Friday, May 22, 2009

Hui Post 5: Final Reflections

Perhaps the best way to offer reflections which arise from the experience of the Hui is to pose a series of questions - to be clear, these are questions emerging in my mind; aside from informal conversations over a cup of tea etc, most were not discussed as the business of the hui; oh, and by the way, there is no particular priority in the questions listed below:

(1) What is driving forward the issue of human sexuality in our church? Is it parishioners in the pews or the leadership?

(2) What do parishioners in the pews think about possible outward, formal changes in our canons re human sexuality? What if we found that there is a 50:50 divide? Quo vadis?

(3) What question or questions are we trying to answer? (Why do some of us frame some questions one way and others another way?)

(4) Do we have to answer any questions, change anything?

(5) What is the role of Scripture in our church? How can we read so much of it in our worship and be willing to discuss how much of it no longer applies to our lives? In what ways is Scripture formational and transformational in the life of the church?

(6) What does it mean to offer grace to people in the name of Christ? Clearly it involves welcome and hospitality. Are there limits to this grace, for example, if all are welcome into the house of God, are all welcome to participation in the eucharist?

Aside: framed in that way the last question (to me) readily requires the answer 'yes'! But there are other questions! For example: is baptism the means of grace by which people enter into the communion of the church as the body of Christ? Of course, if the answer to that question is 'yes' then it is the baptised who are welcomed to participate in the eucharist and not simply 'all'. Back to questions ...

(7) How do we interpret Scripture? What is the relationship between Scripture, reason, tradition, experience, culture, creation and, for that matter, anything else we think relevant to the hermeneutical task?


Janice said...

Peter Ould, a curate in the CofE who is married, the father of one and describes himself as, "Charismatic, Reformed and PostGay," has some wise words on the matter of 'human sexuality'. Here are some quotes from the linked page:

the “real” truth behind homosexuality, [is] that it’s not a fixed thing, that people can change their orientation and move from gay to straight.

I’m broadly in agreement with that viewpoint. I do think that sexual orientation isn’t a fixed thing, that one’s sexual and emotional life isn’t dictated by genes, chromosomes or biology or even one’s current affections.
This is why post-gay is a far better description [than ex-gay] for those who have left homosexuality behind. It describes a journey away from a false identity constructed around one’s emotions and a true one constructed in following Jesus. For some of us that journey involves changes in our sexual orientation, perhaps marriage and kids. For others they see no change in their sexual attractions, but they have left behind the place of false-identity, of seeing themselves as “gay” and that as a defining a unchangeable aspect of their being.
The idea of gay/bisexual/straight is an attempt to ontologically categorise men and women and normally continues into trying to define morality as dependent on ontology. It sees “homosexual” as a statement of one’s being and therefore prescriptive of the “normative” behaviour that derives from that being. Post-gay rejects that way of thinking about sexuality.
I know that when I’m down or tired or feeling inadequate I could seek catharsis in the embrace of somebody of the same sex in an attempt to shore my own masculinity. But I’ve also, like my friend who realises that he’s an alcoholic, discovered that that behaviour is counter-productive in the long run because it is simply catharsis and not actually redemptive.
If you look at the side bar on the right you will see a heading, "Key Posts on Sexuality" where several other relevant posts are linked. I've only read two so far, "The False Paradigm that Distorts our Discussions" and "Doing Proper Christian Anthropology" and these are certainly worth reading. You might want to consider Peter's point of view before you go to your next "hui" (whatever that is - you Un Zudders sure talk funny) if 'human sexuality' is going to be on the agenda.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Janice
I myself peruse Peter's site from time to time.
I would take some persuading that sexual orientation is not a fixed thing for each and every person. For some, perhaps even for many, but, as far as I can tell, not for all.

Hui is a Maori word for a gathering or conference; but one of those Maori words which is making its way into mainstream Un Zudder vocabulary!

Janice said...

I would take some persuading that sexual orientation is not a fixed thing for each and every person. For some, perhaps even for many, but, as far as I can tell, not for all.'Fixed' as in biologically and unalterably fixed? Or fixed as in a habit that has become fixed?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
'Fixed' as in an unalterable condition, however that has been arrived at (e.g. genetically, disturbance while in utero, initial upbringing, deprivation of a father figure, abuse, etc). I have never forgotten (as an example) the first self-identifying homosexual I ever heard speak about his own story: he had never through pre-pubescent life, as well as post-pubescent life experienced any attractions to girls/women. By contrast many heterosexuals would offer the opposite testimony: through all of life, even before any habitual sexual relationship was formed, we have experienced attraction to girls/women.

My understanding of ministries of therapeutic change for people with sexual preferences they wish to change (including homosexuality) is that there is some success, but not guaranteed success. My hunch is that success is proportionately greater where homosexuality has its foundations in social factors (e.g. deprivation of a father figure, abuse).

Janice said...

Have you heard of Elizabeth Moberly's work? The following link allows a limited read of her 1983 book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic.

At First Things there is a 1997 review by Moberly of several books on matters to do with homosexuality and homosexual activism. She reports Satinover as saying that, "the rate of success in treating homosexuality is comparable to the rate in treating every other psychological condition."

Moberly's analysis explains very well why a homosexual could truthfully say that he had never, ever, experienced any attraction to girls/women, and vice versa for lesbians. The wounds are suffered in early childhood. But I don't see that as a reason to affirm people in their woundedness rather than encourage them to try, with the Lord's help, to move towards becoming whole.

If people don't want to try, well, there's not much anyone can do about that. And if people find the going tough and drop out, well, I can understand that too. Years ago I studied Christian personal counselling and part of the program included being counselled. It was hard, disturbing work even though, I suppose, I was just an ordinarily wounded person such as most of us are. But it was well worth the pain.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
I like Moberly's work.
I get the impression that some gays and lesbians do not want to do the 'work', some have done it and gone nowhere with it, and some have done it and a difference has been made.
Personally I am not convinced that early childhood wounds explains all homosexuality. And why should it? If you meet some without an arm you may reasonably wonder about several causes, one of which might be an early childhood wound, but another of which could be genetic, or interference in the womb (thalidomide), or an accident occurring in later life.