Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

God, Sex, and Gender

Written by: on March 5, 2015

“Some people think same sex marriage is wrong,” said my one of the student in Peace and Justice class at GFEF a couple of years ago. This person spoke confidently and passionately as someone who cares for all kinds of social justice issues. I was shocked, not simply because I disagree with the students claim but also because no one opposed or supported the student’s statement, including the professor, which made me wonder if all my classmates agreed with the statement. Honestly, I did not expect to hear such bold conviction from a seminary student. I thought everyone believed in the authority of Scripture the same way we do in Ethiopia. From this incident on I began to realize the diversity among American Christians in the ways they interpret key biblical verses that condemn homosexual practice.

A professor of Theology and Philosophy, and an Anglican Christian, Adrian Thatcher, in his book, God, Sex, and Gender, states, “The churches have long taught, and millions of Christians continues to think, that the Bible condemns homosexual practice. Only recently has a revisionary interpretation of biblical teaching “come out,” and into the churches, where it is causing consternation.”[1] The author’s assertion is thought provoking and a typical example of a growing critical examination of the institution of marriage. Throughout his book, Thatcher skillfully justifies his belief and support of same-sex marriage from historical and theological sources. He takes time to define words and interpret some key biblical verses in ways that support his claim. According to him, the Bible does not condemn homosexual practice. And he argues, “The insistence that the Bible condemns homosexuality will always require examination of the texts on which this claim is based.” However, he also recognizes the unfortunate consequence of examination of the texts that condemn homosexuality. “Those Christians, who condemned, together with those who, under certain conditions approve, homosexual acts, can be seen to agree that the study of particular biblical passages is the key to the whole task. It would seem there is agreement around the proposition that the Bible is the churches’ sexual guidebook: the obvious and vehement disagreement among Christians is about the rules to be found there, and how to apply them. We shall need to keep in mind continually that the “guidebook” view of the Bible is not the only one.”[2] Thus, the author suggests the diligent study of the Scripture and I agree. However, when reading Thatcher’s interpretations of key Bible verses that clearly condemn same-sex relationship, he seems to deliberately ignore the truth simply to affirm his theory.

I have to admit that I do not understand homosexuality in the way Thatcher understands it. I come from a faith community where the topic of homosexuality is never mentioned.  As far as I know, homosexuality is not a topic of controversy yet, not only in Christian churches but also in the broader Ethiopian community. Ethiopia, like Sudan, Uganda, and many other African countries believes homosexuality is not only unnatural but a criminal act. In Ethiopia, the punishment is imprisonment for no less than one year or in certain cases it may go up to fifteen years or more.

In this culturally unwelcoming and legally criminalizing social environment, homosexual people do not dare to come out publicly. As a follower of Christ, I do not believe in abhorrence and criminalizing a person for his or her sexual orientation. I believe in love and open discussion. I do not think we can get rid of homosexuality by segregation or prison, but by finding ways to engage in dialog and build relationships. Whether we validate homosexuality or not, loving others as children of the loving God is our Christian call. But I am not very optimistic that open discussion on this matter will happen in my community any time soon.




[1] Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (Chichester, West Sussex England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011),157.

[2] Ibid.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

8 responses to “God, Sex, and Gender”

  1. Telile…
    Your post and reminder to love others as children of God is muc appreciated. Somehow if we are anchored in that reminder the challenging and difficult conversations might take place. However I confess that I sometimes wonder if such conversations can take place when the thought among us is proving or disproving, being right and not being wrong. It seems when we are focused on outcomes we will be less than productive. What might be more helpful is taking conversations like the one we will have this weekend with our cohort, people that have differing perspective and views, yet are committed to one another. It isn’t that we need to solve anything, but we are invited to wrestle, to listen and to engage in thoughtful dialog. When you share your experience and context my perspective becomes broader. I need to hear what you are bringing to the table. Thank you!

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Dear Carol, thank you for your thoughtful comments as always. My work among my unreached people taught me how dialogue and listening to other’s faith experience is important for building relationship. I think the same principle applies in this context as well. I am just started to realise how complex this issue is. Thank you.

  2. Deve Persad says:

    Telile, thanks again for bringing Ethiopia’s experience into our discussion. Like Carol mentions above, we are richer for having this diversity of understanding. I wonder how those in authority in your country (and others like it) would feel about punishing other ‘sins’ to the same extent? How do they reason or justify these issues.
    And if I could take one more lesson from Carol – her post – how does the church in Ethiopia speak about the interaction between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?
    Thanks for expanding our thinking.

  3. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Deve, thank you for asking. Ethiopians believe that homosexuality is a choice and not innate. They also believe it is an import from the West and the society should not accept it as legitimate orientation. Also, homosexuals are blamed for sexual attack on children and young men. At the 2008 national religious leaders gathering, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church said, “[Homosexality] is something very strange in Ethiopia, the land of the Bible that condemns this very strongly. For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals. We strongly condemn this behaviour. They (homosexuals) have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a lesson.” I do think the approach our leaders have taken would solve this issue. My prayer is that God would show us the right way to engage with it.

  4. Telile,

    Wow. Thank you for your excellent post.

    This is a difficult subject, one that will continually have debate and deep-seeded disagreement — especially in the Church. It is amazing how quickly views have changed on this topic, especially in the West and most especially in the United States.

    I am curious about your thoughts on the Marin book? His views are not identical to Thatcher’s. Although he advocates loving those from the LGBT community, he also shares his thoughts on those who act out on their desires, that those who do come to follow Christ might live responsibly. My thinking was challenged by this week’s readings. I have a lot to process — thank you for adding to that work.

  5. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Bill, I agree with you, this is a difficult topic. I like Marin’s love and dialogue approach. He reminds us our Christian bold calling—extending God’s unconditional love for all of his children. I do appreciate his efforts to building a bridge between the GLBT and conservative religious communities while still acknowledging the social and theological differences between the two. Thank you.

  6. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, thank you for such a thoughtful and engaging post!! I love reading you blogs because, we share a lot in our cultural backgrounds and I can relate in many ways to you. You point us in the right direction when you write, “I believe in love and open discussion. I do not think we can get rid of homosexuality by segregation or prison, but by finding ways to engage in dialog and build relationships.”

    Again thank you!!

  7. rhbaker275 says:

    Hi, Telile,
    Thanks for your post and the insight that comes from your cultural background. I resonate with with what your thoughts. You note that “when reading Thatcher’s interpretations of key Bible verses that clearly condemn same-sex relationship, he seems to deliberately ignore the truth simply to affirm his theory.” It is important that we understand a persons presuppositions and any inherent bias; it dies obviously askew the outcome to meet align with their preconceptions. Often interpreters through the use of semantics (the study of the meaning of words) and syntax (the interrelationships within a sentence as a means of determining the meaning of the whole) create meaning and application that can fit most any preconception or twisted to support any range of social agendas.

    I like your answer that we can be diverse in our beliefs so long as we are understanding, caring and loving in an atmosphere of openness. Being inclusive, as John Wesley said, does not require compromise. Wesley was know for seeking a “third alternative.” For Wesley it was a way of co-existence or inclusion without assimilation.

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