Andrew Goes to Korea: The Gay Christian Debate

Andrew Cheng wrote a summary of the July 25th debate between Pastors Paul Warren and Daniel Payne on whether or not the bible condemns homosexuality. An excerpt of his post is below:

"Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?"

Last Saturday evening, a public debate was held at the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, Seoul, between Pastor Paul Warren from Sojourn Fellowship (Incheon) and Reverend Daniel Payne from Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church (Seoul), with moderation by Calon Webb. The topic of the debate was the position of the Bible on homosexuality. This topic has undeniably come under close scrutiny in recent months in South Korea, as the tension has mounted between some vocal conservative Christian groups and the country's LGBTQ community, especially after this year's Korea Queer Culture Festival on June 28th.

I attended the debate and took six pages of notes over the course of the 2.5-hour event. The purpose of this post is to recap the main points made by each pastor as succinctly as possible, and I will add some of my own thoughts at the end. The debate was conducted in English, and it was videotaped, so that a recording with Korean subtitles can be made available online in the near future.

Both pastors were allowed a twenty-minute opening statement. Reverend Daniel (henceforth DP), who takes an affirming position on homosexuality (i.e. the Bible does not condemn it), began by stating that both he and Pastor Paul (henceforth PW) approached the question under the assumption that the Christian Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God, and thus that whatever the Scripture says and means should be followed by professing Christians. DP stated that the Bible is a very complicated book; it has historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts that must be understood. And homosexuality in its modern, twenty-first century context is different from homosexuality as addressed in the six most-cited "anti-gay" passages of the Bible. For example, the sin of Sodom was the sin of inhospitality, not homosexuality per se; also, the Levitical laws against homosexuality were a reference to pagan ritualistic temple prostitution. In these passages and in others, DP stated that homosexual activity of a very specific sort was condemned, but not committed homosexual relationships of the kind we may find today.

PW's opening statement led with the idea of a "back to Creation" ethic of sexuality that could be identified as a common theme throughout the entire Bible. For example, the account of the creation of the world in Genesis highlights the importance of male and female complementarity as part of God's design for humankind, and Jesus' teachings on marriage in the Gospels upholds this. PW countered DP's interpretations of the Sodom and Gomorrah story and the Levitical laws by insisting on no ambiguity in the wordings of what was the sin in question, and similarly challenged DP's explanations of certain Greek words used by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the early church.

Each pastor was then given ten minutes for a rebuttal. DP clarified that the Bible does clearly bless heterosexual relationships and marriage, but is merely silent on the issue of their modern homosexual counterparts. The Bible's sayings regarding marriage should be taken as a descriptive account of the cultural context, but not a proscriptive set of unalterable rules. PW re-emphasized that the descriptions of sins in the Bible were, when taken at face value, inclusive of any kind of homosexuality, and also added that the Bible in its entirety, and the direction it appears to point toward, should be considered in cases of modern issues like same-sex marriage.

Following the rebuttals, DP was allowed to ask PW specific questions in a cross-examination format, followed by the reverse. There was discussion of the meaning of the word "abomination" as found in Leviticus and the case of eunuchs mentioned in the New Testament. Most relevantly, PW reiterated that the Apostle Paul should have been aware of consensual adult homosexual relationships (from ancient Greek writings), so what kinds of relationships that are under question today are not actually new. And DP was asked to define a Biblically-based sexual ethic, so he referenced a passage in the book of Galatians that identifies godly actions and relationships as those that might produce "spiritual fruits", which does not restrict the relationships by gender or orientation.

To read more of the post, head over to Andrew Goes to Korea.