by R.C. Wilson & Clint Neill . Contributing Writers
The consecration of Bishop Robinson as seen in ‘For the Bible Tells Me So.’
COLUMBIA — Hundreds visited the Nickelodeon Theater last month to catch the weekend-long run of a powerful documentary on homosexuality and the Bible. The film focuses on the moving stories of five Christian families with gay or lesbian children and offers provocative responses to many of the hotly debated questions of what the Bible really says about being gay.
Larry Hembree of the Nickelodeon said ticket sales were “highly successful,” with over 400 sold in the first four days. The theater’s capacity is 77 per showing. Audiences were described as diverse in age, race, sexual orientation and religious affiliation.
Featured participants in “For the Bible Tells Me So” are the political Gephardt family, the parents of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of the New Hampshire Episcopal Diocese, Soulforce founder the Rev. Mel White, and the family of Soulforce Equality Ride founder Jake Reitan.
After one of the last showings of the film a retired Methodist minister and a religion professor opened the floor for discussion in the sold-out movie house. No one screamed that LGBT individuals were going “straight to Hell.” In fact, most of those gathered at the Oct. 21 screening were in attendance to support LGBT Americans.
Rev. Tom Summers and University of South Carolina (USC) professor Carl Evans facilitated the discussion that centered on interpretation of the biblical texts used to condemn homosexuality. They shared modern scholarship that reshapes the cultural, social and historical context of the Bible. Many who attended the session found it to be a beneficial addition to the screening.
The following evening, students from the USC Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Alliance (BGLSA), along with professors and several campus ministers, attended a showing of “For the Bible Tells Me So.” A panel discussion followed the presentation.
Frank Anderson of Lutheran Campus Ministry, Scott Reeves of Chi Alpha and Garrett Curry of The Shack Christian Campus Ministry spoke to the group of around 50 students about their impressions of the film and their beliefs about homosexuality.
All three ministers agreed that sexual orientation as we know it today is not mentioned in the Bible. They also agreed that they accept LGBT students. However, they differed greatly on how they view the expression of a homosexual orientation.
Reeves and Curry distanced themselves from the radical anti-gay protesters who have descended on USC’s campus numerous times, but their views left no option for living life as an LGBT person. According to the two ministers, a literal view of the Bible sees gay relationships as sin, with no room for interpretation.
On the other hand, Anderson welcomed LGBT people with open arms and expressed support for same-sex marriage. His own family story is an example of acceptance like those highlighted in the film. He shared with the audience the story of his gay brother who died from AIDS in 1990.
Anderson said he embraced and accepted his brother and, since his passing, has been a committed supporter of LGBT equality. He has also worked for HIV/AIDS programs while ministering within the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The dialogue begun by the presentation of “For the Bible Tells Me So” is likely to have effects in Columbia for years to come. Among those who came out to watch the film were numerous local church groups, the Columbia chapter of the National Organization for Women, and the South Carolina Gay & Lesbian Business Guild.
In addition to USC’s LGBT group, the president of Columbia College attended a showing with his school’s LGBT student group, Spectrum, and members of Winthrop University’s GLOBAL also turned out.
info: “For the Bible Tells Me So” screens in Wilmington Nov. 7-10, in Winston-Salem on Dec. 8 and in Durham on Jan. 16. For more information or additional show dates, visit www.forthebibletellsmeso.org.