Gay Marriage, From the Horse’s Mouth

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 On Friday, June 20, 2014, I got a call from Mr. Nduka Nwosu, from the Thisday Newspaper in New York, asking about my opinion on the PC(USA)’s recent General Assembly decision on Gay Marriage.  This interview was published in the Sunday Thisday of June 22, 2014 and later online at and accessed by me on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Perhaps because it was a telephone conversation, the overall impression created by the publication is not very true to my position, hence the need for this rejoinder.

First of all, the juxtaposition of my name with the impression created by the headline is troubling: “Gay Advocates Rejoice as Presbyterian Church is Torn Apart: Fubara-Manuel commends US Presbyterians on move.”  This title of the paper makes Gay Advocates sadistic, as if they are happy that the Presbyterian Church is torn apart and gives the impression that Fubara-Manuel is happy with the situation.  There is nothing farther away from the truth than this impression.  I love to see the Church united and I live as an ecumenist for the unity of the Church.  The unity of the church is the great prayer of Jesus Christ in John 17 and Jesus hangs even the authenticity of his mission and ministry on the church’s unity.  This is my core belief as a Christian, as a Pastor, as a Reformed theologian and as an ecumenist.

Secondly, the article gives a false impression of my views on the main question.  It stated the opinion of Elder Onoh Onoh that marriage is between a man and a woman and not just two persons and said also that Fubara-Manuel “agreed” with this opinion.  It further noted as words from Fubara-Manuel that the PC(USA) has “moved a little too far because marriage is a union between a man and a woman, not between two people.”  To put these opinions (which I admit are really mine!) with the subtitle of the article “Fubara-Manuel commends the US Presbyterian move” is where the article is went wrong and became misleading.  I do not commend the decision on Gay-Marriage; they went too far.  It is insensitive in many respects.  Marriage is a social structure that has been defined from its very beginning as a union between a man and a woman.  This social structure and definition has shaped religions and cultures for generations too long to number.

This definition cannot be changed without great consequences to family, to social institutions, to the teachings of the Bible and every other religion that I understand.  People have a right to name whatever is a new discovery in their opinion by whatever new name that they choose but to take a traditional word and give it a meaning that does not belong to it and could be offensive to many is not very sensitive.  Whatever one’s views are on the legitimacy or otherwise of homosexual loving committed relationships, the redefining of these relationships as marriage is completely insensitive, in my opinion.  This is a point that the Thisday publications did not make clear, which I believe places the article in self-contradiction.

Thirdly, the article fails to show what Fubara-Manuel commends in the decision of PC(USA).  It says in its headline that it is the “move” of the “US Presbyterians.”  But if this move is understood to be the decision on Gay Marriage, then it is clear that it is completely incorrect.  I do not accept that move as commendable.  The online publication says it is the “spirit” of the decision.  That would have been true if this “spirit” were explained.  This “spirit” is the concern for justice and inclusiveness that the decision seeks.  But the way in which the PC(USA) went about it is, as I have already noted, “insensitive” in so far as it redefined marriage.

The fourth way in which the article misrepresents me is in falling to show the high place I give to the Scriptures as a Christian and as a Reformed theologian.  In accounting for my perceived disagreement with Elder Onoh, the article says “Fubara-Manuel agreed but added, “I am one of those reluctant to use Biblical references to condemn homosexuality.”  This is indeed a grave misrepresentation of all that I live and stand for and have lived and stood for as a Christian and as one in Church ministry for twenty eight years.  The Scripture is all that we have.  It is the basis of church’s continuing self-criticism and reformation.  It is the ground upon which every theologian should stand and the final authority in matters of faith and doctrine.  As a Presbyterian, I signed to a formula that affirms the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the supreme rule in all matters of faith and doctrine at my licensing and ordination many years ago and have constantly renewed this formula in every new appointment or placement that I receive in the life of my Church and I have had no reason to shift from this position and cannot shift from it.  Therefore, the alleged quote from me is mistaken.

What the quote intended to capture however, was my position on the present-day debate about the Bible and homosexuality, namely, that the homosexuality condemned in the Bible does not seem to be the same that is advocated for in the PC(USA) discussion and the general global discussion on the matter.  The homosexual cases that are clearly spelled out in the Bible, like the story of Sodom in Gen. 19 are clear cases of human wickedness in the context of homosexual practice.  What lies behind some of the practices condemned in the Bible are all things that can be seen to represent the worst of human life – greed, rape, racial superiority and pride (the people of Sodom dehumanizing other nations perhaps out of a sense of racial superiority or for regional dominance, since as was apparent, Lot and other citizens of Sodom were not molested in any way), commercial or exploitative sex (the most probable meaning of arsenokoites {“male bedders (?)”} in 1 Cor. 6:10), etc. And this kind of homosexuality is clearly condemned by the Bible.  What present day advocates are asking for is the right to loving faithful relationships.

This cannot be made equivalent to the Biblical condemnations.  To move from these and such passages in the Bible to condemning a homosexuality claimed to be the result of sexual orientation – seen by those so involved as a God-given nature and gift and for which they seek loving committed relationships – is a jump.  It is such a jump I am reluctant to make.  Scripture has to be rightly interpreted and correctly applied.  Sexual orientation as understood today was not known in the Bible times and it was not until the nineteenth century that this terminology came into use.  What the Bible condemns must be condemned in the context and sense in which the Bible condemns it. I find it illegitimate to jump from the legitimate Scriptural condemnations to what is claimed today.  I am also reluctant to affirm without question what is claimed today in the name of sexual orientation.  It is a subject that brings into intersection Biblical exegesis, biological and psychiatric sciences, history, culture, ethics, systematic and pastoral theologies and many more related disciplines.  This is why I am still in research on it.

I am not reluctant to use the Scriptures to speak to what the Scriptures speak to but I am a pastor who knows the deep shame of the wrong use of Scripture and who is concerned to see that I declare the whole counsel of God truthfully and faithfully.  This task cannot be rightly done by quick, unguided, unguarded, uninformed and immature judgments and rash declarations without any study but call for careful reading and re-reading of the Scriptures in the light of what God is doing in God’s world.  This is my continuing journey on this subject matter.

But what is clear to me, and to which the article represents me fairly rightly, is my position against criminalization of homosexuality.  This is a position I have taken against the Nigerian secular state and many churches.  I am not able to accept the criminalization of homosexuality because it is not in the path of justice.  The church may continue forever to teach that homosexuality is a sin as it has continued to teach that fornication and adultery are sins.  I personally even do not accept polygamy as right and many churches would say the same.  But to move from this position to criminalizing these “sins” is, in my humble opinion, injustice.  People are in their full rights to be whatever they want to be so long as they are in their fundamental human rights as spelled out by the United Nations with all the limits they entail.  To criminalize a fundamental human right is part of what I call injustice.  To applaud a decision to put homosexuals in jail, in my opinion, is against the Word of God and against the calling of the church, just as it is against the Word of God and the calling of the church to applaud a decision to put fornicators and adulterers in jail.  This is a position I take because I believe it belongs to my essential calling to be a Christian.  Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church Reformed, always reforming) and soli Gloria Deo (to the glory of God alone) – are my continuing themes.      
Rev. Benebo Fubara Fubara-Manuel, Ph.D.

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