In 1996 Mark Achemeier published an article in which he supported efforts by some people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to deny openly gay and lesbian persons from serving in ordained leadership positions. By 2011 he was actively working to repeal the ban. This book, The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage : An Evangelical’s Change of Heart is Mark Achemeier’s “spiritual travelogue” (kindle location 104) of how that change of heart occurred.
Often what prompts a person to reconsider their view on same sex marriage is when they discover a family member or close friend is gay. That was not the case for Achemeier. He listened to what LGBT people told him they experienced while trying to obey the church’s traditional position. And he wondered why, if the church’s position reflected God’s will, those people suffered so much while trying to be obedient.
The result of her [a gay friend] many years of faithful, costly obedience was not life and flourishing, but brokenness and spiritual exhaustion, alienation from God and a weariness that was leading her to give up on the faith all together. These were not at all the outcomes Scripture would lead us to expect from a life of faithfulness. (loc 152)
Achemeier is not claiming that the Christian life is without hardship and suffering, but;
The abiding presence of God, strengthening and upholding the faithful through times of hardship and suffering, has been a nearly universal feature of Christian experience from biblical times down to the present day.
I was left wondering: If this path Kristi [ the gay friend] has been walking produced results that were in so many ways the exact opposite of what Scripture would lead us to expect from a life of faithfulness, could it be that both she and I were mistaken about what path God really wanted her to follow? (loc 169-170)
That is an important question. And so Achemeier begins his journey. He doesn’t try to prove same sex attraction and marriage right or wrong. He begins by trying to gain some clarity about what the Bible has to say about sexuality and marriage. What might be God’s hopes and intentions? Then he asks if same sex attraction and marriage are excluded from that ideal. He also, of course, deals with the so called seven passages but only after the biblical groundwork on sexuality and marriage is done.
To guide his work, Achemeier uses the principles the Presbyterian tradition has long used for biblical interpretation. Very briefly they are: faithful interpretations of the Bible should make coherent, good sense,
Christ centered interpretation,
interpreting Scripture by Scripture,
interpreting passages in context, and
understanding the purpose of the Lawgiver.
These five principles are clearly and carefully explained in chapter three.
Achemeier has written a thoughtful, pastoral, biblically grounded book about same sex marriage and same sex attraction. It is a valuable addition to the growing number of Christian books that affirm LGBT persons full inclusion in society and the church.
Note: I received my copy of the book free from Netgalley.