Call for comment: Gay Clergy

Since my previous post “biblical sexuality”, the General Assembly has considered the the issue of the appointment of a Church of Scotland minister who’s gay and living with his boyfriend to a parish in Aberdeen. They decided to allow the appointment to go ahead, as reported in the Times. They’ve also decided to have a period of consultation for 2 years before making a decision about whether in general the Church should agree to the ordination and appointment of openly gay ministers, reported in the Scotsman yesterday.

I’ve been following the news on this with interest, but also with regret. It may be predictable but it’s certainly sad that the debate has resulted in such polemic from both sides. I’d like to blog a bit more on the whole issue, but before I do I’d be interested in your views. 

If you’d like to, please leave me your comments.

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3 responses to “Call for comment: Gay Clergy

  1. stevenmcquitty

    Hello Damacus,

    Thank you for the invitation to comment on this issue on your site. I am not a minister and have no theological training. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and attend a fairly conservative church within that denomination. I speak as an interested lay person. I am very fallible indeed.

    In addition to what I said on my own blog and at http://www.thurible.net I would make the following further observations:

    1. This is a debate about more than sexuality and more than justice or equality. This is a debate about the source of authority within the Christian faith. Whatever the outcome of the various debates within the Church there will be a significant impact on ecumenical relationships (between the Protestant/Anglican churches and RC and Orthodox). What impact will any shift in doctrine have on the place of marriage within the Church (and wider society)?

    2. Therefore this debate is complicated. Both views (traditional/orthodox and liberal/revisionist) genuinely believe that they are speaking the truth in love when the condemn those who oppose them. It is very hard to see how there can be any (meaningful) middle ground between the two positions.

    3. There needs to be a framework for any debate of these issues that expressly acknowledges the Christian context of the debate. Content and delivery must be in keeping with Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4.

    4. Both sides need to work to find a consistent position for themselves. If this proves difficult then humility is the order of the day. For example, do those congregations (such as St George’s – Tron, Glasgow) who propose to stop providing financial support to the central Church of Scotland fund consider that this is consistent with the fact that they had no difficulty in “fellowship” with the Kirk despite the ordination of women. I note that all the preaching/teaching staff are men at this particular church and wonder if they have a biblical objection to the ordination of women. If they do then their present policy re the Rennie issue is not consistent. I may be wrong about St George’s Tron and women but I would be interested to find out.

    5. Both sides need to talk with each other. The most conservative bible-believing evangelical MUST sit down with the homosexual Christian and get to know one another.

    6. We are all called to examine what are the limits to Christian fellowship – i.e., when is it right for Christians to no longer have fellowship with one another? Within the Protestant traditions we must repent of our individualistic tendency to “shop around” for the perfect church (wherein our own views are endorsed) and we must try and find a stable and agreeable source of authority.

    These are only preliminary thoughts, written under pressure of time and with a couple of screaming kids in the background.

  2. Hi, Damascus.

    I’m not sure that this is an argument about biblical authority. I think that conservatives, just like liberals, read the bible selectively and interpret it. I think it’s about changes in society and how one’s subculture interacts with those changes.

    I’m not saying that it’s an exact parallel, but look at the example of divorce. Two generations ago or maybe one in some communities, divorce was totally taboo in the way that homosexuality is now. Divorced women were shunned, women were expected to put up with domestic abuse, etc. Conservative church people’s ideas changed over time and now the vast majority of mainstream churches are OK with divorce and re-marriage. They don’t think divorce is a positive thing, but it is no longer the taboo it was – they understand it and they can, for example, honestly celebrate it when a relative or friend finds happiness in a second marriage.

    Why is this? Because over time they listened to people’s experience, believed what they heard, and saw the realities of people’s lives. Now there are few Christians who would encourage someone to stay in a truly abusive, loveless, or unhealthy marriage. Or prevent their children from going to play with children of a divorced woman.

    This may be a journey that many conservative (or not liberal, or whatever) Christians can take with gays and lesbians. They can listen, believe what they say (I am really gay, deep down…I can’t change….I don’t have the gift of celibacy…) and see over time the realities of people’s lives. See the realities of committed, monogamous relationships, of Christian faith, of fruitful lives. (One of the factors which is preventing this happening is the courtesy of gay and lesbian people, who, in order to prevent bad feelings, conceal their sexual orientation from older, conservative Christian relatives, while the less churchy and less judgmental relatives are in on the secret. I can think of many examples.)

    What would accepting gay and lesbians mean for conservative churches? I don’t think it’s a slippery slope issue – I don’t think there are a lot of other sins waiting for acceptance. I think it would mean a re-evaluation of what their core values were, what made them special – not, “we’re the Church of Scotland because we believe homosexuality is an abomination” but “we’re the Church of Scotland because we believe that God intends justice and life for each of his beloved children”

    And it really isn’t a slippery slope. I know many committed Christian gay and lesbian couples who are horrified at unfaithfulness, recoil from pornography, are unhappy about abortion, etcetera down the line.

    I hope that’s helpful in some way!

  3. Firstly, I think that the discussion about homosexuality and the church is one that needs to be addressed by the Church of Scotland now, rather than waiting for two years. I understand the need to weigh and listen to all opinions on this potentially divisive issue for the Church of Scotland but avoiding the subject is not something that seems particularly helpful to anyone.
    In reference to your earlier blog on Biblical sexuality, I agree that the church does need to be clear on its stance, basing it from a biblical perspective, but this message has to be expressed compassionately and if an individual is preaching the Good News and message from the gospel in love then is their sexuality relevant?

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