2 Views of Sexuality – Oxford Evangelicals

The church and sexuality: 2 Oxford evangelical views

These articles appear in Pathways, the new magazine for people in the Diocese of Oxford. The theme for the current issue, out this week, follows a recent letter to clergy from the bishops, which offered reflections on current debates in the area of human sexuality:

David Bennett is pursuing a DPhil (PhD) in theology and is a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

David Bennett
David Bennett argues for a traditional Christian understanding of human sexuality.

Coming out at as gay at 14 meant the church wasn’t a safe space for me.

I had relatives with strong views who would say things that were disparaging and even homophobic. ‘You have to be this to be accepted and loved by God,’ I thought, ‘I’m in this category so I hate this religion because it deletes me from existence.

As I kissed a boyfriend in a park a man pulled up on a motorbike, raised the visor on his helmet, picked up a large stone and threw it onto my back. I remember this rage within me, at how such hatred could exist. I connected my experience of Christianity with that act of violence. Christianity became the thing that was in the way of the liberation of LGBTQI people.

But there was a vacuum in my life. The secular ideal of romantic love cracked in my mind. I had that Solomonic moment and knew that the desire I had for love indicated that I was made for something higher. Later, my uncle confronted my easy relativism. He didn’t tell me, but he had a word that I would meet Jesus in three months.

He was right. Three months later I saw a film maker I wanted to interview for the student publication. I said, ‘What inspired you?’ and she said, ‘God’ – to which my face scrunched up. She offered me prayer. As she prayed, I felt tingling on the top of my head. It was as if someone was pouring a vial of oil over me. I heard a voice in my mind: ‘Will you accept my Son Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’ I felt this tug of war over my soul for about five minutes. Finally I said ‘Yes’ and that was when the love of God was poured out through me. I was weeping healing tears.

It’s been a long journey reconciling my faith and sexuality.

I had to become poor sexually to inherit the kingdom of God. I believe scripture lands on the side of the orthodox traditional perspective. But that doesn’t transform people. For me it was getting the law to be written on my heart – not just understanding the law in my mind. And that was a long process as I gave my sexuality to God.

I am so grateful that my church didn’t change its theology but offered me love and the freedom to hear from God in scripture. Jesus lived without sex and he was the greatest example of human flourishing.

God loves gay people, he loves the LGBTI+ community. I feel called to be someone who articulates and proclaims that. If you are gay, that cannot separate you from the love of God.

Living obediently will bring an incredible glory to Jesus. God won’t put a burden on you that’s too heavy to carry. God’s love is unconditional. It is God’s voice and opinion that matters as known in God’s Word and Spirit, not human beings.

Rev Marcus Green writes as an evangelical who questions the traditionalist approach to the Church’s sexuality debates.

Marcus Green
‘God doesn’t create rejects,’ argues Marcus Green.

I can remember exactly where I was the day I realised I needed a new theology.

A friend in Memphis does work in civil rights theology. He teaches me that when you are an oppressed minority and become aware of it, Jesus is dynamite. Every word Jesus speaks is explosive because it’s about you. It doesn’t matter if it’s about lepers or tax collectors or Canaanite women – it’s about you. You hear a gospel of life and hope and freedom, and it is God’s promise for you.

This became real for me on a miserable Tuesday afternoon one February in my early 40s. I suddenly understood I had spent 30 years accepting that as a gay man I was in fact a broken straight man. Every traditionalist word spoken from every pew and every pulpit in every evangelical church I’d ever belonged to had sunk deep into my soul. They had convinced me that being gay meant I was in fact a second-class human being. This is a terrible lie. It’s shocking theology. It’s appalling Bible interpretation. It was cold outside, but that day the truth was already starting to set me free. As the song says, I’m only human: but guess what? God doesn’t create rejects.

I’m going to repeat myself.

God doesn’t create rejects. Seconds. Spoiled copies. Sure, we all have treasure in jars of clay, but no one who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ sits in the cheap seats in the Kingdom of God.

And I knew I had work to do, because in my head was a whole Bible shouting at me about how much God loves every single person. I had believed pharisees who use the Scripture to tie up the broken hearted, when instead I needed to hear the Saviour who proclaims release for the captive. Every time in the Bible when Jesus encounters some poor soul, ground into the dirt by another ‘kind’ religious person, that poor soul is raised up on high.

And Jesus does it for us, too. When I thought I was a broken straight person, life could be unbearable and heavy and would break me further. There are still travails and burdens – but now I know that I too am fearfully and wonderfully made, called by name, loved. Gay people do not need to pretend to be straight/appear to be straight/not seem to be gay in order to fit into God’s Kingdom order. Just because the foot isn’t a hand doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to the body – that’s ridiculous!

We are all gloriously equal in Jesus’ family.

Here’s the lesson from civil rights theology: Why are the texts everyone else takes for granted not about us too? Why is this freedom and life and Good News not for us? Why do these stories only give full hope to other people?

Because if I too am only human, then Jesus died for me. And that is more than enough. No-one should call unclean what God has called ‘beloved’.

Marcus Green and David Bennett have each published books on this topic in recent months:

‘The Possibility of Difference’ by Marcus Green, published by Kevin Mayhew, and ‘A War of Loves’ by David Bennett, published by HarperCollins.

________________________________________________________________

Following on from the recent Letter from the Bishops in the Oxford Diocese of the Church of England concerning the welcome that should be given to LGBTI+ people by the Church; there was a reaction from more than 100 clergy in that diocese expressing their objection to the direction that the bishops were advocating – the acceptance of  this sexual minority.

In consequence, these two different views from Evangelicals in the Oxford Diocese – one, by David Bennet, an academic, and the other by Marcus Green, a parish minister in the Diocese of Oxford. Each, from their own personal experience and point of view, expresses their unique understanding of the underlying issue; that of being intrinsically gay – and yet with different understandings of its implications.

From his own story, David Bennet was persuaded – by an inner conviction obtained in a ‘charismatic’ conversion experience – that, although his homosexuality was a given, he was no longer free to express it in a sexual expression with a same-sex partner.

In the case of Marcus Green, after a lifetime of adherence to the conservative Evangelical understanding of his innate homosexuality, he discovered – the exact opposite of Bennet’s experience – that his sexuality was a gift from God that was to be celebrated, rather than grieved over.

These two very different points of view – expressed by two Evangelical Anglicans in the Diocese of Oxford – whose views are openly expressed in the newly-established diocesan publication, Pathways – are testimony to the fact that even the Evangelicals in the Diocese of Oxford – and in the Church of England at large – are not immune to the view that sexuality is a gift of God that may not be confined to one man and one woman within the context of Christian Marriage.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 2 Views of Sexuality – Oxford Evangelicals

  1. Michael says:

    Please forgive me if this is TMI. But I think it relates.(?)
    I remember as teenager in the 90s/2000s how much hate there was. I remember constantly being told I was going to hell. Strangely, the fact I often lived rough, or nowhere: they never offered the kindness of clothing, and sheltering the lost, as the Lord’s example taught.

    I remember one night, I was 17, I was not living anywhere, and I ended up very injured and drenched in blood. I remember many ‘good’ well to do people passing, averting eye contact.
    The only one that stopped me and offered me help, was a female sex worker. She offered to give me the money, for which she had had to ‘sell’ herself, to no doubt, fine upstanding men… so I would be safe and could get to a hospital.

    I refused, but that moment of generosity and selflessness given how life had placed her… it was not her choice, how life had placed me… she, that kind, struggling, maligned, marginalised woman was, and still is, a coup de foudre, so to speak, that struck my heart like lightning, of God’s love in the real world. She, if you will, was my first ‘real world’ catechist.
    To me, she, will always be an example of Christ’s love in the darkest of places.
    It’s easy for people to sit on thrones of a life gone well, and judge, but our God is a Living God who speaks in the silence of a heart laid bare, and sometimes wounded. May we have her bravery to be kind and humble – while hated for how life made decisions for us. May we have strength to love, as one hated, as she did. That love to me, is what our Lord showed us. She gave me hope in Christ. I pray she is safe and that I could thank her.

    I was wondering dear Father. Given the schism our city has radically undergone, is S. Michael’s still safe? And is it wrong of me to wish to humbly approach our Lord’s Table? I don’t want to be causing a ‘house divided’, or offense to anyone.

    Kind regards, prayers and thanks, Father.

    • kiwianglo says:

      Michael, St. Michael’s is an Inclusive Church community.

      • Michael says:

        Apologies Father for my meandering attempts. I have not been well for some time neurologically & am mostly housebound, it seems to have turned my ability to write into a very poor salad.

        I think the point I was trying to relate, especially in wake of the schism over the sinful nature of my unchosen gender attachment, which believe me, hurts, was:

        My life, through actions of others, was damaged. I relate to the experience of alienation these men speak of, and others. Of the cruelty that dwells in the human potential.

        I think I was trying to say also, that I have seen God’s love and charity in my younger years, amplified, from those who Christian society has oftentimes condemned. Our Lord said to see the Christ in others and treat them as He, I believe our faith sometimes forgets that. One of my favourite saints, St Seraphim of Sarov, greeted all he met with the salutation ‘My Joy!’.

        The kindness I saw in those such maligned, gave me hope in a good God whose ways truly are mysterious: and a deep love for those who don’t fit to the perfect ideals of others. As a universal church we need to exalt and lift up those who need it most.

        People should look close, see good with their own eyes, discern that goodness with their own hearts. Go and see! As it’s said. Good hermeneutic practice is important, not petrified extrapolations.

        As for Saint Michael’s, it has always been so very kind to me, and somewhere safe which I treasure deeply. This city is truly blessed to have such a place. The moment of receiving Holy Communion in such a wonderful place, for me, has always given me the greatest moment of true joy, like time stopped and God took a breath. It fills me with such joy.
        I have enjoyed your Cantus at Easter Vigils. And the personal blessing of keeping vigil at the Altar of Repose, a truly special opportunity. And also joyfully renewed my baptismal vows there many times.
        I was honoured to hear dear Father Andrew always speak in such a uniting way. Unity in diversity has always been what I’ve felt in such a joyous place.

        Thank you all for such gifts and hospitality of the spirit. I suppose I asked ‘safety’ as I wanted to make sure my partner, who has kept me safe, seeks baptism, that he would still be welcome and not hurt in his new found joy in God, as no one, of course, should. That, I think, is the due care, of a caring monogamous relationship in a time of great schism.

        Thank you Father, and St. Michael’s for your courage and love in these testing times.

        Have you ever heard of Archimandrite Father Seraphim Bit-Haribi? He sings akathists, psalms and other prayers in Aramaic, his native language. He is a strong defender of the persecution of Assyrian Christians, I am grateful indeed not to be killed for my faith. Though I like to hope I would hold true to the end. His voice is indescribable. I’ll try and leave a link. If it doesn’t work I really recommend YouTube-ing him.

        Humbly, En Christo, Father
        Much joy to you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.