Almost a decade ago, when my beloved Mayflower Congregational Church voted to become “open and affirming” (a United Church of Christ congregation that publicly and prayerfully welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into the full sacramental hospitality of the church), it was by unanimous decision. Not a single member of this predominately straight congregation even considered voting no. Why would we? Gays and lesbians are our sons and daughters. They are a constituent of God’s creation. Whenever someone says, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” we have an important question to ask: “So who made Steve?”
I have served Mayflower church for 23 years. Long ago we made a vow to reject anyone who we believe Jesus would have rejected. This has a way of dramatically shortening the list! We are well-aware that a handful of passages in Leviticus and in the writings of Paul condemn homosexual behavior as unnatural (non-procreative) and idolatrous (replacing the proper object of worship with an improper one), but we also take Bible study seriously enough to know that the Bible is not infallible.
As for proof-texting from the Bible, few would suggest a return to slavery, for example, or regarding women as the inferior property of men, or disease as caused by demon possession requiring an exorcist ” yet all are embraced by the world of Scripture. It is intellectually and spiritually dishonest to wrench a passage of Scripture from its context and pretend that God wrote it. At a recent Sally Kern rally, I heard a minister say something truly fantastic. In support of Kern, he said that Jesus wrote the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation ” every word.
I was stunned, having never heard this claim made by anyone, Bible scholar or layperson alike. Why would anyone make such an absurd statement? Then it made sense, at least on one level. Jesus is silent on the matter of homosexuality. He addresses a multitude of sins, primarily those practiced by people who condemn others and do not practice what they preach, but says not a single word about homosexuality. If we need a word from Jesus about the “sin” of homosexuality, we are out of luck. If one’s sexual orientation constitutes a greater threat to America than terrorists or cancer, as Kern asserts, then surely her Lord and savior would have something to say about it!
That’s when the light went on in my head. According to that minister, Jesus did have to something to say about it. If he wrote the whole Bible, then all we have to do is read the purity codes of Jesus in Leviticus, and the Letter of Jesus to the Romans. We have Job, aka Jesus, cursing the day he was born, and Jesus the erotic poet of the Song of Songs, gushing, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!”
If this sounds absurd, just consider what we have done to those human beings whose sexual orientation continues to be the subject of fear and misunderstanding, especially in the name of religion. We have used them to cover our own sickness and our own sin. Equal rights (including the right to marry) and protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation is not the endorsement of any “lifestyle.” It is a sacred response to the first premise of faith: imago dei ” we are all made in the image and likeness of God.
Since becoming an “open and affirming” church, I have been asked many times what it feels like now to be a “gay church.” One colleague winked and said, “Don’t you worry about the children?”
No, I answered. I worry about you.
Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.