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A Change to The Gathering

During the week I got a message from The Gathering, a gay men’s spiritual group.

The Gathering was formed in 2005 and since this time we have contributed widely to the LGBT Community and in particular the faith and spiritual aspects of the Community. Since The Gathering formed, the range of opportunities for gay Christians to meet, discuss and explore has increased; there’s a number of events during the year, organized both by churches and by other groups… Following the recent consultation and after careful consideration it has been decided to suspend the regular meetings of The Gathering.Many of the groups especially those within church’s did not exist when The Gathering first formed and it is most encouraging that a much wider and more mainstream selection now exists within the wider church community.

You can read the full announcement on The Gathering’s website.

The Gathering has been an important part of the LGBT fabric of Belfast over the past few years. The first LGBT Christian event I attended was their carol service in 2007, and I am very pleased to see that they still intend to hold their annual carol service.

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Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy Revisited

Andrew McFarland Campbell

My paper on 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy was discussed on a Facebook group recently. One of the contributors made some interesting points about it, and I want to address them here.

I have read your article, and if I could sum up your thesis in one sentence, it would be, “1 Cor. 6:9-10 is vague and we cannot know with any confidence what it means; thus it is irrelevant to us.” It appears you are effectively marginalizing the Apostle Paul’s teachings on morality.

This is not an accurate summary of my position. The words malakos and arsenokoites, which are used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, are essentially impossible to translate. We cannot know what they mean. This does not mean that they are irrelevant to us, and I am certainly not marginalising Paul’s teachings. In the paper I look at Christ’s teachings as well, and use them to understand…

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“Don’t think I have come to make life cozy”

Here I am sitting while wearing the pink hooide. The principle is the same though. Photo: Michael Carchrie Campbell

Here I am sitting while wearing the pink hooide. The principle is the same though. Photo: Michael Carchrie Campbell

Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy.

Hard words indeed. In fact if they weren’t said by Christ himself, we might question whether or not they were actually Christian at all. Christ is about love, and meekness, and compassion, yet he said “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God.” (Matthew 10:34-39)

Very hard words.

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” That is a quote, not from Jesus Christ, but from Winston Churchill, but I think it helps us understand today’s reading.

If you have enemies it means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life. There are many things a Christian must stand up for, and therefore being a Christian can sometimes mean you attract enemies. Your life is not cozy when you have enemies.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution [, said Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:10-12.] The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

There are things you stand for when you are a Christian—things like love, and compassion, and meekness—and because you stand for those things people sometimes don’t like you.

Between us, my husband Michael and I run Faith and Pride. We believe that you can be gay and Christian. That is what we stand for when we stand in our pink hoodies. As you can imagine that attracts a certain amount of negative attention, both from the Old-Testament-placard-waving and tract-distributing Christians that everyone in Belfast is familiar with, and from gay people who are aggressively secular, the gay people who would prefer that Christ is completely absent from Pride Week.

I won’t lie. That negative attention can be very wearing at times.

Don’t think that I have come to make life cozy.

Those aren’t really hard words. Like everything else Christ said, they are words of compassion. Like Winston Churchill, Jesus knew that standing for something means you make enemies. He warned us about that. When your life as a Christian is difficult, because of your Christian stance on any issue, we can be comforted in the knowledge that these difficulties were not unexpected. “What it means [said Jesus] is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds.”

Being a Christian isn’t always easy. Walking as Christ would have us walk, turning the other cheek and forgiving seventy times seven is hard in and of itself. Somewhat oddly, that meekness sometimes gives us enemies. When those enemies make our walk difficult we should remember that, because it is a Christian walk, all heaven applauds.

Andrew McFarland Campbell’s Very Short Guide to Debunking The Six Traditional Clobber Passages

There are six passages traditionally used to say you can’t be gay and Christian: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

Genesis 19 is about gang rape. Anyone who says this has anything to say about consensual relationships has bigger problems than Biblical interpretation.

Leviticus is part of the Law of Moses, which is not binding on Christians. In any case the verses use an obscure Hebrew idiom that is rather unclear (as can been seen in the KJV translation).

Romans 1 26 and 27 does speak about same-sex relationships in a negative light, but then again verses 25 and 25 speak about opposite-sex relationships in an equally negative light. Nobody believes that Romans 1 teaches you can’t be straight and Christian.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 use an obscure Greek word, arsenokoites, which is also used to refer to heterosexual sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also uses the word malakos, which is not a sexual term. If these passages were supposed to be about same-sex relationships, the writer could have used a lot of other, more common, terms.

Belfast Pride Parade Day

Today is Belfast Pride‘s parade day. We are holding two events.

  • A group of gay (and gay friendly) Christians will be supporting the parade. We will be gathering at St George’s Church on High Street from 10.30. More details… (Facebook event page). If you are on the parade, give us a wave as you go past!
  • Our final 15 minutes with Christ is at 6pm in St George’s. More details… (Facebook event page).

For full details of Belfast Pride itself, check their website.

On Being Offensive

A few people have suggested to me that I gave my Faith and Pride talk, Jonathan Loved David, to be offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gave that talk because it was what I sincerely believe, and I thought other people would be interested in what I had to say. Faith and Pride isn’t about being argumentative or offensive, it is about putting forward an alternative point of view. It is about saying that you can be gay and Christian.

There are some Christians who find that offensive. Equally well, there are some Christians who find it offensive to say that you can’t be gay and Christian. However, just because one group has beliefs that are offensive to another group, it doesn’t mean that the first group should be afraid to say what it believes.

This isn’t just confined to issues surrounding gay people and Christianity. Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith has this to say about the Pope.

There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, section VI

There can be no doubt that that statement is offensive to Catholics. Does that mean that churches that adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster,  shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs? Or maybe Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs because they are offensive to Free Presbyterians?

This even goes beyond issues that only concern Christians. The majority of Jews and Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, which is a position that is offensive to the majority of Christians. Does that mean that Jews and Muslims should not be able to express their beliefs, lest a Christian is offended? Or maybe it is Christians who should remain silent, for fear of offending people from other faiths. Taking it a step further, many atheists find any expression of a belief in god offensive, and many people of faith find an expression of atheism offensive. Should one group be silenced to avoid offending another?

In Northern Ireland, we understand what it is like to live in a society without religious tolerance. We know how damaging that can be. In Northern Ireland we are learning what it is like to live in a society with religious tolerance, and we are seeing how wonderful that is. Religious tolerance means you can freely believe whatever you want, but that means you must also allow other people to believe what they want. Putting it another way, you have the right to stand up and say what you believe, but you do not have the right to stop someone else standing up and saying what they believe, no matter how much it offends you.

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