“We appear to be on the edge of a complete failure of communication within both Church and culture. Mark Vasey-Saunders goes on to comment about Open Church:
‘I should say clearly that I would defend to the utmost the need for gatherings like this (‘Conversation on Sexuality’), which are safe spaces for LGBTI Christians and their allies, but it concerned me that even the conference organisers seemed unable to recognise the extent to which it was not safe for others.’
(And this is why I declined to attend.) And this ‘lack of safety’ has even encroached into the Shared Conversations. John McGinley was taken aback by being taken aside:
‘I will share one particularly difficult example of this. In a facilitated session one person said that the orthodox position was responsible for their friends’ suicide. While I showed concern for their loss, and acknowledged the hurt caused by prejudice and judgemental attitudes within churches, I rejected the direct link between holding an orthodox understanding of sexual relationships and their friends’ decision to end their life. I then shared how I felt that the celebration of same-sex relationships was deeply damaging to society through the confusion it brings to issues of identity, relationships, gender, sin, etc. and how it undermines the position of heterosexual marriage which is God’s intended pattern for sexual relationships. Following this facilitated discussion the facilitator approached me privately to say that a complaint had been made against me for expressing the above views. The facilitator explained that they had answered the complaint by saying that they didn’t think I had expressed that view and didn’t believe I held it. When I confirmed that I did they were surprised as they didn’t think anyone would hold such views and then suggested that what I had shared was unhelpful. I suggested this was exactly the purpose of these conversations, to share our views feely, and stood by my views.’
In his blog post, set forth on the U.K. ‘REFORM’ web-site, the Revd. Ian Paul reports on his own view about the problems he, and other conservative Evangelicals in the Church of England, so far have encountered, in their participation (or not) in the C. of E. ongoing ‘Conversations on Sexuality’ being hosted in various Church of England diocesan group meetings.
In this extract from Mr. Paul’s ‘Reform’ article, he highlights the reaction of opponents of same-sex relationships, in the words used by his friend, John McGinley, who complains of his own treatment at one of the sessions in these words:
“ I then shared how I felt that the celebration of same-sex relationships was deeply damaging to society through the confusion it brings to issues of identity, relationships, gender, sin, etc. and how it undermines the position of heterosexual marriage which is God’s intended pattern for sexual relationships.”
The use of the words ‘deeply damaging’ in this context – that of the possible recognition of same-sex relationships by the Church as being ‘deeply damaging to society’ – especially when society itself, in its legislation of Equal Marriage has enshrined such relationships as part of the Civil Code – seems not only ridiculous but deeply damaging to the people concerned, many of whom are practising Christians – Anglicans among them.
Even Mr. Paul seems slightly discomfited by such an extreme reaction to the fact that monogamously-paired Same-Sex couples may be joined together in a legally binding relationship known as Marriage, without causing public scandal in the process.
The real question is; how is the Church of England going to deal with such relationships, now that the State has concurred in their legal right to exist? And, in the light of the sola-scriptura sodality objections to the new status quo; how possibly are the continuing ‘Conversations’ going to make any progress towards the Church’s acceptance of the right of Gay people to sustain stable , mature relationships in society? Having rejected the idea of offering a Church Blessing of such relationships; the Church may rightly be considered to have hoisted its own petard, in regard to the new situation of legally-sanctioned Marriage for same-sex couples.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand