Thursday, October 10, 2013

letter 108

Bishop Webb,

Regarding the case of Rev. Steve Heiss officiating at lesbian and gay
weddings, I can imagine that you've heard all the arguments. I would
guess that others have reminded you already that Jesus, upon whom we
base our faith and practice, said nothing about lesbian or gay
sexuality. That in our gospel tradition Jesus himself repeatedly
breaks the law and emphasizes that the law is designed to serve
humanity, not the other way around. That Jesus reserves his sharpest
criticism for those he calls “hypocrites” and worse, who use law and
custom to withhold compassion and generosity from the people who need
it most. That Jesus emphasizes that the greatest law is to show our
love for God by loving one another – including outsiders, “strangers,”
and enemies! – and demonstrates that love himself by healing,
touching, feeding, freeing, and forgiving.

I can imagine that others have already pointed out the biblical laws
that few or no Christians currently concern ourselves with, found
alongside those troubling verses in Leviticus. Laws that prohibit
eating pork, lobster, shrimp, and assorted other delicious seafood.
That prohibit tattoos, bowl hair cuts, most modern vegetable gardens,
polyester-cotton blends, gossip, and working on Sunday. Even those
that may have died a bit harder, like the laws prohibiting attendance
at church by disabled people, eunuchs, and children whose parents were
unmarried. Like women in authority. And yet which most Christians
consider dated or archaic.

I suspect that other letters have even mentioned that the bible
probably doesn't say what you think it says about lesbian and gay
sexuality. That, rather than condemning the behavior of loving,
committed consensual adults, the biblical “clobber passages” are
arguably referring instead to ritualistic fertility orgies or other
religious worship practices by neighboring cultures and communities.
That the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the story of vain sacrifices
(Isaiah 1), adultery and lies (Jeremiah 23), haughtiness and idolatry
(Ezekiel 16:49-50), pride (Ecclesiasticus 16:8), and wickedness and
inhospitality (Wisdom of Solomon).

Others may even have pointed out the number of lesbian, gay, and
gender nonconforming biblical characters – such as Jonathan and David,
Ruth and Naomi, the Roman centurion, Lydia, Prisca and Aquila,
Deborah, Hatach, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the magi – who are
presented as models and exemplars of chesed (lovingkindness) and

I suspect that you know all of this already. I'm sure that others have
brought these things to your attention as your conversation with Rev.
Steve Heiss has progressed, and I would imagine that one does not
become a Bishop within the United Methodist Church without knowing the
bible intimately.

And so the issue is not what you know, but what you do. The question
is whether you will be a dutiful and conscientious scribe or Pharisee
of the law, or whether you will set out for Jerusalem – turn toward
confrontation and take on the powers that oppose God's loving and
expansive rule, whatever the cost. Whether you will, in fact, bring
good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery
of sight to the blind,
let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the
year of our God's favor. I pray that you will.


Rev. Miller Jen Hoffman
Open Door Metropolitan Community Church

No comments:

Post a Comment