Gay rights and religious rites: The state of the debate

The rights and roles of homosexuals in American society will be determined in large part by how their rights and roles are viewed in the religious world, and vice versa. As in the larger society, some members of the faithful see homosexual activity as always and everywhere sinful. Others hold that biblical injunctions against same-sex relations are cultural artifacts akin to Scriptural proscriptions on women or divorce that have been largely superseded.

The developments on behalf of gay rights are uneven, however. For example, large swaths of American Christianity do not allow gay clergy and do not appear ready to do so. And even as some denominations vote to ordain gay clergy in “committed relationships,” not all of those churches allow gay marriage or have blessings for same-sex unions.

Moreover, the topic of homosexuality remains divisive in U.S. society and within churches (and non-Christian religions), and opponents of gay rights who find themselves on the losing end of some of these struggles are splitting off from their home denomination or leaving for another church.

The Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, in June 2013. The move didn’t legalize gay marriage nationwide, but it did allow same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal to receive federal benefits. 

This source guide provides updates on the state of the debate about gays and lesbians in religious life.

What's new

Update: Oct. 7, 2014

On Oct. 6, 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states regarding laws that legalized same-sex marriage, increasing the number of states that allow gay marriage from 19 to 30:

  • Read an Oct. 7, 2014, New York Times story about the court’s decision not to take up same-sex marriage appeals.
  • View a series of USA Today maps that shows the states that currently allow same-sex marriage, those that ban it and ones with pending appeals.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Church, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, continues to wrestle with issues of same-sex marriage and gay clergy:

  • Read an Oct. 6, 2014, Religion News Service story  about 36 UMC pastors who faced church discipline for presiding at a single same-sex marriage.
  • Read a May 13, 2014, Religion News Service story about the impasse in the church over same-sex marriage.

On Oct. 2, 2014, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign released a resource guide for journalists covering LGBT issues during the midterm elections to help them “stop conflating bigotry with religious faith.”

Where religious groups stand

The Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism both ordain gays and lesbians. The United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and  the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allow the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. Conservative-minded churches will not consider the possibility of ordaining homosexuals or allowing gay marriage. That includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the second-largest U.S. denomination after Roman Catholicism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. African-American churches and churches in the Pentecostal tradition also tend to be strongly against sanctioning a role for gays in church. Islam and many other religious traditions that are newer to America also tend to disapprove of homosexuality and do not allow gay clergy.

There are a few small denominations that are dedicated to ministering to homosexuals and that specifically endorse gay clergy. Most prominent among these are the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 to provide “a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons,” as their website says.

The United Church of Canada is the second-largest denomination in Canada after the Catholic Church. In 1988 it affirmed that homosexuality “is not in itself a barrier” to ordination. 

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Presbyterians voted in May 2011 to allow openly gay clergy. Before the passage of Amendment 10-A, the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) had required that ministers — including elders and deacons, who must also be ordained — adhere to “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” That was the language of a 1997 amendment and in effect it meant no sexually active gays or lesbians in ministry, even those in a committed relationship. Gays and lesbians may be ordained to lay and clergy positions within the 2.3 million-member PCUSA. But according to ordination standards, they must pledge to lead lives of chastity, i.e., no sex outside of a traditional marriage between a man and woman.

Attempts to strike down this “chastity in singleness” ordination standard came and went. The regional presbyteries failed to support the General Assembly’s move to rescind the amendment previous three times, by margins of 114-57 following the 1997 General Assembly, 127-46 following the 2001 General Assembly and 95-78 following the 2008 General Assembly. The disputes have taken a toll. In 2008, some 100 of the 11,000 PCUSA congregations left the denomination. Most were unhappy with a perceived liberal shift. Often, defections can be accompanied by property disputes. But the congregational polity of the Presbyterian Church can sometimes avoid such squabbles.

Amendment 10-A was adopted by the denomination’s General Assembly in July 2010, but to take effect it required the approval of more than 50 percent of the regions. Church leaders suggested that the wording of the current amendment was more acceptable this time because it provided for the “local option” approach, and they noted that a number of large PCUSA congregations opposed to gay clergy have already left the denomination over the issue. They also said Presbyterians may have wanted to move past the fractious debate, and that the issue of homosexuality is not a big problem for them, a shift reflected in the country as a whole.

The PCUSA joins the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ as major denominations that allow the ordination of homosexuals in committed relationships, and the development reflects a growing acceptance of homosexuals among the wider public.

  • Amendment 10-A

    Read the text of Amendment 10-A and the accompanying resolution and explanatory language that was passed by the PCUSA General Assembly in July 2010. The new language allowed for the ordination of homosexuals.

  • Presbyterian Lay Committee

    The Presbyterian Lay Committee is a North Carolina-based action group that publishes a conservative journal, The Layman.

  • Presbyterians for Renewal

    Presbyterians for Renewal is a conservative renewal movement within the PCUSA formed in April 1989.

    Contact: 502-425-4630.
  • Covenant Network of Presbyterians

    The Covenant Network of Presbyterians is a progressive group within the PCUSA working towards a fully inclusive church. Contact executive director Brian Ellison.

  • More Light Presbyterians

    More Light Presbyterians is a progressive group of individuals and congregations within the PCUSA which describes itself as “a network of people seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” Contact interim executive director Patrick Evans.

  • That All May Freely Serve

    That All May Freely Serve is a progressive group within the PCUSA which lobbies for a Presbyterian Church that is inclusive fully inclusive. Contact Ray Bagnuolo.

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Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church has been in turmoil over the role of homosexuals since 2003, when delegates from the Diocese of New Hampshire elected as bishop Gene Robinson, a gay priest who is in a committed, longtime relationship with his partner. After Robinson’s election, and his confirmation a few weeks later by the General Convention of 2003, conservative Episcopalians threatened to break away, and leaders in other parts of the Anglican Communion demanded that the Episcopal Church be sanctioned or even expelled from the worldwide body.

Later in 2003, the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Communion, appointed the Lambeth Commission on Communion to try to formulate an acceptable response to the controversy. The commission released its findings in October 2004 in the so-called Windsor Report.

The Episcopal Church agreed to delay approving any more bishops until more negotiations could take place. In May 2006, delegates from the Diocese of California elected a new bishop but did not choose one of several openly gay candidates. The convention instead chose a married man from Alabama, Marc Handley Andrus, as the new bishop. Although that averted another crisis, Andrus actually supports gay ordination.

In April 2006 a special commission of the Episcopal Church released a 26-page document titled “One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call” that responded to the Windsor Report. In September of that year, 21 Episcopal bishops met at the Camp Allen conference center in Texas and signed a letter, sent to the House of Bishops, urging support for the Windsor Report and expressing regret that the 2006 General Conference “did not adequately respond” to the Windsor document.

In 2009, at their General Convention in July, clergy and lay delegates ended a moratorium on electing gay bishops and approved blessings for same-sex couples. A few weeks earlier, a faction of conservatives split from the main body over the growing acceptance of homosexuals by the church.

That group of conservatives formalized their long-simmering split with the wider ECUSA when the former leader of the Pittsburgh diocese, Bishop Robert Duncan, led the formation of the new Anglican Church in North America, which claims some 100,000 members. The ACNA is made up of Episcopalians who, believe the Episcopal Church was wrong to approve gay bishops.

  • Forward in Faith North America

    Forward in Faith North American was organized in 1999 largely in response to the debates over sexuality issues. Its web site includes a listing of member parishes around the country. Executive director Michael Howell can be emailed through the FiFNA contact page.

    Contact: 800-225-3661.
  • Stand Firm

    Stand Firm stands for “traditional Anglicanism in America” and tracks discussion and media coverage over religious debates including sexuality.

  • Integrity USA

    Integrity USA is a nonprofit organization and the major national network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Episcopalians and supports gay ordination. It is a leading grass-roots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church and equal access to its rites. Contact operations manager David Cupps.

  • The Oasis

    The Oasis is a support ministry for gay Episcopalians. It has chapters in the dioceses of California, Missouri, Newark, Michigan, Rochester and New Jersey. Contact information can be found on each chapter’s website.

  • The Consultation

    The Consultation is an umbrella organization that gathers a number of Episcopal groups that support a progressive agenda, including gay ordination.

  • Claiming the Blessing

    Claiming the Blessing is a collaborative of organizations and individuals within the Episcopal Church advocating the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

  • “The Windsor Report”

    Full report by The Lambeth Commission on Communion. Among other things, it called on the Episcopal Church to express regret for approving Robinson’s election and pushed for a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions. Still, the report did not satisfy some conservatives who wanted penalties against the U.S. church, and it upset many progressive Episcopalians.

  • “Episcopal Vote Reopens a Door to Gay Bishops”

    New York Times article about the Episcopalian vote to allow openly gay bishops.

  • “Bishop Robert Duncan is trading sacred places”

    A June 21, 2009, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile of Bishop Robert Duncan. Duncan believes the Episcopal Church “failed to uphold biblical authority and classic doctrine about Jesus when they approved the consecration of a partnered gay bishop and failed to discipline another bishop who denied Jesus was God incarnate.”

  • “Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Episcopal Church”

    The Human Right’s Campaign has a run-down of LGBT issues in the Episcopal Church.

  • “Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on US Supreme Court’s DOMA, Proposition 8 rulings”

    Statement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8.

The Reformed Church in America

The Reformed Church in America has stated since 1978 that homosexuality is a sin, but debates over changing the church’s policies have roiled the denomination. With fewer than 300,000 members, the RCA is small, but its deep roots in American religious history make it a bellwether denomination.

The RCA has repeatedly held that homosexuality is sinful, that gays and lesbians cannot be ordained and that same-sex relationships cannot be blessed. But the denomination has also struggled to balance those strictures with a welcoming stance to homosexuals and the promotion of gay rights in wider society.

The debate has frequently been difficult and divisive. A particularly high-profile furor came in 2005, when it became known that the Rev. Norman Kansfield, president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary — the denomination’s main seminary — led a 2004 service in which he married his lesbian daughter, Ann Kansfield, and her partner. In January 2005 the seminary board dismissed Norman Kansfield from his post, and at the annual General Synod that June, two-thirds of the delegates voted to suspend his ministerial and teaching credentials. His daughter, who was studying at the seminary and was a few months away from ordination herself, was barred from joining the RCA clergy.

The episode left the RCA “unexpectedly at a crossroads,” as the church’s leader, general secretary Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, put it. As a result, RCA leaders decided to launch a multiyear, denomination-wide “Dialogue on Homosexuality.” A variety of views have been collected by the project’s steering committee, and a survey with more than 3,000 respondents has been completed.

United Methodist Church

A prohibition on ordination of noncelibate homosexuals was reaffirmed after emotional debates at the church’s 2008 General Conference. The conference did approve an amendment that would have opened church membership to any professed Christian regardless of sexual orientation; however, the UMC announced in July 2009 that its regional bodies had failed to approve amendments by the two-thirds margin necessary to pass. The membership proposal grew out of a 2005 case in Virginia in which a pastor rejected a gay man for membership because the man would not agree to change his sexuality.

At its 2004 General Conference, United Methodist Church leaders voted to strengthen the denomination’s stance against gay ordination. The denomination’s Book of Discipline now says that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers the practice incompatible with Christian teachings.” The delegates also defeated a motion to leave the ordination of homosexuals up to each local conference, and they struck down an attempt to add this phrase to the Book of Discipline: “As this difficult judgment is made, it is acknowledged that faithful Christians hold differing opinions in this matter.”

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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has officially welcomed gay and lesbian members since 1991 but only as of August 2009 allowed the ordination of practicing homosexuals. The vote to approve gay clergy in committed relationships to serve as pastors taken at the ELCA’s biennial General Assembly in Minneapolis and was 559-451.

Faced with sharp disagreements over positions on these issues, the ELCA in 2001 started a formal process to try to reach a consensus on the entire range of sexuality issues. At the 2001 Churchwide Assembly (held every two years) ELCA leaders commissioned a task force to engage in a lengthy process called “Journey Together Faithfully.” The process has two main parts. The first focused on gay ordination and blessing of same-sex couples and was presented at the Churchwide Assembly in August 2005. The second was to lead to a broader statement on ELCA views on human sexuality. That statement was approved at the 2009 General Assembly by the exact two-thirds margin required for passage.

The subject of same-sex relationships was also raised at the June 2008 conference of the Lutheran World Federation, of which the ELCA is a member. The Tanzanian host bishop declared such relationships “not even discussable” and said, “The worst thing is this strong move to make these perverts officials in the church in the guise of human rights.” (See an account in The Christian Century.) The ELCA’s presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, who is also president of the federation, said that views about homosexuality differ within the federation and that the global Lutheran communion is addressing sexuality issues without stifling debate. A federation-wide stance wouldn’t be helpful, he said, noting that “There are some people who would love to see us fall apart on this issue.”

Two smaller and more conservative Lutheran denominations, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, do not ordain practicing homosexuals or bless same-sex couples. Neither one belongs to the Lutheran World Federation.

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United Church of Christ

The leadership of the United Church of Christ has been foremost among denominations seeking the full inclusion of homosexuals. In the 1970s the UCC allowed the ordination of the first openly gay man and the first openly lesbian woman, and in 2005 the UCC endorsed civil unions for same-sex couples. Ordination of practicing homosexuals was officially accepted in 1980, and the blessing of same-sex couples is allowed. As part of an effort to reach people who may have felt alienated previously from organized religion, the denomination launched a gay-affirming radio campaign on satellite radio in March 2008.

But the issue still roils the UCC. Because the UCC believes in local autonomy, some regions and congregations bar gay clergy and gay couples. Some congregations have threatened to leave over the denomination’s official tolerance of homosexuality, while some liberal members want the UCC to be more active in promoting gay rights as a denomination-wide standard.

Roman Catholic Church

On Nov. 29, 2005, the Vatican released a long-awaited document that surprised many by declaring that the church “cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture.” It was the second condition that seemed to bar even chaste, celibate men who identify as homosexual from becoming priests.

The Vatican’s policy, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, is creating difficulties for bishops and seminaries since many gay men have sought ordination or are studying for the priesthood. Estimates of the number of homosexuals in the priesthood range from 10 percent to more than one-third.

Judaism

Reform Judaism, which is the most liberal wing of the Jewish community, has allowed the ordination of homosexual rabbis since 1990. With 1.5 million adherents, Reform Judaism vies with Conservative Judaism as the largest stream of American Judaism, and it is the most visible U.S. religious community to accept gay rabbis. The Shamash.org newsgroup maintains a site with a chronology of Reform Judaism’s record on homosexuality, traced through policy developments by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is the rabbinic organization of the Reform movement. The CCAR website has a list of relevant resources, including its 1990 statement endorsing nondiscrimination against gays and lesbians who seek ordination.

Orthodox Judaism, which is smaller but influential, rules out any such possibility.

Conservative Judaism, through a Dec. 6, 2006, vote by its highest legal body, decided to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and to allow rabbis to conduct commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples. That’s a significant shift for the centrist branch of Judaism — and a controversial decision. Since the vote, the nation’s two Conservative Jewish seminaries — the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles — have announced that they have begun accepting openly gay and lesbian candidates.

The Committee on Conservative Jewish Law and Standards — a group of 25 scholars that interprets religious law — adopted three statements, somewhat contradictory, involving gay ordination. Four of the committee’s members quit in protest. Individual Conservative congregations now decide whether to hire openly gay rabbis and cantors, and individual seminaries whether to ordain them.

Two of the three answers the committee gave to the question of what Jewish law allows regarding homosexual sex uphold the traditional position: Homosexual relations are not permitted. A third answer permits same-sex unions and the ordination of gays and lesbians, while saying that sodomy is not permitted.

In May 2011 the first openly gay rabbi was ordained in Conservative Judaism at the Jewish theological Seminary in New York.

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Polls and surveys

National sources

Many organizations and individuals address the role of gays, lesbians and the transgendered in society and include considerations of how religion affects the debate. Most of these focus more on same-sex marriage and civil rights than on issues of ordination within religious groups. For national and regional groups involved in these issues and more background, see ReligionLink’s “Guide to covering same-sex marriage debates.”

  • Institute on Religion & Democracy

    The Institute on Religion & Democracy is a prominent lobby uniting conservatives across the mainline Protestant denominations to push for more traditional policies in American churches and for more conservative policies in American politics. The IRD is considered a major player in the battles over gay rights in churches.

  • Soulforce

    Soulforce is a national activist group working on behalf of LGBTQ Christians. Soulforce was founded by the Rev. Mel White, a former speechwriter for conservative television evangelist Pat Robertson, and White’s partner, Gary Nixon. The group is based in Abilene, Texas.

  • The Institute for Welcoming Resources

    A program of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that works to encourage inclusiveness by faith communities. It lists “welcoming churches” and “welcoming seminaries.” The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a United Church of Christ minister, is program director for the institute, which is based in Minneapolis.

  • Nancy Ammerman

    Nancy Ammerman is professor of sociology at Boston University and a leading expert on congregational dynamics, especially in mainline Protestantism. She is the author of Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and Their Partners. She is also a leading expert on religious movements and has written about the rise of fundamentalism.

  • Steven Charleston

    The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston is a visiting professor of Native American ministries at St. Paul School of Theology in Oklahoma City, Okla. He has said he believes that sexual orientation should not be a deterrent to ordination.

  • Frederick J. Gaiser

    Frederick J. Gaiser is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He wrote a May 2, 2006, article, “At Ground Zero: Homosexuality and the message of Isaiah,” in The Christian Century (subscription necessary).

  • James Davison Hunter

    James Davison Hunter is Labrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the University of Virginia and executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. He is a frequent writer and commentator on the culture wars dividing America, especially as regards homosexuality. Contact Hunter through his assistant.

  • Ian Markham

    The Very Rev. Ian Markham is the dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. He is an expert on mainline Christianity, and he wrote a book, with the Rev. Martyn Percy of Oxford, called Why Liberal Churches Are Growing. Markham is also the author of Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris Are Fundamentally Wrong.

  • Honor Moore

    Honor Moore is the author of The Bishop’s Daughter, described by Publishers Weekly as “a painfully honest memoir.” It tells the story of the writer’s late father, Paul Moore, who was the Episcopal bishop of the New York Diocese for 17 years and secretly bisexual. Contact Honor Moore through Erin Lovett at publisher W.W. Norton.

  • Richard J. Mouw

    Richard J. Mouw is a well-known writer and commentator on evangelical Christianity and the president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., a leading evangelical institution. Contact Mouw through Fred Messick, Fuller’s associate vice president for public affairs.

  • Richard T. Nolan

    The Rev. Canon Richard T. Nolan is a retired Episcopal priest who has taught philosophy and religion at a number of colleges and universities. He and his partner, Robert C. Pingpank, have been together for more than 50 years, and Nolan says they can testify to the “ordinariness” of their lives. They have a website that tells their story. They live in West Palm Beach, Fla.

  • Thomas Ogletree

    Thomas Ogletree is a United Methodist minister and the Frederick Marquand professor emeritus of theological ethics at Yale Divinity School. He has said he believes the debate over homosexuality indicates the church will eventually change its position.

  • Jack B. Rogers

    The Rev. Jack B. Rogers is a lifelong evangelical and former leader of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In March 2006, he published a book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, describing how he has changed his position from opposing gay ordination to supporting it.

  • James Stanton

    Bishop James Stanton of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has been active nationally and internationally in the Anglican debate over the role of gays in the church. He was involved in the founding of the American Anglican Council, which works to oppose the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians. 

  • Barbara G. Wheeler

    Barbara G. Wheeler is the former longtime president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, a leading Presbyterian seminary. In November 2003, Wheeler engaged in a widely followed debate on gay ordination with Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., a leading evangelical institution. The exchange, titled “Strangers: A Dialogue About the Church,” took place at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. In her address, Wheeler spoke in favor of ordaining active homosexuals, but also about the dynamics of the debate and its negative impact on the churches.
     

    Contact: 212-662-4315.
  • Andrew Haeg

    Hundreds of Lutherans across the country responded to their Public Insight Network survey. They represent the full range of perspectives on the vote and the resulting split in the ELCA. American Public Media is making its sources available to journalists across the country via this map.

    Simply see if there are sources in your area and click on their name, or the link at the bottom of their survey response.

  • Family Life

    Family Life is a division of Campus Crusade for Christ that works to help the positive growth and development of relationships in families and marriages through counseling and faith.

    Contact: 800-358-6329.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Bernadette J. Brooten

    Bernadette J. Brooten is the Kraft-Hiatt professor of Christian studies, women’s and gender studies, classical studies, and religious studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. She is also the founder and director of the Brandeis Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. She is an expert in the history of sexuality in the Bible and is author of Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (The University of Chicago Press, 1996).

  • Wendy Cadge

    Wendy Cadge is an associate professor of sociology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. She has written widely about homosexuality and Christianity, especially as it pertains to mainline Protestantism.

  • Margaret A. Farley

    Margaret A. Farley is the Gilbert L. Stark professor emerita of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. She is Catholic and has written widely about Christian sexual ethics.

  • Robert A.J. Gagnon

    Robert A.J. Gagnon is an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. His expertise is in sexual teachings in the Bible, with a focus on homosexuality.

  • David F. McAllister-Wilson

    The Rev. David F. McAllister-Wilson is president of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., a Methodist institution. Contact him through Amy Shelton, director of marketing and communications.

  • Paul Zahl

    The Rev. Paul Zahl is a former dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, a seminary in Ambridge, Pa. He opposes the ordination of sexually active gay clergy. Contact through Eerdmans Publishing Co.

    Contact: 616-459-4591.

In the South

  • Candace Chellew-Hodge

    Candace Chellew-Hodge leads Jubilee! Circle, a church plant of the United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C. Chellew-Hodge, a lesbian who writes frequently on gay issues in the churches, founded Whosoever.org, an online magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians.

  • Lesley Armstrong Northup

    Lesley Armstrong Northup is an associate professor of religious studies at Florida International University in Miami. She wrote “Homosexuality in the Evolution of American Christianity,” a chapter in the volume Religion & Sexuality: Passionate Debates, edited by C.K. Robertson.

  • Charles Eric Mount Jr.

    Charles Eric Mount Jr. is a professor emeritus of religion at Centre College in Danville, Ky., and an ordained Presbyterian minister. His expertise is in community ethics and theology.

  • Ben Witherington III

    Ben Witherington III is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. A prolific author and an ordained minister, Witherington can talk about the historical tensions between Christians and Jews and current cultural manifestations of those tensions. He is the author of Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis, an examination, in the wake of the recession, of “what Jesus has to say (and doesn’t say) concerning wealth and poverty, money and spending, debt and sacrificial giving.”

  • William K. McElvaney

    The Rev. William K. McElvaney is professor emeritus of preaching and worship at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and former president of St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo. McElvaney has been a leading voice on issues of social justice throughout his ministry and supports gay ordination. Contact him through the SMU office of news and communications.

  • William B. Lawrence

    William B. Lawrence is a professor of American church history and dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has expressed concern that the debates over homosexuality could lead to lasting schisms.

  • Dr. Mark Lowery

    Dr. Mark Lowery is a professor of theology at the University of Dallas, an independent Catholic school in Irving, Texas. Lowery has written extensively on the traditional Christian view of sexuality.

In the Midwest

  • Stanton L. Jones

    Stanton L. Jones is provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. He has written on homosexuality and Christianity from an evangelical perspective. Contact through the Wheaton College media relations office.

  • Roland D. Martinson

    Roland D. Martinson is a professor of children, youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He has written books on parenting and youth ministry and has been involved with the Faith Factors project, a longitudinal study of the factors that lead young people who are Lutheran and Baptist to remain involved with their faith traditions.

In the West

  • Horace L. Griffin

    Horace L. Griffin is an associate professor of pastoral theology at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. He has written several scholarly articles on theology and homosexuality.

  • Bernard Schlager

    Bernard Schlager is executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, described as “the only Center for LBGTQ issues and religion established by a seminary or school of religion in the world.” Affiliated with the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., it has held conferences for LGBT religious leaders.

  • James K. Wellman Jr.

    James K. Wellman Jr. is a professor of American religion, culture and politics and chair of the comparative religion program at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has written on homosexuality in American churches and the question of gay ordination.

  • Melissa M. Wilcox

    Melissa M. Wilcox is an associate professor of religion at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and director of the Gender Studies Program. Her writing and research focus on the interplay of Christianity, homosexuality and identity. She is the author of Coming Out in Christianity: Religion, Identity & Community.

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