Change · Christian · Church of England · sexuality

Horse & Carriage

I’ve thought long and hard about posting on this issue.  Too often people who raise their heads above the parapet on the issue of human sexuality are shot down in proverbial flames of ‘Christian love’ and castigated for either being a wishy-washy liberal or an extreme conservative bigot.  I hope I am neither. I have come a long way over the passing few years. I am unashamedly an evangelical, I came to faith through an evangelical church, I believe in the authority of scripture as it is received in our times, and I believe in a God that works charismatically through His Holy Spirit today, I believe in the personal salvation of Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection, I believe that faith in the Holy Trinity through the mediation of Christ is the only way to God.

I’m sorry if any of that sounds pompous, I just feel the need to align myself with those values. Because inevitably I shall be called a liberal or similar by someone who means it as a slur.

929639_together_foreverSo it is with some trepidation I post this blog entry, given the misinformation, name calling and unpleasantness from all sides of the sexuality debate that is to be seen on the tweet stream at the moment.  You see I must confess to be in a mixed mind on the issue of Same-Sex marriage, it leaves me in equal measure  exasperated at the bile and hatred of the evangelical right and weary of the constant accusations of homophobia levelled at anyone who wants to present a traditional view of marriage from the pro-camp.

At the at the same time I have some disquiet at the revision of marriage law when I am not sure we have entirely agreed what marriage is.  Perhaps of course that is the issue.  As I have said before, my assumptions on God’s view of homosexuality and my understanding of scripture have been challenged, personally I have struggled 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.

My disquiet on the revision of marriage law comes I suspect from the deepest heart felt desire for us as a society to recognise that to call something of equal value as something else by a different name is not actually inequitable. A man and a woman are equal but most of us would be shy of suggesting we should all be called women. But even in that I must acknowledge I write as a white, anglo-saxon, heterosexual male, how can I really know what the difference between marriage and a civil-partnership feels like for a gay couple.

On the matter of scripture I find myself coming across far from evangelical on my understanding of the biblical passages pertaining to human sexuality.  And indeed marriage itself is hardly a biblical principle in the way that many people mean it when they trump out rhetoric about ‘the biblical view of marriage’.  I am fast coming to the conclusion that marriage is a human construct that perhaps helps frame the biblical call to fidelity rather than a religious rite  that defines allowable human sexuality.  I believe the bible clearly calls us to fidelity and  calls us to living to a high sexual and moral code, but I am no longer certain if that precludes a loving, faithful, monogamous homosexual relationship.  And IF it doesn’t why then should gay people be refused the rite of marriage?

Many other people, gifted theologians (and several less gifted, self proclaimed theologians), have debated this and come up with different views, and you don’t need my meagre understanding of the theology of sexuality to be paraded about here.

But the verse of scripture I keep coming back to is this:

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Luke 10:27

I believe this is one of the key phrases the bible gives us to help us understand how we should lead the life God wants us to, how we should interact with others and how we should ‘be’ in our communities.

If we were to live lives of godly love instead of shouting abuse from the sidelines of society then we might just give God the room to move.  Surely our job to go into the world and make disciples leaves us no room to judge, but gives God all the room in the world. Surely our role in the world is to show people the way to God and then let him do the rest.

In the end I want to be able to stand before my God and say I lived a life of Godly love, that I let my light so shine before men that they saw his good works and I glorified the father with my life.

Let’s leave the judgement to Him.

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6 thoughts on “Horse & Carriage

  1. As Christians we find ourselves in the conflict you describe. We want to embrace everyone and to share God’s love. I think we can throw up many verses from scripture and no doubt many will be able to come back with verses to back up their arguments. Personally, the whole idea of same-sex marriage does not sit easy with me. My concern is that, in spite of what the prime minister says, that churches WILL be attacked through the courts and forced to do what they believe is wrong! The same-sex couple claiming their human rights are being violated! The Christians stand up for what they believe and then find themselves marginalised. If you look at the figures of people who regularly attend church in the UK we are a minority of the population. I have a concern that our Christian beliefs will be eroded.

  2. Thank you for this post, which says much of what I would want to say about the rather self-righteous fervour with which some people on both sides of this debate conduct themselves. Rather like you I am betwixt and between on this issue, having moved considerably from my original starting point, though also not (yet anyway) able to resolve the tensions between the various positions, texts and interpretations.

  3. Just to add to the above: I rather suspect that, for some people, the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength is bound up with a felt need to defend a particular interpretation of particular scriptural texts, thus trumping the “love your neighbour as yourself” bit.

  4. (I come via Rev’d Claire’s blog.)
    I don’t honestly see how our Christian beliefs will be eroded by gay couples wanting to come to church to celebrate their loving relationship and be blessed in God’s name. I just don’t understand how that can be a bad thing.
    I’m not sure about “human rights” relative to gay marriage in church, but Christian Rights is another matter. As a Christian, who is also a gay man in a committed relationship with another man, I do feel badly done by the Church in it’s refusal (a) not to celebrate my partnership in church, nor (b) even to allow us to be blessed together by a priest in a church. How can it be right that it is fine to bless almost everything else, a warship, a house, even a grave, but not a couple who are prepared to commit their lives to each other within the love of God?

    Two other things.
    I did not choose to be gay, anymore than a black person can choose to be black, or a handicapped person chooses to be disabled. When, as in the debate in Parliament yesterday 5/2/13, language is used that describes homosexuality as being a perversion, against what God wants, somehow unworthy in the broader scheme of things, can you imagine how hurtful this is to my soul? Time and time again.
    And the Church is compounding this rejection. Time and time again.
    It is fine for Priests and Bishops to be in Civil Partnerships, BUT not if they are in a full loving intimate relationship. How dare the church say this? How would you feel as a heterosexual priest/Bishop if you were told, it was fine to be married, but you can neither be blessed in Church, nor, if you wish to continue you ministry, to have a physical relationship with your wife?

    One of the things I have been thinking about these last weeks over this debate is this – the arena of God’s activity. I’m not sure whether this is a heresy, or whether what the Church is doing is the heresy, but it seems to me that when we try to limit the sphere of God’s love and activity in any way, then we are in a bad place.
    The Church is really dragging its feet both over the role of women in the Church and the Church’s attitude to gay people and their relationships. And yet, in Society and in the hearts of many people, these things are not issues. They have been touched and see that in the ministry of women in the world and in the lives of Gay people, the Love and Life of God is manifest.
    God does not work only in the Church, does not reveal Him/Herself only within Church circles. God is revealed wherever God wishes.
    It seems to me, that over many issues and over these two in particular, the Church has hardened its heart and put on its blinkers.
    In wider Society, women have been welcomed in many spheres of life and work and no one bats an eyelid at, for example, a woman doctor, a woman bus driver, a woman pilot, even a woman chef! But the Church can’t let itself read this as a sign.
    In Society, in the past 40+ years, things have moved on hugely, in legal terms, as the rights of Gay and Lesbian people have been improving and an acknowledgement of their right to equality has begun to be understood. It is beginning to be possible to be openly gay within many areas of life – and the majority of people honestly couldn’t care less whether you are straight or gay, so long as you are a “nice” person. Am I the only one who wonders whether this is the work of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit at work in Society as a sign to a Church who is unable to move in these areas at the speed which God desires?

    In danger of becoming longer than the original posting, so I’ll stop. Thanks for your hospitality.

    1. Stephen, Thank you for your candid comments and I hope you hear the heart in my original post, I am on a journey of understanding and yes I do think it is the Holy Spirit at work in my understanding of sexuality and the love of God for all people. I don’t believe our rights are being eroded by same sex marriage and I really believe the call to that Luke 10 love for our neighbours trumps any sense of ‘right’ in society for the Church.

      Peace.

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