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Issues Regarding Homosexuality

Film Review: Saved

I am uncomfortable with some of the doctrines professed in organized religion. Is believing certain creeds really what Christianity is all about?

In a world where "right" and "wrong" often seem hard to define, what's important to think about with regards to homosexuality and sexual orientation?

Do Christians believe that followers of other religions are doomed?

How can Christianity be called a religion of love if "Christians" condemn those whose lifestyle and views differ from their own?


Searching for Home
Mary Jane Viar
Former Convenor, Integrity-Memphis

A few weeks ago, I read a story from the recent gathering in Dallas sponsored by the American Anglican Council (AAC), an organization of the “orthodox” constituency within the Episcopal Church. The AAC has been in the forefront of the opposition to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson and to the blessing of same-gender unions.

This was a special meeting, called for the purpose of formulating a plan of action to be taken in response to the majority votes on these two matters at the 2003 General Convention. Because all attendees were required to sign a statement of agreement with the mission of the AAC, the gathering was very much one of like-minded people.

One of the AAC leaders, the Reverend Kendall Harmon, told the story of a man who was seen at the meeting, sitting alone sobbing, who appeared to be in distress or was emotionally disturbed. For this reason, he was brought to the attention of security personnel and was subsequently approached by them. When asked was he OK, he said he was. When asked why he was crying, he replied, “Because I dedicated my whole life to serving God in this church and I felt I had wasted myself for nothing. And now, I have come to realize, I have not wasted myself, and that there is a place for me."

Obviously, this man had felt abandoned by the Episcopal Church and its recent decisions, but he was overwhelmed to have found acceptance and comfort among this group. He was apparently experiencing what Harmon described about the gathering when he said “…part of what is going on here is that people have a profound sense of being given a home. It is safe, they are loved, they have a message, they can be who they are.” He went on to say that he wept at hearing this story. “Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was right” he proclaimed, “there’s no place like home.”

The irony in this story is obvious. Those in attendance at that meeting, the great majority of whom have always felt “at home” in the Episcopal Church, are now experiencing the painfulness of feeling alienated. They feel that they have lost the comfort and security that comes with being able to be true to who you are and what you believe without fear of criticism or humiliation.

Many have expressed feelings of abandonment by the church. They long for the days when the church felt like home and they make plans to leave if they see returning to that as being impossible. They need not describe to gays and lesbians the depth of their pain; we know it all too well. Neither do they need to explain to us the joy that accompanies the feeling of being truly loved and of belonging within the church. Some of us have only recently learned something of what that emotion can mean. Others of us may never get that chance.

It seems that we all want the church to feel like home; in fact, it may be a necessity if we are to effectively go about doing God’s work through the church. But, is it possible with such divergent opinions and strong-willed advocates on either side for the church to exist as a home to all? What are the qualities we associate with that feeling of home?

As adults, when we think of home, it seems we often refer to the home of our childhood and the family that surrounded us. There are many warm and fuzzy feelings connected to the notion of home: unconditional love, acceptance, belonging, and security, to name a few. There is a sense of nostalgia: familiar people, familiar food, familiar routine and rules and, perhaps it is this familiarity that makes us feel comfortable and safe when we’re home with our family.

However, familiarity doesn’t mean similarity. All these desirable feelings of home take place in the midst of and because of a group of people--the family--whose members are as different as night and day.

When I consider my parents and the four siblings in my own immediate family, I can’t imagine a more diverse group. We are Democrat and Republican, gay and straight, vegetarian and Atkins dieter, Christian and non-Christian, and the list goes on.

No matter how long it has been since we last saw each other, we tend to assume a right to frankness. We freely express our differing opinions about each other and our lives, something we hesitate to do even with close friends we see every day.

And no matter what the topic of discussion, each of us is convinced that he or she knows what is right. It is impossible to believe sometimes that we all came out of the same home. But we did and that’s our connection and that’s why we love each other. It’s also why we tolerate our differences, strong as they may be at times.

Our bond has nothing to do with like-mindedness. It has everything to do with the fact that we all call the same place home and it’s with each other that we experience those warm and fuzzy feelings. Our home is our common ground.

Of course, families do split sometimes. Furthermore, this idealistic image of a family is not so easily generalized to the church family or to society at large. Humans willfully segregate themselves along all sorts of lines, despite social efforts to avoid it. It’s too bad we can’t just use our own families as examples of units of diverse people who, because of a common bond, are able to all feel at home together. What a shame it is to have a large family break up with so much still to do, just because its members disagree over who’s in and who’s out, who’s right and who’s wrong.

I don’t take the issue of authority of Scripture lightly, but with so many intelligent, dedicated Biblical scholars reaching so many different interpretations, it’s hard to believe this one issue is worth breaking up a family and leaving one’s home.

Gay people have lived in this home since it was built, without the benefit of agreeing with all its rules. After all, as Kent Keith on Louie Crew’s Anglican Pages website said, “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God - It never was between you and them anyway.”

The reference to the Wizard of Oz by Harmon (and the fact that there’s little doubt that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”) reminded me of an interpretation of the story line for televised broadcast that I recently read. “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.”

People do see things differently and families do split. But one thing (maybe the only thing) that Reverend Harmon, Dorothy and I agree on is that “there’s no place like home.” Let’s all pray that we are able to preserve the home God has given us in the Episcopal Church and that we can all find a way to live together as a family.

Copyright ©2003 Mary Jane Viar.

Reprinted with permission from Mary Jane Viar. From the Integrity-Memphis newsletter On The Bluffs, Advent-Christmas, Dec. 2003-Jan. 2004. For more information please go to the Integrity-Memphis website.

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