Liveblog: Homosexuality sermon at Church of the Resurrection

It's not everyday that a mega-church talks about gay issues. Below the fold is my liveblog (well, offline-liveblog) that I wrote while watching Adam Hamilton preach on Homosexuality as part of his church's When Christians Get It Wrong series. 

The series deals with a why young adults do not identify with Christianity, and to self-reflect and see if there are places where Christians get it wrong.  92% of young people surveyed said their #1 image of Christians is "anti-gay" according to George Barna, author of "UnChristian." While Adam repeatedly says this sermon isn't about letting childish ways dictate the church, but rather to let them hold us accountable to when we lose touch and possibly lose our way.  Indeed, if the stats are true and 5% of the population is gay, then 5% of his 16,000 member church is 800 people.  That's a huge number of people to care for!

Hence the sermon.  It's awesome, watch it.  Then check out the liveblog below the fold.

NOTE: The following is not an accurate rendition of Adam Hamilton's sermon as an artistic whole: the following are summaries, and possibly bad summaries.  Any critique or challenge that follows are not the judgment of one Methodist minister on another or attempts to interfere with another's ministry.  They are just reflections.

Why is Adam talking about this topic?  The world has changed.

  • When Adam was younger he said that people who said they were gay would be seen as having a mental disorder.  Thought it was a non-issue and he "didn't know any of them."  He just accepted it and didn't have to wrestle with it.  
  • But today, youth know gay friends and know them.  They are protective of their friends and have bad feelings when churches bash their friends. 
My Response: Familiarity breeds affection.  By an ever-more-inclusive culture coming forth, Christians have to discern which are society's permissiveness, and which are ways how God is calling us to grow in our outreach and inclusiveness.

The Debate about homosexuality is about how we read and interpret scripture. 
"This book is not a simple book.  To read the book oversimplistically is to do it a great injustice."
All Christians pick and choose which scriptures to follow.
  • Can't eat pork because it is unclean
  • Capital punishment for working on the Sabbath.
  • 401ks and retirement plans are storing up treasures on earth.
  • Women are to keep silent in the church.
  • Women's dress is to be plain.

Best line: Jesus says if your eyes or hands sin, cut them out.
"if you are a biblical literalist, please hold up your stubs for us."
Adam found many images of God which are difficult to reconcile.
  • In OT, God says to burn priests' daughters who are prostitutes...but Jesus sat with prostitutes.
  • 1 Samuel, God says to wipe out all the people: women and children too.  Did God really tell Saul that even the babies needed to die because of something their ancestors did?  But Jesus was forgiving on the cross.
My Response: This is an effective summary of the ways how we all interpret scripture and we don't follow the practices that are "clearly" contextual.  Thus a literalistic reading of Scripture is not only folly, it is not practiced.

Did God change or did human understandings of God change?
  • "Word of God" in the bible rarely means written word, but is used in reference to speech or the Holy Spirit or Jesus teaching.
  • Methodists believe the authors were not scribes who transcribed, but wrote through human beings who brought with them their own presuppositions and historical contexts. 
  • Adam sees Jesus as the word is the clearest Word of God we can receive.
  • Read everything through the lens of Jesus
  • "Don't simplify the bible into a weapon which hurts people, but to recognize its complexity."
  • Saul would have understood Warrior Gods that Jesus would probably not have recognized.
My Response: I would further push that the words of Jesus were also recorded by men and may also have been contextualized.  However, given that words or statements stick out like splinters in my mind, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.*  
*Except John's Gospel.
Additionally, Adam augments Wesley's lens and actually narrows it.  Wesley considered problematic passages against what he considered to be "The Character of God" which is more holistic than "The Lens of Jesus."  There's certainly theological girth to being a "red-letter Christian" and let Jesus' words trump the Scripture, but God seems bigger than that to me.

Primary Scripture is Peter in Joppa (Acts 10) with the sheet with animals that are unclean. 
  • That law is no longer enforced for Peter.
  • Paul figured out the entire law was a guide but not BOUND by the law.
  • Everything changed!  You are here today on a Sunday, not a Saturday, uncircumcized, eating bacon for breakfast because everything changed!
  • What do you think the Sadducees thought of Peter when he came back? 
  • Peter knew that God was doing something new.
My Response: Adam makes a great distinction between the law as BINDING and the law as GUIDING.  Since the law was no longer enforcable on Peter, he could eat unclean things and preach to the uncircumcized.  However, Peter could not throw it out, because it continued to guide him.

What Questions are best asked of the anti-gay passages?  Adam asks regarding these passages:
  • Leviticus 18&20, "does that accurately capture the heart and will of God for all times, or does that capture how people thought 3200 years ago."
  • Romans 1:26-27, "was Paul talking about Jewish understanding of natural and homosexual prostitution, or was he telling us that our children and grandchildren are considered shameful in the eyes of God?"
  • "Did Moses accurately capture the heart of God towards your gay children?" and in 4-5 other passages......or does God see our children differently than that?
RESPONSE: Adam is walking the tricky line between which scriptures do we contextualize and which scriptures do we universalize?  Are we contextualizing out of convenience?  Or are we truly listening to God offer us new instruction coming down on sheets with pigs on them* 
*metaphorically...if its literally, I would listen, man!

Why is this Pastor talking about this?  Why should straight Christians care?

  • Adam admits that complementary male-female IS the biblical norm.  But 5% of human beings don't fit the pattern. What are we to do with them?
  • Adam talks about how own experiences with queer people.  Names multiple young people who are remarkable and are gay.  
"The ones I really got to know were LITERALLY your children.  I baptized them, anointed them as children...This is one of your kids."
  • Adam asks "What are you gonna do with 5% of the church...I don't fully understand everything...But these are real people.
RESPONSE: Truly it is experience which changes our minds!

Closing: Jesus put people before rules.  (Jesus and the Syrophenician woman)
  • Isaac, Jacob, Moses met their spouses at wells: all virgins and perfect, probably.
  • But Jesus asks a multiple-married and co-habitating woman who is considered unclean for a drink.  And that is appalling.  They talk and she goes back to her town to tell them about Jesus.
  • So where in John 4 does Jesus talk about the rules about marriage FIRST before offering her living water?  Nowhere.
  • And this broken, sinning "unclean" woman becomes the first evangelist to her people.
  • Adam invite us to be those kind of Christians that love people first.  
And apparently, not a lot left!

Thoughts?  Rev. J has a few comments here to peruse as well.


Matt Algren February 5, 2009 at 3:12 PM  

Thanks for posting this, Jeremy. Rev. Hamilton took a big risk, even if he didn't come right out and say the words that so many of us gay Christians are dying to hear.

In the middle of the sermon he made an important point that I've been trying to drive home with people for some time.

If we go with the research that says 5% of Americans are gay (just using the lower end of the statistic) I would bet that the number of gay Christians in the pew is smaller than that due to frustration on our end and shunning on the other end.

But if we start talking about children, my guess is that the number would be consistent with the general population. That means that if you have 50 kids come up for the children's sermon (which my church had a few weeks ago), about two of those kids are gay or lesbian and don't know it yet. What they're hearing as they come to recognize that they're different than their peers is a deafening silence that leads them to pits of despair.

I know this because I've been there. No one ever said anything from the pulpit about homosexuality when I was growing up. That nothingness reinforced in me a belief that my Big Secret was so shocking and so perverse that I literally dared not speak its name.

We have to do better. We just have to. Quite seriously, their lives depend on it.

Matt Shafer February 5, 2009 at 3:54 PM  

Good commentary.

One thing jumped out at me: Why did you say "except John's gospel" when talking about giving the biblical authors the benefit of the doubt?

Rev. Jeremy Smith February 5, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

@Matt A, good point on even if the pews are less than 1%...the children's rooms downstairs are statistically more likely. While obvious, I hadn't made the connection before. Thank you for it.

@Matt S, Oh, I'm reading Ruprecht's "This Tragic Gospel" and he knocks John's Gospel pretty hard when you compare its parallel passages to Mark. I'll post more on it in the future, but surely you can see that most of John's passages have no parallels in the other gospels and offer a starkly different Jesus than them.

Matt Shafer February 8, 2009 at 11:44 AM  

@Rev. Smith: I certainly agree that John is not parallel to the synoptics. Personally, I think that's the point. It's *supposed* to provide a starkly different view of Jesus, in order to reveal truths about him that are no less valid than those in the Synoptic Gospels, just less valid. The church has always recognized that the Gospel of John was very different, but it has also generally believed that this difference is intentional. In any event, from my own readings of the gospels, John strikes me as complementary to the synoptics, not contradictory.

Lindsey February 8, 2009 at 6:42 PM  

I have heard the argument that 2000 years of Christian tradition should be upended because God is "doing a new thing" in regards to homosexuality. This doesn't make sense to me given that we still consider adultery (including pre-marital sex) and divorce to be destructive forces in our lives. (At least, I do.)

We are all born with a tendency towards sin, but as Christians we are to turn away from it. Thus, Christians are called to celibacy in singleness and chastity in marriage. Since marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, people who are gay and want to pursue God and relationship with Jesus are called to celibacy. The Church can be supportive of people who are gay by helping them to pursue singleness and celibacy. If this is unacceptable to Adam Hamilton, why doesn't he start teaching that sex outside of marriage is perfectly acceptable and "not sinful" because that's what today's society is okay with?

Steve Heyduck February 9, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

Great read; thanks. Regarding simply this: "But today, youth know gay friends and know them."

I am less convinced than I ever was that the typical youth who asserts he or she is gay actually has any business making this claim. To be fair, I'd have to say the same about youth claiming they are heterosexual.

As I work with at-risk or "troubled" youth, I see more and more that making such claims changes (often) on a daily basis.

In general, I'd say, let's love youth (and others), show them Jesus in our own lives, and, as we develop relationships with them and earn their trust, the truth beyond whatever claims they've made will have a place to land in the light of Christ.

Larry B,  February 9, 2009 at 11:25 PM  

Your Response: Truly it is experience which changes our minds is the major stumbling block for me.

Because my experience with "queer" people has been different. In particular my particular queer friend was once a vociferous defender of being gay and being christian. They felt the initial rejection of their church when they came out. And then years later through their own study, reflection, and prayer (not a gay recovery program), they came to understand the opposite and now lives as a straight person, married with a child. Are they still gay? I don't know, nor do I suspect do they. But they chose to live straight because they came to believe as the church currently does that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

They catch more flack from gay christians for their decision than they did from straight christians when they came out because they view them as a traitor. That for me has spoken volumes about the gay christian movement. It is hard for me to reconcile these two competing views.

For me, my friend demonstrated the true transforming power of a relationship with Christ, even over something as strong as sexual orientation. It's hard for me to believe that the transformation was not necessary and even wrong if some advocates views are correct.

Matt Algren February 10, 2009 at 6:20 PM  

Lindsay, I get the feeling that you didn't watch the sermon. Steve, I knew when I was nine years old. Cutting myself off from all the learning and growing that happens in those formative years didn't change the fact that I wanted to smooch dudes.

Larry, yes they know if they're gay just as you know if you're straight. They may fall somewhere between the binary gay/straight position, or maybe they just got tired of the fight so they went back in the closet. Maybe a lavender marriage was easier than telling the truth and getting punched in the gut over and over by supposed holy men. I don't know.

What I know is that all the prayer, study, and reflection in the world doesn't change one's sexuality either from gay to straight or from straight to gay. And teaching that it does causes more harm than you will ever imagine.

Larry B,  February 11, 2009 at 7:14 PM  


I never condoned teaching that ones inherent sexuality can be changed. My friend doesn't advocate that thinking either. What they changed was their outward behavior regarding sexuality, and they saw it as something that was pleasing to God. It's as simple as that. It wasn't for any of the reasons you suppose, although your reaction is typical of what they hear from gay people. My friend doesn't hide the fact from anyone who knows them, including the church, that they were gay. Nor do they intentionally bring it up as though it were some kind of badge of honor that they had somehow "changed". It was just a part of their life that they chose to leave behind by intentionally changing their behavior.

Millions of Christians worldwide practice celibacy, which at least provides some anecdotal evidence that sexual behavior can be controlled by ones will if one so chooses. I don't see why that would be any different for a gay person or a straight person, and thus I don't see why my friends decision to control their sexual behavior is seen as a ruse.

A part of their transformation was the current balanced language of the Methodist that clearly states that homosexuality is incompatible, but that homosexuals are to be loved by the church. That is why I continue to support such a positions. I understand that many disagree with that and think differently and will try to change that. It is their rights as Methodists. I don't begrudge that, I welcome their input as long as they are willing to consider my input as well. As long as that happens, If one day, my views are no longer reflected in the discipline then at least, it will have been through a process of thorough discussion and deliberation, rather than a game of politics to see who can stack the sides with the most advocates of one position.

bonnie-halfelvn March 2, 2009 at 12:12 PM  

Anyone who listened to Pastor Hamilton's sermon knows that he reads the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ, the clearest word of God available to us.

Celibacy is a gift to God, and should be offered willingly. It should not be demanded of any segment of the human race for any reason.

Priests choose the priesthood, and therefore choose celibacy. Gay people do not choose to be gay.

Do people who think gays should be celibate believe that this is what Jesus wants, or is it because they themselves are uncomfortable with the idea?

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