Traditionalist Christians argue that it it is up to those who want to set aside the traditional teaching of the Church regarding homosexuality to prove their case.
There is an assumption here. Peter Coleman, writing in his book ‘Christian Attitudes to Homosexuality’ in 1980, said: “From the time of Paul until the middle of the present century, the Christian attitude to homosexual behaviour remained unchanged and seldom questioned.” But in the same year the American historian John Boswell wrote his book, “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”, which demonstrated the contrary.
Boswell’s thesis, which covered the first thousand years of the Church’s History, was immediately challenged by medieval specialists, defending their ‘territories’, as it were. Traditionalist historians and secular homosexuals defended their territories too. Thirty years later many historians are still working on the details of the half a dozen or so new insights Boswell came up with, including the idea of gender history.
The idea I referred to above, that Christian teaching on the subject of homosexuality was inconsistent over time, still stands. It has been given considerable reinforcement by the distinguished medieval historian R.I.Moore, who about 10 years after Boswell showed the rapid changes and about-turns which characterised Christendom’s treatment of homosexuality between 950 and 1250. And this is where I believe those who have influence over church doctrine and discipline (that is the bishops and their advisers in my own C of E denomination) have not apparently done their homework.
An example of the muddled thinking of the Church over 2000 years is its use of the wretched word ‘sodomite’. The story of Sodom is told in Genesis 19, and seems primarily to be about betrayal by the city men of the custom of hospitality by a conspiracy to ‘gang-rape’ the mysterious men/angels who have entered Lot’s house, and probably about defying God in the process. Lot’s offer, reflecting the ethics of the time, was to offer his daughters to the men, in order to protect his guests. How far it can be taken as a story about the wickedness of homosexuality is not clear at all. As a bit of a traditionalist myself I look first to see if Scripture comments on Scripture, and If we are to take the prophet Ezekiel’s take on the Sodom affair, it has nothing to do with homosexual behaviour.
Some will find Ezekiel’s commentary on Sodom a surprise:
49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16 NIV.)