The Monthly Update

November 2003 Update

November 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Please have your church join with other churches around the world as we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for nothing more than being Christians. November 9th is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Let us stand with them in prayer on that date.

Speaking of persecution, please remember to keep St. Paul (UM) Church in your prayers. They have been under attack for standing for the traditional Christian faith in Fairbanks and have been under fire by the Alaska Missionary Conference, who is attempting to close the church and seize their property.

This edition of the Monthly Update addresses issues such as proposed church restructuring,' decline in active clergy, budgets, The General Board of Church and Society staff cuts, and budget increases for the agencies in the 2005-08 quadrennium.

Of especial interest is the open letter to the Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church. This addresses the amazing ability of people to rationalize away the truth of what the Bible says about homosexuality. I suspect that the liberal bishops of that denomination were very much surprised by the reaction to the planned consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop. This was an event that caused concern from people literally around the world.

It is anticipated that we will face the same issue at the General Conference to be held in Pittsburgh next year. We are working with others to ensure that the line is not crossed in further weakening our morality in this area and to maintain the biblical position.

Nationally, one of the issues that will be ever more on the front burner is the Federal Marriage Amendment. This seems to be the only sure legal safeguard that will ensure that the traditional marriage unit is kept intact. Let us do all that we can to promote its support.

Thank you again for your support and prayers. They are a necessary part of our ministry as we continue to do what the Lord has called us to.

In His service,


Allen O. Morris, Executive Director

November 2003 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

"The true meaning of the gospel is not what a person says about it, but what he does with it."
- The Navigators' Daily Walk, 12/12/95

* * * * *

Of Interest. A Shepherd and A Statesman

He challenged and endured Nazi and Communist tyrannies. He helped institute reforms that opened the Bible to millions of Catholics. He stood fast for traditional morality in an age of relativism. Last week, with his health in serious decline, millions used the occasion of his 25th anniversary as pope to remember (and say farewell to) Pope John Paul II, man of courage and man of conviction By Edward E. Plowman

Zenon Kiszko's name or the role he played in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe probably won't make it into any history books. Mr. Kiszko, the Communist Party's No. 2 man in Poland and "speaker" of the nominal parliament, certainly didn't know he was playing such a role in late 1962 and early 1963, but he was.

Mr. Kiszko held veto power over key church appointments. He already had nixed at least six of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski's nominees to fill the important See of Krakow in southern Poland. In what has to be one of history's most monumental miscalculations, Mr. Kiszko schemed instead to have a young bishop named Karol Wojtyla [voh-TILL-ah] selected as Krakow's archbishop. Party leaders apparently thought the intellectual cleric was someone who wouldn't rock the boat.

And so it was that a committed communist leader ensured the rapid advancement of a priest who would go on to become Pope John Paul II, an unyielding force in the peaceful demise of Soviet-empowered communism.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, when cautioned during World War II against displeasing Pope Pius XII, mocked: "How many divisions does the pope have?" None was in sight in 1989, but communism in Eastern Europe was finished, and Pope John Paul II had been in the thick of the nonviolent battle.

Many of the world's estimated 1 billion Roman Catholics last week celebrated his 25th anniversary as pope. For news media worldwide, it was an opportunity to explore his legacy as his health rapidly deteriorated.

Karol Wojtyla was born into a devout Catholic family on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, near the German border. Physically fit most of his life, he loved the outdoors, especially walking, biking, and skiing. Early on, he devoted himself to intellectual and artistic pursuits, becoming popular among fellow students and colleagues in the theater.

Other attributes throughout his years: a passion for God and holiness of life, rock-solid integrity, single-minded determination to accomplish the task at hand, unmistakable courage, concern for the poor and oppressed.

After Germany invaded and occupied Poland in 1939, the young Mr. Wojtyla left university classrooms and went to work in a quarry and a chemical factory. In 1942 he commenced studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary.

"It is good to resist," he told his countrymen. He clung to this principle throughout the Nazi and Soviet eras, as a priest, seminary professor, bishop, archbishop, and pope. He was by no means passive in resistance. For example, he confronted authorities, demanding building permits for churches and defending church ministry to young people.

On June 2, 1979, he stood in Warsaw's Victory Square. It was his first visit to his homeland as pope. Millions had come to see him as he traveled about. Scholar George Weigel, author of 992-page Witness to Hope, probably the best biography of John Paul II, describes the scene. The church had issued 230,000 tickets for the Mass at the square, but 300,000 people wedged themselves in, and more than twice that many filled surrounding streets. The pope began preaching what Mr. Weigel says may have been the greatest sermon of his life. It was about the sovereign power of God to transform life through redemption in Christ.

The crowd began to chant, "We want God, we want God." The pope boomed forth: "Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography. The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland." The crowd chanted, "We want God, we want God in the family, we want God in the schools, we want God in books, we want God."

Poland no longer was a communist country, Mr. Weigel wrote. "Poland was a Catholic nation saddled with a communist state."

But John Paul II will be known for much more than his opposition to totalitarianism. He was a human-rights campaigner, an advocate for the world's needy, and a blistering critic of the West for its secularism, materialism, and abandonment of moral values. He opposed war and dispatched emissaries to try to avoid or stop it. He was a defender of life when the world's dominant societies drifted toward what he called a "culture of death." He clamped down on doctrinal waywardness in academia; he wanted to ensure that Catholic higher education remained Catholic. He censured liberal prelates in Europe who wandered off the path doctrinally, and he sent some unrepentant scholars packing.

He also was a promoter of ecumenism, although ultimately he was unwilling to bridge the gap between Catholicism and Reformational Christianity. And this month he came down loudly and clearly on the side of conservatives in the Episcopal Church's conflict over a gay bishop and same-sex unions.

Many in his flock embrace him as a faithful shepherd, a compassionate pastor. Fluent in at least eight languages, he traveled to more than 100 countries (a papal record) to deliver the church's message and to shore up its members. A would-be assassin's bullet in 1981 and surgical operations didn't slow him down. Advancing age and Parkinson's disease did that. When Vatican insiders early this month suggested to reporters that he was dying, he summoned his reserves for one more trip-to Naples, where he was greeted by tens of thousands. So much for rumors, he seemed to imply impishly.

In 1960 he authored Love and Responsibility, a still significant book on marriage and sexuality. As pope, he wrote numerous scholarly essays and issued important encyclicals.

When still a bishop, he was a behind-the-scenes architect of Vatican II, the wide-ranging church council convened in 1962 by John XXIII and closed by Paul VI in 1965. The council drew up reforms aimed at helping the church come to grips with the modern world, and to lead Catholics into spiritual renewal. There were new freedoms. Contemporary touches enlivened church services, but the Mass remained at the core.

As a result of Vatican II, the Bible for many Catholics became an open book for the first time. This development gave rise in 1967 to the Catholic charismatic renewal movement. For years, it was the most vibrant and significant movement throughout the worldwide church. Through it, millions "rediscovered Jesus" and countless numbers of people discovered Him for the first time. John Paul II took delight in the spiritual transformations taking place, but also took steps to make sure the charismatic renewal remained under Rome's oversight.

Theological liberals in the church saw in Vatican II an opportunity to forward their agendas. But John Paul II, who reportedly had authored two primary Vatican II documents, dismayed the liberals by defining the boundaries of Vatican II and trying to keep people focused on its spiritual priorities. That wasn't good enough for hard-line conservatives who had opposed the reforms in the first place. They wanted to see Vatican II scrapped and the church "restored" to an earlier, traditional mode. The pope adhered to his middle course.

In some matters, John Paul II had to endure disappointment. Like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, he was dismayed to see many Eastern Europeans shed repression-refined values and commitment to the greater good soon after liberty came.

The pope found a church in shambles in 1978: Huge losses of priests and nuns had impaired its ministry. Twenty-five years later, the worldwide shortage of priests persists. Those serving are aging, and seminaries see decreasing enrollments. Catholic schools are trying to cope with the loss of hundreds of thousands of nuns.

The clergy sex-abuse scandal in America and elsewhere hurt: John Paul II, an advocate of sexuality based on biblical standards, was betrayed by hundreds of his own priests. He lamented to visiting priests from the Philippines this month that the transgressions of a relative few have tainted the work of the entire clergy. He issued an apology to victims of abuse, but critics said he should have come down sooner and harder on the abusers and the bishops who shielded them.

His strenuous effort to reach out and end estrangement with the Russian Orthodox Church over church members and property remains a matter of unfinished business. So does the debate between evangelical and Roman Catholic theologians-but overall many Catholic and Protestant conservatives give Karol Wojtyla more pluses than minuses. Although he adheres to traditional Catholic teaching, Catholic scholar Michael Novak and Anglican theologian J.I. Packer see him confronting a post-Christian culture in much the same way that some evangelical Protestant thinkers do.

Catholic philosopher Eduardo Echeverria notes that for both John Paul II and such evangelicals, "Christian spirituality is based on the biblical affirmation that 'Jesus Christ is Lord' (Philippians 2:11) over the whole of life, including culture, and that the whole of life is under God's blessing, judgment, and redeeming purposes." John Paul II's intellectual vigor, compassion, and love for people will be needed by his successor-and by all of us.

[Note: This is included because of the tremendous impact that Pope John Paul has had on world affairs and the Christian witness. At the time he ascended to the Roman Catholic papacy in the 1970s I was an Army Captain stationed in Europe. Daily I faced the numerical advantage enjoyed by the Soviet army in terms of men, tanks, and artillery. I believed then that some day I would die under the treads of a Soviet tank as my soldiers and I fought against the Russian advance across Western Europe. When I heard about the fact that a Polish cardinal had become Pope, I thought of the possibilities. Two things I knew about Poland were: 1. The people are intensely spiritual, and 2. the people are very determined. (some would call them "stubborn.") I thought this could pose a significant change in the balance of power in our favor. History has proven this to be the case. Two men - President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul - had more to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union than did any other factors. This is something that I would not thought could have happened in my wildest dreams. Today two of the most important public issues are those of abortion and homosexual advocacy: abortion could precipitate God's judgment on our nation, and the second has the possibility of precipitating either the collapse of our society or God's judgment on our nation - or both. The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of speaking out on both issues. - Major (Retired) Allen Morris, editor of the "Monthly Update"]

+ Publisher Fears Canadian Law could Label Holy Scriptures [as] 'HATE SPEECH'

A proposed law could mean that the Bible would be considered hate literature in Canada. And a court case in Australia offers further evidence of the modern climate of tolerance for all but Christians -- a trial that calls into question Christians' right to question the validity of other faiths.[Note: This is a trend we see.] - Agape Press, October 16, 2003

+ Agency wraps up church restructuring 'gift'

The General Council on Ministries sewed up most of the details of their "Living Into the Future" proposal. It calls for the creation of a Connectional Table to oversee general church programming and financial administration. The table would bring together church leaders from around the world to direct ministries in a holistic way. The General Council on Ministries and the General Council on Finance and Administration would cease to exist after a two-year transition, and the table would become fully empowered Jan. 1, 2007. The plan provides for a table of up to 134 members and spells out how 119 would be chosen. The members would include 83 people elected through the U.S. jurisdictional and non-U.S. central conferences; up to 14 bishops; and up to 12 at-large members to ensure balance in race and ethnicity, lay and clergy background, gender and geography. The top staff executives and presidents of 10 general agencies also would be included. The Rev. Andy Langford predicts the General Conference will set aside the proposal and seek an alternative to fulfill the 2000 mandate. Langford, a council member from Matthews, N.C., is writing a paper on his view that the council has failed to meet its mandate. "It is not a viable document for General Conference," he said of the plan. "I think the idea has some merit but (also) some significant and fundamental flaws." The plan is almost impossible to implement, he said. The table would have restricted authority over the agencies, and the firewalls between finance and programming would be eliminated, he said. In addition, the top staff executives of the church's agencies would have voting power, creating a conflict of interest and departing from the church's historical polity, he said. "This is a larger, centralized, powerless bureaucracy that will continue the status quo of the general agencies," he said.

The 2000 General Conference rejected it but salvaged five "transformational directions" from the Connectional Processes Team (CPT) report and passed them on to the Council of Ministries with directions to produce a new model. "Living Into the Future" is not a CPT repeat, said Jay Williams of Buffalo, N.Y. [Note: We do see this as a CPT repeat. - Editor] - Tim Tanton ; United Methodist News Service (UMNS); Nashville {03433} ; Sep. 12, 2003.

+ Conference Reports Show Continued Decline in Active Clergy

There was a decline of more than 200 active elders, according to the numbers being ordained or retiring at this year's annual conference sessions. Most conferences ordained fewer elders in full connection than the number of those who retired. After factoring reported gains in deacons in full connection and associate members, 2003 retirees outnumbered new clergy by more than 100. With 60 of the 63 conferences in the United States reporting, 483 elders were ordained in 2003. According to the General Council on Finance and Administration, 526 elders were ordained in 2002. At least ten U.S. conferences reported to Newscope gains in the number of active elders. - Newscope; September 12, 2003

(UM) General Board of Church and Society (GBCS).

+ Boycotts, budgets garner attention of social action board

Voting directors readily agreed to abandon an agency boycott against Kraft Foods (it owns Philip Morris) entered a few years ago, but not the Mt. Olive Pickle Company. The board's Peace with Justice Work Area recommended that directors authorize the board's executive committee to join the boycott (against Mt. Olive) if further progress is not made by early 2004. Laura Little, a board member from Greenville, N.C., and a member of the visitation team, objected, reading a letter to Bishop Marion Edwards of Raleigh from the Rev. Charles Smith, director of connectional ministries for the North Carolina Annual Conference, reporting his observations as part of the visitation team and questioning the effectiveness of the proposed boycott. A new resolution reflects the cessation of U.S. Navy bombing practice on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and calls for cleanup and a return of land taken in 1941. Likewise, a new resolution on terrorism for General Conference urges world leaders to repudiate violence [and] supports the United Nations as an agency for conflict resolution rather than resorting to war...Board members also approved rewritten or newly created resolutions on such widely diverse topics as alcohol advertising, the United Nations, suicide and separation of church and state.

[In another area] the social action board is facing a financial crisis. "The combination of reduced World Service funding for the board during the 2001-04 quadrennium, the forced spend-down of our reserves, the rise in health care expenses and the decline in the General Agency Benefit Trust has hit our agency all at once," Jim Winkler said. The board is allocated about $8 million from the World Service Fund for 2001-04, down from $10 million each for the preceding quadrennia. The 2004 budget the board approved was $1.3 million less than the 2003 budget.

In other business, directors voted to partially fund requests from six organizations through grants from the Ethnic Local Church Fund. A total of $67,500 was awarded in response to applications totaling $223,000. Some grants address particular areas; others, like a $15,000 grant to the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group to assist ethnic caucus volunteers who will observe General Conference, serve the broader church. Three grants extend the assistance of the global church to justice issues in Vieques, Korean immigrant communities, and work with families affected by atomic testing in the Marshall Islands. [Note: Again, one cannot help but ask, "What does this have to do with leading people to Christ?" If the board were to use money more efficiently, they would have enough to cover their legitimate needs. - Editor] - Joretta Purdue, UMNS; Washington; {03442} September 17, 2003.

+ Board of Church and Society cuts staff

The GBCS has cut more than a third of its staff positions, becoming the latest church agency forced to reduce its work force because of financial pressure. Just 26 people will remain in October of what was a staff of 40. at the beginning of the year. Of these, six are executives, 14 are program workers and six are support people. [Note: This is seen as a two-fold issue: 1) They are taking these actions to try to garner support for more money at the General Conference and 2) Inefficient management of the resources they do have. Perhaps if they did not engage in so many causes extraneous to Christian priorities, they would have enough assets to support their staff. See the preceding section on their activities.]

- Joretta Purdue, UMNS; Washington; {03455} September 25, 2003.


+ No Reaction from Methodist Church to Minister's Claim that Jesus Was 'Gay'
- A United Methodist minister who has written a book on Jesus that many Christians consider blasphemous says he has not been reprimanded by his denomination. And he says his claim that certain biblical texts in the gospel actually celebrate homosexual behavior has received a mixed reaction from believers. Dr. Ted Jennings is an ordained minister of the UMC and a professor of biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, which is associated with the United Church of Christ. A longtime apologist for the homosexual lifestyle, Jennings helped to establish the Lesbian/Gay Studies program at the seminary. In his book The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament, Jennings claims Jesus Christ not only condoned homosexual relationships, but was involved in one. In comments about the book, he argues that disapproval of the behavior of persons based on their sexual orientation or homosexual practices is a fundamental distortion of the biblical message:

Although the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline opposes homosexuality, Jennings says he has not been disciplined by his denomination. "I've not yet had any backlash from [Methodists leaders]," he says. "I know that [the incompatibility of homosexuality with scripture] has been the official position of the [Methodist] Church...."

Support from the seminary should not be surprising. Its mission statement says that "while church and society are threatened by new forces of division under the banner of homophobia, [we are committed] to developing leadership for a more inclusive church and society." The seminary also grants special considerations to "self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered students who show exceptional promise for ministry." In addition, the denomination with which the seminary is affiliated -- the United Church of Christ -- claims to be "one of the most diverse Christian churches" in the U.S. Open homosexuals hold a number of national church offices, and the denomination requires that homosexuals are included on all church agency boards. In an article by Concerned Women for America Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy describes the UCC this way: "The most liberal of America's mainline denominations, the UCC marries gays, ordains witches, and prefers sit-ins (just name the cause) to evangelistic rallies," Tooley said. "It's also been one of the fastest imploding churches, having lost about 40% of its members in 35 years."

- By Jim Brown and Jody Brown, Agape Press, September 25, 2003. See also the Concerned Women for America website:

+ Orthodox Bishops Statement on Moral Crisis in Nation

The Roman Catholic Church, the World Anglican Communion, now the Orthodox Church, as well as the rest of Christians throughout the world, have all issued statements over the past few weeks affirming their United Voice on sexuality. This is the latest:

"As members of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), representing more than 5 million Orthodox Christians in the United States, Canada and Mexico, we are deeply concerned about recent developments regarding "same sex unions." The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex. Holy Scripture attests that God creates man and woman in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:27-31), that those called to do so might enjoy a conjugal union that ideally leads to procreation. While not every marriage is blessed with the birth of children, every such union exists to create of a man and a woman a new reality of "one flesh." This can only involve a relationship based on gender complementarity. "God made them male and female... So they are no longer two but one flesh" (Mark 10:6-8).

The union between a man and a woman in the Sacrament of Marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). As such, marriage is necessarily monogamous and heterosexual. Within this union, sexual relations between a husband and wife are to be cherished and protected as a sacred expression of their love that has been blessed by God. Such was God's plan for His human creatures from the very beginning. Today, however, this divine purpose is increasingly questioned, challenged or denied, even within some faith communities, as social and political pressures work to normalize, legalize and even sanctify same-sex unions. The Orthodox Church cannot and will not bless same-sex unions. Whereas marriage between a man and a woman is a sacred institution ordained by God, homosexual union is not. Like adultery and fornication, homosexual acts are condemned by Scripture (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:10). This being said, however, we must stress that persons with a homosexual orientation are to be cared for with the same mercy and love that is bestowed by our Lord Jesus Christ upon all of humanity. All persons are called by God to grow spiritually and morally toward holiness. As heads of the Orthodox Churches in America and members of SCOBA, we speak with one voice in expressing our deep concern over recent developments. And we pray fervently that our nation will honor and preserve the traditional form of marriage as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman."

+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+Metropolitan HERMAN Orthodox Church in America

+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+Archbishop NICOLAE Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+Metropolitan JOSEPH Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+Metropolitan CONSTANTINE Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

- The Rev. Dr. Christopher Hershman; E-mail, sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2003. GREEK ORTHODOX


Stewardship. Small Budget Increases Proposed for Agencies in 2005-08

The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) had earlier decided to recommend that $222 million be approved for these agencies during the 2005-08 period. Voting members of the GCFA and the General Council on Ministries approved a plan for dividing the money. The agencies received almost $186 million in World Service funds for the 2001-04 quadrennium. Part of the financial squeeze results from the fact that General Conference instructed the program boards to spend down their reserves during the 2001-04 quadrennium. The stock market's fall hurt the agencies' portfolios as well as the denomination's trust fund income, which was budgeted to help fund retiree health insurance. Projected income from the trust fund is being budgeted for the 2005-08 period at half the amount specified for the current quadrennium. The proposed spending allocations that GCFA and GCOM approved reflect a restoration of spending power to the agencies, along with an increase of less than 2%. The four-year totals in World Service Fund money for each agency would be: 1) Board of Global Ministries, $126 million; 2) Board of Discipleship, $31.75 million; 3) Board of Higher Education and Ministry, $25.7 million; 4) Board of Church and Society, $11.7 million; 5) Commission on Religion and Race, $7 million; 6) Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, $5.5 million; 7) Commission on the Status and Role of Women, $3.04 million; and 8) Commission on UM Men, $1.5 million. The $222 million budget also includes allocations for several funds administered by the agencies. The Board of Discipleship oversees two efforts: the Shared Mission Focus on Young People, $3.1 million, and the United Methodist Youth Organization, $900,000. The Hispanic, Asian, and Native American (HANA) Scholarships, $2.2 million, are awarded by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The Commission on Religion and Race administers the Minority Group Self-Determination Fund, $3.45 million, and the denomination's contribution to Project Equality, $160,000.

- Joretta Purdue, UMNS, as reported in Newscope, September 19, 2003.

* * * * *

"David, the man after God's own heart didn't do his devotions; he lived them."
- Daily Walk , June 28/29, 1997

Global Outlook

"Sin is so big that it takes Christ with a cross to measure it."
- Daily Walk, February 2, 1997

* * * * *

The Episcopal Church. An Open Letter to the Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
September 30, 2003

Dear Presiding Bishop Griswold,
The following remarks were attributed to you in an Associated Press interview published yesterday ("Episcopal Leader Defends Gay Bishop," by Rachel Zoll, AP religion writer;):

He said that in biblical times there was no understanding that homosexuality was a natural orientation and not a choice. "Discreet acts of homosexuality" were condemned in the Bible because they were acts of lust instead of the "love, forgiveness, grace" of committed same-sex relationships, he said. "Homosexuality, as we understand it as an orientation, is not mentioned in the Bible," he said.

With all due respect, if these remarks are correctly cited, you are in error on all counts.

First, there were many theories in the Greco-Roman world that posited something akin to modern sexual orientation theory. Philosophers, doctors, and moralists often attributed one or more forms of homosexual behavior, at least in part, to congenital factors. And some of the same persons could still refer to such forms as "contrary to nature" - that is, given by nature but not in conformity with embodied existence or nature's well-working processes. Lifelong, exclusive participants in homosexual behavior were also widely known in the ancient world. Indeed, Paul's reference to the malakoi ("soft men," men who play the sexual role of females) in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is one such instance.

Second, you assume that the absence of "choice" regarding sexual impulses absolves one of moral responsibility for the behavior arising from such impulses. Numerous sinful desires, sexual and otherwise, are not "chosen" in the sense of being manufactured willfully. That doesn't make them any less sinful-though it can and should inform our pastoral response. Who would choose to be a pedophile if it were a simple matter of choice? Some people find it extraordinarily difficult to be limited to a single sex partner; do they choose their sexual impulses? Some people grow up without an instinctive aversion to sex with close blood relations and then fall in love with one such relative; do they simply manufacture such feelings? Paul describes sin itself in Romans 7 as an innate impulse, passed on by an ancestor figure, running through the members of the human body, and never entirely within human control. The very nature of sin is that it generates biologically related impulses. Why do you think a biological connection disqualifies an impulse from being sinful? Such thinking is patently un-biblical.

Third, biblical writers were certainly not limiting their condemnation of same-sex intercourse to particularly exploitative forms. Non-exploitative forms were known in Paul's day and had Paul wanted to limit his condemnation to exploitative forms he certainly could have done so. The wording in Romans 1:24-27 is quite clear as regards what Paul found objectionable about same-sex intercourse: its same-sexness, persons seeking sexual integration with a non-complementary sexual same, persons erotically attracted to what they intrinsically are as sexual beings. This is sexual narcissism and/or sexual self-deception: a desire either for what one is or for what one wishes to be but in fact already is. The intertextual echoes to Genesis 1:27 ("God made them male and female") and Genesis 2:24 ("For this reason a man shall . . . be joined to his woman/wife and the two shall become one flesh") in Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, respectively, confirm that Paul had in view the male-female prerequisite ordained by God at creation. (Incidentally, so did Jesus when he appealed to the same two texts from Genesis as normative and prescriptive texts for human sexual relations [Mark 10:6-8].) The beautiful image put forward in Genesis 2:18-24 is that of an original binary human split down the side into two sexually differentiated beings. If sexual relations are to be had, "one-flesh" sexual wholeness requires a re-merger of the two constituent parts produced by the splitting. By "nature" in Romans 1:24-27 Paul meant the complementary structure of males and females still transparent in material creation-a category of thinking that transcends issues of love and commitment. The description in Romans 1:27 of males mutually gratifying themselves with other males does not suggest exploitation. Nor does the mention of female-female intercourse point us in the direction of a particularly exploitative form of same-sex intercourse. The language in Romans 1:24-27 of being "given over" to preexisting desires and forsaking any heterosexual relations certainly suggests innate and exclusive passions for members of the same sex. Scripture is clearly condemning every form of same-sex intercourse. Biblical authors would no more have accepted a committed and loving homosexual union than they would have accepted a committed and loving adult incestuous union. Both types of unions are structurally incompatible: sex with sexual or familial sames.

Much more could be said about each of the points above but what I have written should suffice for now.
Even some pro-homosex biblical scholars such as Bernadette Brooten and William Schoedel recognize that "sexual orientation" and commitment would have made little difference to Paul's indictment of same-sex intercourse. My book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon) which has been out for a full two years, also makes this clear (see especially pp. 347-60, 380-95). See also now my more condensed discussion in Homosexuality and the Bible (Fortress), just released, and a forthcoming article in an edited volume entitled Christian Sexuality (Kirk House), which deals extensively with orientation theory in antiquity.

There really is no excuse any more for making the kinds of false statements about Scripture that you made in the AP interview. It is especially inexcusable for a presiding bishop-an office that has guarding the faith as a chief concern-to be making such inaccurate representations of the biblical witness. I urge you to read more widely, and more carefully, as regards recent work on the subject of the Bible and homosexual behavior.


Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

- Robert A. J. Gagnon Responds to Bishop Griswold Interview; October 1, 2003. The letter can be found on the website:>

* * * * *

The promises of God are certain, but they don't all mature in 90 days.
- The Navigators'Daily Walk, January 18/19, 1997