A United Methodist minister who has written a book on Jesus that many Christians consider blasphemous says he has not been reprimanded by his denomination. And he says his claim that certain biblical texts in the gospel actually celebrate homosexual behavior has received a mixed reaction from believers.
Dr. Ted Jennings is an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church and a professor of biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary (ctschicago.edu), which is associated with the United Church of Christ. A longtime apologist for the homosexual lifestyle, Jennings helped to establish the Lesbian/Gay Studies program at the seminary.
In his book The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament, Jennings claims Jesus Christ not only condoned homosexual relationships, but was involved in one. In comments about the book, he argues that disapproval of the behavior of persons based on their sexual orientation or homosexual practices is a fundamental distortion of the biblical message:
"In this book, my intention is to break with the defensive strategy of dealing primarily with passages that are alleged to support homophobia and gay bashing," Jennings writes. "This strategy gives greater plausibility than is deserved to the traditional (mis)reading of the Bible. Instead I will focus on an examination of what is, in fact, the preponderance of the evidence: that which includes and affirms homoerotic desire and relationships."
Although the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline opposes homosexuality, Jennings says he has not been disciplined by his denomination.
"I've not yet had any backlash from [Methodists leaders]," he says. "I know that [the incompatibility of homosexuality with scripture] has been the official position of the [Methodist] Church. I love my church and I work very hard with the Methodist Church -- but if the Church were always right, it would have no need for theologians -- we'd be out of work."
While Jennings admits that Old Testament law and the Apostle Paul's writings condemn homosexuality, he argues that churches have failed to do a study of the gospels on the issue. In addition, he says the biggest difference in responses to his book have not been between liberals and evangelicals, but between those who have and have not read his book.
"Those who have not looked at the book tend to be reacting to some fairly sensational ways ... the book [is described] in the press, and react in ways that quite naturally express their alarm, their concern, their perplexity," he says.
According to Jennings, all of his colleagues -- as well as the administration and board of trustees at Chicago Theological Seminary -- have been supportive of his so-called "scholarly inquiry into the Bible."
Support from the seminary should not be surprising. Its mission statement says that "while church and society are threatened by new forces of division under the banner of homophobia, [we are committed] to developing leadership for a more inclusive church and society." The seminary also grants special considerations to "self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered students who show exceptional promise for ministry."
In addition, the denomination with which the seminary is affiliated -- the United Church of Christ -- claims to be "one of the most diverse Christian churches" in the U.S. Open homosexuals hold a number of national church offices, and the denomination requires that homosexuals are included on all church agency boards.
In an article by Concerned Women for America, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (ird-renew.org) describes the UCC this way:
"The most liberal of America's mainline denominations, the UCC marries gays, ordains witches, and prefers sit-ins (just name the cause) to evangelistic rallies," Tooley said. "It's also been one of the fastest imploding churches, having lost about 40% of its members in 35 years."
© 2003 Agape Press. Used with permission.