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.

  1. Where we have been
    • Early Centuries-celibacy-sexual intercourse even in marriage was tainted with sin through the Fall
    • 300-400 AD-Augustine allowed that marriage was the best hedge against the sin of sex. Sacramentalized marriage as a symbol of the bond between Christ and the Church. He believed that sexual desire even in marriage was sinful, but could be forgiven if the intercourse was for procreation
    • 1000 AD- Church made clear that marriage was to be monogamous, indissoluble and not between immediate family members. This was hard to enforce and not necessarily representative of the state of marriage.
    • 1200 AD-Movement toward the celibate priesthood as norm. Thomas Aquinas, influential thinker, opined that sexual drive was a part of our lower animal nature. Sexual pleasure was only justified if oriented toward the higher end of procreation. Non procreative heterosexual intercourse was deemed sinful. Aquinas lumped together same sex intercourse, masturbation, and bestiality as sins against the nature of God, thus a greater sin than fornication and adultery, considered natural vices.
    • 1600 AD Luther affirms sexual relations within marriage as natural and good. Reformation set a high value on the relations of husband and wife and sex was seen as an important part of those relations. Celibacy was rejected for all priests because it was an extraordinary gift that very few were given. No mention of same sex relations by Luther or Reformation, but it is assumed there was no change as seeing it as unnatural.
    • 20th Century  1996 ELCA Document, Message on Sexuality: Some Common Convictions. “Human sexuality was created good for the purposes of expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure.” Marriage is the safest and intended place for the fullest expression of our sexuality. The document did not change opinion about homosexuality, maintaining its sinfulness. It did make clear that it is no more sinful than any other sin. It also stated that people who are homosexual and celibate may serve as pastors. All people, further, are welcomed into the life of a congregation, fully.
      • Roman Catholic and most Protestant traditions, soften the language but change little officially. Roman Catholics still hold to much of Thomas Aquinas.
      • Homosexuality is viewed as sin by nearly all Christians
  2. 2009 Document, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust
    • John 1-Word became flesh, document firmly embraces all of our “fleshiness”, including our sexuality
    • Genesis 2-we are created to be in relationship with each other, sexuality one part of that relationship, but a good part that can build a deeper, richer relationship
    • Healthy sexual relationships built on trust, thus self satisfaction centered on lust can break that trust and hurt individuals, communities and relationships. Problem is not sexuality, but  unhealthy sexual relationships.
      • Condemned: promiscuity, poronography, sex trafficing, child sexual abuse, spousal sexual abuse, any discrimination because of sexual identity
    • Marriage is the most rewarding space for sexual intimacy, building trust with fidelity and public accountability, that help people to thrive. Good place to care and support children, too.
    • Acknowledges the civil and cultural pressure towards cohabitation. While not affirming cohabitation, has less issue with cohabitation that has clear, public commitments, goals and boundaries that individuals can trust.
    • Supports birth control, sex education in churches emphasizing abstinence, STD testing and care
    • Homosexuality
      • Where we agree
        • oppose all forms of physical and verbal assault
        • support of legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public service
        • congregations are to welcome, care for and support same gender couples and their families and to advocate in community for them
        • pastoral responsibility to all children of God, means of grace open for all
      • Where we diverge concerning sexual orientation…
        • no consensus after years of conversation on how to regard same gender committed relationship. We do not have agreement on how it would be appropriate to do honor and protect them, if at all
          1. some believe same gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law. Same gender relationships carry the grave danger of unrepentant sin. Therefore, the church best serves our neighbor by calling people in same gender sesxual relatiohship to repentance and to a celibate lifestyle.
          2. some believe that homosexuality-even lifelong monogamous homosexual relationships-reflect a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended. While they acknowledge that such relationships can be lived out with mutuality and care. They do not believe the neighbor or community are best served by publicly recognizing such relationship as traditional marriage.
          3. some believe that scripture does not address the context of sexual orientation and lifelong loving and committed relationship we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same gender relationships are honored and held to high standards and public accountability, but they do not equate these relationships with marriage. They advocate for community support for public ritual of a joined union-not marriage.
          4. some believe that scripture does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships we see today. They believe that the neighbor and individual is best served if same gender couples are held to the same high standard as heterosexual couples. They believe that social and legal support of these unions should follow.
        • Vote of the body at the 2009 convention was to accept this document, and allow church congregations to use good conscious to determine their unique positions concerning homosexuality. This allowed for the first time some to call pastors in monogamous, same gender relationships, and some to bless same sex unions as marriage or unions.
          1. We would live under a big tent, in this time of discernment. However approximately 10% of our congregations left the ELCA after decision.
  3. The Church Changes

While these issues are separate and not analogous to the issue facing the church today. The change in church thinking are a reminder that what we are doing is not without precedent.

    • Slavery
      • Ephesians 6:5-6, Slaves obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling. Exodus 21:21 The slave is the owner’s property.
        • The church for most of her life accepted slavery, justifying it on the basis of tradition and scripture
    • Role of women
      • I Corinthians 14:33-36 women should be silent in all churches
      • The church for her first centuries required women to be literally silent and without a leadership role for most of her existence.
    • Banking
      • Exodus 2:25 you shall not be like a moneylender, you shall not exact interest, Ezekiel 18:13 if one lends at interest they shall not live, they are an abomination Matthew 25:27-a banker better than burying it
      • lending money for interest was totally banned in the church until the 16th century, when Catholic reformers started understanding it just bad against poor
    • Divorce and Remarriage
      • Mark 10:2-12 no grounds for divorce
      • The church recognized for most of her life no grounds for divorce except using Matthew 5:31 cases of adultery
  • Next two weeks, scripture.
    • Genesis 19:1-11, Judges 19:16-30, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27I Corinthians 6:9-11 I Timothy 1:9-10
  • Closing Prayer


Sources: Journey Together Faithfully, ELCA Studies on Sexuality: Part 2, 2003 ELCA Social Statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust-2009 Churchwide approved

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