Gay Debate Mirrors Church Split on Slavery

By Burke, Daniel | National Catholic Reporter, August 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Gay Debate Mirrors Church Split on Slavery


Burke, Daniel, National Catholic Reporter


One group of Christians confidently proclaims that a plain reading of the Bible is a slam-dunk in their favor. The other side appeals to scripture's grand narrative to ward freedom and inclusive love. The argument boils over and ripples through the wider culture. The search for middle ground proves futile. Denominations break apart.

Sound familiar? It could be 2010--or the mid 19th century.

As U.S. churches and denominations slog through divisive and long-running arguments over homosexuality, many Protestant progressives have sought to claim the historical and moral high ground by aligning their cause with abolitionism.

"I think almost everybody who makes the liberal argument about homosexuality makes the connection with abolition and slavery," said the Rev. Jeffrey Krehbiel, a Washington, D.C., pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who supports gay rights.

Abolitionists, he said, "were the first to make the argument that the plain reading of the text maybe isn't the most fruitful way to read the Bible."

But while there are striking parallels between the slavery and homosexuality debates, historians caution that important differences emerge upon close examination.

In both eras, cultural trends forced Christians to question practices that had long been taken for granted, said Mark Noll, a professor of American religious history at the University of Notre Dame and author of The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

Likewise, the Bible, and how to interpret it, has played a central role both then and now, Noll said.

In the 19th century, even some Northern abolitionists admitted that the Bible clearly condones slavery. Many, therefore, sought other sources of morality and methods of biblical interpretation; conservatives countered that such appeals undermine the power of the sacred text.

As conflict heated up, Noll writes in his book, slavery's defenders increasingly saw "doubts about biblical defense of slavery as doubts about the authority of the Bible itself."

At the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) earlier this month, James Joseph, a youth advisory delegate from Allentown, Pa., argued against allowing sexually active gay clergy. "We cannot defend the lowering of our ordination standards in contradiction to so many explicit passages in the Bible," he said.

The resolution to allow gay clergy passed by a slim margin, but the contentious debate will continue as 173 regional presbyteries decide whether to ratify it.

As with slavery, few Christians are neutral on homosexuality. "Like the situation in the 1830s and '40s, once a certain kind of heat is generated it becomes really hard to talk through these various kinds of debating strategies and implications," Noll said.

Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists (and, to some extent, Episcopalians) all split over slavery, mainly along the Mason-Dixon Line. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Gay Debate Mirrors Church Split on Slavery
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.