Faith leaders and lay people from numerous denominations and religions will convene next month at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Baltimore conference to “strategize on how to bring more faith allies into the LGBT movement and how best to counter religious-based bigotry.”
A growing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-affirming religious groups are adopting religious messages to address what they deem as bigotry. Rather than referencing biblical passages that recount homosexual sex as an “abomination,” progressive Christian leaders are spreading messages of inclusion, openness and acceptance of committed same-sex marriages that are honorable to God.
“These people are grasping at straws, they’re looking for anything that they can lay claim to or get a hold of to defend their position,” said Craig Vincent Mitchell, associate professor of ethics for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Groups such as Believe Out Loud and Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists partner with LGBT advocacy groups to increase the number churches that are inclusive of “married” LGBT couples. They accomplish this goal with advertisement campaigns targeting pastors and church members and in some cases, petitions and protests.
The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists petitioned the Southern Baptist Convention’s June conference for affirming that "homosexuality is not a 'valid alternative lifestyle.'”
Derek McCoy, an assistant pastor of Hope Christian Church, said he has attended similar LGBT religious alliance meetings as the one planned for January where religious leaders were coached on how to discuss homosexuality in church. There, he said, activist groups encouraged pastors, “Make sure you use verses like ‘We are fearfully and wonderfully made.’”
McCoy, also the leader of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, said the verse expresses God’s truth about humanity but he said the underlying message is “the way that they are made is equated to the way that anybody else is made so therefore any lifestyle they choose is equitable to what Scripture says.”
McCoy called the meetings “a disingenuous process.”
LGBT-affirming religious groups base their argument for equality on the theology of progressive faith leaders such as Bill Wylie-Kellerman.
Wylie-Kellerman, the Detroit pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, said in an online debate for Newsweek, “I love the Bible, and stake my life in the biblical witness.”
He also said he believes it calls him to “struggle for full inclusion of gay people and their gifts.”
Wylie-Kellerman argued the law in Leviticus barring the Israelites from homosexual relations was part of a purity code meant to keep the Israelites separate from Babylon. Because Jesus welcomed the “unclean” to him throughout his life’s ministry and fulfilled the purity code in his body on the cross, Wylie-Kellerman asserted, “In Christ, there is neither gay nor straight.”
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, refuted Wylie-Kellerman’s argument, stating, “The Bible does not accept homosexual behavior of any kind, nor does it call on Christians or society to treat homosexual behavior as normal.”
Instead, according to Southwestern’s Mitchell, the Bible’s message of salvation encourages Christians to free themselves of their sinful innate nature in order to become more like Christ.
LGBT-affirming religious groups that are using Scripture to plead for same-sex marriage, he said, “don’t really care about the truth. In the end, they just want to hold on to their sin.”