Christianity, the LGBT community and gay-friendly churches in Dayton
As unifying as it is divisive, the Bible has always been a mystifying text. For centuries, Scripture has been employed in defending innumerable beliefs and actions. While the aforementioned statements are certainly neither new nor profound, their reiteration is significant in light of this feature.
As we settle in to the 21st century, many Christians are examining the repercussions of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) sentiments on both their religion and the world. Furthermore, from a theological standpoint, many Christians believe an anti-LGBT interpretation of the Bible is fallacious. Realizing that anti-LGBT perspectives have often been associated with their faith, they feel they play a vital role in transforming societal views on the topic.
According to Christopher Pyle, an interdenominational Christian and former Ohio University Campus Ministry Staff Member: “Christians were on the front line of issues regarding women’s suffrage, civil rights and more. This has not been the case with gay rights – although I do see that changing slowly and surely. In future years, it’s my belief that we will witness many Christians reforming their views toward the LGBT community.”
Pastor Gary Eichorn of Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Oakwood (located on the site of John H. Patterson’s old home) remarks: “I do not presume to speak for those who believe homosexuality is a sin. For me, I am on the other side of the argument. There are only seven simple instances in all of Scripture – most in the Old Testament – that have been employed in the human sexuality debate. Jesus said none of them. He never addressed the topic.
“I find it interesting that the things Jesus emphasized – how we use possessions and money, our relationship with God and with fellow humans, how we treat each other (forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance) – these are all topics on which the Church has historically been rather silent. Instead, humans gravitate toward topics Jesus never dealt with – homosexuality, who is allowed at the communion table, how and when we baptize and doctrinal purity. We humans have been fighting over these and other topics for centuries.
“For me, the litmus test for a pastor of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is as follows: if accepting and ordaining a homosexual individual is not permitted by God, it will not last. If it is ‘of God,’ well, then it doesn’t matter what I think.
“Scripture still tells us that women are to be silent in church, but we Lutherans began ordaining women in 1970, and women are still in the ministry today. While some surely believed we were going to Hell in a hand-basket back then, God continues to bless our ministry today through both women and men.
“Jesus called us to be both welcoming and forgiving. Nowhere in Scripture do I find God appointing me to be a doorkeeper – allowing some in and barring others from entering. That’s God’s job. My baptismal calling is to follow Jesus, and for me, that means always landing on the side of grace.”
Pastor Monte Stevens of North Riverdale Lutheran Church also commented: “Never once did Jesus mention sexual orientation. If it was going to be that important, you would think He might have given it a quick ‘Thou shall not.’ One of the ways that I understand God is as the Creator of all … and God’s creation is infinitely diverse. I believe that God created every one of us as beloved and the diversity we experience in sexual orientation is part of God’s diverse creation.
“In the history of the Church, we have to be honest enough to recognize that we have gotten many things wrong and some of those wrongs are, unfortunately, recorded in Scripture. It’s pretty simple – Jesus said, ‘Love God and love your neighbor’ and that’s what we’re about at North Riverdale Lutheran Church. As Lutherans, our focus is on love and justice and all our theology is grounded in grace.”
Christopher Pyle also had the following to say regarding Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah): “This is one of the most ‘famous’ verses people use against homosexuality. It’s interesting, however, because Ezekiel 16:49 (New International Version) reads, ‘Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’ In Ezekiel the reason given for their sins has nothing to do with homosexuality. Rather, it has to do with their arrogance and failure to aid the poor and needy. Ezekiel comes right out and says it directly.
“Many Christians I know don’t even realize that this verse interprets the Genesis 19 story as such. Taking the Bible as a whole and learning to weigh Scripture against Scripture is very important. We call this hermeneutics. To cherry-pick verses without understanding how they fit in with other verses does a disservice to what Scripture is trying to tell us. There are very few verses in the whole of the Bible that deal in some way with gay relationships, and I think that if we [Christians] took our blinders off and really studied the verses, we would see that God affirms gay relationships – especially in the New Testament.”
In addition to Lutheran Church of Our Savior and North Riverdale Lutheran Church, according to the popular ministry and website gaychurch.org, the following Dayton-area churches are LGBT-friendly. If you would like to have your church added to the list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@DaytonCityPaper.com.