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Sexuality secrets set church door swinging

Journey continues its exploration of Brian McLaren’s 10 questions he says are transforming the church. This month is the sexuality question.

MATTERS TO do with sexuality are of the most intimate human interactions.

That is why people in churches have responded to sexuality issues with such energy and emotion.

The Uniting Church has established clear processes to deal with sexual misconduct by lay people and clergy.

We have rituals to establish marriage and have a Code of Ethics and Ministry Practice that requires ministry agents to uphold the laws of the land.

Nevertheless, there is still a range of sexual behaviours practised by people who claim membership within the Uniting Church.

There is a level of discomfort about admitting that. There have been many discussions about homosexuality and leadership.

Some people have left the Uniting Church because of it and some have joined this Church because of it.

Many people like to have a set of rules to live by; it gives legitimacy to our choices especially if we can use a scripture passage to support our decisions.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t take into account many aspects of life in our era which affect sexual practices such as contraception, inheritance patterns, family law, IVF, porn, sexually transmitted infections and treatments.

Homosexuality is only one aspect of a larger conversation about sexual ethics for adults in this era – both within the Christian church and beyond, in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society.

In conversation we might be willing to consider the deeply held beliefs of another person.

Although it is not easy for me, it requires that I am willing to suspend my hold on “the truth” in order to really hear the perspective of another person.

What are their motivations, assumptions, hopes and fears and why do they matter to this person?

Is there a yearning for a biblical basis for living and exploring what that might look like?
Is there a desire to protect vulnerable people in the family, church and community?
Is there a fear about the consequences of giving ground to a different strongly held belief?
Is there a hope that the rules will change human behaviour?

Most people I have met would not identify with the views expressed on either pole regarding homosexuality.

They are looking for protection for the vulnerable, guidance in the choices they make and some stability in society.

However, that means that people who are different sometimes remain isolated.

At times I struggle to know when to be the bearer of the grace of God and when to apply a strict boundary.

I am not keen to let go of the truth as I see it, but I know that to remain in company with other Christians I need to make an effort.

The consequence of not moving beyond paralysing polarisation when considering these issues is that secrecy will remain.

People will be unable to be honest and open about their sexual orientation.

In 25 years of pastoral ministry I have encountered many people who are hurting because of their own or someone else’s difficulty in accepting homosexual orientation.

Men and women have married and had children, maintaining a facade of heterosexuality, while their practices within and outside the marriage indicate another reality.

What about adults unable to speak openly to family and church friends about their life choices without fear of rejection, exclusion and isolation?

There are also plenty of heterosexual people in the church, even clergy, whose sexual behaviour has led to broken relationships, fragmented families and distressed congregations.

Not discussing these issues will make more people feel like they are unable to talk about what is happening or feel that they need to move away to explore their sexuality or leave the church in search of a community of faith that understands the grace of God as well as the joys and difficulties of being human.