“The Word and the Flesh” - Local Clergy Members Discuss the Bible's Perspective on Gays
Differing views expressed in light of the upcoming equal rights proposition on the April ballot
ANCHORAGE - Anchorage clergy have played a prominent role over the years in debates about whether to add gays and lesbians to the list of protected groups under Anchorage’s municipal equal rights ordinance.
With another campaign on the issue under way, CBS 11 senior enterprise reporter Bill McAllister set out to examine conflicting interpretations of what the Bible says about homosexuality.
McAllister interviewed two ministers who hold to traditional Christian views on the subject and two others from self-described progressive churches.
“The Word and the Flesh”
At ChangePoint, Pastor Dan Jarrell says the Bible is clear that same-sex physical relationships are wrong.
"The Bible paints that as a consequence of original sin – we inherited that predisposition toward evil from our father, Adam."
Jarrell says the Pauline letter to the Romans refers to homosexual activity as an example of how deep-rooted sin is.
"It'll go so far that men will choose men over women and women will choose women over men."
Pastor Richard Irwin of Anchorage City Church also believes scripture is unequivocal.
"I think the Bible is clear about a lot of things related to sexual activity. And we have the tendency to want to pull together just one part of it, and leave out others. We want to focus on homosexual activity, for example, and leave fornication or adultery alone."
But Reverend Susan Wright of Immanuel Presbyterian Church says the Bible actually is silent on gay sex.
"There are several cases in the Bible where English translators have made it 'homosexuality.' The term 'homosexuality' did not even come into use or effect or creation until the late 1800s."
And Reverend George Blair of First Congregational Church says what some people believe are passages about the immorality of any homosexual conduct really are a condemnation of temple prostitution as a form of idolatry.
And Blair says the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about brutality toward strangers, not about sex, as such.
"As far as homosexual loving relationships with each other, the Bible doesn't talk about them, doesn't appear to have any interest in them, even though they were fairly common then, as always."
Part of the difference among ministers hinges on how they approach the Bible – specifically, whether they believe it is free of error.
"First of all there's the question of whether the document is inspired,” Jarrell said. “Is this truly the breath of God?"
"The Bible does have flaws,” Wright said. “It does have paradoxes. It does have stories of a relationship of God with a particular people. It certainly isn't a sexual handbook."
Irwin talks more about problems with the way traditional Christians express themselves regarding homosexuality than with the support he says the Bible gives for their position.
"And I think that people want to say to the sinner, ‘you ought to repent,’ but I think that the church needs to repent for attitudes that are not glorifying God, that are not redemptive, that are not loving."
Blair, a recent arrival in Alaska, says he has had few occasions to talk with ministers of opposing views on homosexuality.
"Rarely. It's a hard subject to talk about. And it's a hard subject to talk about with people who are set in their ways. And I imagine it's just as hard for them to talk to me as it would be for me to talk to them."
"Nobody's going to change my mind,” Wright said. “I'm getting too old for that. And I’m not trying to change somebody else's mind. But I am trying to show love."
"If we're going to have a healthy community, we need to have more dialogue, more conversation about these issues – as friends,” Irwin said. “Even if we walk away – and we will – we'll walk away with different convictions. But that's okay."
On this sensitive subject, agreeing to disagree might be as good as it gets.
To see the full interviews with each minister interviewed, click the links underneath the video player at the top of this page.