Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Interview with Rowan Williams

Ann Fontaine of Episcopal Cafe has this "lead" about an interview in the Times Online.

"Mylie Veitch, 18, asked him his views on a gay friend of hers who is considering adopting with his partner.
Dr Williams said: “This is a big one. I have questions as to whether same sex couples can provide the same stability as ‘normal parents’. I have no answers really, just questions.

Many would argue that we need a balance of men and women to bring a child up. However, I have seen one fantastic example of same sex parenting first hand and I suppose stability is another key consideration.”

"Asked about his support for gay clergy, he replied: “I have no problem with gay clergy who aren’t in relationships, although there are savage arguments about the issue you might have heard about. Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the Bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t. This major question doesn’t have a quick fix solution and I imagine will be debated for many years to come."

I can think of a number of households where there is both male and female where it is not healthy for children. For me, the point is the relative health of the environment not whether it is male and female. I tend to think it is far better for there to be two parents but that is due to the fact that parenting is a lot easier if there are two of you. I once single parented for two months when my husband and I were living in different provinces. I learned the value of just having someone else around for support - and that's with being able to talk to my husband each night.

I think that a fair amount of pressure on same-sex families is a result of society's reaction to them. It's pretty hard for children do deal with their peers at the best of times. But that is not a fault of the parenting, rather, it is a fault of society's expectations.

My second year here a number of my people would say to me that same sex couples could live together but there was no way they should have children. They learned not to say it in my presence. I'm pretty easy going on the subject of same-sex relationships with my congregation. I realize I'm not going to get anywhere by pushing them. But I have seen far too many children in foster care where the parents have been heterosexual. For me, it is the health of the relationships and parenting. When I think of some of the households that children in foster care go home to because we believe it is best that children be with their natural parents and how many children end up cycling between their family of origin and foster care, I cringe. My understanding is that many same-sex families do well. I will take a safe, healthy, happy environment any day.

In the second quote I would not be disturbed had the words "sexual preferences" not been said. I can accept that manner of life would require that we be in healthy committed relationships (I don't necessarily mean marriage as I consider that a man-made institution-with the emphasis on "man". For me it is not whether the couple is married but whether the relationship is a committed healthy one. I have seen many relationships outside of marriage that are very much blessed by God if we use the criteria of looking at the fruits of the relationship. However, I accept that for the Church, marriage or celibacy is a requirement). Had Rowan said said something about relationships outside of marriage I would find a fair amount more validity in the statement. There is enough debate as to what the relevant passages really mean - especially since there was no concept of homosexuality in Biblical times. Plus the fact that I believe we have to look at passages outside of those which mention same-sex interaction in order to further understand the issue.

Of course, Rowan Williams is a much more learned man than me (considering I'm not a man at all so I guess I should really say that he is a much more learned person than me). But there are times when all the learning from books cannot compete with the experiences of the world around. My experience has taught me that God does bless those in same-sex relationships. It is this experience which leads to my bias when I read the Bible or other books. I will openly admit that. But, it is each persons experience and prior learnings that influence how each of us interprets the Bible or leads to our understandings gleaned from other readings. My experience has provided a start for how I understand the issue but that is reinforced the more I read the books out there - and only a small amount of them deal exclusively with the same-sex issue although the majority of them do deal with human sexuality.

I guess where I stand is that the Bible reflects the culture of its time and can only speak to the limit of the understandings of the time. Witness the texts referring to slavery, the place of women, and even the understanding of creation, especially in regard to the relationship between the earth and the rest of the cosmos. There is deep richness in the Bible, speaking to God's relationship with all that God created. But God cannot be contained by human words and understandings which are limited. Even Jesus told his disciples that things would be revealed to them in time. So as our ability and understanding grow things are further revealed to us. Our struggles to understand human sexuality falls into this category. To even imagine that we can know, without question, all there is to know about God and God's desires for God's creation is place pretty close to creating God in our own image. To narrow what is to be understood to a few texts without looking at the whole is to do a serious disservice to the wonderful book that is the centre of our faith.

I respect that Rowan Williams has the understandings he does. I'm not going to criticize those understandings as he certainly has a right to them and I can't expect them to mirror mine when we are such two different people with different experiences of the world and different world views. However, I do reserve the right to disagree with what he has to say - which I have done because this is my blog.

(Updated: December 12 - Grandmere Mimi has a link to an article in Wales about the interview. She points out that the section on gay clergy is not there. She got the tip from Ann, who is linked above.)

(Updated: December 12 - afternoon - a commentor at Grandmere Mimi's left a link to the actual printed interview.)

Love and Prayers,

Ann Marie

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