CRAMER: Scripture, sexuality and the Church’s call to faithfulness and reform

Jun 24, 2012

We are blessed to live in a community where cordial and respectful conversation on this sensitive question can be engaged charitably. Since a portion of his column was directed to me, I would like to respond as briefly as I can.

It is indeed true that Paget and I come from traditions that have historically viewed Scripture differently — but we both would affirm its primacy. At my ordination vows as a priest, I declared that I believed the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation. At the same time, in our Anglican understanding, we recognize that Scripture is always viewed through an interpretive lens, including the tradition of the Church and our own God-given reason.

I would strongly disagree with Paget about the simplicity of the exegetical issues involved. Scholars of no less a stature than Roman Catholic theologian Luke Timothy Johnson and the theologically conservative scholar Richard Hays have explored these difficulties carefully and fairly. I commend their work to anyone interested.

Paget cites Leviticus 18:22 as direct evidence that homosexuality is a “detestable sin.” The same Hebrew word used there is also used in Leviticus 20:25 to describe eating unclean animals. I wonder if Paget would thus view the eating of shrimp or pork to be a similar detestable sin based upon the clear evidence of Scripture.

He also cites Romans 1:26-26 as a text without nuance. I’d wonder if he would nuance Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6:5 that slaves should practice obedience, a text used for centuries to support the practice of slavery in our own country. Interestingly enough, Paul is talking about people doing what is not natural.

We now know that homosexuality is a natural state for a percentage of the population (both among humans and even among some animals). It is not chosen. Paul is opposed to people rejecting their natural sexual state in the interest of experimentation. If someone is naturally —through no choice of their own — attracted to people of the same-gender, Romans 1 doesn’t seem to apply.

Surely he’d say something about how we are under grace and so the laws of Leviticus no longer apply. Perhaps he’d say that the slavery Paul is talking about in Ephesians is different then slavery as it was practiced in the early years of America. That would sound a bit like a “nuanced” understanding of the Biblical text, however. It’s certainly different than the “plain reading.”

Could it be, perhaps, that what is often called “homosexuality” in Scripture is very different than the faithful, monogamous, same-sex relationships that we have seen in or Church? Leviticus is talking about temple prostitution, Paul’s arguments are based upon an understanding of the sex act where a man is always dominant and where the embryo is included in the seed. He speaks strongly against Greco-Roman practices of pederasty and oppression. Can we condemn those with the voice of Scripture and also acknowledge that they are entirely different than two people committing themselves to one another through self-giving love?

One can find all kinds of views in Scripture and one can find throughout Christian history that our understanding of authorial intent, context, history and linguistic matters has led to the development and change of views as the Spirit has guided the church deeper into all truth — just as Jesus promised would happen in John 16. We now disagree with history and say slavery is wrong. Few Christians today would condemn usury (the lending of money at interest) as intrinsically evil, even though that was the clear reading of text and tradition for thousands of years.

Each generation is called to carefully study the texts of Scripture and the traditions of the church and to ensure that we are truly being faithful to the Gospel message. As the member of a tradition that springs from the Reformation, I trust the Rev. Paget knows the importance of being willing to challenge old assumptions in service to the Gospel of God in Christ.

I pray that through dialogue and discussion such as this, all Christians might come to a deeper understanding of the will of God, based upon a careful and thoughtful reading of Scripture, for the world today.

The Rev. Jared Cramer is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and as dean of the Lakeshore Deanery of the Diocese of Western Michigan.

Comments

jvc

Excellent.

Lenus

Or could we not just believe that all these books/stories about/in the old/new testament and various other biblical books were created be a group of white men during different times/places with a desire/need to control/manipulate the public for their own benefit or those in power using standards/practices that were acceptable during their time; and as mankind has become more educated and knowledgeable about the world around him that these believes/stories are debunked one by one by the scientist in the world.

I know that is a very simplistic view but it fits very well with how many people are finally coming to the realization that the bible like any good Hollywood movie has holes in it for dramatic effects.

There are so many unbelievable stories in the bible that can be proven inaccurate/un-doable by science that it puts into question the entire piece of literature and moves it from non-fiction to fiction.

We might as well debate the various parts of Harry Potter where the story line does coincide with various parts of the books.

newsblogger

White men??? REALLY Lenus?

soip

So sorry Rev. Jared Cramer, there is no gene in the human body that causes a person to be "gay". This is a myth debunked by science itself (go figure), and it is clearly a CHOICE! God does not make mistakes, but he has given us ALL free will to make our own CHOICES, unfortunately some people don't make very good choices. Yes the Leviticus laws condemn homosexuality among some other sins that we may find silly now in this day, true christians are now covered in Grace through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us, that took away the need for sacrifices and other such things that just don't apply to us today.....but one thing holds true and well into the new testament as wrong and still to this day very "SINFUL" and unnatural, which is homosexuality!! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 9 "Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice HOMOSEXUALITY, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Timothy 1:8-11, 8 "We know that the law is good when used correctly. 9 For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. 10 The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice HOMOSEXUALITY, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching 11 that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God." The Bible is not just some book written by a bunch of men. It is God-breathed and should NOT be taken lightly! 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16 "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." God is unchanging, His word is unchanging, and people need to wisen up before its too late!! All I can say is THANK YOU Rev. Ray Paget for continuing to spread God's TRUE word among all those who have waivered in their faith and are spreading false teachings, which is all predicted for the end times! Prayers being lifted up for all.

jvc

Slavery is another one of those "silly" things that holds true in the New Testament as well as the the Old Testament:

Matthew 18:25: "But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."

1 Timothy 6: "Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed."

Swede777

soip says

"there is no gene in the human body that causes a person to be "gay". This is a myth debunked by science itself (go figure), and it is clearly a CHOICE! "

Go figure, "science" itself? Fascinating, I had no idea. I'm very curious, which leading scientific journal expounded this enlightened truth? The International Journal of Biological Sciences? Journal of Theoretical Biology? Perhaps the American Naturalist?

Are you certain your scientific source was devoid of any conservative theological ties?

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,

Joseph

truth

When asked about divorce, Jesus Christ answered and ALSO made a powerful proclaimation of his beliefs on sexuality, read it closely: "Have ye not read, that he [GOD ALMIGHTY] which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." - Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:4-6 KJV). HERE WE HAVE JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF: proclaiming that God Almighty made: 1. Men and Women. 2. To be joined together in Heterosexual marriage and become one flesh. 3. Let no man put the marriage or the marriage process "asunder". This is God / Jesus Christ's own personal plan and beliefs for humans and sexuality: Heterosexual marriage of a man and a woman joined by God. Jesus Christ is making it clear that anyone who teaches contrary to his truth is putting his plan "asunder". As Christians, arent we suppose to follow and accept the words of Jesus Christ? Are we not suppose to believe HIS WORDS VS. THE WORDS OF OTHERS?

truth

Just FYI, if you are interested in learning more about Mr. Cramer's personal life, go to Amazon "wish list" section: http://www.amazon.com/gp/registr... and search: Jared C Cramer in the "find someones list" (before he deletes it). Here you will find a personal photo of his face, and his "wish list" request for various bottles of booze, bullets and violent, wicked "kill em'" video games.

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