Religious Decision-Making on LGBTQ Issues

June 21, 2018

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The status of LGBTQ persons within faith communities can differ dramatically. After a contentious vote and an amendment to the denomination’s constitution passed in 2015, the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined the majority of mainline Protestant churches in the United States that now ordain gay and lesbian ministers and perform same-sex marriages. However, for the United Methodist Church, the future possibility of these changes may conflict with the growing worldwide church, which is theologically more conservative than the U.S. church (as has already happened in the Anglican tradition). The Catholic Church—which is subject to similar tensions among its diverse global membership—officially opposes same-sex marriage, but emphasizes in the catechism that LGBTQ individuals must always be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Similarly, the Qur’an and Islamic scholars have traditionally rejected homosexual acts for being non-procreative, but just over half of American Muslims believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. Within Judaism, the spectrum ranges from those who do not accept same-sex relationships to communities that welcome LGBTQ rabbis and recognize same-sex marriages. Hinduism and Buddhism, on the other hand, do not explicitly address sexual orientation, and approaches to LGBTQ issues vary widely.​

This week the Berkley Forum asks: How do religious traditions understand their scriptural and theological obligations vis-à-vis shifting social mores when deciding whether to welcome LGBTQ persons as community members and believers? How might religious communities navigate these conflicting demands? What impact does the structure of religious authority have on the way people within a particular religious tradition address potentially controversial issues like this?

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