Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Primate's Report

I've just read (most of) the Anglican Primate's report coming out of the meeting in Tanzania. One thing struck me particularly: that is, there seems to be a great deal of concern for the pain caused to those who have been hurt by the actions of the Episcopal Church - actions that have taken us away from the mainstream Anglican Communion in theology and practice. There is concern that their pain be handled by a special pastoral team, and that they are allowed to continue requesting alternative oversight if they disagree with their bishop.

What I see here is a whole lot of concern for those who are on one side of this issue, and complete ignoring of those who have also been caused immense pain on the other side. How can we say we are concerned to be a loving, pastoral church, when we then turn around and say that if you're born gay, you're not allowed to express love? And some go further. The pain caused to those outside the mainstream Anglican position (but not the mainstream Episcopal position) is minute compared to the years and years of devastation wrought upon those with an orientation to love those of the same gender or those with gender confusion. It is absolutely abominable that we are valuing the feelings of one group so much more highly than the other.

I know that most Christians would be happier if all the gay people just gave up and left our churches. I mean, that would make things so much easier, wouldn't it? Or if they could just get this thing under control, like our friend Ted Haggard has (oops, he wasn't cured, he actually never was gay - that's the latest). But seriously, how does that fulfill the Great Commission? Or the Golden Rule?

If you believe the science, this is largely a biological issue. And then you have to admit that these people were made wrong, or that they are forced by their accident of birth into a life of celibacy, to which they may not be called. But if you want to say they are allowed to love, then you have to make some accomodation in the church for that. If they want to be married (which most do), and want to commit their lives to one another, why are we saying no? Why are we turning them away and telling them God won't accept them unless they alter a fundamental part of who they are?

I know, I know, it's because of our (mis)reading of Scripture. I know all the reasons why lots of people can't abide gays in their midst. I used to be one of those people. I know. But I also had my mind changed. By reexamining Scripture, certainly, but more importantly by knowing gay Christians who were full of the Holy Spirit, who couldn't be otherwise than right with God because their ministries were so fruitful. I cannot deny that. I've seen it with my eyes. As Peter visited Cornelius and had to admit the Holy Spirit was in people she had no business being in, so I have seen the work of the Spirit in the lives of those who are in loving, committed, life-long same-gender relationships and/or those who know that is how they love.

Yes, it is hard. But let's not focus so much on the pain of those who are denying the Spirit's work that we forget the pain of those who have fought so long and hard to first deny, then overcome, then accept who they are. God loves them as God created them, and it's not a mistake, and it doesn't mean they can't love. But for decades, maybe centuries, they've been told they are wrong, they are made wrong, they can't love, the church can have no part in their love, they are sinful, they are outcast, they are evil.

Who is addressing that pain??


Sándor Bea said...

Your words reminded me of Eszter Andorka, a young minister and theologian in Hungary, who was murdered in 2003 (when she was 33). She was a wonderful person, wonderfully open-minded, working for the inclusion of women's voices, gay people and people living with disabilities in the church and the world. Here's my short article about her. (A collection of her writings, sermons and letters was published in 2006.)

Stasi said...

It doesn't equal, but it can lead to sex, probably should do so, in the context of a monogamous committed relationship between consenting adults who are mutually attracted to one another and wish to express their natural attraction(did I get enough qualifiers in there? please don't throw stupid "what ifs" at me). And the sex is the thing that people consider a sin. Being gay means you can never sexually express love? The thing is, we're asking people who would otherwise be married - with all the love and attraction and commitment that entails - not to have sex. Ever. So yeah, the sex is the important part.

Edette said...

I just love it when you get on a run like this! You always bring up subjects I had never thought of! Well done! And per your most current post - you are not alone, I too want to deal seriously with Scripture and with open hearts. Again well done!

Anonymous said...

"Being gay means you can never sexually express love?"

Yes, that's it. When all the drama over the Anglican Communion and TEC boils off, that is the simple theological truth at the heart of it all. Once the same-sex attracted and their supporters absorb that simple truth, this whole debate will evaporate. AFAIK nobody outside of a few wackos wants to drive off the homosexually-inclined from churches. But since the contemporary homosexual movement asserts that homosexual sex acts are holy, a battle royale has developed.


Anonymous said...

Of course no one can ever explain why gay people can't ever sexually express love other than "God doesn't like it" based on a few (5 or 6) unconnected and questionable Bible verses which are being debated in every denomination and different streams of Judaism.

We know why adultery, promiscuity and child molestation is wrong, since each at their root treats a human being like an object to use rather than someone to honour, but monogamous gay relationships don't cause such harm. They are purity codes: something that by touching bead bodies and menstuating women Jesus showed little regard for.

The challenge for the church is to assert why this particular purity code is still needed while other direct Biblical commands are dismissed by all Christians as "cultural" even they are presented as theological truths (See 1 Cor 11:1-16 for an example of one.)

So far the church hasn't been able to explain this internally, much less tell gay non-Christians why giving up their relationships are needed in order to follow Christ's path when straight people can follow his path without such sacrifices.

The debate has exposed all the raw homophobia, misogyny and hypocrisy, both interpretive and institutional found in the church and should be held up as a teaching moment for people on both sides of the aisle.

Anonymous said...


For an accessible Protestant (in his case, PCUSA) Scriptural treatment of the subject, google Dr Robert Gagnon and click the top link. That's a lot easier than trying to do that here. A particularly good article there is


The two appendices of the article directly address your references to purity codes and to committed homosexual couples.


toujoursdan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
toujoursdan said...

Thanks, but I have read Gagnon's work and then all the critiques of Gagnon's work and find what he has to say rather unconvincing and driven by a personal agenda (see below) rather than a commitment to sound exegesis and cultural study. (I dismiss John Boswell's scholarship for the same reason, btw). You might want to read some of the critiques yourself, particularly of his misunderstanding of the Hebrew concept of purity and the misuse of the word "to'evah".

After reading his work I realized that it doesn't make much sense to ask a Calvinist Presbyterian to explain Jewish understandings of purity when there are lots of Jewish rabbis and scholars whose work bears no resemblance to his. I would rather go to the source.

Finally, it doesn't help that he advocates Reparative Therapy and has been on the board of NARTH. That organization and its treatment have been criticized as harmful by every major psychological and psychiatric body in North America and Europe. And I know enough ex-ex-gays to know that it simply doesn't work.