'Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality'
Jack Rogers, professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Moderator of the 213thGeneral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.), will be speaking and signing books at the Second Presbyterian Church, 3511 Belmont Boulevard, Nashville on November 13 at 7 p.m.
Rogers, who just penned a new book "Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality", makes a Biblical case for equal rights for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
"Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality" describes Rogers' own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church's well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; debunks often repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians; and concludes with ideas for how the church can heal itself and move forward again. A fascinating combination of personal narrative, theology, and church history, this book is essential reading for all concerned with the future of the church and the health of the nation.
"This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality. It is a gift to all of us."
--J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.
"For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find."
--the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, Episcopal Church.
"Jack Rogers just might change both the tenor and the content of the argument over homosexuality in the Christian Church."
--Joanne M. Adams, Pastor, Morningside Presbyterian Church, Atlanta.
For additional information contact
The Rev. Jim Kitchens, 292-3343
Questions and Answers with Jack Rogers, author of
Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church
1) What is the book about?
Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry we see that we are called to grant equal rights in the church and in society, to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
2) Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book to help heal the church. For decades the church has been divided over whether to ordain and marry people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. It seems to me that the debate highlightsdifferent methods of Biblical interpretation. In my book, I show that the proper way to interpret the Bible is through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry. When we interpret the Bible in this way, we see that we are called, by the Bible, to grant equal rights to people who are LGBT and bring healing to the church.
3) What is new or different about your argument?
I make a Biblical case for equal rights for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
I show clearly how the Bible was misused to justify discrimination against people of color, women, and divorced and remarried people. I then show how those who currently oppose granting equal rights to people who are LGBT often rely on the same discredited methods of Biblical interpretation.
I show that homophobia, the irrational contempt for people who are sexually different, is rooted in sexism, the prejudice that views women as inferior to men. Those most opposed to homosexuality in our culture also insist on the subordination of women to men in the home and society.
Finally, I present compelling evidence that the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the most important texts in the Presbyterian Book of Confessions, was mistranslated in the early 1960s in an attempt to justify discrimination against people who are LGBT. The current translation that is used by the church is incorrect and misrepresents the original text of the catechism.
4) What do you want people to take away from reading your book?
That the Bible properly interpreted, does not condemn faithful same-sex relationships.
5) How did you change your mind about ordination and marriage for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?
It began with the study of Scripture in the congregation where my wife and I worship. The pastor asked me to join a task force to study homosexuality. We engaged in an intense nine-month period of Bible study, prayer, and reflection on the issue from all angles. Studying this issue in depth for the first time brought me to a new understanding of the biblical texts and of God’s will for the church. Since then, my new conviction has been reinforced from many sources. I studied how the church, guided by the Holy Spirit, reversed our prohibitions against the ordination of African-Americans, women, and divorced and remarried Christians. I saw a clear picture of how the church shifted from a literal method of Biblical interpretation to one that looks at the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry. I have come to know many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians. My life has been enriched by their steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ and their faithful service in the church despite the barriers erected to prevent their having the full rights of church membership. Through this intense process of Bible study, prayer, and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit call upon us to grant equal rights to people who are LGBT.
6) How do you respond to people who claim that the Bible condemns homosexuality?
In reading the Bible, one must distinguish between culture and revelation. The Bible is the real story of particular people in particular cultures. Many of the things that were common and approved in ancient Hebrew culture, such as slavery and polygamy, are abhorrent to us as today. When we examine the qualifications for people ordained to the ministry in Hebrew culture, we discover strict rules designed to enforce culturally conditioned ideas about purity (Lev. 21:1-24). Priests had to be physically unblemished. One could not be ordained if blind or lame, with facial scars, a limb too long or too short, a broken foot or hand, or a little person. Priests had to marry among their own kin to a virgin, never a widow, or a divorcee. Priests were not to shave or even to trim their sideburns or beards. We have a different notion of qualifications for ordination, because Jesus did. We ordain people who have physical differences. We ordain people who are divorced and remarried. We ordain women and people of all races and cultures. For Jesus, purity was a matter of what was in a person’s heart, not whether they conformed to outward, culturally defined notions of perfection.
The purpose of the Bible is not forever to bindus to the practices of an ancient culture. The Bible is about revelation—Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead so that we might be reconciled to God. When we read the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry we focus on what is important—loving God and loving our neighbor. Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry we focus on the Gospel message and not on the practices of ancient cultures which no longer apply to us.
7) You argue that the debate (within the church) over slavery, women’s ordination, and homosexuality are analogous. Please explain.
For centuries, most Americans, including Christians, assumed 3 things about African Americans and women: 1) that they were cursed by God from their first mention in Scripture; 2) that they were inferior in moral character; and 3) that they were willfully sinful, sexually promiscuous and threatening, and should be punished for their acts. We now are rightly ashamed of those assumptions and the ways that the Bible was misused to justify such prejudice. Yet, those who oppose equal rights for people who are LGBT rely on these same 3 assumptions to justify their oppression of people who are LGBT. And once again, these arguments are simply false cultural assumptions that have no basis in the Bible or in reality. Of course, there are differences between African Americans, women, and people who are homosexual. But the pattern of prejudice against them is the same.
8) What are some of the myths that you hope to explode with this book?
- That sexual orientation in a choice.
That people who are homosexual can become heterosexual.
- That homosexuality is idolatry.
- That homosexuality is a sin.
- That homosexuality is a mental disorder, psychiatric disorder, or a gender identity disorder.
- That the Bible contains a model of monogamous heterosexual marriage in Genesis.
- That the image of God in humans is rooted in a male/female relationship.
In the book I show that none of these positions has any basis in Scripture or in science.
9) If those are the myths, then what in your view, is the proper way to understand homosexuality?
- Some people are created by God with a sexual orientation to those of their own gender. Homosexuality is not a chosen life style, but the normal way in which a subset of the population express their God-given need for affection and companionship.
- Forcing Christian people who are homosexual to act like heterosexuals (so-called “reparative therapy”) is ineffective in changing their orientation.
- Contemporary Christians who are LGBT love God and seek to follow Jesus. The problem of sin and the free grace of salvation apply equally to people who are LGBT and people who are heterosexual.
- The Bible does not condemn faithful same-sex relationships.
- The American Medical Association, The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers have all come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and that there is no need for a cure.
- A monogamous, life-long marriage between two people is the best context for sexual relations and life satisfaction. That is an ideal which commends itself to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. However, Genesis offers no model of heterosexualmarriage. Furthermore, monogamous heterosexual marriage was not practiced by the heroes of the faith in the Old Testament.
- Biblically, Jesus, who fully expressed the love of God, is the image of God. All people, regardless of race, marital status, or sexual orientation can image or reflect, the love of God in their lives.
10) You often talk about using the “best methods of Biblical interpretation.” What is the best way to interpret the Bible?
Through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry. This method of interpretation reflects the collective wisdom of the church throughout the ages and has been officially adopted by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It provides the clearest understanding of the Biblical texts and helps bring us into a closer relationship with God.
11) In chapter six, you make some intriguing remarks about the relationship between homophobia and patriarchy? What is this relationship all about?
Women, in ancient, patriarchal cultures were assumed to be inferior to men. Thus, men who did not conform to traditional masculine roles were assumed, like women, to be inferior. Homophobia, the irrational contempt for people who are sexually different, is rooted in sexism, the prejudice that women are inferior to men. In our present culture, the people most opposed to homosexuality also demand male dominance in marriage, the family, and society.
12) How will this issue be resolved?
In the same way that the New Testament Church resolved the issue of including Gentiles in the church. Paul and Barnabas gave testimony that God’s Spirit had fallen on Gentiles, whom Jews considered unclean and idolatrous. The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) concluded that Gentiles who manifested God’s spirit should be accepted into the church without having to meet any Jewish requirements.
When we interpret the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry we see that we are called to grant equal rights to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. But not everybody interprets the Bible this way—some people still rely on discredited methods like proof-texting, selective literalism, and natural law in an attempt to justify discrimination against people who are not in the majority. It is incumbent upon all of us to refute those methods of interpretation that have been used to oppress others for centuries and that oppress people today. The Bible, properly understood, does not prohibit faithful same-sex relationships. It is a cultural assumption of male gender superiority, rooted in the suppression of the feminine, that leads to discrimination against people who are homosexual. When we return (by using proper methods of Biblical interpretation) to the fundamental teachings of Jesus—love god and love your neighbor—we will be able to heal our divisions and move forward once again as a church.