“The use of [feminine and masculine] metaphors for God and the soul does not mean that salvation involves a denigration of the biological and psychological differences between men and women any more than it means God is male or female.
Rather, taken together these multiple symbols speak to the contingency of sexual acts and thus the purpose of sexuality. As mystics in the church have understood, the erotic dimension of the sexual life will be taken up into ecstatic union with God. The appetitive urges behind sexual acts evince intense longings for intimacy that speak to a deeper union.
Even as ecstatic intimacy is but a foretaste that cannot be sustained this side of the End, so the passion of eros offers a momentary glimpse of something more to human existence. The moment of abandon in love, when persons pledge their entire lives to one another, offers only a faint whisper of selflessness.
When the wave of eros crests, as it must, persons can succumb to the void that remains without the support of charity’s vow, which translates the whispers of amor into an enduring pledge. The effect must be cumulative so that amor is taken up into and stabilized by caritas. Those who idolize eros find their commitment waning, choosing instead to see the problem as a lack of passion either on their part or their lover’s. In either case, the result is a dehumanization of the other, a reduction of the person to mere pleasurable object.
The sacramental understanding of marriage calls for a re-ordering of sexual desire that ultimately points away from sexual acts, as strange as this may seem in a late modern culture of sex. This is one reason why the unitive and procreative dimensions of the sex act must be held together, whether conception actually occurs or not. The procreative end of sex signifies its contingency in the same way that masculine and feminine images of God and the soul do. Procreative and unitive, as male and female, form complementary pairs that balance and correct.”
— Dale M. Coulter, Why “Masculine Christianity” Is Misguided
“The crisis of worship and the crisis on moral teaching in churches today are not separate issues. I do not think it is an accident that the churches that have preserved forms of worship that can be traced back over 2000 years are also the ones that have kept the same teachings on sexual ethics. I will only speak for myself, but what drew me to the Orthodox Church was its sense of having preserved something that can be traced all the way back to the Apostles. If I’m willing to accept the beauty of the Liturgy and trust in the wisdom of the Church and her keepers of the faith (bishops, priests, deacons, other orders of clergy), is it really my place to think they erred on sexual ethics? If I believe the canon of Scripture is correct, is it really reasonable to believe that the opinions of all those men were merely subject to their time and place? Wouldn’t that open the Bible up to the same judgment?
In addition to Tradition, another significant feature of high church worship is the importance of our bodies. In the Orthodox church our bodies are constantly involved. When we aren’t eating the Body and Blood of Christ, we are crossing ourselves, smelling incense, kissing icons, and prostrating. The Church in her wisdom realizes that we human beings are embodied and that our spiritual lives are not separate and distinct from our material existence. That I am made of matter, matters!
Implicit in this then is the idea that my biological sex matters. My being male is not inconsequential. Male and femaleness are part of what it means to be human, and to be human is to reflect the image and likeness of God. Our complementary nature is a reflection of the interpersonal personal relations of the Triune God. To say that our biological sex does not determine our ‘gender’ then is to deny the significance of our bodies. Being biologically male, in the eyes of the proponents of the normativity of homosexuality, is of no consequence to who I ‘really’ am. I find this to be an unacceptable divorce of spiritual and material faculties in man. Of course, in the fallen world, we find people with our material and spiritual qualities all mixed up and in contradiction. But that does not mean that is the way it ought to be.”
— Nathaniel Torrey, Millennials & Church SYMPOSIUM Part 3: Matter Matters (via wesleyhill)
“Some of the current discussions I follow, and am a part of, regarding gay and lesbian persons in the church, remind me of those seminary discussions. I read blogs and talk with friends who are trying to decide whether they, personally, are ‘Side A’ (i.e., believing God blesses and affirms monogamous same-sex partnerships) or ‘Side B’ (i.e., believing that God calls gay and lesbian Christians to abstain from gay sex). Listening into these conversations and participating in them myself, I find myself dwelling more and more on how this way of framing the discussion marginalizes the communal, ecclesial context in which all Christian ethical judgments must be made. Now that I am a member of the Anglican Church in North America, it matters very little, in one sense, what I believe about same-sex unions. My church has rendered a judgment on the matter, and so my question becomes, ‘Am I willing to be submissive to that judgment or should I look for another church?’ (Or the bigger question: ‘Why am I a member of the Anglican Communion and not, say, Catholic?’)
Or perhaps I could go for a bit more complexity and say, ‘Am I willing to (a) be submissive, (b) look for a different church, or (c) stay put and work for change?’ If I harbored ‘progressive,’ ‘Side A’ convictions on homosexuality, I could see my role as an Anglican as akin to that played by James Alison or Andrew Sullivan in the Roman Catholic Church: to be a prophetic voice of dissent against an ancient prejudice. Or if I held ‘traditionalist,’ ‘Side B’ convictions in, say, The Episcopal Church, I could view my role the way someone like Christopher Seitz views his: I would be called to defend historic Christian teaching on homosexuality in a church increasingly unsympathetic to it. The one thing I couldn’t do, in any of the above cases, would be to behave as if my ‘personal’ views on the question were the most important, decisive thing to focus on.
This, I take it, is not unrelated to the point Rowan Williams made, over and over and again, when he was asked about the apparent discrepancy between his own ‘private’ inclinations to find some way to bless same-sex unions and the Anglican Communion’s opposition to such blessings. Shortly after he became Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams told Time, for instance: ‘I’m now in a position where I’m bound to say the teaching of the Church is this, the consensus is this. We have not changed our minds corporately. It’s not for me to exploit my position to push a change.’ In other words, even the bishop who is primus inter pares cannot allow his convictions to be elevated unduly.
So where does this leave us individual gay Christians in our various churches? Certainly each of us must act. We cannot put our lives on hold. Even though our churches may take a long time to give us the counsel we need to act rightly, that doesn’t mean that we’re able to wait that long before we embark on life-altering courses of action. A well-meaning Anglican priest once said to me, ‘We don’t yet have the mind of Christ on the issue of loving, faithful same-sex partnerships.’ Well, even if I believed that to be true, that wouldn’t remove the urgency of my own choice: should I pursue such a gay partnership or remain celibate? That’s not a decision that can be deferred indefinitely.
It is, though, a decision that can be recognized as not a matter for my own ‘personal’ judgment only. Or, putting it a bit more precisely (and positively), if I am to act according to my conscience, I have to recognize that my conscience is in need of communal formation. As Alan Jacobs put it, writing about his decision to leave The Episcopal Church several years ago,
I believe that I acted according to what Cardinal Newman long ago called ‘the supreme authority of Conscience … the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.’ For Newman, conscience is anything but ‘private judgment’: it is, rather, the testing of one’s own private judgments, and sometimes those of others, against Scripture and against the long testimony of the whole church of Christ. And if we test those judgments so, and invoke our consciences, we enter perilous territory: as Newman reminds us, the fourth Lateran Council (1215) affirmed that Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ædificat ad gehennam—Whatever is done in opposition to conscience is conducive to damnation.
If I am a Christian, then I belong (like it or not) to the Body of Christ. By virtue of baptism, I am no longer ‘my own person’; in belonging to Christ, I also belong to the other members of his body, the church. And so, these days, I find myself less and less interested in asking where each gay Christian, myself included, ‘stands’ on the question of the morality of gay sex. Instead, I want—even, or precisely, as an Anglican—to explore the question Eve Tushnet, a Roman Catholic, raised recently: is there a way to see my own convictions as somehow less important than the matter of my membership in the church of which I’m a part?”
— Wesley Hill, Church Before Sex
“That is what baptism opens up when it severs any necessary link between ‘male and female.’ ‘There is no male and female’ implies the freedom to choose marriage or celibacy, and enjoy the honor that comes with one or the other. It’s not a charter for same-sex marriage, but it’s not a celebration of opposite-sex marriage as the compulsory pinnacle of human love either.”
“I had a divine experience in a gay bar on Easter Sunday, 1991. I was 19 years old. I was in a gay bar in Orlando, waiting to meet my friends, who never showed up. And I was desperate, I was lonely, I was sad, I hated what I was doing, I wasn’t happy, but there was a level of excitement and intrigue that was still present in my life that drew me into the gay community on a regular basis. But this particular Easter Sunday, 1991, sitting there, feeling sorry for myself because my friends hadn’t shown up, I just began to drink and to question God. And the Lord spoke clearly to me. And I asked Him first, ‘How did You get in here?’ And He said, ‘You’d be surprised the places that I find myself in.’ And He just began a dialogue with me. And it was an audible voice inside me, not something that I heard from the outside, but I knew clearly that God was speaking to me, and I began answering questions internally that He was asking. And He said, you know, ‘What has led you here? What is it that you’re looking for?’ And as I answered those questions, He began to say, ‘If you will trust Me for those answers, if you will trust Me to meet those needs in your life, I will. If you will trust Me, I will lead you out of here.’ And I just remember thinking, ‘God, I have been asking You to heal me since I was 11 years old. Why now? And I’m so tired. And I know what’s right, and I know what’s wrong, but I need Your help. I need something more than You just saying, “It’s possible.” I need a sign.’ And the Lord continued to say, ‘You know, Alan, if you stay here for the rest of your life, I’ll still love you, no matter what. But what you think is good is the enemy of my best, and if you’ll trust Me, I’ll show you a way out.’
Two seconds later, I looked to the door to my left, and two people from this church that I’d started going to—Discovery Church in Orlando, Florida—walked through the doors of that gay bar. They knew what I struggled with, and they had been driving around that night, and they felt like the Lord said, ‘Alan needs a sign.’ They saw my car in this parking lot that they just happened to be driving past, and they went in and they got me, and they said, ‘The Lord sent us to show you that there is a way out. And if you will walk out with us, we will walk on this journey towards wholeness with you.’ And I couldn’t believe it. I took another drink, ’cause I thought I need[ed] it, and I got up and I walked out. And it was through the personal touch of people that Jesus sent that I found freedom from homosexuality.”
— Alan Chambers, Former Homosexual Alan Chambers 3 of 3
“The Cessna hits a pothole in the air, jerking my attention back to the present. A glance at the instruments: We’re moving at autobahn speeds, half a mile above the traffic that winds slowly along Highway 101. We’re extremely safe, I remind myself, safer than we would be on the highway—and yet the jolt of turbulence is a reminder that a few seconds of inattention at the wrong moment can be deadly. That is why there is a rigid structure to the freedom of flight: training, checklists and regulations. Yet this structure sets us free to fly above the constraints of roads, land and water.”
“[O]bedience brought an inner peace and rest in God that had been missing from all the years of my heart’s restless hunt for love. Instead of fighting against the growing awareness of God’s presence, fearing interference in my plans, I began (at least a little) to welcome that presence and seek to be guided by it.
Saint Augustine says that God gives the law to educate desire. Out of the hopes, dreams and desires of my heart grew actions—actions that would either help love grow or tear it down. When we built our radio-controlled airplane together, we did not get someone to teach us how to fly. The result was that our dream was destroyed less than a minute after takeoff. But when it came to our friendship, I tried to obey God’s law, with happier results.”
“Though I am no longer ignorant as I was, I have not seen the joys of Heaven. Yet I have had a foretaste. In friendship—with Jason, with Mark, with others—I have felt something of the weight of glory to be found in a human soul. Even if I have only caught glimpses of truth amidst the shadows, I can still hope for the fuller vision still to come.”
“I let out a sigh. ‘It’s not so easy to get across the positive side of obedience,’ I say to Mark, gesturing at my notes.
‘One thing you might mention,’ he says.
‘You know how sometimes you just want to forget about God, forget about the struggle and just “feel good”? So you tell yourself that it’s normal, that everyone’s doing it, that you’re only human. And maybe it does feel good for a few minutes. But afterward you feel awful because you know in your heart that what you did was wrong.’
I nod my head. As a teenager, I thought my straight friends could not possibly understand what I was going through. But with Mark, I have found that the differing details of our struggles and temptations are much less important than our shared desire to follow Christ. For him, discipleship demands purity in his relationship with his girlfriend; for me, it means celibacy. For both of us, it is a path that demands struggle, sacrifice and self-control. But it is a path that we can walk together, challenging and encouraging each other to grow. He continues, ‘With following God, it’s the opposite: You have to fight. And the fighting can last for hours, even—off and on—for a lifetime. But God’s peace will last forever. And even in this life nothing compares with the joy and peace of overcoming temptation. But it’s really hard to keep that perspective, because lust is right there, and we can’t see eternity.’
But seeing is not necessarily believing. We are half a mile above wind-swept water, without visible means of support, flying as free as birds.”
“In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”
— Pope Francis, A Big Heart Open to God (interview by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and translated from the Italian by Massimo Faggioli, Sarah Christopher Faggioli, Dominic Robinson, S.J., Patrick J. Howell, S.J., and Griffin Oleynick)
“I think most Catholics recognize that the most effective way of promoting Church teaching on chastity is having compelling examples, people who are striving to follow Catholic teaching who can talk about the challenges of chastity in a thoughtful and realistic way.”
— Ron Belgau, Confusion at Crisis
“I don’t actually think that angry rants about the sexual revolution, whether about gay sex or straight sex, really do much to advance the gospel. I would rather make sure that whatever I say about sexual sin—and I certainly am willing to speak clearly about the dangers of sexual sin—is rooted in love for the person I’m talking about.”
— Ron Belgau, Confusion at Crisis
“If we’re going to talk about community and hospitality, we need to acknowledge that what we’re talking about is a mutual and reciprocal exchange of selves. The hostess needs to lower her expectations of herself. She needs to be able to offer her family home as it really is, including the juice-stains and crayon drawings on the wall and the strange smell in the bathroom. The guest needs to act more like a member of the family and less a privileged VIP. The best occasions of hospitality are the ones where everyone takes the time, first, foremost and up-front, simply to enjoy each others’ company and be together. And where after that is over, everyone pitches in to make sure that the kitchen is not an inviting environment for fruit-flies and rats. The occasions where the adults have time to engage in some much-needed intelligent conversation, but the guest also takes the time to go off and teach something to the children or look at the Playmobil world that the kids built in Mommy’s closet. If hospitality is done right it provides an opportunity for single people to take some of the weight off the shoulders of married people and also an opportunity for married people to take some of the loneliness off the shoulders of single people. We have complementary needs and complementary gifts. In theory, at least, it’s a perfect solution.
Can this work? Not without frustrations. The fact is that living with other people is a fraught enterprise—even if it’s only for a couple of days. We go in with an expectation of relief and bliss, and then at some point we find out that we’ve really been invited to is a Cross-carrying party. We have to step up. We’re expected to sacrifice, and to offer solidarity, and to get outside of ourselves, and it’s nothing like the long-awaited vacation that we planned or anticipated. But if you can get into that vibe… if you can put yourself aside… if you can be there for the other, and make it into a form of Communion, then yes. It can work. But not without sweat.”
“When Martin Lloyd-Jones ministered in a Welsh dockside church filled with blue collar, rough-necked converts, he protected them from overzealous believers who wanted to rush the work of the Holy Spirit. He told them to back off. To allow the Holy Spirit to do what he did best.
We cannot rush transformation, and trying to do so will hamstring the work of the gospel.
It’s hard for straight Christians to understand the level of support in the gay community. Many members came out to face a lifetime of rejection because of their sexuality. They found a community that embraced and accepted them. A community that said ‘me too.’ Even a church that expects a gay Christian to choose against an active homosexual lifestyle has to understand that they need to offer that level of acceptance, care, and true friendship.
What we need is ‘discipleship in community.’ People who define their identity by their sexuality need the church community as part of their transformation process to finding their primary identity in Christ.
The community is also a tool of conversion. We need to find people already among us who have been there, who have wrestled with God on these issues and found both love and truth.
Everyone craves love. Many people have lived with years of rejection as a result of their sexuality. Unconditional love can heal the hurts they’ve experienced and point the way to following Jesus in spirit and in truth.”
— Peyton Jones, The Gospel in an LGBT World
“A number of people in our Long Beach plant have left alternative lifestyles, but we had to be patient with them. People who don’t eventually repent (as a sign of that inner life coming to the surface) may not last long with us, but we last long with them. For us, baptism has served as a natural unspoken barrier for people ready to change.
The woman at our launch wanted to know what Jesus thought of her homosexual lifestyle. We shot straight with her. We understand that her sexual orientation may never change. We don’t choose the objects of our attraction. Those with same-sex attraction don’t care how you think they got ‘that way.’ The reality is that the gay community tells them ‘It’s how you are. We accept you.’ The church should be no different.
Within our rows every Sunday morning, people sit confused, silent, and suffering conflicted desires. Do we have the courage of Jesus to break away from the chatter of the Pharisees?
‘Who sinned,’ Jesus was asked in John 9, ‘that this man was born this way, him or his parents?’ Jesus redirected the question. It’s not how they got there, it’s that they’re here now and ‘this happened that the works of God might be displayed in him.’
People in a life of homosexuality need love without blame, and without reservation. As we all do. The cause of our condition isn’t as important as allowing it to be used for the glory of God.”
— Peyton Jones, The Gospel in an LGBT World