Unfortunately, this amounts to affirming gay and lesbian persons only if they acknowledge they are ontologically impaired persons. None of the hundred or so homosexual members in the church I have just served (or any of the other members) would agree with such a judgment. It is simply heterosexual bias. He also makes two categorical assumptions that cannot be sustained.
First, that homosexuality “is not in conformity to the will of God” and is “the result of our living in a fallen world.” But this view is based on the false interpretation of Genesis 1-3 (the Fall) that humanity, as well as the creation itself, was suddenly changed from good to evil, from perfection to impairment. This absurd conclusion has no foundation in experience or revelation.
His second categorical assumption that “the relation of male and female is the creative design of God for human sexual existence,” and, therefore, “marriage” is strictly a value only for heterosexuals, is also false. It assumes that the marital bond is only for reproduction. We gave up on that thinking in the 16th century when we affirmed marriage’s basic value as a relationship of companionship, mutual love and fidelity. It is absolutely wrong to believe that gays and lesbians are incapable of sustaining such relationships.
Jesus is not a right, left or middle way. For Christians he is the way. He is our primary norm of loving relationships, reflecting God’s Beloved Community. We simply cannot reject as immoral the behavior of homosexuals who in their own lives exhibit the same pattern and quality of love that Jesus taught and demonstrated. That is exactly why Peter embraced Gentiles whom he had thought were ontologically unclean. (Acts 11). And that is why we cannot impose on gays and lesbians burdens the rest of us do not bear, a teaching Jesus called hypocrisy (Matthew 23:4).
Further, Jesus did not relate to persons primarily as sexual beings but as persons, equally made in the image of God. He did not believe a person’s biology determined their fitness. He recognized the biological variations of the human species, reminding, for instance, that some persons are born eunuchs or become eunuchs, yet they are not excluded from God’s grace-filled promises (Matthew 19:12). Indeed, as science clearly demonstrates, homosexuality is not only a natural biological variation in humans, it is pervasive throughout the biological creation.
Finally, it is incredible for a denomination that believes we are to love God with all of our mind, that we now find ourselves clearly out of step with the medical and social sciences, all seeking to remove the immoral and unhealthy stigma that has been unfairly and too long associated with homosexual orientation and behavior.
“Definitive guidance,” or our policies derived from it, needs more than the retooling McKelway suggests. It must be rejected. It is still based on the categorical assumption that ” . . . the practice of homosexuality is sin . . .” which cannot be sustained by reason or from the life and ministry of Jesus. Not to repent of such a position has, and continues to bring, reproach on the name we bear.
HAROLD PORTER is pastor emeritus, Mount Auburn church, Cincinnati.