Essentials Summer 2013
Haydn Sennitt shares experience and insights for ministry with those with same-sex attraction.
In today’s modern, liberal, western cultures, what is the number one issue dominating public discussion? Is it climate change, whaling, North Korea, or penal substitutionary atonement? While all those issues are important to differing degrees, particularly the latter, none at the moment are as important as homosexuality. Discussions about it are occurring with gay abandon and show no sign of abating. Gay and ‘straight’, Christian and non-Christian, young and old, liberal and conservative all have gay relationships on their radar. Its influence is occurring beyond western borders: South Korea is now considering proposed laws that ban discrimination against gays and recently the first Zulu same-sex wedding occurred. And although previously it was liberal churches that had embraced pro-gay theology, now other denominations are either embracing it or silencing God’s word on homosexuality, including evangelicals. Prominent American preacher Rob Bell recently announced, ‘I am for love, whether it’s [between] a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man… This is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.1 Emerging church pioneer Brian McLaren last year married his son in a same-sex marriage ceremony. This is raising many challenging issues regarding evangelism, church life, and the future of Christian witness.
Marriage and sexuality are still in the news. The same-sex lobby has not slackened its pace. One by one governments are changing the laws about marriage. Christians may feel they are fighting a rearguard action. Maybe we are. Certainly our place in society is changing. The hostile parts of our community seem to be getting bolder in mockery and insult. Some of it, no doubt, the church community has asked for. One of the difficulties is to be heard. Rational discussion seems quite difficult.
So this issue of Essentials attempts to discuss some of the matters again for the sake of our EFAC community. Ben Underwood examines homosexuality from a number of angles and has a very helpful set of responses to it. Peter Brain reminds us of the biblical foundations of sexuality and marriage. He also proposes friendship as a challenge to the continuing idolatry of sex.
Same-sex friendship is one of the rallying cries of the debate. But Christians don’t have any problem with same-sex friendships. These, together with opposite-sex friendships, are the stuff church is made of. The problem is the sexualising of such friendships—a grievous matter being highlighted in the Royal Commission and in various news reports of pastors who have affairs with members of their congregations.
Ministering among those who have same-sex attraction is provocatively discussed by Haydn Sennitt. Issues in ministry among heterosexual teens is helpfully canvassed in a review of Patricia Weerakoon’s book Teen Sex by the Book. Four new books on sex and marriage are reviewed by Cailey Raffel—and there are other interesting bits in this issue as well.
For a complete change, Tony Nichols reflects on his second visit to China after 50 years and observes significant changes both in the country and the church.
Dale Appleby is the
rector of Christ the King Willetton in the Diocese of Perth, and the new editor of Essentials