Do any Christian churches allow/accept homosexual/gay relationships?


Not all Christian churches view homosexuality as a sin, and some churches allow gay Christians as members and bless gay marriages. In fact, church authorities have differing views about human sexuality, in general, and its role that it should play within their followers' lives. Most church officials believe that heterosexuality is good because it is necessary for procreation and it can keep a marriage strong. However, some priests and pastors believe that intercourse performed between married couples for personal gratification, and not for procreation, is a sin. Likewise, some priests and pastors believe that the use of birth control circumvents God's plan for procreation, even if birth control is used in a marriage, and it is, therefore, evil. On the other hand, some priests and pastors believe that birth control is acceptable for couples to use within a marriage, and they believe that intercourse used for personal gratification within a marriage is not a sin. To better understand how these divergent opinions came about within the Christian faith, it's best to understand the history behind churches' viewpoints regarding sexuality.

As Christianity spread in Rome during and after Paul's teachings, Christians had to deal with competing ideology among pagans. Even during that time, Christians had differing views regarding human sexuality, which ranged from permitting intercourse for procreation to disallowing any kind of sexual activity.1 In fact, according to the scholar D. F. Greenberg:

During the first two centuries of Christianity, prominent bishops and theologians demanded celibacy of all Christians. Organizational considerations, however, forced the church to back away from such an extreme requirement. The church ultimately accepted heterosexuality within marriage, for the purpose of having children. Intercourse that was not potentially procreative was forbidden.2

Some of the early Christian fathers, like St. Augustine, were very influential regarding human sexuality and Christianity. St. Augustine believed that sexual intercourse, even for procreation, was evil since sexual lust resulted from original sin. However, he recognized that God gave the gift of sex to Adam and Eve, as stated in Gen. 1:28"And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" Gen. 1:28 ESV..3 He rationalized that if Adam and Eve would have had sexual relations before "the fall," it would have been devoid of lust or passion.4 He believed that intercourse, although inherently evil, was necessary for procreation, and intercourse was justifiable between married couples only for that purpose.5 Thus, he proclaimed any kind of sexual activity that could not result in procreation as sinful.6 He particularly condemned homosexual acts, which he deemed were not only lustful but also a direct affront against God and one's neighbor, because he believed that homosexuality changed the God-given purpose of sexual organs and that homosexuality created tension between men and women.7

St. Augustine was extremely influential among Christians, and even today many priests and pastors follow his ideology. Some other early influential Christian leaders which subscribed to St. Augustine's philosophy were St. Clement of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, and St. Jerome.8 St. Basil of Nyssa and St. Gregory of Nyssa took St. Augustine's ideology and step further, and both men equated homosexuality with adultery.9 They decided that because adultery and homosexuality involve both lust and treachery against others, and, thus, both "sins" deserved a double punishment. Thus, adulterers and homosexuals were banned from the holy sacrament for 15 years, whereas fornicators were banned for 7 years.10 However, this punishment was insignificant compared with the punishment that the Roman empire had proclaimed against homosexuals.

In 342 A.D., Emperors Constantius and Constans invoked the death penalty for anyone guilty of passive homosexual activities, although there is no historical record of anyone being put to death under this law.11 In 390 A.D., Theodosius reaffirmed the law, and included male prostitutes under the law, but again there are no records of any prostitutes being put to death under the law. In 438 A.D., the law was expanded to include active homosexuals; however, under the new law, homosexual prostitution was now tolerated and taxed.12 In 533 A.D., Justinian invoked the law and frequently burned and/or castrated anyone who was accused of performing homosexual acts under the law. Even though Justinian claimed that he was following divine law to justify his actions, the law had very little basis in theology because Justinian and Empress Theodora used the law to eliminate political rivals and extort money.13 According to Justinian's court historian, the law was used to prosecute Justinian's political opponents and other undesirables, not just homosexuals.14

At this point in time, the death penalty may have been imposed based on the word of a single man or boy.15 Furthermore, the accused wasn't just put to death through some conventional, mainstream means. Instead, the punishment amounted to torture and then death. According to the historian G. Gibbon:

A painful death was inflicted by the amputation of the sinful instrument, or the insertion of sharp reeds in the pores and tubes of most exquisite sensibility; and Justinian defended the propriety of the execution, since the criminals would have lost their hands, had they been convicted of sacrilege. In this state of disgrace and agony, two bishops, Isaiah of Rhodes, and Alexander of Diospolis, were dragged through the streets of Constantinople, while their brethren were admonished by the voice of a crier, to observe this awful lesson, and not to pollute the sanctity of their character. Perhaps these prelates were innocent. A sentence of death and infamy was often founded on the slight and suspicious evidence of a child or a servant. . . .16

Likewise, the historian Malalas (491-569) states, "(T)he emperor ordered that all those found guilty of homosexual relations be castrated. Many were found at the time, and they were castrated and died. From that time on, those who experienced sexual desire for other males lived in terror."17

Although these laws existed, they actually had very little support from the Roman population and churches.18 Nonetheless, churches still condemned homosexuality and developed punishments for offenders, accordingly. For example, Pope Gregory III (731-741) stated that those guilty of lesbianism must undergo penance for 160 days, those guilty of homosexuality must undergo penance for 365 days, and priests guilty of trying to seduce a lay person must undergo penance for three years.19

When Europe was struck with the Black Death plague which killed millions of Europeans, Christians sought a reason for why God had sent such a horrific disease to them, and they blamed many groups, including Jews, prostitutes, foreigners, and homosexuals.20 Christians and other religious groups believed that God was punishing them for the European population's many sins, such as heresy and sodomy.21 People within the above groups were attacked and killed for their "role" in spreading the plague.22 Since millions of Europeans were dying from the plague, any kind of sexual activity that was seen as counteractive to procreation was deemed as unproductive and denounced as a sin.23 Thus, thousands of men were convicted of sodomy and were punished by either death or ostracism.24 Of course, the true cause of the Black Death plague was eventually discovered, but not before thousands of innocent people were displaced or killed. It is interesting to see how fear leads to the persecution of certain groups, and homosexuals are often at the forefront of these groups.

Tolerance of homosexuals among churches and governments in various regions of the world has fluctuated over time. Ultimately, some church officials have revised their mindset regarding whether or not homosexuality is a sin and how homosexuals should be treated. The most conservative churches believe that homosexuality is a sin, and they ban homosexuals from membership. The least conservative churches believe that homosexuality is not a sin, they welcome same-sex people into their membership, and they may even bless same-sex unions. Moreover, to confuse matters, what each religious denomination believes regarding homosexuality can change from one church to another, within the same denomination! For a chart of how most Christian religions view homosexuals and homosexuality, visit Wikipedia and scroll to the bottom of the page.



Links to other websites:

Religious Tolerance


1"In fact, within any particular Christian community, the degree of sexual repression depended on the practice of Christianity's leading rivals; sexual concepts ranged from permitting copulation if motivated by a desire for children to an outright demand for celibacy for all church members. At times, it seems that the early Christians tried to gain status, if not adherents, by outdoing the pagan rivals at ascetic practices" (Bullough, 1976, p. 182). In fact, there was a growing disgust for sexuality throughout Christianity, pagan religions, and society in general after Paul's time. Return

2Greenberg, 1988, p. 228 Return

3Bullough, 1976, p. 193. Perhaps St. Augustine's lurid past, which included several mistresses, marriage to a girl who was less than twelve years old, fathering a son outside of marriage with one of his mistresses, and homosexual attraction to a friend, influenced St. Augustine to become repulsed by sexual intercourse after his conversion to Christianity (Bullough, 1976, p. 192 & Greenberg, 1988, p. 224). Return

4Bullough, 1976, p. 193 Return

5Bullough, 1976, p. 194 Return

6Bullough, 1976, p. 194 Return

7Bullough, 1976, p. 194 Return

8"As the early Christian leaders - Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, and Jerome - constantly praised virginity, approving of sexual relations only in marriage. Most of them cited Leviticus prohibitions against homosexuality" (Spencer, 1995, p. 84). Return

9Bullough, 1976, p. 196; "Saint Basil of Nyssa, the founder of Christian monasticism, wrote in A. D. 375 to another bishop, that 'He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.' Saint Gregory of Nyssa explained the reason for this evenhandedness in a canonical letter written to the bishop of Melitene in 390 (A.D.): both heterosexual adultery and homosexual intercourse are unlawful pleasures" (Greenberg, 1988, p. 227). Return

10Bullough, 1976, p. 196 Return

11Spencer, 1995, p. 75 Return

12Spencer, 1995, p. 75 Return

13"Most chroniclers said that Justinian and his wife, the Empress Theodora (c. 500-548), were simply using the charge as a way to remove political rivals or to extort money" (Naphy, 2004, p. 83). Return

14Spencer, 1995, p. 75 Return

15Spencer, 1995, p. 85 Return

16Gibbon, 1851, p. 96 Return

17Naphy, 2004, p. 83 Return

18Naphy, 2004, p. 84 Return

19Naphy, 2004, p. 84-85 Return

20Naphy, 2004, p. 90, 96-97 Return

21Naphy, 2004, p. 90 Return

22Naphy, 2004, p. 93-97 Return

23Naphy, 2004, p. 97 Return

24Naphy, 2004, p. 94, 98 Return



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By: L. Jelle