Image via RNS/Patrick Scriven/United Methodist Church PNW Conference

Undoing the election of the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church will be a primary goal when 1,500 Methodist evangelicals gather this week in Chicago to found a new renewal group, according to organizers.

At the inaugural meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association on Oct. 7, charter members will outline their expectations for a soon-to-be-appointed denominational commission to discuss the conflict over sexuality.

Giovanni G/

Nicholas Chamberlain, the bishop of Grantham, has come out as the first Church of England bishop to openly acknowledge he is gay. Chamberlain, 52, said in an interview with the Guardian published Sept. 2 that he is living with a man and in a long term loving relationship, though it does not involve sex. 

The Guardian predicted that Chamberlain’s announcement “will be embraced by campaigners for equality but is likely to alarm conservatives who fear the church is moving away from traditional teachings.” 

Most Americans oppose religious exemptions to LGBT non-discrimination laws, according to a new survey. The report comes as a raft of bills before state legislatures would allow people to refuse service or accommodations to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people based on their religious beliefs.

Image via Rene Bach / Flickr / RNS

In the fight over gay rights, conservative Christians have a new enemy. No, it isn’t a politician or activist or organization. It isn’t a noun at all, but rather a verb: normalize.

In Albert Mohler’s forthcoming book, “We Cannot Be Silent : Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong,” the president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., discusses the normalization of same-sex relationships a whopping 39 times.

“The normalization of homosexual relationships and the legalization of same-sex marriage” is, in Mohler’s words, “the debate of greatest intensity of our time.”

Photo by Kim Weimer / Staff Photographer Bucks County Courier Times

Sandra Lawson. Photo by Kim Weimer / Staff Photographer Bucks County Courier Times / Sandra Lawson / RNS

Sandra Lawson, a former military police officer turned personal trainer, wasn’t religious about anything, except maybe fitness. She wasn’t looking to convert to Judaism or any other religion.

And she certainly never aspired to be one of the first — if not the first — black, openly lesbian rabbi.

But this spring Lawson finished her fourth year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College outside Philadelphia with the help of an online GoFundMe campaign. She plans to marry her girlfriend and spend the fall semester in Israel. If all goes according to plan, she will celebrate her ordination in 2018.

David P. Gushee 12-08-2014

It's time for Bible-believing Christians to take a new look at what scripture teaches us about gays and lesbians—and what it means to be a faithful church.

Image: Alan and Leslie Chambers married in January 1998. Photo courtesy Alan Chambers.

When Julie Rodgers came out as a lesbian at age 17, her mom responded by taking her to an ex-gay ministry in Dallas. Rodgers had grown up in a nondenominational evangelical church where she assumed being gay wasn’t an option.

“With ex-gay ministries, it gave me the space to be honest about my sexuality,” said Rodgers, now 28. Yet that same honesty eventually led her away from ex-gay ministries.

Rodgers spent several years in Exodus, the now-defunct ex-gay ministry, before deciding she couldn’t become straight after trying to date men. Instead, she has chosen celibacy.

When Exodus shut down in 2013, some said it spelled the end of ex-gay ministries that encourage reparative or conversion therapy for gays to become straight. Ex-gay groups such as Restored Hope Network stepped in to the gap, but many religious leaders are now encouraging those with same-sex orientation or attraction to consider a life of celibacy.

For years, those who were gay or struggled with homosexuality felt like they had few good options: leave their faith, ignore their sexuality or try to change. But as groups like Exodus have become increasingly unpopular, Rodgers is among those who embrace a different model: celibate gay Christians, who seek to be true to both their sexuality and their faith.

Straddling one of America’s deepest cultural divides, Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart wrote in a recent piece for Slate that celibate gay Christians present a challenge to the tolerance of both their churches and the secular LGBT community. Those celibate gay Christians often find themselves trying to translate one side for the other.

But frequently, neither side really understands what it’s hearing.

RNS photo courtesy Joshua Zajdman, Random House

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived from 1906 to 1945. RNS photo courtesy Joshua Zajdman, Random House

A new biography is raising questions about the life and relationships of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi dissident whose theological writings remain widely influential among Christians.

Both left-leaning and right-leaning Christians herald the life and writings of Bonhoeffer, who was hanged for his involvement in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Bonhoeffer was engaged to a woman at the time of his execution, observing that he had lived a full life even though he would die a virgin.

The new biography, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from University of Virginia religious studies professor Charles Marsh, implies that Bonhoeffer may have had a same-sex attraction to his student, friend and later biographer Eberhard Bethge.

“There will be blood among American evangelicals over Mr. Marsh’s claim,” Christian Wiman, who teaches at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, wrote in a review for The Wall Street Journal. But there’s been no bloodbath yet, at least considering a few initial reviews.

Adam Ericksen 05-28-2014

Matthew Vines' book: "God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships."

Matthew Vines has done us an incredible service by writing his book God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. Matthew’s book is an articulate and engaging argument for Christians to support same-sex relationships. It is a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in debate over Christianity and the support of same-sex relationships.

I appreciate this book for primarily two reasons. First, Matthew presents scholarship on the topic in a thoughtful way that won’t bore you to death. If you’ve already done your homework on the topic you probably won’t find anything new, but by reading this book you will encounter scholarly arguments in an engaging way. There are other books on the topic, of course, but what makes Matthew’s book different than most of them is that this is an engaging page turner.

Matthew skillfully debunks many of the arguments against same-sex marriage throughout the book and replaces them with arguments to support same-sex marriage. He not only takes a look at the biblical “clobber texts,” the six passages in the Bible often used to denounce same-sex relationships, but he also takes a look at the historical and cultural context of the ancient world’s view of sexuality. His argument is convincing. I encourage you to buy the book for yourself and for anyone you know who is open to hearing his side of the debate.

David Burger 04-21-2014

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs in 2012. Photo courtesy of Mike Deerkoski via Wikimedia Commons.

KISS may have been on the cover of the April 10 issue of Rolling Stone, but the most eye-opening headline may have been the one that proclaimed: “Gay, Mormon & Finally Out.”

It led readers to page 46 and a story about Tyler Glenn, the frontman for Neon Trees, Utah’s most prominent band.

After years of denials and lyrics that obscure the issue, Glenn declared proudly that he is gay — and still a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I believe and I have faith and I was born with this,” Glenn told The Salt Lake Tribune in one of the first interviews since coming out.

Heather Adams 12-31-2013
Photo courtesy Kerry Kasten

One of two Oak Scouts logos — each troop individually decides the logo they wish to use. Photo courtesy Kerry Kasten

As the Boy Scouts of America gets ready to admit gay youth, one Missouri organization has already broken away, but not because it favors tradition.

Oak Scouts is designed to be a safe space for everyone, regardless of faith or sexual orientation.

It all started when Kerry Kasten began guiding children’s meetings at a nature preserve and nondenominational Shamanic Wiccan church in Boonville. The more Kasten met with the children, the more she realized the need for a new type of scout troop.

“I realized there are all these parents out there who were not wanting to go into the mainstream scouting program due to disagreements in faith and sexual orientation,” Kasten said. “They wanted to go somewhere they felt safe being gay or pagan or not mainstream and express how they felt.”

On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America will begin accepting openly gay youths, a historic change that has prompted some churches to drop their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy.

Ann Oldenburg 12-20-2013
Photo courtesy Duck Commander

Cast members of “Duck Dynasty." Photo courtesy Duck Commander

The “Duck Dynasty” family issued a statement Thursday evening supporting patriarch Phil Robertson and throwing the future of their successful hit reality show into jeopardy.

The A&E cable channel has put patriarch Phil Robertson, 67, on “indefinite” hiatus from filming after anti-gay remarks he made in the January issue of GQ erupted into debate about free speech.

Now the clan is thanking fans for their support, but isn’t happy about the cable channel’s decision.

Jim Wallis 12-19-2013

Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo: Paul Haring/Catholic News Service. Via RNS.

Pope Francis is TIME's Person of the Year. But that is only because Jesus is his "Person of the Day" — every day. 

Praises of the pope are flowing around the world, commentary on the pontiff leads all the news shows, and even late night television comedians are paying humorous homage. But a few of the journalists covering the pope are getting it right: Francis is just doing his job. The pope is meant to be a follower of Christ — the Vicar of Christ.

Isn’t it extraordinary how simply following Jesus can attract so much attention when you are the pope? Every day, millions of other faithful followers of Christ do the same thing. They often don’t attract attention, but they keep the world together.

Speaker of the House John Boehner at the Values Voter Summit in 2011. Photo via RNS/courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr

As a law extending workplace protection to gay, bisexual, and transgender workers makes its way through the Senate this week, there’s a shift in the political air: Arguments that stand purely on religious grounds are no longer holding the same degree of political sway they once did.

The rhetoric from Republican and conservative opponents of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is moving away from the morality of the bedroom and into the business sphere. More politicians are fighting ENDA as a bad economic move, not as a break with the Bible.

ENDA would “increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement released Monday, which made clear the Senate bill is dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled House.

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Commuters on subway on June 28, 2012 in New York City. pio3 /

American Jews say they face discrimination in the U.S., but they see Muslims, gays, and blacks facing far more.

This and other findings from the recently released Pew Research Center’s landmark study on Jewish Americans help make the case that Jews — once unwelcome in many a neighborhood, universitym, and golf club — now find themselves an accepted minority.

“While there are still issues, American Jews live in a country where they feel they are full citizens,” said Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism.

Photo by Rachel Luna / courtesy Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Ken Bencomo and his partner of 10 years embrace after getting married.Photo by Rachel Luna/courtesy Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

They taught English, gym, music, and fifth grade, and are typically described as “beloved” by their students.

But that didn’t stop the Catholic schools where they worked from firing these teachers for their same-sex relationships, or, in one woman’s case, for admitting that she privately disagreed with church teaching on gay marriage.

A recent spate of sackings at Catholic institutions — about eight in the past two years — is wrenching for dioceses and Catholic schools, where some deem these decisions required and righteous, and others see them as unnecessary and prejudicial.

Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr

John Stemberger speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr

A fledgling organization that opposed the Boys Scouts of America’s decision to accept openly gay Scouts announced Tuesday it will launch an alternative group with a Christian worldview.

“It’s our vision to be the premiere national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens,” announced Rob Green, interim executive director of the as-yet-unnamed organization.

“The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation,” Green said in a conference call with reporters.

John Stemberger, founder of, which opposed the BSA policy change, differentiated between the inclusiveness of the BSA and the new organization.

Kellie Kotraba 05-22-2013
Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FA

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FAVS


Twenty years ago, a gay Mormon character stepped onstage for the first time. His name was Joe Pitt, and he was in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches.

Pitt lived in New York with a good reputation and a bad marriage to a woman addicted to Valium. As colleagues dealt with the devastation and uncertainty of AIDS — it was the 1980s — he grappled with openly acknowledging his sexuality. He was Mormon. And gay. And the two didn’t mix.

Before Pitt, there was a gay Mormon character in a novel: Brigham Anderson, in Allan Drury’s Advise and Consent, published in 1959. But words like “gay” and “homosexual” weren’t used; it was all innuendo.

Now, the scene has changed: Gay Mormon characters and themes have a growing role in theater and literature.

Monika Wisniewska / Shutterstock

Praying priest with rosary in his hands. Monika Wisniewska / Shutterstock

CANTERBURY, England — The Church of England on Jan. 4 confirmed that it has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops — but only if they agree to remain celibate.

Speaking on behalf of the Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop of Norwich Graham Jones said in a statement: “The House of Bishops has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.”

Jones added that the bishops agreed it would be “unjust” to exclude gay men from becoming bishops if they were otherwise “seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline.”