Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Homosexuality and Christianity

The issue of homosexuality and Christianity is a subject of on-going theological debate within and between Christian denominations and this list summarises to a limited extent the various official positions. Within denominations, many members may hold somewhat differing views on and even differing definitions of homosexuality. The list is in alphabetical order. The most recent Methodist Church and The Salvation Army positional statements follow tomorrow.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is opposed to same-gender sexual practices and relationships on the grounds that "sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman

Anglicanism (Including Episcopal)
The Anglican Communion has been divided over the issue of homosexuality in several ways. The Church of England, the mother church of the Communion, currently maintains that same-sex partnerships are acceptable for laypersons but gay clergy are expected to be abstinent.

The Lambeth Conference of 1998 called homosexuality "incompatible with Scripture" but this remains a purely advisory guideline as there are no communion-wide legislative bodies in the Anglican Church.

On the other hand, in 2003 the Episcopal Church, which is the American body (province) of the Anglican Communion, approved Gene Robinson to the bishopric of the diocese of New Hampshire. Bishop Gene Robinson is the first openly gay (non-celibate) clergy to be ordained to the episcopate.

The Anglican Church of New Zealand has decided to allow non-celibate homosexuals to become clergy.

Baptist Churches
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest of the Baptist denominations and the single largest Protestant group in the U.S., considers same-gender sexual behavior to be sinful, stating clearly that its members "affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.'

The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) officially regards homosexual conduct "as incompatible with Biblical teaching"; however, there are a number of Baptist churches in the ABCUSA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that have more inclusive views.

The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a group of some 50 churches and organizations, is committed to the "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian persons in their churches.

The historically African-American denominations of the National Baptist Convention have issued no public statements on homosexuality; however, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. does not allow its clergy to officiate at ceremonies for same-sex unions

Canadian and American Reformed Churches
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches cite Biblical sources from Leviticus 20:13, which reads: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable." NIV
A homosexual member of one of these churches will be placed under censure or excommunicated and can only be received again into the communion of saints and be admitted to the Lord's Supper in these Reformed traditions after he/she has declared repentance from his/her homosexuality, which the churches teach is a sin. After repentance, the person is declared forgiven by the church.

Christian Reformed Church in Europe
Many reformed churches in Europe do not view monogamous same sex relationships as sinful or immoral. These include all German Lutheran, reformed and united churches in EKD, all Swiss reformed churches in Swiss Reformed Church, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the United Protestant Church in Belgium, the Danish National Church, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Iceland, the Church of Norway, the France Reformed Church and the Waldensian Evangelical Church in Italy. The degree of acceptance varies from country to country, and even from community to community.

Christian Reformed Church in North America
The Christian Reformed Church in North America has maintained the stance since the 1970s that homosexuality is the direct result of a "broken," sinful world, but that the Church should offer a compassionate community for Christian homosexuals. "Homosexualism" (explicit homosexual behavior) is considered disobedience to God's will revealed in Scripture. Celibate and repentant gays and lesbians should not be denied any right granted to heterosexuals. They have the right to maintain office and be an active member in a congregation, as their gifts can still be used to glorify God. The Church must provide support for homosexuals to find "healing and wholeness" in their "broken sexuality".

Although the First Christian Reformed Church of Toronto (also the first CRC congregation to call a woman minister) voted to allow gays and lesbians in committed partnerships as elders and deacons, this decision was later rescinded in the face of pressure from Classis Toronto (regional gathering of churches).

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 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 nor any other sins individually. 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.
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 Orthodox Church holds the opinion that sexuality, as we understand it, is part of the fallen world only. In Orthodox theology both monasticism and marriage are paths to Salvation (sotiriain Greek; literally meaning, "becoming whole"). Celibacy is the ideal path, exemplified in monasticism, while marriage is blessed under the context of true love ("Man must love his wife as Jesus loved his Church": this phrase is part of the Orthodox Marriage Ritual). This context can be interpreted by the non-Orthodox as not being exclusive of homosexuality; whereas it is seen as exclusive of homosexuality by the vast majority of the Orthodox.

On 21 August 2009, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran church body in the United States, voted 559 to 451 in favor of allowing non-celibate gays to become ordained ministers. During the national meeting in 2005, delegates voted against a measure that would have allowed non-celibate gay ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions by 503 against to 490 in favor. ELCA Lutheran policy states that LGBT individuals are welcome and encouraged to become members and participate in the life of the congregation. The ELCA does not yet have a rite for blessing same-sex unions, but another motion passed at the 2009 Assembly directed its leaders to develop one. ELCA congregations that specifically embrace LGBT persons are called Reconciling in Christ congregations. The group Lutherans Concerned supports the inclusion of LGBT members in Lutheran churches in the ELCA and ELCIC. Many other groups do not explicitly state their positions. In 2013, the ELCA elected its first openly gay bishop.

Missouri Synod (LC-MS), the second largest Lutheran church in the United States at 2.4 million members, does not ordain homosexuals. The LCMS Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick was present to register the objections of the LC-MS to the ordination of homosexuals at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2009, despite refusing to participate in Lutheran ecumenical associations.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the third largest Lutheran church in the United States at 395,947 members,[36] does not ordain homosexuals.

Most Lutheran state churches in Germany, Lutheranism's country of origin, are also liberal, viewing homosexuality as moral and allow gay and lesbian clergy. But the Lutheran churches in Germany are also divided on the issue of blessing same-sex unions…. Nevertheless, all the state churches agree that gay and lesbian individuals are welcome as members, and that any kind of persecution is unacceptable.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden allowed in 2006 blessings of same-sex unions and in 2009 same-sex marriage and permit gay clergy. KG Hammar, former Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden, that has been very vocal in supporting gay and lesbian Lutherans. In 2009 Eva Brunne, openly lesbian, was elected as bishop in Stockholm, Church of Sweden.

The Church of Norway is divided, with 6 of 11 bishops accepting homosexual practice as moral, even though the church officially rejects it.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is divided on issue, but many of its most well known bishops have expressed their acceptance for homosexuality. Also some theologians related to church have supported gay-marriages. As of October 2010, the Church of Finland allows, but does not oblige its priests to pray for same-sex couples.

The smaller and more conservative denominations of the International Lutheran Council and Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference do not sanction same-sex partnerships among the clergy or laity.

Mennonite Churches
The Mennonite Church is split into various denominations. The largest Mennonite denomination in North America is the Mennonite Church USA. The 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective expressly states that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Mennonite Church USA, however, does have a small proportion of congregations that are "Welcoming Congregations" which are churches who are "welcoming" and "inclusive" of LGBTQ people in all levels of church life. The name "Welcoming Congregation" is a designation of the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBTQ interests (BMC) an organization started jointly between the Brethren and Mennonite churches in the early 1970s. The mission of BMC is to cultivate an inclusive church and society and to care for the Mennonite and Brethren lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied community


Methodist Church of Great Britain
The Methodist Church of Great Britain has not taken a definitive stance on homosexuality, although affirms the traditional belief that individuals should remain chaste outside marriage. In 2006, the Church also prohibited the blessing of same sex unions on or off church property.

The United Methodist Church
Since 1972, the United Methodist Church is its official positions on homosexuality has maintain the Book of Discipline and has declared "homosexual practice" to be "incompatible with Christian teaching." Currently the Book of Discipline prohibits the ordination of "practicing, self-avowed homosexuals," forbids clergy from blessing or presiding over same-sex unions, forbids the use of UMC facilities for same-sex union ceremonies and prohibits the use of Church funds for "gay caucuses" or other groups that "promote the acceptance of homosexuality."

Despite this language, members of the Church are not of one mind on this issue. Preceding the incompatibility clause the Book of Discipline clearly states that "homosexual persons, no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth." Some believe that this "sacred worth" clause stands in contradiction to the following statement regarding the incompatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching. The Book of Discipline affirms that all persons, both heterosexual and homosexual, are included in the ministry of the church and can receive the gift of God's grace. While the Book of Discipline supports the civil rights of homosexual persons and rejects the abuse of homosexuals by families and churches, it also calls for laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Metropolitan Community Church
The Metropolitan Community Church is an international fellowship of Christian congregations. It is considered by many to be a full mainline denomination or communion. There are currently 300 congregations in 22 countries, and the Fellowship has a specific outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Acceptance of homosexuality is an important part of its theology.

Moravian Church
The Moravian Church declared in 1974 that gays and lesbians were full members of the Christian community. In 2002, the Northern Provincial Synod placed a moratorium for the time being on further decisions about homosexuality. Currently, the questions of marriage and ordination are unresolved.

New Apostolic Church
The New Apostolic Church maintains that it is solely for God to determine whether, and to what extent, a person acquires guilt before God through the practice of his or her homosexuality. In this regard, the Church expressly states that sexual orientation has no relevance in pastoral care.
Old Catholic Church

The Old Catholic Churches in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands view homosexuality as moral, permit gay and lesbian priests, and bless gay couples.[citation needed] These should not be confused with the Roman Catholic Church, nor should one confuse the positions of the Old Roman Catholics (traditional Old Catholics) with those of traditionalist Roman Catholic groups who hold the identical position of the Roman Catholic Church.

Most churches that are within the Pentecostal Movement view homosexual behavior as a sin. The second largest Pentecostal Church in the USA, the Assemblies of God, makes its view clear on homosexuality in a position paper stating: "It should be noted at the outset that there is absolutely no affirmation of homosexual behavior found anywhere in Scripture. Rather, the consistent sexual ideal is chastity for those outside a monogamous heterosexual marriage and fidelity for those inside such a marriage. There is also abundant evidence that homosexual behavior, along with illicit heterosexual behavior, is immoral and comes under the judgment of God"

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest U.S. Presbyterian body, has approved the ordination of non-celibate gays. On July 8, 2010, by a vote of 373 to 323, the General Assembly voted to propose to the presbyteries a constitutional amendment to remove the restriction against the ordination of partnered homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Church remains divided over the issue of homosexuality. Although gay and lesbian persons are welcome to become members of the church, denominational policy prohibited non-celibate same-sex relations (as well as non-celibate heterosexual relations outside of marriage) for those serving as ministers or as elders on key church boards until 2010. After rancorous debate, that policy was upheld in a vote of presbyteries in 2002, but overruled in 2010. The denomination's constitution defines marriage as "a covenant through which a man and a woman are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship". The denomination commissioned a study on the "peace, unity, and purity" of the church which found that homosexuality was not, in and of itself, a stumbling block to ordination. The report also suggested that Presbyteries and local governing bodies be the place where case-by-case decisions be made on the "readiness" of homosexual candidates for ministry. The Church does bless same-sex unions, but does not officially permit same-sex marriages, and does not explicitly support the consummation of these unions.

Quakers in many countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, are supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, seeing this as necessary aspect of the Equality Testimony and part of historical Quaker activism against injustice and oppression. Quakers in these countries have become active in the fight for equality of marriage for same-sex couples, and perform same-sex commitment or marriage ceremonies as part of Quaker business.

In the United States of America, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is deeply divided on the issue. The more conservative Friends United Meeting and Friends Evangelical Church considers homosexuality sinful; but other Friends, such as those in the Friends General Conference, strongly support equal ecclesiastical rights for gay and lesbian persons.[citation needed] Hartford, Connecticut Quakers as far back as 1986 issued a statement recognizing both same-sex and heterosexual celebrations of marriage, and in 1988 the Beacon Hill Quaker Meeting in Massachusetts also issued a statement in support of recognizing same-sex marriage ceremonies. In 2009, several Quaker meetings including the Twin Cities Friends Meeting (St. Paul and Minneapolis) announced they would stop signing certificates for opposite-sex marriages until same-sex marriages were fully legalized

Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church considers human sexual behavior that it sees as properly expressed to be sacred, sacramental in nature. Sexual acts other than "unprotected" vaginal intercourse within a heterosexual marriage are considered sinful because in the Church's understanding, sexual acts, by their nature, are meant to be both unitive and procreative (mirroring God's inner Trinitarian life). The Church also understands the complementarity of the sexes to be part of God's plan. Same-gender sexual acts are incompatible with this framework: "Homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. To be sure, the Church has clearly stated that homosexual desires or attractions themselves are not necessarily sinful. They are said to be "disordered" in the sense that they tempt one to do something that is sinful (i.e., the homosexual act), but temptations beyond one's control are not considered sinful in and of themselves. For this reason, while the Church does oppose same-gender sexual acts, it also officially urges respect and love for those who do experience same-sex attractions and isn't opposed to the homosexual orientation, thus the Catholic Church is also opposed to persecutions and violence against the LGBT community:
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."[63]
The Church considers the call to chastity universal to all persons according to their state in life. For those who do experience gay sexual attractions, the Catholic Church offers the following counsel: "Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."

Homosexuality and priesthood
The Roman Catholic Church forbids the ordination of men who have "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies," as it is expressed in a 2005 document, called Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. Men with transitory same-sex tendencies could be eligible for ordination after three years of having moved on from this stage of their life. The use of the term 'homosexual tendencies' is unique to this document and has given rise to debate as to what was intended, with most Bishops and Religious Orders understanding the document in a Thomistic framework in which tendency implies the desire and intent to bring an act to completion . Accordingly the dominant position take in response to this document is to interpret it as referring to gay men who cannot or do not intend to remain celibate, and the vast majority of dioceses and orders continue to accept gay candidates who are willing to embrace the discipline of celibacy and show the requisite psychosexual maturity (this is, of course, required of heterosexual candidates also). Furthermore, the fact that the document is a letter from a dicastery places it at a lesser level of teaching authority and accordingly it should not be understood as representing a definitive and fully binding expression of the Church's mind on this issue.

United Church of Canada        
The United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, affirms that gay and lesbian persons are welcome in the church and the ministry. The resolution "A) That all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become full member of the Church. B) All members of the Church are eligible to be considered for the Ordered Ministry." was passed in 1988. This was not done, however, without intense debate over what was termed "the issue"; some congregations chose to leave the church rather than support the resolution. In August 2012, the governing body of the church, General Council - which gathers trianually to determine the leadership and direction of the church - selected Rev. Gary Paterson to be its' mo
derator. He is believed to be the first openly gay leader of any mainline Christian denomination anywhere in the world.

In July 2005, the 25th General Synod encouraged congregations to affirm "equal marriage rights for all", and to consider "wedding policies that do not discriminate based on the gender of the couple." The resolution also encouraged congregations to support legislation permitting civil same-sex marriage rights. By the nature of United Church of Christ polity, General Synod resolutions officially speak "to, but not for" the other settings of the denomination (local congregations, associations, conferences, and the national offices). This Synod also expressed respect for those bodies within the church that disagree and called for all members "to engage in serious, respectful, and prayerful discussion of the covenantal relationship of marriage and equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender."
Some associations permit ordination of non-celibate gay clergy and some clergy and congregations are willing to perform or allow same-sex marriages or union services. Approximately 10% of UCC congregations have adopted an official "open and affirming" statement welcoming gay and lesbian persons in all aspects of church life. A few congregations explicitly oppose the General Synod Equal Marriage Rights resolution – an independent movement called "Faithful and Welcoming Churches(FWC)" that partly defines faithful as "Faithful... to the preservation of the family, and to the practice and proclamation of human sexuality as God's gift for marriage between a man and a woman."[70] Many congregations have no official stance; these congregations' de facto stances vary widely in their degree of welcome toward gay and lesbian persons.

Uniting Church in Australia
The Uniting Church in Australia allows for the membership and ordination of gay and lesbian people. On 17 July 2003 it clarified its 1982 position when the national Assembly meeting stated that people had interpreted the scriptures with integrity in coming to the view that a partnered gay or lesbian person in a committed same sex relationship could be ordained as a minister. It also stated that people who had come to the opposite view had also interpreted the scriptures with integrity.

United Reformed Church
The United Reformed Church of Great Britain has committed itself to continue to explore differences of view among its members, in the light of the Church’s understanding of scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A detailed report was submitted to the 2007 General Assembly

The Methodist Church and The Salvation Army; Feb 26

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