This is a sermon I preached at our small faith community, ‘We Are Church’ in Johannesburg, on 9 October 2022.
There are lessons from Jesus’ Baptism, as recorded in Mark 1 for churches. We need to heed these lessons of new beginnings, of not getting stuck in church structures, of not being stuck in Empire thinking, of not getting stuck in creating exclusive and excluding communities.
There are lessons here about God’s love for us all, about God’s image being in all of us, about God’s invitation to be part of new faith communities.
I was as sick as a dog as I was preaching this, so there’s not much energy or outward passion. But this sermon came from the depths of my soul. It is what I believe most deeply.
This blog hasn’t been active for the last two years. Covid has taken my focus from these theological issues to practical, local community action. But my passion for building inclusive and affirming communities of faith remains unwavering.
My wife, Jane, is heading up a small faith community in Johannesburg, South Africa, that we have called “We Are Church”. It’s independent and informal at the moment, but we will see how things progress. I have been asked to summarise my views on LGBTQI inclusion and affirmation for this group, and will share the videos of these meetings here.
The first of these videos is entitled: The Bible and LGBTQI inclusion and affirmation
It is a summary of the work you’ll find at this blog in my special series on how we interpret the seven verses in the Bible that appear to oppose LGBTQI people.
I become more and more convinced that we have been wrong in our historic interpretations of the Bible, and this approach I suggest is a significant improvement in our understanding of God’s Word.
I wish more churches would tell this to their people this morning: you should put your pronouns in your social media bios.
The article below is one of the best explanations of why we should do so that I have read.
We need to normalise talking about gender and how, for more people than you think, it is not as obvious as it might first appear. Just because it appears obvious in some people (I am, as I appear, a cisgender, heterosexual white male), doesn’t mean it is obvious in everyone. And for those people dealing with a world that has not allowed them to discover and live out their gender and/or sexual expression, showing that you’re an ally is literally the least you can do.
PS. Jesus’ pronouns would have been “they/them” – think about it; I’m right on multiple levels.
PPS. If you read the attached article and the few swear words offend you more than the reason the author is impassioned enough to use them, you need to take a moment of self-reflection.
I really wish more churches would preach this: there are no walls.
The attached Naked Pastor cartoon is one of the most powerful he’s ever done (and he even managed a touch of poetry too).
Over and over and over again in his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that those people the religious leaders were excluding and judging were actually accepted and welcomed by Jesus. The only people Jesus ever warned about being “outside” were those religious leaders themselves.
Am I saying “everyone will be saved”? No. Some people don’t want to be saved. What I am saying is that it is mainly the people who want to close the doors for others who are choosing to not be saved. They’re choosing instead to build something that is the opposite of the Kingdom of God: they’re choosing to build an exclusive, exclusionary club, and so – by their own approach – they will be allowed to choose a future where live in a space as small as they wanted it to be, as excluded as they were exclusionary, as rejected as they were rejecting and as sad as they made many seekers of love and truth. Their hell has already started.
This is not what God wants. The story of the history of God is a story of ever expanding inclusion and acceptance (or more accurately, of our ever improving understanding of God’s inherent inclusionary character). From one man and his family, to his tribe and a nation, to their neighbours and eventually to the ends of the earth, and all peoples, nations, tribes and tongues. The story starts in an empty garden and ends in a limitless, sustainable city, open to everyone and capable of accommodating us all.
And, yes: it specifically includes all genders as well.
We are gearing up to start Season 2 of the ALLin podcast. Season 2 will focus on what the Bible teaches and shows us about marriage, and why we are wrong to limit it to “a natural born man and natural born woman” as conservatives now frame it. We will also look at LGBTQI-positive interpretations of Scripture.
It would be really beneficial for you to listen to Season 1 before you dive into Season 2. Season 1 consists of 20 episodes that look at the seven “clobber verses” in the Bible that are typically used to argue that LGBTQI people are somehow breaking God’s natural order and are “abomination” to God. Season 1 also looks at some key issues around definitions of gender, sexual orientation and sexual biology.
To listen to Season 1, please subscribe to ALLin on your podcast player of choice:
Around 2,000 years ago a young, 33 year old, well-known teacher who had gathered quite a following and reputation was brutally beaten and then crucified on a Roman cross outside of Roman-occupied Jerusalem, while being jeered by crowds of Jewish religious leaders and their accolytes (who left their Passover preparations specifically to come and do that). What’s good about that?
You might not hear this in your church, but the answer is “nothing”. In the Christian faith, we don’t celebrate Friday (we commemorate it). We wait for Sunday.
The only thing “good” about this day is WHY Jesus was killed. The first actual Easter Friday was a complete horror show for everyone who supported Jesus. Their dreams were shattered, their hopes destroyed, their futures dark. They didn’t know that Sunday was coming.
Whether you agree with my analysis of the so-called Biblical “clobber verses” in previous blog entries or not, the discussion about LGBTQI issues in the church is really centred on the issue of marriage (and sex). The next few entries in this series will be focused on what the Bible says – and doesn’t say – about marriage.
Since I began my work on this issue over a decade ago, most Christians have shifted from being totally opposed to LGBTQI people to now welcoming them into their churches – even if only as “sinners” who need be “healed”. But they believe and teach that LGBTQI people should be celibate, and they believe that marriage can only be between a “natural man” and a “natural woman”. For them, the actual “sin” of homosexuality is same-sex sexual activity, and since they also believe that sexual activity is confined to marriage, LGBTQI people should neither marry nor have sex.
Most countries that have legalised gay marriage have actually created a new category called “civil unions” rather than including LGBTQI people in laws about marriage – this is largely been done to placate conservative religious groups. Churches are enabled to hide behind this legal distinction, by acknowledging civil unions as legal entities but continuing to deny gay “marriages” in their churches.
In Romans 1, Paul says that women and men were “given over by God” to their “shameful lusts” and did what is “against nature”. What did he mean by this? And does that apply to LGBTQI people today who want to get married to their lifelong, loving partner?
In this episode of the ALLin Pod we do detailed word studies of what it means for something to be shameful and unnatural. Neither of them are what you might expect: they’re related to things that are socially unacceptable, rather than something that is morally wrong or evil.
This changes completely how we should understand this passage.
This is part 2 of the mini-series in the book of Romans, Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In the first chapter of this letter, Paul appears to list a whole lot of sins, including same gender sexual activity. But if you read on into Romans 2, and in fact the rest of the letter, the tone and purpose of the first chapter seems to change. So, what was the purpose of the letter, and what light does that shine on how we should understand chapter 1. Graeme Codrington explores these questions, and comes once again to the same conclusion: that Romans 1 is not addressing loving, consensual LGBTQI relationships at all.
This is a long episode, and we highly recommend that you have a Bible handy to follow along the readings. In fact, we recommend you read the whole letter to the Romans before listening to this episode.
Further readings on the purpose of the letter to the Romans: