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