May 9, 2009
Every so often someone will express an opinion which bemoans a perceived focus on conversations about sexuality to the alleged exclusion of anything else important to the gospel. This will sometimes be accompanied by a wistful and oh-so-sensitive peek at conservative churches that are said to be growing for this or that reason. (a recent example being here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/81840_107137_ENG_HTM.htm)
I put these opinions in the broad category of ‘handwringing’ or ‘the parson’s plaint’, an ineffective bemoaning of this or that. It seems to me first that sexuality will continue to dominate conversation as long as it is a matter of such importance to so many in the Church, and until it has been addressed in some way that does not need to divide us. This will require a basis for unity other than an either/or choice and especially not one that is found at the expense of lesbian and gay people. In other words we can stop talking about it when we have dealt with it. Certainly our experience at All Saints’’ has been that with a significant step forward the conversation moves into the wings for awhile and then re-emerges is light of new moves in the wider church or society. I am among those who long for the conversation to be over and think the best way to achieve that is to work for marriage equality and all that means (even recognizing that Georgia will be one of the last states to go and will probably have a semi serious conversation about secession in the process).
I agree with the opinion that we have much to learn from more conservative churches, but not on the basis that we need to be more like them and less true to ourselves. We do not need to be looking over or shoulders anxiously worried about competition. We need to be clear and forthright about bearing witness to the gospel as we have received it and inviting others to join us. Another way to ‘talk about something other than sexuality’ is to get on with talking about something other than sexuality rather than asking others to do so, which is a way of prolonging the conversation without moving it forward.