Does the Bible Object More to Homophobia Than to Homosexuality?

Mars Hill Forum #32, 28 July 1996, Muskegon, Michigan

The guest of the forum was the late Dr. John Allen, newspaper columnist and former staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor. Dr. Allen believed the Christian church should open its doors to same-sex marriage and to people who celebrate homosexual identity. A summary of the forum is shown below. (see here for the original)

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Rhem Conflict Leads to Homosexuality Debate in Muskegon

by Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer
United Reformed News Service

MUSKEGON, Mich. (July 28, 1996) URNS - Does the Bible object more to homophobia than it does to homosexuality?

That was the topic for a July 28 debate sponsored by Laketon Bethel Reformed Church at the neutral location of Central United Methodist Church.

The debate stemmed from the controversy over Rev. Richard Rhem, senior pastor of the 2800-member Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan. Despite his stature as senior pastor of the Reformed Church in America's fourth-largest church, Rhem has come under fire for allowing a predominantly gay church to meet in his facilities, for believing that people can be saved apart from Christ, and for his view of Scripture. Laketon Bethel member John Sodini unsuccessfully sought to have Rhem debate Rev. John Rankin, president of the Theological Education Institute in Hartford, Connecticut, and consultant to the evangelical candidate in the recent election for moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination which has been wracked by controversy over homosexuality. When Rhem declined, Laketon Bethel recruited former Christian Science Monitor staffer Dr. John Allen, a celibate homosexual and columnist for the local newspaper, as a substitute.

Speaking to an audience of over 175, including some members of Christ Community Church, the two presented markedly different positions.

"Homophobia, because it is a fear, is in my opinion the worst of all the seven cardinal sins; perfect love, as the Bible says, casts out fear." said Allen. "I firmly believe a God of truth and love is better represented by a homosexual than by an ignorant, homophobic, judgmental heterosexual, no matter how married."

Allen strongly opposed a "literalistic" view of Scripture, claiming that many opponents of gay marriage were not consistent. "Paul also thought it was wrong for women to speak in church, so let's be careful who we allow to ask questions later," said Allen, eliciting laughter from the audience. "There are strict literalists who believe that no women should speak in church, certainly not from the pulpit, simply because Paul said so. I know a few lesbians who would love to meet them out in the parking lot and settle it there, man to man."

Rankin, however, challenged Allen to "honor Scripture on its own terms," stating that the basic message of Scripture was that of creation, the fall into sin, and redemption.

"One man, one woman, one lifetime, is the order of creation in Genesis 1," said Rankin. "The reversal of that order is the root of all idolatry."

A number of questions focussed on the Rhem case. "Since I'm here as a substitute for Rev. Rhem, I should say I feel that the Muskegon Classis of the RCA was within its rights to do that to Rev. Rhem; they have the right to be wrong," said Allen. "It looks to me like Christ Community Church will have to pay a great price for their action, a sacrifice that God will richly reward."

Not surprisingly, Rankin demurred. "I am saying a church that is faithful to its biblical roots should absolutely say no to that," said Rankin.

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