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[PCUSANEWS] Author rebuts his critics, OneByOne

Date 17 Jun 2002 20:42:53 -0400

Note #7245 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Author rebuts his critics, OneByOne
June 17, 2002

Author rebuts his critics, OneByOne

by Frank Buhrman

COLUMBUS, OH  - Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, whose recent book has taken center stage in the debate over homosexuality in the Presbyterian Church (USA), devoted much of his address to a supportive General Assembly audience to a rebuttal of one of his most vociferous critics.

Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is the author of "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics," published last year by Abingdon Press. The book has become a rallying point for those who assert that the Bible is unambiguous in its condemnation of homo-erotic practices.

The book also has made Gagnon a lightning rod for criticism from those who disagree with that position - and few critics have been harsher than Dr. Walker Wink, a professor of Biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Wink ripped Gagnon's book in a review in Christian Century magazine.
Gagnon took particular exception to the review's charge that he is anti-homosexual and would "consign all homosexuals to Hell." Gagnon said the charge reflects "the nasty side of the homosexual debate," and is "mean-spirited." Wink's words, Gagnon told his audience, sounded as if they'd been uttered by someone "hit with a mortal wound."
Gagnon also took Christian Century to task for giving the review three full pages, arguing that it "looks like a set-up"

Those who oppose homosexual behavior on Christian grounds don't all "loathe" gays, as Wink alleged, the author insisted. In truth, he said, referring to OneByOne and other groups that try to help homosexuals change their sexual orientation, is that "you treat those with homoerotic desire with sympathy and compassion."

"Now does that sound like loathing?" he asked.
Gagnon devoted much of his talk to Paul's writings on homosexuality in Romans and I Corinthians. Some scholars have argued that those condemnations apply only to practices such as child sex and ritual temple prostitution, but Gagnon said the Hebrew word Paul uses can only be defined as "males lying with males," giving it a much broader meaning. Even Wink concedes that Paul would not have approved of monogamous, adult male homosexual relationships in Corinth, Gagnon said.
He also spoke of Old Testament passages on homosexuality, which Gagnon said were the basis of Paul's views.

"Paul certainly regarded the creation stories as having normative, prescriptive value," he said. "When Jesus wanted to discuss a sexual issue, he referred to these texts, giving them prescriptive value."

Gagnon also cited non-Biblical support for his positions, arguing that people who consider it appropriate that societal attitudes change over time must explain why practices such as incest or bestiality shouldn't be reconsidered as well.
Gagnon also told his audience about criticism leveled against him by members of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He mentioned Westminster Press officials' refusal even to send a manuscript out for review; a negative review by the Rev. Jack Rogers, n moderator of the General Assembly; and criticism from a professor at a Presbyterian seminary who blasted him for treating the Bible "as a rulebook."

"I've got a little secret for you," he said. "There are rules in the Bible.
Gagnon will talk again about his book and the Christian Century review at a OneByOne dinner on June 18.

His Monday appearance was preceded by a testimonial from Lynette Boland of Rochester, NY, who said her reading of Scripture led her to give up a lesbian lifestyle after 10 years. "God's word clearly indicated that change is possible, and (that) homosexuality is wrong," Boland said.
Boland, who now counsels others who are struggling with homosexual feelings, told her audience: "Today I can honestly say that I am free." 
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