of these points to be established. Therefore, his position on exceptions, expressed at the end of the article, does not meet the “heavy burden of proof” that he himself sets up for all who contend for exceptions.
Read the whole essay here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Outbreak!

"Pr. Cynthia Hileman, assistant to ELCA Chicago Bishop Paul Landahl led the worship service preceding this congregational meeting. In her sermon, Pr. Hileman praised the congregation for their persistence, patience, and, most of all, for their hope through a long and difficult time."

Go here and you will find why the above is so upsetting:

Friday, September 22, 2006

ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality Works to Finalize a Third Study

September 22, 2006

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The task force coordinating studies in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) concerning human sexuality met here Sept. 15-17 to work on finalizing the text of "Set Free in Christ: Talking about Human Sexuality" -- a study guide designed to engage the 4.85 million-member church in thoughtful discussion and theological discernment on topics that may be addressed in an ELCA social statement on human sexuality.

"We're signing off on a study, not a social statement," said the Rev. Peter Strommen, bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Duluth, and task force chair. "Our objective is to finalize text that gives the ELCA a discussion tool to engage in before the social statement on human sexuality is written," he said.

The current overall work of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality is the development of a social statement on human sexuality for the ELCA. The 2001 assembly mandated the church to engage in studies on human sexuality. The first emphasis dealt with questions about the blessing of same-gender unions and the ordination of people in committed gay or lesbian relationships, in which the task force issued its report and recommendations on homosexuality in January 2005. The 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly took action on those recommendations. The second emphasis is the development of a social statement on human sexuality.

A proposed social statement on human sexuality is due in early 2009. The proposed document will be presented to the ELCA Church Council with a request by the task force to place the document on the agenda of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for action.

Set Free in Christ: Talking about Human Sexuality, is the third in a series of studies developed by the task force under the banner of "Journey Together Faithfully," said the Rev. Roger A. Willer, senior research associate, ELCA Church in Society.

The first study looked at common convictions held among ELCA predecessor church bodies regarding sexuality, said Willer. The second study focused on homosexuality and ministry issues, such as same-sex blessings and ordination. The third study takes the journey further in that it broadens the focus to aspects of human sexuality in this society that have not been extensively covered in either of the two previous studies. The conversations and feedback from all three studies will be considered in the task force's work to develop a first draft of a social statement on human sexuality, he said.

"Each chapter of the (third) study is dedicated to a different aspect of human sexuality," said Willer. "We'll talk about sexuality and power, sexuality in economic situations, sexuality and culture, sexuality and social institutions such as marriage and a number of other topics, many of which have not been broached in our other discussions. So what does it mean for us, as a church, to have (some) common convictions about sexuality in terms of the contemporary complexities of life, where people are living longer, getting married later in life, feeling economic insecurity and more?" he said.

"The task force is aiming the study at the church basement, that is, settings where members can talk together about faith and morals. Still, we hope the study will be used in college classrooms, campus ministry settings and senior citizen homes," said Willer. "There's a wide array of places in which the study can be used (in addition to) congregations," he said.

"One of the most unique parts of our study is that we're grounding it in an evangelical ethic that's been very beautifully articulated through the Lutheran tradition," said Strommen. The New Testament Book of Galatians will serve as the biblical framework for the conversation, he said. It "is not all that directly applicable to human sexuality, but we're saying, 'let's go there first,'" said Strommen.

"The themes in Galatians are often called the 'Epistle of Freedom,'" said Willer. "Galatians will help set the framework for conversation and return us to the basics, that we are saved by God's grace through faith. Grounded in that freedom to seek the neighbor's good, what does it mean to be sexual beings?" he said.

Set Free in Christ: Talking about Human Sexuality will be available to the church starting Dec. 4, 2006. Copies of the study may be pre-ordered through Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Minneapolis, the publishing ministry of the ELCA. The task force will receive responses to the study through Nov. 1, 2007. - - -

Audio comments from the Rev. Peter Strommen related to this story are on the ELCA Web site at .

Information about the work of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality is available at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or ELCA News Blog:

“There’s no point in us making the curriculum more queer-positive if people can take their kids out,”

“There’s no point in us making the curriculum more queer-positive if people can take their kids out,” Peter Corren told the Province yesterday. “This is the public education system. The School Act is quite clear ... religion does not play a role in what is taught. We just want the policy to be followed.”

We have seen the future (it is North by West)!

Read it here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

O Canada!

September 19, 2006


Winnipeg, 19 September 2006 -- At the fall meeting of National Church Council (NCC), members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) met September 14-16 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to discuss matters relating to the business of the church. Agenda items before NCC members included a discussion on the motion adopted at the 2006 Eastern Synod Convention regarding the blessing of same-gender couples. In response to questions following the motion's approval at the synodical convention, NCC issued the following statement:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) is a church comprised of three distinctive areas: our congregations, synods and national office. Each area brings its own unique and important element to the church as a whole; united for the same mission outcome. All three expressions, working together, form the foundation of our church. When we work together, we fulfil our vision of being a church In Mission for Others.

Many members of the ELCIC are aware of a motion defeated at the 2005 National Convention regarding a local option to bless same-gender couples. Recently, at its 2006 Convention, the Eastern Synod passed a motion with similar wording allowing for a local option to bless same-gender couples.

After careful consideration, based on the Constitution and Bylaws of the ELCIC National Church, as well as National and Synodical policies, the National Church Council has notified the Eastern Synod that its 2006 resolution on the blessing of same gender couples is beyond its constitutional authority. Therefore, National Church Council urges congregations and pastors of the ELCIC to continue to abide by decisions made at the 2005 National Convention.

At the same time, National Church Council acknowledges that there are deep and significant differences of opinion concerning this issue. To assist with understanding and addressing these areas, the Council has agreed to:

1. Invite a consultation with the Eastern Synod to determine how its concerns may be addressed.
2. Develop a social statement on human sexuality for consideration by the 2009 National Convention for deliberation by the ELCIC. In addition, this task force will produce a progress report that will be provided at the 2007 National Convention.

National Church Council has also ratified a motion, which will be presented at the 2007 National Convention, to reconsider a local option for pastors and congregations to bless same-gender couples.

As a church In Mission for Others, we are all part of one body. When we are faced with difficult topics of conversation, we must be open to dialogue to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. National Church Council encourages ELCIC churches to allow the Holy Spirit to call, gather and enlighten us as we move forward together.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why I Wrote a Book on Homosexuality

by Francis MacNutt
September/October 2006 issue

Like most of you, Judith and I share the pain of many friends who are members of churches that are being torn apart by the issue of homosexuality. We have dear friends on both sides of the divide. We also think we have learned something about healing that could lead to solving the conflicting opinions about homosexuality. We also believe that we haven’t as yet had a real opportunity to share what we have learned and experienced.

That’s the reason I wrote a short, easy to read, book entitled Can Homosexuality Be Healed? (Chosen Books). In it I share several key ideas which some Christians have not yet heard. The basic key we want to share with you, naturally, in relation to the healing ministry, is that homosexuality can be healed. By this we mean that someone whose sexual orientation is directed to the same sex, can become a heterosexual through Jesus’ saving power when we pray. We believe this, not only theoretically but we have seen it happen over a period of many years.

Again, in our experience, most church leaders are not aware that such a change is even possible!

The common belief, reinforced by gay activists, is that their orientation is 1) genetic, and 2) unchangeable.

Therefore, they propose that the true Christian response is for the church to accept the homosexual community and also to accept their homosexual lifestyle. "Inclusivity" is the key word. To those churches who disagree with them and teach that sexual activity directed to the same sex is forbidden by Scripture (e.g. Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27), the homosexual activists respond by saying, "I was born this way, and this orientation just doesn’t change. I was born as a sexual human being, and my emotional drive to union with the person I love needs to be expressed. I am not a celibate, and it’s wrong for you to demand that I live without a sexual companion." Otherwise, as one older homosexual wrote to me, "The loneliness that I feel in my life is overwhelming." This man is living a single life but "the discouragement and loneliness at times are unbearable."

For traditionalists who support the stand that same-sex intercourse is wrong, it seems harsh to insist on living out this norm with only the help of willpower. A few homosexuals, like the elderly man I just quoted, can sustain a sexless lifestyle, but most cannot sustain such a lonely life.

In our experience, the homosexual orientation can be changed, but most church leaders have never heard of this possibility, so they face a dilemma: they either have to accept an active homosexual lifestyle, or they simply condemn homosexual actions without offering the help that most homosexuals need to change. Where are the church leaders who can say, "We understand your pain. We also know that you probably didn’t choose the homosexual lifestyle. We understand why you are angry with us because we simply condemn your lifestyle without reaching out to help you. But now we are here to help you if only you will give us a chance to pray with you for healing."

This is the great secret that we would like to share with the church in a way that makes sense — spiritual, scriptural and human. Unfortunately, only a few Christians know that homosexuals who wish to change their orientation can actually change and become heterosexual.

Consequently, when we speak to homosexual audiences about the possibility of healing, they often become angry — understandably so, because by speaking about their healing you are implying that they are sick. They reject the label of being considered sick because they have so often been condemned by Christians; they naturally react strongly to one more condemnation.

The evangelist Tony Campolo, who struggles between the desire to be faithful to Scripture and, at the same time, to be loving to homosexuals, writes about his interior conflict:

During a particular research project, I interviewed more than 300 gay men and found not one who had chosen to be homosexual…. For the 300 men I interviewed, the imprinting of the orientation occurred so early in their psychosocial development that none could remember ever making a choice. Yet I often hear Christian preachers say that homosexuals have decided to be other than God intended them to be.1

No wonder most homosexuals believe their orientation was given by nature, and thereby God–given, rather than something they purposely chose. Since they usually have had to face a painful struggle to accept their orientation — and to accept themselves — we can understand why they fight to keep their hard-earned sexual identity and eagerly join the homosexual community, who will understand and love them.

Understandable as these strong feelings are, we also know that homosexuality can be changed. In order, however, for church leaders to come to realize that change is possible, several misunderstandings have to be directly confronted, the most obvious being the misconception that homosexuality is a condition that cannot be changed.

What most people don’t realize is that even secular psychotherapy has a considerable success rate in re–directing the homosexual’s lifestyle. For example, a summary of scientific studies from 1930 to 1986 reveals a composite success rate of more than 50% — success meaning anywhere from "considerable" to complete success. Even so, the American Psychiatric Association (in 1973) struck homosexuality from its list of illnesses. This dramatic change was largely due to gay activists exerting extreme pressure on the Association, even at a time when 69% of psychiatrists disagreed with the vote and still considered homosexuality a disorder.2 The same kind of pressure is now inside the churches, and anyone who states that the homosexual lifestyle is wrong will risk being labeled homophobic and is likely to be asked, "If scientists and the APA consider homosexuality normal, why do you stubbornly remain in your prejudiced ignorance?"

Prayer for Healing

Well beyond what counseling can do, what we want to add to the issue of homosexuality is the possibility of Jesus changing the homosexual’s sexual orientation and re–directing it to the opposite sex. Except for a few strong Christian organizations like Exodus and Regeneration, and authors such as Leanne Payne and David Kyle Foster, few prominent Christians speak of the very real possibility of homosexuals receiving inner healing to help them become heterosexual.

To us, healing prayer seems to be the only viable option for those Christians who believe that living a homosexual lifestyle is wrong. Without a real belief in healing, a Christian traditionalist can only offer homosexuals a command to repent, which will lead the homosexual to respond in anger or despair. Our belief and experience leads us to proclaim that healing does take place when we pray for inner healing and, occasionally, deliverance. We personally believe that the success rate of this approach is close to 100%.

The one caution, and it is a big one, is that this usually takes time. Rarely have we seen a homosexual healed with only one prayer or one session; the ordinary process takes perhaps six months, with an hour’s session once a week. The basic issue does not usually stay in the physical, sexual level but goes much deeper. For example, the male homosexual may not have received the love he needed from his father, and his homosexual activities are an attempt to fill up that void in his life.

But where do we find Christians who do not condemn homosexuals themselves but do not agree with them that homosexual activities (some 80% engage in anal intercourse) are morally acceptable? In addition, where do we find mature Christians who understand how to pray for inner healing and are willing to spend the time to pray the homosexual into the fullness of life?

And that’s why I wrote the book, Can Homosexuality Be Healed? I wanted to offer hope to those churches who believe that Jesus can change the homosexual’s orientation and, beyond that, will raise up a whole generation of wise prayer ministers who will see the homosexual through to his or her complete transformation.

Unless we really believe in prayer for healing, we are condemning the homosexual community into accepting their condition and the churches into being tempted into accepting their lifestyle.


1 "Holding it Together," Sojourners, May-June 1999, p. 28,30.

2 Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, p. 218. This is an excellent book by a Jewish psychiatrist, it gives much of the background of the inner struggles of the psychiatrists in the face of the gay activism.

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