Achtemeier, Mark. “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart”, Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.
In the early 2000s Mark Achtemeier began a personal journey with the Bible and he moved from being a conservative, evangelical opponent of gay rights to becoming an activist for gay marriage and an inclusive church. This book is about that journey and Achtemeier tells us of his change of heart. He writes about exclusion and about what the Bible said that brought him to turn around in support of LGBT people. We see that reading the Bible and taking parts out of context leads to false assumptions and misleading interpretations. A careful reading of the holy texts shows that God’s laws are for everyone and that includes gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
The strength of this book is the author’s description of his own 14-year discernment process (“testing the spirits”), which brought him to a full reversal of his former views. We can surely see that this book will be met with dissenting opinions by those who support the author.
He tells us that in Galatians, Paul writes of the benefits of living a spiritual lives are joy, love, peace and so on. This, of course, is in opposition to those who have tried conversion therapy the result is usually despair, misery, isolation, and self-loathing because rejecting sexuality is the issue. Achtemeier reframes the issue by moving it way from sexuality and shows that the Bible has nothing to say about and focuses on love. Differences between Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female, gay/straight do not exist in terms of love. We also see that the way the Bible deals with heterosexual marriage is not the same as those who are against gay marriage blow it up to be. Monogamous marriage is not a Biblical concept and we all know of characters in the Bible that had many wives and concubines as well.
Monogamy came from the Romans, to which Jews and Christians added the idea of exclusive loyalty to spouse, which the Greeks and Romans had not insisted upon (for men).
In 2014, the top legislative body of the American Presbyterian Church voted by large margins to recognize same-sex marriage as Christian in the church constitution, adding language that marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”
Achtemeier has led the way in his denomination’s barring of gays and lesbians from ordination, but after years of reflection and study, led the denomination to reverse that stand. He has met and counseled h gay Christians over the years and he was struck by the fact that many gay Christians feel constrained by the choices offered by most churches: live a life of celibacy, or attempt to change what they see as a basic part of their nature. Some leave the church altogether, while others choose to accept their orientation and lead fruitful Christian lives.
Homosexuality in the context of a loving relationship is not forbidden and the purpose of marriage is for two people to experience and share self-giving love after God’s model and this is also possible within same-sex marriage.
”The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage” is a well-written, well-argued book in which gay Christians and defenders of same-sex marriage will find compelling, useful, and affirming. Christians who reject same-sex marriage may not be convinced, but they will be forced to reflect on and carefully consider their views. This is quite a refreshing deviation from the strict-literal English interpretations and the moral-relativist interpretations that tend to dominate this discussion.