LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The issue of whether or not the church should embrace homosexuality comes down to its acceptance or denial of the authority of Scripture, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a national television audience on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on June 15.
The church is called lovingly to confront the sin of homosexuality and all other sins with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“The first thing [to consider is] whether or not as Christians, God has set a standard to which we are obligated,” Mohler said. “The issue is, always has been and always will be, the authority of Scripture.
“The Scripture very clearly tells us that our Creator has a purpose for our sexuality and that homosexuality among other sins is a violation of that purpose, and so love compels us to tell people the truth and also, as we understand the depth of their struggle with this, to tell them that there is a way out.”
Mohler and six other panelists addressed the topic of homosexuality in the church. Panelists included Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Anglican bishop; Andrew Sullivan, a homosexual and a Time magazine columnist; Jo Hudson, a lesbian who pastors the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas; David Anderson, president and CEO of the Anglican American Council; Michael Manning, a Roman Catholic priest; and Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA).
Homosexuality and the church have been a prominent topic in the news of late in light of the Episcopal Church’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Three years ago the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson in New Hampshire as the first openly homosexual bishop in the denomination’s long history. The denomination is deeply divided over the ordination of homosexuals and some analysts predict a split.
Hudson, a United Church of Christ minister who pastors one of the largest homosexual congregations in America, said God created her as a homosexual and thus being in a same-sex relationship is “wholly and completely” natural.
“I have a wonderful, living, dynamic relationship with God,” Hudson said. “And I know, in the core of my being, that the most natural way for me to be is exactly who I am.”
Mohler said he sympathizes with the desire of anyone who wishes to know God, but that a church that fails to follow Scripture and instead celebrates diversity is bound to celebrate sin.
“[T]he Gospel is about repenting of sin, not celebrating it,” Mohler said. “A church that buys into the logic of [celebrating a diversity of views on sexuality] is a church that’s obligated to ordain homosexuals openly and unrepentant or anyone else because it has moved away from the clear authority of Scripture.
“A church that worships diversity is a church that’s destined to accept a death knell, because the church itself is grounded in truth. The true church always celebrates the truth.”
Sullivan, an openly homosexual Catholic, accused evangelicals of forcing their own interpretation upon Scripture to prove the sinfulness of homosexuality. He pointed out that the Old Testament prescribes the death penalty for homosexuals.
“I say the Scripture is clear and Scripture says that I should be put to death,” Sullivan said. “The very verse that says that ‘[You] shall not lie with another man as one does with a woman,’ says that I should face the death penalty. That’s clear…. Why is that not taken seriously?”
But Mohler pointed out the importance of understanding Scripture within its proper context. The death penalty for homosexuality was given as a law for Old Testament Israel, he said. With the advent of the new covenant, Christ has now borne the death penalty in the place of sinners and thus the theocratic laws that governed Old Testament Israel are no longer binding, Mohler said.
Although homosexuals no longer face capital punishment, their behavior is still sin according to the Bible, he said. The majority of Christians throughout history have understood the Bible this way, he said.
“There is always the danger that we will read our interpretation of Scripture,” Mohler said. “That’s why for one thing we’re dependent upon how Christians have read the Scriptures for centuries in which there has been a universal consensus about what the Scriptures had to say about sexuality.”
Robinson said Christians must follow Jesus’ example in continually “reinterpreting Scripture.” He said the key to Christianity is what is “in one’s heart” and that Jesus would embrace homosexuals just as they are.
“We follow a person [Jesus] who was always reinterpreting Scripture and letting people know that it’s the spirit of what’s going on in one’s heart that is the real key and when he said ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ it means that we need to be moving to the margins, doing justice work, working against racism,” Robinson said.
“[These are] all kinds of things that Jesus would be doing in this day and time. I have no question in my mind that Jesus considers me beloved — just as I am.”
Mohler, though, said Scripture is clear in teaching that homosexuality is a sin. Christians merely are sinners who have been saved by God’s grace from not only homosexuality but also from various other sins, Mohler said. Thus, there is forgiveness for homosexuals and sinners of all types through faith in Jesus Christ, he said.
“I know the one thing that must not change is this: as one sinner saved by grace to other sinners, I say come to Jesus Christ and come no newness of life,” Mohler said. “It will change your sex life … It will change every dimension of your life … by the grace and mercy of God.”