Gay Wedding – What we should do now

In my previous two posts I have examined the liturgy of the London Gay Union, showing that it is to all intents and purposes a mirror of the BCP Marriage Service, and looked at the theology of the liturgy and how it affects the doctrine of marriage of the Church of England. I now want to turn to what traditionalists in the Church of England, both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, need to do next.

Although there has been a large outcry from the conservative camp demanding that disciplinary action be taken against those clergy who took part in this ceremony (and indeed I have made that point myself), I believe there is a need for a specific course of action to be taken by traditionalists which so far, in the past four decades, we have not undertaken during this debate. It is a course of action that would require a deep committment from all sections of the church, clergy in parishes, bishops in their diocesan offices and the layity on the ground. It is a course of action that will probably cause more division, but it is one that is a necessary sacrifice. It is a course of action that will in some sense exarcebate the fracture between church and society and between the revisionist and Biblical branches of the Church.

The course of action I am proposing is simply this – we need to begin to put our money where our theological and pastoral mouth is and specifically fund pastors, ordained priests and others, who will, with Diocesan blessing, minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction and other forms of sexual and emotional brokeness, enabling them to live lives of holiness and receive the healing power of the blood that flows from the cross.

Last year I wrote a letter which was published in the Church Times in which I said the following:

In contrast to those who have seemingly dedicated their lives to rejecting the words of Scripture and are therefore obviously troubled by those who might call them to a holy life, many of us with same-sex attraction have lived simple, celibate lives in the full knowledge that the surrender of our desires to God is not “psychological onslaught” but rather the path of grace. Some of us have then, by the mercy of God, moved from the single life to one of marriage as the church teaches and others have remained unmarried but content in a singleness that glorifies Christ in its surrender to him. Such a path is not without its struggles, but ultimately it is the journey that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself commends when in a recent interview he clearly stated “Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t.”.

The Church’s statements about healing, wholeness and pastoral care only ring hollow to so many because countless clergy up and down the breadth of this country do not in any way support the ministries of those like myself who seek to come alongside people struggling with issues of homosexuality and other sexual brokenness. Perhaps now is the time therefore for the Church and its Bishops to put its money where its mouth is and make specific diocesan stipendiary appointments of men and women who can encourage those with same-sex attraction to live a life faithful to the teachings of Scripture?

I stand by those words and today I wish to repeat them as a clarion call to the traditionalist community in this land to do more than just spout off everytime that some action takes place that they don’t like. Although I agree with many of my traditionalist colleagues, I am frustrated that despite their godly abhorence of same-sex activity, they seem hugely reluctant to provide any form of material resource to help pastor those who struggle deeply in this area.

In England it is left down to very few of us to minister to those who find themselves attracted to those of the same-sex but believe on reading the Scriptures that they cannot engage in any relationship that would come from following through on such emotions. Often at personal expense, both materially and emotionally, the few of us involved in this ministry seek to help those who struggle, whether it is to aid them finding healing for the brokenness in their lives, or simply to provide support and encouragement in their day to day battle to live a celibate, god-fearing existence. We long to be able to reach out to more people and to help equip the church to do so, but our hands are tied by having other, stipendiary driven, priorities.

Why is this? Why are evangelical church leaders not willing to fund this work when their churches are flooded with other pastoral workers and woship leaders and youth specialists? Why are traditionalist anglo-catholic bishops not able to provide stipendiary diocesan roles for this vital task when their offices are sometimes over-burdened with a whole host of advisors and minor canons addressing this that and the other?

Could it be that we simply don’t believe that God is able to support those who struggle in this area, that we aren’t convinved he brings peace and healing into brokeness? Or might it be that we believe that all we have to do is tell someone to be celibate and happy about it and the job’s over? Or is it possible that we just don’t want to stir the boat, that we’re happy being seen as those who are theologically correct on this issue as long as no-one actually asks us to be pastorally responsible as well.

My great fear is that we will lose the battle in the Church of England on this issue, not because we do not read the Bible correctly, but that we have failed to carry out the call of Christ to bring his kingdom into being by offering the healing and transforming power of the cross. At least the liberals resource the heresy they believe. At the moment it appears that we in the traditionalist camp cannot materially support the truth.

I long to see a Church of England that puts its money where its mouth is. I long to see diocesan advisors on emotional healing and sexual freedom, funded by the church and backed by their bishop. When that happens the society we live in will know tow things – that the Church means what it says and that there is a place to go with your brokeness. At the moment though, all we are ultimately saying is that we don’t like what you’re doing, but we have nothing to offer you instead.

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21 Comments on “Gay Wedding – What we should do now

  1. I do not understand Peter – you do have something to offer.  You have the gift of lifelong celibacy lived in communion with Christ, and supported by the Church.  Surely, this has to be the vocation of those who are not able to enter into heterosexual relations.  Why should you offer anything else in order to bring about the transformation you want in the life of the Anglican Church?  Of course, support these people, but in the end obedience comes at a cost, even if that cost proves to be extremely difficult this sign of the grave – surely their reward will be in the next life.

    I also do not understand why the church should divert money and resources away from saving souls from eternal damnation to a side issues concerned with a minority of people that is a distraction from what Christians are called to.  Surely, we need more evangelists, youth workers etc, our resources are limited.

    Wouldn’t it be better then, instead of your suggestion, to realign now, to join together with all those who claim to represent traditional Christianity and to get on with preaching the Gospel.  If this were to happen, the Anglican Church could get on dieing; left in the hands of the liberals, it would soon wither away while  the  traditionalists would continue to attract people who want to find meaning in the midst of the relativism of secular society.

    What do you think?

  2. I think you’re being provocative Winston!!!!

    I genuinely believe that the Church needs to recognise and fund the healing ministry, not just physical healing but emotional and sexual brokenness. There are too many parts of the traditional side of the church who do all the right theology but fail the test on the pastoral side.

    And as for leaving, that’s what the heretics should do surely?

  3. The leaving thing – it worked for the Reformers!  If the heretics will not budge, surely it is better to get out rather than being drained by this distraction from the real work.

  4. At the moment though, all we are ultimately saying is that we don’t like what you’re doing, but we have nothing to offer you instead.

    That seems to sum up the problem the Evangelical Church in America has, as well.  In fact, I think the only Church that does a decent job with the whole gay issue is the Roman Catholic Church, and even they have their faults.

    I think one of the biggest challenges, however, is not monetary but spiritual.  Like it or not, a lot of people do still have prejudices about homosexuality that do not root from Biblical understanding.  That’s why even though I’ve told many people that I am celibate and a traditionalist, I’ve still been called the “f word” by many of my supposed Christian brothers (and also been talked about behind my back a great deal).  I don’t fit in with the standard Evangelical crowd, I guess, but why should my differences in personality and mannerism matter if I, like everyone else, is trying my best to be holy before Christ?

    It would be a challenge for a lot of the Church to minister to homosexuals because it might force them to step beyond themselves a bit and realize that some of their feelings and biases are most certainly not from God.

  5. “… we need to begin to put our money where our theological and pastoral mouth is and specifically fund pastors … (etc) who will … minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction and other forms of sexual and emotional brokeness …”

    Fantastic idea – have you run this past the diocese and/or major evangelical / catholic groupings yet ?  – we could get started quite quickly by giving financial and/or personell support to some of the existing ministries?

  6. As someone, who went to True Freedom Trust, as a teenager, and who knows so many people who have been through Living Waters, and Courage, but with no success – I find Peter’s solution unhelpful.  Even if one accepts that there is a possibilty of change for some people, this is such a small group of people that it making any difference to our present problems is unlikely.

    However, Peter, I commend your pastoral sensitivites, and find them reassuring in the midst of so much rhetoric.  Yet, as I say so many times, many of us who tried to he ‘healed’ are now happy and flourishing, living our lives as openly gay and lesbian.  The question is can both groups of people coexist in the same church?

  7. I agree entirely with Peter.
    The church needs to fund healing ministry and pastoral care,
    and fund high-quality academic research into it.
    The context of the UK is different from that of North America.
    I am convinced, as someone who supports the ex-gay movement,
    that it needs the support of independent researchers as well,
    who can  be sympathetic critics.
    I would be willing to do this kind of research. At present, however,
    I need to remain anonymous to protect my career.

  8. Sanctified sexuality doesn’t just mean becoming attracted to the opposite sex.  But Christian commitment does require, err…. commitment.  People who don’t want to live inside the apostolic teachings don’t have to stay in the church!

    That’s what is known as “choice”!

    A close friend of mine was able to give up his “sinful” lifestyle.  His orientation/attractions didn’t change but he was able, after a struggle, to start living chastely as a single Christian man; and become fully involved in the leadership of his local CofE church.  

  9. Winston, thank you for the link to that very interesting article from today’s Guardian. Although, of course, we still don’t know for certain the cause(s) of sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual or bi-sexual), the evidence certainly points towards the conclusion that in nearly all males, at least, it is so firmly programmed as to be for all practical purposes immutable. Let us grant that there may well be exceptions, but if so then they are precisely that: exceptions.

    Even if this evidence is definitively confirmed, however, that won’t mean the end of reparative therapy or ex-gay counselling, just as we haven’t yet seen an end to psychic surgery, astrology, numerology, angel therapy and similar follies. As Professor Paul Kurz of CSICOP remarked, whenever you think that you’ve provided a devastating critique of an irrational belief in one year, two years later the belief system is back again.

  10. The problem with the Guardian piece is that research on brain sizes and form can’t tell you whether the brains were different before the onset of homosexual practice or afterwards. There is also the fact that the similarities do not occur in every single brain, leading us to the conclusion that even if the observation in brain variations is caused by a genetic or biological condition, it may not be a definitive predictive causal link.

    There is a very recent twin study (over 7,200 sets of twins) which shows that the genetic component of homosexuality is only about a third of all causal factors. This means that individual biological variations and social environment contribute two-thirds of the causal factors.

    All the evidence is pushing towards a complicated combination of nature and nurture, and in such an environment healing ministries may yet have something to offer many who struggle with same-sex attraction and behaviour.

  11. As a follow on, Warren Throckmorton has these very helpful comments to make on the brain study:

    On the other hand, Savic and Lindstrom are not proposing that these differences cause the sexual orientation differences. Those familiar with Daryl Bem’s exotic becomes erotic theory will see how these brain differences could support his theory. It is plausible that these brain differences are involved in the gender atypical behavior so commonly and strongly associated with the development of adult homosexual orientation. Gender atypical behavior could be an associated feature of a same-sex orientation, a kind of sign of homosexual orientation or in the EBE account, gender atypical behavior and interest could predispose people to sexual regard the same sex as the other sex during pubescence.

    Savic and Lindstrom propose three potential mechanisms for these differences. They note:

    The mechanisms behind the present observations are unknown. In accordance with discussions about the sexual dimorphism of the brain, three factors have to be taken into account: environmental effects, genetics, and sex hormonal influences.

    These are the usual suspects, genes, environment and hormones. Savic and Lindstrom dismiss genetic factors for reasons I cannot quite figure out. They say,

    As to the genetic factors, the current view is that they may play a role in male homosexuality, but they seem to be insignificant for female homosexuality. Genetic factors, therefore, appear less probable as the major common denominator for all group differences observed here.

    About environment, they observe that sex-based brain differences have been observed at birth and in children. However, cerebral maturation continues through puberty, especially in boys. Thus, social and environmental factors could play a role in how these differences or other differences not assessed here develop in individuals. They are not certain however and note:

    However, to attribute such effects to the present results would require a detailed comprehension of how specific environmental factors relate to the four groups investigated, and how they affect various cerebral circuits. In the light of currently available information this can only be speculative.

    In other words, we do not know what environmental factors could be influential on brain differentiation for male and female with sex typical and atypical brain structure and function. The authors are either unaware of Bem’s EBE theory or do not see it as relevant to their findings. Clearly, these wanted to rule out the role of sexual behavior and preference as being the driver for the differences between gays and straight that they found in their pheromone studies. Here they believe they have found clear neurological differences which in some manner relate to the differences in sexual preferences.

    Taken from http://wthrockmorton.com/2008/06/17/study-examines-brain-differences-related-to-sexual-orientation/

  12. Interesting.

    Both William and Winston have offered reasons . . . to not offer AA or NA services to alcoholics and drug addicts, since it is in majority not helpful to them. Drug addicts and alcoholics continually relapse after going through therapy, and only a small percentage of them truly recover the first time from their attractions.

  13. Peter,

    This is very helpful.  There seem to be a few other reasons that evangelicals (I’m generalizing) aren’t able to offer much help:    (1) an absolute under-informed and ignorant leadership.  Most shepherds and sheep likely still believe in “orientation” rather than “attraction,” which is a swallowing – hook, line, and sinker – of the gay agenda.  Good on them for winning that; bad on us for believing it so uncritically.  (2) Lack of leaders.  It’s not just about mustering up some funds.  It’s about a lack of mature, qualified workers.  Most workers in this area seem to have their own sexuality “struggles,” which is fine (if carefully balanced and supervised with the caution from Gal 6:1), but most non-strugglers have just no idea where to begin.

    At its core, flesh struggling with fleshly attraction is a superb microcosm of the whole sin problem.  It best illustrates human inability and spiritual need that is not gnostically bifurcated into flesh/spirit.  The only hope for such a condition is Jesus and the Gospel:  death, resurrection; death, resurrection; death, resurrection.  Perhaps the psychotheraputic approach is overplayed.  I don’t go to a psychotherapist because I’m attracted to my secretary.

    Most of the shepherds and sheep in the church are (sadly) moralists and Pelagians.  Rediscovering what the church has always said everywhere about the human condition (anthropology) and our only hope in Jesus may be the hardest first step.  Not content to pharisy (a word I just made up), Jesus truly is the Friend of Sinners (Luke 7:34).

    In the meantime, let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest (Mt 9:38) to send out workers.

    Arthur

  14. Sarah, you said:

    “Both William and Winston have offered reasons . . . to not offer AA or NA services to alcoholics and drug addicts, since it is in majority not helpful to them.”

    I think not. There is a subtle difference which I should like to point out here. Alcoholism and drug addiction are serious problems which are destructive to those who suffer from them and often also to their families. Homosexuality is not. (That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of homosexual people who – like plenty of heterosexual people – engage in behaviour that is destructive.) As a spokesman for the U.K. Department of Health said in a statement some years ago, “homosexuality is not regarded as an illness or disorder by the Department of Health, and does not need correcting.”

  15. Arthur Anglican really makes me laugh when he complains that we have “an absolute under-informed and ignorant leadership” and that “[m]ost shepherds and sheep likely still believe in ‘orientation’ rather than ‘attraction’, which is a swallowing – hook, line, and sinker – of the gay agenda.” Why? Because he then goes on to demonstrate his own under-informed and confused thinking by this example, which not only illustrates very clearly the difference between “orientation” and “attraction”, but which will show, if he cares to reflect on it intelligently, exactly why homosexuality should be called an orientation:

    “I don’t go to a psychotherapist because I’m attracted to my secretary.”

    Assuming that Arthur Anglican is heterosexual, and that the actual or hypothetical secretary is a woman – which I think he’s implying – well then, the attraction to his secretary is the attraction in this instance. He may succeeed in burying the attraction – and he may be well advised to do so, depending on both his and her circumstances – or it may wear off anyway in time. But the next person to whom he’s attracted will also be female, because his orientation is heterosexual.

    Now suppose that I found myself attracted to, let us say for example, the barman in my local pub. That’s the attraction. I might succeed in burying the attraction, which I might do for all sorts of reasons, e.g. because I know perfectly well that he’s straight, or that he’s already spoken for, or because I misguidedly believe that attraction to another person of the same sex is wrong or “disordered”. But the next person that I find myself attracted to will also be a guy, and so will the next person after that, and the next person after that, and …. That’s because my orientation is homosexual. Get it?

  16. Hello good people,

    just to pick up on the brain studies thing, this is a link to a NewScientist article on it:
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html

    Peter, you said above that “The problem with the Guardian piece is that research on brain sizes and form can’t tell you whether the brains were different before the onset of homosexual practice or afterwards”, but this research was looking into “brain parameters likely to have been fixed at birth” and which “couldn’t be altered by learning or cognitive processes”. Admittedly that’s partly my zeal to be right leading me to make the point – I’m not about to draw any major conclusions from this study, but wondered if it was worth pointing this out.

    On a different note, Peter you raised the question why “evangelical church leaders [are] not willing to fund this work” – admittedly as something of an outsider, I wondered if there are some other factors in the mix? For instance, the True Freedom Trust is a respected (by evangelicals at least, it seems to me) organisation working in this sphere, although they don’t promote orientation change – but perhaps that’s not a reason to resist supporting this kind of work more widely. OK, so that first thought may fall flat… :)  …but maybe there’s also the memory of Courage’s change of approach and Jeremy Marks admitting having been wrong, and the ugly treatment of Roy Clements in the mix too. Am wondering if factors such as those have made the area of ministering “to those struggling with same-sex attraction and other forms of sexual and emotional brokeness”, painful and perhaps ambivalent for evangelicals, and if some of the reluctance stems from there?

    in friendship, Blair

  17. Blair,

    This sentence:

    The differences are likely to have been forged in the womb or in early infancy, says Ivanka Savic, who conducted the study at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

    has absolutely no scientific evidence supporting it – it’s just the opinion of the researcher.

    I’ll talk more about your second question tomorrow.

    P+

  18. Hi Peter,

    just quickly it seems to me that there’s a slight contradiction between the NewScientist and Guardian articles on this. The words I quoted from the NS piece seemed to me to show that the Swedish study had been designed to look at brain characteristics (if that’s the word) that could not be altered by learning / cognitive function – hence my quibble with your point. But you may be right, given this paragraph from the Grauniad:
    Savic’s team has yet to confirm whether the differences in brain shape are responsible for sexual orientation, or are a consequence of it. To find out, they have begun another study to investigate brain symmetry in newborn babies, to see if it can be used to predict their future sexual orientation.
    “These differences might be laid down during brain development in the womb, or they could happen after birth, though it could very likely be a combination of the two,” said Savic.

    Not sure if that’s a contradiction in the reporting or I’m just misreading.

    in friendship, Blair

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