Speaking for Ourselves:
Stories of Gay and Lesbian Christians
While the worldwide Anglican Communion debates the blessing of same-sex unions and the place of homosexual persons in the Church, one point on which almost all bishops say they agree is that the Church should listen to the life and faith experience of gay and lesbian Christians.
- In 1997 the Canadian House of Bishops restated its official position against the blessing of same-sex unions and simultaneously affirmed its intention "to continue open and respectful dialogue with those who sincerely believe that sexuality expressed within a committed homosexual relationship is God's call to them."
- In an often overlooked paragraph of the infamous 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10, an overwhelming majority of bishops committed themselves "to listen to the experience of homosexual persons" and affirmed "that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ."
It is our sense that these commitments remain largely unfulfilled. Often it feels as though our church leadership is more comfortable talking about us and at us than with us. Certainly some Canadian dioceses have genuinely engaged constructive dialogue and encouraged their lesbian and gay members to share their experience of faith and God's blessing. But in far too many places gay people have been specifically excluded from active participation in the debate and our voices muted. One Australian archbishop is even reported to have said that "the time for listening to homosexual people is over."
Why should the Church listen?
We believe that the Church excludes gay and lesbian voices from this debate at its own peril. Why? For three reasons:
Listening to gay Christians helps the Church interpret the Bible correctly. We can only have confidence that "God's word to them" (exegesis) is the same as "God's word to us" (hermeneutics) if our circumstances are genuinely comparable. Are the homosexual behaviours prohibited in Scripture significantly similar to committed same-sex relationships today? Listening to the real life experience of gay men and lesbians will help the Church ask pertinent questions and make informed comparisons as part of our biblical inquiry.
Listening helps the Church appreciate our Anglican tradition and the diversity of our faith community. Lesbian and gay Christians are believing and baptized Anglicans, "full members of the Body of Christ." Hearing our stories -? as well as the experience of homosexual Christians through the ages -- gives the Church a fuller understanding of the shared history of God's people, part of the tradition on which we draw to discern God's purpose for us today.
Listening grounds the Church's reasoning and "theology-making" in the real world. Only gay people can explain what the blessing of same-sex unions means to us, and only we can share first-hand knowledge about living as homosexual persons in the Church. Listening closely to our experience grounds the Church's discussion in reality and helps the Church recognize its prejudices and blindspots. Lesbian and gay people provide a very necessary "reality check."
Of course the stories of lesbians and gay men are not, in themselves, sufficient proofs for any particular argument or position, nor is the presentation of them an attempt to do "theology by anecdote." On the contrary, respectful, active listening shows respect for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and is a tool by which the Church equips itself to better understand God's Word, our Christian tradition, and the real world in which we live.
Speaking for Ourselves
On Being a Gay Christian, Bruce Bawer. The author describes the personal impact of the church's traditional teaching on homosexuality on gay Christians, particularly gay youth. He describes the tension many gay Christians feel, that "while our committed relationships seem for us to reflect God's love more truly than anything else in our lives, the Church as a human institution continues to suggest that the very aspect of us that makes that love possible is profane in the eyes of God." Drawing on his experience as a gay Anglican, Bawer concludes, "[T]he only Christian way for the Church to respond to the fact of homosexuality and the identicality of homosexual love and commitment to heterosexual love and commitment is to bless gay unions?"
Listening to Lesbian and Gay Christians, Diocese of New Westminster. Gay and lesbian Anglicans tell their own stories as part of the diocesan Dialogue on Same-Sex Unions.
'Something is very wrong here', Bishop Terry Brown, Malaita. "What do I do (what do you do?) when I realize (when you realize) that a relationship, a touching, an intimacy ? which is experienced by me (or you) as grace-giving and filled with love ? is for another Christian, equally devout, an act of great sin and offence? Such is the experience of many gay and lesbian Christians."
Talking with Bishop Gene Robinson, an interview by Jonathan Raticon (2004), "after the firestorm."
On Being a Christian Lesbian, Anita (creator of christianlesbians.com). "I want to offer a very basic response to this whole debate around being Christian and being gay. Let's call this little explanatory essay of mine 'Christian Lesbian 101: The Basics.' "
St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167). "It is no small consolation in this life to have someone you can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow... where the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one."
What Does a Girl Need? The Magnanimous Story of "Lego", Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, Hong Kong. "Lego often ponders on what qualities constitute a good Christian ? she does not know. However, she believes God's creation is to let human to live truthfully. She will strive to love herself, others, and to love the world. This will make life abundant and meaningful."
Coming-Out in a Conservative Vancouver Parish, Steve Schuh. The President of Integrity Vancouver reflects on his experience as a gay Christian in a conservative, evangelical parish.
Alone Again, Naturally, Andrew Sullivan. "When I came to be asked, later in life, how I could be gay and Catholic, I could answer only that I simply was. What to others appeared a simple contradiction was, in reality, the existence of... two connected, yet sometimes parallel, experiences of the world."
Stepping Out (of Ex-Gay Ministries) in Faith, Randolph Baxter. In this moving and powerful testimony, Dr. Baxter takes us on his very personal journey from believing that he could only accept one 'G' in his life ? God or Gay ? to his present position as a confident person of renewed and refreshed faith. He tells of his arguments with God, his experiences with 'ex-gay' ministries, his internal struggles, his new understanding of the "clobber" passages of scripture leading to the revelation that he could now live the full and complete life that Christ had designed for him; that the two 'G' words could coexist after all!
"Safehaven" in Singapore, Andrew Wong. "In recent times with the rise of Christian fundamentalism as a political force and pervasive influence ? even in Singapore ? gay, lesbian and bisexual people have become the focal point of the demonization of the Other. GLB Christians often grow up with a double burden? To be rejected by family, friends and society is one thing but to be rejected by the very ground of your being ? God ? often becomes unbearable. It is for this reason that Safehaven exists ? to bring relief and empowerment to GLB Christians in Singapore."
The Passion of SS. Serge and Bacchus, from a 9th Century text translated by John Boswell (and the 6th C. hymn of the paired saints).
Evangelical Christian Gays, Paul Varnell. Christian psychologist Dr. Ralph Blair has been working to reconcile gays and lesbians with the evangelical churches that so often reject them for over 25 years. His most popular pamphlet is a folded sheet of paper whose cover says, "What Jesus Christ Said About Homosexuality." On the inside it is totally blank.