Ray Boltz, the MCC and gender
Editor’s note: This column is one in the continuing Missouri Baptist Voices series of guest columnists from throughout Missouri Southern Baptist life.
Many evangelicals were taken quite by surprise earlier this year when popular Christian song writer and recording artist Ray Boltz announced he had divorced his wife in order to embrace homosexuality. The author of favorite songs such as “Thank You,” “Take Up Your Cross,” and “The Anchor Holds,” Boltz declared his homosexuality in a Sept. 12 article in The Washington Blade, a homosexual newspaper. Bolz now claims to affiliate with the Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination which self-identifies as a refuge for “Gay Christians.” Boltz’s announcement brings the issue of the Metropolitan Community Church to the foreground.
The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) was founded in 1968 in Los Angeles by Troy Perry. Perry was licensed to preach by a Baptist church when he was 15, affiliated with the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) soon thereafter and became an evangelist. Married at 18, he soon moved to Illinois to study at a Bible college while serving a Church of God in Joliet. Soon thereafter, he was caught in a homosexual affair and dismissed from the Church of God. Perry quickly moved to affiliate with the Church of God of Prophecy and transferred to Moody Bible Institute (1960-1961). Then, he moved to California without completing a degree and began pastoring a church in Santa Ana. Eventually, he became more heavily involved in the homosexual lifestyle and divorced his wife, with whom he had two sons. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1965-1967, Perry settled in Los Angeles and soon began his church as an outreach to homosexuals.
Though the denomination self-identifies as “Christian,” the group is well-known as a church for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered (LGBT) people. Specifically, the church markets itself as a safe place for people from diverse sexual backgrounds. While heterosexuals are welcome, the MCC is definitely associated with people who identify as “Gay Christians.” The group now claims to have 250 affiliate congregations in 23 countries around the world.
At the heart of MCC heresy is a flawed view of gender. The MCC considers gender to be a social construction and offers the following definition for gender on its webpage:
Gender: A set of complex and often contradictory socially constructed signifiers associated with a person’s masculinity or femininity. Includes but is not limited to genitalia, gonads, chromosomes, hormones, secondary sex characteristics, psychological or emotional self-understanding, roles, clothing, mannerisms, interests, and language. Gender is and can be assigned at birth, assigned by others interpreting these signifiers, or claimed for and expressed by one’s self.
Note that in this definition, gender can be something each of us claims for one’s self. In the MCC, men may self-identify as women and women may self-identify as men based on their own self-understanding. Thus, a concept foreign to Scripture is imposed upon Scripture and becomes an interpretive “key,” thus leading to many of their errors.
The idea that gender is a social construction and not an inherent trait is also advocated by many in academia. For example, Robert Minor, professor of religion at the University of Kansas, argues that heterosexuality is forced upon people. In his 2001 book Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human he bemoans the fact that no one is asking, “What is the cause of heterosexuality?” He argues that heterosexuality is an artificial social construction and should not have privileged status over homosexuality.
While many people may not think of Genesis 1 and 2 in relation to homosexuality, the creation narrative is in fact the proper place to begin since it is here we find God’s intent and design for gender and sexuality. The literature available on the MCC website does not address Genesis 1 and 2 in relation to homosexuality. This leads them to a truncated view of sexuality since the Christian doctrine of creation is the foundation for a correct understanding of gender and sexuality. Genesis 1:26-28 emphasizes that both males and females share equally in the image of God, thus affirming the goodness of the gift of gender. Genesis 2:24-25 is the foundational passage of Scripture for marriage and clearly emphasizes that sex is to be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. Sex is designed by God to be shared in the marriage covenant between a husband and a wife. Any deviation from this standard is sin. In his teaching about divorce, Jesus Christ reaffirmed Genesis 2:24-25 as the correct starting point for understanding marriage (Matt. 19:4-6).
The interpretations of Scripture suggested by the MCC are grounded in a theology based on a defective view of human sinfulness, a hopelessly flawed hermeneutic and penchant for logical fallacies. Their specific interpretations of Biblical passages pertaining to homosexuality are flawed by a selective use of evidence, incomplete references to background material, sloppy handling of the lexical background of words and grammar, and, at times, a complete disregard for context. They frequently engage in arguments ad hominem (everyone who disagrees is a homophobe) and an unfortunate tendency to favor false dichotomies.
A clear reading of Scripture indicates that homosexual acts in both their male and female expressions are contrary to the will of God. While violence against anyone simply because of their sexual behavior is clearly antithetical to the New Testament, we are in fact mandated to call people involved in homosexual behavior along with all other forms of sexual immorality to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. A sign of surrendering to the rule of Jesus Christ in one’s life is separation from homosexual behavior. (Alan Branch is assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.)