New Episcopal Leader Says Homosexuality a Gift from God

Katharine Jefferts Schori, whose weekend election as the leader of U.S. Episcopaleans was already likely to spark incredible controversy, has wasted no time adding fuel to the fire, telling CNN that not only is homosexuality not a sin, it’s a gift from the God.

Newly elected leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said on Monday she believed homosexuality was no sin and homosexuals were created by God to love people of the same gender. Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was elected on Sunday as the first woman leader of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church. the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. She will formally take office later this year.

Interviewed on CNN, Jefferts Schori was asked if it was a sin to be homosexual. “I don’t believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us,” she said. “Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.”

Steven Taylor agrees that “letting the whole ‘woman in charge of the denomination’ thing sink it first might’ve been a good idea before jumping into the next controversy….”

I’ve got no theological dog in this fight but find it rather amusing. It’s rather clear that the few biblical references to homosexual relations consider it a sin but it’s far from clear that it’s any more of a sin than, say, lustful thoughts. Indeed, it presumably ranks below dishonoring one’s parents and coveting your neighbor’s possessions on the sin food chain, given that two of the Ten Commandments focused on those evils whereas the only sexual misconduct included was the prohibition against adultery.

Schori’s statement to CNN has some wiggle room, though, in that she does not distinguish between “homosexuality” as a predisposition and homosexual relations as a practice. One could certainly argue that the former, and the internal struggles it would bring to the devout, are a “gift” in the sort of way that the trials and tribulations of human existence constitute. One has to stretch Christian teaching to the breaking point, however, to conclude that the latter was handed down as a gift from the Almighty to be enjoyed along with all the others.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Religion, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jo says:

    I think we need to remember that when it all washes out, God is going to be the one making the final judgement on this. If the people of that church organization don’t agree, they need to leave.

  2. Eneils Bailey says:

    I am not a very religious person, but I do believe we are all God’s children. In a sense, if God put someone on this earth destined to be a homosexual, the person is a gift to us all, but not the behavior.
    Maybe she should consider exchanging the “gift” of homosexuality for the gift of life. Sounds like she is using a prepaid religious gift card to pick and choose her pet beliefs from the big department store in the sky.

  3. Anderson says:

    Well, if homosexuality is “in the genes,” then it’s either a gift or a curse.

    The “but it’s forbidden in the Bible” argument works for a few fundamentalists, but most Christians are perfectly happy disregarding quite a lot of what’s in the Bible (cf. the “Questions for Dr. Laura” that have appeared in everyone’s inbox at least once).

    For a glaring example, Jesus is silent on gays but expressly forbids divorce. How many Protestants today forbid divorce?

    Bishop Schori probably differs mainly in having a theology that justifies/rationalizes this selective reading, unlike Joe Christian on the street, who’s been divorced twice but still thinks God hates gays.

  4. Foston says:

    And why would Jesus expressly condemn divorce? Many theologians argue that Jesus did this because divorce for resons other than adultry would result in the woman (and her children other than the first born male) to be effectively made homeless beggars. For a man to just decide that he wanted some new 19 year old chick for his own fun, while dumping his 34 year old and a 9 year old daugther on the street “might” not be moral.

    My point in this is exactly what our new leader Bishop Schori said (yes, I am an Epsicopalian): That Jesus said alot about how to be in society together, Jesus said alot about how to treat one another. The perverse, overly moralistic overtones of Judgement are not the true reflection of the minstry of Christ, and Bishop Schori was exactly right to point it out.

    What was Jesus’s greatest command? Love God with all your heart and love your Neighbor as yourself. How do we love Gays by excluding them, thereby hurting them? In a true ministry, you cannot. Are we saying we are better than them, that our closets are cleaner? That we are without sin? Let God decide our sin. And lets worry about our own sin. Everyone is so concerned with THESE or THOSE peoples sin. As if its some fun game to find out who is the worst sinner. Worry about yourself, love your neighbor whoever he is. Try to understand rather than be understood.

    Basic Chrisitian principles. Basic.

    Foston

  5. Foston says:

    Sounds like she is using a prepaid religious gift card to pick and choose her pet beliefs from the big department store in the sky.

    I dont know taht I agree with that. She said that there are a lot of laws in the bible (read leviticus for a while…) that we don’t follow. Divorce is but one such example. There are laws that govern every aspect of daily life. And face it, NO ONE, execept extremely traditional Jews, follows these laws to the letter.

    So effectively, despite arguments from Evangelicals, NO ONE FOLLOWS THE LAW IN ITS ENTIRETY. So to arbitrarily say that this sin or that sin is worse than another is misguided.

    So then we come to Jesus. And what is Jesus doing for the bulk of his ministry? Hanging with people who were excluded (tax collectors, lepers, women, etc, etc etc) all of these people were excluded, they are the equivalent of modern day gay people who have been excluded by the church. And Jesus associated freely with these “unclean” people. And preached a message of freedom, not by renouncing sin to free yourself from leprocy (wasnt gonna work), but that God loved you you anyway.

    Foston

  6. Anderson says:

    Sounds good to me, Foston. Re: Jesus and divorce, I’ve seen similar arguments to Foston’s made about homosexuality: that what Paul condemns is pederasty, not homosexuality. (Difficult to square with the Old Testament, but then, so is a lot of Christian belief & practice.)

  7. Foston says:

    There are a lot of things that are difficult to square with the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament as well. We Episcopalians hold these tensions in the scriptures as sacred documents, and at the same time recognizing that they are problematic and difficult at times.

    Is that a problem? Hardly. When one takes the time to realize that the scriptures speak to a great many truthes about us and our relationship to God, then some details can be taken with a grain of salt. It is not really possible to accurately follow every detail of scriptural law….at least thats not what anyone does (again minus very traditional Jews)

    Was there really a man with a field? probably not, but that is hardly the point now is it?

    Foston

  8. DavidV says:

    What was Jesus�s greatest command? Love God with all your heart and love your Neighbor as yourself. How do we love Gays by excluding them, thereby hurting them? In a true ministry, you cannot. Are we saying we are better than them, that our closets are cleaner? That we are without sin? Let God decide our sin. And lets worry about our own sin. Everyone is so concerned with THESE or THOSE peoples sin. As if its some fun game to find out who is the worst sinner. Worry about yourself, love your neighbor whoever he is. Try to understand rather than be understood.

    You appear to be conflating two different issues here. It is absolutely true, and biblical, to love homosexuals. However, if we accept the biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin, it is hardly loving to tell gays they are “O.K.” when, in fact, they are behaving in a manner condemned by God.

    If the biblical teachings (in both Old and New Testaments) against homosexuality are true, “lovingly” refusing to confront gays about their lifestyle is akin to letting a skydiver jump without a parachute because you don’t want to hurt his feelings by pointing out the problem.

  9. Anderson says:

    If the biblical teachings (in both Old and New Testaments) against homosexuality are true, â??lovinglyâ?? refusing to confront gays about their lifestyle is akin to letting a skydiver jump without a parachute because you donâ??t want to hurt his feelings by pointing out the problem.

    I think the problem is that people who don’t feel any need to “confront” divorced people, or eaters of shellfish for that matter, *do* feel the need to “confront” gays. Hypocrisy? Bigotry? Stupidity? Are we limited to just one choice here?

  10. DavidV says:

    The prohibition against eating shellfish was an Old Testament command, given specifically to the Jewish people to differentiate themselves from the surrounding nations. In fact, if you’ll notice, there isn’t a single New Testament verse in the “Dr. Laura letter” you linked to. The Old Testament is certainly still valid, but some OT laws were only intended for the Jewish people.

    With certain limited exceptions, divorce is just as wrong as homosexuality. The hypocrisy of many Christians who act otherwise does not affect the central question of the morality of homosexuality.

  11. Foston,

    If a man was beating his wife, should we not love him? Of course we should. Should we also not love his sin if we love him? I don’t see the biblical command for that.

    Alcoholism is also arguably in the genes (certainly there seems to be a genetic predisposition to pass it males through the maternal side). Does that mean we should treat alcoholism as something to be treasured as a gift from God (as opposed to the person fleeing from alcohol because it can control them)?

    Jesus, as God incarnate, had an infinite capacity to show grace and forgive the sinners. That didn’t mean he embraced and encouraged sin. Love the sinner but hate the sin is very much in line with Jesus’s teaching. At the same time, I agree that to many Christians have trouble distinguishing between the sinner and the sin. They are more concerned about the mote than the beam.

    I know Christians who have homosexual desires and have had homosexual relationships. I know Christians that have had affairs and have continuing lustful desires. Both groups struggle not to act out on those desires. They aren’t always successful. But those sins, along with my own, are covered by the blood. I see nothing in Jesus’s teachings or the new testament that says we should embrace or seek out sin, even though it is all covered by the blood.

    James,

    You are right that lustful thoughts would be an equal sin to homosexual relations. There really isn’t a grading system that places one sin above another. We are to flee from all sin and we are redeemed from all sin by belief in Christ. I think her problem is in distinguishing lust and love. While I have no lust for my fellow man, as a Christian I can certainly love my fellow man. While as a Christian I should show love to women, sex is not the way to show love to women other than my wife. And it is also certainly possible to have non-marital sexual relations with my wife (for example using her as a sexual object rather than loving her).

    I think the impact of this is to likely hasten the movement of Episcopalians to other denominations or to “active non-member” status. Jesus also had something to say about false teachers and the fruits that would come from them. My own suspicion is that the Episcopalians won’t be very impressed with the fruits (no pun intended) they will gather with Schori’s thinking.

  12. Anderson says:

    The hypocrisy of many Christians who act otherwise does not affect the central question of the morality of homosexuality.

    (Says you.)

    And of course, we do have Acts to help out on the shellfish issue. But as for the many other repugnant commands in the OT, I am none too clear how “some commands are meant only for the Jewish people” on any fundamentalist reading.

    “All Scripture is profitable”; Jesus didn’t come to change one jot or iota of the Law; etc.

    Now, that doesn’t bother me, b/c I’m not a fundamentalist. For the same reason, I can take the command against divorce as limited by its time & place, while also noting that divorce really is a terrible thing much of the time.

    But I’ve never quite understood how those who declare the entire OT to be the holy inspired word of God are then able to shrug off what they don’t like as “oh, that’s for the Jews.”

  13. DavidV says:

    The hypocrisy of many Christians who act otherwise does not affect the central question of the morality of homosexuality.

    (Says you.)

    Says the laws of logic. (Ad Hominem Tu Quoque)

    Your point that we could say “It’s only for the Jewish people” about any OT teaching is generally valid. However, you have to take any individual teaching and determine from context whether it was directed at the specific culture and time period or whether it is more broadly applicable.

    To take shellfish vs. homosexuality, you will notice that Leviticus 11:1 starts the list that includes the prohibition of shellfish with “Say to the Israelites.” It is part of a series of laws intended to distinguish the Jewish culture from the surrounding nations. Furthermore, the prohibition does not reappear elsewhere in the Bible.

    On the other hand, condemnation of homosexual behavior appears throughout the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments (Romans 1:26-27 and I Timothy 1:10, for example).

  14. floyd says:

    i can understand the commenters’ cursory reading of scripture, but schori should know better. before accepting a position that high in her “church” she should have read it’s foundational[or should i say only seminal?] document.

  15. floyd says:

    i meant to add “with comprehension”