What does God want PECUSA to do?

In each generation, the real ‘sacred’ of the Gospel will emerge quietly and gently, usually at the hands of those whom the strongest supporters of the sacred regard as inimicable to faith and good customs.

– James Alison in “Faith Beyond Resentment” page 181

James Alison’s many admirers will find in this book [Faith Beyond Resentment] . . . wit, clarity, depth and surprises.

— Rowan Williams

James Alison is the most fascinating theologian I have read for ages, both courageous and intellectually irresistible….

— Monica Furlong

Jesus may be calling the Episcopal Church to preach the Good News! How about that!

The Good News is:

EVERYONE IS WELCOME IN GOD’S FAMILY: INCLUDING WOMEN, GAYS, LESBIANS, BI-SEXUAL, AND TRANS-GENDERED!

We kind of fell into this after some ordinations.

First: After years of Anglican rejection of Florence Lee Tim Oy’s ordination in WWII, some Episcopalians ordained the Philadelphia Eleven and the Washington Four. That still causes acid reflux at home and abroad.

Second: New Hampshire chose a well known diocesan priest as its new bishop – and he was “one of those” for heaven’s sake.

The ordinations in Philadelphia, Washington and New Hampshire were done by Christian people following Jesus.

Why should we apologize or compromise or wait hat in hand outside the palaces of ecclesiastical monarchs?

Sure – we owe those who disagree a full, loving explanation of “the hope that is in us” as Paul says. We should explain why we think this is what God wants.

Conservatives do not have to justify their continuing to follow the holy (or unholy) traditions of God’s people.

We – those of us who have done a new thing – we owe it to God who has inspired our action . . .

We owe it to our conservative sisters and brothers who are shocked by our action . . .

What we owe is this . . .

To explain how God called us to do this as part of Jesus’ promise to “draw all people to myself.”

God has not left us without inspired witnesses. For instance: James Alison explains how the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans does not forbid gay and lesbian sexual intercourse. Instead it forbids Christians from going to pagan temples and worshipping false gods with gay and lesbian intercourse.

Check out:

http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng15.html

Our conservative sisters and brothers who grieve at our welcoming women and gays and lesbians and bi-sexual and trans-gendered – they deserve our time for loving discussion with them about every verse in scripture that has been said to forbid women and gays and lesbians and bi-sexuals and trans-gendered Christians from 100% full membership in God’s Church.

Our vocation is to be truly evangelical – proclaiming the Good News of God’s welcome to all.

Let’s have some real prayerful Bible study – with people of all opinions – asking God to “open our hearts to your holy will.”

I’d like to study the Bible with you.

Would you be interested?

I’d like to hear from you.

George Swanson
george@katrinasdream.org

5 thoughts on “What does God want PECUSA to do?

  1. Well, George, you see that with “fear and trembling” in the face of a blog, I have managed to get on your blog. A real accomplishment for me.

    Yes, I want to study Bible with you concerning the passages in the Bible that are used to condemn or denigrate gays and lesbians. In the library at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Albany, where I work as a volunteer, I found “Gays Under Grace, A Gay Christian’s Response to Homosexuality” by Maury Johnston, a biblical scholar in fundamentalist doctrinal theology. It was first published in 1983 and re-published in 1991.
    In the Introduction Johnston writes: “This book is not written as a timid, apologetic defense against the onslaught of homophobic condemnation. It is rather an aggressive attack upon those aspects of the Church of God which have sunk to the depths of reactionary discrimination and unthinking prejudice against our Lord’s gay children. “Gays Under Grace” is not a polite presentation of soft-spoken appeals. It is a thunderous broadside, aimed at the very citadels of religious bigotry; and if even one stone can be dislodged from those walls, this book will have been a spiritual success.”
    A major part of the “thunderous broadside” is detailed examinations of the biblical passages that have been used to promote fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. I intend to study each of those examinations and to publish a summary of each here on your blog. It’s a rather lengthy study, so it may take me a while to get it all done. When I get one done I’ll go ahead and publish it, and not wait until it’s all done. Maybe it’s an unending process that will never really be all done.
    Love and blessings, Jim

  2. This is from Maury Johnston’s book mentioned in my first comment. Jim

    Gays Under Grace, A Gay Christian’s Response to Homosexuality
    Maury Johnston
    Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc., 1983, Second Printing 1991

    “Generally speaking, there are two opposing theories concerning the nature of biblical inspiration. The difference between them can be found by comparing these two sentences, which sum up their divergent approaches:
    The Bible contains the infallible message of the gospel and bears witness to the living Word of God.
    Vs.
    The Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God.”
    “The Bible is not the Word of God, but the words of men, in which and through which we believe the living, active, constantly contemporary Word of God comes to men…. A Bible passage is to be interpreted in terms of the experiences, life setting and problems of the specific writer and with respect to the purposes for which it was written…. A passage is to be further explicated in the light of our contemporary experience and knowledge. We must try to see it in relation to our social-psychological-historical-philosophical understanding as well as to our existential knowledge…. Although the Bible writers faced the same basic existential questions we face, many of their answers are time-caught, as ours are, and valid only for them. But the values they affirmed by their answers are of significance to us…. The whole Bible is to be seen in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of the early Church.” (from Sally Gearheart and William R. Johnston, Loving Women/Loving Men: Gay Liberation and the Church. San Francisco Glide Publications, 1974, p. 28) pp. 39-40
    This position has much scriptural backing to commend it. It was Jesus who said to the Jewish fundamentalists of his day, ‘You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.’ (John 5:39 NASV) The holy Scriptures are not, in the truest sense, the Word of God, but they are the inspired written testimony to the living Word of God, who is none other than Jesus Christ himself; for as the apostle John most eloquently explained in the opening prologue to his Gospel: ‘The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14 JB) The Word of God was not made into a book, but into human flesh and bone. For this reason, it is often rightly contended that our veneration should not be focused upon the printed pages of sacred Scripture, but upon the nail-scarred hands of the One who tasted of our misery, limitations, fears, and simple joys. In his humanity, Christ’s expression (Word-bearing) of the Godhead became complete. But it seems that many modern evangelicals and fundamentalists have created a theology centered around what could be called The Shrine of the Book—an idolatrous altar which countless believers have unwittingly set up in their hearts. Stone idols contain nothing of meaning beneath their sculptured surfaces—only the hardness of rock. In the same way, under the exterior of prominent bibliolatry, there exists nothing but stone literalism.” pp. 40-41
    “…Therefore, biblical literalism can in fact be declared to be idolatrous…. Literalism is antithetical to the responsible life to which Jesus the Christ called his followers. It is also a denial of the continuing revelation of the Holy Spirit…. Those who use certain…passages from Paul’s epistles as proof that God condemns Gay people are selective literalists. Their irresponsible use of Paul’s writings gives evidence to their inability to cope with the reality of Gay love and Gay people and perhaps more often their inability to cope with sexuality and/or their own Gay feelings. Their homophobia, not their faith, is revealed.” (Gearhart and Johnson, p. 104) p. 42

  3. This is from Maury Johnston’s book. It is my third comment. More will follow when I have time to find the pertinent passages in Johnston’s book. Jim

    Hebrew History and Homosexuals
    Excerpts from Maury Johnston, Gays Under Grace, A Gay Christian’s Response to Homosexuality.

    “Without question, the Old Testament condemns homosexual acts between men (women are not mentioned in this context): ‘You shall not lie with a man as with a woman: that is an abomination…. If a man has intercourse with a man as with a woman, they both commit an abomination. They shall be put to death; their blood shall be on their own heads” (Leviticus 18: 22; 20: 13 NEB). However, it is essential that we try to understand the various reasons that prompted such prohibition.”
    “It has been suggested…that an underlying motive for forbidding same-sex activity was its inability to procreate. Barrenness was very often considered a disgrace in ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 7:14)…. This postulation is, no doubt, intriguing, but there is little evidence that such was the substance of Hebrew reasoning. In all probability, it was a contributing cause for such Levitical enactments, but little more.” (pp. 57-58)
    “Another explanation—one with much historical backing—has to do with the extremely sexist attitudes of Hebrew patriarchal society, which placed women in a most degrading light, therefore creating a homophobic abhorrence for any kind of sexual activity where a man was seemingly ‘feminized’ by taking a passive sexual position with another man.” (p. 58)
    “Even more important is the fact that homosexual acts were often associated with heathen idolatry, therefore a violation of the first table of the Decalogue and worthy of death. Some of the pagan religions of the cultures surrounding Israel often included homosexual acts as part of their rituals. Sacred cult prostitution was prevalent even among the Israelites during times of national apostasy and was vigorously condemned by the prophets. (I Kings 14:24; II Kings 23:27; Deuteronomy 23:17-18).” (pp. 58-59)
    “In further support of the theory that the Leviticus homosexual prohibitions stem in large part from their relatedness to pagan idolatry is the nature of the Hebrew word translated abomination when referring to same-sex acts. John Boswell makes the important observation that
    The Hebrew word ‘toevah’…here translated ‘abomination,’ does not usually signify something intrinsically evil, like rape or theft…but something which is ritually unclean for Jews…. It is used throughout the Old Testament to designate those Jewish sins which involve ethnic contamination or idolatry…. Often ‘toevah’ specifically means ‘idol,’ and its connection with idolatry is patent even within the context of the passages regarding homosexual acts.” (p. 100 in Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, Chicago, U. of Chicago Press, 1980)
    “When one reviews the probable motivations behind the prohibitions of homosexual acts in the Levitical Holiness Code, it is clearly evident that the evils of temple cult prostitution have no relevance whatever as a valid excuse for condemning homosexual inversion in present-day society. Such scriptural proscriptions are patently anachronistic; their chief value lies in the archaeological and historical insight they provide regarding the life-styles and the cultural conflicts faced by the early Hebrews in their struggles with the surrounding Canaanite society. Certainly, for Christians to appeal to an ancient law code which institutionalized the patriarchal, sexist notions of male domination, with its resulting homophobia echoed in these Levitical precepts, is to align themselves with the demeaning conviction of male chauvinism. Moreover, to utilize these passages from Scripture as an indication of divine displeasure with nonprocreative sexuality is to create a double-edged sword that will surely impale our accusing, birth-control practicing, fundamentalist friends! With the burgeoning population explosion and growing world famine, it would be absurd to demand that we take the original Genesis injunction to multiply as a timeless precept which God meant to remain applicable. We now realize that sexuality serves many higher functions than reproduction: the expression of intimate love, the affirmation of the worth of the beloved, and strengthening of the bonds of relationship.” (pp 62-63)
    Johnson then points out that there are many passages in the Scriptures condemning this or that behavior that Christians disregard today: “The man who lies with a woman during her monthly periods and uncovers her nakedness…both of them must be outlawed from their people.” (Lev. 20:18) “You are not to round off your hair at the edges nor trim the edges of your beard.” (Lev. 19:27) “You must eat nothing with blood in it. The pig must be held unclean…. You must not eat the meat of such animals. Anything in sea or river that has not fins or scales… you are not to eat their flesh.” (Lev. 19:26; 11:7-10) “You must not wear clothing woven part of wool, part of linen.” (Deut. 22:11)
    “Of course, these are just some of the shorter, less elaborate commandments. Provisions were made also for the institution of slavery. (Lev. 25:44) Wars of extermination…were often commanded. (Deut 20:16) Parents could have their children legally stoned to death for disobedience. (Deut. 21:18-21)” (pp. 63-4)
    “When Christians point to the ancient Law of Moses as proof of gay sinfulness, it must mean that they still recognize the Law as being valid and a norm for modern believers. However, if it is to be enforceable against gays, it must of necessity be applicable to fundamentalists as well; so since they have placed themselves under the Law, they have obviously deserted the provisions of grace made possible through the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ, which insist that we are no longer under obligation to the old Law, but are freed to serve God in the responsible freedom of grace and forgiveness (Roman 6:14; Galatians 3:10-14).” Pp. 64-65

  4. Sodom and Gomorrah
    From Gays Under Grace by Maury Johnston, pp. 65-70

    [We examine now] “…the notorious saga of Sodom and Gomorrah. The ancient account of their destruction can no longer be used as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, as has been assumed by such religious opponents as Kenneth Gangel, author of … The Gospel and the Gay…. Printed on the back leaf of the book is this incredibly uninformed assertion: ‘We know of only one episode in history where God singled out a particular sin and destroyed two entire cities because of it—the sin was homosexuality and the cities were Sodom and Gomorrah.’
    “…(T)he Bible denies Gangel’s claim in at least three places. Genesis 18:20-21 indicates that God had planned the destruction of those cities for their wickedness long before the incident at Lot’s house took place. In Genesis 19 is the only reference to an attempted perpetration of a homosexual act by the men of Sodom. In light of this, Gangel’s sweeping accusation that ‘sexual recreation was rampant in the city to the point that gay crowds roamed the streets demanding sexual relations with every stranger who visited town’ seems strange indeed…. To magnify one isolated incident into the ‘primary’ sin the two cities had committed is exaggeration taken to its limits—an exaggeration supported nowhere but in the lurid imaginations of homophobic Christians. Included in the scriptural list of Sodom’s sins are pride of wealth, affluence, lack of concern for the poor, haughtiness, adultery, and other sins in general (Ezekiel 16:49; Jeremiah 23:14). Homosexuality is not mentioned!
    “Most evangelical and fundamentalist authors vehemently condemn homosexuality as inherently sinful on the basis of this Genesis account, which describes a scene of attempted rape of angelic messengers by male Sodomites. The correlation is totally unacceptable. In the first place, to condemn heterosexuality, for example, because of the increase of heterosexual rape is patently ridiculous. Second, the fact that the men of Sodom were seeking to molest two strangers does not prove them to be true homosexuals or ‘gay crowds.’ What it does prove is that they were depraved, degenerate, and lustful, with violent intentions. It does not prove that they were, by any stretch of the imagination, what we would today call constitutional homosexual inverts.
    “The fact that the men of Sodom refused Lot’s offer of his daughter does not, as some Christian writers have claimed, indicate that they were homosexuals in the fullest sense of the word. Two evangelical authors, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Scanzoni, in their excellent book Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?: Another Christian View, give us an illuminating insight into the real reason for the Sodomites’ refusal to sexually abuse the daughters of Lot:
    Among some ancient peoples, it was not unusual to flaunt one’s triumph over enemies by treating them with the greatest possible contempt. Such contempt was demonstrated by forcing captive men to ‘take the part of a woman’ and be passive recipients in anal intercourse.
    A similar pattern shows up in modern prisons. ‘We’re going to take your manhood’ or ‘We’re gonna make a girl out of you’ are common assertions in such sexual assaults….
    If the modern prison’s version of a gang rape was in the minds of the men of Sodom, it is understandable that they did not accept Lot’s offer of his daughters. Women already had a low place in the society of Sodom. (Lot’s offer is indicative of that fact). Humiliating actual women would not have provided the sense of conquest they had anticipated in degrading the male strangers and ‘dragging them down’ to the level of women.
    “Seen in this light, there is no concrete evidence that the men of Sodom were homosexual in the sense of true sexual inversion. Furthermore, the focus of condemnation here is upon gang rape, not sexual orientation. Some paranoid evangelicals have used the Sodom account and a similar narrative in Judges 19 as an indication of the general nature of homosexuals. After discussing these two passages, Gangel comes to the absurd conclusion that ‘this kind of passage should deliver us once and for all from the notion that homosexuals by and large are just a nice quiet group of people who want to be left alone to ‘do their own thing.’ In other words, he implies that most gay people are potential child molesters and violent mob-oriented rapists!
    “Interviewed in a nationally distributed periodical, psychologist Norman C. Murphy refuted the slanderous assertion of …Gangel…:
    When you read about a homosexual rape in the news, almost invariably it was the rape of a homosexual by a group of heterosexuals. In prison populations, heterosexuals often gang rape young prisoners and homosexuals…. Violent sex crimes are the province of heterosexuals in almost all instances. When you look at the number of homosexuals and heterosexuals with regard to violent sexual assaults, there is no comparison. Heterosexuals win the prize for being rapists and murderers when the numbers of such felons are measured within the homosexual and heterosexual populations….
    The news media always makes a big thing about a homosexual’s murdering someone. The general population often believes that homosexuals as a group are murderers. Further, often the so-called homosexual murder was a murder committed by a heterosexual with the homosexual as a victim.
    “Of further interest is the fact that in the attempt to portray gay people as possessing the demented nature of violent rapists, most fundamentalists and evangelicals will emphasize the murderous cruelty perpetrated by the men of Gibeah in the book of Judges. That is the tragic story of degenerates who surrounded an old man’s house and demanded to have sexual relations with the man who was his guest for the night. In desperation, the guest threw out to them his concubine, who in turn was gang-raped outside the house all through the night. The next morning, she was found dead at the doorway. To place the label homosexual upon the men of Gibeah betrays gross ignorance bordering on the absurd. Gay people are not sexually attracted to the opposite gender. That simple point of information should be the basic building block in understanding the nature of homosexuality. But it seems that this fundamental fact has somehow escaped the attention of the fundamentalists, for who could conceive of male homosexual inverts raping a woman all night long? We know, of course, that rape is primarily an act of violence, but that act is nearly always expressed within the parameters of the rapist’s sexual orientation, except in those cases of heterosexual prison confinement, where there is a lack of intimacy with the opposite sex. As has already been stated, it is not uncommon to hear that a homosexual man was raped by heterosexual men for the purpose of violent humiliation. But the incidence of gay people raping a heterosexual is, like the proverbial needle in the haystack, virtually nonexistent. In the final analysis, we should not dignify the men of Gibeah with the appellation of either heterosexual or homosexual; there is only one accurate description of them: sexual degenerates. Judges 19 is no more authentic in reference to true homosexual inversion than is Genesis 19 and its account of Sodom.
    “The only other biblical passage that has influenced the interpretation of the Sodom story is the seventh verse in the Epistle of Jude. Unfortunately, many modern Bible versions have contributed toward an erroneous understanding of this verse by use the phrase ‘unnatural lusts,’ as does, for instance, The New English Bible.
    Remember Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbouring towns; they committed fornication and followed unnatural lusts; and they paid the penalty in eternal fire, an example for all to see.
    Actually, the King James Version comes closer to the meaning of the original Greek: ‘giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh.’ (emphasis mine) The hideousness of the Sodomites’ sin was not so much the nature (homosexual or heterosexual) of the sexual act which the men at Lot’s house may have wanted to perform. The writer of that episode focuses instead upon the fact that those men were so base and demented as to seek the violent sexual humiliation of angels, divine beings of a higher order. This was no doubt due to their sinful degeneracy, which blinded their ability to perceive the presence of the Holy within their midst…. This is the primary thrust of Jude’s argument. The ‘homosexuality’ of the incident is probably not being referred to at all.
    “Paul, in his detailed explanation of the meaning of resurrection, made a statement about the comparative nature of physical flesh which conclusively demonstrates that the term ‘strange flesh’ must be a reference to flesh that is other than human (i.e., possibly angelic).
    All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another (I Corinthians 15:39-40 NASV, [emphasis mine]).
    If, as Paul says, all humans are of the same flesh, then homosexual activity could not be described as going after ‘strange’ flesh. On the other hand, bestiality could be so described, for beasts are of another flesh, according to the biblical viewpoint; so, also, would lusting after spiritual beings whose ‘flesh’ is of a different nature and composition than that of human beings, and this is exactly what occurred in Genesis 19. It is not homosexuality that is the primary issue for Jude; it is rather the debased audacity of sinful human creatures who attempted to attack and humiliate the very messengers of the living God.
    “In this brief overview of the Old Testament Scriptures and their proper interpretation in regard to homosexuality, one point has become very clear; The Bible passages used by homophobic religionists in their attempts to consign gay people to damnation are not in the least intimidating when carefully examined in the light of cultural and historical context.”
    (Note: the next submission will have to do with the New Testament and homosexuality.)

  5. Homosexuality and the New Testament
    From Gays Under Grace by Maury Johnston

    “In the final analysis, what, then, can be said of the New Testament’s understanding of homosexuality? As far as homosexual inversion is concerned, the Christian Scriptures say absolutely nothing. It is certain, if not obvious from the writings themselves, that homosexual orientation as we understand it today, in light of the complex psychological, biological, and sociological givens, was unknown by Christians of the early church. Nor should we of the twentieth century be so unrealistically demanding as to expect first-century Christian leaders to have been aware of an inherent condition 1,900 years removed from the realm of scientific and psychological discovery. It is unfortunate that modern fundamentalist thought has done just that—it has attributed a form of divine omniscience to all biblical writers concerning any subject of social phenomenon that they happened to touch upon in the course of their dissertations.
    “What the New Testament does address, however, is the morality of homosexual acts as they were viewed by the apostles in the immediate context of their own religious upbringing and cultural expectations. Without a doubt, male prostitution, homosexual lust, and hedonistic heterosexual degeneracy, manifested through participation in same-sex activity, are all unequivocally condemned in the Epistles, and rightfully so. ‘We may very well say that what the Apostle was driving at was the evil of promiscuous sexuality, prostitution, and a general refusal to accept love as the clue to all genuinely human sexual expression.’ (quoted from Norman Pittenger, Time for Consent: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1978, p. 188)
    “But what of gay love? This is the ultimate issue…. The whole purpose of my examination of Paul’s writings has been to emphasize the essential point, which is often not given proper attention in determining Paul’s attitude toward homosexual love that expresses itself in the context of sexual acts. That points resides primarily in one word—assumption; since the apostle assumed heterosexuality to be the only natural or God-ordained orientation, he could view homosexual acts only as forms of degenerate activity. As has been shown, Paul’s assumption that all persons were heterosexual by nature and his resultant conclusions in Romans 1 cannot be applied to the psychobiological phenomenon of constitutional homosexual inversion, since Paul had no knowledge of its existence…. It is…paramount that we keep in our perspective that…well-intentioned, yet as we now know mistaken conclusions on Paul’s part, do not apply to genuine homosexual inverts today. Since such psychosexual orientation [as homosexual inversion] was unknown to the biblical writers for what it is—a genuine and natural variant human sexual condition—it is clear that, as such, this issue was never addressed by New Testament authors.” pp. 110-112

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