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Homosexuality

Whilst discourse on same-sex attraction continues, Christians are reminded of God's love for all of creation.

Read time: 4 minutes, 49 seconds

Discourse around homosexuality, which is sometimes referred to as “same-sex attraction” and more frequently understood today as lesbian, gay, or bisexual identities, remains divisive and difficult for churches to discuss. Whilst Christians over the centuries have often come to uneasy compromises on other notable theological differences, it is sexual identities that are not heterosexual which continue to cause disagreement all over the world today.

In the last forty years, there has been a seismic shift in legal reforms around the world. Whilst these have not been universally adopted, many countries have decriminalised homosexuality; acted to prevent discrimination of employment, healthcare, and housing to lesbian and gay people; and some have introduced legislation for same-sex marriage.

Such developments have often received a mixed reaction from Christian denominations, and there continue to be lived-out tensions as clergy and lay people struggle to “love God and love your neighbour” when their disagreements often feel insurmountable.

Much of a contemporary Christian understanding of sexuality, homo and hetero, is rooted in the teachings of Paul, as found in his letters to the early Christian churches. It is in these letters that we find the majority of Biblical material that is seemingly anti-homosexuality.

Much of a contemporary Christian understanding of sexuality, homo and hetero, is rooted in the teachings of Paul

Traditional Christian teaching cites the following passages as demonstrating the incompatibility of homosexuality with God’s will:

Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:1-38
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed as punishment by God for a great sin, which traditionally has been attributed to the sexual assault of the visiting strangers.

The Levitical Laws, Leviticus 18:22
Many of the Jewish teachings around religious and cultural practices are found in the book of Leviticus. In this verse, the Jewish law forbids men from sexual intimacy with other men.

The letter to the Church in Rome, Romans 1:25-27
In the first part of his letter to the church in Rome, Paul lists same-sex sexual activity as “shameful”, and that it was caused by both a lack of worship offered to God, and an abandonment of the truth.

The first letter to the Church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Writing to the community in Corinth, Paul suggests that same-sex sexual activity is one of the ways in which we can sin and fall short of finding welcome in the Kingdom of God.

The first letter to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:9-10
In this letter, Paul again likens same-sex sexual activity to sexual immorality.

In addition to these texts, traditional Christian teaching also references the creation narratives as indicative of the correct ordering of human sexuality (i.e. God made male and female to be partnered with one another), as well as the lack of any examples in Scripture of homosexual relationships described in a positive light.

Continued below...

Christianity Homosexuality

The traditional Christian view remains that homosexuality is sinful, and that sexuality properly expressed is only between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage. Whilst this interpretation of Scripture remains the majority opinion, churches and organisations have developed globally that disagree with that theology and advocate for another.

The steady change in popular and secular opinion has prompted similar questions to be asked in the church: is it wrong to be gay? Can I be gay and Christian? What does the Bible say about homosexuality? There are many authors who have written extensively on these questions and more. In addition, the recent coming out of prominent worship-leader and musician Vicky Beeching, and her subsequent autobiography, has also provided an opportunity for churches and small groups to consider again the question of sexuality and sinfulness.

However, whatever our views, we can be certain of the love of God for all of creation...

There are an increasing number of churches, denominations, and organisations who support and affirm lesbian, gay and bisexual identities as being made in the image of God, and that their sexuality is not inherently sinful. Some global traditions including the US Episcopal Church, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the United Church of Christ, will now ordain lesbian and gay clergy, officiate same-sex marriages, and provide liturgy and services for many other life events such as baptisms, and thanksgiving services. In the UK, there remains disagreement within and between the denominations on how best to welcome lesbian, gay, and bisexual people into their local churches; recent notable discussions in the Church of England through the Living in Love and Faith programme, and in the British Methodist Connexion as they continue discussions on same-sex marriage, are examples of the breadth of difference.

Those Christians who do support and affirm lesbian, gay and bisexual identities, then hold different opinions on how this is lived out; there are further distinctions between those who advocate for full inclusion and affirmation of everyone regardless of their sexuality; and those who would advocate for churches to welcome and accept lesbian and gay people, but who would encourage celibacy and singleness.

Human sexuality remains a difficult topic of discussion for many Christians, regardless of theological view, and it unfortunately remains deeply divisive. A large number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Christians wish to find loving and supportive church communities to fellowship with and worship alongside, whilst having their sexuality fully affirmed. Many churches wish to be open and welcome to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but do not believe that they can affirm homosexuality or same-sex relationships. And some churches remain unwelcoming and directly challenging towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. However, whatever our views, we can be certain of the love of God for all of creation, and we ought to remain mindful of that when in dialogue with one another.