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Christianity and homosexuality


Will the religious conflicts about the LGBT
community be settled by compromise or schism?

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In this website, the term "LGBT: refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

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bulletOpen Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors: the People of the United Methodist Church." Church slogan featured in many United Methodist Church TV commercials and on the denomination's web site, (2003-2004).

bullet"Closed Minds, Closed Hearts, Closed Doors." Picket signs at the church trial of Karen Dammann, charged with "practices...incompatible to Christian teachings." She is in a loving, committed marriage to another woman.

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Sincere disagreements exist about sexual orientation among sincere, devout, thoughtful Christians. Conflicts exist within all denominations/schools/traditions of the major religions. The two main topics which have surfaced in North America are:

bulletShould qualified candidates for the clergy who are involved in committed same-sex relationships be eligible for ordination?

bulletShould the relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples be recognized by conducting some form of church ritual similar to the marriage ceremony that is provided to opposite-sex couples?

bullet In those political jurisdictions where same-sex couples are allowed to marry, should their marriages be solemnized by a church ritual?

Not all Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other faith groups are experiencing the same level of conflict:

bulletLiberal denominations: Believers from the very liberal wings of religions in North America generally accept homosexuality and bisexuality as two alternative sexual orientations which are normal and natural for a minority of adults. They understand, as do the vast majority of mental health therapists, that one's sexual orientation in adulthood is unchosen and unchangeable. Most accept that the ordination of clergy and rituals recognizing the relationships of committed couples should be made available to individuals and couples of all sexual orientations. Many believe that sexual behavior only becomes a moral issue when age differences, health and pregnancy risks, coercion, manipulation, and/or promiscuity are involved.

bullet Conservative denominations: Within very conservative wings of these same religions, the vast majority believe that ordination and any recognition of committed relationships must be denied to sexually-active homosexuals and bisexuals. They generally believe that same-sex behavior is abnormal, unnatural, chosen, and changeable. It is hated by God, perhaps more than any other sin, or perhaps on a par with other sins. Almost all view same-sex behavior as intrinsically sinful, regardless of the nature of the couples' relationship. They view homosexuality as such a serious character flaw that it must preclude a person from being considered for ordination.

bulletMainline denominations: It is in the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal Church, USA, the Anglican Church of Canada, and similar Christian denominations where serious conflicts currently exist. There are large groups within each denomination who have taken a very liberal or very conservative positions. The conflict has reached a level where some members are actively discussing denominational schism as the only likely solution to the disputes. Meanwhile, others look for some type of compromise that will allow diversity of beliefs and perhaps practices within the denomination.

Denominations' views on transgender persons and transsexuals are generally similar to their views on homosexuality.

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Paths forward:

Those faith groups that are struggling with the LGBT topics have four obvious responses to the problem of equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered persons and transsexuals. All alternatives are painful to many of their members. Each of the three main U.S. denominations which are actively debating the issue have chosen (or had choice thrust upon them) one of these paths:

bullet Liberals win: Grant equality to all church members. This will probably cause a mass exodus of conservative members to more conservative faith groups, perhaps fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations.

bulletUnited Methodist approach: Retain inequality while continuing debate, and live with the resultant tension and division. The conservatives win. This will probably cause a mass exodus of liberal members, who will either leave organized religion or switch to a more liberal denomination. It will probably discourage significant numbers of youth from entering the church.

bullet Local option approach: Adopt a local option policy, thus thrusting the conflict from the denominational level to the regional or congregational level. Liberals will be unhappy, because of restrictions of their members and candidates for ordination on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Conservatives will be unhappy because some transgendered persons and sexually active homosexuals will be ordained or have their relationships formally recognized.

bullet Episcopal Church approach: A schism: splitting of the denomination into two groups: one conservative and the other liberal. In the case of the Episcopal Church, USA several dioceses and individual congregations have left the denomination. Everyone loses. This has happened in the past during other conflicts: human slavery, interpretation of the Bible, female ordination, etc. Sometimes the schism is healed many decades later. Sometimes both groups continue to their beliefs so that no reunion is possible.

There is an over-riding concern about church membership from these topics that simply will not go away:

  • Many older teens and young adults are leaving their denominations because of the latter's teachings on human sexuality and their rejection of scientific findings. There is some evidence that the loss of these members is permanent.

  • To adopt policies of inclusion and acceptance will alienate older members of the denomination and cause them to leave because of their bias toward the LGBT community.

All paths forward are dangerous and hazardous to the economic future of Christian denominations.

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Topics covered in this section:

The paths towards compromise or schism:

bulletContinuing to live in tension in the United Methodist Church
bulletOver homosexual ordination and relationships
bullet Attempting to adopt a local option in the Presbyterian Church (USA)
bulletOrdination of gays and lesbians

Schism in the Episcopal Church, USA:

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Site navigation:

Home page > Christianity > Beliefs, etc. > here

Home page > Comparison of religions > Conflicts > here

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Copyright 2004 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2012-JUL-01

Author: B.A. Robinson

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