Rev Paul Smith

Introduction: Rev. Paul Smith

Rev. Paul Smith, was a revered mystic, teacher, author, and minister, that spent 49 years at the helm of Broadway Church in Kansas City, Missouri. His tenure at a church that transitioned from conservative Southern Baptist to a progressive integral church mirrors his own spiritual journey. His writings, particularly those on spirituality and inclusivity, challenge traditional Christian perspectives and foster a broader understanding of divine love.

Rev. Paul Smith’s Life and Legacy

Joining the conservative Southern Baptist Church in 1963, Smith’s career was marked by a profound evolution in thought and practice, culminating in his church’s departure from the Southern Baptist Convention. This shift reflected his broader theological journey towards what he termed ‘Integral Christianity‘, a movement embracing a holistic view of faith.

Smith’s influence extended beyond the pulpit; he taught at various theological schools such as St. Paul Methodist School of Theology and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His articles have appeared in publications like Tikkun, enriching discussions on contemporary spirituality across various media platforms. As a regular contributor to the Integral Life website, his thoughts reach a global audience. His seminal works include “Integral Christianity – The Spirit’s Call to Evolve” and “Is Your God Big Enough? Close Enough? You Enough? Jesus and the Three Faces of God.”

Exploration of Paul Smith’s Biblical Interpretations Related to Homosexuality

Rev. Smith challenges contemporary evangelical interpretations of scripture related to homosexuality, advocating for a more inclusive approach. Below, we delve into the biblical questions he raises, using the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVue) for all scriptural references:

Does the Bible Condemn Same-Sex Relationships?

Rev. Paul Smith argues that traditional interpretations of biblical texts concerning homosexuality often reflect contemporary biases rather than the texts’ original meanings. He challenges the conventional reading of Genesis 19, which has historically been used to assert that the Bible condemns same-sex relationships due to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Smith points out that this interpretation is a misreading. The real sin of Sodom, as highlighted in Ezekiel 16:49, was the lack of hospitality and the poor treatment of the needy: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Furthermore, when examining the New Testament, Rev. Smith notes that Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but often speaks against injustice and unkindness. The story of Sodom is referenced in terms of inhospitality and pride, not sexual immorality. In the Gospel of Luke (10:12), it is suggested that Sodom’s wrongdoing was its failure to welcome and care for those in need.

In addition to the Genesis account, Paul Smith also addresses other commonly cited scriptures such as Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27. He advises that these verses must be understood in their historical and cultural context. For instance, Leviticus is part of the Holiness Code, a set of purity laws that also includes prohibitions against mixing fabrics and eating shellfish, illustrating that not all Levitical laws are applied in contemporary Christian practice.

Romans 1 discusses “unnatural acts” in the context of idolatrous pagan worship, which included temple prostitution and other rites that were not about committed relationships but exploitative and pagan practices. Smith emphasizes that these texts were addressing specific historical situations and were not blanket condemnations of homosexual relationships as understood in modern terms.

By dissecting these scriptures with a focus on historical context and original meanings, Rev. Smith advocates for a reading of the Bible that recognizes the humanity and dignity of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation. He challenges believers to reflect on the essence of biblical teachings — love, justice, and mercy — rather than adhering to interpretations that marginalize and harm vulnerable communities.

Smith’s approach encourages a reexamination of biblical texts with an emphasis on inclusivity and love, aligning with his broader theological commitment to an Integral Christianity that affirms every person’s divine identity.

Does the Bible Lead Us to Affirm Homosexuality in the Same Way We Affirm Heterosexuality?

Rev. Paul Smith addresses this crucial question by delving deeply into the New Testament, particularly focusing on passages that are often used to contest homosexual relationships. One key passage is Romans 1:26-27, where Paul the Apostle describes “unnatural acts.” Rev. Smith argues that these references to unnatural acts are specifically tied to the context of idolatrous pagan rituals, which involved sexual activities as a form of worship and were not indicative of a general statement on all same-sex activities.

He points out that the term “unnatural” in this context does not refer to what modern audiences might consider against nature, but rather it is used to describe behaviors that are outside the norms of the worship of the Jewish God, Adonai, and are associated instead with pagan gods. This distinction is crucial because it highlights that the apostle Paul was addressing specific religious practices, not issuing a blanket condemnation of same-sex relationships or orientations.

Rev. Smith also references the broader biblical themes of love and acceptance found in both the Old and New Testaments, suggesting that these principles should guide Christian ethics. He mentions that the fruits of the Spirit, as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — are qualities that should define all relationships, including those between same-sex partners.

A person facing a giant open book with a flashlight and the book appears to have a door opening to go into it.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)


By advocating for a reevaluation of traditionally cited scriptures against the broader context of biblical messages of love and inclusion, Rev. Smith encourages Christians to affirm and bless homosexual relationships in the same way they do heterosexual ones. This approach not only aligns with the core Christian values of love and acceptance but also promotes a more inclusive understanding of divine love.


“I believe that if one draws a straight line from the Bible to now, the inevitable conclusion is that all sexual orientations are a gift from God. Homosexuality, the natural ability to fall in love with a person of the same sex is a gift from God. God blesses same-sex relationships in the same way that God blesses different-sex relationships.”
~ Rev. Paul Smith

The Role of Impurity and Legalism in Scripture

Rev. Paul Smith provides a critical analysis of the traditional interpretations of biblical texts such as Leviticus and the Pauline epistles, which are often cited as condemning homosexual acts. He emphasizes that many references to ‘impurity’ in Scriptures like Romans are tied to ritual and cultural purity laws specific to ancient religious practices, rather than to moral judgments about sexual orientation or behavior.

Smith highlights that in Romans 1:26-27, where Paul discusses behaviors he describes as “unnatural,” these are specifically linked to the context of idolatrous rites practiced in Roman pagan temples. Such acts involved rituals that were considered impure not because the acts themselves inherently bore sin, but because they were performed in worship of gods other than Adonai, hence violating Jewish purity codes. This interpretation suggests that the apostle’s criticisms were aimed at the idolatrous context rather than at homosexuality.

Paul’s references to nature often illustrate prevailing cultural norms rather than immutable moral laws. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul discusses long hair on men as “unnatural,” which clearly ties the concept of ‘natural’ to societal customs rather than to inherent moral values. Similarly, in Romans 11:24, Paul describes the grafting of Gentiles into the spiritual lineage of Israel as “contrary to nature,” using the term to discuss God’s actions that defy conventional expectations and norms.

This interpretation suggests that what is considered ‘natural’ can vary and is often dictated by specific historical and cultural circumstances. Therefore, using ‘natural law’ to categorically deny the legitimacy or morality of same-sex relationships overlooks the dynamic and culturally conditioned nature of biblical language.

Moreover, Smith explores how the early Christian movement, particularly as documented in Acts 15, shifted away from a strict, legalistic adherence to Jewish law towards a more inclusive, Spirit-guided community ethos. Acts 15 is pivotal as it recounts the Jerusalem Council, which debated whether Gentile converts to Christianity needed to follow Jewish customs, including dietary laws and circumcision. The decision, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was that Gentile believers should not be burdened with these old covenant laws, emphasizing faith and grace over legalistic observance.

This decision is significant for contemporary discussions on sexuality, as it illustrates the early church’s movement towards inclusivity, prioritizing spiritual and ethical principles over rigid adherence to older legal codes. Smith uses this example to argue for a Christian ethos that embraces all individuals, regardless of their sexuality, reaffirming that the spirit of the law — characterized by love, justice, and acceptance — should guide Christian responses rather than the letter of ancient prohibitions.

In essence, Rev. Paul Smith advocates for a reading of Scripture that recognizes the context and purpose of biblical laws on purity and impurity, urging Christians to apply the foundational principles of love and inclusion to modern understandings of sexuality. This approach calls for a move away from legalism towards a relationship with God and each other, guided by the Holy Spirit and marked by grace and acceptance.

Integrating Scripture with Modern Understanding

Rev. Paul Smith advocates for an enlightened approach to reading Scripture that accommodates both traditional teachings and contemporary understandings of human sexuality. He emphasizes that interpretations of biblical texts should be infused with the principles of love and justice, reflecting a compassionate stance towards all of God’s creations.

Smith urges readers to go beyond a literalist reading and to engage with the Bible through a lens that recognizes the evolution of human understandings about sexuality. He encourages integrating scriptural wisdom with modern psychological and sociological insights, which affirm that sexuality is a complex and varied aspect of human identity, not confined to binary definitions.

By advocating for a scriptural interpretation that is informed by contemporary knowledge and guided by the overarching biblical principles of love and inclusivity, Smith provides a framework for reconciling faith with an acceptance of diverse sexual orientations. This approach honors the depth and breadth of scripture and respects the dignity of all individuals, promoting a more inclusive and just spiritual community.

Affirming Truth: We are expressions of divine love!

Rev. Paul Smith’s work offers a profound invitation to view biblical texts through a lens that affirms every person’s divine identity. In Folx with Faith, we embrace this holistic view, recognizing the need to interpret holy scriptures in ways that foster love, inclusivity, and understanding. As we honor Rev. Smith’s legacy, we continue to explore how faith communities can not only accept but celebrate divine diversity in all its forms.

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