Open and Affirming (ONA) Team

Welcome the newest ONA church in the New Hampshire Conference!
Dear ONA family: Please join us in welcoming First Congregational Church in Salem, NH as a newly-certified Open and Affirming congregation! As ONA church #1764, First Congregational is now part of the largest and fastest-growing LGBTQ-affirming church movement in the world! We’re proud of FCC, and grateful to the church’s leadership for the hard work that led to this milestone in their history. The congregation will be added to the ONA map at openandaffirming.org/find. We’ve notified the UCC’s Yearbook office to assure the map of UCC congregations at ucc.org/church-finder also reflects their ONA status. Please join the entire Open and Affirming movement in celebrating First Congregational, and in prayer that their ONA covenant will be a blessing to their LGBTQ+ neighbors, and inspire new passion and energy for living the Gospel! Blessings,
The Rev. Andy Lang The Rev. Derek Terry
Executive Director President
ed@openandaffirming.org office@openandaffirming.org
Pronouns: he, him, his Pronouns: he, him, his

ONA Team Recycling Project

The ONA Team was busy this summer brainstorming ways to share with the greater community that we are now an Open and Affirming congregation. As a committee, we strive to purposefully embrace and promote that our church is a welcoming place of worship for all. We have started small by first adding our Open and Affirming Welcoming statement to the church website. In June, a small garden flag was displayed, and later a Pride flag hung in the Parish Hall. Soon a black and white sign will be placed out front stating we are Open and Affirming.

We asked, how can we share this with the community in a way that is reflective of our ONA Welcoming statement- “All are worthy of God’s grace. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” How about a park bench in the front of the church? A bench:

  • Is a symbol for friendship
  • Creates a sense of belonging
  • Lends a place for quiet contemplation
  • Is a welcoming spot for conversation with a friend

What a wonderful representation of our church family as we are a safe place for all to worship.  To achieve the goal of installing a park bench, the ONA Committee, supported by the VLT, is proud to sponsor the NexTrex Recycling Program. Through this program, we can help the environment and if enough recyclable plastics are collected, Trex will donate a park bench. Want to learn more? Watch this 3 minute video describing the program from NexTrex and join us this Rally Sunday as we kick off this 6 month recycling project. You can see what they will accept here.

WHY ONA?

Why are we exploring ONA? Well, Beloved, the main reason is because this UCC distinction lives into our faith – our welcoming statement – our purpose – – and our mission. It lives into the love each of us reveal everyday. However, to fully understand why ONA, we may wish to look at what other Christian communities are doing or saying. For, most people do not know the difference between the UCC and the Baptist, Methodist, or any other church denomination which follows Christ. Most people simply see all Christians as the same.

Therefore, I invite you to read this article from right before the beginning of the pandemic with empathy. Read it and ask yourself, how would I feel about Christianity if I were LGBT+ and reading this article? The article is here: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-01/radical-baptist-pastor-lgbtq-hate

Book Recommendations

“Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story” by Julie Rodgers – Outlove is about love and losses, political and religious power-plays, and the cost to those who sought to stay in a faith community that wouldn’t accept them. Shedding light on the debate between Evangelical Christians and the LGBTQ community–a battle that continues to rage on in the national news and in courtrooms across the country–this book ultimately casts a hopeful vision for how the church can heal.

Media Recommendations

“Pride” on Netflix – U.K. gay activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.

“Pray Away” on Netflix – Former leaders of the “pray the gay away” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma.

Meeting Updates

Fellowship this Sunday (10/17) is sponsored by the “Open and Affirming Exploratory (ONA) Team,” come and join us!!

The Team members are:

Jenny Pickett, Brian Donovan, Melissa Maas, Tim Wolfe, Christine Sylvain, Mike Detollenaere, Becky & Alexa Tivey, Toni Wellspring, Amy & Steve Chartrain

The ONA Team meets Tuesdays every 2 weeks at 6:30pm. We met this Tuesday 10/12 and the agenda was:

  • Committee reaching out to members of the church
  • Continued Education – online training (Webinars), 

ONA101 being held 10/26 and on 11/4

ONA and the Bible 11/2 and 11/11

ONA Next 11/16 which our committee will be attending together at the church 7pm

  • Discusse articles and also bible versus used against homosexuality
  • Our team is also exploring reaching out to the community, possibly the gay and straight alliance through the Salem High School

If you have any questions, please reach out to one of us.

“Clobber Passages”

People within the Christian Church throughout the eons have referred to one of only seven passages within the Bible to defend a position against homosexuality and individuals who are born gay. Yes, there are only seven passages in the whole Bible which could be seen as speaking about or against the LGBTQ+ community. These passages are generally referred to as the “clobber passages” due to their use of being weaponized against this community. That said, these passages are still part of the Bible and should be taken seriously. Therefore, I will be looking at each over the next several weeks to shine more light on what they each mean in accordance with translations, cultural understanding, and theology for us as Christians. I will add information from theologians and scholars to this discussion regularly and invite your questions which I will do my best to answer. The seven passages are:

Genesis 9:20–27, 19:1–11

Leviticus 18:22, 20:13

1 Corinthians 6:9–10

1 Timothy 1:10

Romans 1:26–27

“Clobber Passages: Part 1”

Leviticus 18:22

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (NRSV)

“Don’t have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.” (MSG)

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (KJV)

Leviticus 20:13

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (KJV)

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.” (NRSV)

“If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent. They must be put to death; they are responsible for their own deaths.” (MSG)

The first two “Clobber Passages” which people generally refer to are passages from the Levitical laws, as seen above. I included a more liberal interpretation / moderate translation / and conservative translation for each passage. Now, I do not want us to be distracted here; but, I think it’s important to remember that the book of Leviticus or “Priest’s Manual” in its original Hebrew was written between 538–332 BC. They include laws for the Jewish priesthood and for the Jewish followers. I would also like to point out that the majority of modern day people do not follow these laws which also appear in the Book of Leviticus: sacrifices of animal and / or grain, which animals you may eat, purification of women following childbirth, purification of all people who touch blood, uncleanliness after a male discharge and the purification rituals, rules around the slaughtering of animals, the law “you shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin” etc. This fact and failure to not follow the laws does not absolve us of the words but it should make us question if these laws around same sex marriage which are held by Christian Communities are distinct from the Levitical laws OR are they the same and therefore may likewise be put in their place of history we do not follow.

For this truth, I believe we need to go no further than Matthew 5:17-20 (NRSV) : “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” To explain, our theology in Christianity as seen through John Calvin, Martin Luther, and even the Apostle Paul says roughly that Jesus’ existence and subsequent resurrection is the fulfillment of the “Law” and the “Prophets” according to Matthew 5:17. Although this truth is for all of the Old Testament Bible, it is especially true for the book of Leviticus as the whole point of this book is to reveal how one is cleansed, sanctified and able to enter the presence of God. Jesus according to our theology is that ultimate sacrifice which removes all other needs for sacrifice and concerns over defilement 9in Sacramental theology which most Conservative voices follow). Therefore, these words are not incorrect or false; rather, they were accurate 538–332 years before Jesus’ birth and to the day he fulfilled the Law through his resurrection. 

This said and knowing the culture of the Roman Era, I have to say that my feeling lies more in line with theologian Jacob Milgrom who says, “the major purpose of most of these rules (18:6-23 and 20:13) is to protect the unmarried woman from falling prey to avaricious males in her family.” Added to this reality is the cultural norm for the Roman Era which was that sex was a tool of power used against women, men, etc. Basically, sex was the equivalent of a whip in times of slavery. Therefore, the Jewish laws from Leviticus were actually attempting to free, support, and protect people from both being subjugated and subjugating other people. The irony is that these laws which were meant to reveal equality amongst humans are and have been used to subjugate other people throughout the LGBTQ+ community. I pray that God adds a blessing to your knowledge and wisdom.

“Clobber Passages: Part 2”

Genesis 19:1-11 (KJV)

19 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.

Genesis 19:12-13

12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:

13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.

Genesis 19: 12-13 (NRSVUE)

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city—bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 

“We will destroy this place Because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of Yahweh” 

  • Literal Hebrew translation to English of Genesis 19:13

The next passage we should look at is Genesis 19: 1-11. This story as you may recall is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I included the King James version of the passage, and I would like to point out that nowhere in this passage does it refer to what Lot is claiming to as “wickedly” being an act of sexual immorality. Rather, Lot clearly states in verse eight the actual sin: “only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” In other words, Lot is pointing out that the angels are in fact under his protection and hospitality by reference to the “shadow of my roof.” Therefore, any harm coming to them while under his protection according to Hebrew practices at the time would also be Lot’s sin. Even amongst most conservative theology, the sin of inhospitality would not be denied in this passage. Therefore, we must ask why the cities are destroyed and if there is anywhere else in the Bible that may help us understand.

For this inquiry, I would point us to Genesis 19:13 and have included multiple translations. In all three of the translations (conservative, moderate, and literal) the reason which the angels give for the destruction of these two cities is that the “outcry against them has grown (waxed) great before the face of the Lord (Yahweh).” Two words must be understood here: outcry and them to understand this passage. In the context of the passage, it seems clear that the outcry is the literal cries of the people poured out to God and not in a good way. It seems that they are praying against the injustices happening against “them” or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sin of inhospitality is one example which the author provided us to justify the destruction though it would seem from Genesis 18:20 that there are multiple sins causing this destruction. 

Now, here is where it gets interesting. If the reason why Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed is due to sins against other people or rather due to injustices heaped upon other people as the actual text leads us to believe in Genesis 19:13, then homosexuality cannot be one of the sins which led to the destruction of these two cities. Rape – yes – because it is against another person. Inhospitality – yes – because it is against another person. Same sex consensual relationship – NO – because it is not against another person but a consensual agreement between two people. 

Therefore, the idea that somehow this passage of the Bible references proof against LGBTQ+ vaguely or homosexuality, in particular, is not only a stretch but an actual attack against the meaning of the text. This passage is meant to validate acts of justice, love, and care to our fellow human beings as revealed by Lot not the ostracization or attack revealed by the mob of Sodom. Yet, by people using this passage to demonize the way an individual was created by God, that person is becoming like the mob of Sodom moving against other people. Thus, any action or attack against another person is the true sin of Sodom. The sins which caused its eventual destruction.

“Clobber Passages: Part 3”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (KJV)

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NRSVUE)

9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes,[a] men who engage in illicit sex,[b] 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

Footnotes (a and b): Meaning of Gk uncertain

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (MSG)

9-11 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

The fourth passage we will discuss is that from the Apostle Paul. To place this piece of scripture into context, I bid you to remember that it is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth, a predominantly gentile population around 54 AD. Further, it was written to address situations happening in the church, namely that the congregation is fracturing. This issue seems to be the root reason by most theologians which is revealed in a variety of accusations which Paul addresses, including immorality. I have included the conservative, moderate, and liberal interpretations of this passage for your reflection.

I think it is also wise to point out, Paul is not Jesus – did not know Jesus pre-crucifixion – and hunted followers of Jesus for many years before his conversion. These points are not to discount the writings of Paul; but rather, to place his writings in context. Moreover, to invite us to question his teachings. Again, I am not saying these letters are flawed, absolutely not. They are scripture and words inspired by God on every level. Inspired and perceived by a man who had never had firsthand account of Jesus’ teachings, based his belief off the Old Testament alone (as the New Testament was not written yet), and had a belief which was focused on the letter of the Law (first five books of the Bible) for most of his life as we see from his career as a Pharisee. Is it any wonder then that the only three writings of the New Testament which speak about LGBTQ+ come from Paul and his student Timothy, both of which understood the Law as the primary source of our beliefs, not the Gospels or the whole sixty-six books of the Bible? Finally, we must remember Paul was Roman and the sexual abuse of people by Roman citizens is well documented, though the Roman people did not consider it abuse as much to control or stake one’s dominance over another. A wonderful analogy is that sex in the Roman times was dogs peeing on things to mark their territory. 

That all said, let us look at the actual scripture. None of these versions explicitly say gay people or people of the LGBTQ+ are wrongdoers / unjust / unrighteous. Not one place in this phrase does it even imply LGBTQ+ individuals are wrongdoers etc. Yes, it says the “sexually immoral” in the New Revised version which is translated to fornicators in the King James and users of sex in an abusive way in the Message. That latter translation would seem to match the cultural context which Paul grew up in throughout Rome. Not a homosexual prohibition but one opposing treating someone abusively through sex. Sadly, this type of immorality can happen to and by men and women. 

Next we can look at the “effeminate” wrongdoer as a possible implication of LGBTQ+. However, in the New revised it is mistranslated as “male prostitutes.” Yes, the original Greek translation here according to the New World Translation Committee is that the word is “effeminate” which does not mean gay or LGBTQ+. It means effeminate or a male acting as a female, i.e. different from what God created them to be. Again, we must remember that gender roles at this time were very particular and if we attempt to interpret this literally, it will mean anyone not acting how society has determined their gender roles is a wrongdoer and not welcome in the kin-dom of God. This line of reasoning does not even make sense when we consider Jesus welcomed all people, sinners, and saints – men and women – and so on and so on. Therefore, I must believe this particular phase of “effeminate” is better interpreted as anyone who does not live as God created them. In other words, a person who is openly gay and more female in their presentation would be welcome into the kin-dom where a man who hid their love of another man would be a wrongdoer as they went against God’s creation.

Finally, we can look at the possible implied phrase “men who engage in illicit sex / nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” Again, this phrase is problematic and mistranslated. The New revised version even expresses that the Greek is uncertain. However, looking at the Greek myself, the two words which make up this phrase are “nor” and “liers with males” again according to the New World Bible Translation Committee. Here, in the depth of the Greek, we can see how this phrase could be used to say that homosexuality is wrong. Or rather, anyone who “lies with males” is a wrongdoer. Literal translation would mean that ONLY straight males and lesbian or virgin females would be welcomed in the kin-dom. Obviously, this literal translation does not seem reasoned as we know Jesus had female followers and disciples. We know the kin-dom is not only open to straight males, virgin females and lesbian females. 

Therefore, is it more likely that this interpretation is a biased example of Paul and the male dominated world in which he interpreted the word of God. Most likely that is exactly what this misleading phrase was at the time and the misinterpretation which was continually perpetuated as our Western culture has remained primarily male dominated with a prejudice against any men who are gay. The reality is that there is no consensus on this phrase as the Greek is lost to us and we must rely on the reasoning and theology which Jesus shows us in the Gospels to understand the phrase. That reasoning is that Jesus preached about love first and foremost – love God – love neighbor – love yourself. Jesus taught us God created us as we are. Jesus taught us that God is perfect and does not make mistakes. Jesus also reminds us all are welcome into the kin-dom and that he came to fulfill the Law, not just the sacrificial laws or practices but all the Law. In this way, there is no room for even an implication that this passage speaks about people who are gay being wrongdoers and unwelcome in the kin-dom. Rather, it would seem to be a gross bias and prejudice of a male dominated culture hating people who are different from themselves.

“Clobber Passages: part 4″

Romans 1:26-27 (KJV)

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Romans 1:26-27 (NRSUV)

26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. Their females exchanged natural intercoursefor unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the males, giving up natural intercoursewith females, were consumed with their passionate desires for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:26-27 (MSG)

26-27 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

The Letter of Paul to the Romans (Romans 1:26–27)

Here we find the sixth passage which is traditionally used to justify that our Christian morals should be opposed to homosexuality; I find this premise quite sad for it does not seem to say that at all. Again, I have incorporated three translations (conservative, moderate, and liberal) into this discussion for your consideration. However, I would suggest each of you look at the entire chapter for context.  

To begin, the Letter of Paul to the Romans is a theological discourse, much like the Gospel according to John. This point does not minimize the text at all; but rather, it explains the perspective of the writing. Mainly, this letter explores the Apostle Paul’s understandings and interpretations of our faith. Without a doubt, these words are inspired by God. Yet, as we all have slightly different understandings of our faith: how to explore, live, express our beliefs individually, so does the Apostle Paul. And we can see many of these differences throughout the Book of Acts and the various Gospels. Each apostle having a slightly different understanding on everything from Gentile inclusion to inclusion of sinners and tax collectors. All these differences in perception depended on who they were and how Jesus interacted with them. Furthermore, the Jewish culture at the time and even today welcomes the discussion and opposing views of Rabbis through their discourses. This letter is one of those discourses for the early days of our Christian faith. Again, it is a valuable document and scripture; but it was not written or meant to define every Christians belief for all time. It was meant to be a tool for understanding the Word of God and the Gospels; so, we can apply the teachings to today.

Second, this passage is referring to one group of people of idolaters. That is the main conflict in this passage: idolatry. The theologian Leander Keck points that Jewish thought at that time held that “moral confusion follows idolatry.” He also believes that this was the premise to which Paul is arguing here after seeing this one group of people who in his estimation were confused morally and must be doing so because they are idolatrous, i.e. not following God. This line of reasoning is like many ancient Jewish teachings: the mountain fell of you because you were a sinner, you got cancer because you were a sinner etc. Moreover, we know this perception is not accurate as there are many people in our world today who are devout believers of God and LGBTQ+. We also know many devout heterosexual believers who are clearly confused on morality. This latter point is clear to me when I consider the pederasty happening by certain priests or any of the other thousands of moral confusions like greed, lust, murder etc. happening by people who proclaim a faith in God. Therefore, I believe that this is a logical fallacy. A “moral confusion” does not immediately mean someone is idolatrous.

That said, we should look again at what “moral confusion” is according to Paul. He defines this confusion as when a woman changes “the natural use into that which is against nature” or for men “leaving the natural use of the woman.” The same terminology can be found in the NRSUV of “unnatural” and “natural.” Leaving aside the word “use” here with its obvious patriarchal undertones which argues a man uses women like objects, a point which is highly problematic. Let us focus only on the “natural” and “unnatural.” You may be surprised but here I agree with Paul. We are broken – sinning – confused if we go against our individual “nature.” The ”nature” God placed within us when they created us NOT the nature society says everyone must have. To explain, we are dealing with another logical fallacy which is the belief that just because one or even most people are heterosexual than that must mean it is the “natural” way for all people. It would be like saying most people we see are Caucasian therefore the natural existence of humankind is white. By the way, that argument has been used as well. Rather, what this passage is saying about “moral confusion” in my mind is caused when we go against the way God created us, however that way may be. In other words, it is as unnatural for me to be gay as much as it is for a gay man to be straight.

Finally, please remember the point in this passage is about idolatry and Paul’s attempt to explain the damage that can happen when we do not follow God. The anti-homosexual undertones are an example Not the problem. In fact, idolatry happens when we do not have faith, belief, or trust in God as our Creator. Therefore, the very fact that people use this passage to force gay people into pretending to be straight is counter to the principles of the theological discourse and this passage; for, it is forcing people to go against their “nature” and not trust in how God created them. Sadly, I believe this idolatry of forcing people to go against God is the real sin which has been and is being committed.

“Clobber Passages: Part 5”

1 Timothy 1: 8-11 (KJV)

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

1 Timothy 1: 8-11 (NRSVUE)

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately; this means understanding that the law is laid down not for the righteous but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who engage in illicit sex,[c] slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I was entrusted.

C. 1.10 Meaning of Gk uncertain

1 Timothy 1: 8-11 (MSG)

It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever! They are cynical toward this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.”

The seventh and final “Clobber Passage” is a singular verse amid a larger sentence / thought reflective of the Apostle Paul’s teachings. Most theologians currently believe this letter was not written by Paul but rather by one of his students. I have included the full sentence (v. 8 – 11) above and made the verse which has been used to oppress gay men bold. 

As you will see, this problematic passage is part of a list of vices, none of which can or should be viewed as more or less sinful. In other words, liars are just as sinful as murders or as slave traders according to the NRSVUE and KJV. That alone is a viable point that should not be overlooked. For, if we are saying as the universal Christian Church that being Gay is sinful and therefore you cannot be a member of our community, then we have to say that for everyone else who has fallen under these vices. I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching here, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Have you sinned, have I, has the author of this letter? Of course, and the author even admits it in verse 15 of 1 Timothy 1. Therefore, this list of vices does not seem like a way to gauge who is righteous and who is sinful. It does not seem to me like a tool we should be using to judge one another; for that alone would be going against the “sound doctrine” of Christ Jesus which says do not judge.

So, let us look deeper into the passage. Right in the beginning we see these “laws” do not apply to the “righteous man” for they know and live the law. Instead, the law is present and “good” for everyone else – the sinners. Furthermore, I believe we are all broken in some way and growing in our faith towards God which would allude to the idea that this law is therefore for everyone but Christ. However, I believe it says something more. I believe that it is actually making a distinction between righteous or justified acts and those which are sinful and against the pure doctrine of Christ. 

To explain, murder can be defined as the taking of life; but is this a sin when it is done in the protection of another life? I would hope not. I hope that Christ Jesus when He judges people does not consider that a sin, but righteous. Would this reality not be the same way for another vice from the list. I believe it would and if that is the case then we are not talking about all Gay relationships. Rather, this passage is referring to those actions which are bent on placing power over another person. We discussed this idea earlier under the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which makes sense as this author is a student of the Apostle Paul. In fact, 1 Timothy does not seem to be talking about the “righteous” man or men who are in a loving committed relationship at all; for, these laws were not made for them or for those acts which relate the righteousness of the “sound doctrine,” i.e., love, it is for those people who go against what Jesus taught. I do not recall Jesus teaching us to judge, stigmatize or oppress people. Rather, Jesus taught us to love everyone no matter what and join the sinners sitting at the table.

My final point here is seen in the differences of interpretations. As you can see from the three examples above, there is little to no consensus on all the words and phrases within the Bible. Scripture was first handed down by word of mouth to one another, the cannon was chosen for political reasons, and the various scriptures were reinterpreted over and over for reasons ranging from ease of reading to maintaining power in the Vatican. Therefore, how can we assume that we understand the Truth of God’s word fully enough to judge another person. Especially when theologians for two thousand years still cannot agree on the translation and interpretation of a word which could mean “lawfully” or could mean “legitimately” or could mean something completely different.  This reality is why we try not to read the Bible literally but rather to understand the meaning of the passage. Here the meaning seems clear: if you are following God’s doctrine, you are not bound by the law; this passage applies only to those who corrupt it for their own benefit. The theologian Jouette M. Bassler supports this statement by saying that these phrases or “vice” list from v. 10 are a “bulwark against the false diseased teaching of the opponents.” Beloved, this point in turn reminds us that the letter of 1 Timothy has a different purpose – a different meaning which when we use it to attack Gay men, we are taking it out of context. Thereby, we are using it contrary to the doctrine and becoming the very opponents of the faith who are prospering a diseased teaching. 

In the coming year, I will continue to add on to these theological discourses and make them user friendly for reading. Please remember these views are mine, you may share them, and you are welcome to share your own on these passages. If you do so, I will be happy to include your counterpoints into this discussion. May we continue to learn and grow together in God’s Love. Amen