Living in the World - Issues that Christians face
Issues of human sexuality - A pastoral introduction.
Of all our ‘Issues’ in the current series this is perhaps the most contentious and divisive. Opinions are strongly and deeply held and for some these opinions are rooted in first hand experience of the issues at stake.
As we begin to tackle this issue it is really important that we clarify a few things:
Firstly – The agenda in tackling this issue is not to force people to change their minds from one position to the other.
The intention is to explore the issues surrounding human sexuality and make clear the underlying thought and theology of various views to help people understand their own position, and the opposing position more clearly.
Secondly – The preaching team who are covering this issue are all committed to understanding what scripture has to say on the issues at hand and then faithfully interpreting and applying the teaching for the glory of God and the bringing of his kingdom. It is a grave mistake to think that some are committed to following scripture and others are committed to following culture.
Thirdly – The preaching team have a range of opinions on this issue. This is fine and is not a sign of disunity. Rather, as we all bring our understanding and prayerful thought to bear on this matter, we hope to express the deep unity in Jesus that we ourselves have experienced as we've talked through these issues. A unity that allows us to be united and gathered around Jesus Christ, but differ in opinion on some secondary matters.
Fourthly – We are not attempting to define a ‘St Giles’ and St George’s position’ on this issue. To do so would be unhelpful and divisive and would fail to take seriously and represent the prayerfully considered variety of views within the church.
The Church of England does currently have an official position which is summarised below. Some will agree with this position and others will disagree, but it’s probably helpful at this stage to be clear about it. The official stance of the Church of England is that:
'Homosexuality cannot be endorsed by the church as a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as complete within the terms of the created order as the heterosexual. The convergence of Scripture, Tradition and reasoned reflection on experience, even including the newly sympathetic and perceptive thinking of our own day, makes it impossible for the Church to come with integrity to any other conclusion. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation or with the insights of revelation as the Church engages with these in the light of her pastoral ministry.'
It also argued that the conscientious decision of those who enter into such relationships must be respected, and that the Church must 'not reject those who sincerely believe it is God's call to them'
This must be read in the context of the following 4 points from the 1987 Higton Debate which considered sexual conduct in it's wider context and before the question of homosexual couples being able to marry had been debated.
1. that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship;
2. that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
3. that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
4. that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality; and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.'
We appreciate that dealing with such issues can be unsettling and difficult. I would urge each of us, rather than considering this a threat to see it as an opportunity to grow together as a church. If we are able to anchor ourselves in the love of God, and find a place of security here, we are then also able to deal with unsettling and difficult things constructively and without denouncing and vilifying others. We also have the opportunity to see that what holds us together is greater than what might divide us and to explore the depths of unity in which we live.
8th October 2012
Housegroup notes and resources:
We’ll shortly be posting some resources for leaders to help groups work through this particular session.
The resources are:
Housegroup leaders notes
Some ideas about how to practically structure housegroup discussions and ensure a positive and useful session.
A paper entitled ‘Sexuality – notes for Housegroup Leaders'
This paper lays out some background to the modern understanding of human sexuality and is a helpful introduction to our thinking on this issue. It also talks about finding a place of stability in the midst of change and how identity and calling can be preserved.
A paper entitled ‘The Bible and Homosexuality – the Concept of (Homo)Sexual Orientation'
This paper seeks to engage with the variety of biblical texts that are used in discussions of sexual orientation and sexual practice as well as outlining the traditional interpretations of them the paper seeks to offer a constructive critique of the traditional interpretation.
Simon Butler, 08/10/2013