Saturday, October 7, 2017

Homosexuals have been hated throughout history.

30th June 1992

Members of GAY cricket club.
Keith Banks, Commissioner

Letter to the Editor

The Officer


     How interesting to find two articles in the June (1992) OFFICER dealing with homosexuality. The subject is so rarely dealt with in Salvation Army publications that one is tempted to say 'it never rains but it pours'! The articles, 'A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE CHURCH' by Lt. Colonel Maxwell Ryan and 'A THEOLOGY THAT ISOLATES' by Major Ron Thomlinson are so different in style and content, immediately stimulating thought, debate and the desire to get to the typewriter! The articles certainly made me think.
     Homosexuals have been hated and hounded throughout history. People have always found it difficult to cope with those of a minority sexual orientation. That the church should have become a part of the problem is understandable when seen in its historical and cultural context, but that it should have remained so is unbelievable. The Salvation Army as part of the church universal is no exception to the rule. Our Positional Statement dealing with homosexuality takes a very definite 'hate the sin but love the sinner' approach which is about as close as any part of the church has got to a Christ like view of the subject; yet it must be all too obvious to anyone attempting a serious understanding of the issues that this approach has failed lamentably. 
     How many Salvationists do you know who feel loved enough to say 'I'm glad to be gay'? The evidence seems to indicate we have been very successful in hating the sin whilst proving woefully inadequate at loving the sinner.
     But are sin and sinner the right words to use? 
     Our sexuality is one of God's beautiful gifts to us. It is instrinsic to how we think, what we do and how we do it. It is unique. Some speak as if there are only two types of sexuality: heterosexual or homosexual. Can this be true? There are surely as many variations in sexuality as there are people in the world. We all feel, desire and act in a way that is unique to us.
     So by what, or on whose authority does the majority group labelled 'average' presume to belittle, humiliate and despise the minority group labelled 'different'?
     No appeal can be made to Jesus. Anything he may have said about homosexuality was obviously not considered important by the Gospel writers.
     An appeal can be made to Scripture as a whole, but even then the evidence is weak. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah ( is frequently appealed to but it is hard to find any condemnation of homosexuality in the story. For a start, the suggestion that every man in the city was a homosexual is going a bit over the top: And then it is a little odd that Lot should accuse men of wanting to do 'wicked things' when he was more than prepared to hand his two virgin daughters over to them for gang rape (v.8). This story offers no more than a flimsy foundation for an ethic.
     The Leviticus texts (ch.18 v.22 and ch.20 v.13) are c1ear enough, though interestingly make no reference to women. The condemnation appears alongside such things as child sacrifice, bestiality and incest. 
     Can the love of one man for another really be compared with such obvious misuse of sexuality? The text appears to be condemning the abuse of one man by another, not the love of one man for another.
     There are, of course, the Pauline references (Romans ch.1 v.18-32 v.9-10 : 1 v.8-11). 
     This is not the place to discuss context at length but let it be sufficient to say that there are some things Paul said that twentieth century Christians would be in no position to accept. See for example his comments about women (1 v.5-16); his acceptance of slavery ( v.5 : v.22 : Titus ch.2 v.9); his conviction that no one should challenge the authority of the state (Romans ch.13 v.1-2).
     You simply can't take Paul out of his culture; to do so is to create confusion and pain. This has to be remembered in the light of new insights into human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular.
     We can only appeal to experience, and Major Thomlinson does this so powerfully in his account of the love of one man for another. (Echoes of David and Jonathan?) It was moving to read, and the story could be repeated countless times.
     So is it right to persist in equating homosexuality with promiscuity and perversion?
     In nearly 30 years of officership my wife and I have met people whose needs were for same sex relationships. Such people never appeared promiscuous or perverted: simply different. For them such relationships were natural. If a relationship is founded on love and sustained by love, how can it be anything other than good. Isn't God something to do with love?
     And is it right to persist in describing homosexuality as a sickness, suggesting that the sufferers need to be cured? Is the implication that all heterosexuals are fit and well? Sexual sickness there most certainly is, and it can effect any one of us. Would we not be honouring God much more by channelling his healing love to those who are really sick in the sexual sense rather than those who are only different?
     Is it not time we realised that Salvationists are included in the national statistic that suggests that 10% of the population (UK) are homosexual? This means that if I addressed a large meeting with 5,000 people present, then it's possible that 500 of them would be gay; and if I preached to 100 people last Sunday, then it's possible that 10 of them were gay; and if I speak to 10 people today, it's possible that 1 of them is gay — and this applies whether I work at Browns Biscuit Factory or Headquarters. That's a fairly large minority.
     Homosexuals don't need to be told anymore that Christians hate what they are and that they are loved in spite of it. They need to feel loved for who they are; they need acceptance like everyone else and surely that should be second nature for a Christian.
     They need to feel it’s quite permissable to say, 'It's alright to be me', rather than be told to suppress their feelings or hide their true identity.
     Maybe the time has come for an open exchange on this crucial issue. There are a lot of people out there - many of them Salvationists and doubtless some of them officers - who live with the issue every day of their lives. It effects them personally. We owe it to them to work a way through the theological and cultural clutter of the years towards a new understanding of what homosexuality really is, asking that the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth.
     By the way, did the Editor get the wrong titles over the two articles in the June issue? Having read and re-read them many times, it seems they should be the other way round. On the other hand, it may show just how mixed up we really are.

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