The Church and Same-Sex Relationships: A Case Study in Hermeneutical Ecology

By Rollefson, John | Currents in Theology and Mission, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Church and Same-Sex Relationships: A Case Study in Hermeneutical Ecology


Rollefson, John, Currents in Theology and Mission


"Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before," writes Walter Wink in an article entitled "Homosexuality and the Bible." He continues:

The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did a hundred and fifty years ago. We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance and find ourselves mired in interpretive quicksand. Is the Bible able to speak to our confusion on this issue? (1)

My experience as a pastor who has served three quite different congregations over the last quarter century and my present university congregation for more than a decade leads me to answer Wink's troubling question with a resounding "Yes!" Yes, the Bible speaks to us who gather week in and week out as church to hear God's Word and share the Supper. Moreover, it speaks in a way that has helped us as faith communities to hear a clarifying and unifying Word that is good news amid the larger church's "confusion on this issue."

This is due, in large part, to the "hermeneutical ecology" that is created by the presence in our congregation of fellow Christians who happen to be gay and lesbian. Their embodied experience of same-sex relationships, from friendships to committed partnerships, is a part of our common life in the same way as are our heterosexual relationships, from marriages to divorces, single friendships to dating and engaged couples. Homosexuality is not an "issue" that divides us but is one way of describing an aspect of the personhood of some of those among us that differentiates us and enriches our sense of diversity within the body of Christ. The presence of gay and lesbian fellow believers helps to sharpen the acuity of our listening for God's Word as we hear Jesus' imperative, "Whoever has ears to hear...." Rather than being "mired in interpretive quicksand" over this "issue" in which so much of the church feels "stuck," our community witnesses to the Truth that has set us free, a liberating Word that challenges all forms of enslavement to the powers that be. It is Scripture, interpreted through the lens of our week-in-and-week-out, shared experience as a Christian community, that continues to shape our theological anthropology by keeping us in Spirited conversation with God's living Word.

Choon-Leong Seow, Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary and editor of a collection of essays written by PTS faculty entitled Homosexuality and Christian Community, cites this text in support of his contention that "creation is not as orderly as one would like to believe." Particularly the wisdom tradition, he contends, while recognizing that God is the Creator of the universe,

also concedes that God's creation does include many irregularities and unevenness--anomalies that no human being can explain or change.... Wisdom's perspective is admittedly heterodox when judged by the viewpoints of the Torah and the Prophets. The entire corpus of wisdom books defies any attempt to systematize the Old Testament in terms of a definite center. There is not one perspective in the Bible, but many.

"The Bible," Seow concludes (coining a tongue-in-cheek neologism), "is heterotextual." (2)

Further, Seow argues, the wisdom tradition's is a "theology from below (starting with the plight of humanity)" and thereby provides a "necessary counterpoint to the dominant 'theology from above'" which is often accompanied by a "thus saith the Lord." This means, Seow asserts, that "Wisdom literature is thus a persistent reminder to us that we should not be too sure that we speak for God and too slow to admit that we stand with the rest of humanity before the mysteries of God and in the face of life's contradictions." (3)

This leads to the clear implication for Seow that in "wisdom literature we are instructed not to ignore nature, science, reason and experience." Quite the opposite, the biblical wisdom tradition, Seow claims, is itself "scriptural authority for human beings to make ethical decisions by paying attention to science and human experiences. …

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

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

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.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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 article

The Church and Same-Sex Relationships: A Case Study in Hermeneutical Ecology
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.
    Sign up now 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.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.