The ELCA’s (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) vote lifting its ban on openly gay and lesbian clergy, has garnered quite a bit of media attention during the past year. While we here at SOF dive into a project culling out the many personal perspectives on this complex issue, homosexuality and its place within civic and religious life is serving as an entry point into difficult discussions for many other traditions. And, in many different ways.
For scholars of Pentecostalism, it has become a flash point for the exercise of academic freedom and critical inquiry. Arlene Sánchez-Walsh, whom you might remember from our show on the origins and impact of Pentecostalism, resigned her presidency of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS), in part, over this internal debate:
"The reason? Denominational leaders of the Assemblies of God had tried to dissuade the SPS from keeping their commitments to speakers invited to the annual meeting because they took issue with some speakers’ stances on GLBT issues—their dislike of one of the scholars’ rather biting critiques of the denominations’ growing spiritual malaise chafed even more.”
Her powerful critique in Religion Dispatches is worth reading. So often in our public sphere, GLBT issues in religious life are discussed as matters of church doctrine or social justice or personal expressions of sexuality. But, what’s at stake here, takes on another expression — the right of a faithful Pentecostal practitioner to have an independent, rigorous “life of the mind.”