PCUSA ministry launches 'Queering the Bible' project aimed at 'creating some new theologies'

A Holy Bible lays on rainbow flags.
A Holy Bible lays on rainbow flags. | Getty Images

A ministry tied to the Presbyterian Church (USA) is "Queering the Bible" to celebrate LGBT pride this summer. 

The PCUSA project Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice is kicking off the new series "Queering the Bible" with a 16-part study of the Gospel of Mark that will run through July 22. 

Rev. Lee Catoe, the project's editor, told Presbyterian News Service that the study looks at the Gospel as a way of "learning about how we experience God as queer folk, and how we experience Scripture as queer people."

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"Mark has some very interesting stories that speak about inclusion and what that means, that has stories where Jesus is encountering people who have different experiences, marginalized folk, and so I just think it speaks to the queer experience, very much, right now," Catoe said.

According to Catoe, the inspiration for "Queering the Bible" came from a desire to go beyond rainbow flags and t-shirts during the LGBT pride ritual and challenge PCUSA to "go deeper in our welcoming of queer folk."

He said the Gospel of Mark was a perfect introduction to the series because of its length.

The "Queering" Mark 1 study by Rev. Benjamin Perry, for instance, compares John the Baptist's experience to those of LGBT individuals.

"LGBTQIA+ people have long lived like John, holding in our voices and bodies a love that transcends the ways culture tries to confine it — crying out in the wilderness about what will not only free us, but what will liberate all people," Perry writes.

In the conversation with Presbyterian News Service, Catoe suggested traditional biblical hermeneutics have contributed to Mark and other texts being "interpreted in very unhealthy ways," specifically because of the theological groundwork of "straight white men."

"Oftentimes when we're looking at Scripture, historically, it's been a lot of straight white men who have interpreted Scripture and then creating theologies," he said. "So, when we're talking about queering the Bible, we really are wanting to have the voice of queer folk, trans folk, who read Scripture, look at Scripture and interpret that Scripture through that lens."

He added that "Queering the Bible" focuses on "going against all the heteronormative ways that Scripture has been interpreted and creating some new theologies that we can use."

PCUSA did not respond to a request for comment by The Christian Post.

Unbound is published by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and works with the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Unbound's website state that it is "guided by the policies of the Church but open to sometimes-controversial new ideas, challenges, and matters of self-critique."

"Unbound is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church USA but holds to the ecumenical voice of the Church universal," the website reads. 

Mark Tooley, president of the Washington, D.C.-based ecumenical religious think tank Institute on Religion & Democracy, told The Christian Post that by hosting projects such as "Queering the Bible," PC(USA) is "replacing the Gospel of redemption with their own journey of self-actualization."

"Christ bids to listen and follow, dying to self. This project seeks to appropriate and bend the Bible towards self-justification," Tooley, a Methodist layman, said. "Ironically, nobody will truly find it to be fulfilling. The Gospel offers words of true life."

As PC(USA) pushes forward with a more progressive theological stance, the denomination continues to lose members.

In April, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States announced the release of its annual statistics, which were compiled by the PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly.

According to the latest numbers, PC(USA) saw congregations drop from 8,925 in 2020 to 8,813 in 2021. It also saw its active membership decline from approximately 1.24 million in 2020 to 1.19 million in 2021. 

The mainline Protestant denomination also saw a decline of 372 clergy members — 18,785 ministers in 2020 to 18,458 in 2021.

The denomination slipped below 2 million active members in 2011 and below 10,000 congregations in 2014. 

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