One of the first things I decided when planning my travel was that I don’t want to check any baggage. Anyone who has flown frequently knows how much a checked suitcase can tie you up upon arrival and I want to avoid that problem as much as possible. That means that I am going to have to fit everything I need for a week into a space that 21 in. x 9 in. x 15 in. plus a personal item. Can I do it?
I think I may have to make some tough decisions to make. I’ve already decided that I’m not going to take my laptop and I may have some withdrawal issues there! And, as much as I like to talk up my book, I’ll probably only be able to bring a few copies. But what else might I have to leave behind? What will I just not be able to fit?
An Open Mind
As many will know, this General Assembly has received an unprecedented number of overtures that touch on LGBTQ issues. Normally, when these kinds of overtures are received, there isn’t a lot of discussion to be had during the assembly because they are simply sent off to some committee or another to bring back a report to a future assembly. I was glad to see that this time that is not what is going to happen. There are plans to block out a substantial amount of time to discuss the issues and the impacts of change in table groups and in other ways. This process will be led, most ably I am certain, by the Moderator, Karen Horst.
Nope, I don’t have room to pack my Bible. The thing will just take too much space. But that is okay because I do have the Bible on my Ipad mini. Anything I read during the week, it will have to be from that. But it’s not just about how much physical space my Bible takes up. I am also wondering how much space the Bible will take in our considerations.
1) Genesis 19
2) Judges 19
3) 1 Timothy 1
4) Leviticus 18 / 20 (Both chapters say basically the same thing)
5) Romans 1
6) 1 Corinthians 6
As far as I can see, Genesis 19 and Judges 19 do not really apply to our discussions. They are accounts of attempted gang rape that is rightfully condemned. We’re not talking about tolerating rape so they hardly apply. Since 1 Timothy is merely a reference to the immorally of what happens in Genesis 19, it also doesn’t apply.
The Leviticus passages also don’t really apply. They are part of a holiness code – intended to set the Hebrew people apart from their neighbours in primarily cultural ways. We regularly ignore many of the precepts of the holiness code and conclude they don’t apply to us so there is no real reason to think that these teachings should apply to us.
That leaves the two brief passages that come to us from the Apostle Paul (no, I don’t think that Paul wrote 1 Timothy, but that is another discussion). I tend to think that, what the apostle is rejecting in these passages is the sorts of same sex relations that he observed or heard about in his world – relationships that were not consensual and that generally reflected one person exercising power over another. We wouldn’t want to affirm those kinds of relationships either.
Also, I think that Paul is clearly operating out of a very different understanding of the issue from the one that we must confront. We understand the issues in terms of sexual orientation and how people may best live out their lives with the orientation that is a given for them. This is a way of talking about these things that was completely foreign to any understanding in the ancient world. That means that we and Paul are not exactly talking about the same thing.
But… what if I am wrong. What if a deep examination of the passages, the original language, the full historical context demands that I conclude that Paul really intended for these passages to apply to our judgments in the modern world? Would that make me change my mind? I don’t think so. I am not inclined to allow a couple of passages, even if their interpretation were crystal clear, overrule what I see as the central Gospel message of treating the outsider with respect – a message of acceptance and grace.