Sex on the brain

7 12 2009

There was quite a bit of fuss over the weekend, about the election of a new Episcopalian bishop in the States. Mary Glasspool is a lesbian, in a long-term relationship with her partner, and consequently her election has stirred up the whole issue of homosexuality again.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (who leads the worldwide Anglican Communion as primus inter pares [First among equals] rather than dogmatically as the Pope leads the Roman Catholic church) used more sophisticated language, but essentially complained that the Americans were poking an already humming bees’ nest.

Trying to explain the situation to a few chums in the pub was an intensely frustrating experience. The assorted drinking company had reached the reasonable conclusion that hostility within the church towards homosexuality and women bishops (remarkably, Mary Glasson manages to combine both these issues into a single, sticky ball of controversy) was based on simple, old-fashioned bigotry and prejudice.

I manfully tried to explain that the issue was not as simple as this. There were also deep issues about the authority of scripture at stake, I suggested. Predictably, this argument did not wash and it highlighted for me a broader challenge for the church.

The two big issues of controversy have the potential to attract enormous media attention. Unfortunately neither of them can be conveniently communicated for a mass-media audience.

The subtleties of certain principled and conviction-led positions are always going to be difficult to communicate, but we must do better. The political world has had a similar problem. The temptation to simplify a complex policy in the interests of a snappy soundbite has seen the loss of high quality political debate.
We in the Church must avoid this, but in order to do so it is imperative that we improve our ability to speak to the wider world. Until we do, the church will continue to isolate itself from the ‘real world’.

Those who feel the need to keep talking about these issues must find a better way of doing it, for the sake of us all.

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6 responses

8 12 2009
Charlotte Mitchell

We received a very interesting letter in the Parish office yesterday. It had no punctuation and truly awful grammar. It was addressed to Giles Fraser, but as you know he has moved on. We printed it off and it is on our office notice board. It is a lot of offensive drivel designed to shock and to upset. It states that our Church is full of ‘queer loving leftie f**ks’ and ‘scum like you give true Christians a bad name’.

This email, to me, is not disgusting, it is just deeply saddening. The issue of homosexuality was such a non-issue to Jesus that he did not give it a second thought or even a nod in its direction. And why? Because it does not matter. Why are we not focusing on the poverty that exists in our world? All the pain? Where is the TRUE compassion that Jesus speaks of? Where is the grace? And where is the respect? It certainly is not in that email.

Meanwhile in Uganda homosexuality has become punishable by death and up to 7 years in prison if anyone even speaks in favour of gay rights. And what do our Archbishops say? Nothing.

27 02 2010
R.Taylor

Dear Charlotte, you are correct when you say that homosexuality is not important, however it is not ‘actual homesxuality’ that upsets people and causes reaction. The problem is that we are ‘force fed’ it and have it rammed down our throats all of the time. We are told it is natural and to accept it as normal, when very clearly it is not. Man is meant to have woman as a mate-not another man. I accept nature gets mixed up sometimes and creates these people but you cannot make people accept the unnatural.
Children from the age of 7 will be taught that homosexuality is normal and this cannot be right. Surely they should be taught about the benefits of natural relationships.
We will always have these people but let us not broadcast and praise it as something great.

10 12 2009
Nicky

Good post, james, but surely it’s less a matter of scripture itself than one of politically-charged scriptural interpretation? Especially in the case of homosexuality, as charlotte above points out, there is little scriptural proclamation of the matter. It is a political and social issue at heart, isn’t it?

29 07 2010
Kendall

The issue speaks really of the primacy of different elements of scripture and whether – within larger laities – the nuances of meaning are effectively understood and taught. The alternative invariably becomes the same oft-translated-for-purpose passages of Leviticus and Romans giving people an outlet for fuelling themselves with hate. Hate is an effective binding force, an effective galvaniser for action; it requires careful opposition. Perhaps if we move from discussing the problem to discussing the solution – finding a persuasive technique that fits the audience requiring persuasion – some progress might take place. The media might have something Christ-like to report, rather than the popcorn munchingly-fascinating reports of hatred.

8 02 2011
Kate

Hmm, I’m really not convinced that it’s a misunderstanding of subtleties that is driving the reaction of secular society to this stuff.

The succinct rejoinder “mixed fibres and shellfish” is everywhere, and is a nice illustration of people who know just what the Church things and why – and why they still find the literalist position absurd. Every generation will find a way of creating scapegoats under the guise of morality – I think it’s extremely apparent to non-Christians under 40 (probably more like 60…) that that’s what’s going on.

Re: ‘they shove it down our throats’ – I’ve been accosted plenty of times in London by people seeking to convert me to Christianity (actually twice in the last week! – one who doorstepped me and started reading Jeremiah ;-). So, two way street: if Christians have space in the public arena, so do gay people holding summer Pride events.

It’s also worth remembering that there are roughly the same number of LGBT people in the country as regular C of E worshippers: both are minorities – it’s just that one of these groups hasn’t accepted that reality yet.

8 02 2011
Kate

Rats – that would be ‘what the church THINKS…’ etc

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