Part of a series on
Christianity and
sexual orientation
Denominational positions

Christian denominations have a variety of beliefs about sexual orientation, including the moral status of same-sex sexual practices and gender variance. Denominations differ in the way they treat LGBT people; variously, LGBT people may be barred from membership, accepted as laity, or ordained as priests, depending on the denomination.

Homosexuality Edit

Male homosexuality Edit

Christianity has traditionally regarded homosexuality, in the sense of human sexual behavior, to be an immoral practice (or vice) and sinful, and most major Christian denominations (containing the majority of Christians worldwide) continue to hold this view, including the Roman Catholic Church,[1] conservative synods of the Lutheran Church (i.e., Missouri Synod[2][3][4] ), the Eastern Orthodox churches,[5] most Evangelical Protestant churches, the Southern Baptist Convention, the LDS Church, the Brethren in Christ,[6] and the Christian & Missionary Alliance.

Some Christians have come to believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. Denominations holding this position include the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Moravian Church, and the Friends General Conference. Also in Europe the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the Lutheran Church of Denmark, the Lutheran Church in Norway, the Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, the German Lutheran and United Churches in Evangelical Church in Germany and the reformed churches in Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The Metropolitan Community Church has been founded specifically to serve the Christian LGBT community.

The Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, Methodist Church of Great Britain,[7] and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also after actively debate believe that gay sex is not an inherently sinful practice. The worldwide Anglican Communion has experienced ongoing debate and controversy over homosexuality both before and after the Episcopal Church ordained the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003.

Lesbianism Edit

Lesbians and same-sex attracted women face different social and cultural preconception, making their experience in Christianity sometimes dissimilar to that of gay men.

A survey of self-identified lesbian women found a "dissonance" between their religious and sexual identities. This dissonance correlated with being an evangelical Christian before coming out.[8]

Transgenderism Edit

Abrahamic religions have creation stories in which God creates people, "male and female".[9][10] The Torah contains prohibitions about men wearing women's clothing, and women wearing men's clothing.[11] Men with damaged testicles or cut off genitals are not to be admitted to religious assemblies.[12]

The New Testament is more ambiguous about gender-variant identities than the Old Testament is. Eunuchs (Greek eunochos, similar to Hebrew saris) are indicated as acceptable candidates for evangelism and baptism, as demonstrated in a story about the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch.[13] At one point, while answering questions about marriage and divorce, Jesus says that "there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."[14] There has been discussion about the significance of the selection of the Ethiopian eunuch as being the first gentile conversion to Christianity: the inclusion of a eunuch, representing a sexual minority, similar to some included under today's category of transgender, in the context of the time.[15]

A 2000 document from the Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concludes that the sex-change procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the Church. “The key point,” said the reported document “is that the transsexual surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was a male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female.” The document also concludes that a “sex-change” operation could be morally acceptable in certain extreme cases, but that in any case transgendered people cannot validly marry.[16]

Pope Benedict XVI has denounced gender theory, warning that it blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.[17] He warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term "gender" is altered. "What is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender,' is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator," he warned. "Man wants to create himself, and to decide always and exclusively on his own about what concerns him." The Pontiff said this is man living "against truth, against the creating Spirit."[18]

In the Church of England, the Bishop of Hereford defended his decision to ordain a transsexual woman as a priest. Assistant curate Sarah Jones, 44, from Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, spent the first 29 years of her life living as a man.[19]

Modern Christian denominations vary in their views. The United Church of Christ General Synod called for full inclusion of transgender persons in 2003.[20] In 2008, the United Methodist Church Judicial Council ruled that transgender pastor Drew Phoenix could keep his position.[21] At the UMC General Conference the same year, several petitions that would have forbidden transgender clergy and added anti-transgender language to the Book of Discipline were rejected.[22]

Beliefs and mythology Edit

Biblical Edit

See also: The Bible and homosexuality

Following the lead of Yale scholar John Boswell, it has been argued that a number of early Christians (such as Saints Sergius and Bacchus) entered into homosexual relationships,[23] and that certain Biblical figures had homosexual relationships, despite Biblical injunctions against sexual relationships between members of the same sex. Examples cited are Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, Daniel and the court official Ashpenaz, and, most famously, David and King Saul's son Jonathan.[24]

The story of David and Jonathan has been described as "biblical Judeo-Christianity's most influential justification of homoerotic love".[25] The relationship between David and Jonathan is mainly covered in the Old Testament First Book of Samuel, as part of the story of David's ascent to power. The mainstream view found in modern biblical exegesis argues that the relationship between the two is merely a close platonic friendship.[26][27] However, there has long been a tradition of interpreting the love between David and Jonathan as romantic or sexual.[28][29][30][31] Although David was married (to many women), he articulates a distinction between his relationship with Jonathan and the bonds he shares with women.

Another biblical hero, Noah, best known for his building an ark to save animals and worthy people from a divinely caused flood, later became a wine-maker. One day he drinks too much wine, and fell asleep naked in his tent. When his son Ham enters the tent, he sees his father naked, and is cursed with banishment and possibly slavery and becoming black-skinned. In Jewish tradition, it is also suggested that Ham had anal sex with Noah or castrated him.[32]

The description of Abraham as having a bosom has been interpreted to indicate trangenderism, rather than simple metaphor.[33][34][35]

Anti-gay denominations interpret Romans 1 24-32[36] as condemning homosexuality.

Saints Edit

While highly controversial, attempts have been made to hold up certain Christian saints as positive examples of homosexuality in Church history:

  • Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led some modern commentators to believe they were lovers. The most popular evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language, describes them as "erastai", or lovers.[37] Historian John Boswell considered their relationship to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union, reflecting his contested view of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality.[37] The official stance of the Eastern Orthodox Church is that the ancient Eastern tradition of adelphopoiia, which was done to form a "brotherhood" in the name of God, and is traditionally associated with these two saints, had no sexual implications.
  • Saint Sebastian has been called the world's first gay icon.[41] The combination of his strong, shirtless physique, the symbolism of the arrows penetrating his body, and the look on his face of rapturous pain have intrigued artists both gay and straight for centuries, and began the first explicitly gay cult in the 19th century.[41] Richard A. Kaye wrote, "contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of tortured closet case."[42][43]

Eunuchs Edit

Religious castration was practiced in the Christian era, with members of the early church castrating themselves for religious purposes,[44] although the extent and even the existence of this practice among Christians is subject to debate.[45] The early theologian Origen found scriptural justification for the practice in Template:Bibleverse,.[46] where Jesus says, "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (NRSV)

Tertullian, a second century Church Father, described Jesus himself and Paul of Tarsus as spadones, which is translated as "eunuchs" in some contexts.[47] The meaning of spado in late antiquity can be interpreted as a metaphor for celibacy, however Tertullian's specifically refers to St. Paul as being castrated.[47]

The significance of the selection of the Ethiopian eunuch as being the first gentile conversion has been discussed as representative of inclusion of a sexual minority in the context of the time.[15]

Gnostic beliefs Edit

Gnostic Christianity synthesized core Christian beliefs with other mythologies. This includes a belief in an androgynous God, who has a male aspect (sometimes represented as Adam), and a female aspect, associated with Greek or Egyptian goddesses such as Isis or Demeter. Gnostics also believe in lesser gods subservient to the omnipotent Christian god. Some of these gods are transgender or androgynous, including Naassenes. Gnostic beliefs also include the use of magic, such as homoerotic or lesbian love spells, that invoke gods such as Adonai or Abraxas.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2357 and Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation for Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
  2. Homosexual Policy, The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
  3. What is the Missouri Synod's response to homosexuality?
  4. Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective
  5. On Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and the Sanctity of Life: Homosexuality, official statement of the Orthodox Church in America
  7. Daniel Blake (2005-05-04). Methodist Conference to Reaffirm Church Tolerance for Homosexuality. Christianity Today.
  8. Wilcox (2003), p. 155
  9. Template:Bibleref
  10. Template:Cite quran
  11. Template:Bibleref
  12. Template:Bibleref
  13. Template:Bibleref
  14. Template:Bibleref
  15. 15.0 15.1 Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition; by Jack Rogers
  16. Norton, John. "Vatican says 'sex-change' operation does not change person's gender", Catholic News Service, 14 Jan 2003. Retrieved on 19 July 2009. 
  19. Bishop defends transsexual curate
  20. ONA: It's About Transgender Inclusion, Too!.
  21. Methodists Vote to Keep Transgender Pastor.
  22. United Methodist Church (
  23. Template:Cite document
  25. Haggerty, p.380
  26. DeYoung, p. 290
  27. Martti Nissinen, Kirsi Stjerna, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World, p. 56
  28. Boswell, John. Same-sex Unions in Premodern Europe. New York: Vintage, 1994. (pp. 135-137)
  29. Halperin, David M. One Hundred Years of Homosexuality. New York: Routledge, 1990. (p. 83)
  30. When Heroes Love:. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David (New York & Chichester, Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 165-231
  31. Homosexuality and Liminality in the Gilgamesh and Samuel (Amsterdam, Hakkert, 2007), pp. 28-63
  32. Conner & Sparks p. 250, "Noah"
  36. King James Version.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Boswell, p. 154
  38. Jordan, Mark D. (2000). The silence of Sodom: homosexuality in modern Catholicism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-41041-2.  on the nature of "brotherly love", p.174
  39. Holy Wonderworking Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian at Rome, synaxarion, Orthodox Church in America
  40. Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Cilicia
  41. 41.0 41.1 Subjects of the Visual Arts: St. Sebastian. (2002). Retrieved on 2007-08-01.
  42. Kaye, Richard A. (1996). "Losing His Religion: Saint Sebastian as Contemporary Gay Martyr". Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures. Peter Horne and Reina Lewis, eds.' 86. New York: Routledge. 
  43. "Arrows of desire: How did St Sebastian become an enduring, homo-erotic icon? - Features, Art", The Independent, 2008-02-10. Retrieved on 2009-07-16. 
  44. Caner, Daniel (1997). "The Practice and Prohibition of Self-Castration in Early Christianity". Vigiliae Christianae 51 (4): 396–415. Brill. doi:10.1163/157007297X00291. 
  45. Hester, David (2005). "Eunuchs and the Postgender Jesus: Matthew 19:12 and Transgressive Sexualities". Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28 (1): 13–40. Sage Publications. doi:10.1177/0142064X05057772. 
  46. Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1984, p. 374, which in footnote 45 cites Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica VI.8.2
  47. 47.0 47.1 Template:Cite document

General Edit

  • Wilcox, Melissa M. (2003). Coming out in Christianity: religion, identity, and community. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-21619-9. 

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