Now, Religion in the News—a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Associated Press, March 13, 2003, with the headline: “The Conservative Branch of Judaism Reconsiders Its Ban Against Ordaining Homosexuals, dateline New York—The lawmaking body for the conservative branch of Judaism has agreed to reopen discussion of its ban on same sex unions and ordaining homosexuals.
“Rabbi Rubin Hammer, president of the movement’s rabbinical assembly, requested the review late last month after the lay president of the united synagogue of conservative Judaism, Judy Yudof, said many conservative Jews had questions about the status of homosexuals. Her group represents about 800 North American congregations.
“The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, a panel of 25 rabbis, will decide whether its condemnation of gay sex still holds under current interpretations of religious law. The Torah’s prohibition against homosexual behavior is the reason conservative Judaism bars gays from serving as rabbis and cantors. Hammer said the review will be guided by Jewish law, not by popular opinion or political ideas.
“The discussion could take years. The last time conservative Jews reviewed their policy on gays was in 1992, in a fierce debate that ended in a compromise some dubbed “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” The lawmaking committee barred homosexuals from rabbinical schools but promised not to investigate student sexual orientation. At the same time, the panel urged congregations, youth groups, summer camps, and schools to welcome gays.
“The slightly larger and more liberal reform movement ordains homosexuals and blesses same sex couples, while the smaller and stricter orthodox does not.”
Tom: Dave, before you get into this, let me give a little background for those who may not be familiar with the conservative branch of Judaism. We know orthodox—many people know that—and of course these are movements or branches that are pretty much related to the United States. If you went to Israel, you wouldn’t find this kind of breakdown, or distinctions, among practicing Jews or non-practicing, and so on. So, this is really related to this country, and most people know about orthodox Jews. This would be very conservative—well, I don’t even want to use that word; there’s a contradiction, because, well, let’s say it’s the most conservative. But then there is a branch of Judaism called “conservative.”
Dave: Well, this is the conservative branch, then there is the reformed branch.
Tom: Reformed branch, and then we have orthodox, but there’s another little group in there called the reconstructionists, but it’s a smaller group. But anyway, conservative Judaism—I’m reading from a website, this is Judaism 101, this is where I got it: “Conservative Judaism grew out of the tension between orthodoxy and reform. It was formerly organized as the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism by Dr. Solomon Schechter in 1913, although its roots in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America stretch back to the 1880s. Conservative Judaism maintains that the truths found in Jewish scriptures and other Jewish writings come from God, but were transmitted by humans and contained a human component. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of the Halachah, which are the Jewish laws, but [and I don’t know if I pronounced that right] but believes that the law should change and adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism’s values.” So, that’s why we have this mixture, but go ahead.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s rather simple. The Bible very clearly bans, I mean—in fact, the Old Testament, these are their scriptures, pronounces the death penalty. A man lies with a man, a woman with a woman, and so forth—they are to be stoned and put to death. It says it is wrong! We have Sodom and Gomorrah—God’s judgment came upon them. This was a homosexual community. It’s amazing. Let me read it again: “The lawmaking body…”—lawmaking body? I thought God made the laws. “…for the conservative branch of Judaism has agreed to reopen discussion….” We’re going to discuss! If you don’t know what the Bible teaches on this by now, what’s the point of discussing it further? No, what they are discussing is their opinion.”…a discussion of its ban on same-sex unions and so forth, and ordaining homosexuals.” You know, I thought it was God who banned this. I thought it was God who pronounced this. So now we have human beings, and we’re going to massage it around and see, well, in fact, it says, “The discussion could take years.” Now how can it take years? It’s quite clear what the Bible says. “The last time conservative Jews reviewed their policy on gays was in 1992, fierce debate…and ended in a compromise: Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Now look, clearly they are being pulled away from the plain teaching of God’s Word.
Tom: But, Dave, these are Jews, right now in this modern society—they can’t go out and stone…and I don’t think God’s Word—so you have to explain that part of it. And it may be why there’s a drift—Is the new covenant affecting them? Some good questions.
Dave: They don’t have a new covenant yet. They don’t know anything about the new covenant. Jeremiah:31:31, God says He will make a new covenant, but they don’t know anything about that. In fact, they don’t have their Levitical sacrificial system anymore—they don’t have a temple.
Tom: So things have changed.
Dave: Yeah, but all I am saying, Tom, is—the lawmaking body of conservative branch? No, God makes the laws, and we obey them, and I think He has said it quite clearly. So you don’t have to discuss—“Well, you banned it once, but let’s come back and discuss it again.” In view of the pressure, society at large is accepting homosexuals. They have managed to get their way into the schools. You can’t bring the other side in, in fact, they have put such pressure on society that it now is becoming against the law in some places, in Canada, for example, to dare say homosexuality is wrong.
Was it a couple of weeks ago? We had a ruling—you can’t even read the Bible! But wait a minute! So, what we are doing is pushing God’s Word aside, and we are going to come up with our own ideas, and, Tom, it gets more serious when it comes to how to get to heaven. We’ve just been discussing that. We’ve got a church, the Catholic church—they came up with their rules, they came up with their traditions, their ideas, and now God is supposed to knuckle under and give in and say, “Okay, if that’s the way you want it.”
So, Tom, we have rejected God as God. We’re making up our own rules, but we’re still playing church and pretending we’re religious, and it isn’t going to work with God. It’s that simple! So, let’s get back, search the Scriptures daily, find out what God has said, and then let’s follow Him and not any men or churches or any organizations, whoever they may be.