The Christian Church (Disciples
of Christ) and homosexuality
Gay/lesbian clergy; events from
2001 to now; public opinion polls.
2001: Committee report: A 16-member committee had spent three years listening to
the positions of church members. They tried to assess whether the members
supported a denominational affirmation of homosexuality. They made a
presentation at the 2001 Assembly on the Process of Discernment on the
Participation of Gays and Lesbians in the Life of the Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ) Theyrecommended that each local
congregation undertake a lengthy, seven-step discussion process, called
discernment. The steps are: an introduction, spiritual preparation,
listening to stories, Bible study, telling personal stories, next steps in
relating to gays and lesbians, and consecration.
As expected, there was
a wide range of comments:
Steering committee member Mary Smith said: "My position is that
homosexuality is a sin, but one that will be forgiven in light of
confession and repentance." She said she believes people can choose
"to change from the homosexual lifestyle [to] serve the Lord as
husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, in heterosexual relationships."
Pastor Rev. Alvin O. Jackson, formerly of Memphis, TN had believed
that homosexual behavior was an "abomination in the nostrils of God."
His church had a large counseling service to help gays and lesbian
change their sexual orientation. Jackson said: "It was done out
of love and concern, but I have since concluded that those efforts were
largely misdirected. If we have to err, isn't it better to err on the
side of being too inclusive rather than being too exclusive?"
Rev. Mark Johnston, a Boston, MA, pastoral psychiatric counselor
said: "To be honest, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of having my faith
and my ministry questioned because I'm gay. I have learned that the
support offered by the church is not trustworthy. I have learned to make
sure I place my faith in God, not in the church."
Committee member Gregory Alexander of Lexington, Ky., told the
convention that: "Discernment always occurs in stages. This process
cannot be an end in itself. Further reflection, prayer and spiritual
examination will be required." Leaders of the Church said that
there is no timetable, nor inclination, to settle on a firm denomination
2002-DEC: Church performs same-sex
unions: The National City Christian Church (NCCC) is a
Disciples of Christ congregation in Washington DC. It has been the home
church of many politicians including President Lyndon Johnson. About the
year 2000 they began discussions about the inclusions of gays and lesbians
into the congregation. In mid-2002, they began welcoming openly gay
members. Agape Press stated that in 2002-DEC, the congregation's "...
20 elders voted unanimously to allow homosexual wedding ceremonies in the
sanctuary." [This appears to be an error because same-sex marriages
not valid in DC at the time and still are not legal in 2009-JUL. However, the
District began to recognize legal same-sex
marriages performed in other jurisdictions. The
"weddings" referred to were probably union ceremonies. Phil Sheldon of the
Traditional Values Coalition said that it is just a sign of the "...
decay and demise of this church." It is a church, Sheldon says, that
has "left behind Christianity and the Bible." He is apparently
referring to the conservative wing of Christianity, because other liberal
denominations like the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal
Church, USA have matched or gone
further than the Disciples of Christ. 2
2003: Over 50 "Open and Affirming" CC(DoC) ministries
supporting equality for GLBTs in both the denomination and the rest of
society have been recognized by the GLAD Alliance. At the time, the
"Region of Northern California-Nevada" was alone in
knowingly accepting sexually
active gay and lesbians as candidates for ordination. 3
2005: General Assembly: A resolution was
approved that denounced hateful speech and action aimed at gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgender (GLBT) persons. It also renewed a commitment to
the continuing process of discernment within the denomination. 4
There has been considerable change in the beliefs of CC(DoC) over the past
generation in a more liberal and inclusive direction:
1987: A study by Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney showed
that only 18% of CC(DoC) members agree that "homosexuality is not always
Circa 1989: A study by Bruce A. Greer found that only 34% of
CC(DoC) laity who frequently attended services would permit a gay or
lesbian person to teach in a college or university.
1991: A poll by James L Guth and Helen Lee Turner found that
79% of Disciples' pastors favored civil equal rights for GLBTs. 3
2009-MAR: The Pew Research
Center Forum asked over 35,000 American adults whether "Homosexuality
is a way of life that should be accepted by society," or "...
discouraged by society."
The question asked is curious because it is probably unclear to many
people what the term "way of life" means. Are they referring to
celibacy; cruising; dating; living together or married in a loving
committed relationship; or something else? For what it is worth, the
survey showed that 43% of the
membership of the CC(DoC) believe that the homosexual "way of life"
should be accepted.
This is slightly greater than the response of American Baptist Church
members at 40%, but significantly less than those of the United
Church of Christ at 69% and the Episcopal Church, USA at 70%.
2009-MAY: Public Religion Research reported the
results of their sampling of the opinion of 2,658 clergy from the seven largest Protestant
denominations. The found that:
42% of the CC(DoC) clergy support same-sex
marriage (SSM). This is probably slightly less than the National
average among all adults.
An additional 24% support civil unions but not same-sex
22% support no legal recognition at all for loving, committed
same-sex couples. This would leave parents and their children without
legal protections or benefits.
Support for SSM increased from 42% to 57% if provisions are added to
same-sex marriage laws that protected clergy and congregations from any
form of prosecution if they didn't want to conduct same-sex marriages.
This demonstrates the importance of same-sex marriage acts including a
clause allowing churches and clergy to continue to discriminate against
GLBT persons freely.
64% support ordination of gays and
76% support gay and lesbian lay leaders.
60% feel that the denominations should not
oppose "making homosexuality acceptable." It is unclear
whether the pollsters referred to homosexual orientation or same-sex
Randy Sly, "Mainline Protestants Affirm Homosexuality as a
Lifestyle," Catholic Online, 2009-MAR-20, at:
http://www.catholic.org/ (Article misquotes the Pew survey question
as referring to "homosexual lifestyle.")
Robert P. Jones & Daniel Cox, "2008 Clergy Voices Survey: Mainline
Protestant Clergy Views on Theology and Gay and Lesbian Issues," Public
Religion Research, 2008-MAY, at:
Curt Miller, "Disciples enter discernment process on gays and
lesbians," Disciple's News Service. Original no longer online. It is
mirrored in Yahoo! Groups on 2001-JUL-19, at: