A very good article by Simon Barrow, giving a convincing (to me) account of why Christians who condemn homosexuality should think again. You can read it all, with many comments, at The Guardian.
In the long battle against slavery in the 19th century, it was the voices of evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce, John Wesley and Bishop of London Beilby Porteus who played an important role in swinging the domestic political debate in favour of abolition, alongside Quakers and others.
They did so because they realised that although there were verses in the Bible (for them the determining authority in life and conduct) that could readily be pressed into the defence of slavery, there was something much larger at stake in the Gospel message which led inexorably to the conclusion that the captives should be set free – as Jesus said in one of his defining sermons, as recorded by Luke.
On that basis they re-interpreted pro-slavery verses by understanding them as overwritten by the new order of grace brought about by Christ, as warnings about the partiality of human insight into the mystery of God’s love, and as stage posts in a process of unfolding, deepening revelation.
Similar arguments are being heard today from a growing number of evangelical Christians over the question of recognising the civil, ecclesial and relationship status of lesbian and gay people. These evangelicals are still a minority, but they are a growing one. They bring to the challenge of changing the hearts and minds of their fellow believers the same moral and theological seriousness that motivated their forebears in the anti-slavery movement.
This week, four evangelical organisations have joined together to remind their fellow “Bible people” that opposing hate speech and hate crimes against homosexual people – in this case the antics of the bizarre Westboro Baptist sect – means too little if you are simultaneously defending forms of prejudice and discrimination within your own communities.
The prime mover in this, Accepting Evangelicals, is a network of Christians who take the Bible with great seriousness, but who argue that what the handful of verses deployed by anti-gay campaigners address is not modern same-sex relationships built on mutual commitment and self-giving love, but practices of pederasty, cultic prostitution and abuse in very different cultural and religious contexts.
They are supported in this view by considerable biblical scholarship and by Christians of other stripes who share the conviction that being followers of Jesus in the modern world involves responsible freedom not backward-looking fear…