You Think It’s Hot Where You Live?

UPDATE: Alan Chambers was interviewed recently on msnbc’s Hardball.

In previous posts here and here I mentioned the changes that have been underway at Exodus International, the largest umbrella organization of ministries that serve people who are conflicted about their same-sex attractions. Alan Chambers is the president of Exodus, and he has shared some of his thoughts recently and been quoted in interviews about these changes over the past few weeks.

As I mentioned here, there remain plenty of organizations that will be opposed to Exodus independent of these kinds of changes, simply on the grounds that their doctrinal positions (read that as formed judgments about sexual morality) are not in keeping with their own moral judgments.

Interestingly, Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin attended this year’s Exodus conference, and he is planning a series on his reflections on the event. Stay tuned.

At the same time, several ministries have reportedly left Exodus, and some may be joining up with Andrew Comiskey and Desert Stream Ministries.

On top of that, Robert Gagnon has posted a 35-page theological analysis of Alan’s position on grace as applied to repeated, unrepentant sin. (Critics may be tempted to roll their eyes at the length of the paper, but Gagnon’s critique is worth the read, as careful theological reflection and the development of any meaningful argument takes time, and whether you agree with Gagnon or not, you have to wade through it – not popular in the age of Twitter, but that’s a reflection of our culture and not of the important role of critique and attempted correction.)

You think it’s hot where you live?

In all seriousness, I don’t know how much heat leaders of Christian ministries feel under these circumstances. Based on my own experience, I can empathize with the challenge of balancing the interests of the various people and groups who have a stake in what you say and write.

I would say that this is a time for reflection on how Christians minister in this area. I would expect that different ministries will have different points of emphasis, and that the diversity will be the result of denominational differences, pastoral care practices, expectations (and meaning) regarding change, emphasis on sanctification rather than orientation change (or vice versa), political interests held by some, and other considerations.

But underneath all of that diversity, which I think is to be expected, there are real issues where doctrinal positions are important and need to be clarified.

Biblical Scholarship on Homosexuality

Just last week I provided a webinar for a church in Richmond. They were doing a series on Hot Topics, and I was unable to attend due to my teaching schedule. But the pastor there provided an overview of my recent book, Homosexuality and the Christian, and I joined in afterwards for some Q and A.

Although I am usually asked about the scientific research related to causation and change, I also like to speak to the research we have done on sexual identity development, particularly the role of attributions in making meaning out of one’s experience of same-sex attraction. With Christian audiences, however, there is also the question of biblical studies. For evangelicals, this is the key issue, as it is typically given greater weight than other sources of information, such as scientific findings, personal stories/experiences, and Christian history (although each of these is also typically given consideration and the ‘weight’ given to each may vary from person to person and among various denominations).

I am not typically able to do justice to the complexities surrounding biblical studies, and I try hard to resist the temptation to proof text from just a few passages and in a way that does not really demonstrate thoughtful analysis of the biblical texts.

So let me point out that there are several resources that address the biblical issues. Among those resources, many biblical scholars recognize that Robert Gagnon’s book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001), provides the most complete analysis of biblical texts related to homosexuality. Indeed, one of the reviewers at the time of its publication, James Barr (Vanderbilt) wrote:

This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work, displaying meticulous biblical scholarship, and indispensable even for those who disagree with the author.

Let me point out that this book is quite thorough. It weighs in at just under 500 pages, so it may not be the light summer reading you were hoping for.

One of the criticisms people have had with Gagnon is how he communicates his scholarship to his audience. Critics have shared that they find him rather stinging in how he talks about these issues. I am not sure what to say about that. My interest is in the quality of the scholarship, although I recognize that personality and delivery will be factored in by many.

What I will note is that a few years ago Gagnon did a video for Pure Passion in which he discusses these issues in some detail. The free summary teaching by Gagnon shows a very accessible overview of several of the main issues that arise in biblical scholarship and contemporary cultural discussions about homosexuality. These include discussions about moral regulations versus civil and ceremonial regulations, what it means to truly love others (and how an emphasis on tolerance may be misleading), the ‘silence of Jesus’ discussion, and more. For those who may have have the time to digest the 500 pages of biblical scholarship, this video may be a good start. You might also be interested in this book with Dan Via that presents two contrasting views of the scholarship in this area. I also mentioned in a previous post a book by William Web that provides a similar perspective but applies it to common misunderstandings of these issues. 

Dr. Robert Gagnon – What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality? from Pure Passion on Vimeo.

Andrews University Conference on Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church

andrewsAndrews University is hosting a conference on Marriage, Homosexuality and the Church. The conference is scheduled for October 15-17, 2009. Andrews University is a school of the Seventh-day Adventist church. As with many faith communities, the Seventh-day Adventist church has been struggling with the topic of homosexuality. This conference is bringing together scholars from a number of different disciplines to discuss some of the issues the conference organizers saw as central to the church discussions.

I will be presenting a paper titled “Pastoral Applications of a Three-Tier Distinction between Same-Sex Attraction, a Homosexual Orientation, and a Gay Identity.” I will also participate in a panel discussion and will be discussing how the church responds to enduring conditions.

Other presenters include Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College), Richard M. Davidson (Andrews University), and Robert A. J. Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary).