As I watch the debate unfold within the Anglican Community about issues of same sex relationships, I am struck by the importance of our own personal story as we each struggle to come to conclusions about these issues. I am no different--I was lead to take a closer look at scriptural references that appeared to condemn homosexual relationships only after I was confronted with the reality of gay and lesbian friends and family. I was confronted with very good people in apparently healthy committed same sex relationships, and with the reality that my gay and lesbian friends and family members had no choice in their sexual orientation. I therefore faced the tough issue--how were these committed relationship sinful?
I am finding that my story is the story of many who have concluded that committed, same sex relationships are not sinful. In each instance, before we began to do the tough biblical and theological thinking on this issue, we were confronted with the reality of the lives of real human beings. One of the best descriptions of this process is by Father Richard, a blogging Episcopal Priest in Mill Valley California. Here is sample of what he wrote:
"My journey in these matters began in the Midwest 32 years ago, growing up in small, rural, conservative towns where the only place sexualities other than heterosexual were discussed were in boy's locker rooms and where the word "fag" was a plain put-down and suggested some thing thoroughly disgusting and unholy.
"I grew up, like most Christian kids, with a lot of worry about my sexuality. I was straight. I knew that from at least the 2nd grade, because I liked girls. But I was being infused with a hearty dose of American puritanism, so I was taught in the cultural waters to be suspicious of sex-in-general, even if the 1980's were more enlightened than previous decades in teaching the basic anatomy, etc., when we started to approach puberty.
"I went to college sure that straight was the only way to be. My first conscious meetings with gay and bisexual people happened quite by accident, when friendships developed and I learned about their struggles on a relatively conservative University campus with flirting with the threshold of the closet. Knowing nothing about the "ex-gay" movement, I nevertheless encouraged them to seek help, believing their sexuality to be a disorder that was rooted in other emotional problems. I thought it was the right thing to do for God.
"In three years of study, I learned from Andrew much about what it means to be human. He was unassuming, full of humor, a great artist, and absolutely committed to his students and my development as a pianist. He was not a Christian. But he was a profoundly spiritual man whose devotion to compassionate life taught me a great deal about what was best about my own faith tradition. We never really discussed his sexuality at any length. But through his witness in our teacher-student relationship, I went from believing homosexuality was a perversion; to seeing it as a disorder; to believing it was a choice that I didn't need to support, but I needed to respect; to seeing it as a fully human and God-given characteristic that could be lived into through love and covenant.
"Meantime, I had joined a small, loving Anglican community on the University's edge. A gay couple there, whose partnership had been blessed there, befriended me. We had dinner together every several weeks, enjoyed great conversation on everything from science fiction to theology. Mark & Wayne showed me what a healthy, covenanted, and committed relationship looks like from the inside. Meanwhile, I began coughing up every puritanical belief I had ingested, and found warm and loving Christians ready to help me see the Gospel with fresh eyes. And it came to life for me.
. . .
"I have seen the face of Christ most in the wounded, loving, caring, and compassionate gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered Christians of this Church, lay and ordained. I am who I am because of who they are, and who God in Christ has been through them. They have become a part of me, and an integral part of my spiritual journey into the heart of God in Jesus Christ.
"So, to the Primates I now say, as a priest at the growing edge of the Anglican Communion, and with no intended reproach towards those who strongly disagree with my position on human sexuality:Wherever my brothers and sisters are damned, I am damned as well."
There is much, much more. Read the whole thing