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Religious Tolerance logo

Beliefs about homosexual orientation by
Christian and Jewish clergy & theologians

Part 1

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Survey of 19 Christian and Jewish clergy and theologians:

A total of 19 theologians were asked two questions:

  • Question 1: In your opinion, does God regard homosexuality as a sin?

  • Question 2: In your opinion, do the Scriptures object to homosexuality?

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Rev Dr William R Stayton (Baptist -- minister, certified sexologist, associate professor of psychiatric and human behavior, servant on faculty of LaSalle University's graduate department of religious studies, holder of master of divinity from Andover Newtown Theological School and a Th.D. in psychology from Boston University):

    Q1: Absolutely not! There is nothing in the Bible or in my own theology that would lead me to believe that God regards homosexuality as sin. God is interested in our relationships with ourselves, others, the thing sin our lives, and with God (Matthew 23:36-40). There is nothing in the mind of God that could be against loving, sexual relationship, freely entered into,without coercion, among sincere adults whether gay,bisexual or straight.

    Q2: There is nothing in the Bible regarding homosexual orientation. In fact, the Bible does not concern itself with sexual orientation. It does speak out probably against gang rape, male prostitution for religious purposes, and pederasty (sex between an adult and youth). I lead bible study programs on this subject and am convinced that the Bible does not address the issue of a person's sexual orientation.

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Bishop John S Spong (Episcopal -- bishop, most published member of the Episcopal house of bishops, author to 11 books and 50 published articles, phi beta kappa graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, holds masters in divinity and an honorary doctorate in divinity from Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, received honorary doctorate in divinity from St Paul's College):
    Q1: Some argue that since homosexual behavior is "unnatural"it is contrary to the order of creation. Behind this pronouncement are stereotypical definitions of masculinity and femininity that reflect rigid gender categories of patriarchal society. There is nothing unnatural about any shared love, even between two of the same gender, if that experience calls both partners to fuller state of being. Contemporary research is uncovering new facts that are producing a rising conviction that homosexuality, far from being a sickness,sin, perversion or unnatural act, is a healthy, natural and affirming form of human sexuality for some people. Findings indicate that homosexuality is a given fact in the nature of a significant portion of people, and that it is unchangeable.

    Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, "I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good'." . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed,and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world.

    Q2: There are few biblical references to homosexuality. The first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is often quoted to prove that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But ethereal sin of Sodom was the unwillingness of the city's men to observe the laws of hospitality. The intention was to insult the stranger by forcing him to take the female role in the sex act. The biblical narrative approves Lot's offer of his virgin daughters to satisfy the sexual demands of the mob. How many would say, "This is the word of the Lord"? When the Bible is quoted literally,it might be well for the one quoting to read the text in its entirety.

    Leviticus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, condemns homosexual behavior, at least for males. Yet, "abomination", the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexuality, is the same word used to describe a menstruating woman.Paul is the most quoted source in the battle to condemn homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and Romans 1: 26-27). But homosexual activity was regarded by Paul as a punishment visited upon idolaters by God because of their unfaithfulness. Homosexuality was not the sin but the punishment.

    In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves,the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with arsenokoitus, or male prostitute, was meant to refer to the passive and active males in a homosexual liaison.

    Thus, it appears that Paul would not approve of homosexual behavior. But was Paul's opinion about homosexuality accurate, or was it limited by the lack of scientific knowledge in his day and infected by prejudice born of ignorance? An examination of some of Paul's other assumptions and conclusions will help answer this question. Who today would share Paul's anti-Semitic attitude, his belief that the authority of the state wa snot to be challenged, or that all women ought to be veiled? In these attitudes Paul's thinking has been challenged and transcended even by the church! Is Paul's commentary on homosexuality more absolute than some of his other antiquated, culturally conditioned ideas?

    Three other references in the New Testament (in Timothy,Jude and 2 Peter) appear to be limited to condemnation of male sex slaves in the first instance, and to showing examples (Sodom and Gomorrah) of God's destruction of unbelievers and heretics (in Jude and 2 Peter respectively).

    That is all that Scripture has to say about homosexuality. Even if one is a biblical literalist,these references do not build an ironclad case for condemnation. If one is not a biblical literalist there is no case at all, nothing but prejudice born of ignorance, that attacks people whose only crime is to be born with an unchangeable sexual predisposition toward those of their own sex.

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Bishop R Stewart Wood Jr (Episcopal -- graduate of Dartmouth College, masters degree in counseling from Ball State University, masters and doctorate degrees in divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary):

    Q1: No. Our sexual orientation is a given, something we discover about ourselves -- some might say "a gift from God". How one relates to others --caring or exploiting -- is the source of sin.
    Q2: I am aware of the concern for certain homosexual acts and see no addressing [in the Scriptures] of the condition or orientation.

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Rabbi Jeffrey Lazar (Reformed Judaism -- educator at Temple Sinai in Atlanta, holds bachelors degree from Syracuse University, bachelors and masters degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College, member and trustee of the National Association of Temple Educators):

    Q1: First of all, I do not know what God thinks. In my opinion, homosexuality is not a sin, but an alternate lifestyle. 1 In my opinion, homosexuality by itself is not immoral. When sex is used to corrupt, for prurient and/or exploitative purposes or selfish reasons or to hurt someone else, this is immoral.

    Q2: The Bible, in my opinion, is very clear in its objection to homosexuality.

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Rabbi Janet R Marder (Reformed Judaism -- associate director for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Pacific Southwest Council, graduate of University of California at Santa Cruz, co-chair of Nechama, an AIDS/HIV education program for the Jewish community):

    Q1: The God I worship endorses loving, committed, monogamous relationships, regardless of the gender of those involved.
    Q2: I believe that the Hebrew Bible strongly condemns homosexuality. While it is part of my tradition, I do not regard all Biblical laws as binding on me. The Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is based on human ignorance, suspicion of those who are different, and an overwhelming concern for ensuring the survival of the people. Since the Bible regards homosexuality as a capital crime, it clearly assumes that homosexuality is a matter of free choice, a deliberate rebellion against God. We have learned from modern science that people do not choose to be gay or straight; hence it is neither logical nor moral to condemn those whose nature it is to be gay or lesbian.

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Rabbi Dr David Teutsch, PhD (Reconstructionist Judaism -- executive vice president and director of contemporary civilizations at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, holds bachelors in general studies from Harvard University and masters degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College and PhD in social system science from the University of Pennsylvania):

    Q1: Homosexuality -- as is true of heterosexuality -- is a naturally occurring sexual orientation that can be expressed in more ethical and less ethical ways. In itself homosexual love making is not sinful.

    Q2: The Scriptural references to homosexuality make no comment on lesbianism. They object to male homosexuality on three grounds: cultic prostitution, unnaturalness,and "spilling seed" or Onanism. Homosexuality has been shown to be natural in animals and humans. Gay men today are not involved in cultic acts. And the spilling of seed through heterosexual, homosexual or masturbatory acts is not an issue for me. Thus I take this prohibition no more seriously than many others, such as that against lending money at interest, that do not make sense in the first place.

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References used:

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

  1. The term "lifestyle" is often associated with homosexual orientation. However it normally refers to a chosen and changeable behavior in one's life, like living in an urban or rural area, being self-employed or working for a company; being single or married or living together. Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals generally agree that a sexual orientation is not chosen, changeable, or a behavior.

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Copyright lies with the individual contributors.
Initial posting: 2011-APR-30

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