Northern Churchman: Awkward Questions Part 2

The Northern Churchman

Awkward Questions – Part Two

Here are more New Year musings on the key questions I would not wish to face, if advocating the acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Church. Last issue I queried whether the case for change had been unambiguously made from Scripture and how pastorally helpful an acceptance of homosexual practice would be to Christians facing homosexual temptations yet maintaining celibate lives for the sake of Christ.

If I wanted to see the Church bless same-sex relationships, I would avoid the following questions also:

Is it possible to speak of a faithful, stable, permanent bisexual relationship? Often those advocating a change to the doctrine of marriage say that they want to bring the best of Christian marriage to other relationships also, to offer LGBT people the faithfulness, stability and permanence marriage affords heterosexual couples. Would any of these advocates be prepared to explain what a faithful, stable, permanent bisexual relationship looks like? How many people would be involved in such a relationship? What would be the correct permutation to satisfy this particular preference?

If a faithful, stable, permanent relationship is for two people only, as per Christian marriage, how does this arrangement affirm bisexual people in their sexuality? Surely this does not reflect the totality of who they are. Are they to repress part of their very identity? This runs counter to the arguments put forward for celebrating same-sex marriage. If other sexual relationships are to be affirmed and blessed, why must bisexual people be required to limit their preferences? I am glad I don’t have to explain such an inconsistency.

Why include T alongside LGB? There exists an entire alphabet soup of identities on offer, but the most common moniker in church and secular life is the umbrella term beginning LGBT. Why is T (Transgender) added to the mix in the debate on marriage? LGB are terms that describe how a person feels towards another, an outward attraction, whereas T describes how a person feels about themselves, an inner identification.

To put It very broadly, LGB theology and T theology have different starting points in their ideas of God the Creator. LGB theology would state, “God made me this way, so I must affirm and celebrate how God made me.” T theology would state, “God made me this way, but something is wrong because I am not the person I truly am. I must deny and change how God made me in order to find my authentic self.”

I accept I am using broad brush strokes to paint the picture here. Yet even without the nuance possible in a fuller article, it briefly illustrates the different understanding of God, creation and humanity in each ‘theology’.

How can I be sure that the arguments I use today will not be used in the future to advance other sexual relationships which I would consider wrong, unchristian and distasteful? One frequent image used by those advocating change is that of the trajectory.  The argument is that, although the Bible does not support same-sex sexual activity, the trajectory of inclusion from its pages requires a favourable decision at this time. 

But trajectories are not only drawn from the past, they extend into the future as well. 

In the wider world, people are proposing other forms of marriage, involving many partners, or themselves only, and other options which I cannot describe in a family newspaper. We might consider some of these proposals rather ridiculous, and others rightly repugnant, but if we have disregarded Scripture, on what basis can we refuse them a hearing within the church in years to come? When General Synod first assembled in 1970, the idea that it would be debating the nature of marriage, and find itself unable to say what a woman is, would have seemed utterly remote and unthinkable, yet here we are. 

If we will not let the Bible set the limits on doctrine and practice, the Church will find itself drawing lines based on no more than whims and the acceptable bounds of public opinion. Where then our witness to the eternal God in Christ?