Today I want to get my guitar out again because of something that he has written here in Christianity magazine. He calls for the church to revisit its thinking on homosexuality and the need to look at it seriously. He points out correctly:
"Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising. Casual and self-centred expressions of sexuality – homosexual or heterosexual – never reflect God’s faithfulness, grace and self-giving love. Only a permanent and stable relationship, in which respect and faithfulness are given and received, can offer the security in which well-being and love can thrive."
Not I had been going to write a response to Rupert Everett's comments in Pink News last week about his fury against the Catholic Church. Pointing out that from my personal experience whenever the church was really hitting down on me because of my sexuality I tend to be more promiscuous as a result. This article from someone respected within the church goes some way to offering understanding and hope of the situation that gay Christians like myself find ourselves in. Steve carries on:
"One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?"
This is one thing that I have always clung to myself in my struggles with my faith and sexuality. It is actually biblical and comes from 1 Corinthians 7: 1-7 where Paul says:
Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Of course the church expects all those with same sex attraction to remain celibate to be welcome. But as Paul says he doesn't even expect that of every heterosexual person of faith. Celibacy is a gift which not everyone is given. Yet with the Anglican church saying it will accept gay Bishops only if they are celibate, with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland saying it accepts gay people into full membership but only if they refrain from practice and so many other examples the pressure is only all LGBT people of faith to acquire a gift or fall short or fall out of favour with their churches.
In his conclusion Steve says:
"Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and well-being can be talked about, where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?"Tolerance is not the same as Christ-like love. Christ-like love calls us to go beyond tolerance to want for the other the same respect, freedom and equality one wants for oneself. We should find ways to formally support and encourage those who are in, or wish to enter into, faithful same-sex partnerships, as well as in their wider role as members of Christ’s body."
This is the sort of love I wish I'd seen around the church when I was 14 and started to struggle with my church telling me something and every essence in my body telling me something else. This is the sort of love I have received from many of my Christian friends who for years I wasn't totally honest with, because I took a long time for me to accept me for who I was sexually. But so many of them, though there are a handful of exceptions, have accepted that I am still the same person as always, still with the same faith.
I would urge all of you to read the full extended version of what Steve has written and watch this video about the issue that he has produced.
Update Unfortunately the head of the Evangelical Alliance has not heeded Steve's plea to contemplate and has hit straight out with this comment.