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Religious Tolerance logo

Religious conservatives and their
interactions with the LGBT community:

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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage"
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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 thumb down image Background:

In Christian areas of the world, there are two main religious groups that have strongly opposed equal rights for the LGBT community, including access to marriage, protection from hate crimes, and an end to discrimination in employment. They are:

Mainline Christian denominations have been slowly accepting the LGBT community as equals. They are faced with two trends within their membership:

  • Many older members, who provide most of the denominations' financial backing, favor continue discrimination against that community.

  • Many younger members are leaving their denomination at least partly because of discrimination against women and the LGBT community.

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The original sources of their beliefs about homosexuality:

They have based their position mainly on six or seven passages in the Bible which they interpret as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior regardless of the individuals' sexual orientation, and the nature of same-sex couple's relationship.

However, two of these passages apparently do not refer to homosexuality as it is normally viewed today:

  • Genesis 19 discusses an incident of attempted same-sex rape -- apparently by heterosexual male perpetrators. The men's intent was to humiliate two visitors to the city of Sodom. Rape is, of course, unrelated to consensual same-gender sexual activity within a loving, committed LGBT relationship.

  • Jude 7's reference to "strange flesh" appears to be related to bestiality -- sex between members of two different species -- not homosexuality. In this case it would have involved forced sex by humans with unwilling angels as victims.

Some have interpreted a passage in Romans 1 as indicating that persons:

  • with a heterosexual orientation should confine their sexual activity to members of the opposite sex, and

  • with a homosexual orientation should restrict themselves to same-sex activity.

Romans 1 discusses a pagan orgy in which a group of former Christian men and women were condemned for engaging in same-gender sexual behavior. This was described as sinful since it was an activity that violated their fundamental heterosexual nature.

The other three or four biblical passages appear to be ambiguous, at least when analyzed in their original Hebrew or Greek, and interpreted by more liberal and progressive Christians.

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Beliefs of religious conservatives:

Many, but not all:

  • Believe that some persons choose to have become lesbian or gay.

  • That they can return to heterosexuality through prayer and therapy.

  • That homosexual orientation is a type of addiction.

  • That it can be triggered or at least facilitated by poor parenting and/or sexual abuse during childhood.

  • Advocate that lesbians and gays be permanently celibate and accept a lifetime of loneliness without an intimate partner.

  • Advocate that bisexuals -- those who are sexually attracted to both men and women, choose to restrict their relationships to opposite-sex partners. Bisexuals are rarely mentioned in conservative Christian literature,

  • Oppose legislative attempts to implement hate crime protections for the LGBT community, access to same-sex marriage, and Inclusion of the LGBT community as a protected class in human rights laws.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) specializes in monitoring hate groups across the U.S.

The SPLC has listed:

"... a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, [that] have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups' influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the 'facts' they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups, and even news organizations."

The SPLC identified 13 organizations as anti-LGBT hate groups. These include three very prominent evangelical Christian groups: the American Family Association, Family Research Council, and the Traditional Values Coalition. 1

It is important to realize that many religious conservatives are not opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community out of animus or hatred. It is largely based on a real concern for LGBT's eternal destiny after death. Many, perhaps most, Christian conservatives believe that people who are sexually active with members of the same sex will automatically spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell without any hope of relief from the pain and abuse.

Homosexuality was not a major focus of concern for conservative Christians until long after the Stonewall riots. Those disturbances started on the evening of 1969-JUN-27. Patrons of the Stonewall Inn -- a LGBT bar in Greenwich Village -- were being attacked by police in one of their routine raids. However, this time, the patrons decided to fight back. The battle lasted three days! This event is generally regarded as the trigger that started the drive for equal rights -- including the right to marry -- by the LGBT community. 2

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thumbs up graphic Two major conservative religious groups moderated their views of the LGBT community in a positive direction -- one apparently on a permanent basis, and the other for only two days:

  • exodus logo2013-JUN: U.S. etc: Exodus International: For over three and a half decades, Exodus International had promoted reparative therapy and prayer as an effective and safe method of converting LGBs into heterosexuals. At its peak, it included over 260 local ministries, churches and counselors worldwide. But in mid-2012, they made some major reversals to their belief system:
    • They no longer taught that reparative therapy is effective.

    • They taught than lesbian and gay adults will always have feelings of attraction to members of the same gender.

    • They taught that reparative therapy can be dangerous to the client's mental health.

    • They taught that sexually active persons with same-sex attraction can still attain Heaven after death. This was a serious heresy according to many religious conservatives.

One year later, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, offered a sincere apology for all of the harm that his organization had done to individuals members of the LGBT community down through the decades. He announced that Exodus was ceasing business after 37 years of operation. It had become obvious to most of Exodus' leaders that the group's success rate at converting LGBT individuals from homosexual to heterosexual orientation was either zero or essentially zero. They had some success at persuading a few lesbians and gays to become celibate and adopt a life of loneliness without the support of an intimate partner. They also had some success at convincing a few bisexuals to pursue relationships only with members of the opposite sex. But they, and other faith-based groups promoting reparative therapy failed at converting LGBs to heterosexuality.

Chambers posted the following sincere message on Exodus' web site:

    "Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your [sexual] attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names like sodomite -- or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. ..."

    "Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

    Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or web site. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated." 3

  • world vision logo 2014-MAR-24: Throughout the third world: World Vision is a very large evangelical Christian world relief organization. Their Employee Conduct Manual requires all of its approximate 1,000 employees to restrict their sexual activity to "abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage." By "marriage" they were referring only to the union of one woman and one man. Thus, potential employees who are in a same-sex marriage would not be hired. However, the agency has employees from more than 50 Christian denominations, some of which recognize same-sex marriages as valid. After years of discernment, the World Vision board finally decided to honor the same-sex marriages of employees and potential employees and also honor the acceptance of such marriages by many Christian denominations. World Vision President Richard Stearns sent a letter to all of the agency's employees that stated, in part:

    "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ."

They announced their decision on Monday, MAR-24. Response from the evangelical community was very quick and extremely negative.

Two days later, they restored their previous discriminatory policy. It remained in place when this essay was last updated during 2018-JUL.

This is a case where an agency wanted to be more tolerant but was forced to continue their discrimination.

More details, including some of the vicious criticisms of World Vision and portions of an entry by Benjamin L. Corey in his "Formerly Fundie" blog on Patheos titled "The Day Evangelicalism Died."

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 thumb down image 2015-MAY: Massive lawsuit filed in Nebraska would have involved hundreds of millions of defendants but did not progress:

Sylvia Ann Driskell, 66, who regards herself as an ambassador of "God, And His, Son Jesus Christ" [sic] launched a case Driskell v. Homosexuals in a Nebraska District Court. She sought a ruling from District Judge John M Garrard that same-gender sexual behavior anywhere on earth by anyone is a sin. Referring to gay marriage, she wrote,:

"I never thought that I would see a day in which our great nation or our own great state of Nebraska would become so compliant to the complicity of some people[’s] lewd behavior, ... Homosexuality is a sin and ... the homosexuals know it is a sin ... Why else would they have been hiding in the closet?"

Steven Payne, a self-described "gay feller," commented -- apparently with tongue in cheek -- that his husband Brian:

"... and I will be liquidating our assets in preparation for a certain loss. We anticipate the restitution ordered to this woman will take us down to our very last penny. In the meantime, our fear is so great we have ceased and desisted being homosexual." 4,5

On MAY-07, Judge Garrard dismissed the case because of two deficiencies: it did not specify a specific remedy and it relied on biblical verses in a secular court. He wrote:

"A federal court is not a forum for debate or discourse on theological matters. This is a court of law, and 'The law knows no heresy, and is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect'. ... To the extent that she asks for anything from the Court, it is a declaration that homosexuality is sinful -- a question that the Court cannot answer. The Court may decide what is lawful, not what is sinful." 6

The judge denied Ms. Driskell permission to amend her lawsuit, writing:

"... because it is obvious that amendment would be futile. ... This Court is not the place to seek opinions regarding theological matters; this particular forum is closed and the case will be dismissed."

The LGBT legal blog, Equality on Trial, commented about the dismissal:

"Typically, when you sue, you’re asking for something: either you’re seeking money damages, or asking the court to strike down a law, or issue an injunction or temporary restraining order. The complaint didn’t ask the court to do anything or grant the woman any kind of relief against all gay people." 6

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 thumb down image 2016-OCT: Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship USA decided to purge those of its staff who are pro-LGBT-equality:

Intervarsity is an evangelical group that has been active on university campuses for over 75 years. They currently have from 860 to more than 1,000 chapters [sources differ] on 667 college campuses. Their stated purpose is:

"... to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord: growing in love for God, God's Word, God's people of every ethnicity and culture and God's purposes in the world."

Implicit in this statement is the belief that there is only one correct interpretation of what the Bible says about many -- if not all -- topics.

In 2015, they distributed an internal position paper on human sexuality titled "Theological Summary of Human Sexuality." It concluded that:

"Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God’s plan and therefore is a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity."

Intervarsity started a process to involuntarily terminate all staff member who disagree with its positions on human sexuality. One belief that they promote is that sexual activity outside of a marriage between a wife and husband is immoral. This would include pre-marital sex, inter-marital sex, post-marital sex, and same-sex marriage. They have asked their staff members to voluntarily inform their supervisor if they disagree with this policy. This will automatically terminate their employment 14 days later.

Elizabeth Dias, writing for Time Magazine, said:

"LGBTQ individuals can remain on staff if they remain celibate and affirm the position paper. LGBTQ students ... remain welcome in the campus groups." 7

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 thumb down image2018-JUN: A church in Indiana is evicted because of the statement on its outside sign:

The Remnant Fellowship Church in Auburn, IN was founded during 2018-APR. Their mission statement says that they:

"Stand apart from the last days apostate church and stand for biblical truth and faithfulness to God and His Word."

They posted a message on their outside church sign, stating -- with spelling and punctuation corrected:

"Remnant Fellowship Church.
LGBTQ is a hate Crime Against God. Repent."
8,9

The meaning is somewhat obscure, because the term "LGBTQ" refers to a group of individuals with various sexual orientations, some of whom are celibate. On the other hand, a "crime against God" would normally involve an action. This church may treat all person who simply have a minority sexual orientation or all persons who are transgender as rejected by God even though the person is celibate.

Reacting to criticism that the sign is "anti-LGBT," a church member posted a message on their Facebook group stating that they:

"Put this on [our] church sign to reach a wicked and filthy generation. I pray God grant some repentance and life before the great Judgments about to be poured on this nation. Especially the young people who have been sold lies so long and are [fed] a flood of filth every day."Jesus can save the vilest of sinners, many of us were saved out of wicked lives. Nothing is to[o] hard for God." 9

A local resident, Kristin Russell, organized a morning protest outside the church.

Church elder Robert Sturges defended the sign in an interview with NewsChannel 15. He said that the sign only informs viewers of what it says in the Bible. He referred to Leviticus 20, which English translations of the Bible commonly state a specific activity is an enormous sin, a detestable sin, or an abomination. The original Hebrew allows for many interpretations of exactly what the activity is and where it is engaged in. However, it appears to allow at least same-sex activity by two women.

"We're trying to reach a certain group of people." They're being told in our culture that homosexuality, transvestites, lesbianism, and sexual immorality is OK. But the Bible clearly says that those who practice these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In fact, it warns them that the wrath of God will abide upon them. And in the judgment, they will be lost and they will be sent to Hell forever. We believe that. That's our faith." 8

The church has since been evicted from the facilities that they had been using for their services.

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About the Revoice Conference, starting 2018-JUL-26 in St. Louis, MO, promoting the concept of "spiritual friendship" and male/female marriage:

The concept of Spiritual Friendship has been advocated by Ron Belgau, Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, and other writers. 10 It involves same-sex relationships entered into by persons with a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation. It also involves complete voluntary celibacy along with an acceptance of the historic Christian belief that sexual behavior is forbidden except between women and the man to whom they are married. For non-heterosexuals, spiritual friendship can overcome the profound loneliness and feelings of isolation that come with a complete absense of close same-sex relationships.

Usually associated with spiritual friendships are the beliefs that:

  • Feelings of same-sex sexual attraction are not sinful in and of themselves as long as both/all parties remain celibate.

  • Churches and denominations should recognize, encourage, and welcome communities of persons involved in spiritual friendships who promote the restriction of marriage to one woman and one man. 10

The Revoice Conference promotes spiritual friendships and seeks to find a home for "gay, lesbian, same-sex attracted, and other LGBT Christians" within conservative Christian denominations and congregations." 11,16

On JUL-26, Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary, spoke on the conservative Christian radio program The World and Everything in It. He shared his negative thoughts on the Revoice Conference.

He noted that the conference's session summary states that:

"The session is entitled 'Redeeming Queer Culture and Adventure.' And we are told that it asks: 'What does queer culture and specifically queer literature and theory have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time'?"

He summarized Revoice's beliefs:

"... they want evangelicals to accept LGBTQ identity as permanent and to welcome and celebrate LGBTQ Christians within congregations. They insist that they hold to the historic Christian Biblical ethic that restricts sexual activity to marriage, defined as the union of a man and a woman.

He is concerned that:

"There is no way that faithful Christians can celebrate what is contrary to Christ, much less propose that any kind of sin and brokenness, including sexual sin and brokenness, will receive honor and glory in the New Jerusalem. ..."

"Christians do experience temptation, and each Christian has his or her own pattern of temptation, but we are not to give in to temptation, nor are we to find our identity in any temptation to sin. Our identity is in Christ.

That’s the key problem with this conference, but similar patterns of thinking are spreading fast. Christians must respond this challenge with both compassion and Biblical clarity."

Webmaster's comment: (bias alert):

Many students of the Bible believe that there are about a half-dozen passages that condemn same-gender sexual behavior. However, I have never seen any that discuss a person's sexual orientation. The existence of a personal sexual orientation was not recognized until the late 19th century.

Steven Wedgeworth, writing for Mere Orthodoxy, critically reviews the concept of spiritual friendship(s). He notes that supporters of the concept assert that they:

"... can enable the “gay†Christian to live a particularly religious celibate life analogous to the counsels of perfection, as they sublimate the sexual desire towards a more perfect form of love. ..." 10

Wesley Hill, writing for the Spiritual Friendship website claims that:

"... same-sex love can 'express itself as chaste friendship or mystical approach to God rather than as gay sex.' Which could imply that we think our being gay shouldn’t be surrendered to daily death so much as it should be reinterpreted or redeemed or reformed." 12

Robert A. J. Gagnon has "seven consequential problems with " spiritual friendships. Some of his concerns are:

  • Gays in a spiritual friendship do not necessarily engage with a "renewal of the mind" with regard to their sexual orientation. As a minimum, their sexual attractions "... can be disempowered by exposing the lie that lies behind attempts to gratify same-sex desire."

  • It leads to a call for the church "... for inclusion and diversity that celebrates what should be mortified."

  • Support for sexual orientation and gender identity laws that lead to the persecution of Christians.

  • It causes gays to believe what sexual orientation researchers have concluded: sexual orientation is fixed. 13

Nate Collins, the founder of Revoice, commented on Christianity Today:

"... the idea behind the conference is to provide a place for conservative LGBT Christians, people who are non-straight and perhaps experienced gender dysphoria of some kind, to gather and to be supported and loved in their attempt to live a long and costly obedience.

We all believe that the Bible teaches a traditional, historic understanding of sexuality in marriage, and so we are not attempting in any way to redefine any of those doctrines. We’re trying to live within the bounds of historic Christian teaching about sexuality and gender. ..."

We’re not pressuring people. We’re not advocating that people use one language over the other. We’re just trying to make space for people for whom the language they use is meaningful, in terms of how they are trying to reconcile their gender and sexuality with their faith." 14

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Evelyn Schlatter, "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Winter 2010, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  2. "The American gay rights movement: a time line,"InfoPlease, 2014, at: http://www.infoplease.com/
  3. Alan Chambers, "I am sorry," Exodus International, 2013-JUN-19, at: http://exodusinternational.org/
  4. Nolan Feeney, "This 66-Year-Old Woman Is Suing All Gay Peopleâ€"Yes, All of Them," Time Magazine, 2015-MAY-06, at: http://time.com/
  5. Alex Johnson, "Nebraska Woman Files Suit Against All Homosexuals," NBC News, 2015-MAY-05, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
  6. Sunnivie Brydum, "Dismissed: Federal Suit Against All Homosexuals. The Advocate.
  7. Elizabeth Dias, "Top Evangelical College Group to Dismiss Employees Who Support Gay Marriage," Time Magazine, 2016-OCT-06, at: http://time.com/
  8. Bill Galluccio, "Church Evicted After Posting Anti-LGBTQ Sign," Foxsports 1550, 018-JUL-07, at: https://foxsports1550.iheart.com/
  9. Samuel Smith, "Indiana Church Sign Says 'LGBT Is Hate Crime Against God, Repent;' Protest Planned," The Christian Post, 2018-JUN-27, at: https://www.christianpost.com/
  10. Stephen Wedgeworth, "A Critical Review of Spiritual Friendship," Mere Orthodoxy, 2018-JUN-12, at: https://mereorthodoxy.com/
  11. "Revoice Conference," 2018-JUL-26 to 28, at: http://revoice.us/
  12. Wesley Hill, "Is Being Gay Sanctifiable?, 2014-FEB, Spiritual Friendship, at: https://spiritualfriendship.org/
  13. Robert Gagnon, "Concerns With the upcoming Revoice Conference and “Spiritual Friendship Folk," Pulpit & Pen, 2018-JUL-22, at: http://pulpitandpen.org/
  14. Marl Galli, "Revoice’s Founder Answers the LGBT Conference’s Critics," Christianity Today, 2015-JUL-25, at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/
  15. "Al Mohler: The Revoice Conference," The World and Everything in it, 2018-JUL-26, at: http://worldandeverything.org/
  16. "Revoice 2018" has a web site at: http://revoice.us/

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Related section:

Attitudes towards the LGBT community & same-sex relationships among the general public seem to have reached a tipping point in the U.S. in early 2011, followed by rapid improvement. We have month-by-month essays covering developments from early 2011 to the present time.

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Copyright © 2014 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-MAR-25
Latest update: 2018-AUG-01
Author: B.A. Robinson
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