Kristin Rudolph (@Kristin_Rudolph)
In recent weeks, Dr. George Wood, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (AG) has publicly and articulately defended the traditional biblical teaching on marriage and homosexual practice against distortions by liberal ministers. On his website, Dr. Wood writes of his interaction with pastors in his local area of Springfield, MO concerning the biblical teaching on sexuality. The issue arose after the Springfield City Council formed a “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Task Force” to consider extending protected-class status in city ordinances to persons based on those two categories.”
A public debate between Springfield clergy started after AG Pastor John Lindell gave testimony to the city council’s task force on April 22 presenting “the theologically conservative viewpoint on the issue of the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance.” He shared Scripture that lays out “God’s original design for human sexuality and relationship,” and argued that “homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality. Quite simply, “Whether a person accepts the Bible’s authority on the subject is another matter, but the Bible itself is quite clear,” he told the task force.
In response, a group of 23 ministers in Springfield wrote an Op-Ed in the News-Leader criticizing Rev. Lindell’s statement and apologizing for “the ways Christianity is frequently used to hurt rather than heal, and we want you to know there are many of us in support of you.”
They discount the passages from Scripture that Rev. Lindell pointed to, asserting that in the New Testament, “things are far more complicated than we often think.” The letter states: “While we also support the wisdom of Scripture, we believe that the Bible is honored most when it is read in context … We believe a more thematic view of the Bible can reveal the divine intent where justice, love and compassion are honored over violence, hatred and insensitivity.”
Dr. Wood wrote a response in the News-Leader, pointing out that “by failing to cite any Scripture that affirms homosexual behavior, by ignoring the standard Christian interpretation of Old Testament law, and by appealing to a thematic view of the Bible that ignores what the Bible actually says, Snider and his colleagues have shown that they, not John Lindell, are reading Scripture with ‘preconceived biases.’”
Rev. Phil Snider, who grew up and was baptized in the AG, and is now the pastor of Brentwood Christian Church (a Disciples of Christ church) wrote an eleven page open letter responding to Dr. Wood. He concludes his letter stating: “I believe the Bible to be the Word of God insofar as it conforms to the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Anytime it falls short of love, which is the heart of the Torah, or anytime it falls short of the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, then I choose to go with the spirit of the law over the letter of the law.”
On May 23, Dr. Wood responded with a fifteen page letter answering Rev. Snider’s arguments, concluding:
The traditional Christian standard of sexual conduct is founded on the teachings of Jesus, Moses, and Paul. It is grounded in creation and law. It is expressed through an affirmation of marriage and a prohibition of non-marital sexual conduct, including homosexual conduct. That is what the Christian church across history, cultures, and ecclesial boundaries has proclaimed. Revising this standard in order to accommodate homosexual conduct doesn’t work … And by introducing the harm principle into Christian ethics—but detaching it from creation narratives, levitical prohibitions, and Pauline vice lists—it introduces an alien logic into Christian ethics that threatens to revise all biblical standards of sexual conduct, not merely the one you want to revise.
On his website, Dr. Wood explained he got involved in this discussion because being salt and light in the world “requires us to understand and promote what the Bible teaches. It also requires us to respond clearly and charitably to misinterpretations of the Bible, lest the Bible’s moral witness be presented in a confusing way to the broader public.”
Indeed, there is great confusion about biblical teaching on sexuality even within the Church today. Distortion of Scripture and acquiescence to our culture is common regarding this matter. In addition, we rarely see a level-headed, thoughtful engagement with an issue so heated as homosexuality. Dr. Wood has presented a positive example by thoroughly and graciously defending traditional Christian teaching.