If there is one subject that can cause division like no other for the Church today it is human sexuality. In some circles even to suggest support or welcome to those who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersexual or asexual (LBGTQIA) will result in condemnation and exclusion. At the other end of the scale disapproval and prohibitions present themselves when the policy of affirming and accepting everyone is queried. Proponents at both ends of this spectrum quote and expound Bible verses to present their argument to endorse their particular view and prove a “correct” reading of scripture. When it comes to human sexuality the Church is broken.
I recently found myself looking at the London Tube map. If you ride the Central Line you can look at a picture of the whole tube map or a simplified map of just the Central Line. At one end of the Central Line is West Ruislip and at the other is Epping – a journey of about 1.5 hours if you stay on the tube for the whole ride. Between these stations are 35 others (and a small number of stations on a couple of branch lines). The Churches division regarding sexuality is most noticeable when only considered by the polar opposite ends of the line, when the stops along the way are not considered to be ultimate destinations but that if you are not fully against or fully supportive you must be on the tube heading in one direction or the other. I have been through my own wrestling with my own understanding and views; the teaching I have received, the people I have met, the stories of exclusion, inclusion, pain, healing, hate and love. Looking at the tube map I realised that I have been on a journey, not of my own sexuality but in regards to my understanding of the biblical view. I also realise that I haven’t just followed one line or stopped at every station.
There are a much richer and broader range of biblical understandings and theologies of human sexuality and subsequent praxis than is often heard. There is not just one line with camps at each end but a map with a range of routes and destinations. In fact not everyone will travel in the same way; just as London offers the Tube there are also roads and pathways that can be followed on foot or by different vehicles with different maps to follow. Those who do not sit comfortably within one of the extreme opposite camps are cautious about voicing opinions or asking questions because of fear of the repercussions or being misunderstood. I know that if I affirm same sex marriage and am willing to conduct a ceremony of marriage or blessing my future ministry will be restricted by the denomination of which I am a part. If I am not fully affirming it will be viewed as a rejection of friends I know and care for and cause considerable pain as well as causing those outside of the Church to view it as increasingly outdated, exclusive and out of step with society.
In the past I thought that I needed to have an answer to everything, to be clear on my understanding of God and on God’s view on everything and therefore I always felt inferior to others and inadequate. I haven’t got it all figured out now but I know that’s alright, I am secure in God and secure in my lack of understanding.
Even when I feel secure in my beliefs I understand others see the world differently to me though we study the same scriptures and worship the same God. I want to understand my current location and to explore more of the map. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at what the Bible says about sexuality and the response of the Church, looking for Christ’s beauty in the Church’s brokenness.