I am returning to the issue of same sex marriage. I suspect that this will be my final post on the subject - at least for a while! But I need to write it having lain awake quite a bit last night with it on my mind. I apologise in advance as a lot of this will be derivative and will ask of you, dear reader, to follow links to secondary sources. My defence for that is partially a comment on my previous post, "I have no wish to spend money on books providing (what I see to be) wickedness. So if I'm to be persuaded, the new kids on the block have got to do the work and make their arguments available for free." Well, here are some free links, which no doubt will fail to convince my correspondent, but encourage me to consider that there may be more than one valid interpretation of the Biblical evidence. More disturbingly for me one scholar with whom I occasionally correspond recently wrote, "I have been provoked by your latest blogs to read your recommended reading, as well as the Pilling report. I have had a look at the NT discussion in Renato Lings, Love Lost in Translation. I haven't yet got into Justin Lee’s Unconditional. As yet I remain as traditionally convinced as ever, though hopefully willing to find that I might be wrong, if I am!"
First, let me ask you to take a leap of empathy which I euphemistically described as "grim" to Jane. It asks you to imagine what the world must be like to a youngster who discovers she is different from the "norm". You need 20 minutes to watch this: Love is all you need? All right, it's fiction, but as the film-makers point out it is based on real incidents and, as a writer, I would say that good stories tell the truth, sometimes more than history.
Secondly, here is a link to the highly respected evangelical Christian pastor and teacher, John Piper, and his account of how he went from a self-described racist to an adoptive father of an African American: I was a racist. My friend, Anita Mathias, writer and blogger (anitamathias.com), who drew my attention to it, commented, "society is often ahead of the church, and the church later catches up. Examples were colonialism, slavery and racism condoned by theologians. Society is ahead of the church in the environmental movement and in animal rights, though I have no doubt the church will catch up. Society was and is ahead of the church when it comes to feminism and equal rights for women. The church tends to be conservative and reactionary as an institution, though this is not true of every individual Christian, of course." Here are two quotes from the article, the first about the black woman who helped his mother with the cleaning, the second about the implications of the gospel.
So what are my conclusions from all this?
• There is a difference between promiscuous sexual activity (whether straight or gay) and loving committed relationships (whether straight or gay).
• Singleness (or celibacy) is an individual calling from God, not something one Christian should demand of another. All Christians are called to be chaste, in the sense of sexually responsible and loving. This has implications for all of our sexual activity.
• We now live in a society where equal marriage is the law of the land and the Church needs to accept that fact and consider its treatment of legally married lesbian and gay couples.
• The Church needs to admit and repent that it has excluded and wounded LGBT people in the past and continues to do so.
• Personally, were I still in parish ministry, I would want and welcome LGBT people, couples and single, and, more, affirm and bless them as beloved children of God for whom Jesus died.
• And yes, I trust my church introduces a service to bless gay commitment as it blesses straight marriage - before long - equal in status but not identical in nature.
|From St Mary's Church, Richmond|
"...as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3.13-15).
PS I was interested to discover that today's Telegraph has an article headed "CofE top female cleric: I would have 'no problem' with blessings for gay marriages. The Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull... says effect of the Church's stance on same-sex marriage is 'dreadful'".