How can we talk about sexuality as a pastoral question?

Nov 27, 2021 by

by John Smith, Psephizo:

The publication of Living in Love and Faith poses a challenge to the entire Church of England to think through the divisions over human sexuality which have so dogged the Church in recent years.

I have found myself wanting to set out some thoughts from the perspective of one who experiences same-sex attraction, and who is and has always been committed to the biblical view of sex and marriage. What I write here is personal, in the sense that I’m not claiming to represent anybody else or any group. It is perhaps not very theological, and is addressed primarily to those in the Church who share my conservative evangelical position, and to encourage further reflection and prayer.

My main reason for writing this is that I am anxious that the LLF discussion has the potential to go horribly wrong, to the disservice of God and his people, the Church. My hope is that this short piece might help reflection and help frame the way we discuss the subject with others.

Two threads run in parallel through this.

The first is that this debate is invariably bruising for people like me, and some of those bruises are occasionally inflicted by friends. Sometimes, listening to the wider debate between conservatives and liberals makes me feel like the child of parents who are heading to a bitter divorce, and where neither of them wants custody of the children.

The second reason is that I fear that we are dangerously unaware of how the secular world sees us. Most people in contemporary British society accept same-sex relationships and view them as expressions of love no less valid than those of opposite-sex relationships. If our instant response in conversation is to pronounce doctrine, then our conversations will be short, angry, and spiritually ineffective.

There are many themes which rightly need to be addressed in LLF discussions. In particular, it is right and proper that we equip the faithful to be confident in the faith, especially in the face of questioning from an increasingly hostile world. But it is the essence of the Gospel that it is outward-looking, and it should be a priority for us to think about the effect of what we say and how we act on those outside our faith, or rather who are not yet of it. That is what I would like to discuss here.

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