New Direction Ministries asks how the church can "reach across the divide and build bridges" to people in the gay community. A synchroblog on the theme, timed to coincide with Toronto's Pride Week, began yesterday.
I'm a late arrival and will try to keep things brief, as I'm busy getting ready to get married in a few weeks' time!
Ever since I returned to Christianity in 1998, I've struggled with questions of how to interact with the gay community and my old (and new) friends in it. The need for discernment became all the more evident when I concluded in the spring of 2000 that gay sex was a serious sin under every circumstance and that I couldn't ever go back to it, nor could I condone others' participation in it.
I've wanted both to follow Christ without reserve and not to lose whatever was genuinely good in my relationships with friends who identify as gay--especially those men with whom I'd been sexually involved, for whom I feel a special responsibility. I've kept in touch regularly with some of them, drifted away from many, and, painfully, become estranged from a few.
The main idea I'd offer is that we need to think with the Church. This isn't at all to rule out the creative ferment of new ways of handling the issue just because they're new and "we've never done it that way." Indeed not.
But sexuality is such a powerful force, with potential for great good or great evil, that we need to remain firmly anchored in the tradition handed down from the Apostles. I don't mean just that we ourselves will be sexually tempted, but that whenever we walk with people in friendship, there will be temptations to bend our own values to theirs--and temptations too, for the more scrupulously inclined, to selfishly back away from opportunities to reach out in hospitality, perhaps for fear that a kind act might be misinterpreted by our potential guests, or by bystanders poised to cluck their tongues disapprovingly.
How do we navigate the shoals? I'll say that I've found it helpful beyond measure that I now belong to the Catholic Church, where the dignity of all people regardless of sexuality and the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts are simultaneously held as official doctrine (CCC 2357-2358). It is so difficult, yes, unnecessarily difficult and error-prone (not that I've always gotten things right since I came into full communion with the Church), to try to work these things out on one's own. The saints before us have grappled with similar, if not necessarily identical, problems. They have things to teach us, lessons in humility and patience and courage. Such lessons will serve us well no matter which culture war happens to confront us at the moment.
I used to be terribly troubled by St Paul's admonition "Do not even eat with such a one" (1 Corinthians 5:11), referring to Christians who are "guilty of immorality." I wanted so badly to do the right thing, out of reverence and love for the One who had redeemed me, and yet what was the right thing? Well, I'm satisfied now that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with my having brunch with this or the other friend.
There are philosophical tools, as I pointed out last year at Bridging the Gap, for helping us sort out what we can and should do to reach out to our gay neighbours without becoming implicated in things that do not deserve our support.
Anyway, I know full well I can't support all the ideas that are being put forward this week, but I applaud the effort.
All right, now where did I put that caterer's phone number?