Category Archives: From the Pastor

A blog of thoughts from Pastor Karl

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 5: Culture

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Scripture Review
    • How or why is the context of the scripture and whether you hold context as important or not, the central part of the discussion?
    • Did you hear anything in our discussion of scripture that surprised you, you hadn’t heard before or that resonated differently with you this time?
    • A textbook definition of sin is the word used to described the distance between us and God. Sinfulness are those actions or thoughts that separate or keep us from God.
      • If homosexuality is sinful, how does it keep us distant from God?
      • Does it matter if we understand why something is sinful?
  3. Brief, uninformed cultural history, taken unashamedly from Wikipedia Gay History entry
    • There are a few instances of unique pre modern, non western cultures that had different sexuality norms. Most of these involved men taking both male and female lovers. There were a small number of societies where transgender men or women lived publicly without rebuke. In some, they were thought to have unique spiritual powers. Indian and Chinese literature contained not just homoerotic poetry but stories, too. There are many examples of temple cults that involved male prostitutes.  
    • Roman and Greek male to male sexual activity was almost common among the upper class, but limited to pederasty or unique situations like soldiers serving away from home. Nearly all Roman emperors were recorded to have participated in pederasty. Men who took a female role in sex were disparaged in European and Middle Eastern societies in the Persian, Greek, Roman eras. Same gender female sex is rarely mentioned.
    • The Middle Ages in Europe saw harsh laws against homosexuality including and often calls for death or mutilation of genitals. Homosexuality was one of the focuses of the inquisition. In the sixteenth century most European nations made male on male sex punishable by death.
    • 19th century western thought held that homosexuality was a sign of cultural degeneracy. Activists used it’s existence to push for social change, cf. prohibition, housing, wages.
    • In late 18th and early 20th century, the word homosexuality began to be used to describe a lifestyle not just an act. Large cities in Europe and America had a thriving and not wholly secret gay subculture. Berlin had openly gay bars and transgender cabarets. Hitler saw this as a sign of degeneracy, and imprisoned 50,000 homosexuals and executing countless.
    • In early America, sodomy laws that applied to heterosexuals and homosexuals held harsh punishments from death to flogging and imprisonment, but most enforcement was in nonconsenting cases of rape. Consensual same sex arrests don’t show up until 1880.
    • In the late 18th century and early 20th century, states responding to public displays of a gay lifestyle began to direct sodomy laws specifically to same gender couples and routine enforcement greatly increased.
    • 1930’s thru 1950’s in America saw almost all states push hard against the gay subculture with laws and crackdowns. Gays were barred from all government jobs and homosexuality was equated with godlessness and communism.
    • The new science of Psychology saw homosexuality as a treatable disorder almost universally through the 1960’s. The treatments could be harsh including lobotomies, electric shock and genital shock treatment. In the 1970’s and beyond, psychology began a move away from seeing homosexuality as a disorder.
    • In 1961 Connecticut was the first state to decriminalize, with most other states following suit over the next twenty years and a decrease in enforcement in laws that stayed on the books. The Stonewall riots in 1969 were partially a message being sent by police to city hall for a litany of policy changes from 1965 on ordering police to stop targeting gay bars and for fire and police departments to stop screening out homosexuals.
    • With the rise of AIDS in 1980’s, the LGBTQ community sympathetically came into the public eye. This led to more public figures coming out of the closet, television series with gay characters and workplace antidiscrimination laws in some states. However, a conservative Christian backlash in response to AIDS and cultural acceptance also rose at the same time.  
  4. Possible Statements MLC could make.
    • Messiah Lutheran Church believes that same gender sexuality is not an intention of God’s creation; and therefore, same gender sexual behavior is sinful. We are all sinners, however, and we believe we are only redeemed through the grace God has shown in Jesus. Messiah welcomes anyone who identifies as LGBTQ who wishes to join us in worship and leadership.
    • Our members at Messiah Lutheran Church are not in agreement concerning same gender sexuality. Some regard it as an intentional part of God’s creation and that scriptural prohibitions must be interpreted in light of context and different cultural norms. Others regard it as not an intention of God’s creation; therefore, same gender sexual behavior is sinful. Together we agree, however, that we are all sinful and only redeemed through the grace God has shown in Jesus. Messiah welcomes anyone who identifies as LGBTQ who wishes to join us in worship and leadership.
    • Messiah Lutheran Church believes that same gender sexuality as an intentional part of God’s creation and scriptural prohibitions must be interpreted in light of context and different cultural norms. Messiah welcomes anyone who identifies as LGBTQ who wishes to join us in worship and leadership.
    • Two marriage statements that could be added.
      • Healthy sexuality is important for all of us to live wholly in Christ. The trust and vulnerability inherent in expressing our sexual selves needs the public and clear promises of marriage. Marriage encourages the building of good community and strong families and is a living sign of God’s love for us and hope for us to live in fulfilling relationships. One role of the church is to nurture and support the married couples among us. Therefore, with God, we will bless the marriages of all heterosexual couples who are members of our congregation, but cannot participate in the blessing of same gender marriages.
      • Healthy sexuality is important for all of us to live wholly in Christ. The trust and vulnerability inherent in expressing our sexual selves needs the public and clear promises of marriage. Marriage encourages the building of good community and strong families and is a living sign of God’s love for us and hope for us to live in fulfilling relationships. One role of the church is to nurture and support the married couples among us. Therefore, with God, we will bless the marriages of all couples who are members of our congregation.
    • Statement of Confession and Repentance that could be added.
      • We recognize that the Church has hurt and wounded many who are LGBTQ. We confess that we have fallen short of welcoming and loving all God’s children. With God’s help, we seek to repent and to better live out the gospel.
  5. Road from here
    • It is up to the council to decide. We could…
      • Do nothing.
      • Create a statement of welcome, that contains our views on sexuality and marriage.
        • This could be accomplished by a task force of informed and interested members appointed by council.
          • Their work could be approved by council or council could opt for a congregational vote.
  6. Closing prayer

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 5: Culture

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 4: Scripture

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • Leviticus 18:22, 20:13
      • The scripture is a part of the Holiness Code in the book of Leviticus. The purpose of the code was to help the people “be holy as God is holy”.
      • The problem with the male sex acts described is likely that they are not how God intended for the creation to be
      • Christians do not keep many of the laws of Leviticus
        • Because they might not pertain to our context
        • They represent a pre modern way of seeing the world, that is how God intended creation
      • The role of the Church, since the beginning of the Church, was to decide which laws, of Leviticus or anywhere else in scripture, applied to their circumstance. Matthew 18:18, Binding and Loosing
        • Most Lutheran scholars would loose this law
          • that only means that this law does not speak to our current circumstance, not a statement on whether same gender sex is sinful
  3. Romans 1:26-27
    • What are the clear meaning of these verses?
    • How do these verses fit into the first chapter of Paul?
    • What seems to be Paul’s view of Gentiles?
    • Pederasty.
      • Does it seem important to you that pederasty is the only reference for homosexuality Paul might have had?
    • What scholars say about whether these verses speak to our understanding of homosexuality
  4. I Corinthians 6:9-11
    • What are the clear meaning of these verse?
    • How do these verses fit into the sixth chapter of I Corinthians?
    • The debate over terms pornos, malakos, arsenokoites
  5. I Timothy 1:8-10
    • What is the clear meaning of this scripture?
    • The debate over translating the three words together
  6. Closing thoughts on scripture

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 4: Scripture

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 3: Scripture

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • The Kingdom of God
      • This should be the focus of our faithful lives. Seeking to live and be in the world in a way that reveals the Kingdom of God to our neighbor.
        • Questions of sinfulness and judgment are simply less important because our focus is on mercy, peace and forgiveness.
          • Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”
    • Sodom and Gomorrah
      • The sin of Sodom is inhospitality, not homosexuality.

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 3: Scripture

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 2: Scripture

 

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Review
    • Three legged stool of Christian ethics: Tradition, Scripture, Culture
      • ethics around slavery, banking, remarriage, female leadership have changed over the centuries within the church as the culture has changed, scripture that had been used to support one point of view was either seen as not contextually relevant to a very different world or other scripture seemed more relevant
      • Christian Ethics is always about faithful living, not salvation. We don’t try to live perfect lives in order to get to heaven. We try to live faithful lives as we wait for the Kingdom of God. Why? Because faithful lives bring us closest to the presence of God.
        • Christian Ethics is about trying to create something like the Kingdom of God in the middle of the Kingdom of Man.
    • Sweep of history in the church , understanding our heterosexuality from unnatural to natural
      • Should homosexuality be reconsidered, too?
    • Why didn’t the ELCA just decide this issue for us in 2009?
  3. The Kingdom of God
    • What does this phrase refer to?
    • What do you picture when you hear this phrase? What will the Kingdom of God look like?
    • Read Matthew 5:1-11,
      • How does Jesus describe the Kingdom of God?
    • Why is this a good discussion to have now in this lesson?
  4. Genesis 19:1-11
    • Retell the story
    • What is the point of this story?
    • What is disturbing about this story?
    • What is the role of sexuality in this story?
    • What is the sin of Sodom?
      • OT and NT references
    • Does this story speak to us today about the faithfulness of homosexuality?
    • What scholars say.
    • Another story for home, Judges 19:16-30

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 2: Scripture

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 1: Church

Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society

Session 1: Church

  1. Opening Prayer
  2. Outline of class
    • Three legged stool of Christian ethics: Tradition, Scripture, Culture
    • Session 1-Church, Session 2, 3-Scripture, Session 4, 5-Society
    • Covenant
      • Respectful language, empathy for each other, don’t assume what you think you know about your neighbor, careful sharing
      • I am not trying to convince you about this.
      • Taping the first three classes, no confidentiality
    • Goals
      • Council alone can decide whether this church can bless same sex marriage. Pastors are forbidden by our bishop to do so even outside of the church unless our church council grants permission.
      • To inform our congregation and give space for discussion and discernment on this issue.
      • To enable our council to create a clear statement of welcome to the homosexual community with the limits of our welcome stated.

Continue reading Homosexuality: Church, Scripture, Society Session 1: Church