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Tears in God's Wineskin: A Theology of Hospitality

Part 3: Hospitality, the Handmaiden of Grace


Four Theological Positions on Homosexuality

It is fascinating, though curious that many Christians treat biblical references to homosexuality completely literally while interpreting biblical text on other topics with considered flexibility and without literality. Biblical study and interpretation requires an awareness of cultural relativity, our human experience and an understanding of what Christian faith means, while being informed by God’s truth as revealed through areas of spiritual education and discipline. We should also remember that Jesus Christ bears the image of God’s invitation to be reconciled, gaining human wholeness and communion with the divine and with one another. He stands at the centre of God’s hospitality as the central point of God’s humanising action and is therefore the principal denominator through whom the Bible should be perceived and judged. James Nelson and also Robert Nugent, Jeannine Gramick and Christine Smith [1] drawing on Nelson’s work, speak of four general theological positions held by the church that reflect the differing opinions of Christians regarding homosexuality today. These are: rejecting punitive, rejecting non-punitive, qualified acceptance and full acceptance. [2]

The rejecting punitive view both unconditionally rejects homosexuality and espouses punitive action against gay men and lesbians. It maintains that men and women come into fullness as human beings within the human family only when in relation to the opposite sex and it is considered impossible that a person may be both Christian and gay. Historically, this has been Christianity’s predominant view, with homosexuals being denied the sacraments and exiled from the church as wilful sinners deserving God’s wrath. While arguably the church did not itself practise violence, clergy promoted persecution, including the execution of discovered homosexuals by stoning, hanging or burning at the stake. [3] The bundles of sticks tied together as kindling to help ignite execution fires were called faggots, chillingly providing the negative and crude American synonym for homosexuals today.

The rejecting punitive view relies on a literal interpretation of selected portions of the Bible and is well illustrated by a statement issued by the Greek Orthodox Church:

“Thus the functions of the sexual organs of a man and a woman . . . are ordained by nature to serve one particular purpose, the procreation of human kind. Therefore, any and all uses of human sex organs for purposes other than those ordained by creation, runs contrary to the nature of things decreed by God . . . The Orthodox Church believes that homosexuality should be treated by society as an immoral and dangerous perversion and by religion as a sinful failure. In both cases correction is called for. Homosexuals should be accorded the confidential medical and psychiatric facilities by which they can be helped to restore themselves to a self-respecting sexual identity that belongs to them by God’s ordinance.” [4]

Christian moralists, speaking from a position of unawareness and ignorance, are often quick to state the exact line of duty and action required from homosexuals, pointing to their need for conversion and repentance in order to undo their ‘perversion.’ This may appear to their thinking to be theoretically sound admonition and good moral judgement, as long as it is abstracted from actual persons, but it is wholly ineffective pastoral counsel based on ignored science, poorly understood theology and narrow scriptural interpretation.

Today, no substantial theologian holds the rejecting punitive position and most Christian churches and authorities have stepped back from it in their formal constitutions and polity. However, in practise the position remains relatively common across Christian churches and organisations and is especially vocalised through the preaching and teaching of conservative evangelicals. It persists in stereotypes and mythology such as all gay men are effeminate and all lesbians are masculine, all gay people are promiscuous and predatory, there is a ‘gay agenda’ to conscript young people into the ‘gay lifestyle’ and most gay men are probably paedophiles. Despite being exhaustively disproven by reliable research, such stereotypes and myths remain foremost in the minds of many Christians simply because they do not consider homosexuals with individuation, but rather under a broad generic label. In truth however, being gay certainly does not automatically default to male effeminacy or female masculinity, child abusers are rarely homosexually orientated, [5] there never has been a ‘gay agenda’ or a proclivity to allegedly recruit anybody, and, just as with heterosexuals, some gay men and lesbians might reveal partners in the 100s, but there are just as many who range from being celibate to those who are in committed partnerships and others who, put plainly, probably have sex lives every bit as ordinary or dull as those of the average heterosexual. [6]

A second position advocated by some Christians is the rejecting non-punitive stance. Like the first view, homosexuality remains regarded as inherently unnatural and under condemnation. However, because of Christ’s grace it is believed that homosexuals themselves should not be condemned. This is what the Roman Catholic Church expresses:

“Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” [7]

Yet, while sexual acts between individuals of the same sex are condemned, there is no need to punish a person because of his/her orientation.

“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” [8]

However, only inasmuch as it is not acted upon.

“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.” [9]

The core argument is nevertheless that the orientation itself is to be considered “objectively disordered” and therefore celibacy is a necessary requirement. [10] From this position has grown the somewhat patronizing adage directed towards gay men and lesbians of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ which in reality is more likely an attempt to hide a phobia towards both the homosexual’s behaviour and the person themselves. However, to declare an orientation acceptable while claiming that acts resulting from that orientation are unacceptable is a logical fallacy and as such, nonsensical. An orientation and the acts it gives rise to must both be considered acceptable and natural or unacceptable and unnatural. It is wholly illogical to consider one acceptable and the other unacceptable, not dissimilar to regarding pregnancy as acceptable but giving birth unacceptable.

Nelson refers to Karl Barth, who held the rejecting non-punitive position and considered finding one’s humanity in someone of the same sex to be a “substitute for the despised partner,” a physical, psychological and social sickness, “the phenomenon of perversion, decadence and decay.” [11] The so called “unnatural nature” of homosexuality is emphasized by Barth and he presents it as having a self-seeking, idolatrous nature, violating the Creator’s intended order, but he hastens to refer to the theme of grace in the gospels and stresses that while homosexuality must be condemned, nevertheless under God’s overwhelming grace the homosexual must not. William Muehl holds this view, likening homosexuality to illness such as alcoholism and recognising the church’s overzealous persecution of homosexuals. However, he maintains that homosexuality, as a sexual irresponsibility, cannot be approved by Christian conscience and the historic position of the church with its rejection of homosexuality should be respected. [12]                  

Supporters of the rejecting non-punitive position tend to support the civil rights of homosexuals, with persecution viewed as unjust and hypocritical. Richard Lovelace holds that while the church must, “. . . defend itself through the dynamics of spiritual living against the neo-paganism of gay advocates who challenge it, the church must also be willing to listen, study and respond.” He proposes that ‘gay’ Christians must renounce their active way of life and ‘straight’ Christians their homophobia. [13] Unfortunately, Lovelace pays no attention to the empirical sciences, believing them to have no use as a source of ethical norms, being at best value-free, or more typically anti-Christian. He further believes that while culture can inform the church and help re-evaluate its theology, in practise it contributes nothing constructive to the theological task once begun. [14]

The rejecting non-punitive stance relies on two arguments, both highly questionable. Firstly the assumption that natural law and human nature are unchangeable, a one-size-fits-all essence given by the Creator, as Barth holds. However, human nature is shaped largely by the interaction of people, their culture and environment throughout the ages and, rightly observed by Gregory Baum, is not in fact normative for theologians. He points out, “What is normative for normal life is the human nature to which we are divinely summoned, which is defined in terms of mutuality” and concludes, “Homosexual love, then, is not contrary to human nature, defined in terms of mutuality toward which mankind is summoned.” [15] The second assumption is that homosexuality is idolatrous because the norm for human beings is procreative sex, opposite genders are complementary in partnership while same-sex genders are not, and because same-sex love is ultimately self-worship and narcissism. However, the notion that every sexual act must necessitate the possibility of procreation needs to be countered by an understanding that while loving and responsible sexual expression ought never to be tainted, procreative possibility and sex are rarely one and the same act and should not be rigidly regarded as such.

Should heterosexual couples be negated from enjoying a healthy sex life when either or both partners have been sterilised? Does the procreative stance of “go forth and multiply” reflect a responsible regard for the planet when in certain respects the Earth is over populated? Christian orthodoxy has not consistently insisted upon procreative possibility, particularly in the light of heterosexual couples either not desiring children or being unable to have them and Nelson points out, “To insist that the relationship which constitutes the image of God must be heterosexual assumes that the psychic natures of women and men are somehow biologically given and unchangeable.”[16] Any concept of an essential harmonizing of genders relies on the notion that two separate kinds of personalities exist naturally in men and women which, together, express a unified whole, ultimately implying that no man or woman by his or herself has the capability to be a completely whole person.

The rejecting non-punitive position additionally holds that gay men and lesbians, by their very nature, despise the opposite sex, but while aversion to intimate sexual intercourse with the opposite sex may exist, this does not equate to a detestation of people of the opposite sex. Many non-heterosexuals establish rich and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex and such friendships enjoy complete freedom from any question of romance or ‘sexual conquest’ precisely because there is no sexual attraction for the gay man or lesbian in the relationship.

For the church, the rejecting non-punitive position further underpins an irrational fear that if Christians accept homosexuality as a normal part of human life then the number of people wanting to be gay will significantly increase. However, such a view has no substance and merely emphasizes the misconception that to be gay is a free and conscious choice on the part of the individual, while the simple truth is that to be homosexual is no more a conscious choice than it is to be heterosexual. Since Kinsey’s initial research in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the relaxing of anti-homosexual laws over the next decades, and more recent demographic research there has been no demonstrable increase anywhere in the numbers of gay men and lesbians. [17] Perhaps, as Nelson mentions, heterosexuals mistakenly assume that, “there is something so attractive in the gay experience that if it were not stringently forbidden many others would choose this orientation.” [18]

The origins of homosexuality continue to be discussed with the major theories tending to pertain to genetic, environmental and experiential causality, but to date there is no general agreement apart from an acceptance that sexual orientation is relatively fixed during early childhood without the individual’s conscious choice. A final and basic flaw underlying the rejecting non-punitive position is the assumption that rejection of the homosexual orientation affectively remains non-punitive, reflecting the belief that to be gay is nothing more than a conscious choice. This belittles any homosexual for not being heterosexual and trivialises their sexual orientation; rejection of anyone’s orientation, sexual or otherwise, is by its very nature punitive.

Qualified acceptance is a third position, where homosexuality remains viewed as a perversion and a sin, but because current medical and psychological science confirms that homosexuals cannot change their orientation (assuming they would want to) the position advocates that if homosexuals cannot ideally be celibate and refrain from sexual activities then they should be allowed to be in faithful, committed relationships. Such relationships are regarded as acceptable though inferior to heterosexual relationships since being based on a mental or emotional pathology they remain a distortion of the ideal.

Helmut Thielicke and Lewis Smedes attempt to temper qualified acceptance by pointing out that while homosexuality is a disturbed relationship resulting from the fall, as a predisposition it should be no more depreciated than any other distortion of the created order, which is shared by the whole of sinful humanity. [19] Smedes believes that the informed Christian must reject equally a conclusion that homosexuality is a normal, alternative sexuality and that it is a freely chosen perversion. He asserts that accepting homosexuality as normal opposes biblical text which, in his view, clearly judges homosexual practice as unnatural and godless. He further holds that a same-sex relationship is rarely the expression of a creative personal relationship and is almost never well integrated into the total development of a person’s character. Nevertheless, regarding homosexuality as a freely chosen perversion, Smedes cautions that, “No homosexual, to my knowledge, ever decides to be homosexual; he only makes the painful discovery at one time or another that he is homosexual.” [20]

Qualified acceptance advocates that rather than regard homosexuality as either completely normal or as a perversion - viewpoints deemed to be based in sentiment or revulsion - homosexuals should be counselled to face the abnormality of their condition without feeling guilt for it, recognise fully their responsibility for how they make use of their homosexual drives and act within appropriate bounds. Change should be sought through divine healing or behaviour modification via psychotherapy or some other form of counselling while being committed to living celibately. If this proves impossible for the homosexual, he or she should seek an optimum homosexual morality within a committed and faithful relationship. Qualified acceptance is not an acceptance of homosexuality or homosexual behaviour as morally commendable, but rather a concession that the best possible moral life, within what is considered a deplorable situation, is preferable to a life of sexual chaos.

The fourth position of full acceptance contends that sexuality is an important and ingrained part of human love and ethical sexual relationships consist of commitment, trust, tenderness, and respect for the partner. The position acknowledges simply that morality and righteousness depend on an individual’s character, not their sexual orientation. Consequently, homosexual relationships are regarded as no different from heterosexual relationships and the rights and privileges available to heterosexual couples should be equally available to homosexuals. Leading churches holding this position generally acknowledge not only lesbian, and gay men, but also bisexual and transgendered persons as equal to heterosexual persons. Full acceptance is promoted officially by the United Church, United Church of Christ, the Uniting Church, Quakers, Moravian Church, and the Episcopalian Church. The oldest and fully accepting church is the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches founded in 1968.

Co-authors Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, among a growing number of theologians such as James Nelson, Eugene Rogers and Luke Bretherton believe that while the Bible clearly condemns certain kinds of homosexual acts within the context of violence, idolatry, sexual exploitation and lustful promiscuity, it is relatively silent concerning sexual orientation, as understood by modem behavioural sciences, and permanent loving relationships between same-sex partners.[21] Recognising these gaps in biblical data, theological judgments when considering the issue of homosexuals in the church must to some extent depend on other available sources such as personal Christian testimony, informed contemporary opinion, the biblical principle of having compassion for the outcast and the analogy of loving, monogamous heterosexual relationships. Within this framework Scanzoni and Mollenkott attempt to be biblically faithful and honest with data from social sciences and surrounding culture.[22] The core of their argument concerns the homosexual’s unconscious, involuntary orientation.

Scientific research shows that there are those for whom homosexuality is as innate as left-handedness, so it is reasoned that God would not condemn people for an inborn orientation over which they had no choice and which cannot be changed. Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican Archbishop and social activist of South Africa, observes, “We reject homosexuals, treat them as pariahs, and push them outside our church communities, and thereby we negate the consequences of their baptism and ours. We make them doubt that they are the children of God, and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for something that is becoming increasingly clear they can do little about.” [23] This further raises the question of whether it is fair to demand of such persons a more exacting standard than that for heterosexuals who, for example Paul counsels to marry, rather than burn. By insisting that Christian homosexuals either become heterosexual or remain celibate for the rest of their lives - both choices being beyond the capacity of the majority of homosexuals - the church succeeds only in driving non-heterosexuals away from the church, frequently bitterly. Referring to traditional teaching, Scanzoni and Mollenkott point out that Peter wrestled with God’s call for him to violate Jewish dietary laws that were ingrained in him from childhood (Acts 10:14) and suggest that, similarly, Christians today must be willing to risk reassessing their theological stance concerning homosexuality for the sake of Christian witness and human liberation.

We live in a strongly heteronormative society where biblical interpretation has been coloured accordingly. The Genesis 19 account allowed ‘sodomy’ to become a synonym for homosexuality despite the actual offense for which the citizens of Sodom were punished being a total breakdown in hospitality that resulted in attempted xenophobic gang rape. Leviticus 18 and 20 prohibit homosexual activity within the context of idolatry, yet while other prohibitions within the same legal codes and with similar penalties (e.g. not having intercourse during a woman's menstrual period, Lev. 18:19), are entirely ignored by evangelicals today homosexuality is labelled a vile sin. Paul’s description in Romans 1 does not fit the scenario of faithful homosexual Christians who do not worship idols or choose sexual activity contrary to their sexual orientation, and both 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 refer to sexual exploitation most likely within the realms of prostitution. The honest conclusion, when interpreting biblical text, is that the Bible is generally silent regarding sexual orientation, those who are exclusively homosexual and faithfully committed monogamous same-sex relationships.

We might therefore concede with humility, that Christians have on the basis of supposed or presumed biblical truth persistently borne false witness against their gay and lesbian neighbours, claiming that homosexuality is a freely chosen ‘lifestyle’ or is learned behaviour that can be freely unlearned. Misguidedly, even cruelly, the hope of cure has been held out, despite supposed cure being extremely difficult if not wholly unrealistic or impossible. [24] The healthier approach for the church would be to open her doors to homosexuals, calling them to monogamous loving relationships or chastity if single, in the exact same way the church responds to heterosexuals. Such a conclusion undoubtedly invites the scorn of many conservative evangelical Christians, but it is encouraging that theologians like Scanzoni and Mollenkott, Smedes, Thielicke and others have moved or are moving towards a position of acceptance. [25]

It is interesting that in the analysis of these four approaches three of them understand the problem to be homosexuality, rather than heterosexism and homophobia produced by the heteronormative social structures of communal humanity and narrow biblical interpretation. Homosexuality and lesbianism are assumed to be the issues to be highlighted, understood and dealt with, and although such approaches have at times helped to further the cause of justice for non-heterosexuals, nevertheless it is worth suggesting that the most urgent theological or pastoral problem requiring focus is the church’s withholding hospitality, preaching in an emotive way that may fuel bigotry and frequently voicing condemnation of gay men and lesbians for being who and what they naturally are.


[1] Robert Nugent and Jeannine Gramick, Homosexuality: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Issues, Journal of Homosexuality Vol. 18: 7-46 (1989), pp.29-42; Christine M. Smith, Preaching as Weeping, Confession and Resistance: Encountering Handicappism, Ageism, Heterosexism, Sexism, White Racism, Classism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989), pp.87-90.

[2] Nelson, Embodiment, pp.188-199.

[3] See Louis Crompton, Gay Genocide: From Leviticus to Hitler (an address delivered to the Gay Academic Union, New York University, 30th November 1974) in Nelson, Embodiment, p.189; See also Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (New York: Dutton, 1991).

[4] Statement issued by the Greek Orthodox Church at the 36th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress meeting held in Philadelphia, 8th June, 1976.

[5] A. Nicolas Groth, Archives of Sexual Behaviour Vol.7 (3) (Berlin: Springer Science and Business Media, 1978), pp.175-181: Groth states that homosexuals are not more likely to be child molesters since sexual attraction towards children is a pathology unrelated to sexual orientation. A. Nicolas Groth, LAE Journal (Lambda Alpha Epsilon American Criminal Justice Association) Vol.41 No1 (Sacramento CA: American Criminal Justice Association, 1978), pp.17-22: In a study of 148 offenders who sexually assaulted minors in Massachusetts, 71 (51%) selected only female children, 42 (28%) selected male children and 31 (21%) assaulted both male and female children. Groth reports that, “offenders attracted to boy victims typically report that they are uninterested in or repulsed by adult homosexual relationships and find the young boy’s feminine characteristics . . . appealing” (p.20). Findings reveal that of those paedophiles attracted to both children and adults (51% of the 148), 83% were exclusively heterosexual, and 17% were bisexual. L.M.J. Simon, Characteristics of Child Molesters: Implications for the Fixated-Regressed Dichotomy, in Journal of Interpersonal Violence Vol.7 Issue 2, June 1992 (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1992), pp.211-225: In a study of 136 convicted sex offenders, over 80% had been involved in adult long-term heterosexual relationships. Mary J. Spencer, Pediatrics Vol.78 Issue 1, (Illinois: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1896), pp.133-138: In a study at the Children's Hospital in San Diego, of 140 boys presenting with sexual abuse, 4% of the assaults were by homosexuals. Carole Jenny, Are Children at Risk for Sexual Abuse by Homosexuals?, in Pediatrics Vol.94 Issue 1 (Illinois: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1994), pp.41-44: In a study at another children’s hospital, of 269 children evaluated for sexual abuse by known adults, 0.7% of the children were abused by an identified gay or lesbian adult and 88% were abused by identified heterosexuals. Others (a further 74 children) were abused either by another child or teenager, or by a stranger for whom sexual orientation was unknown. J.B. Murray, Psychological Profile of Paedophiles and Child Molesters, in Journal of Psychology, Vol.134 Issue 2 (London: Routledge, 2000), pp.211-224: Murray refers to the discussion of whether homosexuals or heterosexuals are more likely to molest children and points out that the argument completely ignores the current state of research on the psychopathology of the child molester. “By definition, the paedophile is a person who is sexually attracted to children. Since children do not typically have the secondary gender-differentiated characteristics of adults, the typical heterosexual or homosexual is not sexually attracted to children. If an adult is attracted to a child, it is related to the child’s vulnerability. Even if the child is a male being abused by an adult male the paedophile is not attracted to male characteristics, as found in the studies by Groth, which would be presumed if the abuser were homosexual.”  

[6] See L. Peplau, Journal of Homosexuality Vol.6 (3)1981, pp.1-19; James Spada, The Spada Report: The Newest Survey of Gay Male Sexuality (New York, New American Library, 1979). The research of Pelau and Spada reveals that 40-60% of gay men, and 45-80% of lesbians are in steady, committed relationships. David P. McWhirter and Andrew M. Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985); S. Raphael, The older Lesbian, in Alternative Lifestyles Vol.3, 1980 pp.207-230; C. Silverstein, Man to Man: Gay Couples in America, (New York: William Morrow Publ. 1981); McWhirter, Raphael and Silverstein each discovered that gay and lesbian relationships lasting beyond 20 years are not uncommon. See also Theo Lyons, Debunking the Myth of Gay Promiscuity, in Sprinkle: A Journal of sexual Diversity Studies Vol.2 April 2009 (The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy) Available online at: http://www.freireproject.org/content/sprinkle-vol-2-april-2009.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357 (2000).

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358 (2000).

[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2359 (2000)

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2359 (2000).

[11] Karl Barth, Dogmatics III:4, especially p.166, in Nelson, Embodiment, p.189-90.

[12] William Muehl, Some Words of Caution, in Edward Batchelor Jr. [ed.] Homosexuality and Ethics (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1980), pp.71-78; also William Muehl and William Johnson, Issues Raised by Homosexuality, in Reflections, Yale Divinity School Vol.72 Issue 4, May 1975 in Nelson, Embodiment, pp.189-190.

[13] Richard F. Lovelace, Homosexuality and the Church (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1978), p.129.

[14] Lovelace, Homosexuality and the Church, p.129; regarding ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ dual repentance see David Field, The Homosexual Way - A Christian Option? (New Jersey: Inter Varsity Press, 1979), p.34-35; also Jerry R. Kirk, The Homosexual Crisis in the Mainline Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Incorporated, 1978), p.86-87.

[15] Gregory Baum, Catholic Homosexuals (Commonweal, 14th February 1974) p.40f, in Nelson, Embodiment, p.191.

[16] Nelson, Embodiment, p.191.

[17] Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy and Clyde E. Martin, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male ([original print 1948] Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998); Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin and Paul H. Gebhard, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female ([original print 1953]Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998); Evelyn Hooker. Homosexuality, in International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968); Morton M. Hunt, Sexual Behavior in the 1970’s (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1974); C.A. Tripp, The Homosexual Matrix (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975), p.236ff regarding the invalidation of reorientation therapy.

[18] Nelson, Embodiment, p.192-193.

[19] Helmut Theilicke, The Ethics of Sex (Cambridge: James Clarke and Company, 1964), p.282-284; Lewis B. Smedes, Sex for Christians: The Limits and Liberties of Sexual Living (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), p.70.

[20] Smedes, Sex For Christians, p.70.

[21] While the Bible is generally silent, I would advocate the Centurion and his Pais (bed slave) in Mt.8:5-13; Lk.7:2-10 as representing a committed same-sex relationship; and as likely or possible relationships, those of David and Jonathan and also Ruth and Naomi. Regarding sexual orientation, Jesus’ words relating to the ‘man-made’ and ‘natural’ eunuch in Mt.19:11-12 are significant, as is Philip’s response to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.

[22] Letha D. Scanzoni and Virginia R. Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?: A Positive Christian Response (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978).

[23] Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Forward to Marilyn B. Alexander “We Were Baptized Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays” (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1996)

[24] Organisations such as Love in Action and True Freedom Trust maintain that through careful counsel, divine healing and discipline, gay men and lesbians can become ‘ex-gay’ and even ‘reclaim’ their true heterosexual nature. The spectacular closure of Exodus International in June 2013, following 40 years of ‘ex gay’ ministry, and the organisation’s very public apology to the gay community cast a shadow over the seriousness and success of this ministry and brought renewed hope for many Christian gay men and lesbians.

[25] Psychotherapist Ralph Blair is more doctrinaire than biblical and theological in his analyses and concerning available scientific evidence (and perhaps less careful), but his conclusions are similar to those of Scanzoni and Mollenkott. As president of Evangelicals Concerned (a national task which has Virginia Mollenkott as its Advisory Board President), Blair attempted during the 1970s to correct traditional judgments in the church toward homosexuality and to bring gay Christians and their supporters together. In his booklets such as An Evangelical Look at Homosexuality Revised (New York: Homosexual Community Counseling Center, 1977) and Holier-Than-Thou Hocus-Pocus & Homosexuality (New York: Homosexual Community Counseling Center, 1977), Blair asserts that the Bible offers no judgment on loving, monogamous homosexual activity between exclusive homosexuals (those with no propensity towards heterosexuality). It is not, he believes, to the Bible that Christians must turn, for it is silent, but rather to the social sciences in order to better understand homosexuality and how it is caused.