Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Christians for Biblical Equality Vis-a-Vis Where Gender & Sexual Orientation Intersect

(My apologies for the more sporadic posting as of late here--in  addition to my regular writing schedule at the church, I am also currently working on a paper for submission to a professional organization I belong to, and that has taken up a significant chunk of my writing time this month.  I should be back to blogging on my regular Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday schedule by February.  Thanks for your patience! -E.A.)

I have been sitting on a post of this nature for some time, but I think I'm finally ready to write it.

Let it be said, first of all, that I am 100% on board with equality of gender as it pertains to authority in the church, and I always have been.  I was raised by a female senior pastor, and so even after being introduced to texts like Titus 2 or 1 Timothy 2, I could never for the life of me understand the fuss about the idea that only men could be preachers and teachers.  I adamantly believe that the capacity to teach and prophesy knows no gender boundaries, as evinced by many extraordinarily talented female preachers I have the privilege of being friends with.

And for much the same reason I believe in the cause of equality of sexual orientation, again as it pertains to authority in the church: just as teaching and prophesying knows no bounds on the basis of gender, nor does it on the basis of sexual orientation either...again, as evinced by many extraordinarily talented gay and lesbian preachers I have the privilege of being friends with.

In other words: from my perspective*, the goal of achieving equal Biblical authority on the basis of gender is nearly identical to the goal of achieving equal Biblical authority on the basis of sexual orientation, and even to the goal of achieving equal Biblical privilege as regards same-sex marriage.

(* And this should be said: this perspective is that of a heterosexual man.  The discrimination that occurs in both arenas benefits me at the direct expense of my female, gay, and lesbian colleagues.)

What bothers me, then, is when otherwise pretty terrific organizations like Christians for Biblical Equality are so dedicated to one goal, but not the other.

My concern largely arises from the dissonance between CBE's stated mission and core values and their statement of faith.

To wit, their stated mission of all believers regardless of gender, ethnicity, or class must exercise equal authority is great.  While they are primarily concerned with equality between women and men, they recognize that sexism, racism, and classism all can and do intersect, and that engaging one necessarily means engaging all three.  CBE even doubles down on this goal, adding a specific section beneath their core values addressing injustice, writing (verbatim):

CBE recognizes that injustice is an abuse of power, taking from others what God has given them: their dignity, their freedom, their resources, and even their very lives. CBE also recognizes that prohibiting individuals from exercising their God-given gifts to further his kingdom constitutes injustice in a form that impoverishes the body of Christ and its ministry in the world at large. CBE accepts the call to be part of God’s mission in opposing injustice as required in Scriptures such as Micah 6:8.

Palpably absent, though, from any of this is any mention of sexual orientation...although in their statement of faith, CBE writes: "We believe in the family, celibate singleness, and faithful heterosexual marriage as God's design." (emphasis mine)

What the what.

In other words--interpreting Scripture to include women as full partners in the church (which, again, I completely agree with): okay.  Interpreting Scripture to include lesbian women (or other gay persons) as full partners in the church: not okay.

What I heard from those two different statements was, "It is required by God and by Scripture to oppose injustice.  But we're perfectly fine being unjust to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ by denying them access to marriage."

If you're like me and see the intersectionality of sexism and homophobia in the church as intertwined, I'm not sure how this comes across as anything other than a double standard.

What makes this even more frustrating for me is twofold: one, CBE clearly understands how these things do intersect, since they are committed not just to eradicating gender discrimination in the church but ethnic and class discrimination as well, but they choose not to extend that support to gay and lesbian Christians.  And two, CBE is endorsed by a great many Christian leaders whom I respect and have followed for a long time, folks like Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, and Tony Campolo.

My hope and prayer is that Christians for Biblical Equality would prayerfully and seriously consider expanding their stated mission to address the inequality suffered by gay and lesbian Christians, and that they would amend their statement of faith to eliminate the sentence about heterosexual marriage.

I'm not a fool--I realize that is probably not going to happen, and certainly not because some self-righteous doofus like me with a blog asked them to after publicly criticizing them on said blog.

But if enough people ask them to...well, who knows what might happen?

I'm just sayin'.

Christians for Biblical Equality has not responded to a request for comment that I sent earlier today.  If that changes, I will be sure to update this post accordingly.  If you would like to contact them yourself, their contact page is here.

Yours in Christ,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, Eric and for pointing this. It was information I did not know. Look forward to hearing if you get a response. Take good care.