At Trinity we affirm and practice a dual approach to the baptism and blessing of small children. Our normative practice is what is known as “credo-baptism.” According to this view, once a person of reasonable age makes a profession of faith he or she then receives theological instruction and is baptized. These baptisms occur annually at Trinity during the Easter season for adults as well as youth and children. Parents of small of children who ascribe to this approach are often desirous of having their child blessed and welcomed into the church in anticipation of that child’s future baptism. Therefore, just as Jesus laid his hands on small children to bless and affirm them (Mark 10:16), we in like manner bless and welcome small children at Trinity.
In keeping with what has been the normative practice of the global church, we also gladly affirm a form of baptism known as “paedo” or infant baptism. This means that we administer the sacrament of baptism to small children of committed Christian parents. Since the earliest days of our faith, the baptism of small children has been administered in lieu of circumcision as a sign of God’s prevenient and covenantal faithfulness. Though it is indeed sacramental, baptism is not, according to Scripture, salvific for persons of any age (Romans 10:9-10). This means that parents who wish to have their small child baptized are encouraged to exhort that child toward a personal and public profession of faith, and are required to attend our preparation for baptism class. Those who received the sacrament as small children who later desire to make a public profession of faith are also expected to attend the class. Our baptism services, therefore, include Blessings, Baptisms and Affirmations of Faith for adults, youth and small children.
It is our conviction that this dual approach to baptism is most consistent with our “three streams model” and gives honor to the diversity of traditions and backgrounds represented within our community. For further study, we recommend the following resources:
Howe, John W., and Samuel C. Pascoe. “Chapter 6/ A Sacramental Church.” Our Anglican Heritage: Can an Ancient Church Be a Church of the Future? Eugene, Or.: Cascade, 2010. Our Anglican Heritage
On Female Pastors
At Trinity we fully affirm the calling of women to serve as pastors and teachers in the church. We believe Scripture teaches that men and women have been created equal, though distinct, in the likeness of God. We also believe Scripture demonstrates that throughout history both men and women have been mutually gifted to serve the church in positions of leadership.
In the Old Testament, women played vitally important leadership roles throughout Israel’s history, in spite of their place in overwhelmingly patriarchal societies. For example, the prophetess Miriam was one of the first to lead Israel along with her two brothers during the wilderness journey (Micah 6:4). During the pre-monarchial period, Deborah fulfilled the most prestigious role of leadership in Israel acting as prophetess, judge and military commander (Judges 4:4). Although her male contemporaries are much more well known, it was the prophetess Huldah’s counsel to King Josiah that gave rise to one of the greatest religious reforms in Israel’s history (2 Kings 22:11-14).
Following a similar trajectory, the Gospels attest to the ways in which Jesus’ ministry served to redeem and redefine social mores regarding women. Jesus defied cultural convention by allowing Mary of Bethany to sit at his feet and learn as a disciple (Luke 10:39). Jesus also disregarded legal taboos in his offer of healing and renewal to women who were social outcasts, such as the woman at the well (John 4) and the woman with a bleeding disorder (Mark 5:25-34). In spite of strong cultural suspicions against their testimony, it was women who were first commissioned to carry the good news of Jesus’ resurrection back to the other disciples (Luke 24:10 and John 20:17-18).
It is, therefore, no surprise that Paul’s letters to the early church reflect the active ministries of women serving in various positions of leadership. Phoebe served as a deacon in the church in Rome (Ro. 16:1-2). Mary, Lydia, and Nympha were overseers of house churches (Acts 12:12, 16:15; Col. 4:15), and it was Priscilla along with her husband Aquila, who instructed the famed Apollos (Acts 18:25). Euodia and Syntyche served as deacons in the church in Philippi (Phil. 1:1), and Paul specifically names Junia as a prominent apostle (Ro. 16:7).
It is our conviction that those verses traditionally interpreted as universal prohibitions against women holding positions of leadership in the church are rather unique inhibitions addressing particular pastoral concerns. For example, in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses the common practice of women prophesying in the church not to condemn the practice, but rather to ensure that women are wearing the appropriate attire as they prophesy (1 Cor. 11). It is, therefore, exegetically inconsistent to read the admonition to certain women to remain silent (1 Cor. 14:34-45) as a universal prohibition against all women in every place. It is most likely that Paul was addressing a cultural taboo specific to a first century Roman context in which it was considered inappropriate for married women, and particularly those who were uneducated, to publically question other married men or men to whom they were not related.
Similarly, in 1 Timothy 2:11 Paul admonishes women to learn “in full submission,” which is often assumed to mean that they must submit to men. However, it is at the very least equally as likely that Paul was encouraging women to learn in submission to God and/ or the gospel in an attempt to combat the worrisome cultural side effects of a famed female-only cult in Ephesus. Thus, verse 12, which is often translated, “I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man”—is, according to some scholarly opinions, making emphatically clear that Paul is not now setting up women to be a new authority over men. Though there are a numerous translations available, the following interpretation is, according to trusted biblical scholars, the most textually consistent, as well as the most accurately reflective of the spirit of Paul’s broader teaching. “I do not permit a woman to teach so as to gain mastery over a man.” 
Paul, like Jesus, was strategically counter-cultural in certain situations, and yet, he accommodated the local culture in others. Therefore, while we are admonished by Scripture to honor authority and social propriety trans-culturally, we are not required to institute the same social structures or to observe the same cultural practices reflected in ancient historical contexts.
In the spirit of humility, and for the sake of hermeneutical integrity, we believe that these texts are best interpreted in light of the full of witness of Scripture. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul expresses the redemptive spirit of the Gospel by insisting that in the renewed creation of Christ’s kingdom all are one in Christ, equals before him, and heirs according to promise—not race, sex, or social status.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28
Finally, in agreement with Anglicans around the globe, it is our desire to uphold the maxim of the Great Reformers, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, and In All Things Charity.”
For further insight into differing perspectives on this issue, we recommend the following resources:
- Craig S. Keener—Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
- Ben Witherington III—Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary
- N.T. Wright—Former Bishop of Durham, Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews
- Anglican Mission in the Americas—A Study on Women’s Ordination
Beck, James R., Craig Blomberg, and Craig S. Keener. Two Views on Women in
Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 2001.
Pierce, Ronald W., Rebecca Merrill. Groothuis, and Gordon D. Fee. Discovering
Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004. http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm
On Marriage & Abstinence
At Trinity, we believe that marriage was instituted by God as a sacramental expression of God’s love and fidelity to those who worship him. Marriage makes visible God’s commitment to never forsake those whom he has called. In the same way that God maintains his eternal covenant with Israel, we are invited to demonstrate lifelong fidelity through marriage (Malachi 2:14-16). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul refers to marriage as a representation of Christ’s relationship to the Church. It is described as a shared commitment between a husband and wife to be mutually submitted to one another out of love and respect (Ephesians 5:30-33). In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus speaks directly to the sacred nature of marriage. When asked if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus responds by saying that Moses made an allowance for divorce in the case of infidelity due to humanity’s “hardness of heart.” He goes on to say,
From the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and “the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate. Mark 10:2-12
Therefore, when a person commits to marry another person and invokes God’s blessing on that union, the joining together of their lives relationally, sexually, and financially creates and symbolizes a spiritual bond. God is at work through this union to teach each spouse to submit to one another out of love in hopes of seeing Christ formed in the other. The love that exists between married persons, like the love that exists between Christ and the Church, must be intentionally cultivated, defended, and renewed until we are, as the wedding liturgy says, parted by death.
It is for this reason that we at Trinity uphold the Bible’s prohibition against premarital sex. By abstaining from sexual intimacy before marriage, a betrothed couple is invited to make their first sacrificial commitment to one another and the Lord. Faithful abstinence is an opportunity to say to the other, By God’s grace, I am committing now and for the rest of my life to honoring boundaries that challenge my individual will and autonomy for the sake of our future.
A flourishing marriage requires a willingness to concede our appetites, desires, routines, habits, and resources for the sake of another. These concessions, whatever their nature, are costly and are often experienced as a violation of our own will and appetites. Abstinence is, therefore, a gracious invitation to begin cultivating the kind of fidelity and discipline that a flourishing marriage requires.
On Same Sex Relationships
At Trinity, we uphold what is considered to be a traditional position on marriage and same-sex sexual relationships. This means that it is our conviction that the biblical testimony is unambiguously affirmative of heterosexual marriage as God’s desired means for human sexual expression, and is univocally prohibitive regarding same-sex sexual activity as a deviation from that design.
Given the weight of these convictions, we are also committed to advancing and advocating for a more just and loving way forward for same-sex attracted Christians within the church. Our intention, therefore, in what follows is threefold:
- To provide a biblical rationale for our position on these issues, as well as to give clarity to the practical implications of that position for our church community.
- To call the church to thoughtful and Christ-like engagement on this topic.
- To begin a dialogue on how we as a church comprised not only of different sexual orientations but also different opinions can lovingly encourage one another in spite of those differences.
The Bible On Marriage
Beginning in Genesis 1-2 and continuing without exception through the New Testament, the Bible displays covenantal unions between men and women as the normative means for sexual activity and committed romantic partnerships. While biblical models for marriage have evolved from antiquity in terms of number of partners (polygamous to monogamous), the defining characteristic of covenanted heterosexual partnership has remained consistent. Therefore, as a religiously sanctioned institution, the orthodox understanding of marriage continues to be defined in those terms. Specific textual examples spanning both testaments include:
Genesis 2:18-24, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10: 2-9, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9
The Bible on Homosexuality
While there are only a small handful of texts that refer to homosexual activity directly, the biblical testimony against this behavior is consistently and unambiguously negative. We have elected to mention only three texts in an attempt to limit our focus to those passages that have caused the most disagreement and confusion. What follows is not intended to be an exhaustive exegetical treatment; therefore, we strongly recommend further study on these texts, as well as those not mentioned here: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:10. We have included several thorough and trustworthy resources for further study below.
Leviticus 18:22, 20:13—These verses belong to a section of the Old Testament known as the Holiness Code, which outlines various practices for purification and sacrifice among the early Israelites. The verses listed above categorically denounce male homosexual activity without any qualification regarding motive. Those who argue, therefore, that the issue at hand is the intention of one man to put another man in a position of female passivity (“you shall not lie with a man as a woman”) have to make assumptions that are not directly stated or implied in the text.
It has been rightly noted that since the earliest days of the church Christians have disregarded many of the practices outlined in Leviticus including; for example, dietary restrictions and circumcision. The debate over which laws to maintain and which laws to remit was settled in the early church at the Council of Jerusalem at which point it was determined that Gentile converts would be required only to abstain from food offered to idols and sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29).
Subsequently, the teaching of the New Testament clearly demonstrates that the early church did in fact consistently maintain the Old Testament’s teaching on sexual morality including the prohibition against homosexual activity. It should also be noted that while Jesus himself never mentions homosexuality directly, those instances in which he refers to sexual ethics at all demonstrate a move in an even more conservative direction than many of his Jewish contemporaries (Matthew 19:3-12).
Romans 1:18-32—Paul’s opening argument in the beginning of Romans is that the manifestation of sin, of which homosexual behavior is a particularly vivid example is the direct result of universal idolatry and human rebellion from God. Paul is not suggesting that only certain individual persons are guilty of idolatry and thus punished with sinful inclinations, but rather because humanity as a whole has rebelled from God all have come under the power of sin.
This is in short Paul’s exposition of the “Fall” as depicted in Genesis 2-3. Because humanity as a whole has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie,” we are all inclined towards “things that should not be done.” In other words, human beings are hardwired for sin. All people in fact have a “natural” predisposition toward rebellious behavior. Thus, Richard Hays makes the point that, “the Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently common sense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable.” This means that involuntary and even biologically determined inclinations, such as homosexual orientation, do not excuse sinful behavior simply because they are believed to be innate.
To assume that Paul is highlighting homosexuality activity as particularly sinful is in fact to have taken the bait and missed the point. While he does emphatically state that such behavior is sinful (1:24, 26-27), Paul’s primary aim, as he makes clear in the beginning of Chapter Two, is actually to rebuke the sin of biased judgment. Because all people, Christian and non-Christian, gay and straight, are equally culpable and deserving of condemnation, they are also equally in need of God’s mercy and redemption. “Therefore, you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the same things (Romans 2:1).”
Finally, Paul goes on to argue in Chapter Six that this inborn “slavery” to sin has been brought to an end through the cross of Jesus. “Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism unto death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).” Therefore, the aim of Romans 1 is to give awareness to humanity’s shared experience of sin so as to highlight the shared need for grace, which is made available to all through the cross.
Responses to Important Questions
Question #1: Given that that the biblical writers did not have a modern understanding of sexual orientation or monogamous homosexual partnerships and likely believed all homosexuality activity to be either shame inducing or the result of excessive sexual appetite, should the Bible’s prohibitions still apply to gay Christians seeking committed, consensual relationships today?
It is true that the biblical writers did not have a contemporary understanding of sexual orientation; however, it is a presumption to assume that they needed one in order to arrive at their negative assessment of same-sex behavior. In Romans 1, Paul categorically rejects homosexual activity as a manifestation of humanity’s innately sinful or rebellious nature. According to Paul, human beings lust after the autonomy to define sin as they see fit, which is a shared inclination among all people. Therefore, a specific act need not be excessively lustful in order to still be regarded as sin. The person who commits adultery deliberately, patiently, even prayerfully has sinned the same as she who is overcome by passionate lust.
When Jesus speaks on divorce in Matthew 19, it is in fact Moses’ determination to allow for conditional terms of divorce that Jesus rejects. “It was because you were so hard hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning this was not so.” Moses had made exceptions for divorce based on motive and circumstance, and Jesus rejects and rescinds all but one of those exceptions. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” Jesus is here affirming the point that it is not the motivation or the condition of the compulsion that determines the moral culpability of the action, but rather the violation of the terms of God’s covenant. This same logic applies not only to divorce and homosexuality but to all sinful behavior.
Finally, the most troubling aspect of this argument is the implication that our contemporary assumptions about those governing the biblical writers’ commands would allow us to dictate how we apply them. In other words, the logic is that even though Paul says X, given that he assumed Y, we have grounds to reject or reform what he says. This kind of logic is a radical departure from orthodox understandings of biblical authority. At Trinity, we uphold and affirm contextualized readings and application of Scripture. However, those readings and applications must always be consistent with the full witness of Scripture (including Tradition and Reason) in order to be considered valid. Those who argue that the Bible includes texts prohibiting abolition and equality for women must also take into account the Bible’s “redemptive-movement” or trajectory for both (See William J. Webb, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals). Contrarily, this same movement concerning homosexual behavior is entirely absent from the biblical testimony. William Webb writes,
While some Christians advocate covenant/equal status homosexuality as an appropriate expression for human relationships today, the results of this study would argue against such a position. The same canon of cultural analysis, which show a liberalizing or less restrictive tendency in the slavery and women texts relative to the original culture, demonstrate a more restrictive tendency in homosexuality texts relative to the original culture. Furthermore, the biblical texts not only hold an aversion to associative features (e.g., rape, pederasty), they appear to voice a concern about the more basic or core issue of same-gender sexual acts themselves. Once this factor is paired with finding a more restrictive movement within Scripture compared to the surrounding cultures, the covenant homosexual argument fails to be persuasive.
Question #2: Given that gay and lesbian persons, who cannot change their sexual orientation, are not necessarily given the “gift” of life long celibacy, shouldn’t they be allowed to marry?
In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul writes, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”
It is true that Paul indicates that he has been spiritually endowed with the ability to exercise self-control over his sexual appetite. He does not say, however, that this ability is without complication or struggle. What a gift that would be indeed! If one has the option to marry, then Paul is encouraging those in the church not to struggle unnecessarily. He does not assume, however, that all people do have that option. A list of those who do not have the option to marry would include: those who are not able to find a spouse, those who have been called by God to life long celibacy (as Jesus, Paul, and others obviously believed themselves to be), and based on Paul’s negative assessment of homosexuality, homosexual partners.
In other words, an intense struggle with sexual temptation, does not guarantee that a person will get married regardless of whether that person is homosexual or heterosexual. If marriage is the only redemptive reality available to those who struggle with sexual temptation, then this is indeed a tragedy not just for gays and lesbians, but also for all who are single for reasons outside of their control.
In his book, Bible, Gender, Sexuality, James Brownson, says the following in affirmation of Question #2,
Celibacy in this context represents a third way, beyond either marriage or “burning” with passion. It involves not merely sufficient willpower to restrain sexual impulses but also the capacity to live in a focused and undistracted way apart from marriage. To use more modern categories, this means not the absence or repression of sexual desires, but the capacity to sublimate and channel those desires and energies into focused and disciplined service to God.
At Trinity, however, we teach (contra Brownson) that the ability to “channel” temptation or desire into redemptive service to God is the calling of every Christian—not a gift reserved for a particular subset of Christians. A spouse no more guarantees that a Christian will be able “to live in a focused and undistracted way” than singleness guarantees that he or she will fall into sexual immorality.
There is, however, a helpful corrective for the church at work in this claim namely that single persons are solely and singularly responsible for stewarding the Bible’s call to disciplined abstinence. If it is true, that the calling of every Christian is to invest our energies and desires into the service of God, then that requires a commitment to work in solidarity alongside one another. “For we who are many are one body in Christ and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…Romans 12:5”
In far too many churches the reality is that those who are same-sex attracted and those who are single have been expected to cheerfully live and labor in these communities without the kind of loving support and committed partnership that married people enjoy. The church and particularly those who are married and heterosexual ought to be rightly repentant of this negligence and begin to work with our brothers and sisters to advocate a more redemptive way forward. At Trinity, we are both humbly accepting of this correction and committed to working together to bring about needed change.
Life Together at Trinity
* A note on language: We use the term “Side A” to refer to those who are affirming of same-sex sexual relationships and “Side B” to refer to those who are not affirming of same-sex sexual relationships.
Can someone be both gay and Christian?
Yes. Salvation is available to all who profess that Jesus is Lord and believe in his resurrection (Romans 10:9). Sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every Christian to bring about holiness and full maturity in Christ. Therefore, our hope is that the church will continue to make room for disagreement on this issue as a matter of secondary rather than primary importance trusting that the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit is at work among us and through us.
Are “Side A” Christians invited to attend and/or become members at Trinity?
Yes. Our intention is to create a culture of hospitality in keeping with the Spirit of Jesus who not only welcomed but sought out the company of those who longed for community and belonging without qualification or condition. Therefore, the communion table, which is the apex of our Sunday worship at Trinity, is open to all who call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Membership, according to our understanding, is inclusion and participation in the common life of the church. Therefore, in order to become a member at Trinity we require only the following:
- Profession of Orthodox Christian Faith (Agreement with the Historic Creeds)
- Christian Baptism
- Regular Church Attendance
Are “Side A” Christians invited to participate in pastoral leadership at Trinity?
No. In order to participate in pastoral leadership at Trinity, a person must possess a shared commitment to our mission and be able to lead in agreement with our convictions. Positions of pastoral leadership would include those that require generating theological content and giving pastoral counsel such as: teaching, preaching, leading worship, mentoring and discipleship.
Will you perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples at Trinity?
No. Given that marriage is a political as well as a religious institution, we support the right of all people to receive equal benefits, both legal and personal, afforded through civil marriage. While we acknowledge the complexity and concern this issue presents for many, our posture at Trinity is in the spirit of rendering “unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.” This means that while we concede that all Americans are entitled to the pursuit of civil liberties, at Trinity we will continue to uphold an orthodox understanding of marriage and will retain the right to perform only those ceremonies in agreement with that understanding.
Resources for Further Study
People to Be Loved: Why homosexuality is not just an issue by Preston Sprinkle
Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays
Spiritual Friendships by Wesley Hill
Slaves, Women and Homosexuals by William J. Webb
Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark A. Yarhouse
Leading a Church in a Time of Sexual Questioning by Bruce B. Miller