Dr. Mark Achtemeier
Address delivered to the 2009 Conference


“The Church We Can See from Here” – that’s what we are supposed to be talking about here. I have every confidence in the ability of my colleagues to address this discussion with genuine wisdom and deep insight. For myself I confess the topic makes me nervous. The reason is this: if you had told me just eight or nine yearsago that on this date I would be standing before this group, speaking out in favor ofmarriage and ordination for lesbian and gay Christians, I would have declared you out of your mind.

But here I am, and here you are. And all I can say is that because of this experience I have learned never to make confident predictions about any situation in which God is involved.

God has indeed led me, “through many dangers, toils and snares,” to a different, and I think far more coherent, understanding of the Bible’s message for lesbian and gay believers. I want to offer some testimony today about how that happened.

If there is one thing I want to emphasize above all else in this testimony, it is that this journey has not involved any kind of retreat or qualification of my strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, the Lordship of Christ, and the belief that God calls people to lives of personal holiness. I come to you today as an out, self-affirming, practicing conservative evangelical.

There is a destructive myth circulating in both the right and left wings of the church, which says that if you’re really serious about biblical authority you will of course embrace a traditionalist point of view in this issue, whereas a more progressive stance requires you to hold onto the scriptures more loosely. Well I don’t believe it, and neither should you! It is time to put these misleading stereotypes to rest.

So how did this journey come about?

Grace in the Wilderness

I started out very sure and very settled and very content with seeing exclusion as God’s will for the church. Like many, I had succumbed to the temptations of an ecclesiastical tunnel-vision: I read authors I agreed with. I talked with people I agreed with. I hung out with people I agreed with. I was exceedingly comfortable holding the position I did, I was supported in it, I was popular. And I had absolutely no reason to question any of it.

But God had other plans. Out of the blue, opportunity opened up for serious conversation and friendship with some quite remarkable gay Christians. This was new for me. When you are a firebrand exclusivist, hurling thunderbolts and belching fire against the opposition, gay people with any sense tend to avoid your company, or at least they avoid telling you they are gay. As a result, what I knew about LGBT people was pretty much defined by the authors I agreed with, and flamboyant stereotypes presented in the media.

But suddenly here I was confronted with these new friends who were eager to talk about the faith, and almost miraculously willing to hang in there with me in conversations about the church’s teaching– this despite the fact that a lot of what they heard coming from me was unwittingly insulting or offensive. Their willingness to engage in frank conversation was a remarkable gift of grace, and the experience proved powerfully unsettling for two reasons. First, I started to realize the extent to which the church’s traditional teaching functioned like a sign over the door saying to gay people, “There is nothing here for people like you.” This was disturbing for a good evangelical like me who fervently believes that Jesus reaches out to everyone.

Even more unsettling was the fact that I wasn’t finding at all what I expected to find in these people. Let me talk about those expectations a bit, because this is where my comfortably settled convictions really started to crack.

What is Homosexual Orientation?

Like so many traditionalists, I was accustomed to thinking of homosexuality as a kind of destructive addiction, a disordered inclination toward damaging behaviors that was comparable in some respects to alcoholism. I found support for my belief that it was harmful in statistics recording elevated levels of depression and suicide among gay people. (I of course never considered that this might be due to pervasive expressions of hostility toward LGBT persons which permeate our society). And having never questioned my selective and somewhat superficial interpretations of the Bible’s teaching on the subject, I also assumed that a gay lifestyle must certainly involve a fairly casual attitude toward scriptural authority and an inclination toward personal self-indulgence.

The consequences of viewing homosexuality in this way are pervasive and far-reaching. For me and many others, it led to a clear and straightforward set of pastoral prescriptions. As with anyone who struggles against a destructive addiction, the first and most important message to them is that they need to stop acting on their compulsions.

Yes, the way may be difficult and fraught with setbacks-anyone familiar with the work of the twelve-step programs knows this to be the case. But with persistence, spiritual guidance, and the loving support of a community of care, recovery is a possibility. Believing as I did that homosexuality was a destructive compulsion comparable to alcoholism, it was perfectly clear to me that this had to be the church’s message to gay and lesbian Christians.

Viewing homosexuality in this way also meant that for me, like so many traditionalists, calls for justice and equal rights made no sense whatever. Such appeals have obviously been a mainstay of progressive rhetoric for years, but they have absolutely no traction among traditionalists. The reason is that no one in their right mind would argue that the cause of justice and equality was served by affirming the right of addicts to pursue self-destructive behaviors. Human beings do not possess a God-given right to harm themselves!

Appeals to compassion also make no sense if one assumes that homosexuality is a harmful compulsion. Consider again the case of persons struggling with alcohol abuse. It is completely inconceivable that the church, in the name of a superficial compassion, would affirm their self-destructive behavior, assure them it is who they are, or celebrate their compulsion as God’s good gift. I trust you can see why those who view the issue through the lens of the alcoholism analogy find the progressive agenda so deeply disturbing.

So here I was operating from this understanding that a gay lifestyle was the product of giving in to a sinful, self-indulgent, destructive compulsion, and my whole view of what the church’s stance should be was shaped by that assumption. Yet what I actually encountered in conversation with these gay Christian friends was radically different from what my assumptions led me to expect.

Encounters with Gay and Lesbian Believers

I was expecting to find self-indulgent individuals, who were inclined to elevate their own personal gratification above any serious wrestling with Christian discipleship. My prejudices could not have been more mistaken. What I found instead were devoted Christian believers, filled with grace and a loving concern for the downtrodden that frequently put me to shame. I was surprised to discover that they were deeply engaged in spiritual disciplines, acutely aware of their own sins and failings, and eager to bring their faults to God for healing. These were devout, spiritually self-aware people who were not the least bit hesitant to confess their failings to God.

What absolutely did not compute for them, though, was trying to view their lifelong commitment to a partner under the category of sins and failings. “I just can’t make sense of it,” one friend said to me. “My relationship with my partner is the part of my life that demands the greatest sacrifices and stretches me the most in my ability to love. I think it is very important to confess my sins, and I do it regularly. But far from feeling sinful, this feels like the one area of my life that brings out the very best in me.” I remember feeling a bit shaken as it struck me that this was exactly the way I would describe my own marriage. This is not to say that all gay people are saints any more than all straight people are, but the kind of people God led me into fellowship with bore absolutely no resemblance to what I expected to find on the basis of my view that homosexuality was a spiritually destructive compulsion. Could it be, I wondered, that I was mistaken?

The Bible and Our Experience

Now immediately when I found myself asking this question all kinds of theological alarm bells started going off, because what it meant was, I was allowing experience to call my understanding of the Bible into question. And as a good, neo-orthodox evangelical, I have on many occasions delivered the standard speech about the terrible dangers that result if we allow personal experience to trump the Bible’s witness. Such a move threatens to set our own personal authority above that of Scripture; it undermines the ability of Scripture to challenge and correct us.

I continue to believe that. I hold firmly to the reformation principle that Scripture alone is the highest authority for the church. I further believe that experience is often an unreliable guide to truth, being the product of a nature that is corrupted by sin and self-interest. It is not the proper role of our experience to critique the Bible, it is the role of the Bible to critique our experiences and open up the possibilities of having new ones that are life-giving and transformed. So when you start using experience to veto the message of Scripture, I and my evangelical colleagues will simply have to get off the bus.

But struggling with this, I came to realize that this important affirmation does not exhaust what needs to be said about the way the Bible and our everyday experience interact with one another. Let me illustrate what I found with a little piece of humor that Saint Augustine threw into an Easter evening sermon he preached in 407 A.D. The joke comes in the course of comments on 1 John 2:6, where it says that those who abide in Christ “ought to walk in the same way he walked. ” Well what does this mean, to walk in the same way that Jesus walked, asks Augustine? Jesus walked on water! So surely walking in the same way he walked means we should walk on water, too. Doesn’t that make sense? [1]

We chuckle at this. But why do we immediately recognize this as a joke? It’s not like Augustine’s suggestion isn’t biblical, after all. Memory of Jesus walking on the water is well-attested in the Gospels. [2] The Bible even talks about Jesus’ followers trying it, when Peter gets out of the boat. It’s then of course that we discover how well-chosen was his nickname, “The Rock!”

So why don’t we fasten on these stories when we hear John telling us to walk in the same way Jesus walked? The short answer is, this particular way of interpreting the Bible contradicts our experience. People who try to walk on non-frozen bodies of water tend to fail at it pretty consistently. However pious we are, however seriously we try to take the Scripture, that is a fact of experience we can’t get around.

So when we acknowledge that walking on water like Jesus did is impossible for ordinary people, and on that basis abandon Augustine’s proposed interpretation of 1st John, does that mean we are elevating our experience above the authority of the Bible? Of course not! What it means is that we must find another interpretation of this passage that makes better sense of what we experience in the world. And so it is that Augustine finally suggests to his hearers that walking in the way Jesus walked means following the path of righteousness and charity that he pursued on his way to the cross. Is Augustine playing fast and loose with Scriptural authority by this suggestion? To the contrary, he is taking that authority seriously!

This is a hugely important point. There is a vast difference between vetoing what the Bible says on the basis of experience, and looking for understandings of the Bible that make powerful sense of our experience. One of my theological mentors, the late Dr. John Leith, was fond of saying that Christianity has proven itself across the centuries by its ability to account for the hard facts of human life and experience in a way that was more satisfying and more powerful than any of its rivals. [3] I believe that! One of the signs that Christian understanding of God and God’s way with the world are true is their ability to make coherent sense of peoples’ lives.

So when we find ourselves in a situation where our understanding of the Bible collides regularly with the lived experience of Christian believers, we don’t take that as license to ignore Scripture. But it certainly ought to make us ask whether we’ve correctly understood the Bible’s teaching. Anyone who is skeptical about that point is welcome to meet me by the riverbank downtown to practicing walking on the water the way Jesus did!

More Contradictions

I realized that I could not simply ignore the striking contradictions I had noted between my supposedly biblical assumptions about what homosexuality was, and the kind of admirable, spiritually serious people my gay friends had actually turned out to be. And the contradictions between my assumptions and my experience continued to mount up.

If you can get an alcoholic to stop drinking, you expect that person’s life to get better. Addiction to drink is morally, physically and spiritually destructive; So putting away the bottle leads to human flourishing. Indeed, it’s not unusual to hear people saying “I got my life back” when they talk about recovering from a destructive addiction.

If homosexuality is a destructive compulsion like alcoholism, one would surely expect to hear similar sorts of testimonies about it. However much of a struggle abstinence might be, embracing it ought to be life-giving. But I began to encounter testimonies that showed a very different pattern.

As I began to expand my reading beyond the circle of people I already agreed with, I came across an interview with Andrew Sullivan, a conservative political commentator, a Roman catholic, and a partnered gay man. Sullivan wrote about attempts early in his life to follow the course his church recommended. As a committed Christian, he struggled hard to embrace a life of celibacy and renounce any hope of settling down with a life partner. I was startled by his testimony that, far from leading to the sort of flourishing one would expect, the results for him were morally and spiritually crippling:

The moral consequences, in my own life, of the refusal to allow myself to love another human being were disastrous. They made me permanently frustrated and angry and bitter. It spilled over into other areas of my life. Once that emotional blockage is removed, one’s whole moral equilibrium can improve… These things are part of a continuous moral whole. You can’t ask someone to suppress what makes them whole as a human being and then to lead blameless lives. We are human beings, and we need love in our lives in order to love others-in order to be good Christians! [4]

Reading this, I remember being shaken by the recognition that this was very much how I would respond if I had to renounce the possibility of marriage in my own life. I would be a wreck!

Nor was Sullivan’s testimony an exceptional case. Once I started paying attention, I began running into more and more instances where devout gay Christians, following the church’s traditional counsel, failed to find the life-giving liberation one would expect if the alcoholism analogy were true. Instead, their heroic efforts at faithfulness led to results that were spiritually and psychologically crippling, very much in line with what Andrew Sullivan described.

By this time word was getting out that I was asking serious questions about these issues. The Layman had run a story that had me publicly renouncing the biblical tradition in one of my classes. [5] The story was and remains completely false, but God’s grace operates in interesting ways, and one result of the publicity was that I found myself having quiet conversations with growing numbers of evangelicals who were also having serious doubts about the church’s teaching.

I remember one very devout individual who came to me wanting to talk. This person had struggled since high school with same-gender attraction, had for years prayed fervently for healing and strength and help in dealing with this compulsion. After years of courageous prayer and struggle, doing exactly what the church and I myself would have counseled, the result was a broken spirit, overwhelmed by despair and anger, ready to renounce the faith and give up on God, seriously contemplating suicide. By the grace of God, I managed to put this person in touch with other gay Christians who had come through similar struggles.

When this person encountered a different understanding of the Bible’s counsel, re-opened to the possibility of finding love as part of a life-journey, and found fellowship in a supportive community of dedicated Christians, the results were simply breathtaking. I saw this person blossom, the waves of depression rolled back, and a vibrant, joyful Christian faith re-emerged. None of this made any sense whatsoever if homosexuality was a destructive compulsion like alcoholism.

Alas, not all the stories I encountered had such happy endings. I became aware of two individuals who, devoutly struggling to conform their lives to traditional church teaching, had submerged their same-gender attraction and resolutely embraced the path of heterosexual marriage. This was a good and life-giving choice according to everything I had believed. Yet the results were completely heart-rending: a tragic divorce in the first instance and an even more tragic suicide in the second, with devastated spouses and children left behind in each case. How did any of this square with my belief that gays and lesbians were called to embrace abstinence or heterosexual marriage as an expression of obedience which led to abundant life?

Reading further, I discovered I was far from alone in struggling with such questions. I was struck by a statement from Jeremy Marks, the evangelical head of a British organization named Courage, which he founded to cure believing Christians of their homosexuality. In 2003 Marks wrote a letter to his supporters announcing a drastic change in direction for his organization’s ministry. Instead of trying to “heal” people of their homosexuality, Courage would henceforth seek to help gay and lesbian people integrate their sexuality into their Christian faith. The reasons Marks gave for this change sounded very much like the patterns I had been observing. He writes:

I’ve seen many folk become seriously disillusioned over the years. Some became deeply depressed and hopeless, even suicidal… Some just lost their faith altogether – a tragic conclusion that I found heart-breaking, as a pastor committed to helping people find their hope in Christ.

In contrast, I saw that those who began, on their own initiative, to embrace the possibility of a gay relationship, benefited greatly… Gay relationships, entered into sincerely, with mutual commitment, provide value and a sense of belonging. And when Christ has central place, people’s morale – above all their hope in God – recovers. [6]

I continue to encounter testimonies confirming this pattern right down to the present day. Just this past month Christianity Today reported that more and more Christian psychologists are moving away from reparative therapy, which seeks a “cure” for homosexuality, toward “‘sexual identity therapy,’ which focuses on helping a person live in a way that is consistent with his or her beliefs.” [7]

A Contrary Witness?

Now I would be less than honest if I did not mention the stories that run counter to this pattern I have been describing. I sat in committees at the 2006 and 2008 General Assemblies and listened to testimonies, organized by our friends at One by One, from individuals who had found it healing to move out of a gay lifestyle. I sat there listening to these stories, pondering what to make of them, and suddenly it occurred to me that nearly all of them involved moving away from situations involving either promiscuity or abuse. Not a one of these testimonies told a story of being involved in a loving and healthy same-gender partnership, which the person then decided to leave as an expression of Christian commitment.

I realized that these testimonies actually served to confirm what I had been thinking. Of course promiscuous, exploitative or abusive sexual expressions were destructive and unhealthy, and these testimonies I had heard followed exactly the patterns the Bible would lead us to expect: Turning away from sinful patterns of exploitative, abusive and promiscuous behavior led to life and flourishing in the lives of these people. I praise God for that.

But the pattern did not hold when it came to committed, loving, same-gender relationships. The assumption that these relationships also constituted a sinful, destructive departure from God’s will failed miserably to account for what I and many others had encountered in the actual lives of committed gay people. The assumption that covenanted partnerships were also sinful and self-destructive was starting to feel like the interpretation that says we follow in Jesus’ footsteps by walking on water: it may sound reasonable on paper, but it just doesn’t make sense of what we see happening in the real world. So I was finally forced to confront the obvious question: Is there another way of understanding homosexuality from the Bible, a different interpretation of it, which makes better sense of what I and so many others were seeing?

A Biblical Alternative

It turned out that there was another biblical understanding readily available in Genesis 2. You remember how God creates the world in six days and declares all of it “very good.” But there is one aspect of the original creation that God declares “not good.” In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the human being should be alone; I will make a helper corresponding to him.”

Genesis describes God’s creation of human beings for intimate fellowship with another person. This is not a choice that we can simply reverse or undo. It is deeply inscribed in our nature as human beings.

Now obviously the predominant pattern for this gracious gift of God is heterosexual, bound up with our creation as male and female. But what if same-gender orientation, rather than being a disease of some sort, is simply an alternative form which this gift takes from time to time? I’ve had so many gay friends tell me, “I would not choose all the trouble and controversy that goes with being gay, but I was never asked. Heterosexual marriage just isn’t a possibility that is open to me.” So isn’t what we’re dealing with here an alternative form of God’s gift of life created for communion with a life-partner?

When I first started thinking about homosexuality in this way, it was sobering to realize that within the context of my traditionalist assumptions, I had been effectively assuming that this aspect of our God-given nature just wasn’t there for gay and lesbian people. Had I assumed it had been lost, or vetoed or overridden? When I thought about this, it seemed uncomfortably close to saying that gay people weren’t fully human. It was shocking to realize that the position I’d held in practical terms was fairly close to that.

The Reformation Critique of Mandatory Celibacy

The amazing thing about understanding homosexuality in this new way was that suddenly everything I had been seeing made perfect biblical sense. There turned out to be a substantial theological literature describing how spiritually and psychologically damaging it is to deny that aspect of our nature that is described in Genesis 2. I am referring of course, to the Reformation critiques of mandatory celibacy. [8]

The Roman Catholic church requires its priests to take vows of lifelong celibacy, renouncing the possibility of ever entering into the kind of intimate life-partnership described as God’s good gift in Genesis 2. The Protestant Reformers lifted up Genesis 2 and the New Testament’s teaching that celibacy is a special grace given to only a few, [9] denouncing such vows as an unnatural and damaging violation of fundamental human nature. This Reformation teaching against clerical celibacy described exactly the kind of spiritual and psychological harm that I had seen in the lives of gay and lesbian believers who had struggled to embrace a life of celibacy without possessing a genuine calling to it.

I was especially convicted by one passage in Calvin, where he criticized exactly some of the pastoral advice I had been giving out to people. Like many traditionalists, I was accustomed to pointing out, in response to protests that mandatory celibacy was a terribly difficult thing to require, that God sometimes calls us to bear the cross and embrace suffering as part of true discipleship. The cost of following Jesus can be high, I would say, but God promises to assist us in it. “Ask, seek, knock”-pray for God’s help and you will be given the strength to follow the path of true faithfulness.

Well as it turns out, the Roman Catholic defenders of priestly celibacy were giving this same advice to people in the 16th century, and I was struck by John Calvin’s response to it. The remedy God has provided for such struggles, says Calvin, is the institution of marriage, and we should not expect him to answer prayers that seek for alternatives to that:

[T]hose who…do not have recourse to the remedy offered and conceded them for their intemperance are striving against God and resisting his ordinance. Let no one cry out against me-as many do today-that with God’s help he can do all things. For God helps only those who walk in his ways, that is, in his calling. All who, neglecting God’s help, strive foolishly and rashly to overcome and surmount their necessities, depart from their calling. [10]

Calvin’s teaching made perfect sense of these puzzling and heart-breaking situations I had encountered, where devout gay and lesbian Christians had prayed fervently for years for strength to overcome “their necessities,” without ever receiving a positive response from God.

Calvin’s observation also suggested what hazardous ground the church was occupying in denying any possibility of marriage to gay and lesbian Christians. Using Calvin’s terminology, marriage is the help God has provided for dealing with the necessities he has implanted in human nature. Marriage is given to us, not just in a form that responds to our need, but in a way that is positively sanctifying and life-giving and permeated by grace. If, as Calvin insists, it is foolish and rash for individuals to turn their backs on this divine gift and calling, how much more so when an entire church acts to withhold this gift from an entire class of human beings!

I should interject a word of encouragement here for the single persons among us, and especially the young people. All this talk about the necessities of human nature can sometimes appear to make light of your discipline and your sacrifice maintaining sexual purity in the midst of a society that is full of temptations and inducements to the contrary. Nothing in these Reformation discussions was intended to discourage unmarried people from exercising self-control, and all of the Reformers would applaud and support your efforts in that regard.

But suppose the church told you that you should not only exercise self-discipline while you are single, but that you should completely and permanently renounce the possibility of ever finding that special someone to share your life with. That is the requirement that the Protestant Reformers were denouncing… and that is the requirement our current church teaching imposes on gay and lesbian believers! It is a very different thing from the church’s ordinary counsel that encourages single people, gay and straight alike, to exercise a faithful self-control.

Summing Up

At the end of the day, the assumption that homosexuality was a disease of the soul yielded a Bible that could not make sense of what I was seeing in the real world. It also yielded pastoral counsel that was in many cases a positive source of harm. Faithful Christians cannot settle for this. Scripture tells us, after all, that God’s dealings with human beings are not arbitrary, and God’s commands are not lacking sense. I give you these commandments “for your good,” says the Lord, [11] which means if we cannot discern the good purposes behind them we have not understood them correctly. God has come among us as the incarnate Logos – as sense, as reason, as the fundamental rationality underlying the entire cosmos. If the Bible’s teaching does not help us make powerful sense of life and experience, if biblical faithfulness is not life-giving, that is a sure sign we have not understood our Scripture properly.

A part of this story that will have to go untold for today, is how armed with this recognition, I went back to the Bible to figure out the mistakes in interpretation that led to such a damaging view of homosexuality in the first place. I have described some results of this quest in another place, [12] and perhaps we can make the text of those remarks available to the conference organizers.

I can testify from firsthand experience that traditionalist Christians hold their positions compassionately, with the best and most godly intentions. But I can no longer close my eyes to the spiritual and psychological damage that flow from this well-intended but tragically misguided teaching.

Understanding homosexuality as an alternate form of the divine gift described in Genesis 2 yields a Bible that makes powerful and life-giving sense. I am committed to praying and working with all of you for the day when the whole church comes to recognize and embrace this, consecrating the marriages of our gay sisters and brothers, and confirming their calls to all the ministries of Christ’s church.

I want to be absolutely clear about this commitment: It is precisely because I confess Scripture to be the authoritative Word of God that I cannot settle for interpretations that leave its teaching unable to make powerful sense of life and experience. It is precisely because I confess the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ that I reject biblical understandings that regularly lead to despair and desolation and loss of faith. It is precisely because I confess God’s call to holiness in all of life that I celebrate and affirm the sanctifying power I have seen exhibited time and again as Christian believers, gay and straight, embrace God’s gracious gift of marriage.

The Church We Can See From Here

I am not the only one who has been led by the Spirit to a new and better place. I believe an expansive catholicity that fully embraces gay and lesbian believers is coming sooner rather than later to the Presbyterian Church. Our beacon of hope is the Spirit-led ability of ordinary Christians to sense where the life-giving power of the Gospel is, and where it is not. They may not possess the technical categories for arguing the case, but they have a sense for where the path of faithfulness lies. Week in and week out I am encountering a growing company of conservative, evangelical Christians who quietly confess to me that they no longer believe exclusion is faithful. The reality of Jesus’ love for God’s gay and lesbian children is self-evident enough and palpable enough that the ranks of ordinary faithful are embracing it more and more with each passing day.

I am thankful and deeply humbled to have been caught up myself in this great movement of God’s Spirit. I pray earnestly for my brothers and sisters who still find in it a cause of doubt and grief and deep distress. At times like this, when by a mysterious working of divine Providence our best and most godly intentions place us on opposite sides of a yawning chasm of division, I can only pray that God will use our struggles to bind us all the more firmly to the towering grace of Christ, which in the end will lead us home.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Mark Achtemeier teaches theology and ethics at Dubuque Theological Seminary

(c) 2009 P. Mark Achtemeier. All Rights Reserved.

1 Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the First Epistle of John. Trans. Boniface Ramsey; The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century III/14. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2008), p. 31.

2 Mat. 14:22-36, Mk. 6:30-44, Jn 6:16-21

3 E.g., John H. Leith, Basic Christian Doctrine (Louisville: WJKP, 1993), p.7.

4 Stahel, Thomas H, “‘I’m Here’: An interview with Andrew Sullivan,” America 168:16 (May 8, 1993): 5-11. Available online at http://sullivanarchives.theatlantic.com/interviews.php.artnum-19930508.html#

5 Parker Williamson, “PCUSA task force member declares his ‘departure from Biblical tradition.'” http://layman.org/News.aspx?article=16022

6 Jeremy Marks, “A Time for Change.” http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/change.shtml

7 Bobby Ross, Jr., “No Straight Shot: More evangelical therapists move from changing orientation to embracing faith identity for gays,” Christianity Today 53, no. 10 (October 2009). http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/october/1.10.html

8 For a sample introduction to these discussions, see Heiko Oberman, “Wedded Bliss and World Peace: In Defiance of the Devil,” in Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), ch. 10; Steven Ozment, “Marriage and the Ministry in the Protestant Churches,” in The Age of Reform: 1250-1550 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), ch.12.

9 Mat. 9:17, 1 Cor. 7:7

10 Institutes, II.viii.42

11 Deuteronomy 10:13

12 Mark Achtemeier, “Unsettling Questions.” Unpublished manuscript, Austin Theological Seminary President’s Symposium, April 4, 2007.

Dr. Mark Achtemeier
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology,
University of Dubuque Seminary

Address delivered to the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, November 5, 2009