Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Condition of Man in the Fall – via Brooklyn.

As we continue through Barclay, we are now come to Proposition 4, The condition of Man in the Fall. Just as I was starting to think about writing about this, Rich, The Brooklyn Quaker, posted an article on exactly this topic and he did a far better job of explaining this proposition that I could have. So rather than writing more, I will provide the link here and go right on to talking about what I see to be the relevance of this dour seeming proposition to 21st century Friends.

For all of the time that this has taken, I feel that we have just now completed the introductory material. In my view, propositions 4 (The Condition of Man in the Fall) through 9 (Concerning Perseverance, and the Possibility of Falling from Grace) describe the core of Quakerism. The first 3 propositions set the stage by providing the framework of how Quakers relate to God and to Scriptures. Propositions 10 through 15 describe the implications of Quakerism as it is lived in the World. Propositions 4 through 9 describe the work of God on our heart. While the language is theological, it is also a guide to the spiritual life. They provides the framework undergirding Quaker spiritual formation.

Rich, in his post, gives a good explanation of the Old Adam or the fallen man. He describes a dualism between our fallen state and our state in Christ. I agree with what he has to say but I also have a different slant on this and why it is important to start with the rather dour proposition that we are corrupt and there is nothing we can do about it. The reason for starting here is that this is the starting place for spiritual growth. Our spiritual growth does not begin when we are happy and content and our lives are going well. Our spiritual growth begins when we are broken, weighed down and have given up. John Naylor described the spirit that he found like this:

It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings: for with the world's joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.

This is similar to the first step in twelve step programs. In AA it is:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Likewise, this proposition stresses that we are broken and that we cannot change our situation by our own efforts. We cannot begin to change until we admit that there is something broken in our life that needs to be changed. We cannot find God until we realize that we have lost God. It does us no good to say, “Oh yes, I'm sure God is around here somewhere. I just have to look under this pile of books.” We have to be like the woman in Luke 15:8, when having lost a silver coin, sweeps and cleans the house to find what has been lost, and celebrates when it is found.

Early Friends were painfully aware of where they had come from. To them the Light was a fearsome thing because it showed them their faults and only then did it bring them up and out of the darkness. The primary sin of Old Adam was to try to put himself in the place of God by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In more modern terms, our ego likes to think that it is running the show. It is quite willing to take full credit for all of the good things that happen to us. And it is also our ego that blames ourself for all of the bad things that happen to us. Friends were keenly aware of the crafty nature of this fallen self. This is one of the reasons that they were so careful about anything that would lead to pride. This was why they rejected ostentatious clothes or flowery language. The fertile ground of spirituality is humility.

Modern Friends would do well to pay heed to the sins of pride, especially of spiritual pride. Liberal Friends, in particular, often sound as if the Light was something that they can lay claim to. They speak of “that of God in everyone” as if it were a possession. They also often sound as if they think that they can change themselves and the world by their own efforts. Proposition 4 is a reminder that this is not possible and it explains why. One of the refreshing things I have found while traveling among Friends in Africa and Cuba was the amount of prayer. Often it was prayer for simple things like a safe journey wherever we were going that day. Or it was a simple prayer of thanks that we had arrived someplace safely, or that someone had been able to join us. Then there were the prayers for assistance in the accomplishment of tasks large and small. And there were the prayers of thanks on the successful completion of tasks in recognition that it was God who was in charge through everything. It is a recognition that we are dependent upon God for everything. As I saw someone comment, “If God is your co-pilot, you are sitting in the wrong seat.”

Blessings to all.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Christian Freedom

I have been thinking about Christian freedom lately and pondering what it means. I have been reading Paul's letter to the Galatians and thinking about it in terms of what I have just written about Barclay and the Scriptures. I would like to share with you what has come to me.
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law.
Galatians 2:15-16

If I read this in the mind of Fox or the early Friends, I will read this to refer to the Inward Christ. So we are justified by having faith in the words of Christ in our heart and following them. We are not justified by following the Law of Moses or any other outward code of conduct. This is because no one is able to follow an external code of conduct perfectly. As long as the focus is on the outward law, no matter how scrupulous we are in following it, we are only changing our behavior and not changing our heart. It is only by changing our heart that we can be justified, that is to be made just. It is only by having faith in the inward voice of Christ, and following that, that our heart is changed. As we are faithful to that voice in small things, we are strengthened and guided to be faithful in larger things.
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to follow the entire law. You who what to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
Galatians 5:2-6

Paul says, in response to the conflict in the Church over whether Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised, that if you require circumcision, then you have to require following the entire law. You cannot pick and choose the parts of the law that you will require. And, if you pick the Law, you are rejecting Christ. I would say that if Christians today were to require any piece of the law as being binding on Christians, then they need to require the whole Law, including circumcision. And if they do that, they are also rejecting Christ.

Likewise, if you say that Scripture itself is the ultimate guide to be followed, you are setting Scripture up as a new Law. When people do this, they are usually not setting Scripture itself up as their guide but a specific interpretation of Scripture. If Scripture is to be a rule book to be followed, then we have merely replaced the Law of Moses with the Law of Paul or the Law of Oral Roberts, or whoever's interpretation we have adopted. This makes faithfulness a matter of external obedience and cuts us off from learning to hear the Shepherd's voice inwardly. It keeps us from being justified by the transforming work of obedience to the inward voice of Christ in our heart.

So does this mean that Christian freedom is license to do anything we please? Of course not. Christ says that not all that say “Lord,Lord” are his followers. We are to test ourselves and the spirits by the fruit that they yield.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:16-21

So if enmities, strife jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions and factions are the fruits of the flesh, what does this say about the spirit that has been active in the Society of Friends for the past 180 years? What does it say about what spirit is active among Friends today?
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22-26

My hope is that Friends of all varieties can find the Spirit that can lead us out of our quarrels, dissensions and factions and back into the unity of love, peace, patience and kindness.

Now does this mean that there is no place for Scripture? No, there is a place. It provides a guide to follow as we are learning to hear the voice of the Inward Teacher. It helps us to identify which voice we are hearing at any given time. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” Note, all of these uses of Scripture involve training in the Christian life. They are an aid in discernment. It is an acknowledgment of the responsibility to provide guidance to people new to Quakerism or Christianity. If you will, they are the training wheels of the Life of the Spirit. They are not to be a rigid rule to follow. One of the basic tenets of Quaker belief is that God is not changeable, leading us one way on one day and another way on another. So the leadings of the Spirit should be consistent with the teachings in the Bible. If there appears to be an inconsistency it is an indication that we need to discern harder. Are we being led by the Spirit of Christ or is it one of the other spirits of the world? Do we fully understand the Bible? Perhaps we need to wait for God to open more fully this area of scripture to us. Whatever the case, we need to give up our impatience and leave this up to God in God's time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Scriptural objections to accepting gays and lesbians

There are people who might raise objections based on a number of passages. I will finish this examination of the Biblical basis for accepting gays and lesbians by looking at these passages.

Romans 1:18-32

For those who would object to homosexuality in the church, the core of this passage is verses 26 and 27. “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

To see this as a blanket ban on homosexuality ignores the context in which the passage occurs. The longer passage begins at verse 18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.” Paul is here talking about Gentiles and how the Truth of God is available to them in their hearts but they ignore it. Because they did not acknowledge, honor or give thanks to God, their minds were darkened and their thinking futile and so they turned to idolatry. This was the reason God gave them up to the “degrading passions.” This also lead to a whole list of other sins listed in verses 29-31. This is not a talk about homosexuality in general, but about the effects of idolatry. Some people interpret this passage to refer to ritual prostitution as practiced by some of the religions at the time. Even if you discard the ritual prostitution argument, it is a stretch to make this cover all gays and lesbians. The clear meaning of this passage is that some people rejected the voice of God in their hearts, turned to idolatry and then, not being satisfied with following their natural sexual inclinations, turned to other ways of finding sexual pleasure. This may be true of some people in the first century CE and it may be true of some people today. It does not address those people who are not idolaters, who are faithful Christians, who are engaged in a life of seeking faithfulness to the promptings of God in their heart and who are also gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

If anyone is tempted by this passage to condemn anyone for any of the failings mentioned in these passages, and this is not just “degrading passions” but also being “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless,” Paul pulls them up short. His next words in Chapter 2, verse 1 are: “Therefore, you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge are doing the same things.” We have the word of scripture explicitly saying, do not use Romans 1:18-32 to judge anyone or you will come under judgment. So we have both the clear reading of the words in their context and the direct word of Scripture to say that this should not be used to condemn gays and lesbians. But also the whole thrust of the first 3 chapters of Romans is the futility of the outward law so it is ironic to see it being used to recreate a Law of Paul instead of looking to the freedom of the Gospel that Paul advocated.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The context of this statement is a criticism of the Christians in Corinth for taking one another to court. Paul says the saints are to judge the world and angels, so why are they taking their disputes to unbelievers. Is there no believer who can help settle the dispute? Why not rather be wronged or defrauded than bring a suit? Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do you not know that God will handle it? So once again we have the irony of a passage that is saying “do not judge, leave the judgment to God,” being used as a basis of issuing judgment.

The Greek word malakoi, translated here as male prostitutes and translated in the King James as “the effeminate,” literally means soft. In a moral context it implied general moral laxness or self indulgence. This word was understood through most of the history of the Church to refer to masturbation. Recent scholarship has favored applying this to mean male prostitutes. Whatever it's meaning it does not refer to homosexuals in any general sense of the word. After all, we do not understand condemnation of female prostitution to be condemnation of heterosexuality.

The Greek word here translated as sodomite is arsenokoitai. It is rendered by the King James translators of “abusers of themselves with mankind” and by the New International Version as “homosexual offenders” This letter is the first time the word appears in Greek. It does not appear in any of the discussions of homosexuality in Greek from the first several centuries of the Common Era. It is mostly found in similar lists of sins, many of which may be quotes of Paul. There were other words Paul could have used to unequivocally to refer to homosexual behavior. The fact that he did not use them would indicate that he might have had something else in mind. One of the few places where this word appears in a different context is in reference to the rape of Ganymede by Zeus. This causes some people to think that it refers to men who take sexual advantage of other men. The placement of this word in the list at the juncture between sexual sins and economic ones leads some people to conclude that it refers to men who frequent prostitutes. If that is the case, this passage could be referring to male prostitutes and their customers. In any case, the meaning is ambiguous but it does not appear to be a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. Even if the words supported such a condemnation, the context of the passage is that such a judgment should be left to God.

Timothy 1:8-10.

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” NRSV.

Here again the word translated as sodomite by the NRSV is arsenokoitai. The New International Version here renders it as perverts. This merely highlights the ambiguousness of the word. Perversion only exists relative to some accepted norms and it can cover any number things. The location of the word fits with the idea of men who frequent prostitutes. Neither the word nor the usage here supports a blanket condemnation of gays and lesbians.

Sodom and Gomorrah

These cities have become so associated with homosexual sin in the common mind that the word sodomite has come to refer to one who practices homosexual sex. As common as this view is, it is not the biblical view of the sin of Sodom. In Ezekiel 16:49, the sin is specified as: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” In Isaiah 1:10, the prophet speaks to the leaders of Judah and refers to them as rulers of Sodom. Later, in verses 16 and 17 he lays out what the have to do to repent, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” This again implies economic sins and a lack of justice and not sexual sins.

Jude 7 is sometimes used as an indictment of homosexuality. It says, “Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” There are many who contend that this “unnatural lust,” or what the King James referred to as “going after strange flesh,” referred not to homosexual acts but to having sexual relations with angels. There was a common belief at the time the letter of Jude was written that the women of Sodom and Gomorrah had sought to have sex with angels, just as had happened before the Flood. This view is reinforced by the context where. The preceding verse says, “And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great Day.” So this looks like a balanced reference to the angels and the humans who would have sought to have sexual relations. It should also be remembered in this light, that Lot's guests, as described in Genesis 19, were not men but angels.


My goal in these last three posts was to provide a Biblically based argument in favor of providing full acceptance to gays and lesbians among all branches of Friends. I wanted to provide a framework that would allow people to change their view of the place of gays and lesbians in the church without having to give up the Biblical basis of their faith. I also wanted to provide a framework whereby the acceptance of gays and lesbians fits the requirement that new revelation not contradict scripture. I have given very short accounts of some of the arguments here. I do not follow Barclay in that regard. He would have gone on much longer. I do not expect anyone to change their mind just by reading this. I do hope that it causes people to think more about the issues raised and to see where God leads them.

Blessings to all,


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Biblical case for accepting gays and lesbians.

This is part two of a three part series on the Bible, Gays and Lesbians. I am attempting to show that there is a Biblical basis for fully accepting gays and lesbians into our churches and our meetings. In this post I present the positive case. The third post will address the common scriptural objections.

Acts 15

Rejecting gays and lesbians from full membership in the Christian church is prohibited by scripture. At the Council of Jerusalem reported in Acts 15, the question of whether Christians were to be required to follow Levitical law was decided. At the council, Peter spoke, speaking of the Gentiles, “Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10) Christians were not to be asked to follow the laws in Leviticus, and this includes the prohibitions on homosexual behavior. The only things that were to be asked was that they “abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.” (Acts 15:20 NRSV). The New International Version renders fornication as sexual immorality but there is no reason to conclude that this means homosexuality. So to claim that gays and lesbians cannot participate fully in the church contravenes the clear words of Acts.

Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. (Acts 8:26-40)

The clear reading of this passage is that God is opening up the church to those who had been excluded before. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shell be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” So this eunuch had gone up to Jerusalem to worship but he would have been denied entrance to the temple because he was a eunuch. Now he is returning home and reading Isaiah. Phillip shows up on the scene, having been led there by the Holy Spirit. Starting from the passage in Isaiah that the eunuch is reading, Phillip proclaims to him the good news about Jesus. There is some water nearby and the eunuch says, “Look, here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Phillip did not answer, “The Law of Moses prevents you from being baptized.” Instead he baptized the eunuch.

I have argued from analogy that God here was opening the church to those who were previously excluded and should we not consider whether God is asking us to open the doors of the church, or the meetinghouse, even wider today. I found this argument persuasive but then I found that I was perhaps being too narrow in my view of what constituted a eunuch. I had assumed that eunuchs had been castrated. But Jesus, in Matthew 19:12, identifies three classes of eunuchs, those who have been so from birth, those who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. These are the people who have not been given the teaching that you cannot divorce your wife except for unchastity. Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are those who have made vows of celibacy. Those who have been made eunuchs by others are clearly those who have been castrated. This leaves us those who are eunuchs by birth. A eunuch was a man who served and guarded the women in a royal palace or a rich household. They were men who could be trusted to not become sexually involved with the women of the household. Eunuchs had a reputation in the literature of the period of being attracted to men rather than women. So a eunuch by birth would not necessarily be a person born with defective genitals but also included those who we would call today, homosexuals. Acts does not identify which variety of eunuch was baptized by Phillip. It is perfectly consistent with the Biblical story to think that Phillip, acting under the direction of the Holy Spirit, baptized a homosexual.

Jesus and the Roman centurion's servant. (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)

The Greek that the centurion uses to refer to his servant is pais. This word could mean son or boy, it could mean slave, or it could mean a slave who was his masters male lover. This servant is identified in other places as “honored slave.” This precludes it being his son. Since it was an honored slave who was also a pais, it indicates that this was a the centurions beloved male lover. When Jesus says that he will come and heal the servant, the centurion says, that it won't be necessary. As a soldier he is used to giving orders and having things done so all Jesus has to do is to give the word and he knows it will be done. Jesus cites this as a sign of faith greater than he has found in Israel. He then goes on to say, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) Jesus not only heals the centurion's male lover, he implies that the centurion will be eating the Lord's banquet in the kingdom of heaven.

If we were to ask WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) in regards to acceptance of gays and lesbians, we have an answer. He would heal their illnesses and invite them to His banquet in the kingdom of heaven.

Blessings to all,


Next: Answering the common Biblical objections.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Bible, Gays and Lesbians

In my last series of posts about Barclay and the Bible I related the story that he tells about an old and illiterate Friend who heard someone making an argument from the Bible and who responded with words to the effect of “God never said that.” Barclay then went back and looked at the passage in question and found that it was mistranslated in the English Bible. This is one of my favorite stories from Barclay. That isn't saying a whole lot since Barclay was not one for telling stories. When I am leading a workshop, I often follow this up with a challenge to modern Friends, “Do we know the voice of God so well that we can tell when God is being misquoted?”

I had a similar experience some 25 years ago now, I would guess. I was attending Cambridge Meeting at the time and one day during worship, a woman rose and gave a message about how homosexuality was a sin because it was prohibited in Leviticus. At the time I was not as familiar with the Bible as I am now but her message did not ring true with what I had experienced of God. When I got home I looked in Leviticus and was surprised to find that she was at least correct in her Biblical citation. This was one of the things that prompted me to start reading and studying the Bible more. I also began reading what other people had written about homosexuality and the Bible. Unlike Barclay, I do not know Greek, Latin and Hebrew so I have had to rely on the scholarship of others. While preparing this material I have relied in particular on two books to provide references for the meanings of the Greek and for the cultural background of the first century Middle East. These books are Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality by John Boswell and The Children are Free by Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley. I have read many of the books that take a liberal view on the subject. I am open to further suggestions on what I might read, especially if it presents a different perspective.

Barclay stresses that one way to test whether a revelation is from God is to see whether it is in accord with Scripture. If this test of revelation is true, and if God indeed does want us to extend our love and the bounds of our community to include, without reservation, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, as I believe God does, than we should be able to find a scriptural basis for this. So in the interest of intellectual and spiritual honesty I will try to lay out just such a scriptural case. I do not expect that this exercise will resolve the issue any more than Margaret Fell's Women's Speaking Justified resolved the role of women in the Church. I offer this instead as a response to the Friends in FUM who have said that when they hear liberal Friends advocating for acceptance of gays and lesbians, they hear a request that they give up the Biblical foundation of their faith. I propose this as a way of seeing scripture in a new light, a way of seeing what was there in Scripture but hidden, just as the Quaker understanding was there but unseen until George Fox and others had it opened to them.

In this endeavor I will follow the pattern of Barclay. I will lay out the positive case as I see it and then I will address the objections in the forms of the various passages that are cited to show that homosexual sex is sinful. I will break this up into a series of posts. I often push the limits of what makes for a readable post as it is. This may allow time for discussion as we go along.

I will also be clear about an underlying assumption of mine, which is that homosexual orientation is something that one has. It is not a choice. Whether or not it is genetic, hormonal, environmental or just the way God made us is beside the point. It is the way we are. I base this assumption on my own experience. As long as I have been aware of such things, I have always had a heterosexual orientation. I never chose to be heterosexual. I have heard my gay and lesbian friends tell about their stories of how they came to realize that they were homosexual and for them it was not a matter of choice but of coming to recognize who they were, even in the face of social disapproval. Since I never experienced a choice I accept their testimony that they did not experience a choice either. I also recognize that if you make the assumption that homosexuality is a choice then it can color how you understand and interpret scripture. If our disagreements are not about the words of scripture but the assumptions we bring with us as we read scripture, we can still perhaps resolve our differences but we have moved beyond the realm of Biblical study.

One last note. I have been pleased with the way discussions here have gone. We have managed, in most part, to discuss our disagreements without being disagreeable. This is certainly a hot-button topic and I hope that we can continue to be respectful of each other, even as we explore areas in which we may be in passionate disagreement.

Blessings to all,


Next: The Biblical case for accepting gays and lesbians