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Posts for May, 2013

Robert Gagnon Explains Why Consensual Gay Relationships Are Worse Than Bestiality and Incest

Jim Burroway

May 1st, 2013
Robert Gagnon

Robert Gagnon

Jeremy Hooper was forwarded a lengthy email chain sent to over seventy social conservative anti-gay activists in advance of the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute’s conference at the end of May. Among those receiving the email chain was Exodus International Alan Chambers, who tired of the anti-gay rhetoric and, after asking to be removed from the chain, finally added Hooper’s email address to it. In one email response, Robert Gagnon called Chambers to task for “secretly adding the name of someone whose whole objective is to promote sexually immoral behavior and abuse those who uphold what Jesus and Scripture regarded as sacred.” Gagnon also went on to justify his use of the word “perverse” to describe gay people:

The verb “to pervert” is from the Latin meaning “to turn thoroughly,” i.e. away from the truth or right course of action. Applied to sexual practice, a perversion is “any of various means of obtaining sexual gratification that are generally regarded as being unnatural or abnormal.” Paul in Scripture makes a point of singling out homosexual practice as sexual behavior that is manifestly contrary to nature in that it is clear that a man and a woman are sexual complements or counterparts, not males with males or females with females. He als refers to such behavior as self-”dishonoring” (Atimazo / atimia) and as “indecent/shameful behavior” (askhemosune). The Levitical prohibitions and some Deuteronomical texts add the description of to’evah, something abominable or abhorrent to God. The latter (along with Revelation) adds the epithet of of “dogs” to men who actively emasculate their appearance to attract male sex partners in a cultic context, treating themselves as “sacred” (hence the Hebrew name qedeshim). Bestiality is an even more unnatural form of sexual practice since it is cross-species. Adult-consensual incest is also a particularly perverse form of sexual practice since it involves sex with someone who is too much of a familial same. But Scripture treats homosexual practice as even more severely unnatural because the male-female requirement for sexual relations is foundational for all that follows (so Genisis and Jesus) and because sex or gender is a more constituent feature of sexual behavior than kinship.

Gagnon has argued that homosexuality is worse than incest before. In one 11-page polemic from 2007 — yes, Gagnon does like to hear himself speakGagnon writes (PDF: 61KB/11 pages):

It is my contention that homosexual practice is a more serious violation of Scripture’s sexual norms than even incest, adultery, plural marriage, and divorce. (The reader will note that I did not mention bestiality because the evidence from ancient Israel and early Judaism suggests that bestiality is a worse offense than same-sex intercourse.) [Emphasis in the original]

I guess in the six years since then Gagnon’s sorted out God’s mind on bestiality and, unsurprisingly, Gagnon’s God now agrees with Gagnon that gays are worse.

In addition to Gagnon’s close association with the NOM, he is also a founding board member of Restored Hope Network, comprised of a group of break-away ex-gay ministries which left Exodus International after Exodus president Alan Chambers acknowledged that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” Chambers also repudiated the particular type of counseling intended to change sexual orientation known as Reparative Therapy, and he has declared that Exodus will no longer take sides in the political debates surrounding gay rights, including marriage rights.

Nardelli v. Gagnon continues

Timothy Kincaid

October 23rd, 2012

Dr. Robert Gagnon may have decided to ignore Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, a classical philologist at l’Université de Provence, but Nardelli is not choosing to do the same. Nardelli has revisited Gagnon’s assertions and pretentions and now has given us a second, revised edition of his monograph.

While Nardelli certainly has the scientific (and scholastic and intellectual) advantage, I think it is his logic and wordsmanship that make this an enjoyable read.

I don’t entirely agree with Nardelli on every point. For example, I think that orientation – or at least a self-awareness of attractions and one’s difference from the majority – has a strong essentialist component. But his criticisms are nevertheless presented in a way that delights and encourages thought rather than invite challenge. Here’s a sample:

Gagnon is nothing but an entrenched essentialist student of homosexuality and a believer in the framework theological-scientific of the male and female sexes who will never admit that biological sex is dependent on culture and ideology, therefore historically determined, and that his critical box of tools amounts to the following analogy : provided that the lexemes ‘red’, ‘blue’, and ‘white’ appear in a short passage which, conjecturally, could be made to yield the ideas of ‘country’ or ‘nation’, he trumpets that it must be the United States and nothing else, although France has indeed the same colours in her flag.



Restored Hope Network’s Leadership Named

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2012

Restored Hope Network, the breakaway collection of ex-gay ministries from Exodus International, appears to have solidified at least part of his leadership. In a Facebook post, Robert Gagnon announced that he had been elected to the nascent group’s board of directors. In a follow-up comment, Gagnon provided additional details on the new group’s leadership:

Andy Comiskey is president (chair of the Board); also on the board: Anne Paulk, David Kyle Foster, Stephen Black, Ron Smith, Jason Thompson.

I’ve posted this information before, but here’s a rundown again on the named players:

Andrew Comiskey has been a major player in Exodus International from its earliest days when it started as an outgrowth of an early Southern California church movement known as the Vineyard. The Vinyard itself has roots in the late 1960s’ Jesus Movement which stood at the intersection of early contemporary Evangelical Christianity and the hippie subculture. Comiskey once served as president at Exodus International, and his Desert Stream Ministries has been among the largest and most prominent ministries in the Exodus International netwo. Its popular Living Waters program is used by many ex-gay ministries throughout the world. In April, Comiskey issued a letter to Exodus president Alan Chambers calling on him to “continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with (same-sex attraction).” Citing Chambers’s comments before the Gay Christian Network, Comiskey worried that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.”

Robert Gagnon’s association with the ex-gay movement has been somewhat less extensive, mainly focused in providing theological support. He spoke at a Wednesday morning plenary session at a 2009 Exodus annual conference in Wheaton, Illinois. He also provided two workshops at that conference, the first on homosexuality and the Bible, and the second on the church’s response to homosexuality. In late June,Gagnon wrote an exhausting 35-page response to Alan Chambers’s recent changes at Exodus, and he has emerged as one of the sharpest and loudest critics in the popular media of Chambers’s change of direction.

Anne Pauk, an ex-lesbian and wife of former ex-gay spokesman John Paulk, is a prominent author and speaker in the ex-gay movement. She and John were a featured couple in a massive national publicity campaign in 1998 on behalf of the ex-gay movement, a campaign that landed them on the cover of Newsweek. John Paulk was serving as chairman of the board of Exodus International from 1995 to 2000 when he was photographed by Wayne Besen while leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Despite the scandal, John Paul remained active in the ex-gay movement until 2003, when he left Focus On the Family and the couple resettled in Portland, Oregon and John started a catering business. Anne has continued to write books and lecture as an “ex-lesbian.”

David Kyle Foster operates Mastering Life Ministries, the television ministry behind Pure Passion, a television program broadcast on the Internet and several Christian television channels. Foster does not describe himself as ex-gay in particular, but instead points to his struggle “with a serious bondage to pornography and other sexually addictive behaviors” as his link to the ex-gay movement.

Stephen Black is the founder of Oklahoma City-based First Stone Ministry, another of the founding ministries of Exodus International in 1976. Has also been highly active in Exodus, including providing a workshop at Exodus’s annual conferences from 2008 to 2011. Black announced that his ministry officially resigned from Exodus in April, which is at about the same time of Comisky’s letter to Chambers. Further signs of Black and Comisky joining forces arose when Black announced that Comisky would be speaking at a church outside of Oklahoma City in an event sponsored and promoted by First Stone.

Ron Smith is now the director of New Hope Ministry and a member of San Rafael’s Church of the Open Door, another product of the Jesus Movement from the late 1960s. This church has a very longstanding history with the ex-gay movement going all the way back to its earliest days in the early 1970s. Frank Worthen founded New Hope as an outgrowth of the church’s “outreach” to gay people. Worthen’s ministry was one of the founding ministries of Exodus International back in 1976. Worthen also founded Love In Action, a residential ex-gay ministry which eventually became an independent organization and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where it now operates as Restoration Path. Since Wothen’s retirement from New Hope, Smith has assumed the duties as the ministry’s director. You can find Smith’s YouTube testimony here.

Jason Thompson heads Portland Fellowship, a former Exodus International ministry which had, for a while, a reputation for avoiding at least the appearance of some of the worst excesses of the ex-gay movement. Portland Fellowship had been an Exodus Member ministry since 1988 until last month, when Thompson announced that he was pulling his ministry out of the Exodus network and aligning it with the much more hard-line Restored Hope.

Exodus Board Member resigns over Alan Chambers acknowledging the possibility of gay Christians

Timothy Kincaid

September 10th, 2012

Exodus International, the organization for individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction and who seek to live according to a conservative Christian sexual ethic, is going through a period of upheaval. For the past year, Exodus President Alan Chambers has challenged many of the organization’s presumptions and assertions and has made some public statements that have upset long time members and affiliates.

Although these shifted opinions have been evolving over time, the organization has been, until recently, able to keep a united front. But this was, I believe, mostly a public image that did not reflect reality.

For many years Exodus has existed as an organization whose members and leaders made statements of faith and testimonies that were out of sync with their own personal experiences. But the policy of “standing on faith” received a shock when an Exodus Board Member took their “Jesus can heal you” message into the political climate of Uganda and helped trigger a bill that called for the execution of some gays and lesbians and played a role in the murder of a gay activist.

Adding to that shock was the publication of a study of Exodus by Wheaton Provost Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, head of Regent University’s mental health department. Jones and Yarhouse set out to prove that prayer and devotion could lead to a change in orientation, but their results were far from supportive. Ultimately they came to realize that none of their participants ever became what Yarhouse refered to as “a typical hetero male”.

This led, I believe, to some real soul searching. And there appeared to be three responses.

Some like John Smid dropped out of the movement and went on to live their lives with greater wisdom and greater acceptance. Some joined Alan on his journey of discovery and were part of the decision to disassociate from The Day of Truth, to disavow reparative therapy and drop reorientation expectations, and to change focus to becoming a support group for same-sex attracted Christians. And some doubled-down on their anti-gay positions, left Exodus, and formed the Restored Hope Network, a sort of pre-epiphany Exodus but meaner and more strident.

And there are, I suspect, a good many who just ducked their heads and focused on their local ministry and will wait to see where the chips end up.

The changes led by Alan were not the sort that matter to secular gays. Alan and Exodus, along with their detractors, still agree on quite a bit. Homosexual behavior is sinful. Same-sex attracted people should strive to live a holy life. God can and does empower people to overcome their desires and temptations and live in accordance with His will.

In fact, the areas of disagreement are narrow and distinct and a bit difficult to understand if one does not have familiarity with evangelical Christian teaching. They go to the heart of the two Christian themes (grace and obedience) are demonstrated in how each answers the following two closely related questions (and really, the order in which they are answered):

  • Can a person identify as gay and still be a Christian?
  • Does a person who experiences same-sex attraction have a moral obligation to strive to become heterosexual?

Although the first of these sounds like a “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy, the question really is more about whether a person can live in a state of grace in a life pleasing to God and yet identify with sinfulness.

Some believe (as Exodus once did) that while the Bible only prohibit homosexual behaviors, homosexuality itself is “sinful”. And if one identifies as gay, this means that one endorses, promotes, condones, and celebrates sin. And surely if one celebrates a sin as grievous and heinous as homosexual behaviors, one cannot know the heart of Christ or be a child of God.

Which leads to the obvious answer to the second question: yes, you must seek to distance yourself from sinfulness. To please God you must denounce what he calls sin and to pursue that which he calls holy. And, besides, to many of these people, heterosexual sex is a mystical and holy act (when between spouses) which pleases God. God wants for each of his children to become one with their opposite sex spouse and as this is (as obviously demonstrated by nature, God’s naturally given desire, and Scripture) God’s Plan for each of our lives, to refuse to move in that direction is an affront to the Almighty and an attack on Him and His people.

Alan, however, found a mirror and looked in it. And then he looked around him at the people who were trying mightily to please God. And he discovered that if it was God’s Plan for each same-sex attracted person to become the heterosexual that God wanted them to be, He had a funny way of showing it. Cuz no one was turning straight.

And Alan started saying so.

That didn’t sit at all well with those who think that to admit that reorientation doesn’t work is to deny God’s power and to quench the hope that strugglers have. It turns people away from God’s will and could lead to the destruction of their soul.

This is a very big deal, in Christian terms. When declarations of faith run headlong into objectively observable reality, sparks fly. And fly they did.

As penned by Christendom’s resident hot-headed hater, the statements of belief for the Reformed Hope Network insist:

Jesus Christ provides hope for transformation to broken sexual sinners. Jesus coupled a heightened ethical demand with a loving outreach to violators to lead them to repentance (Luke 7:36-50; John 4:4-30; 8:1-12). The grace of God offered in Jesus Christ is not merely a pardon for one’s sins but also an empowerment by the Spirit of Christ to a new life lived for God (Rom 6:14; 7:5-6; 8:12-14; Gal 2:19-20; 5:18; 2 Pet 1:2-4). For some, this transformation may take shape as a significant reduction of unwanted sexual desires. For others, it may mean the grace to live in obedience in spite of ongoing urges to do what God forbids. Either way, Paul gives believers assurance that those who “walk in the Spirit will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16-17, 24-25). “These things some of you were” (1 Cor 6:11).

But the real anger, the real fury, is saved for how Alan answers the other question.

Working in the other direction, Alan realized that reorientation wasn’t happening. And so logically, it can’t be what God is expecting. Therefore, what is he to make of those who don’t shoot for reorientation?

And when Alan actually met some of them, it was eye opening. They weren’t “trying to make up excuses for their sin” or “shaking their fists at God”. Some of them had a deep faith, a genuine devotion, and a life that reflected Christ. If Jesus said that we could detect those who followed him by their love, and if the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, well some of these people who identified as gay Christians seemed to be closer to the right path than some who revile them.

This led Alan to realize that if there are people who identify as gay but who also show a true righteous love and possess the fruits of the Spirit, then ipso facto there really must be gay Christians. He met some. And as for what they do about the Biblical prohibitions on sexuality, well that wasn’t Alan’s job to decide (and it didn’t hurt that some of them were living celibately).

And all hell broke loose.

The never measured Dr. Robert Gagnon trotted this out:

Far from Alan’s beliefs rising above the fray of competing theological versions, they are mired in an extreme, cult-like variation of “once saved, always saved” view. For Alan there are no immoral behaviors of any magnitude, number, or frequency that can call into question the veracity of someone’s claim to be a Christian, let alone justify a warning about possible loss of salvation. He has declared that “while behavior matters,” the lifestyles that we choose—including unrepentant, lifelong homosexual practice—“don’t interrupt someone’s relationship with Christ.” Christians don’t even need to confess their ongoing sins to God any longer. Indeed, to do so would be a big waste of time because we have already been forgiven by Jesus for every sin that we will ever commit.

While that isn’t too far from my own theology (having been set free from the Law of Sin and Consequences, I don’t have much use for lamenting my divergence from its minutia), as a description of Alan’s views, it’s simplistic at best.

Those familiar with Scripture might enjoy trotting down Gagnon’s road a while, just for the laugh. Truly, this man lifts verses out of their setting to give them a meaning that is often the very opposite of what message was trying to be conveyed by their authors (an accusation he, ironically, flings at Chambers).

But the point of contention is the “real” interpretation of the doctrine of eternal security.

To Alan, eternal security is a bit like this: If one accepts Christ as savior and has a relationship with Christ, he doesn’t lose the security of his salvation due to behaviors that might fall outside God’s will. God’s love is unconditional. If that person has a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will convict of that sin or error and draw the person back into line with God’s plan for their life.

To Gagnon, eternal security is this: God’s love most definitely does have conditions – lots of them – and if a person is a homosexual, that proves that he NEVER EVER had a real relationship with Christ. End of story, burn in hell.

Not exactly compatible theology. So, in a 35 page rant, Gagnon declared that Alan should be ousted from leadership (Oddly, Dr. Gagnon has never explained just why it is that he’s completely obsessed with homosexuality or why he speaks for ex-gay ministries…).

The response to Dr. Gagnon was penned by John Warren, the Treasurer of Exodus, who very sweetly and in a gentle way chides Gagnon for the attack:

Clearly Dr. Gagnon’s position on eternal security in Christ differs sharply from the views of Alan, Clark, and many others of us who believe that we are kept by the same grace of God that saves us. This doctrinal difference is important, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker or a reason to separate. The propagation of heresy is a reason to separate, and neither Alan nor Dr. Gagnon is guilty of espousing heretical positions of essential matters of the Christian faith. Dr. Gagnon is right to hate sin as God does. He is right to warn that the habitual, unrepentant practice of egregious sin is indicative of an unregenerate soul. But he is wrong in his accusation that Alan Chambers and Clark Whitten treat sin lightly or even excuse it because of their recent references to the beauty of God’s grace. For some reason he has decided to attempt to publicly call out these two men because he feels that they are soft on sin and its impact. I know these men personally, I have read Clark Whitten’s books, and I have listened carefully to Alan Chamber’s talks. I can assure Dr. Gagnon and anyone who shares his concerns that these men have a biblical view of sin and repentance, and they have each invested many years teaching a hurting world to turn from their sin in humble trust of Jesus Christ our Lord for salvation.

Gagnon, as he does with those whom he argues theology rather than scholarship, slapped back with a ad hominem attack piece on Alan, a Paulite defense of his works-based interpretation of security, and his usual Gagnonism.

But today we hear news that is a bit surprising. John Warren, Alan’s defender, has resigned over comments Alan made on Janet Mefferd’s radio show. As we discussed yesterday, Mefferd was insisting that a gay Christian is an absolute impossibility (and with tone and attitude that possessed no reflection of Christ whatsoever). (Christian Post)

It was just three weeks ago when John Warren, who stepped down Thursday as treasurer of the Exodus International Board of Directors, defended Chambers for his biblical view of sin and repentance. But he became troubled after a radio interview where Chambers was asked tough questions about his views on salvation and repentance.

“I believe that Alan Chambers is a good man with good intentions. It is his messaging that concerned me recently and prompted me to resign,” Warren told The Christian Post in an email Saturday. “Specifically, his interview this week on Janet Mefferd’s show concerned me deeply.”

Change is difficult. Challenges to long-held theological beliefs are especially difficult. Seeing your enemy in the Culture Was as a brother in Christ can be impossible for some. And when you have believed in the inherent evil of those who identify as gay for such a long time, even someone as amiable as Warren can find it shocking when they finally realize that you really do mean what you say, when you say that you’re leaving the salvation of others up to God.

Robert Gagnon capitulates to Nardelli

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2012

I love Dr. Robert Gagnon; I truly do. He delights me regularly.

I’ve never encountered someone so convinced of his theological and intellectual superiority, yet transparent in his lack of logic or consistent thought. Watching him jump through hoops to simultaneously believe completely contradictory teachings and seeing the steps he takes to try and support his positions leaves me laughing out loud.

But he’s disappointed me in his public dispute with Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, a classical philologist at l’Université de Provence. In July, we hosted a monograph by Nardelli in which he systematically illustrated that Gagnon’s assertions in his book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, were a bit, ahem, lacking:

The level of naivety, superficiality and incompetence in this section of his book, whether on matters technical 76 or on issues of interpretation 77, puts the other existing accounts of Mesopotamian homosexuality by fellow evangelicals (those in Wold, Out of Order. Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Grand Rapids, 1998, or Davidson) on a class apart, despite their insufficiencies linguistic and text-critical and their ideological shortcomings. Even if one eschews a comparison between Gagnon’s text and the best short survey at hand 78, his pages have no claim to be called a fair review of the Egyptian, Levantine and Assyro-Babylonian traces of male-male sex and affect 79. Was it really so difficult, for a biblical scholar untrained in the relevant languages but accustomed to juggling with Semitic documents and their huge critical literature, to reap the benefits of the best scholarship in the field and then proceed without compromising the indispensable awareness that even the most reasonable conclusions grounded in solid facts and arrived at by a sturdy-looking network of conjectures might be found, in the end, to be fallacious and not square really well with the evidence 80 ? The unpretending L’homosexualité dans le Proche-Orient ancien et la Bible by T. Römer and L. Bonjour (Geneva, 2005), pp. 13-35, 80-102, shows that it was no superhuman task, simply one which demanded care, modesty, the control of the limits, philological and anthropological, between which the sense is to be fought within the primary documents, and a strong sense of self-effacement. In the place of it, we are dealing with a scholar who holds his farthing candle to the sun, but remains silent whenever a difficulty unmapped in his sources crosses his path.

As has always been his habit, Gagnon responded without hesitation and sought to intimidate his opponent. His rather bizarre choice of attack was to obsess on the numbers of pages of each (a rather revelatory peek into his thinking which certainly helps explain his seemingly-endless ranting diatribes).

Nardelli obsesses on relatively minor points of the book, such as a ridiculous three-and-a-half page critique (pp. 9-12) of a three-sentence observation that I make about the Greek word epithumia (επιθυμία), “desire,” and another three pages (pp. 22-24) on a short paragraph in my book on Jesus’ use of the term raka in Matt 5:22 (and otherwise no discussion of a 43-page chapter of Jesus).

Gagnon (who often posts multi-part rebuttals) warned the reader that this was “In process as time and interest permits” and ends his mere 7 pages with “to be continued…”.

But after Nardelli clearly, in a detailed rejoinder, illustrated the extent to which Gagnon was lacking in adequate scholarship to undertake the debate, Gagnon became silent.

As day after day slid by, week after week passed, I marveled. I’ve never seen him hesitate for a moment to whip out 20 or 30 pages in response to the slightest criticism or imagined slight. And here he was allowing Nardelli’s words hold the place of final statement. Totally out of character.

But now it has become clear. Though he hasn’t found time or interest to address the latest round, he has found time and interest to (laughable) reconcile his position that gays are invariable condemned to hell and the doctrine of eternal security (but that’s left to perhaps a separate commentary).

Gagnon has moved on. His “to be continued…” must mean “… at some date so far distant that I hope no one recalls that I’ve been corrected and refuted by one who is better skilled and more principled.”

Gagnon has laid down his arms and retreated to fight on another front. So very sad. I could have used a chuckle.

Exodus’ dissenters latch onto Gagnon’s sad theology

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2012

The Restored Hope Network is a collection of ex-gay ministries that broke from Exodus International over it’s less strident, more truthful new approach. The new theology at Exodus is not only contrary to their past path, it’s unacceptable to some of the largest and oldest member ministries.

The Problem

The primary points of contention that the defectors have are:

  • it is inconceivable that a person can simultaneously acknowledge that one is gay and also be a follower of Christ; and
  • same-sex attracted people can be healed of their same-sex attraction and become opposite-sex attracted in precisely the same way that heterosexuals are.

I phrase these differently than they might because I want to illustrate their distinction from Exodus.

For example, a member of New Hope Network would likely say that God can work miracles; Exodus would agree. RHN might claim that immediate overnight change was never the goal; Exodus would agree. RHN might say that small changes are evident and that temptation can reduce over time; Exodus would agree. RHN could insist that a change in attitude can impact a person’s life and that an identity which is focused on Christ rather than on sexual attraction makes one a new creature and old things are passed away; Exodus would shout hallelujah and not detract from a single word.

But the real distinction is in what RHN will not put in words. Behind discussions of “hope” and “restoration” and “holiness” is one difference: Exodus no longer holds to any expectation that it’s members will become straight. And New Hope Network refuses to give up what they call the “hope” that they will.

And, to be very blunt, RHN knows full well that they aren’t becoming straight. That doesn’t take a seven year study by evangelical university professors; just a mirror. But that’s beside the point.

What RHN refuses to give up is the theological assumption that they must. In other words, while reality illustrates that no RHN members are now heterosexual, they believe that Scripture requires that they be so. And while failure to live up to Scripture is a given in Christian circles (and is, indeed, the notion behind “Grace”), failure to try is sinful.

But Exodus has not only given up trying to be straight, they have stated that there is no Biblical demand that they do so. They no longer see the mere act of existing as a same-sex attracted person to be contrary to God’s Will – provided that one live according to Scriptural demands about sexual expression. To RHN, that is heresy.

The Defectors and their Hero

Interestingly, the break is not necessarily along factional lines or even degree of animosity towards “the homosexual agenda”. These are not necessarily the ministries that have been the most hostile to gay people in the past.

For example, at the beginnings of the Uganda situation, I corresponded with Jason Thompson and he was willing (briefly and in a limited way) to try and intervene. He also clearly expressed that he had no interest in any anti-gay political efforts and seemed (at the time) to be supportive of change in Exodus. But, as he is the latest to leave Exodus, it’s clear that the change he sought was not in theology.

But, for me, the post perplexing of this shift is whom the defectors have latched onto as their voice on matters of faith: Robert Gagnon.

Those who read here regularly know that Gagnon is a man with an inflated ego (perhaps the single most arrogant person I’ve ever encountered), a fiery temper, a unquenchable thirst for demeaning others, and some beliefs that cause a sane person to scratch their head. He is so convinced of his conclusions that he is sloppy, inconsistent, and downright comical about getting there. He is the sort of Christian who finds Christ inconvenient and would prefer that it be Paul’s message that is paramount (except when Paul gets too soft on sinners at which point he simply creates a new meaning for the texts).

But despite his history of temper tantrums, name calling, and behavior that is anything but Christlike, it is to Rob Gagnon to whom the Restored Hope Network has turned. Actually, it is to Gagnon that they have given control.

The Board of Directors of this group consists of Stephen Black, Andrew and Annette Comiskey, Joe Dallas, David Kyle Foster, Michael Newman, Anne Paulk, Frank Worthen, and Dr. Robert Gagnon. The Board, in the future, will be elected by the members. Aaaaannnd, to be a member you must be unanimously voted in by the Board. Every year. That’s after you turn in a comprehensive application proving that you support the teachings of Gagnon, um, er, the Network.

Rather an exclusive group. Just like their theology.

A Sad Theology

I don’t pretend to be a theologian. I neither speak nor read Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, or any of the early languages in which doctrine was debated.

But I’m not absolutely devoid of any basic understanding of Christian teaching and I am capable of reading comparative translations enough to know when a claim is diametrically opposed to both the language and the spirit of Scripture. And, frankly, with Gagnon it really isn’t all that difficult. The absurdity of his positions never occur to him, and the Restored Hope theology is no exception.

Take for example, this opening declaration in the organization’s Statement of Basic Beliefs:

Salvation is a gift that cannot be merited by human deeds (Gal 2:21; Rom 3:24-25; 5:15-16; 6:23; Eph 2:8-9) but naturally and progressively produces obedience as a fruit of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 7:16-27; John 15:1-8; Gal 5:22-23). When believers succumb to sin, the kindness of God calls them to confession of sin and repentance (Luke 15:20; 17:3-4; Rom 2:4; 2 Cor 12:21; 1 John 1:8-10; Rev 2:5, 16).

The bracketing statements, while clearly representing the “God’s Gunna Get Ya” approach to the faith, are fairly standard positions of Christianity. But it’s that middle part that is something which is foreign to me. And I was raised with a whole heap of “God’s Gunna Get Ya”.

Taken as a whole, this reads like, “yeah, yeah, I know the Scripture says you can’t work your way to heaven, but if you are actually on your way to heaven then it will be evident in your strict obedience to the Law.” That’s not the new part. Where Gagnon leaps is in assigning to “obedience [to the Law]” the role of being a fruit of the Spirit.

But the “fruits of the Spirit” – the physical attributes that can be seen in the life of a person who is living in harmony with the Spirit of God – are already listed. And the list doesn’t include “obedience”. In fact, they are pretty much the opposite of “obeying a list of rules”. Galations 5 says:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

What the author of this section is saying – and saying without ambiguity – is that obeying the Law is not the point. You are free from the Law if you follow one commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. Not free to abuse each other, but free from a set of rules and laws because “love each other” handles every situation, even the ones not in the rulebook.

If you live according to your own selfishness (the flesh), you will exhibit hatred, manipulation (“witchcraft”), jealousy, rage, excesses, and an out of control life. But if you are living by the Spirit and loving your neighbor you will exhibit these fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (I dare say that if Christianity exhibited those seven attributes with regularity, few would have anything bad to say about the faith).

If you read that list again, you’ll notice that “obedience” isn’t there. One doesn’t live decently towards each other because the Law said to. Rather one lives decently towards each other because if you love then you don’t need the Law. It’s completed, it’s fulfilled, it’s superseded by love.

This is a beautiful passage for those who believe in love as the sole commandment. But anti-gays who ignore themes and leap at words are also fond of Galations. Lookie, it says that those who exhibit “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery” will not inherit the kingdom of God. And since they know (cuz they know, ya know?) that this means Teh HomoSEXshulls (see, it has the word “sex”, see? see?), they dance with glee that you, you degenerate, are gunna burn! And they can’t wait!

But if we approach the Scripture to see how it applies in our own life – not in how to use it as a tool against others – and we recognize that this phrase is presented as counter to “loving your neighbor”, then it ceases to be controversial or a weapon. We can all agree that sexuality that is abusive and manipulative and debauches ourselves and others is inappropriate and wrong. Whether using Christian morality or an atheist’s ethical code to “do no harm”, that’s not in debate. If we see the theme (love) and don’t focus on a few select words, it’s impossible to see this passage as a call to obey Levitical codes of social conduct.

There’s more – much more. His reference to John 15 is an example of exactly the same thing: if you follow Christ, others will know it because of your love, all distorted by Gagnon to mean “obey the rules in Leviticus”. But I don’t really need to take it on.

What Gagnon Contributes

This is enough to give a flavor of what Gagnon contributes to the organization: a basic underlying belief that actions and behaviors matter more than attitudes or how we treat each other. And nothing could be clearer than a deliberate misunderstanding of one of the strongest endorsements for a faith that rejects the codebook and the rigidity of Leviticus for a life of love and compassion for others. Gagnon erases the freedom found in the fulfillment of the Law into one law: “love each other”, and sees in its place a call to obedience to the minutia and dictates of a rulebook.

Perhaps, after all, it’s not that surprising that this is the theology that the ex-Exodans have adopted. If we all are free to seek morality and holiness in our lives in accordance with something so vague as “loving others”, that’s frightening. If, like Exodus, you find a sexual ethic that disallows same-sex behavior in your own life but you ever allow that others may find a different call, then how do you know you’re right?

And what if you’re wrong? What if you let someone believe that they can marry someone of the same sex and you don’t tell them that Gods Gunna Get Them? It’s not love to let them go to hell, you know. Love means convicting them of their sin and denouncing their heresy and condemning them of perversion and refusing to appease their desires to be treated like everyone else. (Ooop, scratch that last part, it’s too close to “love your neighbor as yourself” so I’m not going to think about this now. La la la la la, I have my fingers in my ears. And besides, IF I was an evil vile homosexual like you – which I’m not because I’m a struggler not a sinner – I’d WANT someone to take away my children and fire me from my job and throw me in jail and disrespect my marriage. And I’ll just keep telling myself that over and over, even though it is absurdly and obviously false.)

And what, even worse, if you begin to question just how loving your own faith is? OH NO!!! You might be so tempted to put love as more important than the details of Leviticus that YOU sin! And don’t know it! And then YOU burn forever because you loved too much!!

What a sad burdened theology. The freedom that the author of the letter to Galatians spoke about is the furthest from their faith. Freedom has too much responsibility: don’t tell me to love people, tell me what to do. In detail.

It’s a sad, bound up, restricted theology that treats its adherents as children, too immature to know how to behave in love so you have to give them rules.

It’s a religion for bureaucrats. Give me a rulebook. That way I don’t have to think, I don’t have to adapt, I don’t have to respond to circumstances but can just hide behind a rule.

And most of all, I don’t have to care.

Gagnon v. Nardelli, round two – something about dogs and Caravans

Timothy Kincaid

July 31st, 2012

A week ago we were privileged to host Robert Gagnon’s ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ Ten Years After. A Non-Theological Assessment, a scholarly treatment of Gagnon’s book by classicist Jean-Fabrice Nardelli.

As is consistent with his nature, Gagnon has immediately responded. And also typical, his rebuttal is a tirade of insults from the start: The Dogs Bark But the Caravan Moves On.

I’ll let Gagnon’s rebuttal stand on its own merit, real or imagined. But in reading his defense of his position an odd thing became apparent. Gagnon seems to genuinely believe that the merits of his argument are measured in the number of pages he produces. We’ve joked about this before but, as peculiar as it seems, he actually does seem to prioritize the quantity of pages over the quality of their content. For example:

Nardelli obsesses on relatively minor points of the book, such as a ridiculous three-and-a-half page critique (pp. 9-12) of a three-sentence observation that I make about the Greek word epithumia (επιθυμία), “desire,” and another three pages (pp. 22-24) on a short paragraph in my book on Jesus’ use of the term raka in Matt 5:22 (and otherwise no discussion of a 43-page chapter of Jesus).

What an odd little man the far-right has latched onto.

Nardelli has responded to Gagnon’s dog and caravan show with a rejoinder of his own. This is getting quite interesting.

Jean-Fabrice Nardelli: Rejoinder To Gagnon’s “The Dogs Bar But The Caravan Moves On, Part One” (PDF: 109KB/12 pages)

Gagnon’s ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ revisited

Timothy Kincaid

July 23rd, 2012

Jean-Fabrice Nardelli's "Robert Gagnon's 'The Bible and Homosexual Practice' Ten Years After. A Non-Theological Assessment" (Click to download. PDF: 474KB/40 pages)

Dr. Robert Gagnon, the anti-gay activists’ favorite theologian, has enjoyed the advantage of a second rate scholar: those who look to him to justify their prejudices accept his assertions with adoration while serious scholars have mostly ignored him.

Those who have challenged Gagnon have mostly done so from a theological approach. But Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, a classical philologist at l’Université de Provence, has determined that the time is right to take on Gagnon’s handling of the evidence and subject it to a scholarly review.

Nardelli’s published work focuses on Homer and the Ancient Near East (Le motif de la paire d’amis héroïques à prolongements homophiles. Perspectives odysséennes et proche-orientales, 2004 ; La diction épique en débat. Un commentaire linguistique d’Odyssée XXIV 205-412, 2006), literary anthropology of sexuality (Homosexuality and Liminality in the Gilgamesh and Samuel, 2007) and philological or historical fallacies in the fields of Classics, Bible and Assyriology (Aristarchus antibarbarus. Pseudologies mésopotamiennes, bibliques, classiques, 2012).

I very strongly recommend Nardelli’s monograph. While it is heavily notated, it is not dry, boring, nor above the head of those who lack an education in the classics or ancient languages.

Nardelli: Robert Gagnon’s ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ Ten Years After. A Non-Theological Assessment (PDF: 474KB/40 pages).

Rival Ex-Gay Group Forms to Challenge Exodus

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2012

Poster for the Restoring Hope conference in Sacramento (Click to enlarge).

Michael Bussee this morning alerted me to a new group that is forming to challenge Exodus International as the dominant ex-gay organization in Evangelical Christianity. Restored Hope Network has announced via Facebook and an Eventbrite page that there will be a weekend gathering in the Sacramento, California, area for a short conference called “Restoring Hope: Healing for the Sexually and Relationally Broken” on September 21 and 22. Three announced speakers include Robert Gagnon, Frank Worthen, and Andrew Comiskey, and the entire event is being billed as the “inaugural conference” for the nascent group. The conference is taking place at Sunrise Community Church, which sponsors HIS Ministry, one of eleven ex-gay ministries which has left Exodus International over the past few months.

The Facebook page, which indicates the group was founded on May 2, lists several important name as founding members of Restored Hope:

With the election of the forming committee in early May, the work to begin this new network began. The forming committee consists of Frank Worthen, Anne Paulk, Andy and Annette Comiskey, Dr. Robert Gagnon, Joe Dallas, Stephen Black, David Kyle Foster, and Michael Newman.

These names include some of the most prominent names of the ex-gay movement, and many of them have long historic ties to Exodus:

Frank Worthen’s New Hope Ministry was one of the founding ministries of Exodus International back in 1976. Worthen also founded Love In Action, a residential ex-gay ministry which eventually became an independent organization and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where it now operates as Restoration Path.

Anne Pauk, an ex-lesbian and wife of former ex-gay spokesman John Paulk, is a prominent author and speaker in the ex-gay movement. She and John were a featured couple in a massive national publicity campaign in 1998 on behalf of the ex-gay movement, a campaign that landed them on the cover of Newsweek. John Paulk was serving as chairman of the board of Exodus International from 1995 to 2000 when he was photographed by Wayne Besen while leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Despite the scandal, John Paul remained active in the ex-gay movement until 2003, when he left Focus On the Family and the couple resettled in Portland, Oregon and John started a catering business. Anne has continued to write books and lecture as an “ex-lesbian.” Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen has been told that the Paulks may have separated.

Andrew Comiskey has been a major player in Exodus International from its earliest days as an outgrowth of an early Southern California church movement known as the Vineyard. He once served as president at Exodus International, and his Desert Stream Ministries has been among the largest and most prominent ministries in the Exodus International network, and its popular Living Waters program is used by many ex-gay ministries throughout the world.  In April, Comiskey issued a letter to Exodus president Alan Chambers calling on him  to “continue to uphold change as a reasonable goal for Christians with (same-sex attraction).” Citing Chambers’s comments before the Gay Christian Network, Comiskey worried that “Alan’s comments about change unwittingly played into the enemy’s hands.”

Robert Gagnon’s association with the ex-gay movement has been somewhat less extensive, mainly focused in providing theological support. He spoke at a Wednesday morning plenary session at a 2009 Exodus annual conference in Wheaton, Illinois. He also provided two workshops at that conference, the first on homosexuality and the Bible, and the second on the church’s response to homosexuality. In late June,Gagnon wrote an exhausting 35-page response to Alan Chambers’s recent changes at Exodus, and he has emerged as one of the sharpest and loudest critics in the popular media of Chambers’s change of direction.

Joe Dallas may be the most surprising founding member of Restored Hope, although I suspected something was up when he was nowhere to be found at the Exodus conference this year in Minneapolis. (His wife, Rene Dallas, was there to provide workshops for spouses of “strugglers.”) He served as Exodus International president from 1991 to 1993. Dallas has spoken at every Exodus conference for the last five years that I’m able to track down, including during plenary sessions in 2011, 2010 and 2007. Dallas has also been a longtime speaker at the Love Won Out conferences.  Dallas’s Genesis Counseling is still listed as an Exodus member ministry.

Stephen Black is the founder of Oklahoma City-based First Stone Ministry, another of the founding ministries of Exodus International in 1976. Has also been highly active in Exodus, including providing a workshop at Exodus’s annual conferences from 2008 to 2011. Black announced that his ministry officially resigned from Exodus in April, which is at about the same time of Comisky’s letter to Chambers. Further signs of Black and Comisky joining forces arose when Black announced that Comisky would be speaking at a church outside of Oklahoma City in an event sponsored and promoted by First Stone.

David Kyle Foster operates Mastering Life Ministries, the television ministry behind Pure Passion, a television program broadcast on the internet and several Christian television channels. Foster does not describe himself as ex-gay in particular, but instead points to his struggle “with a serious bondage to pornography and other sexually addictive behaviors” as his link to the ex-gay movement.

Michael Newman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is founder of the Houston-based Christian Coalition for Reconciliation, “an educational, support, and discipling ministry for those struggling with homosexuality.” It is another former Exodus member ministry that withdrew from the network earlier this year.

The entire “Restoring Hope” theme of the new network is an apparent jab at Exodus International’s changes in message and focus over the last several months, beginning with Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment last January that, “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” His later repudiation of the particular type of counseling intended to change sexual orientation known as Reparative Therapy led to a further break from Exodus’s past. It also led to a break between Exodus and  nearly a dozen member ministries in Exodus’s network, notably including Comiskey’s Desert Streams Ministries and Worthen’s New Hope Ministries.

Introducing: The Gagnon Score

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2012

I’m an engineer by training, which means that I’m always looking for ways of measuring and quantifying things. So when I was putting together this post, the thought occurred to me that Robert Gagnon’s fabled method of responding to those with whom he disagrees just might be an instructive measurement. We can call it the Gagnon Score, which measures the reaction by at least one spokesman for established Evangelicalism to challenges to his beliefs. The Gagnon Score is measured in the number of pages he devotes to his response, and it goes like this:

When Alan Chambers renounced Reparative Therapy and Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) and said that gay people who are Christians can be as assured of salvation as anyone else who accepts Jesus as their savior, Gagnon’s response was 35 pages in length. This gives Alan Chambers a Gagnon Score of 35.

When Andrew Marin’s non-condemning outreach to Chicago’s gay community drew Gagnon’s ire, Marin earned a Gagnon Score of 24.

When BTB’s Timothy Kincaid questioned what he saw as Gagnon’s “unorthodox approach to doctrine,” He earned several successive scores: first, a measly 3, then a 15, then falling back to 5 before rising up to 19. Kincaid’s final Gagnon Score came in at an impressive 57.

Other examples: Prof. Lee Jefferson’s op-ed piece for the Huffington Post on the Bible and gay marriage scored a 10 on the Gagnon Scale. Dr. Jennifer Wright Knust’s piece on CNN’s Belief Blog on The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality registered a 9 on the Gagnon Scale. And the book Reasoning Together: A Conversation on Homosexuality by Mennonite theology professors Ted Grimsrud and Mark Thiessen Nation registered a 20 on the Gagnon Scale.

So far, I think Timothy is the champion, but Alan Chambers has come in at a respectable second place. So far. I have a feeling Gagnon isn’t finished with Chambers yet.

Update: If you’re going to introduce a new unit of measure, its important to be accurate. I had missed this 26 page response to Marin, which brings his total score up to 50. It’s seven points behind Timothy’s score but it does make for a very impressive second place. My apologies for the error.

NY Times and NPR on Exodus International’s Change in Direction

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2012

The New York Times describes the ex-gay movement as being convulsed by Exodus International president Alan Chambers turning away from Reparative Therapy and other forms of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). You can see some of those “convulsions” from NARTH’s David Pickup, who claims that “my homosexual feelings began to dissipate and attractions for women grew” as a result of Reparative Therapy. PFOX’s Greg Quinlan plays armchair psychologist and says, “I think Mr. Chambers is tired of his own personal struggles, so he’s making excuses for them by making sweeping generalizations about others.”

And from a theological standpoint, Robert Gagnon has come forward to denounce Chambers’s move. And you can always tell when Gagnon gets upset that others don’t recognize the sheer genius of his theological insights. (Right Timothy?) He countered Chambers’s move with a 35-page response (PDF: 729KB/35 pages!). I’ll let you read it. Chambers himself hasn’t responded, but in the broken-clock-is-still-right-twice-a-day category, I’ll suggest you look at how Exodus former VP Randy Thomas reacts. I’ve had plenty of disagreements with Thomas on a number of things, but I’ve always enjoyed his wit. He’s in fine form today.

Gagnon’s irritation with Exodus is not insignificant. It was only a year ago when Gagnon gave a Wednesday morning plenary talk at the Exodus conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, followed by two workshops. It was his first time spelling at Exodus, and I’m guessing it will probably be his last.

NPR’s All Things Considered also featured a story in Exodus International yesterday. You can find audio and a write-up here. In this interview, Chambers talks about another of the many reasons for his change in emphasis: “I believe we’ve been hypocritical. I believe that we have looked at the issue of same-sex attraction differently than we look at anything else.” He expanded on this theme during his opening night plenary talk at the Exodus Conference, and it became an interesting topic for an informal Q&A the next day, which I will talk more about next week.

My very short take-away from my own first-hand experience at the conference is this: There really are significant changes afoot at Exodus. And having looked around and engaged in some rather significant conversations in St. Paul, I have come to the conclusion that change is possible at Exodus. But it has been neither instantaneous nor complete. And if it does come about, it will only be after a very long struggle.

Jackson County, MI, turns human resources over to Crystal Dixon

Timothy Kincaid

March 30th, 2011

On April 4, 2008, Michael Miller, the editor of the Toledo Free Press, wrote an editorial in which he declared his affiliation with and affection for the community of gay people in his life. He expressed his difficulty in understanding anti-gay prejudice and the motivations behind those who advocate for discrimination.

Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.

It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple.

Miller lamented that his home state of Ohio was behind the curve in recognizing the equality of its gay residents. As an illustration on how gay Ohioans can be subjected to casual and careless inequality and indignity, he discussed a local situation.

The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.

Miller’s criticism did not sit well with Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo. So on April 18, the Free Press printed Dixon’s rebuttal and allowed her to set the record straight.

But the Free Press’ implied criticism of the administration was not her concern. No, Dixon was furious that Miller dared to suggest that the struggle for equality for gay people had anything in common with the struggle for equality endured by African-Americans. How dare he compare her to one of them.

As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few.

Her letter went on to express her belief that Jesus Christ hates homosexuality, to accuse gay people of violating God’s divine order, to complain that “economic data” proved that gay men who have degrees make more money than a non-college educated black male, and to declare that it was “misleading” to note that gay employees were categorically denied benefits when ALL employees of the two schools have “different benefit plans.”

To say that this was an embarrassment for the University of Toledo would be an understatement. Not only did her actions threaten her department’s employment negotiation possibilities, but it put the entire university in a disadvantage. When considering their options, few prospective college students consider anti-gay advocacy to be a selling point.

So on May 2, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, wrote an op-ed to assure the public that the school does not engage in anti-gay hiring practices, that Dixon’s comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo”, and that he had personally lobbied the legislature in favor of domestic-partner recognition. He also corrected the impression that Dixon gave about the university’s position on the denial of benefits.

As regards the continued asymmetry of benefits packages across the campuses of this university, do understand that we are fully aware that asymmetry that Michael S. Miller spoke of does exist and are working as rapidly as we can to correct this asymmetry. When this asymmetry is corrected, the solution will be reflective of the university value statements above.

And with a cryptic reference to taking action to “more fully align our utterances and actions” with the values he expressed, Dr. Jacobs hinted that Dixon might best update her resume. And, indeed, on the 8th, noting that “personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk”, the University notified her that she had been terminated.

Naturally, letters flooded in to the editor. Those offended by Dixon’s views tended towards relatively polite exclamations of consternation and little lectures on equality and civil rights. Those angry at Dixon’s discontinued employment included accusations of fascism combined with a healthy dose of religious entitlement and no small amount of homophobia.

Dixon retained the Catholic advocacy law firm, Thomas Moore Law Center, and announced her intention to sue the university for violating her First Amendment rights. And World Net Daily, never one to let a loon go unchampioned, took up her causeRush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family presented Dixon as a martyr, a victim of liberal godlessness
and soon Crystal Dixon was the darling of the anti-gay industry.

Even wackadoodlery’s favorite theologian, Dr. Robert Gagnon, rushed to get a little attention from the controversy. In an open letter to the university full of axiomatic declarations about the obviousness of heterosexuality and amusing assumptions about gay relationships (lesbians have “markedly shorter durations of sexual unions on average, even relative to homosexual males”), he declared that “the closest parallels to adult-committed homosexual relations is not ethnicity or gender but rather adult-committed incestuous unions and adult-committed polysexual unions”.

Gagnon decried the school’s “full affirmation of homosexual activity” and bemoaned the “environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality”. To not sing Dixon’s praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction was, Gagnon declared, a sign of their intolerance. (One thing you have to say about Robert Gagnon, he never lets logic or consistency dissuade him from the certainty of his presumptions.)

In December 2008, Dixon made good on her threat to sue. But after that her trail goes a bit cold. Thomas Moore Law Center waved her flag a bit in their rundraising efforts, but I’m not sure whether her case was heard or if the school settled.

But, meanwhile, Crystal made good use of her down time. She wrote a book, Destiny’s Time, which is either “A New Novel!” or a guide to turning your “God-given talents and passions” into “viable businesses as well as enhancing job readiness skills!” Or perhaps both.

And she also started a company to sell shoe laces (with the catchy slogan “keeps shoes tied”) and a consulting frim which offers not only business advice but opportunities such as


1.You pre-buy paper-back books directly from the author at a discounted rate of $7.50 each and then you sell each book for $11 (includes tax) to your customers. And/or you can pre-buy audio books on CD at the discounted rate of $12.50 each and then you sell each audio book for $20. YOU KEEP all monies from books you sell and you have books to sell on the spot! (Minimum of 5 books for consultant purchases).

2. With your sales, you automatically recoup your $7.50 investment and also earn a 47% ($3.50) profit on each paper-back book you sell! For audio books, you earn at 66% ($7.50) profit on each book you sell. Share the books at your convenience!

(The third great way to earn extra income appears to be a secret.)

However, it looks like Ms. Dixon may now be returning from private enterprise to the governmental sector work force. The county and city of Jackson, Michigan, have decided to consolidate their human relations departments and place them under one director’s control. And they have decided that Crystal Dixon, at a salary of $87,030, is the right person for this role.

Noting that Dixon has spent the past three years “working as a human resources and business consultant”, the Interim County Administrator praised her ability to “wear many hats and switch her leadership style based on where she is.” (

Interim county Administrator Adam Brown said Dixon’s level of experience and professionalism put her “head and shoulders” above other candidates.

It’s tempting to think that if the County representatives are that stupid then they deserve what they get. But there is a bigger issue at stake; Crystal Dixon has been given authority over the livelihood of any gay people that work for the county and city of Jackson.

And while Dixon is certainly entitled to her views about matters of faith, homosexuality, choice, and civil rights, if she is incapable or unwilling to set aside those views, this will undoubtedly result in a culture – and perhaps even policy – of anti-gay discrimination.

And, even before three years of receiving accolades for her anti-gay advocacy, Dixon left little doubt as to whether she considers employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be objectionable. She does not. She considers it a divine mandate.

Looking back to where it started, before Dixon was the champion of God, family, and decency, she was a woman responding to a newspaper editor’s call for equal compensation for gay employees. And it was in the context of this right that Dixon countered:

There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.

In April 2008, Crystal Dixon endorsed anti-gay discrimination, saying, “one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.” Having now been confirmed in her beliefs by the city and county of Jackson, there is little doubt that she will see this as God anointing her to mete out those outcomes.

Andrew Marin Has A New Boyfriend

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2010
Robert Gagnon

Robert Gagnon

And it’s none other than Prof. Rob Gagnon of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Gagnon has a serious obsession problem and way too much time on his hands. We’ve seen his obsessive behavior before when he decided to take on BTB’s Timothy Kincaid. Now Gagnon has Andrew Marin, who sees himself as a bridge between the evangelical and LGBT communities, in his anal-retentive grasp. And as we’ve seen before, once he has his sights set on someone, he just can’t let go. And, as they say, hilarity inevitably ensues.

A few weeks ago, Marin’s outreach ministry was featured on a CBN report. I haven’t seen it, but I hear is a pretty non-critical view of Marin’s mission to reach out to the LGBT community in Chicago. Non-critical in the sense that, like Marin, the CBN report refrained from the usual polemics against gay people. Gagnon was severely put off by it, and wrote a 24-page report — that’s right, twenty four pages that were only labeled as part 1criticizing Marin’s ministry (PDF: 172 KB/24 freakin’ pages!) and Marin’s book, Love Is An Orientation. In an email to RenewAmerica’s Matt Abbott, Gagnon revealed what got him so spun up:

“I have written extensively on homosexual practice for a decade now, with two academic books published and many scholarly articles and articles for a general audience. I’m widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on the subject, certainly from a ‘traditional’ (i.e. scriptural) perspective. Yet CBN never asked me for a comment on Marin’s work, much less ever devoted an article on my work.” [Emphasis mine]

We’ve noticed this before. Gagnon really hates it when nobody recognizes him as “the world’s leading authority.” When Gagnon thinks somebody somewhere on the planet hasn’t discovered his obviously superior scholarship and omniprescient insights, he runs to the keyboard to pound out another unreadable tome to demand the world’s awe. Two years ago, when BTB’s Timothy Kincaid dared to question what he saw as Gagnon’s “unorthodox approach to doctrine,” Gagnon responded with a 3-page rant, followed by a 15-page rant. When that didn’t provoke Kincaid to fall on his knees and beg Gagnon’s forgiveness for failing to see his utter genius, Gagnon responded with a two parterat 5 pages and 19 pages respectively. When that failed to impress, Gagnon kept going, but we stopped counting the pages. Don’t worry, Gagnon didn’t. He compiled them all into one big file that topped out at 57 pages by the time we were done.

All of this was over a handful of blog posts. Andrew Marin wrote a book!

Seriously, is this what the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary pays him to do?

So anyway, having dropped Timothy a few years ago, Gagnon has found himself a new object for his affections. His original 24-page rant against Marin — and remember, that one was just Part 1! — is now followed by another 26-page rant (PDF: 152KB/26 pages! Sheesh!) dedicated to Marin’s very brief response to Part 1.

When Timothy decided to pull the plug on Gagnon, he summed it up this way:

Robert Gagnon doesn’t like to be challenged.

Perhaps that’s true of all of us. But Gagnon REALLY doesn’t like to be challenged, to the point where questioning his rather peculiar logic drives him to excesses of hyperbole and obsessive argumentativeness. This stuff just has to be read to be believed.

So Andrew, don’t let it go to your head. He does this with everybody.

Convicted Wall Street Felon To Speak At Peter LaBarbera’s “Truth Academy”

Jim Burroway

August 4th, 2010

Peter LaBarbera’s so-called “Truth Academy,” which kicks off tomorrow, has an interesting lineup of characters. Among the invited speakers is Arthur Goldberg, of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing — and what is an alternative to healing exactly? An alternative to something is something other than that something and not including that something, isn’t it? Okay, I digress).

In 1989 Goldberg was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government. The conspiracy, in which he engineered a phony bond and investment scheme, netted him nearly $11 million in illegal fees. U.S. Attorney William O’Connor told the court at his sentencing that Goldberg’s crime was “a fraud of spectacular scope.”

More recently, one of JONAH’s  so-called “life coaches” was accused by two former clients of inappropriate sexual misconduct. Alan Downing, described as a lead therapist for JONAH and who is himself a so-called “former homosexual” who admits he is still attracted to men, essentially instructed his clients through a sort of strip tease as part of their so-called “therapy.” Alternatives to healing indeed.

Speaking of frauds of spectacular scope, another speaker at LaBarbera’s little confab is Cliff Kincaid, of “Accuracy in Media.” Kincaid has vigorously defended Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would impose the death penalty on LGBT people under certain circumstances, and would criminalize any one else knowing or providing services to gay people.

Other speakers include Robert Knight, Coral Ridge Ministries; Ryan Sorba, Young Conservatives of California; Prof. Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School; Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel; Laurie Higgins, Illinois Family Institute; and Greg Quinlan, Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays.

Timothy Kincaid has a great rundown of the other speakers here.

Learn to be a Wackadoodle

Timothy Kincaid

June 9th, 2010

It looks like Peter LaBarbera is seeking to put more seats in his Wackadoodle Express and he’s looking for fresh young bodies to fill them. Yes, the Peter has started a “school” and is now out recruiting children.

We’re delighted to announce the debut of our ongoing “Americans For Truth Academy,” designed to train young people (as well as older pro-family advocates) how to answer “gay” activist misinformation and fight the homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.

And from the folks he’s lined up as “teachers”, it’s clearly a Wackadoodle School:

  • Robert Knight, Coral Ridge Ministries
  • Peter LaBarbera, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality
  • Ryan Sorba, Young Conservatives of California
  • Prof. Robert Gagnon, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
  • Prof. Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School
  • Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel
  • Laurie Higgins, Illinois Family Institute
  • Greg Quinlan, Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays

I could not have hand-picked a more extreme group than this one. Wackadoodles, one and all. But don’t get your hopes up, this is a double triple super secret Wackadoodle School.

Prospective attendees will need to be approved with references; this is not open to pro-homosexual activists but only to those who share AFTAH’s belief that homosexuality is immoral and that the GLBT movement is destructive to America and a direct threat to our religious freedom.

And what will they learn?

I know it’s all secret-secret, but I’ve taken the liberty of imagining a syllabus.

Robert Knight may open off by sharing that Matthew Shepard is burning in Hell and then may go on to quote a little of Paul Cameron’s work before defending racist and homophobic violence.

Matt Barber will teach them that homosexuality is one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it love. And Laurie Higgins will tell the kiddies that it is their Christian duty to support the culture of disapproval and condemnation towards their gay classmates.

Robert Gagnon will provide the scholarly religious perspective by insisting that because the gospels are actually a retelling of an earlier writing, therefore the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “pais” was actually a Jewish administrator asking about his son… but any Scripture that might possibly condemn homosexuality is to be taken literally and applied as condemnation of today’s gay and lesbian community. (Students may not wish to sit in the front, Gagnon is inclined to angry ranting.)

Next Greg Quinlan will give a personal touch by telling how he once was a homosexual but now he is a very heterosexual man who out of Christian conviction is living celibately since his wife divorced him. And Ryan Sorba will support him by declaring that reparative therapy is a proven success, regardless of what pro-sodomy activists say. Quinlan may also spend some time arguing that ex-gay is an orientation and that Disneyland is the devil’s playground. (Students are advised not to ask questions to either of these presenters as they might incite confrontation and claim martyrdom.)

Finally Rena Lindevaldsen will give you secret tips on how kidnap the children of militant gay activists and flee the country to South America – all without a job or speaking Spanish – so as to make sure those children have a stable normal life.

And before breaking at the end of the weekend to return to fight the good fight, Peter LaBarbera will announce the much anticipated 2009 Grinch Award winners, followed by an exciting slide show of sodomites in action. This will have much nudity and will emphasize kink and S/M so it should be very stirring and uplifting. LaBarbera will be on hand to model the leatherman outfits he uses to infiltrate sex parties and to discuss in detail the exact mechanics of specific sexual acts for a select few; be sure to apply for this very special presentation.

Gagnon Rants On And On

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2008

gagnon.jpgRobert Gagnon doesn’t like to be challenged.

Perhaps that’s true of all of us. But Gagnon REALLY doesn’t like to be challenged, to the point where questioning his rather peculiar logic drives him to excesses of hyperbole and obsessive argumentativeness. This stuff just has to be read to be believed.

I’m not going to spend time on the substance of his latest postings (I didn’t find much). Mostly he makes wild declaration about what I “say” or rambles on and on repeating the unconvincing circular thinking and talking points he’s posted at least twice before, peppered with invective and denunciation. It’s kinda sad, really, but also very very funny.

Here are a few tidbits from Gagnon’s latest over-the-top “series of articles” refuting Box Turtle Kincaid:

First, here’s a selection from Box Turtle Kincaid’s Failure to Address Arguments on the Heidelberg Catechism and the Centurion Story (pdf, 8 pages).

Box Turtle Kincaid Grow Nastier as His Inability to Defend Rationally His Remarks Rises

His favorite word to describe detailed, reasoned responses to his numerous fallacies in argumentation is “rant” (translation: Kincaid feels overwhelmed by the number of rational arguments posed against him). My “jargonistic language,” which is nothing more than the normal language that scholars use for discussing historical-critical issues, upsets him (translation: Kincaid feels like he is out of his league).

Perhaps Dr. Gagnon truly believes that scholars use his imaginary term “homosexualist”. However, for the sake of his mental heath, I truly hope not.

And if you liked that, you have to read the opening sentences of Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Attack with All Heat, No Light on the New “Authoritative Interpretation” (pdf, 7 pages):

In his new tirade (“Gagnon Revisited,” Aug. 10, 2008), Box Turtle Timothy Kincaid continues to respond in anger and fear, as evidenced by regular snide and hateful remarks, but with precious little rational thought. He apparently believes that, when it comes to facts, it is better to stick his head in the shell and (here unlike the quiet box turtle) scream from the shell.

And I am not kidding you that he closes this same piece with:

It is such a shame that Kincaid even now continues his pattern of misrepresenting arguments and evidence, leaving out crucial information for readers, making logical missteps, taking unprincipled positions, and spewing out angry snide remarks and ad hominem attacks. The level of personal culpability for deception and hatred on his part grows as the evidence against his position mounts.

All I can say is, “Wow”.

I’m sure that Gagnon genuinely thinks that his arguments are going to sway the Presbyterian court and that literalists are going to delight to discover that the story of the Roman Centurian was not at all as Scripture reports it. But even if one were inclined to agree with him, who wants the theologian in their corner to be this guy?

At this point I think I’ll put Robert Gagnon in the same category as LaBarbera, Barber, Marcavage and Hartline and not further comment on his blog-rants. Some folks are just beyond the pale.


It must be a slow time in Dr. Gagnon’s life. He’s now updated his blog combining all six of his commentaries (57 pages) under one heading and added the following sidebar:

The mean-spirited homosexualist website,, is aptly named, for the box turtle is easily confused and frightened by reality (though I don’t attribute meanness to the poor box turtle). A main writer for the site, Timothy Kincaid, underscores his own difficulties with logic, truth, and civil discourse in his multiple caustic postings regarding me. The more that I show, through rational argument, that his claims are baseless, the more he lashes out with bitter ad hominem attacks, referring falsely to my alleged “anti-gay bigotry,” “frothing indignation,” “homophobic rants,” “laughable proclamations,” “pomposity,” “tortured logic,” “wacky way of thinking,” “wild presumptions,” and “blatherings on.” In puerile fashion he asks where I went “to grammar school,” and what “junior high writing class” I had. Then he whines that he is a victim of “personal insults and hostility” simply because I patiently show why every one of his claims is without merit. Remarkable stuff.

Alas poor Dr. Gagnon. He doesn’t read any more carefully than he reasons or he’d know that I’ve never mentioned his “anti-gay bigotry” or his own “homophobic rants”.

And I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at how he patiently shows how every one of my claims is without merit. Oh, he’s a regular Job, he is.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism

Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

gagnon.jpgSomehow it appears that I’ve gotten into a blog battle with anti-gay theologian Dr. Robert Gagnon. The amusement with which I’ve approached his often-wacky proclamations has not sat well with the good doctor and he’s seen fit to fling back adjectives and hyperbole in response.

And, like so very many of the anti-gays, he doesn’t read carefully, makes wild assumptions, and lashes out indiscriminately. It almost makes you wonder if Gagnon had the same Junior High writing class as Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, and James Hartline.

In Box Turtle Kincaid Peddles Distorted Orthodoxy Test While Promoting Immorality, Gagnon takes great offense over my commentary questioning his propensity to finding words on a page that appear not have been written there. In fact, he felt compelled to answer in two volumes.

Part 1: The Problem with the Call for Retranslating the Heidelberg Catechism (“PDF version with proper pagination and format”, 5 pages) deals with the issue of a Catechism which some in the church wish to have revised back to its original wording. Because the additions (in 1962, I believe) condemn “homosexual perversion”, Gagnon isn’t about to let it go without a whine.

His reasons, while way too lengthy and numerous to discuss, are worth reading if you appreciate pomposity and self importance. Some are quite comical. For example: “Changing any text in the PCUSA Book of Confessions is a time-consuming (and costly) process” and the only reason for revisiting the translation is “a less-than-fully-honest homosexualist agenda”. And, my favorite, the reasons the German Catechism didn’t have “homosexual perversion” in it originally was because “it would scandalize children.”

But for pure comedy sake, Part 1 doesn’t even hold a candle to Part 2: Jesus’ Distance Healing of an Official’s “Boy” and Kincaid’s Bogus Charge of My “Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine”.

In this 19 page rant, Gagnon repeats all the reasons why it is simply impossible that the “homosexualists” could possibly have a correct understanding of the story about Jesus healing the servant (or slave) of the Roman Centurion. And to do so Gagnon lays out again his supposition that the Roman Centurion was neither Roman nor Centurion and the story is about a Jewish civic official and his son.

As in my original post, i do not make any assumptions about the historicity of the Biblical tale (a fact which avoided Gagnon’s notice). I have no notion as to whether the individual under discussion was Jewish or Roman, civic or military, or whether the suffering one was a slave, a lover, or a son. I even allow for the possibility that the tale is allegorical in nature and does not seek to accurately record a historical occurance.

But I do know at least a bit about the two warring schools of thought in Christianity. And I know that Gagnon pitches his tent with those who see Scripture in terms of sin, condemnation, judgment and wrath.

And I also know that the others in that camp are not much impressed by claims that the words of the Bible are in error. I’ve sat through too many sermons which included statements like, “Jesus told the woman at the well to go and sin no more. He didn’t tell her sin sometimes, or only when she wanted, but the word of God says SIN NO MORE. Can I get an amen?”

If the Bible says that Jesus healed the servant of a Roman Centurion, then by golly He did. The Bible said it, they believe it, and that settles it.

So I repeat what I said back in June:

I think that Gagnon is taking steps that ultimately will not prove to be beneficial to those who seek to use him as an anti-gay source. His desire to read what isn’t there and to ignore what is present will not sit well with those who insist on a literalist interpretation of Scripture.

I don’t much care whether Gagnon lists 12 reasons why he thinks Jesus wouldn’t be running with the homosexualists (or homosexualistarians or any other sneer word he wants to create). And while I find his assumptions to be laughable, I’m not going to spend time trying to refute him.

Instead I’ll just provide you with just one of Gagnon’s many wacky statements, one which I think tells us what he’s all about. Although Gagnon seems to conflate Jim and me into one, he does find on the site those whom he seems to consider to be his intellectual equals, those with whom he finds common cause, allies and buddies one might say:

Actually his treatment of me, disrespectful and distorted as it is, is one of Kincaid’s “kinder and gentler” moments. Elsewhere (here I peruse only a few of his articles) we encounter such descriptions as “paranoid,” “incoherent,” “nutbaggery,” “frothing lunacy,” “lunatic ranting,” and “despicable coward.” He calls Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth “Porno Pete” and Matt Barber, Director for Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel, as “Bam Bam.”

Sally Kern. Orson Scott Card. Matt “Bam Bam” Barber (his boxing name). Peter La Barbera.

And Robert Gagnon.

(and just where did they all go to grammar school?)

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Gagnon Revisited

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

gagnon.jpgSince I last expressed my opinions about the flaws in his logic, Dr. Robert Gagnon has devoted nearly 40 pages to refuting “Box Turtle Kincaid”. Sadly, the more he writes, the less I find him to be of principled, thoughtful, reasoning intellect.

In Why Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Be Logic-Challenged and Now Also Principle-Challenged (pdf 15 pages), Gagnon continues the debate over whether his or not his logic was tortured when he offered his proclamation that the high court of the Presbyterian Church USA could and should continue to rule that ordinations of gay persons cannot occur .

Gagnon rightly notes that I quoted the wrong item in my last piece. I referred not to the Authoritative Interpretation from 2008 but to an Advisory Opinion from 2006. That truly is embarrassing. Gagnon believes this mistake says something about my credibility.

The correct full text of the Authoritative Opinion is

“The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 to apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate’s inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments).”

But while I did use the 2006 opinion to bolster my claim, it was not essential to my argument. My premise is that the General Assembly approved this Opinion as an effort to correct the court’s determination and to allow for gay ordination. It allowed a gay applicant to conscientiously object (the practice of scrupling) to the fidelity and chastity standard and for the board to consider such an applicant for ordination.

Or as Jerry L. Van Marter, in an article on the PCUSA website put it:

The authoritative interpretation reaffirms the scrupling practice affirmed by the 217th General Assembly … and effectively overturns a recent General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruling — Bush vs. Presbytery of Pittsburgh — that G-6.0106b, the commonly called “fidelity and chastity” ordination standard, cannot be scrupled.

I continue to contend that returning to the court and saying, “you can and should override the General Assembly and its clear intent” because of technicalities of language (ie loopholes) is notion unlikely to succeed.

Gagnon explains at great length why he disagrees. I keep trying to shortcut Dr. Gagnon’s convoluted arguments, which seems only to drive him to rage. But at the risk of yet another screed, this seems to be his logic:

  • When the A.I. says “apply equally” it doesn’t really mean equally because some requirements are essential.
  • And because it is the function of ordaining bodies to ordain those in agreement with the Book of Order, ordaining gay candidates would be a violation of the function of the bodies which would invalidate their ability to perform their function. Therefore these ordaining bodies themselves become invalid.

And if that doesn’t adequately paraphrase Gagnon’s mysterious loophole, I give up. It is, to my view, far too tortured a treatment of language and logic to make sense to anyone who isn’t looking for some peculiar view that conforms to their presumptions. Those interested in determining for themselves whether Gagnon is making clear, logical, persuasive arguments can read for themselves.

It also seems to me that the General Assembly of the PCUSA has rejected Gagnon’s peculiar notions. He wrote a long piece sharing just this same logic with the world after the A.I. was prepared for presentation and, as best I can tell, both the pro and the anti side responded with a resounding yawn.

Next Gagnon tries to argue that the General Assembly didn’t express its intent.

Although gay ordination was the hottest and most contested issue, and although the measure passed with 54% of the vote, he asks, “How do I know how each and every member of the General Assembly interpreted the words of the 2008 A.I.”

Instead he presents a picture of a body of “confused commissioners” unsure what they were voting on (I envision British comedy with elderly half-deaf clerics yelling into each other’s ear-horn, “what did he say? HomoWHATualists”). As evidence of this confusion, Gagnon shares

When I made the observation to the committee that approving this overture would mean that there would no longer be any identifiable churchwide essentials for ordination, not even for faith in Christ or fidelity in marriage, I got many puzzled and confused looks.

Yes. I have no doubt that he did.

While I have never attended the PCUSA General Assembly, I have attended a great many conventions. And I know that on significant and major issues those who may not understand the complexities of wording turn to those with whom they find alliance. I sincerely doubt that you could find anyone voting who was not aware of that this vote would allow local bodies to ordain gay applicants.

That Gagnon is willing to pretend otherwise suggests to me that he is either deceptive or seeking to delude himself. Which is really rather sad.

In his Point IV, he goes on to tell us why he thinks that I’m principle-challenged. In short, it’s because I criticize him for looking for loopholes in the Authoritative Interpretation while I employ the practice of looking for loopholes through technicalities when it serves my “homosexualist interest” (He doesn’t provide any actual examples of my doing so.)

This argument quickly morphs into an assertion that if I were to be principled, I would have to insist on supporting Gagnon’s view – a bit of a presumptuous definition of “principled”, I think. It’s all a little silly and a little sad so I’ll just let the reader decide whether my “overall argument here is unprincipled”.

And I will let history decide whether the PCUSA’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission will say, “Lookie there, Gagnon’s long-winded rant about essentials overrides the clear intent of the General Assembly”. But I sincerely doubt it.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

My Very Favorite Gagnonism

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

In Robert Gagnon’s latest condemnation of me, Box Turtle Bulletin, and all the “homosexualists” that comment here, he selects a passage from the book of Matthew to illustrate why “the ‘historical Jesus’ would have opposed homosexual practice”.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

You may have heard of Matthew 7:1-6. You may even have thought it was about acceptance and tolerance and withholding judgment of others. Well not according to Gagnon:

Jesus’ saying about not giving what is “holy” to the “dogs” (Matt 7:6), an apparent allusion to Deuteronomic law (Deut 23:17-18) and texts in 1-2 Kings that indict the qedeshim, self-designated “holy ones” identified as “dogs” for their attempt to erase their masculinity by serving as the passive-receptive partners in man-male intercourse.

I kid you not! Robert Gagnon believes the text on not judging is really a condemnation of bottom boys.

But I guess the good news is that Jesus loves tops.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2008

gagnon.jpgFirst a little background

The Presbyterian Church (USA), like many mainline churches, struggles with its approach to gay and lesbian parishioners. The denomination, on a whole, is fairly welcoming of gay and lesbian Christians but is sharply divided about allowing them to have positions of leadership.

The most vocal activist against gay persons in the church is Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Gagnon has written extensively – and creatively – about how Scripture supports his theological presumptions about gay persons.

Earlier this year the church’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that local ordaining bodies must adhere to standards of fidelity and chastity in considering ordination thereby banning ordination of gay persons.

But in June the General Assembly met and one of the contentious issues addressed was homosexual ordination. Those who support full inclusion of gay persons in the life of the church won a number of issues including a deletion of the language that bans gay clergy. And, because a change in language requires ratification of the presbyteries, in the meanwhile the Assembly provided a reinterpretation of a provision of the Book of Order dealing with ordination.

Gagnon, fresh off the loss, declared that the intention and direction of the General Assembly could be ignored. Relying on a Christian Post article that reported his contention, I interpreted Gagnon’s argument as follows:

Not liking the vote at the General Assembly, Gagnon has decided that it doesn’t really have to be recognized. Because the vote guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly, Gagnon thinks he’s found a loophole.

… Gagnon thinks that the church’s judicial commission can reverse the decision of the General Assembly.

Gagnon’s Response

Dr. Gagnon did not agree with my assessment of his position and wrote a rebuttal on his website (pdf) entitled, Is Box Turtle Kinkaid Logic-Challenged?

Amusing, Gagnon misspells my name, refers to our site as “homosexualist”, babbles a bit about box turtles, and rather oddly discusses my “obsessive efforts to promote [my] homosexual behavior.” But eventually he gets around to the point of his piece, declaring that I misunderstand his point.

Gagnon clarifies:

Kinkaid characterizes my view as “tortured” because, he alleges, I believe that the “vote [by the General Assembly] guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly.” This is not my argument but Kinkaid’s own distorted view of my argument.

My point is rather that, contrary to the desire of its supporters, the precise wording of the 2008 authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 does not actually state that governing bodies have the right to ordain homosexually active candidates. [emphasis in the original]

I don’t wish to misstate Gagnon’s argument. I was incorrect in my understanding that his loophole was in the body addressed. His loophole is in the specifics of wording.

In a very exacting sense, Gagnon is correct. The words “homosexually active candidates” appear no where in Advisory Opinion # 18 Discernment in Examining Bodies – G-6.0108 (pdf).

But the heart of the opinion is found in its closing paragraph:

This means that ordaining bodies should be given the “benefit of the doubt” in making individual judgments regarding fitness for office. Correspondingly, it means that ordaining bodies are urged to not “push the limits” in making those determinations. While explicitly recognizing the right of review, the commissioners to the 217th General Assembly urged the church to exercise great restraint in utilizing that right, reserving its use to clear cases of abuse of authority by ordaining bodies. We remind the church that it is the duty of both individual Christians and Christian societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each another (G-1.0305). We pray that all ordaining bodies will exercise restraint and Christian charity.

Gagnon knows full well the intention of the Assembly. He knows that it was the intent of the church to instruct its Permanent Judicial Commission exercise great restraint in meddling in the ordination decisions of local bodies. And it was the intent of the church to advise those bodies to be charitable in considering the feelings of those who find homosexuality contrary to Christian faith.

Taken in the context of the debate and of the affirmative vote on revision to the Book of Order, Gagnon knows that it was the intention of the General Assembly to allow those local bodies who wish to ordain gay or lesbian Presbyterians the freedom to do so, provided that they do so with Christian grace and humility.

None of this matters to Gagnon.

Translating the opinion as though the Assembly had not spoken, he blathers on about “constitutional governance” and “churchwide essentials” and “precise wording of the text”. He contends that it is not the intention of the Assembly that matters, but “text of the A.I. itself, not the rationale accompanying it.”

So I am not arguing, as Kincaid confusedly claims, that the General Assembly authoritative interpretation “guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly” but rather that:

1. The General Assembly approved only the actual text of the authoritative interpretation and not its accompanying rationale.

2. In this case the authors of the authoritative interpretation failed to word their overture in such a way as to accomplish their goal of allowing ordination of homosexually active candidates.

3. Therefore, the PCUSA high court has a right to continue to rule, and indeed should rule, as it did in its 2008 Bush decision; namely, that “it would be an obstruction of constitutional governance to permit examining bodies to ignore or waive a specific standard that has been adopted by the whole church, such as the ‘fidelity and chastity’ portion of G-6.0106b, or any other similarly specific provision.”

And this is the problem that I have with so many religious anti-gays. They care little about the spirit of the Gospel and instead look for jots and tittles. They quickly discard grace and replace it with legalism.

But regardless of Gagnon’s theology, it is his logic that I am challenging here. And having read his exposition, clarification, and argument, I return to my original conclusion: Robert Gagnon’s logic is excruciatingly tortured.

Gagnon’s position is that language technicalities are the means by which the court should ignore the intention of the Assembly.

His contention is the equivalent of a child that says, “I know Mom said to stop hitting you, but she didn’t write it down”. And just as a child finds that parents have little patience with obstinate children who look for loopholes in their parents’ wording, I think the Permanent Judicial Commission is unlikely to take shelter under the “but you didn’t use the word homosexual” defense.

UPDATE: Dr. Gagnon has corrected the spelling of my name on his site.


Dr. Gagnon has responded with a 15 page rant about Why Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Be Logic-Challenged and Now Also Principle-Challenged. Life is a little crazy right now and my real job is demanding my focus (16 hour day yesterday) but when I have time to provide Gagnon’s article the attention it requires, I’ll address his concerns.

At the offset it appears I quoted the wrong opinion (2006 rather than 2008). Obviously, this is quite embarassing. However, it does not change my conclusions about Gagnon’s logic process. If anything, Gagnon is continuing to reaveal a very wacky way of thinking. It’s too early to give a good analysis, but he seems be arguing that the other Presbyterians were confused and didn’t know how they were voting. (more on that later)

The more I read from Gagnon, the less I respect him. There are plenty of theologians with whom I may disagree on various issues but for whom i have respect for the logic, consistency, and level-headedness of their approach. But Gagnon’s wild presumptions, obsessive desire to ascribe to others an endorsement of views they have not expressed, peculiar logic, jargonistic language, personal insults, and general hostility make him seem much more a contemporary of Peter LaBarbera or Matt Barber (he does compare himself to these individuals).

Gagnon also seems have whipped out something called Box Turtle Kincaid Peddles Distorted Orthodoxy Test While Promoting Immorality, parts 1 and 2. I don’t have time to read it right now, but I’m sure it’s a doozy. It adds up to 24 pages.

But fear not. I will get to this. It’s just too full of hyperbole, frothing indignation, laughable proclamations and self importance that I just won’t be able to resist a proper treatment (when work lets me).

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

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