Saturday, 16 February 2013

My Baby's Poorly Today

Today I had a Supervised Contact with my beloved son, James.

Today's contact was supervised by: Javier

My son had vomited last night and only got out of bed today because he didn't want to miss his contact session with me. Poor Angel.

We did not have our usual McDonald's today.

We went to the Ritzy Cinema and watched the film: Hitchcock

We then browsed the magazines in WHSmiths

Saturday, 2 February 2013

'The Rest is Noise'

Today I enjoyed a Supervised Contact session with my beloved son James.

Today the supervisor was Kola

Today we had a McDonald's meal from Brixton and then went to the SouthBank Centre to listen to a talk by Tony Benn

as part of the Rest is Noise - the Rise of Nationalism Event

Friday, 1 February 2013

Wholly Holy

On Wednesday 30th January 2013 I was present to hear the following lecture by Revd Dr Sam Well and on Thursday 31st January 2012, I was also present at a Stonewall Ambassador Event which included Gok Wan,  and was presented by Nick Stratton of the Royal Navy to one hundred school children. 
I am grateful for the following transcript of Revd Dr Sam Wells 30/01/2013 LGBT Christianity lecture at St Martin-in-the-Fields and look forward to the release of the podcast of this lecture recorded the same evening. Thank you, Jesus

"Wholly Holy:
What Does the Identity of Being LGBT Add to the Identity of Being Christian?
A Lecture given by the Revd Dr Sam Wells at St Martin-in-the-Fields, January 30, 2013
Changing the Terms of the Debate
It’ll be evident from my title that what I’m doing tonight is trying to change the terms of the
debate. In the Church of England right now we talk about LGBT issues publicly in one of three
ways. (1) Either we trade scriptural texts, with the seven texts taken to be problematic for LGBT
identity, and held by some as a shibboleth of scriptural authority, set against a rather greater set of
more unambiguous texts on similar subjects like divorce and further marriage, let alone killing or
usury, that the Church was once strict on but seems to have muddled through to a point of
compromise and pastoral nuance. (2) Or we trade rights, with one constituency talking about free
expression, honesty, integrity and respect under the law, while another group bemoan that
unauthorized bodies seem egregiously to be claiming the right to determine what they see as
doctrine.  (3)  Or we claim the high ground, with one  constituency rolling its eyes at energy
expended on sexuality, and wishing to move on to global poverty, climate change, and economic
austerity, while another group wonders what could possibly be more important than the definition
of human identity.
What all three of these battlegrounds have in common, I suggest, is that it’s never significantly
questioned that LGBT identity is a burden. It may be a burden that should attract more
compassion, or shouldn’t be permitted to trigger discrimination, or is no worse and perhaps much
better than other comparable burdens. But almost never, in my experience, does anyone publicly
stop and say, LGBT identity isn’t a burden that the church should make allowance for: it’s actually
a gift. That’s the transformation I want to assume tonight. And that’s what I mean by aspiring to
change the terms of the debate. What if we stopped treating LGBT identity as a problem for the
church and started regarding it as a blessing?
I’m going to begin by describing briefly what I understand by the phrase Christian identity. I begin
there both because to try to  understand sexuality in  reference only to itself is a lost cause, and
because I believe the issues we’re discussing tonight are not so much about the inclusion of a
minority as they are about the renewal of the church as a whole. I want then to explore what we
might mean by the phrase, ‘The identity of being LGBT.’ The language around sexuality is highly
contested, and the terminology seems to be in an almost constant state of redefinition, so I need at
least to identify what I understand to be the key directions around which to shape my argument.
I will then in the third part of my talk move to the little word, ‘add,’ which is perhaps the most
provocative word in my title. I say provocative because the conversation, as generally experienced
in the church, seems to presume that the identity of being LGBT somehow takes away from the
identity of being Christian – the only question being whether it takes away so much as to inhibit,
obscure, or even obliterate the identity of being Christian. But if we assume that LGBT sexuality is
a gift to the church, then the next question is, in what way does it add to what the church would be
without it? Of course LGBT sexuality has existed as long as there has been human life on earth. But
sociological and historical changes have  meant that it’s only in recent decades that one could
genuinely speak of LGBT  identity,  and my task is to seek theological answers to questions the
church has not got a long history of facing. Finally, in the fourth part of tonight’s talk, I shall
consider the notion of holiness, the quest for which is the goal of all Christians, and reflect on
whether and to what extent a Christian notion of individual and corporate holiness is renewed or
altered by discovering what the identity of being LGBT adds to the identity of being Christian.

The Identity of Being Christian
I have a narrative understanding of what it means to be a Christian. In other words I believe that
becoming a Christian is to transfer from one kind of a story to another. The story which one begins
to inhabit is most easily understood as a five-act play.
Act 1 is creation – the unfurling of the cosmic canvas, the inception of the unfolding of eternal
destiny, the distinction between there being something and nothing at all, the emergence of
creatureliness as a companion to and reflection of God.
Act 2 is covenant – the Old Testament story of calling, enslavement, liberation, promise, discipline,
faithlessness, exile, and partial restoration; covenant isn’t the story of the whole world, it’s the
story of the people through whom the whole world would find a blessing.
Act 3 is Christ – the whole presence of God before humanity and the whole presence of humanity
before God. This is the central act – of incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection – in relation to
which all other parts of the story take their bearings.
Act 4 is church: this is an interim period between the decisive Act 3 and the final Act 5. The
glorious liberty of the children of God lies in the fact that all the important things have already
happened in the first three acts. Christians don’t have to save the world; only to live in the world
that God has redeemed. The calling of the Christian is threefold: to be faithful to the God revealed
in these three acts, to let God in Act 5 tidy up the rather daunting accumulation of woe that seems
set to  remain unresolved at the end of the fourth act, and in the meantime to act in ways that
anticipate the life that’s coming in Act 5.
Finally Act 5 is consummation, the ultimate revelation of God’s purpose in all four preceding acts –
the purpose of sharing the overflowing love of the Trinity and making us God’s companions
To become a Christian is to transfer from a one-act play, in which everything must be completed
within one’s lifetime, or at most within the conceivable history of humankind, to a five-act play,
where one finds oneself in Act 4, with the vital things having already happened and all that is
unfulfilled resting safely in the heart of God. To be in Act 4 is to inherit an even mixture of
liberation and discipline; the liberation comes from not needing to make the decisive moves
oneself, the discipline lies in being faithful to the character of God revealed in the first three acts
and that will ultimately prevail in Act 5. To be baptised is to move from a one-act play to a five-act
play; it is the most dramatic and momentous thing that can ever happen to a person.
In the light of this narrative understanding of Christian identity, some significant themes in
relation to tonight’s subject come to light. For a start, creation isn’t the only or even the first place
we go looking for our notion of identity. In fact creation is never a criterion on its own – it’s always
mediated and modified by acts 2, 3, and 5. This is an important point to keep in mind when we
come to the understanding of LGBT identity in a few moments’ time. Second, Act 2 isn’t simply a
series of random restrictive injunctions, as a quick glance through Leviticus might suggest. Act 2 is
characterised by two profound experiences of adversity; the one, which Israel underwent through
no fault of its own, which is known as Egypt; the other, which Israel received because of its
waywardness, which is known as Babylon. Egypt sets the normative pattern for the Old Testament,
that of miraculous liberation and everlasting covenant; Babylon counters with the alternative
pattern, of mysterious intimacy with God and partial deliverance. These then become the two most
explicit divine responses to human suffering: God brings us out of it, or God’s face is made known
within it.
Moving to Act 3, Jesus is not simply a new Moses, handing down a modified divine law. The New
Testament is not to be scoured for stray pieces of a jigsaw of unalterable commands. Jesus is
preparing a people to face hostility from the world and ultimately the judgement of God. Paul is
striving to shape a disciplined church alive with the freedom Jesus’ gifts of forgiveness and eternal
life had brought.  The key question about New Testament ethics is not ‘What exactly do these
instructions require and are exceptions ever legitimate?’ Instead the key question is ‘What kind of 3
a community did the early church need to be to be faithful to Jesus in the light of the world’s
challenges, and thus what kind of a community does the church today need to be to do the same?’
Finally looking to Act 5, the full realisation of the kingdom of God is not a counting house in which
St Peter hustles some to the posh seats and others to the furnace, like some ghastly eschatological
EasyJet check-in routine. The kingdom is the perfect communion of God with human beings and
the renewed creation, in which through Christ’s grace all that was once hostile is now creative and
all that was once painful is now poignant. It quickly becomes clear that being a Christian in Act 4
doesn’t mean keeping one’s nose clean and holding one’s distance from anyone who looks
suspiciously like they might end up in the wrong queue on judgement day. On the contrary, it
means finding ways to be with those with whom one will be spending eternity, empowered by the
strength the Spirit gives to all who live God’s future today.
So this gives us a sense of what we mean by the identity of being Christian, and of how that identity
can give us a way of understanding our other identities.

The Identity of Being LGBT
And so to the identity of being LGBT. I want to discuss three judgements that significantly affect
the way sexual identity is construed socially and theologically, and indicate my own perspective on
each one. Each judgement call is difficult to make, and most people most of the time are reluctant
to make such calls, but I believe I need to make them if we’re going to answer the question before
us this evening.
The first call is whether sexuality is  something you do or something you are.  If you regard
bodiliness, sense-experience, and reproduction as integral to what it means to be human, and see
human beings as animals dignified by some special quality such as intelligence, conscience, or
companionship with God, but fundamentally animals nonetheless, then you’re probably looking at
sexuality as something you are. In other words you’ll see sexual orientation as one of the most
basic aspects of human identity, and not something that can be chosen, or altered, but something
that must be received, cherished, and enjoyed.
By contrast if you see your human identity as ultimately detachable from the body, as residing in
the soul perhaps; and if you believe there is something that you are that’s not identical with the
things that you do; and if you locate your fundamental identity not so much in involuntary motions
like being born and digesting and passing water as in voluntary choices and exercises of thought
and free choice, then you’re looking at sexuality as something you do. When someone says ‘I’m not
gay, but I did have some homosexual experiences as a student,’ they’re saying ‘Don’t mix up what I
do with who I am.’
Which view is right? What I want to highlight is why this question is so hard to answer in
contemporary Western culture. In a democratic consumer society all the cultural signals are
oriented around choice and identity is translated into image. Thus everything becomes done and
willed, rather than  been and discovered. Sexuality is commodified and made the subject of
technological fulfillment and consumer choice like everything else; think for example about the
message the phrase ‘sexual preference’ is giving: it’s the language of choice – and a somewhat
arbitrary and unaccountable choice, at that. In this context it’s hard to articulate statements about
identity-as-being without seeming obscurantist or simply ‘not with the programme.’
If we want to advocate a view of sexuality as what we are then I suggest in the light of my earlier
discussion of the five-act play that we do so based less on what we believe about act 1 (creation)
than on what we understand about act 5 (consummation). This is where I think the terms of the
debate need to change. If you see heaven as an embodied interaction between God, humanity, and
the renewed creation, then embodiment is essential to human identity, because it is part of our
eternal nature. The human body is not a ladder we kick away when we enter heaven. Sometimes
Christianity is presented as asking, ‘What is the rule book that was given in Act 1 and how can we
stay close enough to it to qualify for Act 5?’ But living in Act 4 is more about asking the question,4
‘What kind of life in Act 4 reflects the joyful heritage of Acts 1-3 (often called ‘grace’) and the
breathtaking destiny of Act 5?’ The answer can’t be that we substitute all our desires into
detachable and commendable choices. It must be that we discover all our desires are a sublimated
desire for God, and a poor token of God’s fundamental desire for us, on which the whole five-act
play is predicated. What I’m talking about is shifting the conversation from creation, which
happened once, to heaven, which last forever.
Let’s move to the second of the three related judgements I believe we need to make. What is the
relationship between LGBT persons and the largely heterosexual society at large? Now an
immediate response might be, what a silly question: most relationships are ad hoc and not centred
on sexuality, so why try to generalize about something so extraordinarily diverse and varied? But
just notice how this answer presupposes a view of sexuality that assumes sexuality is something
one picks up and puts down at will, affecting how you party on a Friday night but not how you buy
your groceries on a Saturday afternoon or travel to work on a Monday morning. If you’ve taken the
view that sexuality is integral to human identity, you don’t get to say this is a silly question. Instead
there are broadly three answers to the question.
Answer one is to say LGBT persons are the same as everyone else; their sexuality isn’t significant to
any public judgements and is simply a private matter. This is the route liberal democratic societies
inevitably take, and it’s one that members of minorities at risk of discrimination almost inevitably
welcome, because it portrays  discrimination as bigoted, irrational, and unjustifiable. But notice
again that it presupposes a view of sexuality as something one does, and, like all liberal democratic
configurations, assumes the language of rational choice and consumer preference.  In this
perspective there’s no common good to aspire to or look together towards; public life is simply a
way of maximizing private fulfilment, and there are next to no substantial criteria by which to
evaluate what might be worthy or unworthy forms of personal fulfilment. LGBT persons have
generally gone along with this perspective because it dismantles any plausibility for
discrimination. But it’s not a view that’s fundamentally compatible with a view of sexuality as what
we are, because, from  such a viewpoint, LGBT persons are not just circumstantially, but
fundamentally, different, albeit reluctant to say so loudly for fear of attracting sometimes-violent
Answer two recognises and accepts that fundamental difference, and  sees the antagonism as
inevitable and endemic. Answer two says because LGBT persons are different, they need to set up
their own institutions, networks, and processes, because the majority population will never accept,
comprehend, include, and cherish their presence and contribution. This is a view most commonly
found in lesbian feminist circles. There are analogies here in matters of race – for example there’ve
been times when sections of the African American community have believed they needed to
disengage from mainstream American life and run their own society. It’s by definition a minority
view, and I’m not endorsing it, but I want to note two features that will become significant as my
argument unfolds. The first is that this breaks the fantasy that to flourish you have to be the same.
It’s hard to exaggerate the hold this fantasy has on our imaginations. When you’ve been persecuted
for being different, it’s understandable that you plead to be regarded as the same; but in truth
liberation comes when you break the assumption that we must all be the same. The second is that
it opens up the idea that LGBT persons, in being different, may not be somehow less than the
majority population; they may in fact be more. To use the words of my title, the question is not
what can LGBT people take away from being Christian and still get away with  it; the question
becomes what does being LGBT add to being Christian.
Answer three accepts the essential difference presented by LGBT people but sees that difference as
complementary to the majority population. Rather like a football team or newspaper editorial
process, there are many different roles to perform, and different kinds of people are needed to do
all that needs to be done. A narrow binary gender distinction between male and female
impoverishes human life by assuming there are a very limited number of key activities and roles,
focused around reproduction, security of shelter, food, and clothing, and nurture of children. But
in most of the world today the understanding of human flourishing goes beyond those narrow
Darwinian contours of personal and species survival. 5
The gift of LGBT persons to the majority heterosexual population in this perspective is to banish
for good the assumption of constricting gender roles, while still resisting the push toward turning
every human venture into an expression of consumer choice. In other words we are embodied
beings, and our sexual desire is intrinsic to our identity; but we are not simply animals, and our
respective roles in reproduction and survival are not the epicentre of our embodied identity. We
should have known this since the early church discovered that baptism, rather than childbirth, was
the way the Holy Spirit reproduced disciples; but it seems to have taken us a lot longer to realise
what God in Christ has been telling us all along. This means that sex isn’t wholly or even primarily
for reproduction, but for the channeling, fulfilling, and renewing of desire in the context of being
wholly desired. And desire isn’t wholly or even primarily directed at issuing in sex, but is for
discovering and cherishing one another as we are each desired and cherished by God.
To return to the five-act play, while we earlier discovered sexuality was more about heavenly
harmony than created univocity, and thus more about Act 5 than about Act 1, here we see that the
lifestyle we adopt is less about the outworking of a script determined in Act 1 than about the
discovery of a vocation intimated in Act 2. Because it’s in Act 2 that we first encounter the notion
of vocation. God has a particular role for Israel to perform, and that role is to be a nation through
whom all the peoples of the world will find a blessing. That’s the recurring theme to which God
returns in reproach and encouragement: I did not want you to be like other nations, I called you to
be holy because I had a special job for you to do. And that defining theme in Act 2 is a crucial
strand in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. To be baptised, and thus to receive
the gift of finding yourself in Act 4 of God’s great drama, is simultaneously to be given a vocation
as to how to realize the heritage of the first three acts in view of the destiny of the fifth.
It’s no accident that narratives of calling play such a major role in the Old Testament. Consider
Noah, Sarah, Abraham, Jacob, Miriam, Moses, Gideon, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah
and many more. Each individual vocation mimics the original vocation of Israel not to be like other
nations but to shape its life for the particular job God calls it to do. Baptism means being stripped
of your failed attempts to be someone else, and others’ foolish attempts to make you someone else,
and being called to be the person you are uniquely called to be, the person whom God seeks to
perform a role that perfectly blends God’s eternal nature, your temporal nature, and the transitory
circumstances of this world. Discernment of vocation is the identification of that form of service
through which you will find perfect freedom.
In passing I might note two implications of this understanding of vocation. The first is that it
presupposes diversity: if we were all wired up the same way it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for God
to give us different jobs to do. The more diverse the skills on the team, the more adaptable that
team is to new circumstances and challenges. The second is that it explains why the distinction
that accepts LGBT orientation but denies LGBT sexual expression is unsustainable. Celibacy is a
vocation, just as marriage is; suggesting that all LGBT persons are called to be celibate is a misuse
of the term vocation; it would be like suggesting all men are called to be fathers, or all women are
called to be priests. By definition vocation is a role to which some are called but not all. Something
to which all are called is not a vocation, it’s a command. Commands, from Sinai onwards, are the
way God equips people to keep their freedom. And there’s no command in the Bible for universal
And this theme of vocation brings us to our third judgement call. How significant is sexuality for
the whole of our lives before God? Think for a moment about the widespread sense that by
dwelling on issues of sexuality the church makes itself ridiculous before the sophisticated
contemporary world. Does this remarkably oft-heard claim not presuppose a view that sexuality is
something one invokes, at will, at designated moments of the day, week, or month, that is wholly
private, and though (one would hope) indescribably pleasurable and ecstatic, is nonetheless
completely under control and can be dismissed or airbrushed out of settings where it doesn’t
belong  – in other words that sex is the perfect consumer commodity? Show me this perfectlyadjusted sexual society, at peace with its body and everyone else’s, free from jealousy, longing,
betrayal, passion, self-deception, greed, anxiety, shame, rejection, hunger, failure, regret, fear, and
loss. Bring it on! 6
There are twin paradoxes in our contemporary culture. One  paradox  is that we speak of sex as
something utterly private, tremendously personal, and terribly intimate, and thus outside the
realm of public discourse to such an extent that anyone who  dares to make normative claims in
public seems absurd to the point of ridicule; yet at the same time perhaps no subject is the cause of
more grief, heartache, and hurt, and thus crying out for sensitive discussion and gentle wisdom.
The other paradox is that because our plural society finds it so hard to name, let alone consider,
overall goals that might define and shape human life as a collective project, energy is devoted
instead to fulfilling proximate dreams and maximising personal pleasure, and sexuality thus
becomes not the most irrelevant subject, but the most urgent one.
In this paradoxical context, it’s challenging but vital to renew an understanding of sexuality that
sees our lives as located between Act 3 and Act 5 of the five-act play. This location offers us hope,
that’s to say an overarching framework within which to perceive the failures, frustrations, setbacks
and mundanities of our lives.  Act 5 is not something we build or hasten or determine  - it’s
something God brings. If we want to know what Act 5 looks like we do best to look back to Act 3
and see the kingdom as portrayed in and by Jesus. It’s a kingdom in which exiles are restored, the
oppressed find release,  the  rejected belong, debtors are forgiven and excluded become
companions, on an interpersonal, social, international and cosmic scale. Disciples in Act 4 are
called to imitate the ways of the kingdom they see practiced in Act 3 in the light of the  full
disclosure and fulfillment of the kingdom promised in Act 4. It’s a vocation that requires the whole
of one’s identity, and thus one’s sexuality must be integral to the way that vocation is fulfilled; but
it’s not a vocation that is wholly or primarily about sexuality, so sexual needs, desires, frustrations
and longings must to some degree be set aside for a greater purpose.
Without such an overarching purpose within which to discern an individual vocation, questions of
sexual ethics are almost impossible to resolve. The question the church asks itself is, what kind of a
people do we need to be to be part of God’s mission in which exiles are restored, the oppressed find
release, the  rejected belong, debtors are forgiven and excluded become companions?  And the
answer has to include things like realising the extent to which one is oneself an oppressor as well
as denouncing oppressors, seeking forgiveness as well as brokering reconciliation, coming out of
exile oneself as well as being a shepherd who seeks out the lost, living with infectious freedom as
well as seeking to liberate others. The lesson of the Old Testament is that Israel discovered that
freedom is harder to keep than to find, so rules and guidelines exist, not because the alternative is
impurity and shame, but because without them the community disintegrates and can’t do the job
God has called it to do.
Thus the question for each disciple is, What kind of a life do I need to live if I am going to support
such a community and in its service find perfect freedom?  It probably means focusing one’s
energies on one aspect of the kingdom, or more likely one subset of one aspect of the kingdom, and
ordering one’s life to be able to embody and advance and enrich that aspect as well as one possibly
can. It means asking oneself questions like, will others look at my life and my relationships and see
in them love, joy, and peace? Will they look at my care of the young and the old, the needy and the
infirm, the troubled and the stricken, and see patience, kindness, goodness? Will they look at my
confrontation with the forces of hatred and cruelty, the powers of manipulation and deceit, the
principalities of greed and humiliation, and see faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
And now perhaps we’re ready to focus on that little word, ‘add.’

What Does Being LGBT Add?
By this stage in my argument it should be clear that questions of sexuality are almost impossible to
resolve without a renewal of the whole church in its understanding of itself and its mission, and
that part of the gift of LGBT persons to the church in the current era is that considering these
questions may lead to that very same renewal of the church.7
Let me at this stage consider three notions of what our calling as Christians is to be before God,
and the respective place of LGBT persons within that calling, as a way of synthesizing the first and
second sections of my argument.
One is to keep ourselves pure. In this view the world is full of snares and seductions, and the goal
of the  Christian life is to navigate around and between them without falling into or being
entrapped by any, and eventually presenting oneself spotless and blameless before God at the
throne of glory on judgement day. However much of a caricature of piety this might be, it’s hard to
deny how widely influential it’s been among believers and critics alike. It’s important to note it has
little or nothing to say about forgiveness and scarcely any notion of the devotional or social role of
the church, and is thus a more or less Pelagian model, devoid of grace. As to a place for sexuality,
marriage exists to contain inflammable lusts; it’s hard to imagine a positive rendering for LGBT
persons in such a model.
Another similar view of Christian calling is to facilitate a healthy society. This means being a good
citizen, fighting the government’s wars, keeping the king’s rules, working hard to make an honest
living and pay fair taxes, and claiming a decent share in the profits of industry, labour, prosperity,
and peace. It’s hard to deny that between them, this and the first notion cover the majority of
popular perceptions about the basic foundations of discipleship. Again, this model lacks the drama
of repentance and forgiveness, and has a benign view of the congruence of gospel and culture. The
role of sexuality is simple and direct: it is to bring into the world children, who are to be reared as
good, upright Christian citizens. Again, it’s hard to see an authentic place for a positive
understanding of LGBT persons here.
And this is why I say that receiving the gift of LGBT persons is inextricable from a renewal of the
church’s understanding of itself and its mission. For these two models, in which there is practically
no place for LGBT persons, are as impoverished as they  are influential. Let me suggest a third
model and see what difference it makes.
What if Christians were called to bear in their bodies the truth of God’s sharing their life in the
incarnate Christ, the goodness of Christ’s laying-down of his life for their sake, and the beauty of
the Holy Spirit’s raising Christ to life for evermore? What if Christianity were to mean the
recognition of one’s own participation in deceit and cruelty and the calling of all people to name
complicity in oppression and falsehood? What if discipleship meant individually and corporately
letting one’s life be transformed into a parable of faith, a poem of hope, a paean of love, that
exchanges the world’s habits of scarcity for the kingdom’s assumptions of abundance? What if
piety meant leaving aside the things the world offers a tantalizing shortage of and embracing the
things God gives in plenty? And the moment that starts to sound too ambitious is the very moment
of renewal, because that’s when the church for the first time perhaps ever realises it doesn’t have
the luxury of prejudice, it doesn’t get to include just one kind of person, it really and truly needs
everyone who is willing to part of this great adventure, and is at last surrounded by all the kinds of
people who thronged  round Jesus and the church should have regarded as its best friends all
And is there a place for LGBT persons in this model? Absolutely. They’re in the front seat of the
van. Why? I’ll give you three reasons. One, because a terrifying, murderous and persecuted history,
which has left LGBT persons so marginalised, scapegoated, and diminished in the church it’s
astonishing they’re still here, makes LGBT persons almost uniquely qualified to identify with those
people closest to Jesus’ heart, Jesus’ company, and Jesus’ ministry. After hundreds of years of
seeing LGBT persons as living in Babylon, in an exile of their own making, the church is finally
beginning to realize that they’re not in Babylon – they’re in Egypt, in a captivity imposed upon
them by  others. Of course LGBT persons are sinners – everyone is; but at last the church is
beginning to recognize that this is a people incalculably more sinned against than sinning, with an
inexhaustible store of wisdom and grace to teach their brothers and sisters.
Two, because LGBT persons by their very nature break the assumption that human existence is
indelibly tied to reproduction. Having children is a longing for many people, a foiled or delayed
hope for some, a joy to others, and a grief to yet more. But it’s not a necessity, for either biological 8
or missiological reasons. Instead it’s a vocation, for some to carry and all to support. Some LGBT
persons themselves sense a call to carry this vocation. But for the most part, LGBT persons are a
witness that God reproduces the church by baptism and the kingdom by grace, and this is a
proclamation of inestimable significance for Christian witness in the world.
And  three, LGBT persons are ahead of the majority population in exploring the longevity and
sustainability of desire and tenderness that is neither upheld by the sanction of social endorsement
nor cemented by the responsibility of offspring and nurture. Two hundred years ago what held
marriages together was female economic dependence, short lifespans, low expectations of
emotional fulfilment, and the social stigma of or legal impossibility of divorce. Now all these have
been rolled away, we are discovering whether there’s any glue left. LGBT persons have never had
any of these buttresses: perhaps the question in our generation should not be, ‘Have LGBT persons
any right to be married?’, but rather, ‘Can the church begin to redefine marriage for a very
different era without the wisdom and experience LGBT persons can bring?’

Wholly Holy
It may seem like I’ve thrown out such a whole battery of proposals that it’s high time I took a
reprise of the whole argument by way of summing up. So here goes. I’m going to do the five-act
play in reverse.
Starting in Act 5, one of the flaws in the way the whole debate about LGBT persons and the church
is usually set up is the mistaken assumption that creation is a self-authenticating decree. On the
contrary, creation only makes sense when read backwards from the point of view of the end of the
story. Act 5 is a depiction of where the story is going: perfect communion of God, humanity and all
things where diversity is exponential and difference is coded not as violent tension but as playful
peace. Only with such a picture does creation make sense. We needn’t think of God starting things
off like a cosmic train-builder whispering in our ear ‘Stay on these tracks or you’ll blow it.’ Instead
in creation God implants imagination, humour, creativity and desire, and crafts them all as routes
back to God should we ever get lost.
Moving to Act 4, our fundamental identity as Christians is derived from our baptism, and in our
baptism we set aside the one-act play and inherit the heritage and destiny of God’s five-act drama.
That’s what it means to be holy – to be set apart and called by God for a special role in anticipating
the kingdom, and to be one through whom others find a blessing. In Act 4 our vocation is not to
look to a template of spotless purity or obedient citizenry but to allow ourselves to swept up in the
adventure of the kingdom, inaugurated in Jesus and completed on the last day; and our
relationships are evaluated not by looking them up in the owner’s manual but by communal
discernment as to whether they  strengthen the community in its daunting challenges to embody
God’s glorious future in an often hostile present.
As to Act 3, we don’t have any insight whatsoever into Jesus’ sexuality; we only know that it must
have existed, if as we believe he was fully human as well as fully divine, and that it seems to have
been among the least interesting aspects of his life and saving work. Jesus’ singleness, and lack of
descendants, more than any other facts, dismantle any privilege for exclusive intimate
partnerships, let alone nuclear families as a definitive model of Christian discipleship.
Moving back to Act 2, the Old Testament gives us two complementary stories. The first is of
liberation and covenant. Here we see that God not only gives us freedom but also guides us how to
keep it. On the other hand, we also see that discipline that does not bring liberation is not holiness,
but imprisonment. The second story is of exile and yet mysterious disclosure of God. The discovery
that God is as close or closer in Babylon as in Jerusalem is the grounds on which Christians today
look to the oppressed and marginalised to be their teachers in the ways of the Spirit.
And last of all Act 1, and the biggest question: Are LGBT people made this way because God
wanted ones like them to do a job no one else could do – or has it all been a ghastly mistake? I’ve
left this question to the end, because I don’t want to suggest every desire of our hearts is ordained 9
to be so, and because until I’d begun outline what the job God wanted LGBT persons to do the
question as framed wouldn’t make any sense. But now that we’ve explored how the church may
think of LGBT identity as a blessing not a burden, and now that we’ve worked backwards through
God’s story to name some of the ways we might say LGBT persons have a particular role in that
story, then we can address that biggest question. And the answer to the biggest question is yes,
LGBT people are made this way because God wanted ones like them to do a job no one else could
do; and if the church is somewhat slow in affirming specific vocations and attending to longhidden gifts it’s because it has hundreds of years of unlearning to do in breaking the habits of
oppression and letting the Holy Spirit speak through an exiled people.
What needs to happen now is repentance for the church’s ignorance and cruelty, a renewal of the
church’s mission, and a reappraisal of the resources at the church’s disposal. And to lead the
church as it discovers what it means to be a minority, to be misunderstood, mistrusted, and seen
with contempt, who better to be its leaders and teachers than those who have been in that place all
along. I wonder who those people might be."