Q & R: From a Christian who is gay

Here’s the Q:

I am a gay Christian with a quick question. Some other believers say that being in a committed relationship as I am is “fornication” which I am sure you know is “porneia” in Greek. What does that word specifically mean? Is it related at all to my relationship (we had a church commitment ceremony before God years ago)?

R: after the jump –

Thanks for your note. As you probably know (an easy internet search will make this clear), there is endless debate about the meanings of a few key Greek words (like porneia) from Paul’s writings. Although I’m glad for the scholarly work (and not so glad for the pseudo-scholarly work), I don’t think the issue will be resolved by arguments about Greek terms.
As I explain in my newest book, one key underlying issue is how we read the Bible. As I explain in Chapter 7, I think we should look back in history and see how people who were on the right and wrong side of history and morality used the Bible. We should feel disposed toward the way the Bible was interpreted by the people who were – say – for democracy, or against slavery, or for the equal rights of women, or against apartheid, and so on. We should be suspicious of a hermeneutic (way of interpreting) that was employed by people on the opposite side.
Just last weekend I met a theologian – W. Stacy Johnson – who has written what looks to me like an excellent new book on this subject. He wisely points out that there aren’t simply two positions on the issue – he identifies seven. He explains them fairly and respectfully, and then explains why he has reached his own conclusions on the issue. Here’s the link.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think many people would change their view (one way or another) based on being convinced about nuances of the meaning of a Greek term. What I do think changes people’s view is meeting and getting to know fellow human beings – including fellow Christians – who are gay. I think the situation is a lot like it must have been for the earliest Christians all of whom were Jewish. When they met “uncircumcised Gentiles” who were full of the love and Spirit of God, it forced them to rethink assumptions they had held all their lives about how to read and apply the Bible. (I give a case in point in Chapter 17 of the book.)
As is clear from my book, I’ve been through that process myself during my years as a pastor. I’m so sad when I think about what gay people often have to suffer in the Christian community, but I’m glad that the tide is beginning to turn – thanks to people like you who have not given up your faith in spite of the challenges you often face. May God help us all to be agents of grace as the process unfolds.