Recently I blogged about someone in whom I have a tacit admiration – Peter Tatchell. In one of today’s responses someone made the perfectly reasonable point: “I was intrigued by your comment about persuading him of the rightness of your views on sexuality, social justice and Christianity. I would like to persuade you of the rightness of MY views on those subjects 🙂 as I believe in talking to your opponents, not ignoring them…..” Whether or not this happens, remains to be seen, but as they say to be forewarned is to be forearmed and thinking through one’s position on these matters is something worth doing and I have been doing this for some time, evidenced by various postings, available on my website.
While I am happy to debate with all and sundry on these matters (or rather respectfully engage with) my bigger concern is to do so with Christians since it is my Christian convictions that inform my views. Also today, one of my Facebook friends posted something related that touched me. “Please could you pray. I was called in to see my tutor at Bible college this morning after I told him I’m dating someone else in our community. We don’t have a policy about sexuality and I wanted to be open with him when I started dating a few weeks ago and things have gone ok in previous conversations about this. However this time he suddenly said we’re not allowed to sit next to each other at meals or in community events such as worship services in case they perceive us to be having a sexual affair. I’m feeling deeply hurt and questioning my calling. I’m committed to living a holy life and my relationship is part of that but they seem to only care about how things look to people who want to gossip. Please could you pray that we know what to do and that we can respond in a godly way.” Postings of this nature are not unusual and reflect that in many circles it is difficult to come out openly as being gay. I suspect if the person being dated in this story were of the opposite sex, this issue would not have arose.
It got me thinking how we in the church deal with gay folk, especially those who wish to be fully involved in a congregation. It would not have been that long ago that if someone had come out as being gay, especially if in a gay relationship, he/she would have been rejected. To refresh myself on some of the arguments and scenarios involved I listened to year old, one hour programme, from Premier Christian radio in its “Unbelievable series”. The question being discussed was “Is the church failing gay Christians?” While Evangelicals expressing a diversity of views contributed to the programme, the general consensus was that it was, typified by the afore-mentioned Bible school student who requested prayer. In one sense, while I do have dealings (usually positive) with gay folk, including gay Christians, I am not in any leadership position such I have to address this important matter and the sort of church I am involved with tends not to be the sort of church that gay folk would gravitate toward because of its more traditional and conservative stance on matters of sex and sexuality, but the question needs addressing as to how we deal with and address the pastoral and other needs of gay folk, especially if in a same sex relationship. When it comes to the subject of divorce and remarriage, couples cohabiting before marriage, marriage along the lines seen in “Song of Solomon”, pornography, as well as a whole host of challenging issues outside those of sexual ethics, the church tends to be a lot more lenient when it comes to dealing with those who “fall short” in these areas, compared with gay and transgender folk.
So again, I need to nail my colours to the mast. I recognize my own position has changed on the issue of “sexual identity and relationships, diversity and inclusion” in recent years and I have by no means arrived. Going back to my own church, I had the other day a brief but (I hope) constructive conversation on sexual ethics with one of the leaders. We were discussing the issue of creationism and evolution and how important it was not to make coming down one side or another on the arguments be something we allow to divide the church. We both recognized that for many a staunch creationists (i.e. one who believes our planet is less than 10000 years old and created in six earth days measured according to modern standards) that be rejecting those views we consign the book of Genesis to irrelevance. I made the point I am not a creationist but I do believe in intelligent design and also in the truth of Genesis.
Moreover, when it comes to arguing about sexual ethics, rather than turn to all sorts of scriptures, where I am aware there are an assortment of conflicting interpretations are to be had, I begin in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” 1:27 and “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” 2:24. The first of these verses helps to inform my views on sexual identity and the second on sexual relationships. But how does this help me when trying to make sense on transgender and homosexuality issues, which has caused big debate and rifts in the professing church in recent years and yet remains in some quarters I move in a taboo subject that is not for critical examination?
I hear loud and clear what my “diverse” friends say, who wish to encourage us in our need to love and accept LBGT folk, our present Pope who has said we need to accept those who God accepts (i.e. LBGT folk) and the argument of one Evangelical commentator that points to Acts 10 when St. Peter was told to by God, and did, to accept and fully embrace Gentiles in the church, so must we with LBGT folk. But I can’t get away from God’s creation mandate, which despite the Fall that intervened between then and now, still applies and has important repercussions and shows magnificently the complementary nature of men and women and how that relates to God and human kind, Christ and the Church. I dare say, even though much water has already passed under the bridge, there will be much more to come, and I look forward to further exchanges with my Blog commentator, Diverse Facebook friend and Church elder friend, because like it or not, we cannot ignore the issues or be content with simplistic solutions.