What About The Rights Of The Gay Christians Who Choose Celibacy?
As a former anti-Christian gay rights campaigner and a 27 year old theology student, I now live a joyful life of celibacy in Christ. General Synod's action to vote down the Bishop's report felt like a blatant rejection of people like myself. I stand with 1000s around the world who live similar lives and joyfully so, but also who desperately need support from our Gospel-believing brothers and sisters, a breaking of the culture of silence but also not to be identified or valued alone for our sexuality. What the gay rights world has forgotten is 'what about our rights?'
I have often heard contributors say that the bishops didn't listen to the Shared Conversations, in which I took part. This is the furthest from the truth – the bishops listened to gay and same-sex attracted people like myself who are obeying scripture's clear command and wanting to ensure our rightful place in our Church.
We are a minority within a minority; a minority in the Christian world and a minority in the gay, secular world. We are arguably the most vulnerable group and we were very hurtfully accused of so many lies in this one-sided mudslinging match. What I noticed in all the exchanges, was that two Christians, Samuel Allberry and Ed Shaw, both on the Living Out team with me, were totally gracious. They did not accuse others of anything but kept their contributions focused on Jesus Christ and His will for the Church.
As a gay teenager and an anti-Christian gay activist, what made my life so difficult was the sheer confusion and fear in the Church, and in secular society, where, as Michel Foucault predicts in the History of Sexuality, sexuality has replaced the human soul.
In the Church, either the teaching of scripture was taught like a law hung over my head, where homosexuality was the worst sin, or I was told gay marriage was totally fine. None of these options were true to the Bible I read or the reality of Jesus Christ, who I met miraculously in a pub in the gay quarter of Sydney seven years ago. He is a loving, gracious, but truthful friend, who didn't expect me to understand His teaching on these matters straight away. He is patient, kind, longsuffering and doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Acceptance and not affirmation is the hard line that Jesus maintained. That is a rare diamond in the rough of moderation that is becoming increasingly hard to find. If we lose scripture, we lose Jesus Christ.
Confusion in Christians, fear, profound hurt and an incapacity to understand Christians in the gay rights world and pressure from the media sphere which treats this issue like a game is what made my life so difficult. It was a lack of support, a lack of grace, a lack of love from everyone. It was never loving to either deny or change the truth of God's clear teaching on marriage and sexuality, but it was to provide the grace to understand it. Only Jesus ultimately provided that for me. To him I give the praise.
As a gay Christian man who has chosen to give my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, sexuality included, I stand in line with millions of saints who followed Jesus Christ in the same way, leading chaste lives. We share the beautiful life of getting to enjoy heaven now, where there will be no sex or marriage but perfect friendship and love between all.
Being gay or same-sex attracted is not ultimately about romance or having sex, it is about a shared experience of awakening to same-sex desire in a world that often doesn't understand that desire. There is a shared experience in that, and not all gay people, like myself, choose to enter into relationships because of our faith.
Yet, we are not talking about the state, or the world 'out there' in this discussion. I would not usually stand up, or even write this article regarding changing the definition of marriage in government, if it were concerning the secular world. Let us not forget that we are talking about the doctrine in Jesus' Church. His Word is first. The history of the Church of England has been to offer safe space to work out one's relationship out with God. It is a place where you can wrestle with profound intellectual, spiritual, and emotional questions relating to God, but where ultimately, God's Word goes.
Richard Hooker, the Reformer who embodied the Anglican spirit combined both the high authority of scripture, with reason and tradition, to allow space for broader questioning and unity between traditions in the Church. If the definition of marriage changes, the Church of England will no longer be a place which I, and thousands of other faithful Christians, can call our sojourning home. We are not trying to push some agenda on the Church. We are just asking for it to be true to itself.
The recent General Synod then comes down to this question: does the Church of England make its decision based on scripture, tradition, and reason and the experiences of gay/same-sex attracted people like myself or do they go with the experience of some who say contrarily to this combination of all four? I think the answer is obvious.
We all like to pretend there is a middle way. A via media between the choices on the table. Jesus doesn't allow us that. We all like to live comfortable secular or Christian lives where our basic success is not threatened and where we can just get on with the business of middle class life.
For the disciple of Christ who is same-sex attracted or gay like myself, standing up for what the Spirit is clearly saying in our stories and in the Word of God, and in the tradition of 2000 years, there is no such thing. Either God in scripture, tradition, reason and in my story has spoken or He is lying. Either our God is different to us, or he is made in our own image. The next step is to love each other in light of this. This is what the clergy really need to be showing us. The Bishops tried, and for that I am truly grateful.