Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, a congregation of 20,000 members. He recently posted a blog article captioned “The Bible, Homosexuality, and the UMC — Part One.” He has not yet posted a part 2. The article advocates for acceptance of gay marriage by the Methodist Church. He argues,
Had the early church held these assumptions consistently, they would never have reached the decisions that circumcision was no longer required of Christians, or that Christians were no longer bound by much that is found in the Law of Moses. We would still be worshipping on Saturdays, eating only what was kosher, offering animal sacrifices, and administering capital punishment for everything from working on the Sabbath to rebelliousness on the part of children (Jesus never explicitly taught that these portions of the Scripture were no longer binding upon his followers; this call was made by the apostles at the urging of Paul). …
On the issue of same gender acts, they wrote based upon their understanding of human sexuality, in the light of the prevailing same-gender practices of their time. And though we believe that they were inspired, the precise nature and extent of that inspiration remains a mystery. We do know that this inspiration was not some kind of divine dictation, but it was through the impulse of the Spirit at work in very human authors who were addressing the people and circumstances in which they lived. This inspiration did not prevent historical or scientific errors. It did not prohibit the recording of differing accounts of the same story in the Gospels. It did not keep the Bible’s authors from allowing slavery and genocide; and it did not transform the biblical authors’ patriarchal perspectives on women.
The blog post was picked up by the Ministry Matters website, a popular site providing ministry resources for preachers and pastors. (You should read Hamilton’s entire article.)
I became interested when Ben Witherington responded. Witherington is among the most popular evangelical authors alive — having written countless commentaries and books. (Amazon lists 242 entries under his name.) I’m a fan. I especially enjoy his Socio-Rhetorical commentaries on several NT books.
Witherington is no fundamentalist. He favors a mutualist (or egalitarian) position on the role of women, for example.
He posted a reply at his blog “A Response to Adam Hamilton’s Recent Post on the Bible and Homosexuality.” I had not read Witherington on this subject before. I was fascinated to read his reply. (You should also read his entire article.)
And even more to the point, Adam’s view on this matter is well out of line with the vast majority of Christians world-wide– Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The fact that there is a growing trend in certain European and North American contexts towards the acceptance of gay marriage and same sex sexual expression is frankly a distinctly minority report when it comes to world Christendom. Having taught in various place in Africa, and the Far East and India and Russia, places where Methodist churches are actually growing in number and size in various cases, I can assure you that the vast majority of those folks do not agree with Adam Hamilton on these matters. It is liberal Protestants in North America and Europe who are out of step with the majority opinion on these issues. And that majority opinion is not a new one, since for 2,000 years of church history, the church has not endorsed such lifestyles and practices, and frankly, neither did John Wesley or the Bible. …
Mt. 19 is clear enough, it seems to me. Jesus, based on his own interpretation of the creation order, says that men and women were created for each other by God, and they alone can share a one flesh union in marriage which can lead to the possible production of children, one of God’s greatest blessings. No relationship which cannot turn men and women into husbands and wives and hopefully also fathers and mothers was considered in early Judaism a marriage of any sort. Nor was it considered a marriage by Paul or other of the earliest Christians. Every child deserves if at all possible to have a good mother and father and to know who their mother and father are. It is far too easy to play the context card and to suggest that poor Jesus or Paul were just victims of their own cultural myopia or cultural biases. This is especially inappropriate when their views on marriage were shaped primarily by their own Biblical theology, not by their social contexts. If anything, Jesus and his followers took an even more conservative view on marriage and fidelity in heterosexual monogamy than their own Jewish contemporaries. …
I bring all this up, because you simply cannot use either Paul’s view of women or the slavery passages in the NT to argue— ‘well since the Bible is wrong on these things, it must also be wrong on same sex sexual matters’. In fact the Bible isn’t wrong on these important matters, and a pick and choose hermeneutic does not do justice to the real thrust of God’s NT Word. I could go on, but I would stress that what Adam is calling for is the abandonment of what the NT teaches on the key subjects of what counts as appropriate human sexual and what counts as marriage. And there is no justification for doing so on the basis of a misreading of what the NT says on various other subjects.
Witherington makes a point that I’d not seen argued before: Although some American and European churches approve normalization of homosexuality, this attitude is very out of step with Christianity as taught and practiced in the rest of the world.
Now that I think of it, this is why the international Anglican Communion (Episcopalian Church) has disciplined the American Episcopalian churches: they’ve normalized gay sex contrary to the teachings and practices of the rest of the worldwide Anglican communion, contrary to 2,000 years of church history.
It’s a peculiarity of the American left that they wish to be sensitive to the feelings of other ethnicities — especially those nations that have suffered from Western colonialism — and yet it’s the left wingers who most readily ignore the perspectives of non-Western people when they conflict with Western political correctness.
Christianity is growing in non-Western countries, while either plateaued or in decline in much of the West. As a result, control of international denominations is shifting away from the old colonial powers to their former colonies. And so no longer are the Europeans and Americans able to impose their will by virtue of their stronger militaries and economies. In fact, we are witnessing a dramatic shift of the power to shape denominational policy away from the West.
Just in time.
Those who argue that history is on the side of normalization of homosexual sex are showing their Western bias. The rest of the world begs to differ.