Ironically, it appears that she was selected as the leader of a large denomination not because she knows how to interpret the Bible, but because she doesn’t know how to.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, newly elected leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church, says that homosexuality is not a sin and that homosexuals “come into the world” with affections toward others of the same sex. More here.
Asked how she reconciled her position on homosexuality with specific passages in the Bible declaring sexual relations between men an abomination, Jefferts Schori said the Bible was written in a very different historical context by people asking different questions.
“The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear — there are rules in the Bible about those that we don’t observe today,” she said.
The verse she was referring to appears to be Leviticus 18:22 – “‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” That seems pretty straight forward, but not to Ms. Schori.
The book of Leviticus does contain some “ceremonial” laws that were just for the Israelites. God wanted to set them apart from other peoples, so He gave them some special laws regarding clothes, food, worship, etc. Ms. Schori was implying that the verses in the Bible regarding homosexuality fall into this category.
Here’s why her interpretation is incorrect. First, there are passages in the New Testament (especially Romans 1) labeling homosexual behavior as a sin that have nothing to do with ceremonial laws.
Second, when you read the passages surrounding Leviticus 18:22 it is obvious that it is not a ceremonial law. One of the most important guidelines to understanding the Bible is to read verses in context (What is the nature of the whole passage? Who is writing? To whom are they writing?)
Leviticus 18 contains many moral laws, and they are sandwiched by strong statements that the Israelites are not to behave like the pagan Canaanites did (the Israelites are about to displace them and take over the land). God did not expect the Canaanites to follow the ceremonial laws, but He did expect them to follow the moral laws written on our hearts. The Canaanites had committed the offenses noted in Leviticus 18 for hundreds of years, so God was judging them.
Why is Ms. Schori so sure this is a ceremonial law? Does she think the verse before or the verse after are ceremonial laws? (Leviticus 18:21 says, “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.” and Leviticus 18:23 says, “Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.”)
Read Leviticus 18 yourself and ask if Leviticus 18:22 sounds like a ceremonial law (such as what food to eat and what clothes to wear) or a moral law. If you can see that this is obviously a moral law, then congratulations! You have better Bible reading skills than the leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
Third, she ignores that 100% of the Bible verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
She is also incorrect with respect to people being “born that way.” There are no credible studies proving that, and even if there were, what is natural isn’t necessarily moral. We do all sorts of things that come naturally to us that are still sinful.
The best reference on this debate I have seen is Responding to Pro-Gay Theology by Joe Dallas. I highly recommend it.