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Beliefs about homosexual orientation by
Christian and Jewish clergy & theologians

Part 2

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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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Rabbi Marc H Wilson (Independent Traditional Judaism -- holds bachelor degree in sociology from DePaul University and a bachelor degree in Hebrew Literature, holds a Hebrew Teacher and Principal license from Hebrew Theological College, columnist in nine newspapers and via one wire service):

    Q1: No, not so long as the behavior is:
    • a) not obsessive (as would be true, likewise, of heterosexuality)
    • b) responsible and safe (ditto as above)
    • c) non-abusive (ditto as above)
    • d) the manifestation of a loving, respectful relationship (Jewish Bible, Old Testament)

Q2: [It was sin] only insofar as that at that [biblical] time homosexual behavior was a manifestation of abusive sexual practices associated with idolatry and fertility cultism,and thus an "abomination" because of the association, not because of the intrinsic "relationship". Also, because it was "unnatural", that is non-procreative, understandably in the tribal times when procreation was of highest priority.

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Bishop Stanley E Olson (Lutheran -- holds undergraduate degree from Wittenberg University, seminary trained at Luther-Northwestern Seminary, holds an honorary doctor of divinity from California Lutheran University):

    Q1/Q2: Biblical scholars are busy restudying the few verses which have often been regarded as anti-homosexual. One thing is clear, these few verses do not refer to homosexuality as we understand and use that term today.The Biblical texts do speak against sexual exploitation and rape whether committed by persons with a heterosexual or homosexual orientation. The great message of Scripture is of a God of unbounded love for the human family. If God has any preference at all, it is for "the least", "the lost" and "the last". God's amazing grace,compassion and salvation is open to everyone. Jesus is very clear in placing his gospel beyond the limitations of churches and denominations. He says, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also.So that there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). Here is a partial list of verses that has every right in being equally addressed to homosexual or heterosexual Christians: Galatians 3:27, John 3:16 , Romans 3:21-24, Ephesians 2:8-9, Acts 10.

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Dr Carl O McGrath, PhD (Former Mormon -- was a member of church for 50 years, past Stake high councilor, resigned from church over church's position on homosexuality in 1989, holds a PhD from the University of Washington and currently serves there as a clinical assistant professor):

    Q1: My sexuality is a God-given state of being which includes natural erotic attractions and desires. In moving from infancy to adulthood, part of my work is to allow myself to experience my eroticism in ways that enable me to discover who I actually am, not who society says I should be. I believe that the Creator of our natural erotic attractions, whether they are for opposite or same-sex persons, views our eroticism as an intrinsic and beautiful part of who God intended us to be. God did not intend that there would be one way of being sexual.Even among heterosexual people, there is no one "right"way to be sexual. Our uniqueness comes from the creativity of God at the most basic level. I believe God is pleased when we respond to our unique form of sexuality in ways that are life-giving. I believe that it is life giving when sexual relationships reflect a high degree of mutuality, love, and justice.

    Q2: The Scriptures of my religious tradition include the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants,and Pearl of Great Price. There are five references in the Bible that I grew up believing to be Scriptural proof against homosexuality. However, I now believe it would be a mistake to rely upon these references in forming my conclusions about homosexuality for the following reasons:

    • a) What I have learned from living my life is that those references in the Bible are not speaking to the truth I have experienced in relation to how God views homosexual love.
    • b) Although the General Authorities of my church have expressed strong negative opinions about homosexuality, none of our latter day Prophets have proclaimed revelation from God on this issue, including President Spencer W Kimball who has probably been the most outspoken on this topic.
    • c) None of the words we attribute to Christ make any reference to homosexuality.
    • d) None of [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] ... Scriptures make any reference to homosexuality.

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Rev Dr George R Edwards, PhD (Presbyterian -- professor emeritus of New Testament theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, holds masters in divinity from LPTS and a PhD from Duke University, taught new testament theology studies at LPTS from 1958-1985, member of Society of Biblical Literature):

    Q1: God does not regard homosexuality as a sin any more than heterosexuality. Sin is lack of respect for God; it is a lack of love or respect for other persons. Whether gay or straight, therefore, one may sin against God or others. But God forgives us when we sin and strengthens us in resisting sin. We are led by God's forgiving love to become more respectful and loving toward God and towards others, even those we don't "like".

    Q2: The Scriptures are very important because they teach us God's love for all, gay or straight. But the Scriptures are old, thousands of years old, written even before the word "homosexual" existed. Same sex acts involving the genitals -- we call these "homogenital" -- seem in Scripture to be thought of as a result of idol worship. See, for example, Romans 1:18-27. Nor do the Scriptures seem to understand what we mean today by "sexual orientation". Sexual acts which are injurious, disrespectful, or unloving toward the other person are wrong. So I believe that the Scriptures approve of homosexuality and even homogenital acts that are kind,generous, loving, and respectful of the other person, just as in the case of heterosexuality or heterogenital acts.

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Rev Harry L Holfelder (Presbyterian -- chair of AIDS Interfaith Network of Baltimore and is senior pastor of a local church, is active with the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Committee):

    Q1: No, I do not think that God regards homosexuality as a sin. I believe that one's sexual preference 1 is first and foremost a matter of biology (creation) and only secondarily a matter of choice (responsibility). Since I also believe that all God creates is good, I conclude that human sexuality (not a matter of choice for anyone) is good, whether that sexual expression be heterosexual or homosexual.

    Q2: A careful and sensitive reading of the Scriptures does not lead to the automatic conclusion that homosexuality is a sin. There are passages, especially in the "holiness literature" that suggests this conclusion. However, the overall message of Scripture in this matter is far more positive than negative. Biblically, the issue is the goodness of human sexuality and the use of that gift in covenant relationships. For me a more important question is that of the relationship of God in Christ to a human being. In this relationship I see no barriers, even sexual ones.

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Sister Mary Ann Ford (Roman Catholic -- member of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for 39 years, holds masters degree in mathematics and in pastoral ministry, has taught in mathematics and religious instruction in high schools and later colleges, chaplain of the Detroit chapter of Dignity for the past 15 years):

    Q1: Two truths are especially relevant in thinking this through. First we have a theological point. God, the one who has made all of creation, loves and cherishes all creatures without exception. Second, modern psychology shows us that homosexual orientations set by age five or six. Most psychologists agree that it is not a matter of choice, whether orientation is inborn as some think or acquired very early as other say. How then could an all-loving God possibly violate Divine nature and regard homosexuals as "sinners"?

    Q2: Contemporary Biblical scholars are indicating that the idea of homosexual orientation was unknown to the writers of the Sacred Scripture. Certainly they had no knowledge of the Kinsey research which established the existence of a continuum along which all of us are somewhere between the end points of totally heterosexual through bisexuality to exclusively homosexual. Many of the oft-quoted "condemnatory passages" may assume that heterosexuals are acting out of their violation of their "nature".

    There also is question as to whether words which appear in our English texts refer in some cases in the original languages not to homosexuals but male prostitutes who were used in pagan worship. Certainly, nowhere does the Bible legislate on the matter of loving sexual activity between consenting adults in committed relationships.

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Sister Jeannine Gramick, PhD (Roman Catholic -- member of School Sisters of Notre Dame since 1960, holds PhD in education from University of Pennsylvania, was assistant professor of mathematics and education at the College of Notre Dame Maryland, conducts theological, sociological and ministerial workshops nationwide on the dimensions of homosexuality):

    Q1: God has created people with romantic and physical attractions to the same sex, as well as those with attractions to the opposite sex. Many, if not most, people, we are now discovering, have both kinds of attractions in varying degrees. All of these feelings are natural and are considered good and blessed by God. These feelings and attractions are not sinful. Most Catholic moral theologians now hold that homogenital behavior, as well as heterogenital behavior, is good and holy in God's sight when it is an expression of a special and unique love which one person has for another.Both homosexual and heterosexual genital expression can be sinful if they are manipulative, dishonest, or unloving actions.

    Q2: When read at face value, the Scriptures have nothing positive to say about homogenital behavior. However, most Christians do not interpret the Bible literally; they try to understand the Scriptures in their historical and cultural context and see what meaning the Scriptures have for us today.

    The Scriptures were written approximately 2000 or more years ago when there was no knowledge of constitutional homosexuality. The Scripture writers believed that all people were naturally heterosexual so that they viewed homosexuality activity as unnatural. Women today are pointing out that the inferiority of women expressed in the scriptures was a product of culture and the times in which the Bible was written; it should not be followed today, now that we are beginning to appreciate the natural and God-given equality of men and women.

    Similarly, as we know that homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as heterosexuality, we realize that the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality we reconditioned by the attitudes and beliefs about this form of sexual expression which were held by people without benefit of centuries of scientific knowledge and understanding.

    It is unfair of us to expect or impose a twentieth century mentality and understanding about equality of genders, races and sexual orientations on the Biblical writers. We must be able to distinguish the eternal truths the Bible is meant to convey from the cultural forms and attitudes expressed there.

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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. Many, if not most, bisexuals have a sexual preference. That is they are sexually attracted more to males than females, or vice-versa. However, persons with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation are attracted only to persons of the opposite sex. Thus, they have an orientation, not a preference.

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

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