Several years ago the Episcopal Church, in their triennial convention, voted to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops, and to permit bishops in states where same-sex unions are legal to bless those unions. More recently the Lutherans (ELCA) and Presbyterians (PCUSA) have followed their example, in each case extending the ordained ministry to include non-celibate lesbian and gay clergy. Predictably, these actions have evoked flurries of news articles and opinion columns, both supporting and opposing the moves toward full inclusion of homosexually oriented persons into the life of the church.
The “homosexual issue” is a fairly recent source of contention and anguish within religious bodies. But it is simply the latest manifestation of a far deeper question that has been with us for millennia. In its most concise statement, that question is, “Who is in and who is out?” Records of humanity’s attempts to make this determination are as old as the oldest portions of the Hebrew Scriptures.