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Evangelical theologian makes biblical case for LGBT equality

I wanted to draw your attention to a new book that makes a biblical case for LGBT equality (full disclosure: I edited the book and my dad is the author).  The book is called Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rogers who is the former Moderator (highest elected official) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

As Nate Silver at pointed out in a recent post, the three biggest factors that influence whether a state will approve same-sex marriage are:  “1. The year in which the amendment was voted upon [every year public support for same-sex marriage increases by about 2%]; 2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;  3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.”

But what Nate's post didn't take into account is that within almost all Christian denominations in the U.S. are active LGBT advocacy groups working to change hearts and minds from within that faith tradition.  Dr. Rogers is one a number of evangelical theologians who have become vocal supporters of LGBT equality (in his case he is working to reform the Presbyterian Church USA from within).  

I sat down with Dr. Rogers (he is family after all) to talk about his new book.

(The interview is below the fold.)

Me:  Why did you write this book?

JR:  I wrote this book to help heal the church.  For decades the church has been divided over whether to ordain and marry people who are LGBT.  It seems to me that the debate highlights different methods of Biblical interpretation.  In my book, I show that the proper way to interpret the Bible is through the lens of Jesus’ redemptive life and ministry.  When we interpret the Bible in this way, we see that we are called, by the Bible, to grant equal rights to people who are LGBT.  The church won’t be healed until it does the right thing — which is to grant equal rights to people who are LGBT. 

Me:  In the book, you make some intriguing remarks about the relationship between homophobia and patriarchy.  What is this relationship all about?

JR:  Women, in ancient, patriarchal cultures were assumed to be inferior to men.  Thus, men who did not conform to traditional masculine roles were assumed, like women, to be inferior.  Homophobia, the irrational contempt for people who are sexually different, is rooted in sexism, the prejudice that women are inferior to men.  In our present culture, the people most opposed to homosexuality (like James Dobson at Focus on the Family) also demand male dominance in marriage, the family, and society. 

Me:  In the book you also talk about the progress toward LGBT equality in other denominations.  What is the state of the broader movement for LGBT equality within the American faith community?

JR:  Several denominations already have official policies of full LGBT equality including the Metropolitan Community Churches, the United Church of Christ, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.  Several other denominations are making good progress including the Episcopal Church, my own Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which is very close to a breakthrough, and the Methodist Church which has majority support for LGBT equality here in the U.S. but is still lacking the support of their international brothers and sisters.  Finally there are the denominations which are dug in or going backwards — such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention — but even within those denominations there are active advocacy groups working for change.  Fifty years ago there were no out LGBT clergy or LGBT advocacy groups in any denomination.  Now many denominations have out clergy and all denominations have active LGBT advocacy groups.  This is really remarkable progress within a relatively short space of time.   

To learn more about the book or Dr. Rogers check out:

Jesus the Bible and Homosexuality book jacket

Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program at The Human Rights Campaign says, “Rogers offers both a rigorous yet accessible theological study and a model of spiritual discernment that is essential reading for anyone struggling to reconcile their faith with the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”

William Stacy Johnson, author of A Time to Embrace: Same-gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics says “The compelling biblical and theological case Jack Rogers makes for the full acceptance of gay couples is simply impossible to ignore.”

Rev. Janet Edwards, Parish Associate, Community of Reconciliation, Pittsburgh, PA writes: “Searching Scripture even more widely, sharing the progress toward equality across a broad range of denominations and describing his encounters with so many devout LGBT folk, Jack shows us how we can biblically and truthfully include all our children in the gospel promise, 'Jesus loves me, this I know.'”

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