The Rhetoric of Homosexual Practice

A Critique of the Identity/Act Distinction in Protestant Ordination Policies

Authors

  • John J. Anderson


John J. Anderson, 17 Morgan Dr., #103, Natick MA 01760, johnjanderson1980@gmail.com.

Abstract

Many Protestant denominations have or recently had policies that prohibit “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained. By only prohibiting “practicing” homosexuals, proponents of these policies claim that they do not discriminate against homosexuals as a group since, technically, a homosexual can still be ordained as long as she is “non-practicing.” In other words, a condemnation of homosexual practice is not the same as a condemnation of homosexual persons. I argue that this is not the case; the rhetoric of homosexual practice does, in fact, amount to a condemnation of gays and lesbians. It does so by conflating the two things it claims to keep separate—homosexual conduct and homosexual identity. I demonstrate this conflation by analyzing the history of this rhetoric and how it has been adjudicated in church court decisions from the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Ancillary