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Friday, 24 April 2009

Questions of interpretation

There’s some sense coming out of Scotland on the question of Christianity and sexuality.

Muriel Armstrong has for 15 months been acting editor of the official magazine of the Church of Scotland (or the “Kirk”), Life and Work. Her last editorial says the Kirk should accept homosexuality, and that homosexuality is not outlawed in the Bible.

The Scottish newspaper the Herald says:

Accusing such believers of being selective in their readings, she writes: “What is clear to the lay-person is that not everything Biblical is Christ-like. Every student of the Bible is a selective literalist.

“Those who swear by the anti-homosexual laws in the Book of Leviticus wouldn’t publicly advocate slavery or stoning women taken in adultery.

They presumably no longer accept Biblical teaching on sexual matters such as polygamy and sex with slaves.”

There are some humanists who believe that a true Christian must take the Bible literally (in other words, if you're truly a Christian you're ipso facto a homophobe); others (humanists and religionists) will take a more pragmatic approach and say it’s a set of scriptures for guidance, and that matters of today must be seen in a different cultural, social and scientific light from how they were viewed several millennia ago.

But, if selective interpretation goes towards removing one of the main sources of homophobia – religion – then such articles as Armstrong's can be only a good thing.

“The matter has been brought to the fore by the case of a popular Aberdeen clergyman who is the subject of a bitter divide in church leaders’ thinking,” says the Herald.

He’s the Rev. Scott Rennie, who’s open about his sexuality and has a male partner, and has been “overwhelmingly backed by the congregation of Queen’s Cross Aberdeen to be their minister”.

The story continues, “The Presbytery then sustained the appointment by a majority of 60 votes to 20, but dissenters have taken their case to the General Assembly.”

And that vote could be deeply divisive. But Armstrong writes, “Maybe it’s time for the Kirk to lead the way, to be true to its reforming character, as it has done over many issues over decades and centuries.

However, it’s notable that the Kirk says the magazine is its own baby and does its own thing, and a senior spokesman has distanced the Kirk from Armstrong’s words.

The Rev. Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, tells the paper, “Life and Work is an editorially independent magazine and the views that are expressed by the editor are hers.

“They don’t represent any official line of the Church. The Church does not have a particular view, and there are different views within the Church of Scotland.”

Which sounds like me to be a way of saying Armstrong can say what she wants, but we don’t like poofs, thank you very much, Muriel, and goodbye.

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