Brentwood pastors sign letter in support of LGBT community

UPDATE (5/9/13): Phil has written an extended letter to Dr. George Wood, who responded to the letter below. To read it, please visit Phil’s blog.

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The following letter in support of Springfield’s LGBT community was signed by 23 Christian leaders and pastors, including Phil, Emily and Charlie, who recognize that their role as pastors in the Disciples of Christ denomination is to speak to the church, not for the church. This letter was published by the News-Leader on May 2, 2013.

In the wake of Pastor John Lindell’s comments to Springfield’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Task Force, our hearts continue to break for the LGBT community of Springfield. As pastors and Christian leaders, we are deeply sorry for the ways Christianity is frequently used to hurt rather than heal, and we want you to know there are many of us in support of you.

In Pastor Lindell’s remarks (available at johnlindell.net), he states, “it is not my purpose to give an exhaustive listing of Bible verses that speak of homosexuality,” yet he manages to mention four of the five in Scripture (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9), providing the illusion that homosexuality is a major theme in the Bible when even the most conservative scholars can only point to eight verses at most – out of over 30,000.

He quotes Leviticus 20:13, “If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent.” Yet the conclusion of this verse states that both men “shall be put to death.” If Christians wish to use these passages as an authority for ethical behavior, then by extension they are claiming that men who have sex together should be executed. To Pastor Lindell’s credit, he doesn’t think we should “persecute practicing homosexuals.” Yet, the Bible tells him to do precisely that. Furthermore, if this is the measuring stick Christian leaders use, then shouldn’t they also interpret the Bible with a bit more consistency? Shouldn’t they also condemn those with tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), execute their sons who consistently disobey (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), make women marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)? Or are we allowed to pick and choose which Bible verses carry authority, only giving weight to those that support our preconceived biases?

Pastor Lindell also quotes the New Testament, but here things are far more complicated than we often think. St. Paul argued that homosexuality is against the natural order (Romans 1:26). Yet as a product of his times, Paul also viewed patriarchy and slavery as part of the natural order. If Christians agree with Pastor Lindell that their “1st Amendment rights of free exercise of religion and free speech” are violated by the proposed non-discrimination ordinance, then it must be fair game to repeal statutes that make it okay for women to have authority over men in the workplace (1 Timothy 2:12). We can quote St. Paul and a long history of Christian tradition as our authority!

In his most misguided statement, Pastor Lindell equates homosexual orientation and practice with “anger, chemical addiction, gambling, slander, stealing, pride, lying, etc.” While the behaviors he names hurt individuals and communities, what actually hurts individuals who are LGBT (and our communities) is repression of their sexuality. Just ask the American Psychiatric Association or the American Medical Association. Elsewhere he cites Scripture to demarcate marital gender roles between men and women, yet he doesn’t take into consideration those who are born with ambiguous genitals (intersex), which effectively makes one out of every 2000 people unable to fit into his far too neatly constructed (not to mention unscientific) gender identity boxes.

We are aware that Pastor Lindell and some members of his community may fear that recognizing the integrity of LGBT people may threaten their understanding of biblical values. While we also support the wisdom of Scripture, we believe that the Bible is honored most when it is read in context. After all, most of us would not see God’s love as consistent with slavery, yet slave owners in the 1800s had more specific biblical texts to use discussing slavery than did abolitionists. We believe a more thematic view of the Bible can reveal the divine intent where justice, love, and compassion are honored over violence, hatred, and insensitivity. We encourage Pastor Lindell and his congregation to consider affirming the deepest and most authentic biblical values. As 1 Cor. 13:13 proclaims, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Rev. John Andrews
Rev. Charlie Bahn
Rev. Emily Bowen
Rev. Ellen Brantley
Rev. Peter Browning
Rev. Ken Chumbley
Rev. Conni Ess
Rev. Jonathan E. Frazier
Rev. Laura Fregin
Rev. Janice Fulbright
Mr. Matt Gallion
Rev. Janet Given
Rev. Cory Goode
Rev. Becky Hebert
Rev. David Hockensmith
Rev. Paul Hunt
Mr. Keith Jaspers
Rev. Caleb Lines
Rev. Gary Metcalf
Rev. Kim Polchow
Rev. Diana Smith
Rev. Phil Snider
Mr. Geoff Weinman

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