"Clearly it is not scripture that creates hostility to homosexuality, but rather hostility to homosexuals that prompts some Christians to recite a few sentences from Paul and retain passages from an otherwise discarded Old Testament law code. In abolishing slavery and in ordaining women we've gone beyond biblical literalism. It's time we did the same with gays and lesbians. The problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but rather how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ. It can't be done. So instead of harping on what's 'natural,' let's talk of what's 'normal,' what operates according to the norm. For Christians the norm is Christ's love. If people can show the tenderness and constancy in caring that honors Christ's love, what matters their sexual orientation? Shouldn't a relationship be judged by its inner worth rather than by its outer appearance? When has a monopoly on durable life-warming love been held by legally wed heterosexuals? . . .

"Homophobia, the fear and hatred of homosexuals, is bigotry. It's on a par with racism and sexism. In some ways it's worse: I've heard teenage gay and lesbian children tell of the pain that comes when the three main institutions of society turn their backs on them. They have in mind their families, their schools, and their churches. That kind of pain deserves to be met not with patience, but with holy impatience.

"In a culture as prejudiced as ours is still, it is doubtful that many of us, gay or straight, will completely overcome our homophobia. What did most to help me battle mine, more than the accumulation and analysis of the evidence available, was to spend time with gay people. Familiarity bred only respect, not contempt.

" 'There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.' (1 John 4:18) It is love that banishes fear and prejudice, that allows us to grow in understanding, freedom, and compassion. It was love that made Jesus draw to himself those who were abandoned. We who live in his name can do no less."