I read with dismay the headlines of today’s papers and immediately started to write of the CofE’s response to Same Sex Marriage as another anglican face-palm. Then I read the actual report and found that, though perhaps unwise in tone, there was much in it that is thoughtful and considered. Though I have some questions about the conclusions it supposes. I am also less than impressed with the government’s consultation document and proposed legislation – it is rushed and fails to address adequately the issues surrounding what marriage actually is.
I’ve avoided blogging about same-sex marriage so far because I am far from decisive in my view and frankly while it has potentially important impacts on my role as vicar it is in my view not the most important issue for the Church today.
But it IS an issue and it’s one that we need to engage with particularly as we have a less than glorious reputation and history in our ‘loving’ service of the gay community.
Personally I am struggling with the dichotomy of being generally theologically conservative and my Christ-like call to be loving unconditionally. My heart sinks at the hurt we’ve inflicted on the LGBT community through our actions corporately as a Church. But I also hold a core value of trying to obey scriptural teaching and understanding.
Although I’ve always considered myself on the more conservative theological side of the river I am beginning to be really challenged by the Holy Spirit in many of my once certain views. I am no longer convinced that the call to love doesn’t trump out other values and teachings. I am challenged and re-challenged as to what Christ’s response would be and how his declaration :
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39
should shape our interaction with the world.
At the same time I am being challenged by the concept of an institutionalised Church at all (bear with me here, it is connected) that we are following a model of Church that is both broken and outmoded. Based on the creation of Christendom and fundamentally flawed in how it can serve our society today. (I’ve been composing a blog post on this for a number of weeks now and may well post it when I am more settled about its content). I think the debate on same-sex marriage and the ridiculous shenanigans over female bishops highlight the issue of a broken church model unlike any other debates we are having. I am less and less convinced that we should be being governed by a central body that decides policy on these things and less and less convinced there is actually a right answer at all.
Actually if our job as believers is to love God with all our hearts and to love others as our selves and to share the gospel so other may know God then it is just possible that behaviour and our lifestyles are actually of no-ones concern but something between God and oneself. That the church has no business sanctioning or wading in on these issues – partly because there is actually no right way. I know the issues in my life that are not godly and should not be part of my lifestyle. In the 18 years I have been a believer God has dealt with each in his timing and according to his agenda. So it is with all believers. It maybe that a homosexual lifestyle is something that would not be God’s perfect plan then again it maybe that all God has no particular view on and our understanding of scripture needs a rethink. But I suspect most of all that it is up to the Holy Spirit to deal with the issues that are important in our lives on an individual basis.
I wonder if what God asks of us is that we can stand before him and hand on heart declare our willingness to submit to him and let him work in our life according to his agenda.
And here I find myself wondering if I am uncomfortably liberal about this: I wonder if actually there is no right answer on the issue of sexuality, if for some people God does want to challenge for his own reasons, and for others he does not wish to. Just as some heterosexual behaviour and attitudes are not healthy for us and God would want to deal with and for others he doesn’t. Is our primary call actually to holiness before God in all our relationships sexual or otherwise.
Can I, hand-on-heart say that is how I come to God?