Since it was founded in 1855, CTS has been an inclusive community. Recent events in our home state of Indiana spurred Matthew Myer Boulton, CTS President and Professor of Theology, to author various pieces explaining our position.
On the Scriptural Basis for Tolerance, Respect and Acceptance of LGBTQ People
- Many people begin this discussion with the few — the very few — verses in the Christian Bible that seem to teach against homosexuality. But this is a false start. There are more than 30,000 verses in the Bible. A handful of verses can be cited that seem to teach against homosexuality; but even more verses can be cited that seem to approve of slavery, or seem to teach against women in positions of leadership — and obviously human society has in these respects become more just and inclusive over the centuries. The key point here is this: When reading the Bible, it is never simply a matter of finding a few verses here or there. We need to know which verses and which general themes to emphasize, and to help us with this discernment we need a guide and teacher. For Christians, our guide and teacher in this regard is Jesus of Nazareth.
- When asked to summarize the whole of scripture, Jesus famously zeroed in on two verses, one from Deuteronomy, and one from Leviticus: “Love God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” For Jesus, those are the verses — and the general themes — that are most important. Like eyeglasses, these are the lenses through which we need to read the rest of scripture, and indeed the whole world. The author of the First Letter of John picks up the same theme: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16).
- Even more, Jesus’ ministry included several signature moves, and one of those signatures was that he sought to welcome those whom others considered unclean or immoral or not good enough. In fact, he was strongly criticized by religious leaders of his day for welcoming and serving and engaging with “tax collectors and sinners,” among other supposedly questionable characters of his day. His hospitality and service knew no bounds. He never turned anyone away. And his teaching often lifted up so-called “outsiders,” even supposed enemies, as surprising role models (the parable of the Good Samaritan being the classic case in point).
- Another signature move: Jesus repeatedly took a common sense approach to the application of legal rules. His life and teachings consistently demonstrate that he chose compassion for people over strict adherence to the letter of religious law. He broke the rule against working on the Sabbath in order to heal a man; he refused to stone a woman who committed adultery, even though scriptural verses can be found to justify such execution; he ate with people who could not ceremonially wash their hands. He chose compassion over legalism and was often criticized by some religious leaders for doing so.
- In this way, Jesus drew upon the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, who constantly admonished Israel to remember the outsider, to welcome the stranger, to include those whom others would seek to exclude from basic rights and privileges of membership in the community. The biblical prophets call for justice, for kindness, for humility, for mercy, and for the kind of hospitality that seeks to cross lines of suspicion or enmity. For example, laws in Deuteronomy 23 kept foreigners out of the temple – but in Isaiah 56, the prophet proclaims God’s new law that the temple was for everyone, including foreigners.
- Likewise, in the New Testament, the general shape of Paul’s work is to reach out and include “the Gentiles,” the very people some of his contemporaries considered unclean or immoral or not good enough. The fundamental dynamic and theme of the New Testament is the dynamic of greater and greater inclusion, wider and wider circles of welcome, respect, and love.
- Christians do not agree on questions related to human sexuality, and that debate will continue. But it is a strong, venerable, and, for me, convincing Christian perspective to say that while we may disagree on some of these issues, we can and should agree that God calls us to create neighborhoods and larger communities in which each person is welcomed and respected. No Hoosier should be a second-class citizen; no Hoosier should be denied basic rights or services as a member of our community. We may disagree on many topics, but this baseline of respect and dignity should be unshakable. This is what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like: treating one another with respect and dignity even and especially when we disagree. Jesus never denied services to anyone, and neither should Christians who seek to follow him. The basis for this Christian perspective is profoundly scriptural: what Jesus said and did, and what the great themes of the Bible say to us today, as we read those ancient texts with Jesus as our teacher and guide.
From the CTS Official Statement on RFRA
Christian Theology Seminary (CTS) believes deeply in religious liberty. But we witness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth — the one every Christian disciple seeks to follow — calls us not to a freedom to exclude, or a freedom to discriminate, or a freedom to create an atmosphere where prejudice may flourish. On the contrary, again and again, Jesus calls us to a freedom of inclusion, equality, justice, and profound respect for the dignity of all.
CTS opposes this act, then, not only because it represents an offense to the spirit of civil rights; not only because it cuts against the best of Hoosier hospitality; and not only because it has created a public relations crisis for the state of Indiana. CTS opposes RFRA primarily because it violates the Christian values we hold dear: values of inclusion, equality, justice, and the dignity of all people, including our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
The Christian Gospels are replete with examples of these values. In the Gospel According to Luke (Luke 10), in response to the command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” a lawyer asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” It is a clannish question, a question that seeks to draw a circle around one group we are required to love and serve, creating another group we supposedly may exclude as outsiders.
But Jesus will have none of it. In his response – the parable of the Good Samaritan – Jesus flips the question on its head, as if to say, “Don't waste your time asking the clannish question of who your neighbor is; instead, go and BE an excellent neighbor, serving all with mercy and justice.'”
Three weeks ago, I was a keynote speaker at a church service rallying against RFRA. In conversations afterward, many of us who attended, including some of the event's organizers, lamented that it appeared the bill was headed for passage. I take heart today, and I continue to be inspired by the many Christians and other religious people who stand against RFRA as a matter of faith, conviction, and genuine religious liberty.
From CTS Testimony to the Indiana State Legislature on HJR-3
My name is Rev. Dr. Matthew Myer Boulton, President and Professor of Theology at Christian Theological Seminary here in Indianapolis. For decades, CTS has trained thousands of congregational and community faith leaders for service in Indiana and beyond. We do this work through our distinguished congregational ministry programs and our nationally known pastoral counseling programs, which train mental health professionals to work with individuals and families in ways that include the spiritual dimensions of their lives.
While more than thirty Christian denominations are represented among our students, faculty, and staff, we are a school affiliated with the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, a Protestant denomination whose national offices are housed right here in Indianapolis. In 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Indianapolis will host the biannual General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), convening thousands of Disciples from across the United States and Canada.
It is my privilege and honor to speak on behalf not only of myself but of the CTS Board of Trustees, the CTS Faculty, and the CTS Administration, for we stand united against HJR-3.
This proposed amendment would certainly hinder efforts, by CTS and many others, to recruit and retain the best and brightest students, faculty, and staff to learn and eventually lead and make their lives in Indiana. But CTS opposes HJR-3 primarily for reasons related to our historic mission and core Christian values. For decades, CTS has stood for the inclusivity, hospitality, and justice-for-all so central to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Since our founding more than 150 years ago, we have endeavored to live out these values in response to the evolving issues of the day.
In 1855, CTS was originally founded — as North Western Christian University — by the abolitionist wing of the movement that would later become known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In the decades since, the school has continued to live out a commitment to justice and inclusion that we find clearly laid out in Christian scripture.
As the Gospels attest, Jesus of Nazareth constantly sought out the marginalized, the disinherited, the disenfranchised, the left out and the left behind. One of the defining characteristics of his ministry was that he welcomed those whom others excluded — and indeed, he underwent significant criticism from the religious and civil authorities of his day for doing so. Asked to sum up the path his disciples should take, Jesus said this: “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In our view, including discrimination in our state constitution fundamentally contradicts the love of neighbor.
HJR-3 is not just bad public policy. It sends a message that stands at odds with values we at Christian Theological Seminary have cherished for decades. For us, this is therefore both an ethical and a spiritual issue; it is an issue of the integrity of our Christian faith; and the question is whether we will stand up for the inclusion, hospitality, and justice at the heart of the Christian Gospel. Accordingly, the CTS Board of Trustees, Faculty, and Administration stand united in opposition to HJR-3.
Now, my position as president of CTS puts me in relationship with a dazzling variety of Indiana religions and denominations and congregations and theological points of view. Indeed, questions of human sexuality are matters of passionate debate within Christian circles; we have a good dose of that diversity at CTS.
You’ll hear later today from the other side that civil unions would threaten that traditional view of marriage demanded by Christian faith, and so on. I respect that perspective, even as I disagree with it. But here’s the point I want to underline: despite what those on the other side may say, there is no one Christian view of HJR-3. Many Christians, even those who disagree on the underlying human sexuality issues, oppose HJR-3 because their Christian faith calls them to be open, hospitable, fair, and loving toward their neighbors. And the role of the State, we respectfully suggest, is not to take sides in this theological debate, much less enshrine one side or the other in the Indiana state constitution. Rather, the State’s role is to respect the religious diversity of our community on this question, and to allow freedom of religion — faith’s freedom — to flourish in Indiana by setting aside HJR-3 once and for all.
CTS has been named an Open & Affirming Ministry by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) GLAD Alliance.