The “winners” at the recent UMC convention say the Bible condemns same-sex relations. But are they right?

By the Rev. Ken Howard

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church met in special session late February, in St. Louis, Missouri, to debate the denomination’s stance on same-sex relations. There were three proposals on the floor:

  • One would rescind the UMC’s ban on LGBTI clergy and same-sex marriage.
  • The second, the so-called “Traditional Plan,” would strengthen and aggressively enforce the ban and expel clergy who were openly gay or performed same-sex marriage.
  • The third was an attempt to find middle ground between the first two.

When all the votes were tallied, it was clear the proponents of the “Traditional Plan” had won the day. But was it the right decision?

In the debates that preceded the vote, the traditionalists claimed that theirs was the only proposal that followed the clear teachings of the Bible. They also claimed that those who opposed their position and advocated the full inclusion of LGBTI people were rejecting the authority of scripture and abandoning biblical morality in order to pursue liberal Western sexual ethics.

But is this true? Does the Bible really teach that same-sex relations are an abomination? And is any other point of view just another form of syncretism with culture?

Or did they get it wrong?

It is in this context that I am reposting my 2015 research paper, The Bible and Same-Sex Relations. An extensive exegesis of the meanings of the half-dozen texts cited in favor of the “traditional” interpretation in the original Hebrew and Greek, the paper comes to a very different, and perhaps surprising conclusion: a literal reading of the texts in question does not support the traditional position that same-sex relations are an abomination but rather shows that position to be every bit as culturally syncretistic an interpretation as they incorrectly accuse their opponents position of being.

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The author wishes to offer sincere thanks to Darren M. Slade, doctoral student in theology and biblical studies at Liberty University, for his thorough and critical review of the biblical translations contained in this article, as well as the dozens of other biblical scholars who offered critical review and comments on