Monday, November 10, 2008

Tradition and Sexuality

Please note that this paper, which I wrote 12 years ago, does not reflect my current thinking on the subject. But I'm offering it for further discussion.

Freedom, including my freedom to love, therefore begins with the sovereign freedom of God who elects humanity to be God’s covenant partner, and who forms our lives so that we are called to relationships that correspond to the image of God’s faithful love for humanity. We are, in other words, created for community.
This is the starting point for an extended argument on same-gender relationships (and their place in the order of Christian community) which is now available on the website of Andover Newton Theological School at

The conference brought together evangelical, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish theologians, church historians and ethicists for a broad survey of where churches find themselves on this issue. Mine was an attempt to build a "centrist" approach that might offer hope to churches that sincerely want to include lesbians and gays in their fellowship (and to honor their relationships), but haven't been able to find a way within the boundaries of tradition.

Arguing within rather than against Christian and Jewish tradition is where I think the future of this debate lies. On this subject, we don't have to settle for an unproductive polarization between "traditionalist" and "liberationist" discourses. Personally, I find the boundaries of tradition to be liberating rather than confining: consider the evangelicals who in the early- and mid-nineteenth century both faithfully and creatively engaged the Bible in the struggle to abolish slavery. Faithfulness to tradition is not always synonymous with resistance to change.

What do you think? You're welcome to read the paper, and share your opinion here. It's a long read, by the way, but I hope worth the time.


At 4:15 PM, Blogger Alan Rogers said...

Thanks, Andy for sharing this article. I live in an area dominated by ultra-conservative Christians. The few "liberal" churches we have here are struggling as a result of an exodus of some of their prominent members getting "saved" and moving to the conservative churches. I have despaired of ever finding a church home in this area and have been getting adjusted to staying home on Sundays.
This article has given me renewed hope that God, in his sovereignty, will make everything right in his time, and that he will be Lord of me and my relationships.
Thank you.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Andy Lang said...

Alan, I'm glad the paper was helpful to you. By the way, until you find a church home, know that you're always welcome at the UCC's online community at We've got real-time worship at 9 p.m. (Eastern) every night, and opportunities for conversation and prayer with other Christians. It's a very welcoming place!

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I loved the paper. You have really helped those of us who are reformed or Augustinian by openingup the idea of covenant.Could you take some time to touch on these texts for me?
I Samuel 20
Ecclesiates 4:8-12
I Corinthians 7:9
Leviticus 21:17-22
Acts 11:9
Thanks for all you work.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I did not mean to withhold my name. I wrote a much longer comment before but lost it trying to sign up in goggle. As St. Paul says: "Be ye kind." The above texts have been and are helpful for me in thinking through this issue. I assume that you have some solid thoughts on them.

Chris Anderson
Heidelberg UCC, York, PA


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