According to 2 Timothy 3:16 (NRSV), “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” which means that for any doctrine of the church, there should be a basis in Scripture. Scripture is clear that God welcomes all types of persons. The early church wrestled with whether God’s grace should be extended to Gentiles, and arrived at inclusion (Acts 10:1–48; 15:1–21). In the same way, today we read Scripture as tending toward inclusion for all persons.
“The witness of Jesus Christ:
Jesus consistently welcomed, indeed sought out, persons who were labeled outcast by his society. Criticized himself as a lawbreaker, he challenged self-righteousness, judgmentalism, and legalism, making it clear that the purpose of the Law is the protection of human welfare; human beings are not made to keep the Law regardless of its detrimental effects on the wellbeing of people (Mark 2:23—3:6). Jesus summarized the Law as loving God with one’s whole being, and loving one’s neighbor as oneself.”3
John 3:16 (NRSV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
God so loved the world, not just straight people or cis-gendered people, but the whole world—each of us. If you believe in him, no matter your sexual orientation or gender, you may not perish but have eternal life.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSV)
“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.”
God knows us before we know ourselves. All persons are created in God’s wonderful image. All persons were knit together by God’s creative hands, including folks in the LGBTQIA+ community. We are not mistakes.
Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Our differences are important on a worldly level, but because of Jesus these differences don’t matter when we look at things through a heavenly lens. Because of Jesus, we are all included in God’s heavenly works, no matter your sexual orientation or gender (or class or race or ethnicity) and we are all equally God’s beloved children.
Genesis 2:18 (NRSV)
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”
People are not meant to be alone! God wants us to have partners in life!
Six different passages in Scripture are generally referenced in opposition to congregations offering full participation to LGBTQIA+ individuals and have been used to actively harm our siblings in the LGBTQIA+ community. While space is too limited to offer a full explanation of each of these passages, we will offer a short justification for a broader reading of the text.
Genesis 1:27 – Male and female God created them “So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Instead of limiting God’s creativity to two sexes/genders, this passage celebrates full equality of men and women based in creation—a stunning revelation in the ancient world. Indeed, Paul continues this liberative thought in Galatians 3:28, where he proclaims that in Christ Jesus, there is no male or female. In other words, these physical differences are not written into our souls.
Genesis 19:1–29 – The story of Sodom and Gomorrah
While “sodomy” now refers to homosexual acts, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah the primary sin of the Sodomites was a complete failure of hospitality. Less in view was the desire to take the angels who came to Lot and “know them”; rather, the offense was a failure to truly welcome the stranger and care for the oppressed (see Ezekiel 16:49–50).
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 – Prohibition of men sleeping together
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what carries forth forever from Israel’s Law and what was particular to Israel. Sometimes, the specific words used in a commandment can help us with this task. In these two Levitical laws, the word used for “abomination” is a special term to discuss ritual uncleanliness, much like kosher laws. Therefore, this prohibition is as binding for Christians as the prohibition against bacon.
Deuteronomy 23:17–18 – Cult/Temple sex work
“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a temple prostitute; none of the sons of Israel shall be a temple prostitute. You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are abhorrent to the Lord your God.”
Historically, these verses used the term “sodomite” (KJV) to refer to a male prostitute. Instead of having same-sex acts in view, this passage instead sets boundaries around how people interact with the temple of God.
Romans 1:26–27 – Exchanging the natural for the unnatural
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
Paul’s context for writing his letter to the Romans is important. Sex and worship were tied together for many of the Roman and Greek gods, and those who dedicated themselves to serve these gods would worship by using and abusing their bodies in painful ways. Very different than a monogamous, committed, same-sex partnership today, these same-sex acts were located in temple orgies Paul rightly condemned.
1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 – Condemnation of pederasty
“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites,”
“fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching”
In these two passages, Paul condemns malakoi and arsenokoitai, two terms difficult to translate. Malakoi were likely boy sex slaves, and arsenokoitai those who would pay for their services. Paul’s condemnation in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy names the cultural practice of pederasty (rape of a boy by an adult man) as sinful, and we can agree with this.
If you want to explore any of the above passages in more depth, a pastor would be happy to discuss them more with you.