COLUMBIA — A group of more than 25 gathered at Missouri United Methodist Church on April 16 to watch a DVD sermon by the Rev. Adam Hamilton on homosexuality and discuss its translation to faith. The sermon, which was viewed on a large projection screen, was titled "When Christians Get it Wrong: In Dealing with Homosexuality."
"It's amazing how many parents have gay children and just cannot open up and talk about it even though they need to," said Roy Robinson, co-chair of the Open Door Ministry.
The event comes a little more than a week after the Columbia Human Rights Commission unanimously passed a domestic partnership registry amendment that would grant domestic partners employee and health care benefits. And while some do not believe the amendment is a major feat in the course of equalizing the civil liberties of homosexuals to heterosexuals, others view it as "a positive step."
"The matter of the domestic partnership registry doesn't do a whole lot, but it does grant domestic partners civic rights in tough times," said the Rev. Dick Blount, mentor of the Open Door Ministry. "I think the impact is much greater than most of us think it is, but because it's happening is what makes me happy."
According to a 2006 poll by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the majority of Americans support civil unions, 54 to 42 percent. The article also said that the majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, however. The article suggests this consensus could be generational, with 67 percent of those over 65 against legalizing gay marriage while only 49 percent of adults 30 and younger oppose it.
According to a brochure at the event, the Open Door Ministry seeks to "provide a safe place within the faith community" for gays, lesbians and their families. But Robinson said many parents within the faith community retract at the idea of accepting homosexuality because of their Christian beliefs.
"I think most churches condemn homosexuality, period," Robinson said. "Their interpretation doesn't allow them any leeway."
The DVD of Hamilton's sermon sought to alter this perception through an interpretative lens of the Bible that challenged the conventional view of homosexuality. Hamilton heavily emphasized that literal interpretation of the Bible can harm people, which he said is contradictory to what he believes is the Christian message.
"If I didn't do that, I would have stopped being a Christian a long time ago," Hamilton said in the DVD on the topic of biblical interpretation. "Because a lot of it is disturbing."
Hamilton illustrated this view by citing biblical passages, one of which is found in the Book of Matthew of the New Testament in which Jesus said: "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell."
Hamilton then invited those in the audience who lived by this passage literally to "please hold up your stubs for us."
Laughter rippled over the audience before he went on to say that Christians should not interpret biblical passages condemning homosexuality in black-and-white terms.
"I'm inviting you to see the Bible with a greater complexity," Hamilton said.
Hamilton also raised the nature-versus-nurture argument concerning homosexuality: whether homosexuality is a result of genetic predisposition or develops in the person's environment not through genetic, but psychological development. Hamilton left this argument open-ended and did not tack one theory over another.
"I don't fully understand everything there is to know about homosexuality, but what I do know is that they are people," Hamilton said in the film. "Here's the thing that we can agree on: Jesus loved people."
Some in the Columbia audience believe that homosexuality is dictated by nature, not nurture.
"I was disappointed that he didn't dispel some of those nontruths of the Old Testament," said Elisa Sims, a member of Missouri United Methodist Church.
"I don't think he has quite gone all the way," Robinson said after the film. "He just isn't quite there with the acceptance that it isn't quite a choice."
According to a preliminary analysis of the 2000 U.S. Census Data by the Human Rights Campaign, 304,148 gay male families and 297,061 lesbian families were reported in the U.S. Census. This report represents a 314 percent increase from an earlier U.S. Census Bureau report taken in 1990, according to the analysis.
The article said its researchers believe the rise in numbers is due more to gay and lesbian families willing to participate and identify themselves in a federal survey.
"Did God change?" Hamilton proposed. "Or did human understandings of God change?"