A straight man’s answer to a gay question

IMG_6710I’m a bit late to this particular party, but I have had a busy week.  I am spurred on to blog because of a leafleting campaign in the City Centre yesterday by a group who felt it was their duty to state why God does not approve of gays.  I feel it is my duty to state that they do not do so in my name.  What is more I have friends who in other provinces of the Anglican Communion are now solemnising same sex marriages, now that they are allowed to do so.  I have also been asked several times this week where would be a safe church for LGBTI people to attend and was able to say that my own churches are.  It is important to make this clear.

The Archbishop of Canterbury got into hot water last weekend over sin.  He was asked one of those questions that only a certain type of journalist expects a ‘yes/no’ answer to.  He was asked if gay sex is a sin?  Nice snappy question, which is designed to put him on the spot.  I have sympathy for him.  This is only a ‘yes/no’ answer is you can unequivocably say “yes it is because all such activity is inherently sinful” or “no it isn’t because what ever you do is fine”.  And define ‘gay sex’, if you really want to tie this down.

For everyone else there are complexities; life is more complex.  I don’t like the ‘charge sheet’ approach to sin – Wednesday I drove too fast, Thursday I was grumpy, Friday I drank too much…  Sin is a state of rebellion against God and all of us are caught up in it.  We are flawed, fallen, fallible and fall short of perfection.  Actions can be based in a cynical rejection of God’s justice and righteousness.  They can also be caught up in something more systemic and cultural, where influences bigger than us bear an influence we can’t overcome.  For some all of this is very clear.  For others it is more nuanced, with changed understandings of sexuality and how we live in grace, love and mutual giving, fidelity and commitment being seen to express themselves in different ways but nonetheless be real.

So in my mind faithful, loving, stable, committed relationships are life-giving.  And being life-giving they are a source of blessing because what blesses gives life.  They enrich everyone they touch. In contrast abusive, coercive, exploitative relationships do not bless.  They are inherently sinful.  Both of these are found in heterosexual and gay relationships – they are not inherent to one or the other, and neither are exempt.

So show me the relationship and then I might be able to comment more fully on how much they display ‘sin’ and how much they display ‘blessing’ – though no one really knows the secrets and reality of another’s relationship.

This is not a snappy soundbite, or even a ‘straight answer’ as Justin Welby tripped up saying.  Actually it is a straight man’s answer to a gay question.


About Revd Canon Ian Black

Ian is Vicar of Peterborough, Canon Residentiary of Peterborough Cathedral and Rural Dean of Peterborough. He previously served for 10 years in Leeds, as Vicar of Whitkirk and as a member of the Chapter of Ripon Cathedral. He has also worked in Kent in Maidstone and as priest-in-charge of a group of parishes 10 miles north west of Canterbury. He was a Minor Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, a prison chaplain and Assistant Director of Post-Ordination Training for the Diocese of Canterbury. Prior to ordination Ian had a career in tax, both with the Inland Revenue as a PAYE Auditor and a firm of Chartered Accountants as a Tax Accountant. Ian is married with two sons. He is the author of three books of prayers: Prayers for all occasions (SPCK 2011), Intercessions for Years A, B & C (SPCK 2009) and Intercessions for the Calendar of Saints and Holy Days (SPCK 2005). His latest book is 'Follow me: living the sayings of Jesus' (Sacristy Press 2017). He has been writing online since the mid 1990s.
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