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Debate: Ordination of gay priests

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Should Christian churches allow gays and lesbians to be ordained as priests?

Background and context

This is a debate about the Christian church, and a proposition that utterly discounts the authority of the Bible is rather missing the point. There is a genuine debate within the church about whether gay men and women can be true representatives of God on earth. Generally, the attitude of church authorities is “don’t ask, don’t tell” or more firmly against gays and gay priests; a notable case in August 1999 saw the Rev. Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, who had ministered to gay and lesbian Catholics for many years, summoned to the Vatican and ordered to stop their work. The proponents of gay rights inevitably face a tougher time inside the Church, where they face a vociferous opposition, than in society as a whole where political correctness has made such outspoken criticism less common.

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Argument #1

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Yes

The part of the Book of Leviticus which sentences homosexuals to death also: permits polygamy, bans tattoos, prohibits eating meat that isn’t well-cooked, prohibits eating rabbits, pigs or some forms of seafood, and prohibits the wearing of clothes made of blended textiles (such as polyester). Most Christians accept that parts of the Bible were written according to the outdated social opinions of the time and can be taken lightly. The only New Testament comments about homosexuality come from the moralising apostle Paul; there is nothing directly from Jesus, in the Gospels themselves.

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No

Homosexuality is "a grievous sin" in the Bible (Gen 18:20), a capital crime (Lev 20:13), and punishable by exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10). Christians - especially priests - must accept the Bible as the ultimate authority. Christian ministry is therefore incompatible with homosexuality. Jesus was a radical teacher and overturned Jewish tradition where He saw it was necessary to do so; His silence on homosexuality indicates that He saw no need in this case.

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Argument #2

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Yes

Scientists are now confident they have isolated the "gay gene", which makes individuals homosexual. Since science is part of Nature, it must be part of God’s Plan that homosexuals exist.

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No

The proof for the ‘gay gene’ is dubious. There certainly is a genetic pre-disposition which makes it more likely that someone will become gay, but not certain; this is why, if one identical twin is gay, there is only a 52% chance that the other one will be too. There is also a genetic pre-disposition towards alcoholism, disease, or paedophilia, but these are not things to be embraced. And besides, isn't hardships and problems part of a test from god to test someones faith and believe in Him.

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Argument #3

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Yes

Condemning homosexuality as sex outside marriage is unfair, since it is the Christian church which does not offer the right of marriage to gays and lesbians. If it were to do so, they could enjoy sex within loving relationships, sanctified by the Church, just as heterosexuals do. Jesus’ main teaching was clear - "love your God and love your neighbor" - and there is clear difference between adultery and homosexuality in this respect; the former causes pain and has a victim (the betrayed partner), the latter can be a purely loving relationship.

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No

There can be no doubt that the Bible, and Jesus, strongly condemn sex outside of Christian marriage (or ‘fornication’). Although Jesus spent time in the company of adulterers, He loved "the sinner, not the sin" - and ordered them to cease their behaviour. His response to homosexuals would have been just as unequivocal.

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Argument #4

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Yes

Priests have a responsibility to represent the members of their congregations. A large number of Christians are gay, and they can receive better spiritual direction from gay ministers than from heterosexuals who do not understand their lifestyles or relationships as well.

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No

Priests act as representatives of God towards members of their congregation, not vice versa. The argument against women priests is that, while women are children of God and part of the church, they cannot represent Jesus in performing the communion service simply because he was male. The same applies to gays; they cannot represent Him in the same way.

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Argument #5

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Yes

The Church has adapted over the centuries on a number of social issues, as it seeks to re-interpret and re-explain God’s message of love in the terms of modern society. The acceptance of homosexuality and admission of gay priests is a necessary next step for the Church today. There will be others in the future.

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No

Religion is not a political party, changing and catering to the views of the current electorate. The Church acts as the curator of God’s Word and maintains its principles no matter how unfashionable they may be. This is especially important in an increasingly secular age when Christianity will only survive by virtue of it maintaining a clear, consistent message.

See also

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