Saturday, May 21, 2011

On homosexuality, a discussion that's different than others

On a rainy afternoon in Charlotte this past week, two friends got together to discuss why the other was wrong about homosexuality.

Kate Murphy and Robert Austell have had this conversation before – usually over the coffee they enjoy each week while catching up on their work and lives. But this time, they chose to disagree in front of 500 or so of their colleagues – ministers and church elders of the Charlotte Presbytery.

Kate is the pastor at Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church, and she is in favor of Amendment 10-A, which changes her denomination’s constitution and allows for gays and lesbians to be ordained ministers and elders. Robert is pastor at Good Shepherd Presbyterian church, and he is against the amendment, which the seven-county Charlotte Presbytery voted on Tuesday afternoon.

Going into that vote, the amendment already had been backed by a majority of presbyteries across the country, so Tuesday’s vote might have been considered merely symbolic. But as Kate and Robert know, discussions about homosexuality are anything but.

It’s a debate that not only has divided their denomination, but their community and their country. It’s also a debate that we’ve largely ceded to the extremes among us, to the shouters pointing at each other from across the road, to the pedophiles and bigots, if you believe what each side says so loudly.

Which is why Robert wanted to have one more conversation.

On Tuesday afternoon, he and Kate sat in the front of the shell-shaped sanctuary at Albemarle Road Presbyterian. They were scheduled to speak first, before those in attendance were invited to line up at the microphones on opposite sides of the room – left side for those in favor of 10-A, right side for those against.

A couple months back, while they were doing some work for the Presbytery, Robert had asked Kate if she would speak on this day. Kate initially said no – she already had talked about ordaining homosexuals at a similar meeting two years ago. But Robert wanted them to discuss not only what they believed about homosexuality, but about each other.

“She loves Jesus Christ and the Church,” he told the audience Tuesday, speaking first. He said he and Kate were friends who had much in common. “I would have her as my pastor,” he said.

Said Kate of Robert: “He has great integrity.” And: “I greatly appreciate the way he interprets Scripture.” And this: “I commend to you to listen deeply to what he has to say.”

Each also made their case eloquently. Kate challenged the nine Bible passages commonly used in the condemnation of homosexuality. Some passages, she said, were about lust, not sexual orientation, and none applied to people in committed, monogamous relationships. Robert urged that Christians not turn their backs on homosexuals, but he said that Kate’s challenges ultimately didn’t answer all of the questions the Bible presented about sin and sexual boundaries.

All of which wasn’t very different than the arguments others have made for and against homosexuality. But what they wanted to get across, said Robert, was this: “We really want you to listen to the other person, because we respect that person.”

And when they were done, they sat together again as others spoke for and against Amendment 10-A, which eventually passed, 162-154. It was a passionate and polite debate – perhaps because Kate and Robert had set a tone, but also because of something else they want their community to know: that good, smart, faithful people on both sides are struggling and sorting through this debate.

One conversation. A different conversation. It’s not that hard to have, if you’re humble enough to understand you might not be right. Which, by the way, Kate and Robert each know. And so they talk. And they listen.

“I think everybody is trying to be faithful,” says Kate. “I think the trick is to be loving.”


Larry said...

Yes everyone needs to just change to fit the needs and desires. That way our world as it has become will not seem too unusual.

george said...

Coudo's to the religious community but the two don't synthesize. They can't be reconciled

Anonymous said...

Kind of a cheap way to generate mouseclicks, isn't it, Peter?

I don't care what these two people had to say to each other. This story is already a week or more past and unless you're a member of their particular group of Presbyterians, it's now mostly unimportant to the point of irrelevance.

There are plenty of more important issues locally to cover, such as:

- the continuing saga of Harry Jones
- the local property tax rate. For our money, do we get good return in Charlotte Mecklenburg? Is local governance and money management on a par (or not) with similarly-situated cities nationwide?
- The allocation of highway funds and the so-called equity formula and how that may or may not change under GOP leadership in the NC Legislature
-The increasingly worn appearance of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the region's essential economic driver. The original building is nearly 30 years old and looks it. The baggage claim area is a disgrace.

There are more important issues within GLBT civil rights to cover, such as:

-the implementation of the repeal of DADT.
-the marriage equality cases headed for the SCOTUS, argued by Ted Olson and David Boies
-the groundswell of support for marriage equality in New York by highly conservative, GOP-funding New York City financiers.


Help Charlotte continue to grow up.

Leave the religion to Tim Funk.



todd said...

What is this papers obsession with homosexuality? The watering down of morals seems to have become their latest obsession. No wonder the layoffs and decreases in revenue continue to be the only things that are a giver oner on South Tryon Street.

todd said...

Why don't all the homosexuals just go and join the Catholic churh where this type of deviant behavior, is at least protected..if not encouraged?

pstonge said...

Good morning, all. A reminder to keep your comments free of name calling. Thx.

Anon, 7:40 (Ozy): Your topic suggestions are good ones, but I picked mine because the moment happened just a few days ago, and it's relevant to more than the faith community. These are discussions happening everywhere.


Anonymous said...

I just don't know why we can't let people live their lives, as long as they are not interfering in someone else's life. We know people who've been in committed relationships for 25, 40, 50 years who are more commmitted than those who have been legally married in heterosexual relationships. Homosexual people are not legally bound in their relationships and that's not a good thing. I believe they would be together for that long and more if they were legally bound. It's all about committment.
Who cares what goes on in a bedroom between two consenting adults? It's none of anyone's business. It's legal for same sex couples to live together, own property together and nobody ever comes out against them. But you let 2 people of the same sex come and buy property together and live together in a committed relationship and let others know, and immediately they are not welcomed in churches that they've attended for years prior.
Why can't we just get along and worship the same God together and obey the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" and treat them like you would want to be treated.
This debate will never be over, but we must treat each other kindly and we need to be fair and give all the rights to those who choose a same sex partner, bdcause gays and lesbians as well as same sex partners, are losing benefits that they would receive if they were legally married. They work everyday and pay taxes everyday, yet they are not allowed the same benefits.
And that's just plain wrong.
That's my opinion and I will stick to it, so please don't bash me.

Anonymous said...


Larry said...

Just keep in mind that since you are allowing this sexual proclivity, you must allow all the others in your midst.

Of course those not of illegal nature with children and the like but any others which include willing partners.

So Churches be prepared to open the doors for all the other variations or you will be sued.

You know people who like to use items, tie each other up, dress up and other variations. They will have to welcome.

Because this is a sexual proclivity it must include the others so you are all good and honest people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter for making my point.

People in the south and Charlotte particularly will always rush to click on gays + religion. So of course certain (not all) tongues will wag and continue to wag about this sliver of Protestants and their decision a week ago.

Any newspaper worth its ink should inform its readers, not hand them yet another venue to amplify their petty disputes. You could have generated just as many mouseclicks by discussing the conservative NYC financiers.

BTW: Every other website this morning has the news on Mitch Daniels' decision not to run for the GOP nomination. Even the N&O. Where is the CO?


george said...

I am sorry to persist BUT, and there's always a but:
the Church of Rome, the only true church, does not tolerate gay activity, iota, among parishioners. Period. Finished. You may talk of gay but use the member and you'll end up in H---.
What the vestry does & why, God only knows.

todd said...

Disagreement isn't bashing or homopohobic as the gay community often accuses others of doing/being when they disagree with thier positiom. I remember being at a 4th of July event up in Asheville a few years back when my then four year old Son who obviously had no idea what homosexuality was at the time asked me why two men were laying down on a blanket and kissing. If a four year old knows something is abnormal about this behavior why can't the adults among us?

Anonymous said...

Christianity is a lie.

pstonge said...

Thanks, Ozy. You make a terrific point about the challenges writers face when choosing topics. If I'm going to write about a general subject, I'd better bring something different to the table. I thought the moment this week allowed me to bring a couple of points to the discussion that I hadn't seen previously in the O.

Thanks for your thoughts...


Anonymous said...

What heterosexuals worry about is that lewdness and ridiculous drag-style behavior will have to be accepted as the norm since it is widely accepted in the homosexual lifestyle. There's a broad range of homosexuals from the normal and decent acting and looking types to the outlandish, anything goes types. The lewdness side of homosexuality should never be tolerated in society, but homosexuals in general, should. I believe this is what the Bible was referring to that Kate mentioned, re: lust vs sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

"the Church of Rome, the only true church, does not tolerate gay activity, iota, among parishioners. Period. Finished. You may talk of gay but use the member and you'll end up in H---."

Glad to know the church is the one who determines where my soul goes and not God.

Wiley Coyote said...

The polyganists will be next to demand equal rights. Afterall, why shouldn't one man be able to legally "marry" two or more women if they all love each other?

Funny how polygyny was part of the Mormon religion but outlawed and now religion is embracing homosexuality.

Make civil unions legal in all 50 states and let's move on.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. I appreciate the positive dialogue, rather than the finger-pointing and righteous moral demagoguery.

To answer the question posed by a few about the slippery slope of "allowing" homosexuality in churches, the key difference is that homosexuality is an orientation that you are born with (God-given, that exists in as much as 20% or more of the public). You are not born a polygamist or bigamist or S&M enthusiast. You ARE, however, born with an orientation, whether that be hetero or homosexual.

God makes straights AND gays in His image and likeness.

Move on.

Anonymous said...

I am glad not to be burdened by the silliness of religion. Now I just wished that those who are would not impact my life.

Anonymous said...

I just can't get too worked up over the "gay" issue.

As long as they stay out of my life, I'm fine with whatever consenting adults do in private.

The same way I feel about everyone else.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:24

There are those who would disagree with you.

Everything is "God given", even our opinions.

The basic premise of the argument from gays is that their "civil rights are being violated by not being able to marry", a man made law.

Therefore, under man made laws, polygamists should have the same "right" to marry more than one woman.

shalomcharlotte said...

Disagreement isn't bashing or homopohobic as the gay community often accuses others of doing/being when they disagree with thier positiom. I remember being at a 4th of July event up in Asheville a few years back when my then four year old Son who obviously had no idea what homosexuality was at the time asked me why two men were laying down on a blanket and kissing. If a four year old knows something is abnormal about this behavior why can't the adults among us? MAY 22, 2011 8:36 AM

HeyTodd, if your child asked that, it was because he was curious and hadn't seen it before,presumably because his parents are straight. He might have sensed your disaproval too.
FYI, the correct answer is, "because they love each other."

Anonymous said...

So what's next?

Atheists seeking blessings from the Pope?

The KKK seeking respect from the NAACP?

If you're homosexual just live your life.

Don't worry what people who base their values on ancient Jewish mythology may think about you.

Anonymous said...

The reality is this...homosexuality is a lifestyle CHOICE. There will be a bunch of people that disagree, but how many people who were once gay are now straight? Our society is now demanding that we give into everyone's CHOICES no matter what they are. Think not? How does an organization like NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) continue to exist? Oh, and what are the men in that group? GAY! Homosexuality is a deviant behavior that is anything but normal. Those that think is it normal need to have their morals checked.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that love is radical, sublime, always dangerous. Christ knew this. This is why he preached love, NOT hate. Hate is for those who are scared, for those who are weak.

Larry said...

11:24 So people are born that way.

If so we have too many people in jail for too many things that they were born with, and we need to start changing a lot of laws. Not sure how we are going to protect some of the most innocent in our society though.

And as far as God making us that way I guess he makes the killers and the like and those are not choices we have a decision in making either.

All of you have good points. Keep that in mind those of you who have good jobs it only because God created you with a good job in mind and College and the like.

See how everything external is the cause of your life, and your rights are and should be dependent on what is in your mind, and not on a physical disability, or if you are female, male or age, color etc the usual things people can use today.

We really could use some precogs today could we not?

todd said...

Hey shalom, Perhaps it's because a four year old knows two men shouldn't be laying down on a blanket in public ( or anyone else for that matter) and kissing each other.

Murrayb said...

To the poster who claims that almost 20% of the population is homosexual, get real. This condition, orientation, or whatever you term it, afflicts only about 2% of males and even fewer females. That's the real figure, though gay activists inflate it way beyond that.

Source: Pscychologist James Nicolosi, the primary authority on
this topic in the US

Anonymous said...

Other than the other Booklical references does Soddom and Gomorrah ring a bell? Ouch.
How many survived in these wicked cities?
They even tried to sodomized the angels coming to help Lott and his fam get the hell out. Big mistake.

How did they die? Imagine fire and hot rocks aka brimstone raining down from the sky? Must have been painful on bare flesh. Everybody was burned alive. Nothing survived. Even Lotts wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back in disobeyance.

And the Big Guy had just drowned the whole earth not long earlier too. Millions dead.

I am not mocked. Vengence is mine.

HE is one badass muthafuka and dont be fukin around or mincing words.

Just obey. Dont question how or why. U playing with fire otherwise.

Anonymous said...

People should be allowed to marry - or have intimate relations with - whomever they choose. Even if it's one man and 3 women. As long it is consenting adults, in private, it's no one's business. And in response to another post, I feel no one should be engaging in kissing or public affection in front of children. What would you be saying to that child if the couple who was seen kissing was, say, a 50 year old white man and a 19 year black woman?

Anonymous said...

Homosexuality was and always has been a sin. Sin doesn't change with the seasons. BUT it's a sin just as lying and stealing and adultery is a sin. But a so called church that says it's ok is very disturbing. But on the other hand most things in church today are disturbing. The Bible is not the focus of church today. It's all about ceremony and rituals.

Anonymous said...

IMHO A Biblical World View is that homosexuality is sexual immortality just as is adultery, fornication, pedophilia, polygamy, and bestiality. Homosexual activists and their allies know that the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic found in the Bible is the last bastion of defense holding back the widespread embrace of homosexuality throughout culture.

Gay strategists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen , in their landmark homosexual public relations manual published in 1989, boldly encouraged gays to “undermine the moral authority of Bible Believing churches…by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology.”1

Anonymous said...

"the Church of Rome, the only true church"

Of course it is. Who do those Presbyterians think they are anyway, starting their own church? And what about those Baptists and Methodists? More fake churches, huh?

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful that I dont let religion mess with my head.

Anonymous said...

The great part about this story is the respect that the pastors showed one another, even in the face of their disagreement.

The subject matter may well have been illegal immigration, the war in Iraq, or CMS funding -- it's secondary. It doesn't matter.

The point is, it's only through character, patience and intellectual discourse that we will make any headway on the tough issues: not through blindly attacking one another based solely on belief.

Charlotte has a lot to learn from these two persons of faith.

Anonymous said...

One of the cases made against homesexuality is based on leviticus 18:22. There are many different translations but they essentially say the same thing :Homosexual sex is a sin or detestable. However, Leviticus 24:45 also declares that it is okay to purchase non-Israelite slaves, which is something that in modern times is no longer debated seriously. How can we throw out certain parts of the bible because "It was different back then", without making the same argument for all of it's laws, such as those regarding homosexuality? Food for thought.