Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Journey - Stage Four

I am the current Chaplain of Integrity/Saskatoon . I see that role as one of pastoral support and sacramental ministry. Integrity met to discuss what we should do to facilitate dialogue. We came up with the idea of a workshop. I attended the planning meetings but my role was not to direct but rather to be a pastoral presence and a link to the wider diocese.

We chose a young woman who is an ordained deacon in a local United Church. She had done a study session, which a member of Integrity had attended. The young woman was contacted and the group met with her to plan the workshop. During one meeting, I was sitting beside this woman.

I maybe need to explain that I am very much down at the hetero end of the sexuality scale. Most of my homosexual friends were male so I knew that I did not feel threatened in the least by them. I wasn't so sure when it came to females.

At this one meeting we were all sitting their talking. At one point, I realized that the young woman had her arm laying along the back of my chair. Now, if this was a man, I might have felt uncomfortable. And as I mentioned above, I wasn't sure how I would feel in close contact with a woman. Some level of my brain registered that her arm was there and that I was not worried or uncomfortable at all.

I will also admit that I have been uncomfortable with physical expressions of love/affection between homosexuals (but then overt seriously sexual expressions on the part of heterosexuals also bother me). I have discovered over the past year that this discomfort is lessening.

And so I continue on my journey. For me key points have been:
1. My conversation with my father that started this journey
2. My realization that the idea of same-sex relationships did not bother me
3. My study of scripture
4. My prayer/conversations with God on my internship
5. My realization that my support did not rely on the genetic/choice debate
6. My research and presentation to diocesan council
7. My realization that I am becoming totally at ease with physical expressions and with lesbians

As I write this, I am very conscious that I am a heterosexual person with no first hand experience of what it like living as a gay in a hetero world. I have been honest about my questions and where I stand. Usually, I might write with more of an eye to the correct language or with concern as to how my words and attitudes might come across to someone who is gay. I haven't done this here as I think it is important that I be bluntly honest about how my journey has come about. If what I have said rubs people on the raw, I apologize and regret what it is that may hurt but I cannot change what I have said for it is my experience.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ann Marie,

You seem very nice and earnest. But fundamentally what you have described is a heart driven journey towards full exclusion. You conclude by saying, that this is your experience, as if that is some sort of standard of truth.

Our hearts are fickle, they more often lead us away from God than to him and we should be especially wary of trusting our hearts when they swim perfectly instream with the concerns and attitudes of our culture.

I really dont desire to antagonise you, but I can;t help but feel that you have been so deceived, that someone needs to challenge you. Especially with your responsibilities in the church.

Again I think this is fundamentally a scriptural issue, and you havent really dealt with scripture. IN his word, God reveals his will to us, and I think a careful study of his word with the aid of tradition and reason speaks very clear in these and most issues.

God Bless you

Kevin

Ann Marie said...

It is a heart driven journey. But as far as swimming instream with our culture - I would point out that I live in "red-neck" Saskatchewan. Believe me, my stance is not in tune with the culture here. There are a number of times that I have sat through culture telling me the exact opposite of what I believe. I also live in a traditionally conservative diocese (that is now becoming more moderate). By the experiences I have had and by the teachings that I have heard, I should not be supporting same sex relationships.

As far as heart-driven - I would suggest that this is one of the things that Jesus taught us. Jesus - who was the heart and soul of compassion. Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because of her blindness to the reality of God, which he represented. Jesus who rebuked the scribes and pharisees for making an idol out of the law and thus practiced it without heart - without compassion.

Maybe I have been deceived. Believe me I have given consideration to this. However, I have also come to the conclusion that if God is truly as some picture God, then I cannot worship that god. I may be forced to accept such a god but I cannot and will not worship that god.

Strangely enough, with that decision comes the peace of believing that God, the God that I do know and worship, will not reject me because of that. So strong is my belief in the God of compassion.

Part of the problem between me and you and the literal acceptance of scripture is that I have never accepted scriptue literally. I didn't even realize that it was possible until I was 18. I was taught that scripture is open to interpretation as well as being written by humans in their struggle to understand something so totally other. Mere words cannot contain God for words are a human invention and thus limited and imperfect.

As far as tradition. Tradition has been so drastically wrong in many instances especially in regard to women. How can I possibly trust something so flawed in its understanding of women? Of Jews? Of slaves? Of different races? And if I can't trust tradition on these issues - why should I trust it on the issue of same-sex relationships.

As far as scripture. I have pages and pages of research and study on scripture that supports my view. At first, most of my study invovled scripture. I really only started seriously studying the rest when I wrote the presentation for diocesan council.

I agree that in God's word God's will is revealed to us. I take that to be that we are to love one another (there goes that heart business again) and to spread the good news. Both of which I strive to do to the best of my ability.

I accept that I need to be challenged. I think that everyone does. Otherwise we are prone to go our own way. I look at a challenge as a call to once again discern what is God's will. To take another look at the direction I have chosen and to once again bring it into God's light.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that if God, did in fact commend through his word that homosexual activity was sinful and thus, christians must refrain and churches must not bless, than you would not worship God, or submit to his will?

Again why don't you deal with one of the relevant passages here so we can discuss something other than your experience.

Kevin

Ann Marie said...

It's an entirely academic question. I so strongly believe that God is the God of love and inclusion, that God despises nothing that God has created, that I would answer yes to your question without fear and believe that the God I worship would approve.

It may sound like I am a heretic - and I freely and proudly admit that by the human judgement of heretic I am one.

It has nothing to do with denying God as I have been taught and have come to know God. It is so totally inconceivable to me that God would cast such a burden on people that the question is not real for me.

However, I will add,

1. God gave me the free will to choose to worship God.

2. How can I worship some being that I can not accept or respect. In order for me to worship such a god would be blaspheme. I cannot do it.

So I guess it boils down to my conviction that such a god is a false god of human creating. And therefore I cannot worship him for I am called to worship the one and true God.

I make no defense or excuse for believing as I do. Others may judge me for it. However, I have studied scripture, I have prayed and meditated, I have read many books on isses of faith - these have led me to believe as I do. Other humans may judge me for what I believe. However, ultimately, the only judge I am accountable to is God. And I do strive to do my best to in all things give honour and glory and obedience to God. On that, I stand or fall.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Ann Marie said...

As far as scripture passages - I mentioned two passages in My Journey - Stage One.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

I would love to see you deal with Romans 1 in a posting.

Kevin

Ann Marie said...

You probably would and I just may sometime in the future. However, you asked for a scripture reference and I have given you two. Why don't we deal with those two first.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

I would be happy if you dealt with those two texts. You haven't demonstrated why you think those texts mean what you say they mean, you simply assert those meanings. Could you expand/defend.

Kevin.

Ann Marie said...

I believe that I explained how I understood those texts. But maybe I should make it clear that I see neither as relating to healthy adult committed same sex relationships as we now see and understand today.

I will agree with many that the Leviticus one is about the holiness code. It is also about a struggle with forming an identity distinct from the cultures around Israel. Part of that is very much the behaviour of men and that is where the fact that the feminine was seen as inferior and to be treated as a woman was very much an insult. Part of it is also the understanding of procreation.

Do you want an exegesis of the words? Sorry - I will agree that that the words standing on their own in black and white do appear to speak against men having sex with men. But it is the context in which they are writing and the motivations and understandings that help us better understand the message for today.

Sodom and Gommorah is exactly as I state - a distinct lack of hospitality but also the violent intentions of the men. To claim that gay sex is sodomy is to misname it. The couples I know are not into violence or belittling each other, so the passage does not speak to their relationships.

I'm not sure what you mean by the fact that I don't demonstrate why I believe they mean what I think they mean. Maybe it is that we come from two different approaches. If you can find a starting point where I can find some way of putting it in a frame of reference that you can relate to, it would help.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

Are you serious?

I mean you do know the difference between asserting an interpretation, and demonstrating why such an interpretation is faithful to the text. Don't you?

Kevin.

Ann Marie said...

Kevin,

You ask things of me. I respond. And you keep changing the questions or ignoring the response or changing the terms. If you have a problem with my interpretation deal with the interpretation. You keep skirting around things trying to place me on the defensive. I refuse to play games like that. It's your perogative to skirt around the issue with vague sounding statements. It's my perogative to insist that I won't respond to any new questions until you deal with the answers to the questions you ask.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

Dear Ann Marie,

You should be on the defensive. You are the one asserting an interpretation of the texts that is foreign to the church. If you want to be taken seriously, than you need to demonstrate why the text means something radically different than the plain meaning.

To do that, you need to do something like: "Although, verse 1 appears to say in a plain fashion, a,b,c..., actually these words mean x,y,z. We know this because we see them used that way in these contemporary texts, etc...." Few biblical scholars would ever do this, without significant support from other biblical scholars research. So then typically you would say "Dr. SoandSo, concluded similarly in his excellent paper on Hebrew erotic poetry."

This is what it means to demonstrate an argument rather than just willing your position onto a verse of scripture.

Now can you do any of this with the texts that you have cited in support of your more open position?

Kevin

Ann Marie said...

I am fully aware of what the words mean. It is the understanding and motivation behind the words that change everything. If words are written thousands of years ago without the knowledge that we now have then they need to be placed in the context in which they are written and then placed in a position in which they speak to us today.

Yes, the Bible is the word of God. Yes, it is authorative. But God also gave us minds to think and science to explore further God's creation and will for creation. If we ignore any of these gifts and the others that God has given us then we do not truly honour God. For the time Leviticus was written, that law may have been appropriate. But now we have been gifted with so much more knowledge and understanding, it is not honouring the gift to ignore it.

I won't argue that the verses in Leviticus speak against a specific sex act. But they don't speak against the relationships we now understand. Most importantly, because of the absence of a similar verse for women - they do not speak against healthy adult committed same-sex relationships at all.

That's why understanding them in the context of the holiness code and the context of understandings of masculine/feminine and procreation are so important. If we only use one of the gifts that God has given us, when God has given us numerous others to use as well then we fail to fully appreciate what is being said.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

toujoursdan said...

Re: Romans 1 try

http://www.jeramyt.org/papers/paulcybl.html

Romans 1 is clearly discussing cultic prostitution that was going on in Rome at the time. In Verse 23 Paul even tells us what the pagan gods looked like.

While we are programmed to think he was discussing same sex behaviour, the Cybele/Attis priests had castrated themselves and became androgynous. So it may not be homosexual at all.

It is noteworthy that 1st and 2nd Century Christians didn't use the text to condemn homosexuality. Rather they used the text to condemn non-procreative heterosexuality. It was only after the 3rd Century when Christians stamped out the pagan religions did the interpretation change.

In any case, Paul is discussing lusts and acts, not relationships and love.

Ann Marie said...

Thanks Dan. That particular passage appears to have been misinterpreted or at least interpreted out of context for quite a while. I've actually got translations that use the word homosexuality which wasn't even a concept until the mid-1800's.

And your point that Paul is not talking about relationships and love is a good one - but then neither are any of the so-called "clobber" verses. Where the relationships may or may not have homosexual there is a more positive light - David and Jonathan, the Centurion and his servant.

Love an Prayers,
Ann Marie