A friend recently sent me two articles from the New York Times about homosexuality and religion. These articles were published in print in the Sunday Magazine (pg. MM30) on June 19, 2011. More about that later, but it made me think back on the struggles that I faced (and to some extent still do) about my own Christianity and homosexuality. I am a member of the Churches of Christ. Most people consider it to be a very conservative church. Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through common beliefs and practices. They seek to base doctrine and practice on the Bible alone, and seek to be New Testament congregations as originally established by the authority of Christ. When I began to become aware of my sexual orientation, I began to question also what it would mean to be gay and Christian. Not everyone who comes out has this struggle, but if you grew up in a religious family, then this is a very vexing question. I began to look for resources online. Was there a support group for gay members of the Church of Christ? How did the church receive homosexuals? What would other members of the church think if they knew I were gay? What should I do? What does the Bible say about homosexuality? It was all very confusing and also difficult to find answers related specifically to the Church of Christ. One reason for this is if you Google homosexuality and the Church of Christ, then you are likely to come up with a wide range of sources for the United Churches of Christ. So I had to dig deeper. Ten years ago there were plenty of sites for larger church organizations, but really nothing for the Church of Christ. Even today there is still very little out there. There are several references to a a group called the A Cappella Chorus, a group formed in 1979 by gay and lesbian members of the Houston area Churches of Christ as a fellowship to provide educational and spiritual support to each other and the Church as a whole. According to the information I found: “Since , additional fellowships have formed in many large urban centers. Named an A Capella Chorus because most congregations of our fellowship have no instrumental music, the organization also serves as a network for gay people in small towns and rural areas.” However, I cannot find anything current on this group other than a few anti-gay rants by members of the Church of Christ from 1986. Apparently there were “chapters” in at least four cities: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Tampa, and they published a monthly newsletter. If they are still out there, I can’t find them on the internet, and this was the closest I came to finding a group of GLBT church members, other than rumors of a Gay/Straight Alliance at Pepperdine University and a group of GLBT Harding University alumni who wrote The State of the Gay at Harding University published through a group called HU Queer Press. According to HU Queer Press:
Welcome to HU Queer Press and The State of the Gay! We are made up of a variety of queers with varying affiliations with Harding University. The State of the Gay is a self-published zine that aims to give voice to the experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding. It is part storytelling, part religious and political critique, and partly a manifesto of hope for Harding’s future. The voices enclosed are the unedited and uncensored voices of individuals who are all too familiar with censorship. In truth, there is no single, identifiable goal of this zine other than to put our voices out there.
With so little to be found out there positive for gay and lesbian members of the Church of Christ, I wanted to write a series of post that would not only examine homosexuality and the Churches of Christ, but also to to discuss homosexuality and Christianity as a whole. I wanted to share with you the fruits of my research, the journey I took, and how I will proceed on my journey. I also wanted to establish a place where others questioning their sexuality or homosexual members of the Church of Christ could go to get answers. I don’t have all of the answers, but I want to connect with other members of the Church of Christ and begin a discussion. I also would like a discussion of religion and sexuality in general.
I know that some of you are not religious. You have questioned me about this before and to some extent criticized me for my Christianity. I will not be apologetic about it. I do hope that all of you will read these posts and that we can have a genuine discussion. And if you are asking why I don’t simply find a more accepting church, I will answer that in this series of posts.
I am a Christian and at the core of my belief and faith is contained within the following Bible verses that I do my best to always keep in my mind:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Matthew 7:1-2
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32
I also want to leave you with this from Wikipedia (I know it is not always a great source) about homosexuality and the Churches of Christ:
Except for the Bible, there is no universal belief, creed, or confession of faith among the various independent Churches of Christ. Congregations of the Church of Christ, each individually led by local elders or pastors, set policy for their own individual congregations. Members believe they become a part of the Church of Christ when they are added by God as believing, confessing, repentant persons immersed in water (Baptism) for the forgiveness of sins. A confession of faith precedes baptism but does not include a declaration or denunciation of homosexuality. Most persons within the international fellowship of autonomous congregations would likely believe that homosexual activity is incompatible with living a faithful Christian life. Positions taken by Churches of Christ, through various church related publications and from church affiliated colleges and Universities, are almost unanimous in their opposition to homosexuality in any form. No congregations that condone homosexuality are known to exist; however, views on the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage among individual members range widely from very conservative to progressive. Marriage is not believed to be a sacrament of the church, and members are not required to be married “in the church”, though the practice is common.
Many Churches of Christ are beginning to address this issue with an open and compassionate approach. Several universities associated with the fellowship have held forums and conferences to address the issue and to open up discussion on the approach Christians should take toward homosexuality.
Openly gay and lesbian persons will find it difficult to find a congregation willing to include them in church life if they are unrepentant of what the church considers an ungodly lifestyle. Even openly gay baptized believers who are celibate, though unwilling to change their beliefs concerning homosexuality, may find it difficult to be accepted. The “disfellowshipping” of gay and lesbian persons from congregations is not unheard of. However, many urban and even small-town congregations are actively opening dialog with and seeking to minister to the gay population in their locales.
The first substantive post of this series will be tomorrow and will examine what others are saying about how to deal with religion and homosexuality.
A few brief notes about these posts:
- I will refer to the Churches of Christ as either the Churches of Christ or Church of Christ. To be absolutely correct, when referring to the Churches of Christ one should not capitalize church, and it world-wide congregations should be referred to as “the churches of Christ.” However, this can be a bit deceiving and/or misleading, so I will used the capitalized version.
- The Churches of Christ do not consider themselves Protestants, nor do they refer to the world-wide congregations as a denomination. In fact, this is a practice recognized by the government of the United States. If you enter the military and are issued dog tags, they usually place your religion on there: Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Protestant, etc. If you are a member of the Churches of Christ, then they are only allowed to put “Christian” and cannot put Protestant.
- Though the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church are also part of the Stone/Campbell Restoration Movement. I am not an authority on those historically linked churches (I won’t even say that I am an authority on the Churches of Christ, but it has been my church for 33 years, and I have been a member for 21 years). For the differences see the Wikipedia articles on the historically related Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ or the less historically related United Church of Christ.
- Quid Est Veritas (What is truth?—John 18:38)
- Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone)
- Abusus Non Tollit Usum (Just Because Something Is Misused Does Not Mean It Cannot Be Used Correctly.)
- Veritas Vos Liberabit (The Truth Shall Set You Free—John 8:32)
- Deus Caritas Est, Veritas Est Amor (God is Love, Truth is Love)
- Vince Malum Bono (Overcome Evil with Good—Romans 12:21)
- Via, Veritas, Vita (The Way, The Truth, and The Life—John 14:6)