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We have been sharing the Spirited Exchanges newsletter for a while now, and find them very interesting and stimulating. We were especially moved by the article by Peter Lineham. We were also impressed at such a divisive topic being aired on these pages.

On our own journeys we have spent some time in evangelical circles, but also moved out of those circles to differing degrees. We assumed that most people who subscribe to this newsletter would have gone through a similar journey, being hurt or disillusioned in some way by the mainstream evangelical church, usually in relation to issues of ‘power' and its abuse – the power of a preacher, the Bible, or one group of people over another…

So, we are writing this in response to the letter by Briar Whitehead in the last issue. It's essential in a debate to have a range of opinions, but this letter wasn't presented as an opinion but rather as fact. We saw potential for the abuse of power within the stance of that letter, such as we have become sensitive to within the evangelical church.

With reference first to science, one could have been forgiven for assuming that among the 3000 articles mentioned in the letter, there was no evidence for pre-birth causes of homosexuality. Reading scientific literature is much like reading the bible: the biases that you bring to reading affect what you see. When weighing up scientific evidence a marker must be decided. What constitutes “enough evidence”? For some, one study demonstrating a link is enough, for others 20 studies provide no acceptable evidence.

 Most scholars agree that there needs to be (a) a majority of studies presenting the same results and (b) a plausible mechanism. Research into sexuality is difficult as our sexuality is made up of many different jigsaw pieces. However, a quick search of an online database of abstracts of scientific articles turned up some very plausible evidence for even the most conservative link between homosexuality and pre-birth factors.

One review article states: “Despite inconsistent results across both studies and traits, some support for the neurohormonal theory is garnered, but mostly in men. Genetic research using family and twin methodologies has produced consistent evidence that genes influence sexual orientation, but molecular research has not yet produced compelling evidence for specific genes. Although it has been well established that older brothers increase the odds of homosexuality in men, the route by which this occurs has not been resolved.[1].” Another review article concluded: “Solid evidence for the importance of postnatal social factors is lacking”[2] despite the assertions otherwise of Briar Whitehead.

It is by no means as clear as Briar's letter makes out. These assertions of “truth” again put the authority of straight people over the experience and perceptions of the group actually affected – gay people themselves.

Although her letter was expressed very politely, her treatment of the biblical material also presented the issue as simple and closed. I shared that conviction once, but the more study and prayer I've invested the murkier it's got for me.

 Regardless of our theologies of the ‘authority' of scripture, the Bible still has to be read and interpreted. We need to ascertain its meaning before we give it authority. The culture of the evangelical churches we were in just assumed that the Bible taught homosexuality was a sin without looking at it critically, attempts at debate could be halted by the creed “the Bible says!” But, all of us already use a range of interpretive techniques when faced with verses which oppress women, condone war, genocide, capital punishment, polygamy, slavery, rape etc… For the sake of consistency shouldn't we at least investigate to see if these techniques can validly be applied to the 5 probable texts on homosexual acts that Peter discussed?

 Any treatment of the Bible starts with our personal interpretation; we need to be honest about that. Also, I think it's important to keep in mind that the Bible doesn't actually mention ‘homosexuality' – but only male homosexual acts.

 In our opinion, we are called to be light to everyone, we have no right to withhold God from people, nor can we dictate terms on behalf of God. The journeys we all walk are very personal, though we gather truths where we can find them.


Amber Strong and Nathan Parry

[1] Mustanski BS et al. Annu Rev Sex Res. 2002;13:89-140

[2]  Swaab DF. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2004 Dec;19(6):301-12.

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