Did you hear the one about the divorced, female, Baptist bishop who secretly married her lesbian lover?
No, that isn’t the set-up line for a warped joke.
Instead, this is the summary of a news story coming out of Detroit in the past few weeks.
“Detroit Baptist leader resigns after announcing she married a woman”
From the Detroit Free Press:
Facing a backlash from conservatives in her congregation, a noted church leader in Detroit resigned Friday after announcing earlier this month she had married a woman.
Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams stepped down from Zion Progress Baptist Church, where she had served for five years as its first female pastor. Her announcement from the pulpit earlier this month that she had married a woman stunned many local Baptists.
There are so many issues here:
- Baptists have bishops?
- A female bishop?
- A divorced female bishop?
- A secret lesbian marriage between two female bishops?
Abram’s resignation was not forced; she had her share of supporters. The resignation came, however, as Abrams desired to prevent division in the church. “I know how important it is for congregations to stay together,” she told the Free Press. “I didn’t want to split the church any further over this issue.”
Abrams can be commended for her desire to prevent division in the church, but the way of reconciliation should always be to move in the direction of truth — even when personal repentance and confession are in order.
But given our post-modern post-truth cultural and religious climate, it is not Abrams who will feel any pressure to repent. The church (this particular church, and the entire church throughout the world) finds itself again in the position of being cast as intolerant and judgmental of true love. The church feels constant pressure to repent of the testimony of both Scripture and human tradition on matters of gender and sexuality. Thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching gets overturned on the whim of personal preference.
Here is another excerpt:
Abrams cited biblical verses to support the idea that same-sex relationships are allowable under Christian teachings, including Luke 7:1-10, which talks about the love a man has for his male servant.
Saying that love is a big part of Christianity, Abrams said: “We all know that we’ve been made in God’s image, and so no matter what you look like, no matter who you are, no matter what your orientation is,” we should be free to love whom we want.
“Love is something that’s supposed to be unconditional,” she added. “And as Christians, if anybody is supposed to be loving, we are.”
If you missed the Luke 7 reference, that is where Jesus heals the servant of a Roman centurion. I must admit, using verse two of that story in support of same-sex marriage is creative — though such an interpretation is a train-wreck of hermeneutics:
Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. (Luke 7:2, ESV)
Are we to take this abuse of Scripture seriously? I find it much more compelling when same-sex advocates are honest with Scripture and admit that, though they won’t submit to what it says about homosexuality, they also will not attempt to twist the clear teaching of Scripture on the subject.
Then, when Abrams turns to theological reflection, she upends the imago Dei doctrine to say that it essentially teaches us that no matter what condition we find ourselves in, that is exactly the way God intends us to be. But, that is not at all what “the image of God” teaches. In fact, the very first Scripture text revealing the imago Dei of humanity, also teaches the Divine created order of two distinct genders:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.(Genesis 1:27, ESV)
Why even bring church doctrine into the conversation, if only to reinterpret every word and phrase to fit a sexual ethic which just so happens to support … your own sexual choices?
Abrams does not lack formal doctrinal training — she has a doctorate degree in theology. Nor does she claim that her opinions are anything more than a recent turn of thinking for her. She said she changed her understanding of orientation a “little over a year ago.”
“I progressed in my theology and came to the point where I would love whichever came to me. I wasn’t just open to (a specific) gender, I was open to love in whatever way the Lord would bless me.”
Asked how she would classify herself in terms of sexual orientation, Abrams said: “I’m not classifying myself in any particular area.”
Abrams becomes yet another example of what we talk about repeatedly — the redefinition of words to suit individual taste and preference.
“People have the right to interpret scripture whatever way they please,” Abrams said. “I respect difference of opinions.”
That provokes the question: Do people really have the “right” to interpret scripture whatever way they please? Or, if it is God’s Word does what God mean matter more than whatever people may want? Which is right – to discern the revealed the truth of God and conform life to it or to manipulate the Scriptures to a meaning that fits our personal progressive ideas? According to Abrams’ way of thinking, the choice is yours.