Church of Sweden

​New theological view on sexual orientation

Press Release   •   May 31, 2016 14:20 BST

On 7 June, the Church of Sweden will launch a collection of academic writings in a book entitled “Behold – I make all things new”. The writings offer theological perspectives on human rights in general and LGBT issues in particular, from the starting-points of the three Abrahamic religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The hope is to help bring about a new theological view of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the book’s co-editor Reverend JP Mokgethi-Heath, Policy Advisor on HIV and Theology at the Central Church Office in Uppsala.

“This is an attempt at interpreting holy scriptures on the basis of Abrahamic faith traditions without patriarchal lenses, taking suffering and experiences seriously. We want to contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of the connection between faith and human rights – in particular with regard to issues of human dignity, sexuality and faith”, says JP Mokgheti-Heath.

Co-editor Reverend Loraine Tulleken adds, “The book is the result of genuine academic and inter-religious cooperation aimed at elevating these issues to the level of decision-makers, educational institutions and voluntary organisations. 

Launch in New York
The book launch will take place in the UN office of the World Council of Churches. Time and venue: 6.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 June, in the Church Center Chapel, 777 United Nations Plaza , New York. Participants: Reverend JP Mokgethi-Heath, Rabbi Amichai Lau Lavie, Pastor Jide Macaulay and Professor Riffat Hassan. The book is in English and is being published as an e-book on Amazon. All profits will go to the Global Interfaith Network (see below).

Anders Wejryd, Archbishop Emeritus of the Church of Sweden, who was involved in the inception of the book, is of the view that the authors’ writings in the book affirm that God is loving and merciful.

“The book provides a convincing and refreshing perspective on our common Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy scriptures, which are otherwise always used to condemn homosexuality”.

The Swedish launch of Behold will take place on 18 September, during Uppsala’s Pride Festival.

Background
Behold came into being from an inter-religious panel debate (“Human Dignity and Human Sexuality”) involving academics, theologians, social activists, parish workers and scientists during the Uppsala Festival of Theology in 2015 (see pages 28-30).

The material for the debate, moderated by Archbishop Emeritus Anders Wejryd, was provided by The Global Interfaith Network for people of all Sexes, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (GIN-SSOGIE). The aim was to examine critically how the holy scriptures and religious customs in Judaism, Christianity and Islam actually relate to each other when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The interaction between conservatives and liberals was such that we felt it was our responsibility to broaden the dialogue between the religious communities and between the communities and society at large”, says Anders Wejryd.

More information:
Project Manager JP Mokgethi-Heath, e-mail:JP.Mokgethi-Heath@svenskakyrkan.se, tel.: +46 (0)76-80 00 184.
Website: www.beholdgin.com
Twitter: @behold_gin
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slayinghatetexts/

About some of the authors in the book

Rabbi Jay Michaelson, much-published theologian, nationally active advocate of progressive Judaism in the USA, and LGBT activist of long standing. Jay Michaelson has written five books and more than 300 articles on religion, sexuality, law and contemplation, and also serves as contributing editor on The Daily Beast and Forward news websites. His 2011 book, God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, became a top-seller on Amazon and was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award.

Reverend Rowland Jide Macaulay, founder and CEO of the House Of Rainbow CIC (community interest company). He headed RJMM.CO.UK, which offers education and support in human rights for sexual minorities of African origin. Rowland Jide Macaulay has more than 20 years’ experience of political work in sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa – which on one occasion led to calls in Nigeria for his execution.

Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, French Muslim born in Algeria, who studied psychology and anthropology at the prestigious École des hautes études en sciences sociales (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris. He is an acclaimed intellectual, an expert in the Koran and an AIDS activist.

Professor of Religious Studies Emerita Riffat Hassan, is a Pakistani-American theologian, a leading Islamic feminist and an expert on the Koran. Riffat Hassan is internationally acclaimed as a pioneer in Islamic feminist theology and has done much to advance women’s rights in Muslim society and to fight against honour killings of women in Pakistan. In a powerful piece, she argues that 113 of the 114 Surah's, or chapters, of the Koran begin with the words “In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”.