Rev Paul Bailey is one of the first African-Caribbean Pentecostal ministers in Britain to state that the Black Christian community should be more inclusive and welcoming of gay people, and that the Bible contains theological grounds for same-sex marriage.
Rev Bailey, who co-pastors The Regeneration Project in Mitcham, South London, was spiritually born and raised in the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a theology graduate from Spurgeon’s College and the University of Wales, and is the son and grandson of church leaders. He has been a Christian for 35 years, ministering and preaching the Gospel for 27 years, and was ordained at the age of 27. He shared his views – some will find them controversial – with Keep The Faith magazine. They provide food for thought.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): The issue of same-sex marriage seems set to be a legality following the recent vote in the Houses of Parliament. What were your views on the debate?
REV PAUL BAILEY (RPB): Parliament is giving equal rights to an oppressed sexual minority. At its heart, this is a civil rights issue. It is important to note that in the Bible, marriage was fluid and amorphous; there are many kinds of marriage in Scripture. It is only in Jesus that we move towards a concrete definition.
KTF: Pentecostals are known to be against same-sex marriage, but you don’t seem to fit this mould. What’s your view on same-sex marriage?
RPB: For some Pentecostals, this is a matter of conscience based on their interpretation of Scripture. For others, this is simply hate-based homophobia. Marriage is a legally-binding covenant of love and commitment. Gay people are uniquely created by God to reflect the beauty and diversity of His creation, just as heterosexual people; they should enjoy the same rights. Our failure to interpret and apply Scripture accurately has resulted in murder, persecution and oppression for the way gay people have been created, ie. their sexual orientation.
KTF: How did you arrive at this opinion, and which biblical passages in your view validate your viewpoints?
RPB: There are scores of passages that teach us God’s compassion for oppressed groups. In Jesus, we see a pattern of inclusion that persistently pushed the boundaries of the Mosaic Law. For example, Jesus touched lepers; ministered to women with menstrual haemorrhages; discussed theology with Samaritans; healed Gentiles; healed on the Sabbath, etc. In Acts 8, we have the account of the Ethiopian eunuch; his sexual identity is as significant as his race. He is a member of a sexually-ambiguous third gender. Eunuchs were not chaste or asexual, but were sexually ambiguous. In Matthew 19:12, Jesus states that there are some eunuchs who are born, not made, and they are welcome in the Kingdom. Here, Jesus seems to suggest that a person’s sexual identity is fixed at birth. This is a radical statement considering the fact that eunuchs were excluded in the Mosaic Law (see Deuteronomy 23:1). A Kingdom welcome, extended to a sexual ‘other’, this welcome should be extended to other sexual minorities. The statements in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy refer to a range of homosexual acts, but not to the issue of same-sex orientation, or to loving relationships between people of the same gender. Scripture should be applied in the light of God’s welcome of excluded peoples. If the Scriptures do not prohibit same-sex love, then who are we to exclude those whom God has included? Some may say we are stretching, we are; we are trying to reach out to our lost and excluded brothers and sisters.
KTF: Your view on same-sex marriage is a major departure for Black Pentecostals in the UK. How have your fellow Pentecostal ministers responded to your views?
RPB: The reaction has been varied; the majority of pastors have expressed deep concern, others are thoughtfully curious and are willing to engage in discussion, and a very small number have been supportive.
KTF: In light of the public’s acceptance of same-sex marriage, and the parliamentary vote, how do you feel the Black Church should now approach the issue and its ministry to the homosexual community?
RPB: I cannot speak for all Black churches, but from my experience, homophobia is rife and unchallenged in many of our churches. Regardless of where we stand on this issue, we are called to love and reconciliation. Substance misuse, suicide, self-harm and poor mental health are significantly higher in the gay community. We all have a role in ministering to broken people.
KTF: How does your church minister to homosexuals who express a desire to follow the Lord and, if same-sex marriage does become legal, will you bless and marry same-sex couples?
RPB: We minister by demonstrating the love and welcome of Christ, and by lovingly helping to heal some of the harm done by damaging encounters with oppressive churches. We also challenge them, as we do to all, to live a life of holiness and discipleship to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
KTF: How do you think the Black Christian community will respond to your views?
RPB: The Black community is not monolithic but reflective of the views and prejudices in the wider community. I must say we have found open hearts and minds with many people of all ethnicities.