Letter to the United Pentecostal Church, International

In their February, 2007 edition, the Pentecostal Herald (the official organ of the United Pentecostal Church International) published an article written by Dr. David Norris. In response to the article, a member of our ministry team sent a letter to the Pentecostal Herald responding to each point addressed in the article. To date, the letter has not been published and no response has been received from the U.P.C.I. or the Herald. This is the letter:

After reading Dr. Norris’s article “Is Homosexuality a Sign of the Times?” it does not appear that his intention was to degrade or disrespect homosexuals. In fact, I believe his intentions were quite the opposite. The article clearly suggests that it is erroneous for Christians to label homosexuality as the “unpardonable sin” as so many zealous preachers have over the years. The amount of spiritual, emotional, social, and psychological damage this sort of philosophy has created may never be known.

Dr. Norris briefly but accurately pointed out that Christians should approach homosexuals from a welcoming perspective as opposed to assuming that the homosexual’s conscience has been seared. We are in agreement on this point.

Where we differ is on the issue of affirmation. I believe strongly that there are Biblical grounds for not only affirming monogamous homosexual relationships but also for helping those who are homosexual understand that they can have a meaningful and reconciled relationship with God regardless of their sexual orientation. In this response I want to specifically address the key points made by Dr. Norris in his article.

Point One
The Bible clearly identifies the sins for which Sodom was destroyed and nowhere is homosexuality mentioned (Ezekial 16:49). Also, after reading the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah it is clear that the act which has been broadly interpreted as homosexual in nature took place after the angels were sent to destroy the city for its ungodliness and, therefore, could not possibly be the reason for the cities destruction.

If the Bible does not incite homosexuality as one of the sins of Sodom and if it was not the cause for its destruction, then we cannot rightfully infer that it (homosexuality) is a sign of the times based on Jesus’ reference to Sodom in the Gospel of Luke.

Point Two
I cannot imagine any Bible-based Christian organization embracing a philosophy or doctrine which claims the New Testament Church must embrace the Laws of the Old Covenant given to the Jews. Embracing such laws would demand that modern Christians adhere to clearly identified restrictions on diet, worship, and apparel. I think most modern Christians would agree that we are no longer under the Old Testament Law and, therefore, citing Leviticus 18:22 as biblical proof that homosexuality is an abomination is not only irresponsible but inaccurate.

If the Christian Church is going to cite Levitical Law as a mandate against homosexuality it must also prohibit the eating of pork, shrimp, and lobster (11:10-12); the planting of two kinds of seed in the field (19:19); wearing mixed fabrics (19:19); eating rare meat (19:26); and women leaving their homes during menstruation (20:18 ). The Christian Church would also be required to keep a traditional seventh day Sabbath (23:3).

Point Three
Romans chapter one is clearly dealing with God’s wrath being poured out on a group of unspecified Gentiles who were participating in idolatrous worship, were haters of God, knew God but did not glorify Him as God, and who were full of fornication, wickedness, envy, murder, and pride. Does this accurately describe our family and church members who are homosexual? Does this accurately describe the numerous anointed musicians, singers, and preachers that God has used in spite of their homosexuality?

To loosely place all homosexuals in the same category as the Gentiles mentioned in Romans 1 is an insult to those homosexuals who love God, worship and acknowledge Him as God, and are either living a life of celibacy or are in a monogamous covenant relationship.

Point Four
I Corinthians 6:9 cites two Greek words, malakos and arsenokoites, to describe just some of the many sinful behaviors from which the early Christians had been delivered. These two words have been erroneously interpreted in recent Biblical translations to mean homosexuals. In fact, prior to the use of the word homosexual by the NASB translation in 1963, the word malakos had been translated as male sex slave (Vulgate), sexual perverts (RSV), and people with infamous habits (Jerusalem Bible).

The word malakos is literally translated as “soft ones” which Strong’s identifies as being of “uncertain affinity” and which would more accurately be defined as catamite or male temple cult prostitute. Arsenokoites may accurately be interpreted as Sodomite which, historically, refers to a person who indulges in violent, idolatrous, and pagan practices. It is also worth mentioning that St. Jermone (347-419A.D.) interpreted arsenokoites as “the purchased male sex slaves of men.” I think all Christians would agree (even those who are homosexual) that prostitution and violent sex acts, whether heterosexual or homosexual in nature, do not reflect Christ-like behavior.

It appears that an ill-rooted prejudice against homosexuals has strongly influenced modern translations of the Bible which, in turn, has contributed to the all too common practice of assigning second-rate status to homosexual believers. This is most frequently evidenced by the slanderous from-the-pulpit-name-calling practiced by many preachers in many churches. This is unfortunate.

Point Five
We need to honestly acknowledge that though there are individuals in churches across the country who claim they are “ex-homosexual,” many of them will, in private conversation, admit to having homosexual thoughts and feelings. The general consensus from the ex-gay movement is that the homosexual lifestyle was “killing [them] physically and spiritually” and, therefore, they have changed. The reality is that they have not been changed as much as they have chosen to avoid behavior which they have been convinced will send them to hell. The avoidance behavior of many ex-gays eventually fails miserably which has been seen in many prominent cases in recent years.

Based on my experience growing up in the United Pentecostal Church, there are many “closeted” homosexual Pentecostals across the country who deny acting on their homosexual feelings for no other reason than to be welcomed and accepted by their family, friends, and local assembly and so that they may continue to exercise the good and perfect gifts they have been blessed with. I cannot understand how this sort of modification in behavior can accurately be labeled as “ex-homosexual.” I believe “non-practicing homosexual” would be a more acceptable term.

Also, there is no more a distinction to be made between homosexual attraction and relations than there is between heterosexual attraction and relations. A homosexual who chooses not to actively engage in homosexual relationships is no more ex-homosexual than a heterosexual who chooses not to engage in heterosexual relationships is an ex-heterosexual.

This blinded misconception about sexual attraction and relations has a strong bias against homosexuals and has, unfortunately, led many homosexual Christians to manipulate and deceive those closest to them out of fear of revilement. Many young and talented gay and lesbian Pentecostals have been indirectly forced into a lifestyle they would not have normally pursued if only the church would have embraced them, loved them, and compassionately guided them in their walk with God. The human needs of the gay Christian community have not only been abandoned by the Church but have been mocked and degraded. I fear for those who, on judgment day, will be required to give an account for those members of their congregation who have suffered homelessness, disease, and addiction simply because the church was unwilling to offer them the same support they offered the heterosexuals in their Church community.

Point Six
Citing the fact that there is “no evidence that someone is born with a gay gene” is not only a misguided thought process but a scientifically unsound one as well. The theory that the absence of a “gay gene” somehow disproves a genetic connection to homosexuality is as unfounded as the theory that the absence of a “straight gene” disproves a genetic connection to heterosexuality.

As Christians how do we reconcile the fact that there are individuals who are born with genital and sexual characteristics of both sexes (intersexed)? It is estimated that the number of births in which the external genitals of the child do not match the standard for their chromosomal sex is 1:100. In other words, there are approximately 60 million individuals across the globe whose external genitals do not correspond with their chromosomal sex and who fail to reflect God’s original creative plan. Who are these individuals allowed to marry? Who are these individuals allowed to have sexual relationships with?

I do not claim to have the answer to that question but only present it here to demonstrate that the scientific evidence presented in Dr. Norris’s article was too simplified and potentially misleading to the average lay reader.

We must be honest in acknowledging that there is a broad body of scientific research regarding the influence of both genetics and environment on sexual orientation. Because there is substantial research that appears to validate both sides we cannot simply isolate the body of work which supports only one viewpoint. The reality is that God’s intended plan, as revealed through the creation of Adam and Eve, has been mutated and altered since man’s fall.

Point Seven
As far as twin studies go, it is vital that we acknowledge the fact that there are epigenetic variations among identical twins. These variations, which have no specific etiology, are, nonetheless, “natural” in the sense that they are not influenced by cognitive choice or behavior. These epigenetic variations become more prevalent as identical twins develop because these variations occur as a function of the environment (chemical, nutritional, etc.) and genes. These environmental influences affect which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off. These epigenetic variations begin in the womb and continue throughout the entire lifespan of the individual. Other examples of such complex epigenetic traits are height, skin color, and eye color. All are “natural” but can vary depending on a genetic interaction with the environment.

It is quite reasonable to assume that one twin’s sexual orientation could vary from that of the other just as one identical twin can be left handed while the other is right handed. Did the left handed twin choose not to be right handed? Did the right handed twin choose not to be left handed? I would answer, “of course not.” These differences are more likely to reflect an environmental impact on a gene which determines handedness just as the environment may likely impact a gene which determines sexual orientation.

The statistics surrounding homosexuality among identical twins reveals that there is more likelihood for sexual orientation likeness among identical twins than that of non-twin siblings just as there is more likelihood of same handedness among identical twins than non-twin siblings. As cited in Dr. Norris’s article, 52% of identical twins studied by Bailey & Pillard (1991) had an identical twin that was homosexual. What Dr. Norris failed to cite from that same study was that the percentage rate dropped dramatically to 9.2% among non-twin siblings. This may not prove that there exists a “gay gene” but it certainly proves a strong correlation between genetics and sexual orientation.

Again, I make this point to demonstrate the overly simplistic approach Dr. Norris took in citing statistics and scientific research regarding homosexuality.

Point Eight
Last, I would like to briefly address the reference to the DSM (a diagnostic manual endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association) in Dr. Norris’s article. It seems irresponsible to suggest that homosexuality can be altered or changed simply because the APA once listed it in the DSM as a psychological disorder. Mental retardation is currently listed in the DSM yet we would not suggest it is a choice or that it is subject to change. Why then is this a legitimate argument for changing homosexuality?

It is also worth pointing out that even when homosexuality was listed in the DSM, the APA did not claim changing the behavior as a recommended course of treatment. In fact, the DSM does not claim to identify the etiology (cause) of psychological disorders and certainly does not provide guidance for treatment. The DSM is simply a tool used to classify disorders, identify their symptoms, and offer “guidelines for making diagnoses.”

Dr. Norris appears to suggest in his article that we should give more credence to past views within psychiatry that defined homosexuality as a psychological disorder. Should we also then embrace past views within psychiatry regarding lobotomies?

I have worked on Psychiatric units where Christians were labeled “religiously preoccupied” and, in some cases, Schizophrenic because they claimed that God spoke to them. Certainly Dr. Norris would not validate this kind of psychiatric diagnosis.

My point is that Christian leaders should be careful in giving substantial credence to organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association due to the incompatibility that exists between many of their philosophies and those taught by the Church.

Conclusion
Oliver Thomas made a simple yet insightful observation regarding the state of the Church and its approach to homosexuality. “…whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother’s hormones, the child’s brain structure, or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability…Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you’re powerless to stop it. The more church leaders dig in their heels, the worse it’s likely to be.”

How does the Church address the fact that as a child I prayed every night for God to make me “normal” like my brothers and other male friends? How does the Church reconcile the fact that my prayers were never answered? The truth is, if science never finds a link to genetics and sexual orientation, one thing is certain; I never chose to be gay. This is a fact Christianity and its leaders are going to eventually have to accept.

The facts are simple yet difficult for many to comprehend. Yet, if we are going to try and understand the facts it will require that those on both sides of the issue step outside of their respective veils of ignorance and discuss homosexuality with empathy, compassion, and integrity.


Written by Brad Boivin

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