February 02, 2010
Pentecostals & Homosexuals – Peas in a Pod?
Next weekend, the Fellowship of Reconciling Pentecostals International (RPI) will hold its 9th General Conference in Houston. Included in the slate of activities are educational seminars, board meetings, ordinations, fellowship events, and four worship services featuring special music, choral performance and “lively Pentecostal style music.” Houston Mayor Annise Parker is addressing the conference on Saturday night, February 13th at 6pm at the Community Gospel Church.
I may attend if for no other reason than the music. That’s the main thing I miss from my own Pentecostal background.
The breadth of its “reconciling” mission is what distinguishes RPI from other Pentecostal groups. According to its mission statement, RPI “seeks by means of the full gospel of Jesus Christ to reconcile all people to God without regard to race, gender, political persuasion, economic or educational status, sexual orientation, nationality, religious affiliation, and any other thing that divides.” So, RPI is fully welcoming to homosexuals, saying it affirms one scriptural standard for intimate relations between couples – that of marriage and fidelity – regardless of sexual orientation.
This is a mind-bender for a lot of people, many Pentecostals included. Pentecostal and charismatic groups (they are similar, but distinct) tend to fall on the more conservative end of, well, the conservative spectrum. Most have official statements about homosexuality being an abomination before God. Many homosexuals from that religious background tell of being submitted to exorcisms and other extreme treatments for their condition. Pentecostals are the very last Christian group many people would expect to open up in any way to homosexuals.
Yet, what distinguishes Pentecostals from other conservative, evangelical groups is their intense belief in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. They never “gave up” on what scripture refers to as the “gifts of the Spirit” such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues. Moreover, although they strongly affirm the Bible as the inerrant word of God, they also are open to the ongoing revelatory work of the Spirit. Thus, back in the 1970’s in our Pentecostal community, when it became clear that the Spirit had anointed women to be preachers and to lead the church, we went with it despite the scriptural injunctions against women speaking in church or holding positions of leadership. Those passages were interpreted “in their context” – meaning that they held for Timothy’s community in Ephesus at that particular time, place and situation in the first century.
So, I am a bit wonderstruck at the position of RPI on homosexuality, and that such a group even exists within Pentecostalism (RPI is not alone within Pentecostalism, as it turns out). When I think about it, however, I’m not too surprised. Pentecostals are master discerners, willing to following “the Spirit” wherever it leads even when it takes them down unconventional paths that get them condemned, kicked out and labeled as crazy by the other Christian denominations. Indeed, if Pentecostals and homosexuals share anything at all, it’s the experience of being outcasts. They’re both pros at that.
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Posted by jillcarroll at February 2, 2010 04:57 PM