Evangelicals should not allow controversies over homosexuality to separate them

by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

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German Evangelicals should not cut themselves off from their fellow Protestants because they do not share their liberal approach to homosexuality, but should instead seek dialogue, said Michael Diener, the leader of the German Evangelical Alliance.

Although Diener was "classically conservative" and could see no indication in the Bible for blessing homosexual partnerships and putting same-sex marriage on par with marriage between a man and a woman, he has learned to accept that homosexuals interpreted the Bible differently, he told the German daily Die Welt on Dec. 14.

"As a pastor I have learned to recognize that people read the Bible differently on this question," he said. "These brothers and sisters are just as important as those who share my opinion, and the same applies to men and women pastors who have clarified their homosexuality for themselves spiritually and who feel that God does not expect them to give up their [sexual] orientation."

Most Protestant mainstream churches in Germany now allow the blessing of same-sex partnerships and many allow same-sex marriage.

Although Diener said he is aware that his withdrawal from the controversy over homosexuality will "create problems" in his own Evangelical movement, he is "deeply convinced" that his pluralist approach is the right one.

He advises his fellow members of the Evangelical Alliance to read the Bible very carefully. They would find that there was not a single passage where "sexual-ethical transgressions are denounced alone. It is more a question of condemning hypocrisy, defamation or being uncharitable -- and, as far as such problems are concerned, we Evangelicals must also take a good look at ourselves and our own performance," Diener said.

He warns those Evangelical communities in Germany who are isolating themselves from the world because in their opinion it is "decadent." Being devout did not mean cutting oneself off, he said.

"We are not just called to just stand at the side of the road and hold up our placards, regardless of what people think, but to spread the Good Tidings in such a convincing way that people will become infected."

Diener cautions against the kind of "evangelical stereotyped thinking which says that instead of looking at the world, Evangelicals must only cast their eyes upwards to God. "It is essential that we promote the Gospel Message of freedom, justice and love -- by taking in refugees and caring for them, for example," he said.

[Christa Pongratz-Lippitt is the Austrian correspondent for the London-based weekly Catholic magazine The Tablet.]

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