I’m writing this as a Methodist minister who happens to be gay. In many ways I find myself one of the most unlikely gay rights activists ever.
—This is article #42 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Well, perhaps “Activist” is too strong a word – I’m certainly not one of the “Loud and Proud” brigade, but to me, this is an area of justice where I believe I can’t remain quiet.
I did not choose to be attracted to men rather than women. I accept that the jury is still out (if you’ll pardon the expression) as to what causes homosexuality, but in the same way as people do not choose the colour of their skin or hair, or which hand they write with, so orientation is not a choice. If you are heterosexual, has anyone asked you why you are attracted to the opposite sex, or why you chose to be straight?
I believe that on the whole, pastorally speaking, the church’s attitude to LGBT people has been a disaster. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, some wonderful exceptions, and I believe that there has been the beginnings of a significant change in recent years, but on the whole, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Bible’s ‘Clobber Texts’
Having said that, whilst the beliefs that people have are still as strong as ever, I believe that we getting somewhere – it seems to me that recently there has been a change in the tone of the debate, and perhaps people are starting to listen to each other?
Or perhaps it’s that aside from the usual “clobber texts” of the Bible (Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1 and others), people are starting to remember that Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God, and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).
If all the law and prophets hang on these commandments of Jesus, can we please see more evidence of “Love your neighbour” in the tone of future debates?
‘No serious question is off the table’
So, should the church permit same-sex marriage? I believe that yes, it should. The Church of England and the Church in Wales are prevented by law from doing so, and so far, only the Quakers and Unitarians have “opted in” to allow this. I find it sad that given how quick people are to say that there is a broad spectrum of beliefs on this matter, the practice in all the mainline denominations only caters for one side of that spectrum.
Now do not get me wrong, I am not advocating “Anything goes”. The recent example of the gay Methodist minister Paul Flowers has shown what can happen when things get out of control, and the church does need to be a voice against the anything goes attitude of society, (that really was not a good time in which to be a gay Methodist minister) but to me, two people of the same sex who love each other, who also love God and want to express that love by wishing to be married in church is hardly anything goes.
Disagree with me if you like, all I ask is that you keep it civil. I’m always happy to discuss this in more depth. No serious question is off the table. If we disagree but can still have a sensible chat over a coffee or something stronger, I can live with that.
By Robin Fox
Photo: Guillaume Paumier
For more information visit Outcome, the LGBT branch of the Methodist Church
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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