Taking the Bible Seriously…Not Literally

Taking the Bible Seriously…Not Literally

The United Church of Christ will be turning 60 this year. That is reason for celebration. And our heritage as a denomination with a social conscience has not changed and that is reason to celebrate as well.

One of the former presidents of our esteemed denomination once wrote:

I offer this Pastoral Letter to remind all of us that the church is to be a place where all are welcomed, where the gifts of all are recognized and received, and where the rights of all defended and promoted. When so many in our society would reject and exclude, it is critical that we of the United Church of Christ bear witness to the conviction that it is possible to be deeply faithful to the Bible, profoundly respectful of the historic faith of the church and of its sacraments, and at the same time support the full inclusion and participation of all God’s children in the membership and ministry of the church.

By now we have already offered our first Listening Session where we discussed a few of the reasons why considering the Open and Affirming process and stance is worthy of our time and focus as a United Church of Christ congregation. We also began to engage in a careful and critical analysis of some of the Biblical texts traditionally used to condemn and hold hostage – people who identify with being homosexual.

This month’s feature is designed to be a review to that discussion or to benefit those who were unable to attend.

Even when we believe the scriptures are without error, it’s a risk to think our understanding is without error. (Rev. Dr. Mel White)

Many good people build their case against homosexuality almost entirely on the Bible. These folk value scripture and are serious about seeking its guidance in their lives. Unfortunately, many of them have never really studied, or given careful and prayerful attention to what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality. For example, many Christians don’t know that 1) Jesus says nothing about same-sex behavior 2) the Jewish prophets are silent about it 3) only 6 or 7 of the Bible’s one million verses refer to samesex behavior in any way – however none of these verses truly refer to homosexual orientation as it’s perceived or understood today.

It is terribly dangerous to think that our understanding of every biblical text is without error…and we can misunderstand and misinterpret these ancient words with tragic results. One tragic present day example: Mark B. was a young man who accepted his sexual orientation “until he became a Christian” and was told on the basis of certain scriptures that he could not be both a Christian and a gay man. Mark committed suicide and wrote the following in his suicide note to God: “I just don’t know how else to fix this.”

At our next listening session we will delve into more specific texts, the most familiar ones that have caused so much damage. We will also share some of these in our April Epistle feature. In the meantime, for further study and reflection feel free to go to Justin Lee’s website: www.gaychristian.net. His videos are especially helpful.