Same Sex Issues

So we got the TV cameras out of the Close at Blogstead … By the way, I met a nice lady on Sunday morning who knows her Anthony Trollope. But for those who aren’t so sure, Plumstead Episcopi was the parish of Archdeacon Grantley in his book ‘The Warden’ . So I just sort of borrowed it and turned it into Blogstead Episcopi. I’m sure Trollope wouldn’t have minded.  He worked in the Post Office and wrote [in longhand of course] each day when he came home from work. Had he been alive today, he would probably have been a blogger.
Fortunately I realised at midnight that this morning’s flight was 7 am and not 8 am. So I am now in Sigtuna, just outside Stockholm, in a very opulent Conference Centre owned by the Swedish Church. Because they are funded by tax revenues, they have more money than the SEC could dream of! Anyway, this is a Colloquium for churches of the Porvoo Communion on Same Sex Relationships. I doubt if there is much new that can be said about the theological arguments. But I am interested in the leadership issues – how keenly-felt the divisions are in each church; how the leadership is managing the issue and helping the church to live with diversity. One aspect of the nature of conflict always interests me – which is that the opposing passions tend not to match. So – to express it a bit crudely – what is an issue of scripture and its authority for one side – is an issue of justice and discrimination for the other. So it’s two conflicts, not one. And that’s only the beginning.


  1. Simply that, as I sat in Stockholm and listened to the range of attitudes and responses to the issue of the blessing of same-sex relationships, I reflected on the extent to which my level of engagement and response is conditioned by the context and my relationship with the speaker and his/her context. In the Scandanavian context, that is almost entirely neutral. But, for me, within the British Isles, some element of the historic complications of the English/Irish relationship will always be present even when the matter under discussion is nothing to do with that history and I need to be aware of that complicating factor. In the same way, the feelings which one carries about how America relates to the rest of the world inevitably affect the way in which one listens and responds to the ‘for and against’ of the sexuality issue as expressed from the US. Once again, one needs to be aware of that bias in oneself as listener.

  2. Yes – and there are layers of other issues running in all directions. To offer just two .. GLBT Christians sometimes give the impression that they feel that they have a monopoly on marginalisation. And it must be extremely painful when the issue is something so personal and fundamental. But people like me have also experienced a share of marginalisation – in my case over issues in Ireland. So I know a bit about that. One other bit of learning last week in Sweden was that I found it much easier to discuss these issues with people who are not Anglican – and, frankly, not American either. If it’s within the family, then the intra-Anglican stuff gets in the way. If it’s America, then it’s old world liberalism that gets in the way.

  3. Ah! Got it.
    The problem, though, is that we really don’t know what the problem is. What are we fighting about? Scripture? Hermeneutics? Power? Justice? All of the above and more?
    There are GLBT Christians who are faithful and even conservative when it comes to Scripture (like Evangelicals Concerend for example: ) And there are “traditionalists” who argue from a natural theology or even a liberal theology perspective… It is all very complicted and these labels are so unfitting (and un-Christian).
    As a gay priest who can pray the Creed without any problem, I find it hard to fit in. I am consistantly labelled un-orthodox, schismatic, and un-Christian, yet, on the other hand I do want to celebrate the resurection of Christ Jesus in the flesh, which puts me at odds with some otehr parts of the church. Yes, my theology is rather conservative and catholic, yet my sexual identity labels me in ways I never wished for.
    The Gospel has taught me among other things that i need to be honest above all to God who created me as the one I am and who calls me into abundant life through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is hard work, and even lonely work.
    And I have heard of “traditionalist” priests who have experienced marginalisation and discrimination and loneliness, too.
    (Mind you, in the Diocese of New Westminster our bishop really goes out of his way to include in the life of the diocese people from all sides on this issue. The stories about discrimination against “conservativ priests” here in New Westminster is, IMHO, deliberate misinformation. But that opens a whole different can of worms…)
    I agree with your posting of Dec. 22 that the church cannot just go with the flow. We are, after all, called to be in the world, but not of it. But as Anglicans we also have cherrished as part of our tradition that the Holy Spirit speaks to the church in many ways, including science and the experience of her children. Faith remains dynamic and organic as we discover more and more about our triune God’s identity. And at my parish being a faithul witness to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ has very different implications than being faithful to the Gosepl in Scotland or Nigeria.
    But now I am preaching…! Apologies.

  4. Hi Markus – yes I’m happy to accept that! I was really making the mistake of trying to make several points at once instead of taking them one by one. So, rather than stereotyping as you correctly suggest, I was attempting to suggest that approaches to this issue which assume that its central dynamic is that of two sides standing on the same ground facing one another are entirely misplaced!

  5. With all due respect, but I actually think there are at least four conflicts (for starters): Those in favour of same-sex blessings/marriages and GLBT clergy also think of it as an issue of scripture and authority, while those of a more traditionalist view also speak of justice and discrimination. It is truely only the beginning. Yet, to assign specific theological topoi to specific “political parties” does not justify the complexity of the issue.


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