LGBTQIA+ Inclusion Aligns with Nazarene Theological Coherence

lake and green mountain

by Erin Moorman

At the 2013 General Assembly, the Board of General Superintendents unveiled seven characteristics for the Church of the Nazarene which describe what we believe should characterize every Church of the Nazarene and be reflected by Nazarenes everywhere. One characteristic listed was Theological Coherence, which is what we affirm, what motivates us to action, and how we live our beliefs in daily life.[1]

As Nazarenes, we hold to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral for our Theological Coherence. While Wesley affirmed that Scripture is the primary source of authority, he believed it was not the only religious authority. He also viewed tradition, reason and experience as genuine sources of religious authority. The goal is that through the use of these four elements of discernment and discipline, Christians will better be able to live a holy life, as tradition, reason, and experience provide crucial insights into biblical understanding.

All truth is God’s truth. Thus we should never be afraid of creative engagement and inductive thinking about real life situations and contexts, or to pursue knowledge through all of the traditional academic disciplines and in all parts of God’s creation, whether religious or secular. In our pursuit of truth, theological coherence enables us to correlate biblical truth with every new generation and cultural context.


Nazarenes accept personal experience as one of the sources for our theological coherence because we believe that “God works in and through the lives and experiences of individuals and communities who follow Christ.”[2] Experiences don’t create understanding; yet they can bring it out and magnify it. Experience is our real-life encounter of God-with-us in our ordinary, every-day life. These encounters with the divine inform our thinking and understanding of who God is and how God works in the world (reason) and breathes life into our reading of Scripture and how we live out our tradition. Experience is the Holy Spirit’s work in, with, and through us that gives life and meaning to the Good News of God for the world in Jesus Christ.

For Wesley, truth is primarily embodied—not in Scripture—but in the person of Jesus Christ, whom we encounter. Thus, when we refer to “seeking truth,” we mean nothing more or less than seeking personal engagement with God through Christ as enabled by the Spirit.

If people do not experience personal engagement with God through our scriptural message, then we should question our scriptural interpretation, using reason, Christian tradition, and experience to help us evaluate it. But we don’t have to look far to see that the LGBTQIA+ community does not often encounter Christ when they encounter the Church or her message. Nor has the Church, by and large, been willing to listen to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ Christians, thereby ignoring one leg of our Theological Coherence. If we ignore one part of how we determine Theological Coherence, we are not being true to who we say we are; neither can we claim that we’re truly open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We must restore our Theological Coherence by being willing to listen to those voices we are actively ignoring.


We believe the Spirit of God “works through our intellects and gives us discerning minds.”[3] Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind” (Matthew 22:37). God sheds light on God’s word through the gift of reason, giving us the freedom to question, think, and teach as we work to interpret and understand God’s word in scripture through tradition. Wesley did not suggest that we can reason our way to God, but that God gave us rational faculties to use. Reason, assisted by the Holy Spirit, helps us to understand the mysteries of God.

Reason tells us that homosexual orientation is genetic and biological, but much of the evangelical Church has simply opted not to listen to the volumes of scientific studies regarding the spectrum of human sexuality.

Reason tells us of the negative results of exclusion in the queer community. While teen suicide rates are concerning, suicide rates for LGBTQIA+ youth are even more so. In accepting families, LGBTQIA+ youth are two- to four times more likely than other teens to attempt suicide. In disconnected and rejecting families (which includes evangelical homes and environments, including those of the Church of the Nazarene), they are four- to eight times more likely.[4] Within the United States, anti-trafficking organizations report that the number of children impacted and affected by trafficking are higher in the LGBTQIA+ community.[5] Some of the causes of these higher trafficking rates in the LGBTQIA+ youth are discrimination, bullying, violence; homelessness; and parental rejection.[6] Traffickers are able to coerce LGBTQIA+ youth because of their isolation, social alienation, and desperate financial needs when they’ve been kicked out of their homes.

Reason also tells us how affirmation affects LGBTQIA+ people in positive ways and why it’s important to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people in our families and churches. Just one supportive adult cuts the chance that an LGBTQIA+ youth will attempt suicide by 40%.[7] Using chosen names reduces the odds of depression and suicide in transgender youths.[8] Youth who are accepted and loved by their families are less susceptible to predatory traffickers. And married, older LGBTQIA+ adults are healthier and happier than singles who are led to believe they are not permitted to marry.[9]

All of these are issues that Nazarenes need to be willing to become educated about in order to establish true Theological Coherence.

Christian Tradition

“We celebrate the orthodox teachings of 2,000 years of history through various Christian traditions.”[10] And it is true that Christian history has a long-standing tradition of rejection of same-sex marriages, and of LGBTQIA+ people, generally. However, Christian history also includes same-sex marriages which were sanctioned by the early Christian Church during the era we call “The Dark Ages.”[11] Until the 12th century, the Catholic Church permitted its priests to be open about their same-gender desires and even have relationships with other men. The practice ended in the 13th century only after the Church reframed the idea of marriage to be for the purpose of procreation.  Church scholars and officials worked hard to suppress the history of these marriages in order to justify their new definition.

Christian history demonstrates the reality that tradition did not include the word “homosexual” or “homosexuality” in the English Bible until 1946.[12] The RSV translation chairman believed they’d made a mistake by inserting the word “homosexual” and revised that translation at his first opportunity to omit the word and correct the mistake. However, the damage had been done and several other translations, including the NIV, had already followed suit in their editions. The Bible has increasingly been used as a weapon against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since.

Yet another important discussion from tradition is our Christian Tradition of Harm when Scripture has been misapplied and abused many times throughout history[13]:

Theologians and church people perpetuated these abuses because they did not realize that it was their interpretation of the Bible that was threatened, and not the Bible itself. Such misuse of Bible passages was only possible by violating sound principles of biblical interpretation.

Yet the most important discussion from Christian tradition we might consider is our tradition of seeking and supporting the marginalized. The LGBTQIA+ community is not only marginalized, but the Church has contributed to that marginalization. Nazarenes should decide whether we want to perpetuate a tradition of harm; or if we’re willing to build a new Church history.


“We believe the holy scriptures are foundational and vital in forming our identity in Christ.”[14] Again, Scripture is the primary source for Christian theology, the first authority providing the foundation for understanding Christian faith and life. Teaching inclusion, love, and compassion for LGBTQIA+ people can sometimes trigger concerns about biblical compromise.[15] All of Scripture is true, but how do we interpret it?

We could cherry pick, such as when we insist that same-sex relationships are a sin once and for all time (Lev. 18:22), but not also insist that divorced people remarrying isn’t a sin once and for all time (Mark 10:8-11).

We could do word studies, such as on the term “abomination.” The Holy Scriptures (depending on which version you use) mention the word “abomination” 67 times: 2 in the New Testament and 65 in the Old Testament. Yet of those (which include acts ranging from murder and divorce to eating shellfish and women wearing pants), just two refer to homosexual behavior. We could also look at Proverbs 6:16-19, which makes it clear that sowing discord among brothers is an abomination to the LORD—something the Church does when we deny our Christian LGBTQIA+ sisters and brothers fellowship within the Body.

We could also take the Bible as a whole and recognize the pattern of the Spirit moving God’s people from exclusion to inclusion, time and time again. We see this when the Bible clearly states that Moabites are bad and were not to be allowed to dwell among God’s people (Dt. 23); but then comes the story of “Ruth the Moabite,” which challenges the prejudice against Moabites. We see this when the Bible clearly states that people from Uz are evil (Jer. 25); but then comes the story of Job, a man from Uz who was the “most blameless man on earth.” We see this when the Bible clearly states that no foreigners or eunuchs are allowed in God’s temple (Dt. 23); but then comes the story of an African eunuch welcomed into the Church (Acts 8). We see this when the Bible clearly states that God’s people hated Samaritans; but then Jesus tells a story that shows the Samaritans are our neighbor. The Biblical narrative may begin with prejudice, discrimination, and animosity, but the Spirit moves God’s people towards openness, welcome, inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation.[16] A Nazarene Hermeneutic should follow that pattern.

The desire for a consistent hermeneutic recognizes that often bible verses aren’t uniformly interpreted and applied. It recognizes the tendency to embrace only bible verses that align with our current understanding and reject any questions related to views of LGBTQIA+ sexuality. We should take the time to exegete and study individual passages of scripture, but as we do so we must ask whether our interpretation brings life to all or just to some.

“One of the problems of every generation is the belief that they are the generation that has finally understood the full counsel of Scripture and that our beliefs no longer need to be challenged. But our theological history shows us that this is false. There must always be a posture of willingness to learn and be challenged in our assumptions. The church must always be willing to reform.”[17]

Restoring Theological Coherence

Each of the four sources is essential and plays a vital role. Each one works together to “test, correct, and restrain the others, and at the same time clarify, verify, and supplement them.”[18] While Scripture is primary, the other three help to prevent us from making scripture an idol. Reading scripture at “face-value,” or relying on a “plain reading” of scripture, is not sufficient. To rely only on the bible, or on particular interpretations of particular verses, and to dismiss what science and personal testimony tell us is both harmful and theologically aberrant. Recognizing the place of tradition, reason and experience can help us properly interpret, apply, and live out the teaching of scripture without undermining the authority of scripture in any way. We just have to be willing to start having these conversations.

All of these discussions need to be had within the Church of the Nazarene. Nazarene laity and leaders alike should actively explore these issues not only for themselves, but for the queer Christians we are failing. “We might not always agree on various points of theology, because the call to love isn’t about theological agreement. Rather, it is about being able to love well, even in the midst of disagreement, for the sake of our unity as the body of Christ.”[19] And that includes the queer members of Christ’s Body, married or not.

Offering fellowship and discipleship to LGBTQIA+ Christians means providing queer people with a church family that unconditionally loves them and welcomes them. Without such welcome and affirmation, it will be impossible to actually offer the type of relationships and strong faith-foundations that develop faith or restore relationship with Christ. Nazarenes must continued to be discipled to become safe people for LGBTQIA+ people, and to affirm that queer people were made in the image of our Creator just as scripture says they are. Restoring our Theological Coherence can help us learn just that.

Erin Moorman is a lifelong Christian who has been taught and mentored in the Church of the Nazarene for over twenty years. Many years of prayerful thought and study convicted her that Nazarenes need to become safe people for the LGBTQIA+ community. A former district-licensed Nazarene pastor, she surrendered her license after God directed her to be affirming of same sex marriage, a position which is not currently in line with the Manual.

[1] Church of the Nazarene, Inc. Nazarene Essentials, 2015.

[2] Church of the Nazarene, Inc. Nazarene Essentials, 2015.

[3] Church of the Nazarene, Inc. Nazarene Essentials, 2015.

[4] Henson, Bill. Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones, 2019, p. 16.






[10] Church of the Nazarene, Inc. Nazarene Essentials, 2015.

[11] Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, University of Chicago Press, 1980.


[13] Gundry, Patricia. “Ammunition for Repression: Misuse of Scripture in the Past” in Woman Be Free: Biblical Equality for Women, Zondervan, 1977.

[14] Church of the Nazarene, Inc. Nazarene Essentials, 2015.

[15] Henson, p.i.

[16] Bixby Knolls Christian Church

[17] Q Christian Fellowship. “LGBTQ+ Theology 101″

[18] Wiley, H. Orton, Christian Theology, I, (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1940), pp. 146.

[19] Cortez, Danny and Q Christian Fellowship. Clergy Relational Guide, p. 3.