|Homosexuality and the Bible: The Debate Continues
of several denominations are today involved in a painful and difficult debate
over the degree to which lesbian and homosexual persons should be welcomed to
serve as ministers or in other capacities as leaders of churches. We are privileged
to bring two thoughtful, but opposing perspectives to the GodWeb.
When you've had an opportunity to read the papers written by our two "presenters,"
please take a moment to let us know what you think. You can either send your reaction
and viewpoint directly to Charles Henderson, or participate in the online discussion
at the CrossCurrents Forum. But, first, to introduce our
protagonists, we turn to Barbara Wheeler, Director of the Center for the Study of Theological Education as Auburn Seminary
in New York:
is no doubt that the issue we are discussing here it a tough one. Not since slavery,
in my estimation, has there been an issue that has as much potential to divide
the religious communities as this one. The Presbyterian denomination to which
the participants in this discussion are all linked is a good example. For more
than twenty years the Presbyterians have been locked in unremitting conflict over
the question of whether to ordain minister and officers who are openly homosexual.
And the potential for the Presbyterian Church to split over the issue remains
very real. From the perspective of persons who identify themselves as lesbian,
gay or bisexual, the issue is also critical, whether they are members of congregations
or not. In this country religion still plays a major role in forming social attitudes
and in supporting or undermining those attitudes that are already formed. So what
we in the churches teach about homosexuality affects the lives of many more people
than our own members. That responsibility seems to me to make a difficult issue
even more difficult and important.
The infamous John Mitchell
said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We are pleased that
we can present in this forum two tough Biblical scholars who can help us think
about this question in relation to the Bible, to the texts that form and sustain
us as communities of Christians and Jews.
Bible scholars have
gotten a bad reputation in recent decades. Many people think of them as obsessed
with small sections of scripture and uninterested in contemporary social and religious
issues. Our quests do not fit that stereotype.
Ulrich Mauser, educated in Germany and Professor of New Testament at Princeton
Seminary, has taught at three theological schools during his career, serving as
academic dean at one of them. All along he has focused on the meaning of the scriptures
for what we actually believe and do as a people of faith. His books and articles
focus not on texts by themselves but on their theological meaning, often in relation
to real world issues. His most recent book, for instance, is The Gospel of
Peace: A Scriptural Message For Today's World. During the last two years,
Professor Mauser has joined some of his colleagues at Princeton to issue public
statements on burning issues in the church: one of these focused on the ordination
of homosexuals. He is not the sort of Bible scholar who hides in the library.
is Walter Wink. Until recently, Dr. Wink was Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Seminary,
an assignment that took him to several dozen different cities each year to teach.
Formerly he taught at Union Seminary and before that was pastor of a Methodist
Church in Texas. He is well known for pioneering a method of Bible study for use
in churches and for a three volume series of books on the principalities and powers.
He not only writes about principalities and powers but mixes it up with them as
well. He has been involved in movements for non-violent social change in this
country, South Africa and other parts of the world, and written and spoken widely
about non-violence, disabilities, homosexuality and other contemporary topics.
are grateful to both Dr. Mauser and Dr. Wink for participating in this forum."
read either presentation:
Dr. Walter Wink