Christianity and homosexuality

In the third of our series on faith and homosexuality, we take a look at how Christians continue to

It is never a simple thing to write about faith and homosexuality from a Christian perspective because there is no one Christian perspective. The acceptance or otherwise of homosexuality as a valid expression of human sexuality differs according to the view of the different denominations and even within those denominations, groups and individuals may hold opposing beliefs. Even when people share a belief on homosexuality, how individuals should be treated and what the response of the Church should be to those claiming a homosexual orientation may not be shared.

Many denominations now accept that homosexuality is not simply a lifestyle choice and therefore advocate acceptance and pastoral care towards gay men and lesbians. However, this is usually only as long as they don’t ‘practice’ their homosexuality. In other words, it’s okay to be a homosexual but not to express your love physically or sexually with the person you love. This is quite ironic when most Christian denominations believe that celibacy is a higher state that not many are called to and yet they expect all gay men and lesbians to live their lives in this way.

At the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement we believe that all sexuality is a gift from God and therefore the expression of our sexuality in loving, mutual same gender relationships is just as honourable and blessed by God as are loving, mutual heterosexual relationships.

The Biblical debate rests on 6 verses, 3 in the Old Testament and 3 in the New Testament, but many scholars have shown clearly that these texts are not referring to the type of relationship we label as homosexual today. In fact, some of the verses aren’t even referring to sexual relationships at all but concern the Jewish laws of hospitality.

The fact is that the debate on homosexuality will never be resolved by reference to Scripture alone as both sides of the argument can use Scripture to support their particular viewpoint in the same way as it can and has been done on many other issues over the years, such as, the treatment and acceptance of women, children, and ethnic minorities.

We are told that to be a Christian all we need to do is accept Jesus as God’s son and proclaim him with our lips. Naturally, when a person does this then they try to follow Christ’s teachings. As Christ never said anything about homosexuality we have to look at how he treated people and how he expected us to treat each other. Christ welcomed people from the margins, people who had been excluded and rejected by mainstream society. However, when he called these people he didn’t then say they had to start behaving like the Pharisees and Sadducees. All he asked for was that we treat each other with love as he loved us. Confirmation of his acceptance of loving relationships regardless of the gender of those involved is the story of the healing of the Centurions servant. Christ had no hesitation in healing the male servant even though the Centurion referred to him as his beloved. The servant certainly must have been greatly loved for a Roman soldier to beg a Jewish teacher for help, especially as servants were generally valued no more than any other possession.

I have had a personal relationship with Christ ever since I can remember. When I realised my sexual orientation, the love I felt both for and from God didn’t change. God is concerned about the quality of my relationships, not the gender of who they’re with. Unfortunately, a lot of lesbians and gay men encounter so much homophobia and discrimination within their Church that they start believing that God can’t love them as they are.

It’s no good telling someone that you ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’ when the sin you’re referring to is integral to who they are. It’s like telling someone that you understand that they can’t help being born with blue eyes so it’s okay as long they don’t look out of them!

What is even more distressing is that the religious view on homosexuality often informs the implementation of laws. Consequently there are still far too many countries where homosexuality is not just considered a sin but is also illegal and punishable with life imprisonment and even the death penalty. This treatment is often justified by religious beliefs. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement continues to campaign against such laws and against any form of homophobia within faith.

Rev Sharon Ferguson is the Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement that will be holding their second conference on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Human Rights on Saturday 16th May, to raise awareness around these issues. For more information and booking form go to Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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