The following material was submitted to the WRF by two members of its Board of Directors - Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes and Dr. Davi Gomes. The former is Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University and the latter is President of Andrew Jumper School of Theology. Both institutions are located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and both men are ordained ministers of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB).
In Brazil, a bill (PL 122/2006) has been proposed in order to pass a law with the objective of “combating homophobia.” The project characterizes as a crime “any intimidating or vexing action, of moral, ethical, philosophical or psychological nature” that involves homosexuality.
Based on this project, homosexual activists in Brazil initiated active opposition to Christian psychologists who offer treatment for those who wish to leave homosexuality (as with Rozangela Justino) and to pastors (such as Lutheran Rev. Ademir Kreutzfeld) who have publicly counseled their flock to avoid homosexual lifestyle. In 2007, evangelicals and Christians in general believed that if the law should be approved, they would be punished for publicly treating homosexuality as sin, which would be contrary to the freedom of religious expression granted by the Brazilian Constitution.
Thus, Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, a centenary institution of higher learning, with a body of 45,000 students and 1900 professors, whose lifelong associate is the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB), published a portion of the position taken by the denomination on this matter on its site. This post was signed by its Chancellor, Rev. Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes. Recently, this text and the institution have come to be accused of being homophobic by gay organizations, with ample support of the media. Its position has been distorted and presented as if it is “intentionally promoting the right to be homophobic.” Rev. Augustus Nicodemus’ photo is being shown on various gay sites on the Internet, accompanied by words of hate and insulting comments directed at him, evangelicals and the Bible.
MACKENZIE UNIVERSITY: IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION
Mackenzie Presbyterian University (Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie) has recently come under attack for an allegedly “homophobic” text that has been on its site since 2007. We, from several Christian denominations, wish to express our solidarity with this institution. We rise up against the indiscriminate use of the term “homophobia,” that is being applied not only to murderers, assailants and discriminators of homosexual persons, but also to Christian religious leaders who, according to the light of Holy Scripture, consider homosexuality a sin. After all, our freedom of conscience and expression may not be denied us, nor may it be confounded with violence. We believe that mentioning sins in order to call people to voluntary repentance is an integral part of announcing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No declaration of hate may be based on the preaching of the love and of the grace of God.
As Christians, we have the biblical mandate to offer the Gospel of salvation to all people. Jesus Christ died to save and reconcile human beings with God. We believe, according to the Scriptures, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are sinners, every one of us. There is no division between “sinners” and “non-sinners.” The Bible presents us with long lists of sins and informs us that, without God’s forgiveness, human beings are lost and condemned. We know that the following are sins: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; murders, drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19).
In their traditional and historical interpretation, the Judeo-Christian Scriptures deal with homosexual conduct as sin, as can be shown by texts like Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:18-32, as well as others. If we desire the repentance and the conversion of the lost, we must also name this sin. We do not desire legally-enforced changes in behavior but, rather, conversion of the heart. And conversion of the heart does not occur because of external pressure, but by the gracious and persuasive act of the Holy Spirit of God who, as Jesus Christ taught, convicts of “sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
We therefore wish to certify that the eventual approval of so-called anti-homophobia laws will not hinder us from extending this invitation freely to all, an invitation that may also be refused. We are not in favor of any kind of law that forbids homosexual conduct; in the same manner, we are contrary to any law that goes against a principle that is very dear to Brazilian society: freedom of conscience. The Federal Constitution (Article 5) guarantees that “all are equal before the law,” stipulates that “liberty of conscience and of belief are inviolable,” and specifies that “no one may be denied rights by reason of religious belief or due to philosophical or political convictions.”
We are also opposed to any external force – intimidation, threats, verbal or physical aggression – that is intended to change a person’s mind-set. We do not accept that the criminalization of opinions be a valid instrument for social transformation because, besides being unconstitutional, this foments an undesirable wave of authoritarianism, undermining the foundations of democracy. In the same way that we do not seek to repress homosexual conduct with coercive measures, we do not want these same means to be used to make us stop preaching what we believe. We want to maintain our freedom to announce repentance and God’s forgiveness publicly. We want to maintain our right to open confessional educational institutions that reflect our Christian worldview. We want to guarantee that our religious community may express itself about all matters that are important to society.
We, therefore, manifest our full support for the pronouncement by the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, published in 2007 and partially reproduced, also in 2007, on the site of the Mackenzie Presbyterian University, by its chancellor, Rev. Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes. That pronouncement may be found at this address:
If homosexual activists intend to criminalize the posture of the Mackenzie Presbyterian University, they should also prepare to equally face the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, all of the country’s evangelical churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish Congregation of Brazil and, in the last instance, to censure the Judeo-Christian Scriptures themselves. Our law guarantees that individuals, religious groups and institutions have the right to express their confessional position and conscience in subjection to the Word of God. We take this firm stand so that this freedom may not be taken away from us.
This manifesto is a collective production with a view to representing Brazilian Christian thought. For immediate release.