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The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
and homosexuality

Gay/lesbian clergy.
Events 1977 to 2001.

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Gay/Lesbian Clergy

There are at least two geographical regions within the denomination that have gone on record as stating that they will not ordain non-celibate gays and lesbians. They are the Northeast Region (New York state and the six New England states) and the Southwest Region (Texas & New Mexico).

On the other hand, the Northern California Region has declared itself "Open & Affirming." This is a term used by the Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ, and other denominations to indicate their acceptance of gay and lesbian people into full involvement within the congregation as laity and leaders.

Some regions have adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude towards candidates for ordination.

Church activities:

bullet 1977:General Assembly: Some major decisions were made:
bullet A resolution opposing homosexuality as an alternative "lifestyle" for Christians was defeated. The term "lifestyle" has since been used by conservative Christian denominations to refer to homosexuality. It implies that homosexual orientation is matter of choice that can be changed. Most gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals (GLBTs) regard this as a denigrating term today.
bullet A resolution to prohibit regions and local congregations from ordaining gays and lesbians was referred for further study.
bullet A "Study document on Homosexuality and the Church" was approved. It suggested that the denomination's traditional interpretation of the biblical, cultural, biological and psychological aspects of homosexuality needed to be revisited. 1
bullet A "Resolution Concerning Civil Liberties of Homosexual Persons" was approved. It supported human rights for gays and lesbians and opposed "sodomy laws." 1 (In 2003, these laws were subsequently declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Lawrence v. Texas).
bullet 1979: General Assembly: The study report concluded that ordination of persons who engaged with sexual behavior with same-sex persons is not in accordance with God's will. They also concluded that certification of candidates is the responsibility of the denomination's regions. This resulted in a type of local option for sexually active gays and lesbian candidates for ordination.
bullet 1987: General Assembly: A resolution stating that all same-sex sexual activities are sinful was defeated.
bullet 1989: General Assembly: A resolution was approved calling on the entire church to treat persons with AIDS as children of God and to "... act as instruments of God's compassionate love, and tender care where the seeds of fear, prejudice and alienation have been sown."
bullet 1992: Northeastern Region Assembly: A resolution was passed declaring a moratorium on the ordination of candidates in their region who were openly gay or lesbians.
bullet 1993: General Assembly: A "Resolution Concerning Civil Rights" was passed. It reaffirmed the Assembly's 1977 position, and noted that "various campaigns across the country conducted in the name of 'no special rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual persons' misrepresent legitimate claims for persons who seek equal application of the law." It called on governments to create laws protecting the civil rights of gay, lesbians and bisexuals.
bullet 1997: Assembly request: The Assembly asked the church to reflect on the participation of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. One year later, the Administrative Committee called for the development of a discernment process that congregations could use to engage the question. 2
bullet 2001: Book published: Chalice Press published a discernment guide written by the Disciples of Christ's Discernment Committee on the Participation of Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Life of the Church. It was edited by William O. Paulsell and is titled "Listening to the Spirit: A Handbook for Discernment: What Is the Gospel Message to Our Church as We Relate to Gay and Lesbian Christians?" This is one of the very rare books that include the beliefs of people on all sides of the issue.

The book review states:

"One of the most divisive issues in the church today concerns the place of lesbian and gay persons. Should the church sanction same-gender relationships? Should gay and lesbian people be allowed to serve as ordained ministers? These questions and many more spawn endless debate and create winners and losers. A better way to respond to this pain and confusion is to make use of a process of discernment. Listening to the Spirit presents a process of discernment that helps us to listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance as we consider the question, What is the gospel message to our church as we relate to gay and lesbian Christians? This question is addressed through a process that will help Christians approach the issues thoughtfully, theologically, and prayerfully. There are no set answers or preconceived outcomes. The book was written by the Discernment Committee on the Participation of Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Life of the Church. This committee represents a broad range of theological beliefs surrounding the issue."

Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Douglas Allen Foster, "The encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell movement,"  Wm. B. Eerdmans, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. Curt Miller, "Disciples enter discernment process on gays and lesbians," General Assembly, 2001-JUL-17, at:

Copyright 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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