My appointment with a pastor
Religion | Challenging his worldview on homosexuality
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, at 12:30 pm
A half hour before my appointment at a church in town, my friend K happened to phone and I invited her to go with me for moral support. It was providential. And, as I think of it, quite biblical to have a companion and a witness: Jesus sent his men out two by two.
We walked into the pastor’s office, who offered chairs and said cheerily, “You can call me Jim, or pastor, or doctor.” I complimented him on the beautiful quilt on the wall of the lobby, a memorial tracing the history of the church from 1882. We chatted about the church’s slate roof and I mentioned my husband does roofing and hauls 10 7-pound slate tiles at a time to the tops of houses. The requirements of social etiquette thus satisfied, Jim the pastor-doctor inquired about our business.
The gleam in his eye told me he had already misconstrued it. Here I was with another woman, after all, hat in hand, and my first question was gingerly probing: “I was wondering about the electronic sign on your church lawn that features a rainbow and the text ‘Pray for Orlando.’ Does it mean any more than simply sympathy for the dead?”
“Oh yes, much more!” said our host, saving us the trouble of further probing questions to ascertain his position. Thinking to have pleased us, he then volunteered that homosexuals are welcome here, both in the pews and as clergy, and that same-sex weddings are performed.
I asked the pastor how he had come to this view, considering that the Bible in several places condemns men lying with men (Leviticus 18:22) and men and women lusting after their own kind (Romans 1:26-27). K brought up Sodom and Gomorrah, and I opened a Bible to 1 Corinthians 6:9 and read that homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of heaven?
“What is the kingdom of heaven?” Jim replied in a self-satisfied Gnostic sort of way, as if the matter were way over my head. Nor was he much impressed with anything from Leviticus, informing us that God’s Old Testament purpose in forbidding certain things—like clothing woven of two kinds of cloth—was to make a temporary distinction between Israelites and other nations. It was only when I got home that I read a few lines further that God hated homosexuality in all nations (verses 24-25) and that this “perversion” and “abomination” was indeed the reason He was going to cast the Canaanites out of the land.
Jim continued: Sodom and Gomorrah was not about sodomy but gang rape, like Judges 19. Romans had nothing to do with homosexuality but with sexual addiction that insatiably spills over the gender line. “Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (1:27) was not about AIDS or other personal consequences of the gay lifestyle, and I was ridiculed for thinking so. The intended biblical reference, said the pastor, was to Roman Emperor Caligula, who was stabbed through his genitals by his murderers. What about 1 Corinthians 6:9? Well, that did not mean what I thought it meant either, and the word my version renders “homosexual” is a Greek word that means nothing of the kind. (He could not remember the Greek at the moment.)
The pastor called my exegesis “sloppy,” which hurt my feelings, as it was intended to do. He said the Bible is more complicated than I realize. K said it should be plain enough for every Christian, and that it is.
After an hour of this, I excused myself and K, saying we had taken up enough of his time. He made no protest, and we all understood that his earlier offer to show us the magnificent sanctuary after the meeting no longer stood. I shook his hand on the way out and now regret that small betrayal. Our Lord’s instructions were to shake the dust off one’s feet.
The first thing I said to K once we were a few yards from the church was, “How do you feel?” She said, “Like crying.” I said, “Me, too.” But admixed in both of us was what Peter and his companion knew as the rejoicing of being counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name.
Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her commentary has been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides in Philadelphia, Penn.