André R. Boulanger
Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix
400 East Monroe
Phoenix AZ 85004-2336
It has been some time since I've received your two letters requesting that I withdraw my signature and support of the Clergy for Justice Phoenix Declaration. I apologize for this delay, but it was necessary since your request provoked a rather deep crisis of conscience for me. You insisted that I take this action as a matter of obedience to you and fidelity to the teaching authority of the Church. I have given the matter much thought and soul-searching in these past weeks.
In the end I found it necessary as a matter of conscience not to withdraw my name from the Declaration. Not so much because I know the Declaration to be fair, just and a document in keeping with Christian principles, but because of the manner in which the topic of homosexuality is addressed in many documents and pronouncements issued by church authorities.
Church documents refer to homosexuality as an intrinsic disorder, a pathological constitution, a perversion of nature, etc. and claim that homosexual acts are always wrong, always opposite to holiness; objectively sinful. I submit that these claims are based on the best human science that existed 1,500 years ago and beyond. These views have found their way into scripture and official church teachings through the centuries. Yet, the best science that we have to this date tells us that homosexuality is not a disorder or pathology, but that it is a variation in the human sexual expression. A variation among many others. It is not a disease, a disorder or a defect. It is crassly irresponsible of us to ignore what the best science of our day has to say on the matter, in order to uphold antiquated positions that are profoundly harmful to others.
Scripture is often cited to support these condemnatory pronouncements of church leaders. It seems to me that as a Christian my first commitment of faith is to Jesus of Nazareth; not to the law of Moses or the prophets of what is called the Old Law; nor is it to Paul of Tarsus, Peter or the other apostles. The object of our faith is in the person of Jesus as he is known to us in the gospels. Yet, as far as we can tell, Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality as an evil. If this matter is of such importance, does it not stand to reason that he would have said something? That he would have given a warning?
However, Jesus did tell us that the law of the gospel is the law of love. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the entire law and all the prophets." (Matt. 22:37-40) Ours is a religion not of laws, rules, regulations and practices; but of love.
With this in mind, I would suggest that human sexual actions that are expressions of love and affection, that are mutual and responsible, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual, are morally good, wholesome, personally integrative, other-enriching, holy and sanctifying.
We know that human beings are not perfect and, as a result, their sexual actions are not always perfect. But they are not for that reason perversions of nature or sinful. Indeed, they may bear the seeds of grace.
One often hears Christians speak of loving the sinner but hating the sin. What are they communicating to others in this, especially to the young who are struggling to find their identity and deal with their sexual orientation? This kind of rhetoric is saying to them: You're freaks, but we love you anyway. Not because you're lovable as persons; but because Jesus commands us to love you. What kind of love is this? It isn't love at all. It's hypocrisy.
I realize that in this matter you are doing what you feel is right and what must be done. The same is true of myself. It is my hope that the differing perspectives and conclusions we have reached will not be a basis of antagonism between us, but that we will be able to share in the compassion and love that Jesus taught. May God be with us both; and may God's blessing be with all us always.
Given at Phoenix Arizona
On the 16th of May 2004
copyright © 2012