I spoke a few days ago at the Six O’Clock Series, a monthly public lecture program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I was excited to learn from the young man who greeted me when I arrived that there had been a lot of talk around the student union anticipating my topic: Marriage on Trial: A Minister’s Journey. I told of my journey toward embracing as Jesus’ Gospel the inclusion of GLBT people in God’s love, and my journey toward understanding marriage to include the love and commitment between two men or two women.
There was a good crowd of students, faculty and Indiana residents, and they were filled with questions. As I spoke, they wrote their questions and comments on cards. One card commanded, “Read Lev. 18:22,” which says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
I have read Leviticus and my reply is “Read Lev. 11:7 Now explain to me how you can eat bacon for breakfast, but a loving gay couple cannot be intimate together.” If we are to live by the Holiness Code then we cannot pick and choose which laws we follow and which we cast aside. Then we would not wear clothing of two different materials or eat shrimp and clams, to name only a few more of the Leviticus rules we now ignore.
The answer — which is explored further in the Apologia, my defense in the church case against me — is found in Scripture itself. In short, Jesus and Paul both stress that purity of the heart is most important. not pure compliance with the law. Jesus’ summary of the law, to love God and our neighbor, is to be our consistent, coherent world view, not the jot and tittle of Leviticus. The gay couples I know share a love that has exactly the purity of heart that Jesus and Paul lift up even though they are acting contrary to Lev. 18:22.
This is the way I reverently approach the Bible each day: every verse in Scripture is both rooted in culture, coming from a human hand, and God reaching toward us through these words. Our task of faith is to prayerfully untangle the human from the divine and entrust our decisions about that to Jesus’ grace.
I hope the conversations about what I said have continued in the halls and dorms of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I have been pondering ever since what people there said to me. It was a lovely time of embrace.