A Groundswell of Chicken Littles?

Another one of my comments that rambled too long and became a regular post…
I honestly find some of the extreme conservative responses to GA unbelieveable.
Because of a 55/45 split on amendment b and homosexual ordination that we’ve known was there for 30 years at least, suddenly the loyal opposition seems to be lamenting in sack-cloth and ashes.
It hasn’t been a picnic on this side either, frankly, but for a long time we’ve been waiting and doing what we can to overturn what we think is an unjust barrier to ordination (I only say “we” because of my position – I’ve personally done precious little to help). It might look like ‘we’ “won” this year because for decades before this we’ve “lost” time and again. So, if you’re a disappointed conservative anti-homosexual person, this is what it’s probably felt for every GA for the past few decades for your pro-homosexual brothers and sisters.
I’m surprised at what’s happened – granted, surprised and happy about some of it, unhappy about other bits, but what’s really surprised me is people acting as if the earth was going to split open and the sky rain blood. As if it was a surprise that we’re a (semi) democratic denomination and that votes might not go the way you want this time around. It just leaves me shaking my head.
I understand *exactly* how it feels to lament that your denomination is doing things you feel are unjust. This isn’t anything new to any of us, frankly, and I don’t know why its being treated in Chicken Little fashion. Its like the lamenting of Bush’s re-election in 2004, except that vote has had 10,000X more impact on people’s lives than anything GA will ever do.
I just don’t see it as a collapse of all hope, or as “Christless”, as one person put it (which is quite offensive, but I’m used to being called Christless because of this one issue, or lacking morality, or any number of exaggerated garbage). We disagree, and these things go back and forth. The issue is still live, God help us, and will suck up more resources and time I don’t doubt.
I just…don’t get it.
I guess I’m just really used to being disappointed by the Powers That Be, whether its the denomination, or the government, or whatever. Maybe its a difference of expectations, I don’t know.


Now we have a lot of talk of “schism”, of the ship being hit, of disaster looming on the horizon. Well, we’ve schismed before over what was considered an issue of “Biblical morality” at the time, and we survived and reconciled. There was probably a lot of apocalyptic lamentation then as well, but God is bigger than our petty squabbles and competing misinterpretations.

How easily some people lose their much-vaunted faith in God when things don’t go their way. If God is against what was done at this GA in terms of homosexual ordination, how can it possibly prevail in the long term? And if I am correct, and God is in fact calling homosexual persons of faith to serve as deacons, elders and ministers, then what can possibly stop the march of God’s justice and mercy for all people?

The answer to both is nothing. So why the cries of anguish over this one issue? Why the hyperbole about abandoning Christ and Biblical morality? That isn’t the issue. The issue is that some of us disagree with conservatives about what it means to follow Christ and to be moral according to how the Holy Spirit and the Bible lead us. This is NOT, has NEVER BEEN a conflict of Bible vs. non-Bible, or morality vs. non-morality. It is a conflict of interpretation vs. interpretation, of morality vs. morality. You’re following God to the best of your ability and so are we. I’m sick and tired of the options being “conservative” on the one hand and “Christ-less” on the other hand. Its disrespectful and also profoundly wrong.

So yeah, this time a couple votes went the way we wanted them to. I don’t really think this means the sky is falling – just like, in years past, when ordination-related votes went the way conservatives wanted them to go, the sky didn’t fall then either. Life goes on. Our blundering will hopefully do minimal harm to the Gospel. And so it goes.

46 thoughts on “A Groundswell of Chicken Littles?

  1. I am tracking responses on my blog. The kind of language coming from the minority vote is very revealing thus far in my judgment – and unfortunate. As I responded to stushie, it is not the GA decision that will result in an irreconcilable rift, it is the lack of respect in the tone that we use with each other. And the invectives and lament to which you refer are not setting a good precedent for constructive dialogue. That is something that we should truly mourn.

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  2. “if I am correct, and God is in fact calling homosexual persons of faith to serve as deacons, elders and ministers, then what can possibly stop the march of God’s justice and mercy for all people?”At the end of the day, that is the issue. It is not unlike the times of Acts 15. When the Church has a preconceived notion of what God should and should not do, a preconceived notion even based on Scripture, we still have a biblical pattern for how to judge and how to respond:“And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test…”The biblical test is whether God has given “them” the Holy Spirit. And yet, that is the one test none of the opponents of gay ordination seem to want to apply. So I don’t understand all the other supposedly biblically based arguments.Your point on rhetoric is also well taken. People seem to think that the end justifies the means, not realizing that the overwhelming biblical theme is that it is the means that sanctifies or perverts the end. It is true that we are living through tectonic changes. The change is not that we are contemplating the ordination of gays and lesbians, but that we are willing to admit to it, in cold blood. In a way it is only a change against hypocrisy. Change is scarry. But all things living change.

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  3. Not all changes are right, though. Tectonic is a good way to describe this. We are now in a faith war for the Church. You might not like these straight-forward, candid terms and they will seem like hyperbole to you. However, those of us on this side of the issue have tried to show you the error of your ways. You have constantly reinterpreted scirpture and have begun to become revisionists. You invoke the Holy Spirit, as if the Spirit is led by the narcissistic culture that you all root for. Lack of respect is the least thing that we all should be worried over. Talking scripturally and truthfully is what this issue is all about, and if that involves being prophetically blunt like Jeremiah, then so be it.

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  4. Doug,While I am dissapointed in this years GA I am not suprised. I do find it intrequing that all of the excitment about winning is that it is one more chance for the current language to get reaffirmed by the presbyteries (is this 3 or 4 times for this?)I would like to suggest a couple of other alternatives.1. This really isn’t about ordaining GLBT(whatever) persons. If it was, this could have been/be settled a long time ago. The simple solution for this is to graciously allow those congregations who want to change the current standards to maintain their relationship with the PCUSA, and those who don’t to affiliate with one of our correspondent reformed denominations. This would be a simple way to solve the problem, but the fact that so many exert so much energy to impliment this reasonable solution causes me to wonder if there is more to this.2. Given the continuing loss of membership (I would be willing to bet the actual numbers are larger than the 52,000 officilally announced, and growing) It would seem that GLBT ordination is a forgone conclusion at some point anyway. In conclusion, I’m not sure that either side has much reason for anything but dissapointment after this recent GA.

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  5. Stushie:This is good because it brings up two huge fallacies that keep coming up and which frustrate the hell out of me.1. WE ARE NOT ROOTING FOR THE NARCISSISTIC CULTURE. As much as it seems this will never penetrate, it is possible to disagree with you and also be seeking to be faithful, also be intelligent interpreters of Scripture, and also moral and conscientious people. This is not Faithful Conservatives vs. Culture-Appeasing Liberals, and I’m sick of this being repeated over and over. It isn’t prophetic, its arrogant, and its obnoxious.2. WE ARE ALSO TALKING “SCRIPTURALLY AND TRUTHFULLY”. This is a related point that I tried to touch upon in my meandering post, and again, I’m sick of this being bandied about as if it was true or defensible. We affirm that the Bible says a lot of things that pertain to the GLBT debate BECAUSE WE’VE READ THE BIBLE and that’s what we found there. We’re not avoiding it, we’re just DISAGREEING about it. But we keep being labeled with all sorts of garbage because we disagree, and because the ‘other side’ can’t conceive of a possibility that it might not be perfectly right about everything, that honest, intelligent, moral, Christ-committed people might not agree with them. Its a tempting lie to think your way is the only possible way, but its still a lie.Unless ‘your side’ can come up with a respectful way to have this debate, its going to keep devolving into a fight. And when the options presented are always 1. “Agree with us on everything” or 2. “You are going to Hell you immoral, heretical, culture-appeasing, Bible-ignoring, Satanic Christ-denying Progressive”then we will never, ever have any kind of edification come from this. We will never be one body, we will never reconcile. Without mutual respect, we cannot be a community, much less a family.If it really is impossible for some of you to treat people who disagree with you with respect, then leaving for another denomination is probably the best option for all of us. Because the two options you offer right now are unacceptable.I hope you find what God wants for you, because I’m sick of putting up with the abuse, and I’m even on the periphery of this whole affair. I can’t imagine what its like to be in the trenches, to be told that you’re a threat to national security because you’re attracted to the same sex, or any number of absurd and abusive things.From where I’m sitting, this Jeremiah talk is 99% hubris and 1% preservatives. I don’t hear the call of God echoed in this Chicken-Little language, I just feel this burning sensation as I’m categorized as Satanic and immoral and evil over and over again. What happened at GA is nothing whatsoever compared to what Jeremiah was responding to. Its a fart in a hurricane, and you’re yelling about the fart. Where’s the strong, prophetic language about the hurricanes?Tried to show us the error of our ways? Well, you’re not doing so well. But I know that what that tells me is different from what it tells you.So after all that, if I devolve into demonizing ‘your side’, as I’ve regrettably done in the past, then feel free to punch me in the face, or trot out some Jeremiah language, because I’ll have earned it. But for now, try not bringing out every invective you can come up with to describe people on ‘my side’, and maybe we can actually have a conversation.

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  6. I read some of the comments here and elsewhere and I cannot help but wonder…What did it “feel” like in 1852 to the “status quo” Christians of the day when Harriet Beecher Stowe published “Uncle Tom’s Cabin?” What did the good folks in Lyman Beecher’s congregation in Cincinnati think of such “tectonic” shifts going on around them? (What did Beecher himself think of a daughter advocating something he himself opposed at Lane Theological Seminary as “radical” and unacceptable? In fact, why would anyone in the mid 19th century even bother listening to something a (God forbid!) <>WOMAN<> had to say?Yet I wonder if there is a Presbyterian alive – ordained or not – who would even dream of trying to defend slavery? In spite of the fact that Scripture clearly condones it? (And please folks, don’t try to use the argument that “Biblical” slavery is different than that of the U.S. before the Civil War.) It seems to me that “we” were in a “faith war” then. So who does history record as being “right?”So… as one commenter has stated, this is about “talking scripturally and truthfully” (Interesting to me that so conservative a voice fails to use a capital “S” on scripture!)…So… we somehow are back to the “truth” of Scripture that seems to be the concise and rigid definitions that one particular part, of one particular culture, in one particular time, says that is is?And this is “Reformed?” This upholds our Presbyterian tradition and roots?Have we actually forgotten how far “afield” Luther, Calvin, and others were perceived from the “straightforward and candid terms” of their day, as they followed the Holy Spirit’s leading?Or is it just convenient to grab those parts of history that conform to, and feed our own fears and prejudices?Faithful people – Christian People, “respectful” disciples – can read the exact same passage and end up with 180 degree opposite interpretations. As long as we continue to point and shout that since someone disagrees with us, then they are <>OBVIOUSLY<> wrong… We’ve forgotten who we are. As long as this shouting back and forth continues, we will continue to forget that “reformation” is a never ending process.Drew, I could not agree wit you more. And that’s not just about the “issue” at hand – it’s about the way “we” are dealing with that issue.

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  7. Dang.There’s some pretty epic butthurt going on around the blogosphere. I wonder what the church would be like if we really did take Saint Paul’s advice to heart as regards matters like these? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. In the unlikely event that you don’t, here’s a refresher, taken from the letter to the Romans:“Accept those whose faith is weak. Don’t judge them where you have differences of opinion. The faith of some people allows them to eat anything. But others eat only vegetables because their faith is weak. People who eat everything must not look down on those who do not. And people who don’t eat everything must not judge those who do. God has accepted them.”“Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? Whether they are faithful or not is their own master’s concern. They will be faithful, because the Lord has the power to make them faithful.Some people consider one day to be more holy than another. Others think all days are the same. Each person should be absolutely sure in his own mind. Those who think one day is special do it to honor the Lord. Those who eat meat do it to honor the Lord. They give thanks to God. Those who don’t eat meat do it to honor the Lord. They also give thanks to God. We don’t live for ourselves. And we don’t die all by ourselves. If we live, we live to honor the Lord. If we die, we die to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.Christ died and came back to life. He did this to become the Lord of both the dead and the living.Now then, who are you to judge your brother or sister? Why do you look down on them? We will all stand in God’s courtroom to be judged. It is written, ” ‘You can be sure that I live,’ says the Lord. ‘And you can be just as sure that every knee will bow down in front of me. Every tongue will tell the truth to God.’ ” —(Isaiah 45:23) So we will all have to explain to God the things we have done.Let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put anything in your brother’s way that would make him trip and fall.”Before anyone starts accusing the other side of not living in accordance with this, remember that it works both ways, and consider that if you’re willing to instantly demonize the people who don’t subscribe to your viewpoint, perhaps you need to go back and re-read the passage in question. I doubt there’s anything more likely to make your brother trip and fall than to try to equate him with some sort of devil. 😛

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  8. Stushie,You’ve said some sensible and thoughtful things in the past.But your last comment here was not one of them. I think Doug’s words clearly articulate what most of us feel when we come across what you said and the way you said it. It is so self-righteous. So absurdly off base. So useless. I really have no way to add to Doug’s response except to hang my head down and bang it on the wall.

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  9. @Paul, re: Bathsheba: I think we ought to LOL – that looks like one of the smartest bot posts I’ve ever seen – has inserted names and stuff but still looked spam bot generated.What will some folks think of next? 🙂

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  10. It’s always abusive and self-righteous when it’s applied to the other side. You’re bibliophobia is showing, and perhaps the Spirit is afflicting you for loving the culture more than Christ. It’s hard when you’re wrong and you can’t give it up. It’s like an addiction.When the 218th GA couldn’t bring itself to utter “allegiance to Christ” (and in fact, deleted the phrase twcie) it showed itself to be on the verge of apostasy. I think the PCUSA is worth fighting for, but I firmly believe that Christianity itself is under attack. You’re all trying to shout “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

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  11. Doug,As before I agree with your assesment that is this is not of God it will pass on. What I question is how will your side determine if God actually does say no? Since you and J Shuck have both said that Jesus appearing bodily and telling you that you are mistaken wouldn’t be enough, what would?

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  12. Craig: That was of course hyperbole, which I’ve talked about before.For me, there would have to be *evidence* that there was actually reason to think homosexual is sinful. The Bible saying it, in a vacuum of other evidence, is not enough, just like it is not enough to tell us what we eat or how we should treat women or whether we should have slaves. If the Bible says something that seems to fly in the face of other evidence (say, if it gives the wrong number for pi), then I have to chalk that up to the biases and worldviews of the writers of the Bible.Also, if the Bible says something that flies in the face of basic morality, like when God calls for rape or infanticide or genocide, I easily chalk that up to the authors’ beliefs overriding their connectedness to God, just as happens today when we use God to justify our own violence.For example, if homosexuals weren’t called to ministry, or if they didn’t make just as good ministers as heterosexuals (as they do in my observation to date), or if homosexuality, like pedophilia that it is so often compared to, actually seemed morally wrong or more damaging than heterosexuality.If I couldn’t easily account for anti-homosexual passages by just referencing what was and is a widespread bias against them, just as there used to be one against women, or inter-racial marriage, or followers of other religions, etc. We reject “Biblical” teachings about those other topics easily because, frankly, liberals won and conservatives lost in social conflicts over issues like slavery or misogyny or interracial marriage. If an author in 500BC says “men having sex with men is bad” (as bad as eating shellfish!), or if one in 50AD says “men acting ‘effeminate’ is bad” I don’t feel like I have to bat an eye. They’re just doing what I’m always accused of doing – letting their culture blind them and define their views. And in the first case, they’re talking about temple prostitution, which I guess I also oppose if it is still going on somewhere.Also, if monogamous homosexual relationships between equals (which is what we’re talking about) were *ever* addressed in the Bible at all, which it isn’t, that would go a significant way, depending on what was said.If, on the other hand, those same authors say “injustice toward the poor is bad” or “there are no gender distinctions in Christianity” I can see why those statements are powerful, life-giving, God-aligned, morally good and so on – because they conform to what I think the grand themes of revelation are. In those cases, I am willing to believe that God is behind what is being said.So for me, enough evidence would be…any significant amount of evidence, inside the Bible and outside of it as well. That’s actually *always* what I want for sufficient evidence.I also always keep in mind Augustine’s hermeneutic – literal love and figurative malice – when interpreting the Bible.But that comes down to a difference of who I think God is.

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  13. Stushie:Ok, let me be really clear. I am saying “stop being arrogant, self-righteous and disrespectful.” You don’t seem able to do that, though, so I’m not sure how much benefit this conversation will be.Bibliophobia? Are you kidding me?? Your arrogance continues to be astounding. You still see only two options: 1. Stushie is right, or 2. Everyone who disagrees with Stushie is wrong.You seem fundamentally incapable of giving any credit whatsoever to anyone who disagrees with you, and its gotten beyond tedious now.I don’t know how many more ways to say this. Should I speak another language? Draw a picture?Smart people can read the Bible and disagree with you. I have read the Bible very carefully, and I disagree with you. I’m not Bibliophobic, I’m jerkophobic.If you make one more personal attack, saying I love the culture more than Christ, without giving some evidence beyond ‘I don’t like your position’, I am going to delete all of your comments from this point forward. It shows a fundamental lack of respect, which tells me that continuing to talk to you will be a waste of my time.It also, as an aside, reinforces every negative opinion I have of anti-homosexual conservatives.

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  14. I’m surprised that you used the word “fundamental” in your reply Doug. But I’m not surprised at your “if you strongly disagree with me” I’ll censor your comments. What are you afraid of? The truth? Don’t be deluded, Doug, this is a battle, not a ball park for pee-wee leaguers. Read the scriptures as they are, and not how culturally you would like them to be.And if you decide to close me out, so be it…but just like Christian Century, you’ll be censoring free speech.

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  15. Common Stushie,“Read the scriptures as they are, and not how culturally you would like them to be.”Where do you think your homophobia comes from? Seven little bible verses? I think not. You should print that quote and post it on your mirror and read it every morning.

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  16. That was just shy of another personal attack, so I’ll let things stand.Also, this has nothing whatsoever to do with free speech. This is my blog. Speech here is not free. You have to earn it by being respectful and by backing up what you say. I don’t care if you disagree with me – disagreement is *your* problem, not mine. I think disagreement means we’re all healthy and thinking. You’re the one who can’t tolerate it, and have to label it with some nasty theological word so you can avoid dealing with it meaningfully. I do care if you make unsupported attacks against my faith and character. And as I’ve said before, if I fall into that, call me out heartily and loud, because I’ll need to hear it. (As a side note libel and slander are not protected speech whether they occur on my blog or not.)Persuant to that, I’ve got some posts in mind. I’ve realized I need to show my work. I’m going to talk about why I (and millions of others) don’t think the Bible speaks clearly against homosexuality, and why I find support for my position in the Bible, the same way we find support for ordaining women or interracial marriage in the Bible. I’ll be stealing work there, but oh well. I’m not a scholar.I’ll also be talking about exactly what you keep bringing up – your (I think) unfortunate characterization of this conflict as a battle. I think Ernest Becker has a lot to say on why you feel that way, why it’s a very common human reaction to challenges to one’s ideas, and why that kind of “battle” language is dangerous to throw around.So, anyway, coming soon to a blog near you.

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  17. Doug,Thanks for your response, I am familiar with your rationale for beliveing what you believe.However, my question (in response to your statement that if this is not of God it will pass) is, what could God communicate to you that would convince you to give up this political fight. Would one more defeat in the presbyteries be enough of an answer? Would a vote by GA convince you? This has moved beyond differing interpretations of scripture. BTW it wasn’t that long ago that progressives were convinced that David and Jonathan had the kind of committed loving relationship that you indicate was unknown during the time the Bible was written. BBTW, how omniscient of you to know that no such relationships existed until just recently.Sorry for the digression. Anyway, if you are correct in your assertion that God will not bless what is not from Him, (which I agree with) you still can’t or won’t provide an answer as to what will convince you that this is not from God. (don’t forget, you and/or I could be wrong)

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  18. Craig:I’m sorry man. I tried as hard as I could to answer your question in multiple ways. I have no idea what else I could say. Re-read my response for my answer to your question of what would convince me that God did not intend that homosexuals be ordained. It will take more than another political defeat, I’ll tell you that much.And I never said that homosexual relationships never *existed* until today. Please read what I write more carefully:“Also, if monogamous homosexual relationships between equals (which is what we’re talking about) were *ever* addressed in the Bible at all, which it isn’t, that would go a significant way, depending on what was said.”I said, very clearly, that they were not dealt with directly in the Bible. And that doesn’t take omniscience, which you sarcastically indicated, it just requires that I read the Bible.By “addressed”, I mean discussed overtly. The relationship of David and Jonathan is interesting, but it isn’t discussed in the Bible as a monogamous homosexual relationship between equal, which is what I was actually talking about.“This has moved beyond differing interpretations of scripture.”No, it hasn’t. Those differing interpretations come out of differing assumptions about scripture, different things taken as ‘fact’, and what is ‘reasonable’, like disagreements about scripture usually do. I’d say that this is a pretty run-of-the-mill difference of interpretation, which some interpret as a disagreement of interpretation, and others want to categorize as a battle-cry for culture-war.I don’t think I need to say who is which.

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  19. Doug and Craig,Its an interesting question. What would it take to convince me to refuse to give Homosexuals the right to answer God’s call to ministry? Doug, I am not sure what your answer really is.Mine goes like this.Ignoring for a moment the fact that we ordain people all the time who have never been called and have no aptitude, and pass up people who are clearly called and belong in the service of God’s people all the time, ignoring that problem for a minute, I think it boils down to proving that homosexuality is a matter of choice.Sin is a matter of choice.Gender preference is not. So it is not a sin. If you could prove that homosexuality (gay, lesbian, transgender, etc) is a form of disease caused by a virus or something that can be cured with a vaccine or antibiotic, or just a matter of personal choice like what to eat for dinner, then I would be willing to discuss whether it is a sin or disease and should be avoided.But the preponderance of scientific data is mounting in favor of saying that gender preference, like gender itself, or the color of your eyes and skin, is a matter of involuntary biochemistry. And so, those seven questionable Bible verses that might be used to condemn homosexuality must fall in the category of the verses that tell us to stone our children if they are disrespectful to their parents.I agree this is not about the authority of Scripture. I do think it is about the authority of tradition. And to the extent that some people take the authority of tradition above the authority of Scripture, they stand condemned by their own words.

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  20. Jodie:Huh. Weird. Maybe its confusing because I have lots of reasons to think homosexuals should be ordained, so I don’t have any one answer to the question “What would convince you otherwise?”Maybe if I list them out more carefully:1. You would have to demonstrate how it is that homosexuality is intrinsically sinful, referring to more than six passages of the Bible and to actual real-world examples of how this sinfulness manifests itself in real-world harm.2. You would have to demonstrate why we should take the Bible exactly in this case, but should not take it exactly with regard to food, treatment of other religions, marrying non-Christians, divorce, race and ethnicity, genocide, rape, infanticide, ordination of women and so on.3. You would have to show that Biblical passages which show a bias against homosexuality are something other than the bias that the Biblical authors also had against women, foreigners, etc. 4. You would have to point to evidence that homosexuals are significantly worse at ministry than heterosexuals – which might be taken as evidence that they are not in fact called.5. Frankly, non-conservatives would have to come out against homosexual ordination. Conservatives were wrong about slavery, desegregation, votes for women, ordination of women, interracial marriage, the domestic threat of Communism, and so on. The fact that conservatives resist homosexual ordination might only mean that we have another cultural conflict over the rights of a minority group. Also, conservatives could easily just be imposing their cultural/political bias on their reading of the Bible, because for a conservative to be pro-homosexual equality would mean a break from their in-group.6. You would have to find Bible verses that dealt with monogamous homosexual relationships between equals in the Bible, and that those verses were clearly condemnatory of those relationships.That’s what I tried to write last time, anyway. Other things might come to mind if I spent a long time thinking about it and wasn’t sort of distracted.For me, it doesn’t matter much if homosexuality is a choice. It only matters insofar as many anti-homosexual types base their argument on it being a choice, and that’s just an easy to refute the whole argument in that case. Because I don’t see it as harmful, immoral, sinful, etc., it isn’t a big deal if it is a choice. That is, if the last 20 years of research is overturned and it is conclusively demonstrated that in most cases homosexuality is a choice, it doesn’t impact my argument very much at all. It would seem to be an odd choice to me, but people have the right to make odd choices.

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  21. Doug,Great executive summary.I guess you have made these points before – and often – but summarizing them off the top of your head is good.We are on the same page. Notice that I did not say being a choice made it a sin. I just said you’d have to prove it was a choice before I could even discuss the subject. Point 5 is interesting. It would be a valid test of cultural bias. George Lakoff makes an interesting point about what defines a conservative and what defines a liberal in American culture. The attitude towards homosexuality is so deeply interwoven with what makes a person conservative or liberal that it functions almost as a litmus test by which you can tell a person’s leanings on a host of other issues without even asking. It is uncanny. Is it a cultural fixation? Having been exposed to other cultural expressions of what kinds of sexuality are permissible and what kinds are not, I am convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that it is. The American attitudes about sexuality are uniquely American, and Bible belt conservative American is an even more narrow cultural manifestation. Which makes it ironic to hear conservatives say that liberals are giving in to some kind of other culture pressure. But culture is that which we assume without questioning. Conservative have one and liberals have another. (The kingdom of God, I believe, is a different culture altogether, and if a person’s allegiance is to either conservative or liberal values, they have not yet adopted the values of the kingdom of God)If a conservative even thinks about questioning whether homosexuality is a sin, that conservative is immediately put on probation if not excommunicated outright by the remaining conservative community. It would seem it is impossible to remain a conservative and even ask the question. You put the shoe on the other foot. So I wonder. If a non-conservative came to the conclusion that homosexuality was a sin, would that not re-define them as a conservative?Something to ponder.

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  22. Doug,For someone who’s “distracted”, you’re coming across very clearly. Thanks for posting on these issues.I’m not sure why it would be an odd choice to choose homosexuality, unless you’re referring to the fact that homosexuals have been, and to a large degree still are, persecuted in this country.When it comes to sexual attraction, heterosexuals have a wide range of preferences, none of which would be considered odd. Some like blondes, while others prefer brunettes. Some like their partners tall, others short. Heavyset, thin; loud, quiet; older, younger; and so on.Factoring out the influence of nurture (i.e., a man being attracted to a woman who cooks like his mother), would most of these preferences in fact be considered orientations? I wonder. If so, then what we consider “choice” in matters of sexual attraction could actually be as genetically determined as, say, eye color.I, for one, consider it very odd when I find someone who doesn’t like chocolate. I think, “What’s wrong with them?” until I consider the fact that a majority of people think I’m odd because I don’t like butterscotch. This is yet another example of biochemically determined “orientations” that no one in their right mind would consider sinful.I’ve got to wonder if the reason why some people are so wigged out about LGBTQ persons is because they’re afraid of getting hit on by someone to whom they’re not sexually attracted. We already know that some “homophobes” are that way publicly because they’re trying to cover for their own non-heterosexual orientation.Such are the musings of a mind muddled with overwork….In Christ,Mark

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  23. Oh, by the way, thanks for articulating how offensive it is to liberals when conservatives accuse us of all manner of godless values. That’s how I stumbled onto your blog two years ago. I was reading the rant of a conservative who was virtually accusing you and Aric of being Satan’s minions. I followed his link to your blog sites and have been happily reading away ever since (damned to hell in their minds, I’m sure). It’s the only time I can honestly say I was glad to have read conservative vitriol.In Christ,Mark

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  24. Mark:I think that the LGBT thing has become such a hot-button issue because equal rights for LGBT people is a threat to the conservative ‘immortality project’. But that’s for another post (if you’ve read The Denial of Death, you might know where I’m going with that). There is also probably some of this that is being fueled by closet homosexuals who can’t get over their culturally-imposed self-hatred.And thanks for the affirmation. I remember when you first ‘came over’ via links found in venomous conservative attacks, and its been fun ever since. Has it really been two years? Crazy.Jodie: That’s an interesting question. What I had in mind was, say, if someone came out who was anti-war, in favor of racial and gender equality and human equality in general, concerned about the environment, maybe some other liberal touchstones like being pro-choice; if that person came out and said that homosexuality was sinful and that we should deny them rights we afford to heterosexuals. That would be interesting because it would be a break with liberal culture, the same way that pro-homosexual-rights conservatives break with their own culture.I imagine that in each case, you’d have pariah-hood to look forward to.

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  25. Doug,Good stuff. “I’m going to talk about why I (and millions of others) don’t think the Bible speaks clearly against homosexuality, and why I find support for my position in the Bible, the same way we find support for ordaining women or interracial marriage in the Bible.”I am looking forward to that. This constant mantra from the right that this GA abandoned the Bible needs to be addressed.

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  26. John:Yeah. I’m not the ideal guy to do that. At all. So if some other blogger or article-writer does it first, that post will be a big link to that, but if not, I feel like I should give it a go.Doubtless, it will only increase the revilement – for reasons that I will get into when I talk about Ernest Becker.

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  27. Doug,I’m not sure that it’s fair to characterize Stushie as saying “My way or the highway” when he is simply articulating the convictions of:1) the presbytery votes for the last decade (and much longer, frankly)2) the consensus of Christians around the globe. (I know…just a bunch of post-animist Africans and scared Asians, but still….)3) the conviction of Christian history through 2000 years (and Jewish conviction before that).It is simply….false witness to say that the “conservatives” are saying ‘my personal way or the highway’ when it is more like ‘the way of the elders in the presbyteries, global Christianity, and the communion of the saints who’ve confessed Christ before us.’

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  28. Chris:Insofar as what you said is true (as a generalization, it is at best semi-true) everything you are claiming was also true before we voted to ordain women, or decided that slavery was wrong, or repealed laws against interracial marriages, etc.Sometimes we’ve been wrong for a long, long time.And I maintain that, in our modern context, I am characterizing the conservative position accurately. The position is, in brief, that intelligent, conscientious and faithful people cannot possibly disagree.But you’re right. There is also a strong strain of “We should never change anything.”This rhetoric would be a lot less infuriating if conservatives could bring themselves to not generalize, speaking as if a segment of the church is blithely throwing off every aspect of Christianity, of morality, blah blah blah, rather than seeking to change one fringe theological corner where there is a difference between intelligent, conscientious and faithful people. And yes, a difference from what has been the majority position for what we know of Christian history. We’ve done it before on some big issues, and we were right to do it then, and we’re doing it again, and I think we’re right again.I would actually describe that reigning in of rhetoric as a bare minimum requirement for a conversation allowing for even a modicum of respect.As it is, there’s nothing in the extreme positions being taken worth talking to, if I may be blunt, beyond pointing out why they are unjustifiable.

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  29. “the way of the elders in the presbyteries, global Christianity, and the communion of the saints who’ve confessed Christ before us.”I think that what conservatives are calling a battle for the authority of Scripture is really a battle for the authority of tradition.Say we go with that.Half of all the globe’s Christians pray to the Virgin Mary, and they have history and the vast majority of the communion of saints who’ve confessed Christ before us on their side.Ave Maria

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  30. “This rhetoric would be a lot less infuriating if conservatives could bring themselves to not generalize, speaking as if a segment of the church is blithely throwing off every aspect of Christianity…”It’d be easier to do that if folks on the other side would quit trampling on things like, say, God’s Trinitarian personhood, the virgin birth of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, the inspired authority of the Scriptures, etc… Not you, necessarily. But just click to the blogs of some of the posters here and you’ll see what I mean. You can be progressive and unflinchingly orthodox: just look at Heather Reichgott. I disagree with her on so much stuff (ethics, epistemology, hermeneutics, etc.), but I think we’d both recognize our own faith in the other’s guileless and unmitigated recitation of the ancient creeds. Confessions without crossed fingers and without reservations create a safe place for us to disagree on matters that are less central to our sense of united identity.Secondly, in reference to Jodie’s papal bull… Those prayers to Mary were an innovation – as was hierarchy above a bishop, monasticism, and any other number of accretions. Are you arguing that all changes the churches make as they go forward in time are progress?I would also say that Scripture as interpreted through the church’s creeds should have a privileged place in the Church, whereas Scripture contorted by academic screeds enjoins at least some caution. We seem to fool ourselves into thinking that, despite the evidence, the last 50 years has seen a flourishing of intellectual, ethical, and theological maturity that justifies overturning everything that came before.

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  31. Chris:You’re still spouting hyperbole, but I’ll admit its moved from infuriating back to just plain tedious.Its the same old claims – “You’re overturning everything! Nothing will be left of Christianity if we ordain THE GAY!” Well, I guess we’ll see now, won’t we?The accusation of hypocrisy was borderline, but compared to what’s out there at the moment, I have to admit that it is pretty minor. I’m sick of it, and it tells me you are incapable of talking with me respectfully, but that’s not new. To your accusations of my hypocrisy in my confession of faith, assume there is a standing order of “Stick in your ear, Chris.”“Are you arguing that all changes the churches make as they go forward in time are progress?”Thank you for asking me to verify your straw man this time.No, I am not. Never have, never will. What I’m arguing is that it is *conceiveable* that *any* change *might* be progress in the right direction. That some changes in the past have been progress, and that this one *might* be, and that I think it is. The conservative claim seems to be that no change can possibly be good, ever. That’s what I’m protesting against.And still there’s the empty rhetoric of how nothing I ever say has any support beyond 50 years ago. Demonstrably untrue, but this ground is so well-trodden between us that I’m bored of it already.So, go read Heather’s blog. She’s smarter than me, and you seem able to hear these things from her, so maybe she’ll reach you. I’m tired of being told I’m a hypocrite and I’m tired of being told I’m inventing things as I go along and I’m tired of looking for a conversation where I’ll seemingly never get one.“I would also say that Scripture as interpreted through the church’s creeds should have a privileged place in the Church, whereas Scripture contorted by academic screeds enjoins at least some caution.”Yeah. I know. I think that too. When have I EVER said that Scripture and the creeds need to be tossed out, or that…oh never mind. I don’t think you’ve ever understood anything I’ve ever written. There I go with my own hyperbole, but oh well. That’s what it feels like. Like I’m “talking to my refrigerator” as Utah Phillips put it.“We seem to fool ourselves into thinking that, despite the evidence, the last 50 years has seen a flourishing of intellectual, ethical, and theological maturity that justifies overturning everything that came before.”No, actually. What the last 50 years has seen is an historically unprecedented flourishing of people involved in Biblical studies and theology and church authority structures who are not self-obsessed white heterosexual men like you and me. That’s what “flourished” throughout all of academia. And yes, it has led to better Biblical studies, better theology, and a more just Church.

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  32. “It’d be easier to do that if folks on the other side would quit trampling on things like, say, God’s Trinitarian personhood, the virgin birth of Christ, the resurrection of Jesus, the inspired authority of the Scriptures, etc… Not you, necessarily.”I forgot to say – thank you. “Not you, necessarily.” That is probably the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me. I’m glad I’m not quite at “trampling” level in your mind.May I say that your side does a load of trampling of its own, and yes, if your side didn’t do that, it would make things a lot easier. As it stands, this will never be easy. I fight my cynicism and say “easy” instead of “possible”.

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  33. Doug,Thanks for answering my question, just to clarify, your answer is essentially nothing would change your mind regarding the political “battle” being fought in the PCUSA regarding ordaining homosexuals.That brings up a further question. Would you be politically satisfied with ordaining only homosexuals who were in “a monogamous homosexual relationships between equals (which is what we’re talking about)”?If as you assert homosexuality is not a sin why make the differentiation between “monogamous homosexual relationship between equals” and other homosexual relationships? Would a “monogamous relationship between” unequals not count? If not why not? Would a non-monagamous “relationship between equals” not count? Why not? Part of the problem is that you are arguing two seperate issues. As for David/Jonathan (this was brought up by the supporters of GLBTX??? ordination not opponants) do a little PCUSA research and look at the discussion around the report of the committee on human sexuality (or whatever it was called). How about a little justice love any one? It is also interesting that one more political defeat won’t discourage you, but only one political victory would satisfy you. You still refuse to address my contention that this is more about imposing your (in a general sense) will in the PCUSA rather than simply gaining ordination for a tiny group of people.Finally, since when is the number of Biblical passages on any one topic determanitive of its value. Is this some new type of interpretation technique? There are zero passages/verses in the Bible that speak either in a positive or nuetral way to any kind of homosexual relationship in any context. All of the verses that do mention homosexual practice are negative towards it, All of the verses that talk about mattiage only describe hetrosexual marriage.I may address the rest later.

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  34. Craig: “just to clarify, your answer is essentially nothing would change your mind regarding the political “battle” being fought in the PCUSA regarding ordaining homosexuals.”FALSE.“Would you be politically satisfied with ordaining only homosexuals who were in “a monogamous homosexual relationships between equals (which is what we’re talkingabout)”?”No, I would be THEOLOGICALLY and MORALLY satisfied.“If as you assert homosexuality is not a sin why make the differentiation between “monogamous homosexual relationship between equals” and other homosexual relationships? Would a “monogamous relationship between” unequals not count? If not why not? Would a non-monagamous “relationship between equals” not count? Why not? Part of the problem is that you are arguing two seperate issues.”The difference is, in brief, sexual ethics. A monogamous relationship between unequals is immoral. A non-monogamous relationship between equals is also immoral, but for somewhat different reasons. I don’t have time to argue this here, but those are my positions in brief. I also don’t have time to get into the theology here. Maybe I’ll post about it in the future.“As for David/Jonathan (this was brought up by the supporters of GLBTX??? ordination not opponants) do a little PCUSA research and look at the discussion around the report of the committee on human sexuality (or whatever it was called).”I might, but it’ll be a while before I have time. That also wouldn’t be my only source by a long shot.“Finally, since when is the number of Biblical passages on any one topic determanitive of its value. Is this some new type of interpretation technique?”Yeah, I just invented it. Watch me go! No one has ever posited that we should look at the overall witness of scripture, at all of the texts that speak to an issue, and weigh them. All we need to do is find a proof-text and start shouting.

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  35. More importantly, we need to abstract a principle from Scripture (such as justice) and then use it to overturn all specific, casuistic examples found in the same Scriptures. Remember…God is the author of confusion, and nobody dared to clean it up until we wrestled hermeneutics from the hands of those filthy white homophobic sexists.

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  36. Doug,Lust for grins, let’s try this.Since we are dealing with a political situation, and a significant part of politics is compromise. Could you or one of your readers propose a compromise that would satisfy the pro-glbtx?? ordination folks, be supported by scripture, and allow the anti-glbtx?? folks to feel like they can at least swall hard and live with it?Take a shot.Also, you appearantly are all alone in your willingness to limit ordination to such a small segment of the glbtx?? population. I haven’t heard anyone else on your side call for anything less that ordination of all glbtx??.Or y’all could take the easy road to victory.

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  37. From the footnotes of the WSC, q. 158 concerning who may preach the word:Romans 10:15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!Hebrews 5:4. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.1 Corinthians 12:28-29. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?1 Timothy 3:10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.1 Timothy 4:14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.1 Timothy 5:22. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

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  38. “Remember…God is the author of confusion, and nobody dared to clean it up until we wrestled hermeneutics from the hands of those filthy white homophobic sexists.”Actually Chris, the problem is simple, and recurrent. You equate God with your opinion.And yes. We had to wrestle hermeneutics from the white homophobic sexists. You’re damn right.Of course you were being sarcastic, and would obviously prefer white heteros to control theology and Biblical interpretation forever. This is exactly what I perceive as your position, so I find this comment really encouraging. My intuitions are apparently right on, and you said nothing substantial to contradict my statement, only spewed out some sarcasm.Because that’s all you have in this case I’m afraid.So keep it up.

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  39. Actually, according to my new < HREF="http://www.united-anglicans.org/" REL="nofollow">ecclesiastical affiliation<>, I’m beholden to African male homophobes.

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  40. Once the issue of sexual orientation and ordination is dealt with among the separatist Anglicans, how long with that last, I wonder? Somehow, I don’t see conservative North American (mostly financially well off caucasian) protestants feeling comfortable remaining under the authority of conservative African (mostly not financially well of and not caucasian) protestants. Y’all might be bedfellows on this issue, but what about so many other issues?In Christ,Mark

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  41. Mark,We’re used to being under authority: the authority of Christ, the Scriptures, the Creeds and Confessions, and bishops. Having god-fearing leaders is not a burden – it’s a privilege. I, for one, am happy to begin seeing the world from their uniquely catholic perspective. If you’d like to see what I mean, read the < HREF="http://tinyurl.com/566l42" REL="nofollow">GAFCON theological statement<>.

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  42. Chris,I still wonder. The point in all these disagreements it that people on all sides of issues question or reject the authority of others not on “their side”. I wonder how long it will take for one or another side within these newly forming alliances to question the authority of others on issues with which they do not hold agreement. Will there be further splits, further “new” alliances? It all strikes me as deeply sad.In Christ,Mark

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