Sean Major-Campbell | A respectful conversation for Church
JUNE IS celebrated by LGBTQI+ people and allies as Pride Month. This is also observed in some churches across the globe. Some even use a Christian LGBT Pride flag, which is a rainbow with a superimposed cross. How is your church or organisation engaging in teaching about the broad subject area of human sexuality? Do you ever talk about sexual orientations and gender identities?
You are aware that days and months are often used to draw much-needed focus to various concerns. Hence such observations as Black History Month, Child Month, Cancer Awareness, and so on. This is because these are matters which are very important to our human community. Pride Month recognises that gender and sexual minorities are people, too. They have rights and should be treated with due regard like any other human being. Accountability expectations should also be no less!
May we use this so-called Pride Month to share more on this much-needed conversation? Stay in touch with Family and Religion to see more in this column. Most importantly, please note that gender and sexual diversity is not about others. It includes all of us.
What does a 35-year-old pastor do when a 50-year-old woman sits in his office and declares that she has never felt sexual attraction for a man? She notes that she has, however, had an emotionally fulfilling relationship with another woman. Is it time to pull for Bible verses and prayer meetings?
I have been that pastor. I have also had the honour and privilege of respectfully engaging with such individuals, whose openness and transparency amounted to a literal baring of their souls. They made themselves so vulnerable as they shared. No airs. No pretentions. No playing of self-righteous Christian. There is something so beautiful about such folks.
Over the next few weeks, we will have a conversation around some of these issues. We will recognise the honest difficulty presented in our cultural and religious context, while leaving room for further insights from the area of research and guidance from the spirit of Christ’s life and ministry.
Let us commit this study to prayer and patient reflection on self. What do I feel as I engage the subject of human sexuality? What are my thoughts? Do I become angry? Do I rush to quote some Bible passages? Am I open to giving myself a chance to listen to material that we have not really discussed widely in church?
There are various reasons why people may find these topics difficult. There are also various reasons why religious leaders may quickly repeat clichéd statements and bible passages, while shutting down the necessary exploration of this integral subject matter of human sexuality.
It makes life a lot easier when easy answers may be provided for difficult questions. Simply placing the challenging issues of life into ‘either/or’ categories of black or white, right or wrong, has tremendous appeal. What happens, though, with those individuals for whom it is not so simple? What happens with those individuals for whom the Church has been a source of abuse and pain? What happens when the pastor, who preaches brimstone and fire, is also the pastor who rapes and abuses? These are questions we must face and process on the landscape of much shouting, othering, labelling, condemning and pain.
We will also explore whether it is true that life also has shades between black and white. Are there shades of grey?
Finally, let us be patient with the many who hide behind loud declarations in the name of God, Bible, and Church. Many speak from places of much hurt and ignorance. Sometimes it is just easier to cuss in the search for catharsis and relief. We will, however, proceed with prayer, patience, and conversation.
David Switzer, in Pastoral Care of Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families, notes, “Proclamation through pastoral care requires that we too go to the disturbed, into situations that may be frightening, the out-of-the way places, to talk with ‘foreigners’, to those of whom many of our church members do not approve, often when we have something else to do (that is always, isn’t it?), when we are very tired, when we feel anxious, when we are not sure how we are going to respond helpfully. But Christ goes with us, and we go in his name.”
This week, I invite us to just pause and remember the many LGBTQI+ lives across the globe which have been hurt, and also lost to hatred and violence.
Let us pray: Gracious God, we pray for wisdom as we seek to navigate the turbulent waters of gender and sexual diversity. May we honour your divine presence in each one of us. Go before us that we may find only your love and mercy, remembering always that your grace is sufficient, and we are yours. Amen.
PS: Last Sunday’s column should have referenced Holy Spirit as ‘Her’ and not ‘His’. The caption should also have stated ‘Unknown Tongues’ versus the stated headline.
Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human dignity and human rights. He is the recipient of the 2017 Ally of the Year Award for advancing the protection of LGBT persons around the globe (presented in the Hall of the Americas, OAS, in Washington, USA). firstname.lastname@example.orgSend feedback to email@example.com.