A Presbyterian theologian is visiting several churches this fall refuting the common Christian interpretation of the Bible that Jesus and Scripture opposes homosexuality.
Jack Rogers, professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary, is trying to get a positive word out in the Christian churches about the gay and lesbian community and thinks churches should be leading the charge for their equal rights.
"I'm trying to help people understand that the Bible rightly interpreted, which I would think is through the lens of Jesus' redemptive life and ministry ... does not condemn Christian people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered," said Rogers, according to The Lawrence Journal-World.
He makes that argument in the book Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church. The former Fuller Theological Seminary professor and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) launched his fall book tour last week and is currently making stops at churches and ministries to speak on the controversial topic.
Rogers says those who argue that the Bible condemns gays and lesbians are taking biblical literalism too far and feels there is excessively negative words in the religious community, according to the Journal-World.
His fall tour comes as Daniel Karslake's documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" was set to release in Manhattan on Friday. The film supports homosexuals and presents the religious right as misusing the Bible to condemn gay people.
Amid increasing efforts by some to equate the condemnation of sin with the condemnation of sinners, conservative critics have expressed regret over what they say is a misapplication of Scripture.
"Scripture is God's Word written," communications coordinator Jenny Noyes of the conservative Anglican Communion Network has said. "Man's sinful mis-application of Scripture does not negate the authority or truth of it today."
The Anglican Communion Network along with the worldwide Anglican Communion holds that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. Most mainline denominations stand on similar positions but have been wracked with division as homosexuality has become one of the most hotly debated issues in the Church today.
Craig Detweiler, director of Reel Spirituality, a think-tank for pastors and filmmakers at Fuller Theological Seminary said Karslake's documentary "represents one side (pro-homosexual) of an ongoing argument, and the filmmakers seemed very interested in evoking a reaction."
"I think film at its best starts conversations, but this conversation will continue for quite some time," he said, according to The Canadian Press.
Since his book release in 2006, Rogers has given some 60 presentations on the debated topic and a third of his audiences have been gay and lesbian people wanting to hear that God loves them, he said.
While more evangelical Christians have come to recognize the need to preach love to homosexuals, they say they are trying to meet that need – but without compromising the truth.
"Often Christians think that to love a homosexual is a compromise of their Christianity, that somehow their love would be misconstrued as condoning homosexuality," according to Christine Sneeringer, director of Worthy Creations, an Exodus International ministry – one of the nation's largest organizations dealing with homosexuality.
But Christians are called to love their neighbor, she said, and a Christian's message must balance love and truth – the truth being that homosexuality is a sin.
Ex-gay Tim Wilkins, a Baptist, also teaches congregations across the country that the Church has a responsibility to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. At the same time, however, he tells them they have a responsibility to share the redemptive message of Christ.
"Homosexuality is a sin and freedom from same-sex attractions is available through Jesus Christ," he says.
Rogers, who acknowledges in his book that he has not specialized in the issue as a biblical scholar, says he did not always support homosexuality. It wasn't until his pastor charged him in 1993 to be a part of a study at the church on the issue and after months of studying the Bible on matter of homosexuality that Rogers had a change of heart. And now he's sharing that change of his understanding with other Christians.
Rogers' next lecture and book signing is scheduled for Oct. 9 at Grace Covenant Church in Overland Park, Kan.