Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gay Christians Reclaim the Bible

Gay Christians Reclaim the Bible
by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Boston Contributor
Monday Jul 16, 2007

The Bible has been used, early and often, to attack civil parity for GLBT people, especially in terms of marriage equality. But other points of view are possible, say gay-friendly congregations.

A Boston Globe article from last November addresses this topic, quoting Rev. Jeff Miner or the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.

"Most people think that the attitude of gay Christians is, ’Who cares what the Bible says?’ when in reality, we care deeply what the Bible says," says Miner, a pastor with the GLBT-friendly, Indianapolis-based church, who led a forum on the issue last November at the Arlington Street Church.

Continued Miner, "We think there are a lot of powerful, affirming things that are in the Bible that have been ignored."

Miner and co-author John Tyler Connoley wrote the book, or at least a book, on the subject; in 2002, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships was published by the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church.

Miner and Connoley look at both Old and New Testaments for source material to bolster their argument that not only are GLBT people God’s children, too, but that in fact they are exactly who and what God intended for them to be.

The authors cite the passage, "Wherever you go I will go," a promise made in the Old Testament by Ruth to Naomi, is, say Miner and Connoley, is a commitment made in the context of a same-sex relationship.

And in the New Testament’s Gospels of Luke and Matthew, when Jesus heals a centurian’s "servant," the man in question, say Miner and Connoley, may well be more than that to the centurion.

Said Miner, "That story’s often preached about in straight churches, [and] nobody bothers to mention that the Greek word used to describe the sick man is the word used in the ancient world to describe your same-sex partner."

Miner and Connoley have not kept hold of their faith out of complacency; far from it. Both struggled with issues of faith and sexuality, with Connoley enduring two years trying to become an "ex-gay."

Last November’s forum was a direct response to "Love Won Out," a gathering at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church that was put on by the Colorado Springs-based anti-gay group Focus on the Family in 2005.

"Love Won Out" purported to offer hope (and instructions) to religious family members for "converting" gays into straights.

One of the forum’s organizers said that it was the 2005 event that gave him the idea to bring Miner and Connoley to Boston with their message of inclusion and divine love. Instead of protesting outside the church, as a throng of others did, Arlington Street Church member Sam Gloyd went into the Tremont Temple Baptist Church to hear the message of "Love Won Out."

The result was painful. "I wasn’t just traumatized, I was re-traumatized, because for 40 years of my life I lived this trauma of feeling like I was unacceptable to God," Gloyd said.

Continued Gloyd, "So it was inspiration from that conference that sort of spurred me on to say we need to offer some alternative voice to this hateful message that’s masked in love."

Tremont Temple Baptist Church pastor Ray Pendleton also had his say in the Globe article.

"The Biblical view of sexuality is pretty clear," Pendleton said. "It says that genital sexuality is to be expressed between a man and woman in the context of marriage, period."

Adopting the "love the sinner and hate the sin" mode often employed by anti-gay religious groups, Pendleton added, "When you look at what the Bible teaches, the Bible doesn’t talk about orientation; the Bible talks about behavior."

But it’s the behavior of heterosexual Christians that concern some people. The Globe article quoted Pam Garramone, executive director of Greater Boston Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which sponsored the forum at the Arlington Street Church.

Garramone related how she had received a phone call from a distraught mother whose husband had exiled their daughter from the family home for being a lesbian.

Recounted Garramone, "She said, ’My instinct is to love and accept her, but I can’t because my church won’t let me.’"

Continued Garramone, "That’s the kind of parent who needs to hear this message--you don’t have to choose your child over your religion."

A follow-up forum slated to include religious leaders from other traditions is expected to take place later this year at the Arlington Street Church.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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EDGE Publications, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

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