Rector's Blog: What about the Bible?
When as a Church we say we believe in the full incorporation of LGBTQ+ persons on all levels of Christian ministry and in all areas of the church community, one of the responses we get a lot is, “What about what the Bible says?”
This is one of the most difficult aspects of working towards becoming an affirming, encouraging, and inspiring worshiping community where people of all genders and sexual orientations are empowered to Know Jesus and Grow in Love. By the way, I don’t mean the Bible is an obstacle to this work, or that dealing with the Bible is the most difficult part of this work: No, I literally mean dealing with the question itself: “What about what the Bible says?” The question is the hard part. Because, whether it’s intended or not, and no matter how sincerely it’s asked, the question often feels like it comes with an implication – and that implication is, “because if you actually read the Bible, would you really still believe that LGBTQ+ persons are a blessing?”
What about what the Bible says? The Bible says that Jesus is Lord. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible exists in the life of the Church for the purpose of pointing to Jesus. Gathering a community of Love around Jesus Christ is the primary reason the leaders of the early church collected these writings and called them Holy. They believed that these Scriptures, when shared in the gathered community of Jesus Christ, helped them understand the fullness of the truth of God’s love for the world. The Church does not exist in order to get more people to read the Bible. The Church exists to draw the world into deeper Love with God through Jesus. That’s why we’re here. And the Bible doesn’t exist as a rulebook, a textbook, or a set of instructions to get you to Heaven when you die: The Bible is meant as a way to mediate and illuminate the fullness of God’s Love for humanity by pointing Christians to Jesus right here and right now.
And when you point to Jesus, what do you see? When you start there with Jesus, with Jesus’ stories, with Jesus’ words, with Jesus’ healing actions, what happens? I can tell you what’s happened to me. I can tell you that my relationship with the Jesus that is given to us in Scriptures has broken my heart open to all people. Jesus has challenged me to see the dignity of each person I meet. The Jesus of the Bible has insisted that I look for the presence of God in people of every gender and sexual orientation.
The first time someone I loved ever came out to me, it was the Jesus I encountered in Scriptures that taught me how to see them for who they really were, and to love them just as they were. In the years since that day, I keep coming back to the Jesus I find in the Bible. Every time I do, I’m reintroduced to the God who gives me new eyes to see Love in ways and places and people I could not previously have imagined.
The Church’s blessing and incorporation of LGBTQ+ persons is something we do through our relationship with the Bible, not despite it. We don't need to ignore and dismiss Scriptures to come to an understanding of the blessedness, the belonging, and the God given beauty of our LGBTQ+ siblings. Likewise, our recognition of the importance and authority of the Bible in the life of the Church does not require us to dismiss and condemn LGBTQ+ persons, nor to ignore their powerful witness.
As a Christian who is heterosexual and cisgender, I seek deeper relationship with and to learn from my LGBTQ+ siblings because of my understanding of and interaction with the Bible. I get that this is perplexing to some people. Maybe it is to you. Maybe you’re an LGBTQ+ person who’s had the Bible used to condemn you so often and with such vehemence that you can’t fathom the same book could be used in order to draw you deeper into Love. Or maybe you’re a straight cisgender person like me whose been taught your whole life to read the Bible as a book that promotes our normative culture as God’s ideal. Fortunately for all of us, there is a wealth of wonderful material available about the Biblical, theological, and social aspects of recognizing God’s blessing in and for LGBTQ+ persons in the Church and the world. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or explore this territory on your own. My current favorite resource is called Queer Grace. It’s comprehensive, thoughtful, broad in its scope, and faithful to Jesus Christ.
As we move forward in our life together, and in our understanding both of God and of LGBTQ+ issues, we do not have to choose between the Bible and acceptance, between Jesus and blessing, between God and love. These are false dichotomies that have injured the Body of Christ for far too long. When we reject them and seek to really love the person God has placed in front of us, our Church becomes the blessing it was meant to be.