If we were to think of one aspect of life that has been of immense scrutiny and discussion in the Church it would be human sexuality. The debates and arguments that have raged across the Church contexts have even threatened unity, doctrines, abandonment of faith and the like. The fact that human sexuality has also been expressed in the light of human freedom and liberation has further complicated matters. For example, sex change surgeries, LGBTQ rights, the status of same-sex couples, transgender realities etc have manoeuvred the ongoing debate on sexuality into unchartered waters. In the absence of a collective theological response, secularism has infiltrated this issue in such a way that it has left the Church wanting a view that addresses these questions.
The Anglican Communion
In the recent past the Anglican Communion has been having many discussions, discourses and debates on human sexuality. It is not just the fact that the Anglican Communion has been immune or affected by this ongoing discussion but rather we ourselves have faced the severing of relationships, theological revolutions and even brought the Communion to the brink of a schism. There have been sharp contrasting viewpoints on the Evangelical and Conservative African context against the Western and the Americanized wing of faith affirmation. Amongst our deliberations but not limited to, have been the nature versus nurture debate on homosexuality, the legal status of same-sex unions, adoption and related recognition of same-sex couples, ordination of and ministerial viewpoints of openly homosexual persons and a unified front on confronting a secular view with a theological response.
From a Church perspective
Our articulation of a response to this phenomenon must be intricately related to how we look at ourselves. What are the binding facts of the Anglican Communion? We need to revisit and redefine what we as a Church envisage for ourselves and the world. The fact that we are a moderate and outward-looking Congregation needs to be highlighted in this regard. While we are bound by creeds and the instruments of unity we also recognize that we all belong to diverse affirmations and contexts. While we use the same pillars of tradition, scripture and reason we must also remember that we are an outcome of a revolution but also with a firm resolve of an Anglo–Catholic nature. It emphasizes the fact that we need to be a bridging Church, a Church that needs to tolerate and accept different affirmations. The Anglican Communion with diversity in geography, culture, languages, contexts, theologies, traditions etc spell this to us more clearly and challenges Communion than any other Church. The Marks of the Anglican Mission gives an insight into the very forward-looking and integrating mission that we engage in and this calls us to a deeper understanding of human sexuality from Biblical, theological & sociological perspectives.
Biblical, Theological and Sociological Perspectives
The Bible relates to us the goodness of God and continuing human frailty. When we read and mark the Holy Bible we need to have an in-depth idea of the contexts addressed and the culture on which these have been written. For example, we can cite the sexuality of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and the prophets with a reference to Hosea. What is the understanding of literature such as the Song of Solomon, the letters of St Paul etc? What are the cultural implications of the Israelite understanding of Polygamy, Bigamy etc., found in several places in the Bible?
Theologically we also understand God of the ‘many’ in the thought of Jesus. How Jesus integrated all people into the mission of God’s reign is probably the best theological initiative we have when discussing this issue. Human sexuality had several exceptions in the Bible and Jesus’ overview of these makes these exceptions realistic and present. The best examples of this would be how Jesus treated, accepted and recognized people in the periphery. We need to look at this phenomenon through the eyes of the New Testament but also at how Jesus would have viewed the same.
Sociologically we need to understand that different human sexuality is a reality. While a small proportion may belong to one polar and another proportion to another side all the others remain at differing proportions on the scale of human sexuality. How can we then promote "diversity in unity" rather than "unity in diversity"? We cannot expect or force everyone to belong to one category. It would seem as strange as asking everyone to colour one’s skin one way or the other. The Anglican Communion must excel at bringing together diversity as unity. We cannot be bound by "colonial" uniformity which has been in place for several centuries across many parts of the world. We need to understand and respect each person and for what he or she may stand. We need to respect what he or she has inherited. We need to respect each other with diverse views and principles.
Jesus’ spirituality and our mission
We always reiterate the fact that our mission must be the mission of God. It cannot be further away from what God wants us to do. The best lenses we see God’s mission is through the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus accepted people as they were. People are born with a variety of sexual orientations. We can attribute this genetically, medically, ethically, secularly or in any other manner. But it remains a reality. We must now think about how to accommodate them in the Church and in the human family. How can we make them feel wanted, welcomed, respected and indeed honoured? This cannot be a superficial outlook on forgetting distinctions but having unresolved issues internally. We must be open and widen our horizons in a manner that makes us no longer different from anyone with any sexual orientation. Human sexuality remains just one more matter that can divide humanity adding to a host of which makes us have prejudices and reservations. If we can lift ourselves to look beyond these differences and to have a vision of Jesus’ we would be able to even lead the world view against discrimination and marginalization. Our prayer must be that we keep on listening to what God instils in us as humans and we engage in the mission of integrating in the power of the Spirit.