Church Leaders Pour Water on 'Gay Jesus' Claim

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - An Australian bishop Friday challenged a theologian's conclusion that Jesus was a homosexual, while the university that awarded him a doctorate this week sought to distance itself from his views.

The Anglican (Episcopalian) Bishop of North Sydney, Glenn Davies, said the claim was highly offensive to both Christians and Jews, "since homosexual behavior was explicitly and clearly condemned in the Old Testament, and Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God."

Davies was responding to the news that Rollan McCleary - a homosexual theologian and astrologer who says he is an Anglican - believes Jesus and several of his disciples were homosexuals.

McCleary said he based the conclusion on Jesus' "astrological chart," and said that the Bible also held clues.

The theologian on Thursday was awarded a doctorate for his thesis on "gay spirituality," following three years of publicly-funded research at the University of Queensland in eastern Australia.

Davies said the conclusion about Jesus was absurd.

"That Dr. McCleary resorted to astrological charts to arrive at this conclusion is not surprising, given that there is no evidence in the New Testament to support such a claim," he said.

The bishop added that Jesus' own teaching indicated that sexual intercourse was only acceptable between a married man and woman, and that the only alternative to marriage was celibacy.

A spokesman for the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference responded to queries by saying that it could not offer a specific comment on McCleary's thesis as it had not examined it.

But, he added, "The overwhelming body of both Catholic and non-Catholic theological opinion rejects any suggestion that there is evidence to suggest Jesus was a homosexual."

The spokesman also referred to the astrology aspect.

"We note with extreme reservation reports that Dr. McCleary's work draws on astrology as key evidence to support his proposition about Jesus' sexuality."

Davies expressed concern about the fact that McCleary's research cost Australian taxpayers 51,000 Australian dollars ($33,000), granted by the University of Queensland.

"I am sure that the citizens of Queensland could think of better ways of spending money in academic research than in a misguided attempt to claim credibility for homosexuality by attaching such spurious and unsubstantiated claims to Jesus of Nazareth," he said.

'Gay spirituality'

McCleary received his doctorate from the university's School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, which falls under the Faculty of Arts.

In response to emailed questions, the university sent a statement by Prof. Alan Rix, executive dean of the Faculty of Arts, who defended the role of universities to "foster and stimulate study and debate."

He said almost 400 students at the University of Queensland had been awarded doctorates last year, "on a wide range of research subjects."

Rix said McCleary's thesis, which was entitled "Authority, inspiration and heresy in gay spirituality," was not on the subject of Jesus' sexuality, "but rather on the broad topic of gay spirituality in Western civilization."

It did not explore the issue of Jesus' sexuality in any detail "but made a passing reference to the subject by citing the views of other authors."

"The lack of information on the life of Jesus Christ makes it impossible for a thesis to have come to any conclusion about whether Jesus was gay or not," Rix added.

McCleary himself told in an earlier interview that while other authors had touched on the subject of Jesus' sexuality, his work - which he said was a "world first" - was "the nearest we can get ... to real objectivity on this" because it was based on both theology and astrology.

He also told Australian radio that other "queer theologians" had tried to argue in the past that Jesus was a homosexual, but they did not provide evidence to back up the view.

Comparing his work to that of the earlier researchers, he added: "What I'm doing is showing a much more theological and also astrological dimension on all this which will make a lot more sense to people."

On Thursday, a press release posted on the University of Queensland's website highlighted McCleary's "world first thesis into the new study area of gay spirituality."

It quoted the doctoral student as saying "Christianity has gay principals [leading figures] without realizing the fact."

On Friday, the press release had been removed from the website.

Separately from his thesis, McCleary is about to publish a book examining "the theological implications of the sexuality of Jesus."

The book, which the university stressed it was not associated with in any way, is called Signs for a Messiah and is being published by New Zealand-based Hazard Press.

Hazard project manager Danielle Wilson-Taylor said Friday there had been "a great deal of interest" in the book ahead of the June 14 launch date.

She said the company was investigating the possibility of co-publication for McCleary's book in both the U.S. and Britain.

See Earlier Story:
'Gay Jesus' Claim Draws Fire (May 29, 2003)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow