In recent months, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider has repeatedly expressed his position on the topic of Homosexuality. Rainbow-NAC sees many positives in his statements, but evaluates central arguments as problematic.
At a youth event in March 2015, in Cambridge (Canada), the Chief Apostle answered questions. On the topic of homosexuality, here he devoted about 20 minutes to it. In the interview, he repeated key arguments that were introduced a year ago in a panel discussion at the International Church Convention (ICC) in Munich.
Positives: For acceptance and against fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible
At first, we were pleased about the Chief Apostle’s major concern to persuade the youth to not pass judgment on homosexuality and to accept homosexuals as brothers and sisters. Broad parts of his remarks to the questions were an exhortation to accept other brothers and sisters without judgment and to address them with Christian love. Even the Chief Apostle, while in the District Elder ministry, remembered young people whom he personally knew, and later found out that they were gay. Unfortunately, the pressure and self-doubt were so great that they later committed suicide. This led him to the central statement, to promote acceptance and against discrimination in congregations. We are pleased with these statements and also would work to achieve this together with the church leadership.
Additionally in his remarks, the Chief Apostle warned against a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. He made it clear that one should not cherry pick individual sentences out of context from the Bible to prove a certain agenda. The Chief Apostle said you can’t simply pick out the Bible verses you like and ignore the others that you don’t like. So he made it quite clear that in the book of Leviticus, it is not only forbidden for “a man to lie with another man as you lie with a woman”, but also eating pork and blood (rare meat). It’s similar with Paul, that certain sexual practices are condemned, but so is alcoholism and greed, all in the same breath. Thus, the Chief Apostle took the wind out of the sails of biblicist currents that kept the prohibition of (so-called) homosexuality high, but safely allowed other things to be alright that were also prohibited in the Bible. Finally, he pointed out that (alleged) traditional sins that were associated with sexuality were seen as more severe than, for example, money issues. This distinction between "lighter" and "heavier" sin is inconsistent in his perspective. The Chief Apostle appealed to the judgment of young people to draw their own conclusions themselves.
We welcome this approach to the Bible, however, what the Chief Apostle argued in detail, our opinion is it’s problematic.
Problematic: Homosexuality is not good
The Chief Apostle made some irritating statements in his remarks. He held that the Church was correct to state that homosexuality is not good, and stressed that he was satisfied with the current official statement. He said that the Church could not officially consider homosexuality as positive because the Church only endorses marriage between a man and a woman. This argument was anything but satisfying to us. Can’t the church unconditionally accept homosexual brothers and sisters, and at the same time support traditional marriage? Why must one have morals here at all? And how does this correspond to his initial appeal that “one should accept brothers and sisters as they are”? The Chief Apostle said, "We say it (homosexuality) is not good. The normal way is this: when there’s one man and one woman, they marry and have children. That's the norm." However, to designate certain sexual orientations and lifestyles as "normal" and others as automatically "not normal" doesn’t lead to an inclusive community where everyone is valued equally. It’s the goal of inclusion to make no differences, and just recognize diversity as the “norm”.
Finally, the Chief Apostle cited commonly used Bible passages as evidence to treat homosexuality negatively. The Chief Apostle actually gave the young people the impression that the Bible statements negatively value homosexuality. Unfortunately, the Chief Apostle ignored the Biblical theological research. It is a recognized position of theological research that the Bible only evaluated certain sexual practices that should be regarded in their respective historical and cultural contexts. None of the oft-cited points related to the concept of homosexuality as we know it today: namely, that people feel same-sex attraction in their hearts, seek partnerships, want to take responsibility for each other, lead long-term relationships, and stand by each other - i.e. are just like heterosexuals. In Biblical days, that was unknown and unimaginable. Modern theologians came to believe that clearly the statements of Paul referred to pedophile practices of the Greeks, from whom the apostles wanted to separate themselves, or a role reversal of a man or woman, which - among other things, long hair on men - is “unnatural” to Paul. The remarks of the Chief Apostle about the scriptures convey therefore a distorted picture to young listeners.
Problematic: Homosexuality is possibly a sin
The Chief Apostle extensively discussed the question of whether homosexuality was a sin or not and said that he could not assess that. He had also extensively discussed this at the ICC. The problem here is that even the official 2005 Statement on Homosexuality doesn’t say that homosexuality is a sin. From the many conversations with the church leadership, we knew that the wording was intentional and that homosexuality shouldn’t be explicitly classified as a sin. On the contrary, since 2005, the Church only referred to the practice of homosexuality as “not good”. When the Chief Apostle again reopened the question of sin, and now deliberately ended with it, he turned the wheels of progress backward over ten years. We are disappointed that with his remarks, the Chief Apostle reopened an issue that we believed had already been closed.
Concluding, he also talked about the fact that he could not, or would not, or even wanted to judge whether homosexuals are guilty before God. It’s incumbent upon the will of God, not man. Yet what should gay brothers and sisters do with this uncertainty? The loving acceptance by the Chief Apostle and fellow brothers and sisters was comforting, but comparatively little help if one cannot be ultimately sure whether being homosexual, one acquires guilt before God.
There is no way for sustainable acceptance and inclusion
We found the aforementioned remarks made by the Chief Apostle at Cambridge as well as at the ICC questionable and somewhat offensive. It seemed that the Chief Apostle wanted to avoid encountering different worldwide assessments on homosexuality, so as a result, he took no clear position. He left open whether or not homosexuality was a sin, and called instead for the love and understanding of those brothers and sisters present and not present. The latter we welcome very much indeed, however, there can be no path to sustainable acceptance and inclusion while homosexuality is classified as a potential sin and not a 'normal' path. The fact that Schneider made no change in the current position disappointed us. We had made it clear in the many conversations with the church leadership that we viewed the position as problematic. When the Chief Apostle advocated these statements as good and irrefutable, it was incomprehensible to us.
Moreover it irritated us by the manner in which the Chief Apostle made some points. When he spoke about about Commitment Prayers for homosexual couples, he jokingly said, "We do not pray that they have children - because that doesn’t work." We felt this joke was inappropriate. Would one talk in such a way to an infertile couple? Many homosexual couples want children, and there are also gay couples who have biological children of their own or adopted children.
In addition, the Chief Apostle said at the end that he was tired of the topic. This not only gives a certain indifference about the subject, but he also conveyed the impression that everything that could have been said on the topic had been said. That’s questionable, given the complexity of the subject and the identified outstanding issues. It was hoped that the Chief Apostle would not have stopped with these statements but continued to deal with the issues. A meaningful way to accept homosexual brothers and sisters of the New Apostolic Church and as equally entitled members wasn’t shown.
(Homosexuality from minute 03:30 to 19:00 and then again minute 23:00 to 24:00, may not possible in all browsers)
For Biblical interpretations:
- The Bible and Homosexuality with Matthew Vines on Matthew Vines´ speech
- “Gay and New Apostolic - A Contradiction?” Primarily for ministers: Booklet homosexuality
- Lecture by Professor Dr. Siegfried Zimmer (in German only):
„Die schwule Frage - Die Bibel, das Christentum und das Homosexuelle“
(“The Gay Question - The Bible, Christendom and the Homosexual”)