Over the next little while UTS is going to take up the issue of homosexuality. We’re doing this for several reasons.
First, we at UTS have all been personally – and negatively – affected by the church’s traditional stance against homosexuality. So, it’s something that has been bothering us.
Second, we feel that, despite the topic’s great currency, much still needs to be said.
Third, we’ve realized that this one issue serves to encapsulate much of what this blog has set out to address [Ed. note: this link refers to the introduction to the first version of this blog]: how to remain Christian in a world where many elements of the traditional Christian synthesis now seem exhausted, problematic, or even destructive.
Our position is simple: we think the traditional teaching is wrong. Many Christians have said as much for some time. But we want to explore in-depth why it’s wrong. We don’t think that a superficial mistake has been made in one area of contemporary social ethics. We think that this error is symptomatic of much deeper problems in how we read the Bible, how we do theology, how we relate to the state and society, and, ultimately, how we understand the gospel itself. In fact, at UTS we believe this issue has become explosive precisely because it exposes systemic deficiencies of the traditional synthesis – and that this is something that none of us really want to face.
Each UTS author will approach this topic in a different way.
David is going to speak a little about his own experience of coming out, and the costs to himself, and others, of the church’s traditional teaching. By doing this, he wants to provide a concrete, real-life platform for exploring the dynamics and consequences of the church’s teachings. His ultimate concern, however, is to reflect on how the church’s error on this question is a consequence of much deeper theological and ecclesiological missteps – missteps that he feels reach to our very understanding of the gospel. David will also suggest that the question facing the churches is no longer really “did we get it wrong?” (yes), but “what responsibility do the churches now bear in light of the fact that we got it so wrong?”
Maria will also begin by speaking about her personal experiences – both her coming out and her complicity in the church’s traditional stance. These reflections, however, will underpin a more direct engagement of what she sees as the central theological and moral issues surrounding the debate. Does human sexuality have anything to do with theology? Must the church, for instance, take a stance on whether homosexuality is a sin or not, and what do we mean when we say ‘sin’ (especially in light of the distinction that Christians must make between law and gospel)? Maria will also suggest that our customary recourse to the Bible in arguments either for or against homosexuality betrays our (sinful) rejection of Christ’s radical grace, and will explore how our everyday choices – to speak out or to remain silent, to stay or to leave – disclose our failure to live out Christ’s gospel with integrity, frankness, and freedom.
Tim will be exploring how homosexuality is presented in the Bible, and what these presentations mean when formulating contemporary theology. Since Christian theology is ultimately governed by our appropriation of biblical texts, he will investigate how the Bible’s negative depictions of homosexuality can be understood when constructing contemporary Christian theology (and how that might be different from the way in which it is often done). Since Tim is also very concerned with the relationships between religious conventions and state enforcement, he’ll also be writing about the civil debate over same-sex marriage, and what (if anything) it has to do with the church.