synodblogThoughts during Diocesan Synod

In all my years in ministry, both in Natal and here, Diocesan synods are generally tedious affairs with all sorts of institutional formalities, much talk, underlying tensions and the interplay of church politics. Interspersed with all of this, there are some significant debates, helpful insights and important decisions.
 
Last weekend we attended the 65th session of the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town. Over the past few synods the question of human sexuality, blessing of same-sex marriage and ordination of practicing gay clergy, has been a hot issue of controversy and a heavily-freighted debate with significant pastoral, moral and theological implications. Provincial Synod, which is the highest synod in ACSA, eventually made a decision that no alteration would be made to the stance and practice of the Anglican Church on this matter for the foreseeable future. It did recognise, however, that the church needed to deal wisely and compassionately with its gay parishioners, and especially those who may be planning to, or already have, contracted a civil marriage. Provincial Synod pledged to ask the Bishops of the province to produce a set of pastoral guidelines for parish use.
 
Against this background there was a motion brought to the Cape Town synod asking for a progress report on this process. Even though this motion was very specific in its focus, it had the effect of opening the way for some further debate on the issue of sexuality with all the wounds of sensitivity and opposing convictions laid bare again.
 
As I listened and thought through my own feelings on the matter I was reminded afresh what a complex issue human sexuality and its expression in sexual behaviour is. Our sexuality is both reflective of the innate gift of God, and our fallenness, which plays out in all aspects of our humanity.
 
The preferences of human sexuality include many shades on the spectrum. Beyond that, the actual expression of that sexuality always involves an element of choice, as is the case with responding to all our human appetites, as we seek to submit them to conformation with the holiness of God. How we express our sexual appetites, whether hetero or homosexual, is one of the toughest areas of choice and self-discipline.
 
We live in an age where society’s sexual mores are changing significantly. Increasingly human sexuality is seen as a matter of personal preference. Beyond that, postmodern society has increasingly come to see gender and sexuality as mere social constructs. This implies that our identity in this regard is fluid and impermanent, resting in our autonomous individuality.
 
I have to state that I have much discomfort with this line of thought. In my view, the understanding of identity that we find in Scripture, as well as in most non-Western cultures and most eras of history, rests on very different convictions. I am of the persuasion that it is most helpful to place our sexuality, and the choices we make regarding its expression, within the broader context of the sovereign purposes of God in creation; the ongoing transforming grace of Jesus through the Holy Spirit; and the well-being of society at large. In other words, we find our identity in Christ and through our participation in community more than in our individuality and subjectivity. I am a heterosexual male, but I want to find my deepest sense of identity in a higher source than that.
 
I feel that these convictions need to underlie and guide our pastoral and grace-filled engagement with all people in their grappling with their sexual appetites, as we seek to journey authentically with them on the path of Christian discipleship.

Blessings
Rob
 

Taryn Galloway, 24/08/2017

 

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Taryn Galloway, 06/05/2015