Friday, May 30, 2014

I've been thinking about the possibility of doing a biographical sketch of my great uncle Lemuel Sealey. He was a medical doctor from trinidad who participated in the organization and demand for rights of Afro-Canadians in Montreal during the 1970's.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Secret Quaker: Does anything unite Quakers?

Secret Quaker: Does anything unite Quakers?: At the World Conference of Friends in 1991, Val Ferguson asked:   "Does anything unite this diverse group beyond our common love ...

Secret Quaker: Does anything unite Quakers?

Secret Quaker: Does anything unite Quakers?: At the World Conference of Friends in 1991, Val Ferguson asked:   "Does anything unite this diverse group beyond our common love ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Queer Quaker: Missionary in San Francisco-Part 1

Queer Quaker: Missionary in San Francisco-Part 1: “Those who go forth ministering to the wants and necessities of their fellow beings experience a rich return, their souls being as a wate...

Queer Quaker: Missionary in San Francisco-Part 1

Queer Quaker: Missionary in San Francisco-Part 1: “Those who go forth ministering to the wants and necessities of their fellow beings experience a rich return, their souls being as a wate...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'H' is for a Harmless People - Early Quaker Attitudes to War and Peace. By Stuart Masters at A Quaker Stew

Sunday, 11 May 2014

'H' is for a Harmless People - Early Quaker Attitudes to War and Peace


For some time now a debate has been raging among scholars about whether the first generation Friends were genuinely pacifist or whether they only adopt this position as a matter of political expediency with the fall of the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the monarchy. Against the position of Marxist historians such as Berry Reay, Gerard Guiton in his book The Early Quakers and the ‘Kingdom of God’: Peace, Testimony and Revolution’ has argued that early Friends were consistently nonviolent in their beliefs and conduct. David Boulton in his recent Presidential address to the Friends Historical Association has criticized Guiton’s work and defended the conclusions of Reay et al.


The uniquely Quaker argument for the rejection of violence from a new covenant apocalyptic perspective can be observed in the writings of early Friends and in particular in the first four public documents that attempted to explain and justify the Quaker Testimony against war. Here we see George Fox explicitly linking peaceable principles with a new covenant understanding:

"The Jews’ sword outwardly, by which they cut down the heathen, was a type (that is a figure) of the spirit of God within which (spirit) cuts down the heathenish nature within. So live in the peaceable Kingdom of Christ… and not in the lusts from whence wars arise."

George Fox – Epistle, 1659

The first four public declarations about the peaceable principles of early Friends are:

  • James Nayler’s The Lamb’s War (1657).
  • Edward Burrough’s To the Present Distracted and Broken Nation of England (1659)
  • Margaret Fell’s A Declaration and an Information from us the People of God called Quakers (1660)
  • George Fox and Richard Hubberthorne’s A Declaration from the Harmless and Innocent People of God called Quakers (1661)

The Argument in Summary

  1. We have been disarmed by the Lord - The roots of all war can be found in human nature in its fallen state (where humans are alienated from God) and in particular in our desire to exclusively and selfishly possess and use the creation (the lust of greed). However, we have experienced a spiritual transformation in which God has lifted us out of the fallen state and taken us back into the state of paradise again. This process has destroyed the lusts that lead to war. We have been turned away from the world and towards God. This has not been achieved by our own efforts but by the work of Christ within us. Christ has freed us from the motivation and compulsion that causes humans to fight.

"Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace and ensue it; to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God; seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all. We know that wars and fightings proceed from the lusts of men, as James iv. 1--3, out of which the Lord hath redeemed us, and so out of the occasion of war. The occasion of war, and war itself (wherein envious men, who are lovers of them-selves more than lovers of God lust, kill, and desire to have men's lives or estates) ariseth from lust All bloody principles and practices, as to our own particulars, we utterly- deny; with all outward wars and strife, and fightings with - outward weapons, for any end, or under an pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world.”  Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

  1. Christ is our king and he has commanded us not to fight - We regard Christ as our priest, prophet and king. Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not to worldly governments. Christ consistently commanded his followers not to fight. He prevented Peter from using violence at his arrest and refused to use force himself even though the power was at his disposal (Matthew 26:51-53). Christ came to save, not to destroy (Luke 9:56). The use of violence represents idolatry and a lack of faith. God’s people must rely exclusively on the Lord to protect them and should patiently endure persecution (Revelation 13:10).

“…Christ said to Peter, 'Put up thy sword in his place;' though he had said before, he that had no sword might sell his coat and buy one (to the fulfilling of the law and the Scripture), yet after, when he had bid him put it up, he said, ‘he that taketh the sword, shall perish with the sword.’ And further, Christ said to Pilate, 'Thinkest thou, that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' And this might satisfy Peter, (Luke xxii. 36), after he had put up his sword, when he said to him. 'He that took it, should perish with it;' which satisfieth us, (Matt. xxvi. 51-53) And in the Revelation, it is said, 'He that kills with the sword, shall perish with the sword; and here is the faith and the patience of the saints.(Rev. 13:10)'” Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

  1. The Kingdom of God cannot be established by human force - The Kingdom of God is fundamentally different from the kingdoms of the world (John 18:36). God has made it clear that the Kingdom will be achieved by spiritual means, not by force (Zechariah 4:6). Christ has led us into the new peaceable covenant mentioned by the prophets (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). In this state we are literally unable to engage in violence and war. Therefore we are engaged in a spiritual struggle with spiritual weapons, not an outward war with physical weapons (2 Corinthian 10:4).
“..for we have chosen the Son of God to be our King, and he hath chosen us to be his People; whose Kingdom is not of this World (John 18:3), neither is his Warfare with carnal Weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4), neither is his Victory by the murdering and killing of men’s Persons; but we are given up to bear and suffer all things for his Name's sake; and our present Glory and Renown therein stands till the appointed time of our Deliverance, without the Arm of Flesh, or any multitude of an Host of men; this we declare.”  Edward Burrough 1659
  1. We want everyone to enter the Kingdom of God - We are not interested in fighting for the kingdoms of this world or trying to take them over. These kingdoms will be replaced by God’s Kingdom. So we wait and pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God where Christ will rule in every one of us. It is Christ’s rule in human hearts that brings Shalom. This is God’s wish and intent.
“The Lamb's quarrel is not against the creation, for then should his weapons be carnal, as the weapons of the worldly spirits are: "For we war not with flesh and blood," nor against the creation of God; that we love; but we fight against the spiritual powers of wickedness, which wars against God in the creation, and captivates the creation into the lust which wars against the soul, and that the creature may be delivered into its liberty prepared for the sons of God. And this is not against love, nor everlasting peace, but that without which can be no true love nor lasting peace.”  James Nayler 1657
  1. We recognise the right of government to punish evil-doers - We recognise that in the world as it currently is (i.e. a fallen world) God has set up government and the law to use force and violence where necessary to control and punish those who do evil (Romans 13).

    "Therefore in love we warn you for your soul's good, not to wrong the innocent, nor the babes of Christ, which he hath in his hand, which he cares for as the apple of his eye; neither seek to destroy the heritage of God, nor turn your swords backward upon such as the law was not made for, i.e., the righteous; but for sinners and transgressors, to keep them down.”  Fox, Hubberthorne et al 1661

Those who are sympathetic to the idea that Friends were not consistently nonviolent inthe 1650s have pointed to a number of Quaker texts written around 1658-1659 whichappear to give encouragement to Cromwell and the army in using force against theirenemies:
 Had you been faithful and thundered down the deceit, the Hollander had been your subject and tributers; and Germany had given up to have done your will; and the Spaniard had quivered like a dry leaf, wanting the virtue of God; the king of France should have bowed under you his neck; the Pope should have withered as in winter; the Turk in all his fatness should have smoked. You should not have a-stood trifling about small things but minded the work of the Lord as he began with you at first… Arise and come out, for had you been faithful you should have crumbled Nations to dust…
Oh! Oliver – George Fox (In Burrough’s Good Counsel and Advice, 1659) 
Had you been faithful to the power of… God …(and) gone into the midst of Spain … to require the blood of the innocent that there had been shed and commanded them to have offered up their inquisition to you … and knocked at Rome’s gates … and set up a standard… then you should have sent for the Turk’s idol, the Mahomet, and plucked up idolatry.’
 To the Council of Officers and the Army – George Fox, 1658/9
 …and the God of heaven is setting up his Kingdom over the kingdoms of the world,  degeneration is entered amongst all, and all must be purged of all orders of men, and the evil cast out, the work of the Lord is great and mighty, and he requires no help from thee, nor any man whatsoever, for his own arm will bring it to pass, yet he would not have thee to gain-say his work, and strive against it, and seek to quench what the Lord is bringing forth, if thou do it, then thou be condemned, and the Lord will speedily execute his judgement, and remove thee, and overthrow thy power and authority into destruction; wherefore be passive in this matter and look thou at the Lord, and protect and defend men’s persons and (?) from wrong, but meddle not with their opinions and professions in religions, to exalt any of them nor yet to persecute them; and as concerns armies abroad, act faithfully and just men that will not seek themselves be put in turst, for the Army is of great concernment to thee, to stand or fall through them as to man’s account, and the war against Spain be faithful to God in it, and let trusty men have authority, the Lord may accomplish something by it to his honour and to thine, if thou be meek and humble and walk with the Lord; and to say no more about it, there is something in it known to the Lord, and he may bring it to pass in his reason.
 Good Counsel and Advice Rejected – Edward Burrough to Oliver Cromwell 1658
 And this I do know, that the Lord hath owned and honoured our English Army, and done good things for them and by them in these Nations in our age, and the Lord once armed them with the spirit of courage and zeal against many abominations and tyrannies, and he was with them in many things which he called them to, and gave them victory and Dominion over much injustice and oppression, and over Tyrants and cruel Laws and he was with them till that a spirit of vain glory and Ambition and self-seeking, and the honour of this world entered into some and defiled the whole body, & made it deformed & void of its former beauty, and of its valour and nobleness also, at which the anger of the Lord was kindled, and against you also was his hand turned, with the losse of his presence, because the sincerity & the faithful principle was almost choaked & the good eaten out from amongst you, by the false spirit of self-seeking and vain glory, which was entered into the hearts of many but this is to the army in general, and to say no more of it to you, only that you might search your own hearts, and may be purged, and may again return to the old spirit of righteousness, which will reach after the liberty of the people and the freedom of the Nations, and that all oppression and tyranny and unjust powers may be broken down to the dust before you, and be subdued by you as your prey, and that there be no more a looking back by you for rest and ease in the flesh, in great houses of residence, till you have visited Rome and inquired after, and sought out the innocent blood that is buried therein, and avenge the blood of the guiltless through all the Dominions of the Pope, the blood of the just it cryes through Italy and Spain, and the time is come that the Lord will search it and seek it out and repay it, and it would be your honor to be made use of by the Lord in any degree in order to this matter, whether the Lord will revenge the grievous blood-guiltiness that lies upon them, 30 by himself without an instrument, or whether by you or others as an instrument, whether this way or another; that God will do it, this I determine not, but this I do know, the time is not long, that he will one way or another avenge and revenge the blood of the just upon the murderous head; and this I also believe that the Lord will do it, or make way hereunto even by you, the men of our English Nation, if you be faithful to him, and do what he requires of you, for what are these few poor Islands that you have run through, and laid many mountains low, and wounded the remainder of the Romish Idolatry that was standing in the beginning of your Wars, and the remaining part thereof, which stood between the dayes of Queen Mary, and the last years of Charles hath received a mortal blow, both by you, and partly as preparers of the way, but what are these little Islands of England, & Scotland· Ireland, they are but little in comparison of the great part of Christendom in which Idolatry, tyranie and grievous oppressions do abound, which the hand of the Lord is against, and which he will take vengeance upon.
 A Visitation and Warning Proclaimed - Edward Burrough & Samuel Fisher, 1659
What do these mixed messages tell us about early Quaker attitudes to war and the useof violence? I suggest that this reflects a distinction that early Friends made betweentwo different dimensions of divine providence; how God acts through the people of Godand how God acts through the powers of this world:
A.   God’s People – have been regenerated and therefore liberated from the lusts that lead to violent conflict. In the new covenant God’s people defeat evil using spiritual weapons rather than carnal weapons.

B.   This World – In this world God may use the rebellious powers and unregenerated people to achieve divine ends. Since the powers of this world use violence, divine providence may be exercised in this way.

It would seem that this apparent contradiction can be explained by recognizing that the vision of Early Friends assumed that in the new covenant the people of God were in some sense already living in the God’s kingdom even though they were still located in a world that has not yet been regenerated. This meant that they saw an overlapping to two modes of existence with two different standards of conduct and ethics.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sometimes you get tired of being viewed as a plague.......

I love winning arguments.

So I'm usually careful to only engage in debates where I know what I'm talking about. I had just such a debate going with someone in the comment section of their blog. We were going back and forth.And I had answers to all his arguments. But as I prepared to make another rejoinder, I decided to write it  here on my private blog, but not post it. Because, in my mind, it's his blog, and the fact that I have points he can't really answer, doesn't mean he's going to change his mind. So what is the point? Why fight for my position on his blog and have it end in acrimony if there is no chance of being heard or persuading?

And I left the situation there.

There are a lot of areas in my life over the past few years where I've given up hope of any positive outcome . First it was the school I was going to, then it was the denomination I belonged to, right now its a relationship that keeps almost happening, but is always aborted in the most painful of fashions. You get tired of fighting, tired of arguing, tired of hoping, and tired of waiting. Everyone and everything you love and care about may have hope of improvement, all your hoped for dreams might come true, but apparently not as long as you are a part of them. It's like your only hope for personal happiness is to abandon everyone and everything you've had in your life and start over. New Schools, new faiths, and new loves. And you have to stop caring about their relationship with you, or if they are happy. You have to learn to shrug and say: "fulfilled or not, it's your business. I could care less."

I've been able to take that position with my old school, and my old church. Able to leave them to their own devices and not be concerned very much about their future, as I no longer plan to have any part in them.

But institutions are much easier to give up then people. It's in situations like these that Universalist Salvation theology makes sense. I'm tired of being an exile. I'm tired of feeling out of place.I'm tired of spending my life anticipating the final disappointment, the irrevocable breach. I'm tired of having to give up on the future I've always known, only to have it replaced by a swirling void of uncertainty. I've had to give up on so much, just once I'd like the thing that I want to be available and open to me, and the people that I love to stop viewing me as a plague or a problem.

You get tired sometimes.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Some of my arguments on Same Sex Relationships

1. You  said you define holy as living within scriptural authority. Which scripture?

I have yet to find in Jesus’ teaching any prohibition of gay relationships. He simply doesn’t discuss them. This is not an endorsement, but neither is it a condemnation. It is silence. This is why Theologians like Robert Gagnon have tried so hard to find texts that could be construed in this matter. But his best attempts are wrong. And though he write about marriage in a heterosexual context it is clearly focused on the topic. Nothing that he says could not be part of Gay relationships (if such things existed, which they did not at the time)

Paul’s writings I DO ignore on the topic. Because the infallibility of Paul’s writing have yet to be presented to me in scripture, either by Paul himself, or by others. It is, of course ,not the only position of Paul I ignore, and I’m certain that though you may accept some of his teaching on the issue of Homosexuality, you reject his teaching on slavery and other topics. Which leads to the question: why one and not the other?
Clearly, you don’t accept his ideas on the origins and nature of homosexual attraction either, as recorded in Romans 1:18-32. Yet the conclusion you do accept. Why one and not the other?

At this point, I would like to point out that neither you nor I have (yet) explicitly referenced the most important person in this discussion. The most important because his writings are the closest thing to being declared indisputable that are recorded in scripture, yet are also the ones that Christianity is defined by disputing.
I speak here of Moses. It is ironic that it is his writing, the only undisputed part of the biblical Canon, that we are so comfortable following. And it is on his writings that the notion that a scriptural prohibition or endorsement is sufficient without dispute for all time founders. Or Christianity. Whichever one you think should tip over.

To both Jesus and the apostles, the Law of Moses is what Scripture (again indisputably) meant. But any cursory look at the New Testament will make clear that this did not stop them from challenging and rejecting parts of it. Which means that scriptural authority, for the Christian is NOT ENOUGH. When Peter (temporarily) accepts the notion of challenging the Law explicitly, he does so for two apparent reasons. One is that he sees God’s Spirit present and made manifest in the lives of people who don’t keep the Law completely (Acts 10). And recall that the Law of Moses IS scripture . The definition of the word, as far as Peter would have been concerned. The second is the IMPACT that the Law has on people’s lives Acts 15:6-12). It’s probably verse 10 that has been the most impactful on me in regards to this topic.

So when I hear someone say that they define holiness as living within scriptural authority, I always ask what they mean. Because as a Christian you do not claim all scripture to be binding on your life. You, in conjunction with the wider faith community of which you are a part, bind and loose, accept and reject, follow and even condemn scripture on the basis of its effects on the lives of others. As the first disciples did.

I wrote in my initial response that I rejected the notion that homosexuality is in opposition to holiness because “it is the presence of God and the fruit of His Spirit (Love being most important) in a person or activity that renders something holy”. And if this is the case who are we to suggest that it is “common or unclean”?
If there is any other notion to be found in the Gospel, I have not heard of it.

2.  I did not presume that Jesus’ silence on a topic meant what I wanted it to mean. Only that it doesn't mean anything one way or the other. It doesn't back up my view, doesn't shut it down either. It leaves ground open for discussion.

Jesus’ references to marriage are occurring in the context of a majority heterosexual community in which the concept of sexual orientation, much less marriage for same-sex couples, simply did not exist. He was not defining marriage in those texts in terms of sexuality and gender. He was only defining them in terms of the obligations the partners had to one another.

And the ” Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” argument is not one that I find credible. Ethnicity and race did not exist in the Garden of Eden. For me to suggest that to refer to ourselves in those terms was sinful because they aren't mentioned in the creation story would be unthinkable. The text also speaks of fruitful multiplication. But I have yet to see that used to suggest that either celibacy or marriages deliberately free of children are incompatible with Christian practice or faithfulness to God.

If you read the writings of the suffragists and abolitionists, you will find that their arguments are mostly based on the same type of reasoning that Liberals use today on the issue of Gay marriage. In effect, most ignored the texts they didn't like and acted as if they didn’t exist. Then they made a moral suasion argument, based on things like “Love” and “Christian Brotherhood”.
The ultimate effectiveness of such arguments is demonstrated by the fact that people think there are passages in the Bible that condemn slavery as such. The best you can find in the Biblical text are passages that decry the slavery of Israel. But that is because the GROUP is enslaved to pagan foreigners, not because slavery itself is considered to be wrong. As subsequent texts in favor of slavery among the Israelites as well as the enslavement by Israelites of foreigners attest.

But there were a few abolitionists who took the approach that I believe was the right one. They acknowledged that the Bible was indeed a pro-slavery document as such. That the majority of texts to be found on the topic are in favor of (or at least not hostile towards) the institution. Only then did they use the moral suasion argument, saying in effect that the IMPACT that slavery had on both slave and slave master was all the proof one needed to see that it was not in harmony with the spirit of Christ. And because it was destructive, the followers of Jesus should reject it in full.

This is not, “Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”. Which raises the question: If the Bible supports slavery, mustn't we?
That is the implication of the idea that there is no justified reason to reject any text. And if you read scripture, especially the Law, with this principle in mind, you will quickly notice how much scripture the early church and most modern Christians have rejected. You’ll realize that, by this argument, The New Testament itself would have to be removed from our Bibles, for violating the Deuteronomic principle that nothing contrary to what is written in the Law can be accepted as from God, and Peter and Paul condemned for leading us astray.

This is the implication, but too many have decided simply not to be honest about the text and therefore avoid the implication. Liberals often try to make the text say what it doesn’t say in hopes of justifying the “right” cause. Conservatives try to protect the Bible from itself by declaring everything good and then simply ignoring the bad (non-beneficial) parts.
And both sides declare that it is wrong to reject any text for any reason, even though they do reject them (following the example of Jesus and the Apostles) as they deem necessary.

So yes, I do think your position is illogical and contradictory. And, if you realized fully the implications of your position, deeply dishonest and harmful. That is why I had to reject it myself a few years back when held it. I looked myself and other Gay people in the eye, and told them that the text says what it says, and all they could do is obey it or be disloyal to God. But then they read all the destructive and harmful and unnecessary things the BIble says that we as Christians don’t obey. They see that some of those texts are rejected by the early church, but others (like those on slavery) aren’t fully rejected until relatively recent times. Not with a new book of the Bible but with little else but the fierce belief that Jesus and his loving spirit are incompatible with harmful, but scripturally supported, acts or beliefs. As I contemplated this, I realized that it must seem like our churches are telling people dying of thirst that they shouldn’t drink water and then dipping our whole heads in the river flowing nearby.

Before, I was comfortable with celibacy for Gay people. Still am, truth be told, at least for myself. But for all the young people who come after me? And what about the Gay people who have families and relationships? How could I condemn them and yet praise Christianity, when part of the very foundations of our faith as Christians is a stance toward Scripture that we deem wrong when gay people make appeal to it in favor of their relationships? It makes liars of us. And it brings disrepute on the Gospel of Jesus.

I could say more in extremely strident terms, but I notice how long this is so I’ll stop. Thanks for letting us respond to your stance.

3."Basically, your position comes down to “It makes me feel bad therefore I can ignore it”.I disagree with that characterization. BAsically, I'm saying that the great commandments (Love the lord your god, Love your neighbor as Yourself) are the general principles by which all our beliefs and acts must be judged. But how we do that is ambiguous and unclear as a result of the revelation of Jesus Christ and the reaction of the early church to His life and teaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their own. So any future upholding or laying down of any specific Biblical injunction or position must be done with the impact that it has on peoples lives.

 What possible reason is there to give up Circumcision, Stoning as punishment, the Deuteronomical position on Slavery, the sacrifice of animals, the keeping of the Sabbaths, the levitical dietary laws or any other scriptural instruction if the apparent impact that it has on people is not to be taken into account? It is literally unjustifiable. You could expand upon, perhaps spiritualize, the MEANING of these actions , but to abandon these practices altogether? There would be absolutely no need to do so. And no grounds according to the Law.

And Peter's speech in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council makes it clear that the impact the Law had on the lives of others was prominent in his decision not to support the enforcement of the Law on other Christians. And his PERSONAL feeling and experience on the matter was taken into account by the Jerusalem Council. Many of whom had not had the same experience. So personal gnosis matters. And what are the writings of Paul on the subject of circumcision in Galatians other than personal gnosis and exegesis? We forget that much of the Bible is personal experience with God and personal belief that is recorded, then presented as useful to a community.

 What is the Bible for then, if it is no longer an instruction manual? It remains a record of personal and communal experience with God, an imperfect guide, which conveys certain general principles and perspectives and several specific standards based on those principles. And we like all the communities of ages past, must judge whether and how those standards will be applied in our communities today.

4. But you're making my point in your very own example. You cited Jesus, Paul, Peter, but you avoid Moses. Why?

I talk about Old Testament Law first because it IS the Law. THE Law. When Jesus, Paul and Peter were alive there was no book of Timothy or Corinthians. There was only the Law and its pronouncements. The fact that there is ANY deviation (because the key word to be found in the Law about it being followed is ALL) makes my case.

When Peter made his argument to the Jerusalem Council, (based on his personal gnosis as you recall), he was not the only one. What he said was weighed and as you said, some familiar elements of Biblical law were kept. But it wasn't ALL (no circumcision for one thing). If the Scriptures told them to follow everything and they don't follow everything, what does it say about their and as a consequence our, relationship to Scripture?
Perhaps what I found most intriguing about the fact that you used what parts of the Law the Council agreed to enforce, is that one of the rules on that list (don't eat foods sacrificed to idols) had a (slight) dissenter.  Paul argues in Corinthians ch.8 and 10 that if someone deliberately offers something that has been offered to Idols they shouldn't eat it, but not because it is a sinful act. Rather, it is because the offeror might THINK so. This type of reasoning suggests he didn't see anything personally wrong with it himself. Not exactly unified obedience to either the council OR (most importantly) Scripture.

So clearly something being scriptural is not enough according to the New Testament. Jesus famously does the same thing, with the famous "you have heard that it was said" statements in which he quotes scripture (as if it was just something someone said) and then dismisses it in favor of something else (usually a more stringent rule). So what else has to be taken into consideration?

More than one thing. But one of those things is what impact the action or activity being endorsed/condemned has on the lives of those who do them. And also what impact the condemnation/endorsement has on those who follow the scriptural rule. Paul rejects a full throated endorsement of the Council's (and before that the Law's) position on eating things gifted to idols because of the implications it has on people's understanding of both eating and God. Peter as I mentioned before, does so on the basis of his experience witnessing the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of people who were not circumcised and the impact that the Law in general has on those who were.

That last part is important. You said that Jesus did not say that everything would be easy following him and it's true. But he also made clear that unnecessary burdens were wrong as well. And Jesus wasn't afraid to challenge the Law in various and sundry ways to make the point. For instance, when he touches the woman (and is touched in return) who  had the issue of blood. The Law presents bleeding outside of the menstrual cycle as "sin" that those who do so must make restitution for (Lev. 15:25-31). The fact that Jesus touched her renders them both unclean according to Scripture. But he not only allows himself to be touched, but publicizes it (and the healing of course) before raising a young girl from the dead (still unclean, and now more so that the touches the dead). Like so much Jesus did, it was a highly scandalous (blasphemous?) act.

Now if the general attitude was "Yeah, following the Bible is tough, but what can you do, pray for strength to obey.", then NONE of these stories would have made the cut. And Christianity as a whole would still insist on and endorse the Law. But is doesn't.

And neither do you. "Stoning unrepentant homosexuals who claim to be Christians to death is tough, the local police might give you a hard time about it, but the Bible says what the Bible says and all we can do is obey". That is the kind of thing you WOULD say if you truly practiced the kind of approach to Scripture you claim is necessary. But curiously you don't. Why?

Perhaps it has something to do with the impact (in every sense of the word) such actions would have on them and you.

Now all of this isn't an argument in favor of or against Homosexuality. This is an argument against the notion of biblical infallibility or inerrancy. Against the idea that how the text affects people is irrelevant. The New Testament and the history of the Church up to this day speaks against this idea. And I do to.
The reason why this is good for Gay people is that the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives becomes the criterion by which their relationship is judged, The impact good or bad those relationships have in themselves and others. And if they are judged on that basis, Gay couples win.