Local minister: First Baptist Church should retract statement on 'biblical sexuality'
Sadly, I am coming to terms with the fact that the church's sexuality and gender wars, which began long before I drew breath, will indeed outlive me. I began my ministry in the early 2000s, at the height of the debate over ordaining lesbian, gay and bisexual pastors and church leaders. Then came same-sex marriage, followed by the ordination of transgender and nonbinary pastors.
With each the rhetoric got more heated and the attacks drew more blood. In those debates, we’ve largely forgotten that LGBT folk are people, not issues. So our debates, which treat our fellow humans more like “issues” or “talking points,” have inflicted more harm than most of us will ever know. I’m exhausted and I bet most of you are, too.
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But I want to implore the Rev. Heath Lambert of First Baptist Church to take at least one more action: Retract your Statement on Biblical Sexuality.
At about 60 words, no statement can encompass the variety of sexuality practiced by many of the revered in the biblical narrative. Father Abraham, for example, fulfilled God’s promise to have countless descendants not only with his wife Sara, but also with their handmaiden, Hagar. Wise King Solomon built up both the temple and a harem. The Ethiopian man in Acts, who so desired the Christian life that he is baptized in the next available body of water, was a eunuch — a sexual outsider in his own day.
These examples (and countless others) comprise “biblical sexuality,” too.
I know the passage from Leviticus that describes men lying together as an “abomination” is a powerful statement, but what does it mean that the remarriage of divorced women and eating shellfish are described with the same Hebrew word? Also compelling is the prohibition in Romans against same-sex relations, but it’s fair to ask how their first-century practice, often tied to conquest and sex trafficking, might affect the Apostle Paul’s perspective.
Of course, there is the “go-to” verse in Matthew, where Jesus says God made marriage for a man and a woman. However, that verse only becomes about same-sex marriage when you remove it from the larger teaching that surrounds it. Jesus was answering a question about divorce, saying that any man who divorces a faithful wife is a sinner. Jesus’ words are actually about heterosexual marriage and the men that mess them up, not same-sex marriages.
Again, 60 words aren’t enough.
One thing we can agree on is that marriage is much more than a governmental action. Any couple in a healthy marriage can tell you that it is a deeply mysterious and spiritual experience: That includes the same-sex couples I’ve married and celebrated over the years, couples whose faithfulness to Christ’s teachings I have had no reason to doubt. Those whose orientation and identity did nothing to keep them from loving God or their neighbor, a love that Christ places at the center of the Christian life.
However, I find myself reeling that you’ve created a statement that in essence negates the existence of very real people with very real lives. If only males and females exist, then trans and non-binary folk can’t exist. It’s difficult to imagine a greater hell to manufacture for another human being than one in which their very existence is denied.
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How many times will we have to see that exact belief undergirding virtually every atrocity committed by human hands before we finally acknowledge how deadly serious it is?
I know that Rev. Lambert has compared LGBT folk to undisciplined toddlers playing near an unfenced pool, but that’s as untrue as it is belittling. I’ve served alongside these siblings in Christ. I’ve married same-sex couples and been enriched in my own faith by them.
Their love and commitment to be a part of a community that has repeatedly rejected them is a sign of both their calling and compassion: Something from which we could all learn something. They are not “other.” They’re the neighbors Jesus told you to love, and who would show the same love back if you could just give them space to exist — a space devoid of "statements."
The Rev. Brandon Frick, Orange Park
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: First Baptist Church statement overlooks much sexuality shown in Bible