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John Dempster: I believe that the Bible does not oppose gay sex as we understand it

By John Dempster

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FOR the most part, I tend to avoid areas of disagreement in Christian thinking.

Such debates tend to polarise believers, as we think in terms of “them and us”: “we” who are “right”, “they” who are “wrong”.

We may grow bitter and vindictive, even believing that while “we” are walking with Jesus, “they” have abandoned the narrow way.

I often see aspects of truth on both sides. What matters, I believe, is our love of and trust in God, our relationship with God rather than the precise details of our theology.

Jesus tells us that to enter God’s family we must become “like little children” and I join that circle of young, open hearts around his feet. I come in a new naïvety, not blind to the disagreements which once preoccupied me, but focusing on the bigger reality which unites us – the unfailing love of God.

Sometimes, however, I must acknowledge theological conflicts which trouble me. For example, I’m concerned at ways of doing church which focus on the power of leadership in controlling rather than serving and upholding.

I’m concerned about theology which presents us as “miserable sinners” rather than God’s beloved ones. I’m concerned with preaching which makes the listener fear that they are not among God’s “chosen”.

Particularly in my mind just now are people who are gay. I applaud the Church of Scotland’s recent decision to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages, honouring the desire of gay people to express their love and commitment.

Culture should not be allowed to dictate Christian theology, but it invites us to re-examine previous beliefs and either revalidate or develop them.

I recognise the hurt and woundedness of hearing that acting in line with what you innately are is morally repugnant to God. I believe that the Bible does not oppose gay sex as we understand it, that gay sex in a committed relationship is not a sin.

Aligning myself with those who believe this, I therefore disagree with those who take a different view. I appreciate their courage, their love. I appreciate gay people’s choice of celibacy, painful yet gladdening, as they see their decision as pleasing to God. But I believe this is an unnecessary sacrifice.

In such disputes, Christians must name the issues and seek with grace, never with anger, to persuade those who see things differently. Someone at the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly commented that the church is a broad church with room for many different views. What I do know is that Jesus’s followers form a broad church where all God’s children are welcome. As we sit together around Jesus’s feet, may we learn to love one another as God loves us.

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