(Photo: courtesy the National Cathedral)
The dean of one of the largest churches in the world recently declared during a sermon that homophobia is a sin, while at the same time, making no mention as to whether homosexuality may also be one.
In a sermon delivered Sunday at the Washington National Cathedral, The Very Reverend Gary Hall declared that "much of the blame belongs to our churches" in spreading hatred of gay people.
"Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin. Shaming people because their gender identity doesn't fit neatly into your sense of what it should be is a sin," said Hall, who is the Tenth Dean of The Episcopal Church's Cathedral. "Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Hall explained that his sermon was part of a weekend of events and observances meant to draw awareness and acceptance of LGBT youth.
"My decision to preach on the issue arose out of a desire for the church to address the crisis faced by LGBT youth, and the Cathedral hosted those events as a way to address that crisis," said Hall. "As a highly visible Christian institution, Washington National Cathedral wants to do all it can to let young people know that their sexual orientation is a gift, and the religious question should be about how they responsibly use that gift."
When asked by CP if he felt homosexuality was a sin, Hall responded that it is "not for me to say," adding that he felt such a view "is a misreading of the Bible."
"The scriptures devote little space or energy to sexual relationships, and we have read our own obsession with sexual issues back onto the text," said Hall. "When I look to Jesus, I see someone who was compassionate, empathetic, and inviting to all people regardless of their status. For me to say that I believe homophobia to be a sin does not mean that I will stop talking to people with a different understanding of sexuality than I have."
As part of the events held at the Cathedral, the mothers of Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi were invited to the church for a discussion on the legacies of their sons.
"Fifteen years ago this month, Matthew Shepard was killed in Laramie, Wyoming. Three years ago last month, Tyler Clementi committed suicide in New York City. Matthew was 21 when he died, Tyler 18," said Hall in the introduction of his sermon. "Both young men were gay. We here at the cathedral are taking this weekend both to remember and honor Matthew and Tyler and to commit ourselves to standing with and for LGBT youth."
Jeff Walton, Anglican program director at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP that Hall's remarks were unsurprising given his activist background.
"Hall is an activist liberal clergyman, he has long pushed for the normalization of homosexual practices. What has changed is that Hall no longer sees room for those who disagree with his viewpoint," said Walton. "They are bullies and agents of intolerance who must be silenced for the sake of justice, in his view."
Walton also told CP that he felt Hall's sermon was attempting to make moral objection to homosexuality a "thought crime," and that homophobia, while wrong, should not be considered a sin.
"Phobias are irrational fears - they may be wrong-minded, but are not sinful in and of themselves. What we do in response to those fears is what we are accountable for," said Walton. "Hall is attempting to make disapproval of homosexual practice into a sort of thought crime, where merely stating the traditionally understood biblical view of marriage and sexuality is equated with bullying."
The Washington National Cathedral belongs to The Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Built under the idea of being a 'House of Prayer for all nations', the Cathedral allows for non-Episcopal groups to meet and worship.