By Bruce Lowe
The Homosexual's Place
1. The Homosexual's Rightful Place in Society
Full acceptance by society, including the blessings and legality of marriage, should be extended to gay men and lesbian women in the same way it is extended to others.
Louise, if what I have said above is true, if it is moral as well as psychologically needful—a God-created need—for homosexual men and women to have committed relationships, as many theologians and psychologists have said it is, then those homosexual couples who are in such committed relationships should have the societal rights and privileges that others have in marriage. Following are some statements in this regard.
A graduate school history professor writes,
“Family” need not mean the traditional heterosexual family to the exclusion of all others…. Gays and lesbians want the right to marry for the same reasons other Americans do: to gain the moral, legal, social and spiritual benefits conferred on the marrying couple and especially on their family unit. The material benefits of marriage are considerable, but it is the moral benefit that is especially attractive to many couples, including gay and lesbian ones. Marriage is, or can be, a moral commitment that two people make to one another. The marriage vow enshrines love, honor, respect, and mutual support and gives people access to resources and community acknowledgment that serve to strengthen their bond.[i]
Nava and Dawidoff say:
Marriage is not conditioned on the intention or the capacity to have children. Nothing in marriage, except custom, mandates partners of different genders. For example, [Yale historian] John Boswell notes that in ancient Rome “marriages between males and between females were legal and familiar among the upper classes.” The institution of marriage in our society appears to be one that encourages monogamy as the basis for stable personal lives and as one aspect of the family. If we think about what marriage is for, it becomes clear that it is for people to find ways to live ordered, shared lives; it is intended to be the stablest possible unit of family life and a stable structure of intimacy.[ii]
Noting Paul’s advice that it was better to marry than to burn, theology professor Daniel Maguire points out that as long as homosexual couples are denied marriage, “there is no alternative to burning.”[iii] Some commentators suggest that I Timothy 4:1-4, in speaking of marriage being good and not to be denied, because “everything created by God is good,” would include homosexual marriage because God created homosexuality.
Was it not God who said, “It is not good for a human being to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18)? James Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics, believes that “same-sex relationships are fully capable of expressing God’s humanizing intentions,” and views the “homosexual problem” as “more truly a heterosexual problem” (of homophobia), just as the “woman problem” is a problem of “male sexism.”[iv]
As I have discussed above, the Bible cannot be used to argue against this for the Bible has nothing to say about homosexual people. Here is a religious editor’s word:
Nor can the Bible be confidently cited in this debate. Certainly, the concept of same-sex marriage is not found in the Bible. But the concept of government by democracy is also not found in the Bible, only that of monarchy. On strictly biblical grounds, the doctrine of the divine right of kings has a firmer base than government by the people. Human experience, however, has led us to believe that democracy is not an illegitimate, unbiblical form of government. Since the biblical models of marriage range from polygamy at one end to celibacy on the other, we shall have to find our own way and not claim that the Bible permits only one model of marriage.[v]
Lesbian and gay writers have some enlightening thoughts about same-gender relationships:
The fact that we are in a same-sex relationship means that the predetermination of roles by gender, sometimes so destructive a force in heterosexual relationships, is not relevant to our lives. Each member of a same-sex couple is free to act from individual interests, predilections, and skills, rather than having to choose between conforming to or rebelling against the cultural norm. We are able to see the mainstream culture from a greater distance and a healthier perspective. This means that we know that many of the oppressive messages of the culture are inapplicable to us, and that others are simply false or distorted. Thus, we are able to circumvent much of what is jokingly referred to as “The Battle of the Sexes”—really, no joking matter at all. Ironically, it is the same-sex couple that can most clearly see itself as being composed of two human beings, whereas the heterosexual couple is constantly having to deal with the coercive personae of Man and Woman.[vi]
A lesbian author writes:
In many ways, we have an easier time of creating a truly egalitarian, mutual and mature relationship. In fact, some researchers are now beginning to look at the same-sex couple as a model for helping heterosexuals to create more human relationships. In contrast with heterosexuals, who often feel alienated from their mates, we need only look inside ourselves to know much about our lovers. We are able to relax with each other in a much more trusting way than can most straight couples. The inequities in our relationships are individually made ones, for the most part, and not a function of historically sanctioned power imbalances that have created the fear and hatred in which many women and men coexist today. In a lesbian couple, both women can freely develop strength and competence. In addition, having been socialized as women, we have been trained to be interpersonally sensitive, nurturing, gentle and compassionate. In a heterosexual relationship, these qualities are used primarily to serve the man and to oppress the woman, who often must bear full responsibility for the emotional quality of the relationship. …
These same attributes, however, can create a miraculously high-quality relationship when shared by two women who are matched in their capacities to share and to love.[vii]
A gay philosophy professor at MIT observes:
Once we understand what marriage is, we can see what marriage would mean for us, and why it is worth fighting for. Same-sex marriage would not force anyone to honor or approve of gay or lesbian relationships against their will. But it would enable those of us who are involved in gay or lesbian relationships to get the rest of society to understand that we take these relationships just as seriously as heterosexual married couples take theirs. And without marriage, we remain second-class citizens—excluded, for no good reason, from participating in one of the basic institutions of society.[viii]
Here is an interesting note from church history:
John Boswell … has discovered that, whereas the church did not declare heterosexual marriage to be a sacrament until 1215 C.E., one of the Vatican Library’s earliest Greek liturgical documents is a marriage ceremony for two persons of the same sex. The document dates to the fourth century, if not earlier. In other words, nine centuries before heterosexual marriage was declared a sacrament, the church liturgically celebrated same-sex covenants.[ix]
Louise, it is time for society to recognize that when two gay men or two lesbian women
have committed themselves to each other as fully as any heterosexual couple has, it is
gross discrimination for society to deny them the same rights and privileges given to a
heterosexual couple in marriage.
2. The Homosexual's Rightful Place in the Church
As in society, gay men and lesbian women should be accepted and affirmed in
our churches and given any opportunity for service that others have, including
ordination and pastorates.
For the past several decades most Protestant denominations have been debating whether to affirm, and especially whether to ordain, homosexual persons. Many committees have been appointed to study the matter and make recommendations to their general denominational bodies or their churches. In case after case, the recommendations of the committees have been just about what I have said in this discussion, but when considered by the general assemblies/conventions or churches, those recommendations have been voted down.
I am impressed that those who have made a serious study of homosexuality—the members of the committees—have concluded that we should affirm fully gay and lesbian persons who come to our churches, while those who believe we should not affirm them are the ones who have not studied the matter. If they vote down affirmation because they have not studied it, then they are voting on the basis of pre-judging, that is, prejudice. Prejudging, prejudice, is evil.
Some churches give membership to gay and lesbian persons but deny them any place of leadership. (This creates two classes of members in Christ's church, something I cannot believe Christ would ever have.) These churches believe homosexual partners are living in sin and cannot be accepted as others are. But I have shown above that the partnerships of homosexuals can be just as loving and moral as any heterosexual marriage. The homosexual members should be accepted, affirmed, appreciated, and used in service under the same conditions as heterosexual church members are.
Dr. Tex S. Sample has this concept about the ordination of a lesbian or gay living in a partnership:
In 1973 the United Church of Christ’s Executive Council urged the full acceptance of homosexual persons symbolized by ordination: “In the instance of considering a stated homosexual’s candidacy for ordination the issue should not be his/her homosexuality as such, but rather the candidate’s total view of human sexuality and his/her understanding of the morality of its use.”[xi] (In 1985, the UCC's General Synod declared itself to be "open and affirming" and called upon UCC churches to do likewise.)
Conservative theologian Stanley Grenz observes that homosexuality in itself should not be considered in selecting a candidate for ordination, because, “The texts that set down guidelines for the selection of officers focus on three basic prerequisites—giftedness for leadership, spirituality and character, and public reputation (e.g., I Tim. 3:1-13). … These criteria give central emphasis to the importance of one’s present life of faith.”[xii]
And Richard Hays, although believing homosexuality to be sinful, notes that other sins are in the same list with homosexuality and concludes, “It is arbitrary to single out homosexuality as a special sin that precludes ordination. (Certainly the New Testament does not do this.) The church has no analogous special rules to exclude from ordination the greedy or the self-righteous. Such matters are left to the discernment of the bodies charged with examining candidates for ordination; these bodies must determine whether the individual candidate has the gifts and graces requisite for ministry.”[xiii]
Surely any gay or lesbian person who comes to our churches professing that Jesus Christ is Lord should be accepted and affirmed and given every privilege of service in the church that anyone else has, including ordination as a deacon or a minister.
[ii] Nava and Dawidoff, 145
Christianity and Crisis (April 4, 1977), 63
[v] Editorial, H. Darrell Lance, The Inspiriter, Winter/Spring 2000
[vi] Nancy Toder, “Lesbian Couples in Particular” in Betty Berzon, Positively Gay, 62
[vii] Ibid, 62f
[viii] Ralph Wedgwood, “Society Should Allow Same-Sex Marriage” in Mary E. Williams,
Ed., Homosexuality: Opposing Viewpoints, 168
[ix]Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, “Overcoming Heterosexism - To Benefit Everyone” in Siker,
[x] Tex R. Sample, “Should Gays and Lesbians Be Ordained?” in Sally B. Geis and Donald
E. Messer, Eds., Caught in the Crossfire, 127-129
in Christianity and Crisis 37 (April 4, 1977), 63-69
[xii] Stanley J. Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective, 144
[xiii] Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 104