Edward L. Kelly Jr, a former pastor, writes about his change of position on marriage equality.
In the early 80’s when I began my preaching ministry, I wrote and ranted that not only was homosexuality a sin, but it was an abomination and any civilization permitting it to flourish would perish. I went one step further and declared, “The only right a homosexual has is a right to the gallows.”
My Theocratic Theology
In my theocratic theology, there was no room for marriage equality. To be honest, I was a bigot and took great pride in my intolerant views. Now, that is not to say that every Evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot, but I was. I held to a very strict legalistic-literal interpretation of the Leviticus laws.
I did not wake up one morning and exclaim, “Well, today I think I will support same-sex marriage.” It actually took two decades for the Lord to work at removing the blindfolds from my heart and mind. I call it a slow evolutionary metanoia: a very slow process of minute changes.
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic and like so many Catholics in the 60’s, I stopped attending Church after Confirmation. Then in 1975, a Charismatic Lutheran introduced me to the idea of a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ and after a six months of Bible reading and prayer I had a transcendental encounter which transformed my life. Yet, what began as a simple encounter with God soon lapsed into a very legalistic-condemning faith. My studies led me into the extreme Fundamentalist camp of Christian Reconstruction/Dominion Theology.
It goes like this: America is a Christian nation, founded upon Biblical law, and we need to restore this law to America. Every believer is called to bring every aspect of life — economics, law, health, politics — into conformity to God’s law, specifically the Old Testament laws.
I now consider this theology one of the greatest threats to religious liberty and gay rights in America today.
Looking back there were many influences to my “conversion” out of bigotry: reading outside my theological box, educational courses on Biblical interpretation and modern methods of historical and literary criticism, the Catholic influence, the prayers of my wife and getting to know homosexuals.
As a pastor in 1993, someone gave me a book written by Pope John Paul II, and I was very impressed with his emphasis that every single person was created in the image of God and has dignity, and there are rights stemming from that dignity. That idea was the beginning of a theological revolution in my life. I was so impressed I began to study the Catholic faith, and in 2005, I turned in my Protestant ministerial credentials and returned to the faith of my youth.
Knowing Gay Professionals
At the height of my anti-gay rhetoric, I did not go near homosexuals. Yet as my theology began to change, God brought several gay professionals into my life. I was impressed with a registered nurse who was so professional and empathetic with his patients.
Then, about two years ago, I was having a difficult time finding a good barber in our small town. My wife suggested her hair dresser who I knew to be gay. Well, with some reluctance I went, and now he is not only the only barber I will go to, I also consider him a good friend. Yet, I must add that the most powerful weapon we possess to tear down these walls of religion discrimination is that of prayer.
Treating everyone equally is something that cannot be divorced from faith. I do not think I can call myself a Christian unless I am intimately involved in what Jesus was intimately involved in: social justice. I also consider my work writing and speaking for same-sex marriage an overall work of “personal penance,” a distinctive Catholic view that I need to make up for all the evil things I did and said against gay people.
My Life is Proof–God Changes People’s Hearts and Minds
Yet I am hopeful about the future for my faith tells me that God is waiting to “come down” with divine justice (Isa 35). My life is proof God will change people’s hearts and minds.
I believe with all people we are to deal in “love” That being said, you are wrong to support same sex marriage. The Bible does not support this, you have no Scripture support
Daniel, I’m glad that you love people. That’s truly excellent.
I am afraid, however, that it is you who has no Scriptural support to forbid marriage. Paul called this teaching a “doctrine of demons.”
The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude. (I Timothy 4:1-4)
You are among the “men who forbid marriage.” I think you need to reconsider the teaching you have received. You certainly know that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Just like you, gay and lesbian believers are told that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” Somewhere out there is a suitable companion, a woman, God prepared for you, with whom you will spend the rest of your life–you may already be with her. For the man who longs for the companionship of another man, and for the woman who longs for the companionship of another woman–God prepares suitable companions for them, too. And they are to be “received with gratitude,” and not rejected.
Forbidding marriage is a doctrine of demons. Take care, Daniel.
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Thank you so much for that CLEAR and beautiful response.
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[Edited for personal attack content.]
You are twisting Scripture.
Daniel, I don’t allow flaming on my blog. If you want to post proof texts from Romans and attack gays and lesbians, let me suggest you start a blog, if you don’t already have one.
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So Ron are you saying then that as long as Homosexual couples marry then it is blessed by God? as it is stated in
1 Cor 7: I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
But if they choose to remain in a state of fornication, then they remain in their sin?
I support marriage equality. When my son finds the right man, I want him to be able to settle down and enjoy the blessings of marriage, just as his sisters did.
About your second question: Jesus was talking to me in John 8:7. I need to listen to him on this.
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See my study on what my Hebrew Bible, your Old Testament, REALLY says about homosexuality at:
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Rabbi, I rarely use the words “Old Testament.” I almost always use the phrase, “Hebrew Scriptures.”
I am very pleased with what you wrote, “Rabbi, I rarely use the words “Old Testament.” I almost always use the phrase, “Hebrew Scriptures.”” To the Jew, the Hebrew scriptures are neither OLD nor a Testament. They are the CONSTITUTION of the Jewish people; just as relevant today as they were a thousand or twenty five hundred years ago. We read each week’s reading with an eye of seeing in the text a response to what we read in our daily newspaper. That said, we recognize that occasionally revisions or amendments need to be added in order to bring the Written Torah in line with the Oral Torah (Tradition) and thus keep things relevant.
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What Ed says is absolutely correct. My process was similar and I know what he is saying because in parts of his process, I have realized that same thing. If only I had accepted this when I was a teenager.
My psychiatrist told me that if I slept with a woman it would change me. Well, it didn’t, and several lives were messed up for a lot of years while I was trying to pray the gay away.
Homosexuality is being used by politicians and religious leaders to promote their agenda. They really believe what they spout without any regard for the people that they are hating and judging. Too many times the loudest haters have the same thing going on the inside of themselves so they hate themselves and then put that hate on others instead of dealing with their own issues.
That is the saddest part of all of this, all the good people who are hurt and the children that are hurt and, like me, are forced into a life that God didn’t mean for them because of pressure from the religious community. Unknowing people who take 1 scripture and emphasize it over and over without taking into account other scripture right around it. They pick and choose which one they are going to use against people.
God loves me more, more than I ever accepted because I couldn’t accept myself as a Gay Christian man. God showed me a new life, and I praise Him more and more each and every day for the new life that He has given me. God wants me to tell everyone that He loves each and everyone of us unconditionally and inclusively.
Another problem that I have with people who proclaim they have the truth and are so judgmental and damning is the vile hatefulness that they proclaim the love of Jesus Christ with. They are trying to damn people into submission to what they believe the Bible says for them. I know and believe that if we allow God, that He deals with each of us as He needs for us to come to the full abundant life that He has for us.
The question is, will I listen to God and the stirring in my soul or will I listen to someone who is always promoting the hate of other people who are the children of God and follow his teachings. It is strange that alot of these people don’t even agree on most of the doctrines that each religion teaches. They are always in conflict even with their brothers. Think about it!!!!!!!!!
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Johnny. The amount of damage some Christians have done in the name of God and holiness is appalling. I am glad that the internet has changed people’s ability to tell their stories, to realize that they are not alone, that there are other believers like them who have realized that God loves them. They came into the world gay and lesbian, and are not the alien mutations that some people make them out to be. These other people are false accusers, making accusations about people they’ve never even met. They are bearing false witness, and their lies do great damage, to the point of driving their hapless victims to suicide and other self-destructive behavior.
I’m glad you made it through to the other side, Johnny.
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Mr. Kelly, thank you for having the courage not only to be transformed but to share that transformation with us here. Probably all of us have been subjected to blatant misinformation during our lifetimes and have both suffered ourselves as a result and in many cases have made others suffer as well.
That your heart and mind were open to change is something with which you should be pleased. I hope you will change your mind further by not thinking of your current writing and speaking for equality as “personal penance” (i.e., self-punishment) but rather as an opportunity granted to you to demonstrate on many levels what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the 21st century. Truth has literally set you free.
I hope you will allow me one “but.” In your comments above you stated, “Now, that is not to say that every Evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot, but I was.” I must respectfully disagree. If those claiming to be Christian would deny a fellow human being the same rights, privileges and responsibilities available to them, there has to be a level of belief that says, “I am more entitled to that than s/he is because of what I am and what I believe.” No matter how we cut it, I believe that is a form of bigotry.
Thank you again for sharing.
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I appreciate your openness and willingness to share your journey. Apart from your personal transformation on issues concerning gay rights, I am curious about your decision to return to the Roman Catholic Church. I would be interested in hearing something about how you deal with that institutions positions on homosexuality and the freedom to marry. I am part of a denomination that is torn on these matters, and many supporters of gay rights have left or are considering leaving because of its perceived intolerance. So it would be helpful to hear about your decision to go back to a church that is not supportive of those rights.
It is possible that the Rabbi from Nazareth MAY have said something about homosexuality after all.
The Hebrew word for a Eunuch, סריס, is the generic word that probably included those who were homosexual, a term unknown to Jews of the 1st century. It simply referred to those who would not produce offspring, not just castrated individuals. Though I am NOT a Christian in any way or form. AND I believe that the Nazarener Rebbe, Jesus, the son of Joseph, was not a Christian either. Thus I offer the following quotation:
יש סריסים אשר נולדו כן מבטן אמם ויש סרסים ויש המסרסים על-ידי אדם ויש סרסים אשר סרסו את-עצמם למען מלכות השמים
“For there are some who are homosexuals, which were born so from their mother’s impregnation: and there are some who are castrated ones, which were made eunuchs by men: and there be those who are celibates by vow, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Rabbi Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth, 1st century CE; Matthew 19: 12)
JUST A THOUGHT
Well, as I’m sure you know, that interpretation is gaining a lot of traction. I was asking a young gay FB friend in Pakistan about the words, and he said that in his language the word gay was the same as the word eunuch. I believe that’s the case in a number of language worldwide. Thanks for the insight!
@Ron…actually gays are trying to marry, the ones that are forbidding it are the ones trying to prevent gay marriage in the first place. Kudos Mr. Kelly and God bless!!!!
sorry Ron, I now see I misunderstood your response to Daniel, we are on the same page..
So much of this resonated with me. I started out sort of the same as you, minus the Roman Catholic upbringing (my parents were Nazarenes); when I became a Christian, I started out leaning toward the fundamentalist camp. However, after years of serious study and prayer, I no longer call myself a fundamentalist. I’m theologically conservative and orthodox, but when it comes to social issues like same-sex marriage, I’m quite liberal. I believe that it’s wrong to discriminate against others. I don’t know whether or not it’s a sin to be gay, but what I do know is that God loves everyone, and that Jesus wouldn’t discriminate. So I leave it up to God to judge, and I just try to do what Jesus called Christians to do, which is love.
Thank you for the amazing post!
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So being professional or nice makes their lifestyle okay? Someone once remarked that when he became a corrections officer, he would be able to tell who the pedophiles were. He said he was wrong because they were the most charming people in prison.
I guess by the author of that piece and his logic, pedophiles are okay people to and need to be treate dlike christians.
Theoarch, what Ed was confessing was that he had been lying about gays and lesbians. He had been spreading falsehood based on his own ignorance of the truth about homosexuals, the truth that they are like other people.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
I am grateful for the fact that you took time to read this article. It may not have changed your mind, but it shows that you are at least willing to consider other points of view. I do not know if you are Baptist, but prior to the Fundamentalist take over of the denomination, Baptists held strongly to the principle of there being no mediator between man and God but Jesus Christ. This meant that no one person could tell another person exactly what to believe since all revelation was uniquely personal. All a person can do, by that idea, is share what God has revealed to him or herself.
I am holding to God’s promise that at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him. This means that sooner or later you and I will be worshipping Christ together along with Ed, Ron, Brian Fischer, Elton John, and a host of others that we may not particularly care for on earth. Now we have a choice of bringing a glimpse of this glory to earth, building God’s kingdom here and now, or maintaining the division between straight and gay people and causing great harm to one another.
Ed–several of yours and my positions parallel, but in my case I finally, even after returning to Rome in 2005 as well, made the reluctant decision to move onward to the Episcopal Church, somewhat temporarily in 2010 and this summer moved on more fully…and this issue was one of many that caused me to do so. Like you, I was a cradle Catholic turned non-denominational charismatic Christian, and was in ministry for a number of years before coming out.
And, like you I re-thought and then returned to the Faith of my youth (ironically I even use that term to describe my journey!) in 2005 and 2006, but unlike you I was confirmed at age 50 during Easter Vigil of ’06 and have been celibate for many years. As much as I wanted to stay, I was forced to realize that Rome, for all of her beautiful traditions and definite connections to the early Church, simply has it wrong on this particular matter. I have taken several extensive catechetical courses and Church history (from a Catholic perspective), and I think, ironically, it was those very classes that triggered my questioning and digging deeper–decisions of Councils over the centuries and the like, as well as the ever claim to being the “one true Church” made me realize that something was wrong theologically as well as hierarchically. If we cannot have freedom of conscience, we have nothing. And I see the Catholic Church as giving it and then taking it away, all literally on the same page of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which gives me great pause in espousing her theology.
I still view myself as a “catholic Christian,” and accept probably 90-95% of what is taught in the Roman Catholic Church, but I am also in a state (Minnesota) where our Archbishop, a man I care about and respect in many ways, is embroiled in a battle which borders on fanaticism over the issue of same-gender marriage and equality. It is not friendly territory for a person such as me right now. If you or other readers wish to read more of my story, stop by my page and check it out, it is listed on the very top of the page under the header and is called CHOOSING “STRAIGHT” GAYS, CHRISTIANS, MARRIAGE AND ME ( THE 2012 REDUX)–so please stop over and share. I also recently wrote a two part posting on why I became what many of my dear Catholic brothers and sisters unfortunately consider a “heretic.”
I appreciate your post but even more your candidness. It gives me hope for a Church I still love very much. God bless!
”every single person was created in the image of God and has dignity, and there are rights stemming from that dignity. That idea was the beginning of a theological revolution in my life…”
I agree with this wholeheartedly. But the fundamentalist are clinging to the deceit that orientation is chosen, not innate. For if it is chosen, their legalism works. But if it’s innate, it creates rifts in their beliefs & poses a threat to their faith entirely.
Just my two cents, bc this deception kept me in bondage for 23+ years before coming out. Thank you sir for lovingly sharing your story.
Same sex relations is an abomination to God.God died for everyone. We are called to live holy lives. If We are children of God we will want to a holy life. Holy Spirit helps us to do this. Anyone who preaches same sex marriage is ok is a false teacher… Rebuke in Jesus Name….
The Hebrew Bible also says that eating shrimp or pork is an abomination. Are you picking and choosing which abominations are okay for you but not okay for somebody else?