Saturday, 3 November 2007

Thomas Tallis: Was he gay?

I never cease to be amazed at how people react when they discover or even just imagine that another person may be gay.

‘The Tudors’ - BBC2’s new historical epic, which is currently exploring the life and loves of Henry VIII, is also delving into the lives of other 16th century characters.

Thomas Tallis is quite simply a genius and has left the world with some of the most extraordinarily beautiful music. Imagine then the consternation when the writers choose to explore his potential bisexuality.

Blogs have certainly given a voice to the masses and opinions abound! Not least my own.
Some have expressed dismay and disappointment, others outright anger and some delight.
Even the very idea of Thomas Tallis being gay or bi or anything other than 100% straight has caused much debate.

The truth is that no one, not you or I, no historian or geneticist or any other person can tell what Tallis’s sexuality was. Does it make a difference either way?

Well for some, yes. For some it undermines his genius and debases his music. For some, even the very idea that he was gay is an affront to his brilliance. Equally ridiculous is my response – that the thought of Thomas being gay raises him in my estimation and gives his music an extra intensity and passion.

When will we learn that when we walk down the busy streets or the quiet country lanes, in the halls of Queens or the stairwells of high-rise flats, anyone of the people we meet may be gay.

It is becoming ridiculous to me that a person’s sexuality or credit rating or hairstyle or gender or ethnicity, should make the slightest difference to the fact that we are all human.

It is becoming clear that sexuality is not about black and white: it is not about clearly definable boxes like gay and straight. Like most things in life, there is a spectrum. This reality will take some getting use to – especially for the man’s man! It is clearly not ‘manly’ to admit to loving a man with slightly more than brotherly love. Whether we admit it or not, we are all on the spectrum of sexuality. So when we walk down the street today, we are passing thousands of people, all of whom express the great variety of sexual preference.

This also means that history and all of its named and unnamed characters, form a great cloud of witness to the breadth of sexual diversity. It is naive to think otherwise. The significance for today is not that we have suddenly invented gay-ness or bi-ness, but that we are starting to accept this diversity, not only in our time but in all time.

I very simply want to give thanks for the amazing diversity that we see around us and that we live day by day. I have had enough of making judgements about people, despite knowing that we all do it, and I promise myself to see God in all people. Precious, loved and divine. I simply refuse to draw an imaginary line for those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’ – those who are allowed to be part of the world and those who are not. No creed or religion that sets such limits on the inclusive nature of Gods creation is worth a moment’s attention.

Jesus, despite the words have been put in to his mouth, made this clear: that God is for all and is in all and will not be boxed in by our cleverly worded limits.

This is one world. It is up to us to decide if we wish to live as such.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

'Lisa the Iconoclast' - Episode 16, Series 7

Fans of ‘The Simpson’s’ will know from the title, that I am following much the same theme here as in my previous post: ‘Who do you think you are?’

Today’s episode of The Simpson's was from Series 7, Episode 16 ‘Lisa the Iconoclast’ – in which Lisa discovers that Jebadiah Springfield, the towns cherished founder was in fact a murdering pirate who tried to kill George Washington.

Both programs led me to consider the theological balance between the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith.

‘The Simpson’s’ have pushed that thinking forward a bit.

When Lisa stands in front of the whole town during the parade, she was unable to tell them the truth of her discoveries - and when asked by the town’s historian why she couldn’t, she replied ‘the myth has value too’. She looked down at her friends and neighbours celebrating and sharing together for the common good of the town, and she found that the myth had a positive and uniting impact way beyond that which the historical truth could offer.

In 30 minutes of cartoon existence I would agree with Lisa, that if nothing but good has come from the myth, then go ahead and perpetuate it – but real life is not like that!

Pick, for example, Atonement doctrine: the belief that after being created perfect, humanity ‘fell’ and was in need of redemption and thus Jesus was sent to pay the price for our sins, and in his resurrection we find forgiveness.

There are those who would say that this theory / myth has a positive impact on the world. I, however, would disagree for a number of reasons and I would much rather we expose this myth to critical biblical analysis and then dethrone its sway over peoples spiritual and psychological selves, as I know how damaging it can be.

Whilst I appreciate the pastoral responsibilities of ministers and theologians to Christians in general, and also the difficulties of saying anything theological with too much confidence – I think there has to come a point where the line has been crossed; the line between blind faith based on conjecture and absolute empirical truth – the line between that which informs our experience of God and that which dictates it.

How much do we have to learn of the historical Jesus before we will start to adjust our doctrines and liturgies so that we might more closely experience the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps I will have to accept that our Christian myths do, for many, give a glimpse of God – as I know that we can only expect to catch a glimpse and I should be thankful for it. I am unsettled because, for me, much of traditional doctrine does not reflect the God of my experience and I want others to share with me, a glimpse of God from within life’s experiences – not doing the opposite by imposing a pre-defined God onto our lives.

I am sure we know that we are ultimately talking about and experiencing ‘faith’, and that this is a very individual and personal thing – but we seem to very easily call each other ‘heretics’ when we do not conform and believe exactly the same things.

I think that now is the time for Christianity to name those themes that unite and encourage us; those things that build us up and that form the basis of faith in God and in Jesus the Christ. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that any theory or doctrine that tries to tie down our beliefs, does nothing more than tell us who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.

Given the inclusive nature of the gospel, I find exclusive pronouncements about the detail of faith to be profoundly un-Christ-like and damaging to the diversity and breadth of humanities experience of the divine.

Who said ‘The Simpson’s’ is not theological!!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Who do you think you are?

Imagine for a moment that, like the actor John Hurt, you believed that you were descended from Irish Nobility. The story has been passed down from generation to generation and instilled into family consciousness and sense of self. So much so that when you place your feet on Irish soil for the first time, you feel an immediate emotional response and attachment to that place of great ancestral meaning.

Imagine then, your horror, as his, to discover through ancestral research such as that of ‘Who do you think you are?’ on the BBC, that no such link can be drawn. No Irish lineage can be found.

What, I wonder would that do to your sense of self, of your familial self, your heritage upon this earth, your sense of where you have come from and your sense of being grounded in your own skin?

Would it, as for John, leave you with a sense of emptiness and grief?

Given recent scholarly biblical work in search for the historical Jesus, there are many who cannot marry their new found understanding of Jesus the man of history to the Jesus of faith and religion.

The story in faith that has been passed down through history is starting to appear a very long way off the mark.

Does this fact, or should this fact alter our faith?
Should we amend the story we pass down to more closely match what we suspect to be closer truth?
Given the diversity in opinion and theological doctrine, would it even be possible to find a conclusive picture of Jesus – his life, his work, his purpose?
Given that we could, I suspect that there would be many for whom the change would be as hard if not much harder than that of John Hurt.

We are left with a faith and religion that is likely very far from what Jesus the Christ intended.

And yet, in faith, I choose to set my sense of self and of our place in the world, by what little we can solidly assume of scripture. The general sense and principle of the Bible is as a book of the People of God, desperately seeking to name the divine.

Christianity has taken on a life of its own, and not even a direct written account of Jesus life proven to be from God’s own hand, would convince all Christ’s followers to give up present doctrine.

Philosophical and broad theological debates can do little to shift the average person of faith from their long held believes –yet, it is at the point where our faith directly relates to our life and meaning, that we start to question the relevance and truth of that faith.

For my part, as I have explored scripture and doctrine in light of my homosexuality, it is the search for the historical Jesus that has made sense; this is the process of seeking to get beyond the cleverly woven patterns of religious doctrine in order to find Jesus the man and his meaning. I sought this path of study as my faith and my sexuality have been separated. My relationship with God was distant and certain theological understandings had unnecessarily made it so.

At this point of direct engagement between my faith and my sense of self, I sought to understand Christ’s message. Having done so in this most precious areas of my life it has, for reasons of integrity, been right to use the same method within all theological themes.

Having seen that the faith I was taught is very far from the mark, very far from that which fosters a strong relationship with God; my sense of self was shaken. Having seen the truth, the truth beyond the constructs of doctrine, I sought that same foundation for faith in every point of meeting between faith and life.

The truth is that we can never get back to a complete and unpolluted vision of God’s history with humanity, nor of the historical life and times of Jesus, but I pray we may be able to see those things which are wrong and misleading within our history and doctrine, and that we may rejoice in those areas of agreement were life and faith connect.

For my part, I continue to seek the historical Jesus and yet I have faith in those immovable common and universal themes which bind all humanity and which, I believe, Jesus came to proclaim in God’s name.

The Church is built on faith and faith should never claim to hold ‘the’ truth. We are all different and thus we will all hold different beliefs in faith. God makes God’s self incarnate to each of us in the way that makes sense to us as individuals – in the way that draws us into a closer relationship with God. I am past holding on to creeds and theologies that seek to box God in and I rejoice in the boundless expression of God wherever God dwells with me.

It may be a hard reality, but it makes sense to me that God’s incarnate word – the Christ, has never been fully understood or fully named and never will be. His life and his death say enough to each of us to give a glimpse of God, and that glimpse is so bright and so full of love that it is enough.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The 1950s Wolfenden Report

Having just sat and watched BBC 4's programme 'Consenting Adults', which is part of the Beebs coverage of Gay History focusing on the 1950s Wolfenden Report - I felt compelled to make a few remarks.

The courage of all those involved in the making of the report was very impressive. Given the era and the legal situation at the time, the honesty and frankness of the report is remarkable. Forgive a moment of righteous anger - but it has struck me as a stinging indictment that it is now only 50 years after the report, that the wide church is taking the matter seriously and acknowledging the pain and suffering of those who still feel that they must hide themselves for fear of coming out.

Obviously, the Wolfenden report was to make recommendations of a legal nature and we, as the church, are not doing that. NO. What we are doing is frankly, more serious! We are considering the faith and spiritual life of individuals. We are concerned, in the least condemnatory manner possible, for people's souls and psychological well being. Laws are easy - you either fall within it or without. We can not be so divisive or judgemental with faith - or atleast, I hope not.

The second thought (yes, I do have more than 1!), is to realise that both the Wolfenden Report and the Church, insist/ed on the devision between sexual orientation and on practice. Personal I find this bonkers!

I have read books written by those gay people who rejoice in their homosexuality but conform to a strict biblical understanding that homosexual acts are evil. This may be flippant - but I do wonder what this does to ones sanity! Seriously, I have grave concerns about the pastoral and psycological well-being of feeling under both internal and external pressure to resist natural sexual urges. How is it possible to accept your sexuality but not to act on it? Obviously there are people who feel called to celebate lives - both homo and heterosexual. That is their choice - but why on earth should a person who does want to be physically sexual feel pressure to resist, just because some other external person doesn't like it!
I'm rambling - I'm going to stay with this one - see what others think!

These are not well-rounded thoughts - just reflections, so please comment!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Commitment on Human Sexuality

Is it too obvious to say that much of what divides us as Christians on issues of human sexuality is down to Biblical Interpretation? Is this too obvious - and is it even helpful?

I have given much thought to this question, mainly because I know that it was and is my understanding of scripture that gives shape to my faith and to my feelings about my sexuality. It is not too obvious to name this because I think we often forget that ultimately it is our understanding of the Bible that dictates our doctrine, our theology and how we understand our humanity and our relationship with the divine.

The Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church affirms that:

'the highest authority for what we believe and do is God's Word in the Bible,
alive for God's people today through the help of the Spirit.'

This is true when we face questions within ourselves as individuals and when we come together to seek the will of God as a Denomination. As a statement it sounds very easy - nice and succinct, but I'm sure we are aware that when we come to scripture to find God's Word we do so with our own agenda and our own intention. Not only do we bring ourselves to scripture but we have to take seriously the fact that we are dealing with letters, poems, songs, 3rd hand accounts, theological constructions, personal opinion and historical contexts - which we will struggle to get beyond. Do we search for the historical Jesus - trying to get back to some idea of the historical reality of the stories we read? Do we search for the Christ of faith - looking for the theological and doctrinal significance of each passage?

Simply put - it is not possible to purely open a page of the Bible and read it with complete understanding. If the Christian Church is made up of 1 billion people, then we can be pretty sure that there are 1 billion ways of understanding and approaching scripture.

This is what can mildly be called diversity!

In the URC's Commitment on Human Sexuality, passed at the 2007 General Assembly - it is this diversity of opinion that is expressed and cherished.

This is a hard place to be. Disagreeing with another human being on whatever topic it is you disagree, is not an easy place to stay and most of us, if we are honest, seek to avoid it.

I accept that there are people who feel that my sexuality is not suitable for a person of faith - but I don't like it.
I revel in our diversity and our difference - but I find it hard.
I do believe that we must strive to save our unity and to hold together in the midst of division - but it is painful.
As I have said in my letter to Reform a while ago - being Liberal is not easy. My liberality makes a call for me to hold the myriad of opinions as valid and valued which is an almost impossible task and one that has profound psychological and personal consequences.

'The Way Forward?' is published by SCM press and edited by Timothy Bradshaw. It is written in response to the St Andrew's Day Statement which forms the basis for much theological thought within the Anglican Church after the difficult discussions at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The book pulls together the work of a variety of theological thinkers; Gerald Bray, Jeffrey John, Oliver O'Donovan, Elizabeth Stuart, Stephen Sykes, Anthony Thiselton and Rowan Williams.

Last night after watching The West Wing and eating ice cream in bed, I looked at Anthony C. Thiselton's contribution entitled 'Can Hermeneutics Ease the Deadlock?' He quite usefully takes each of the major texts in the area of Homosexuality and seeks to explore there meaning for us as we try to hear God's Word. Towards the end of his study he says this:

'First, while gay or lesbian sexual acts fall short of the ideal along with, for example, materialism or self-indulgence, we require a more rigorous standard in all these ethical matters from our church officers than from others'.

It raises two useful thoughts:
1. Do we require a more rigorous standard in all ethical matters from church officers than from others?
Surely the point of our journey of faith is that we are all on that journey - church officers, policemen and women, the Queen, the unemployed and the drug addict. I am actually more inclined to follow people who have faced life in all its ups and downs. I see more integrity and respect in a person who is able to say 'I was wrong, I've made a mistake and my life has changed as a result'.

2. I most profoundly disagree with that idea that gay or lesbian sexual acts 'falls short of the ideal'.
Within the realms of Human Sexuality we do fall short - but not because of the sexuality of the person I choose to have sex with. We 'fall short of the ideal' when we dishonour ourselves and others through sex that is outside of loving, committed and consensual relationships.

The point of this - is that as part of the URC's Commitment on Human Sexuality, is the commitment to go on talking and listening and discovering together. I am committing myself to reading and talking and listening widely - to as many voices and opinions as I can.

My library contains quite a large number of books from authors whose opinions and understandings I completely disagree with - in some cases they are simply offensive to me as a person. They are in my library, because they broaden my understanding and they help me to see the world through someone elses eyes. I may not like what I see - but I can also find the common ground.

I hope that the URC and all it's members - in fact I hope that the church Catholic, can commit to talking and listening with each other about our sexuality. We will not always like what we hear and it may even be very painful for us to hear how others view us - but I pray we will see each other as human beings - each one different and each one loved and valued and created by God.

I do however, wonder if there is a time and place for individuals to say 'it is to painful'.
The process of listening to others does mean being open to hearing those who deem me sinful and evil. There is, I think, a limit to how open we can be to hearing those who profoundly disagree with us.
For those who understand scripture as being against homosexuality, it will be painful for them to hear me speak of a God who created me as a gay man.
For me to hear those who speak of my need to repent of my homosexuality has been and will continue to be very hard.

Is there a limit?
Is there a time and place to say - 'for my own sanity and peace and can bear no more?'

The answer to this lies with the individual - but I hope and pray they will feel it is OK to stop listening to others and to focus on God's unconditional love. I have been through a time of deep despair when I felt unable to stand back and to give myself space to be me - unjudged.

I have learnt that we do need gay men and women to be brave in speaking and listening with others - brave in committing to the URC's process, but the most important thing I have learnt is that it is OK to stop the world and get off.

God calls us to be brave - but not to personal destruction.
If the Church does feel like a place where you are not welcome - take the time to stand back and to rely on God's grace to build you up again.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Communion Hymn

I love most of the Communion Hymns out there - but there are not that many, so I do get fed up choosing the same few!
So I decided to write some new words to the fantastic tune 'Down Ampney' commonly used for the Hymn 'Come down O love divine'.
The theme is obviously that of sharing at the Lord's Supper - but it remembers that very often Jesus was the guest and that here at our tables he is the host. The Wee Worship Book from the Iona Community includes a Communion Liturgy which follows much the same theme - one that I have used often and that friends have found very helpful.
So I offer it below - as usual, please feel free to use it - but let me know when and where!! Thanks

Come! Share this feast with Christ.
66 11 D – ‘Down Ampney’ (Come down, O Love Divine)

Come! Share this feast with Christ!
Christ, who was always the guest
at tables with the rich – the poor he pleaded.
Find here a friendly face,
hard hands he will embrace
and draw you in to freedoms own encounter.

Come! Share this feast with Christ!
Christ, who was always the guest
in homes where deaths dread sting is found to linger.
Strength God will find in you!
Strength that will make you new
and lead you into life in all its fullness.

Come! Share this feast with Christ!
Christ, who was always the guest
in rooms of pain and sickness none would enter.
Eyes wide and tears God streams
into our wounds and fears,
to make us sure that love is heavens answer.

Come! Share this feast with Christ!
Christ, who invites us as host,
and calls us in from all our deepest longing.
O Bread and Wine be blessed!
Body and blood redressed
and shared as grace outpoured for our beginning!

Words © Martin Knight – 11th June 2007
for Trinity United Church, The Parish of Cheetham, Manchester

Sunday, 29 April 2007

On a lighter note - I you want to know what faith is, then this public right of way in China should give you a clue!

God who calls,

give me the strength to follow your way in confidence,

treading boldly on your path,

and hold on to you for dear life!


Light in Darkness

At a number of services this Easter I have heard preachers say that we can only really experience the joy and amazement of Easter having lived through the horror and darkness of Good Friday.

There is something very obvious and true about this thought, but also something that we find so hard to grasp and experience. I feel like I am boardering on the pious when I say that good things often come from bad situations - but it is often the reality and certainly has been for me. It is certainly true that I can only appreciate the brightness of these moments having lived through the bad times. I also feel that I want to be very careful not to undermine the experience of those who never seem to get beyond the dark times - times when the light seems so dim it is barely visible.

It is a simple reality, yet also hard to accept, that life is made up of the two - light and dark; times of extreme joy and peace, and times of terrible personal pain and confusion. As with most things in this life of faith, we are left on the fence between these two extemes. I very carefully say that I am thankful for the darkness, otherwise how could I experience radiance?

This Easter has been particularly powerful and meaning for me this year. These past few years have been extremely difficult - certainly some of the darkest times of my life. Good Friday has lasted for far longer than normal - leaving me vulnerable, exposed and laid bare for all too see.

My rather public breakdown had many causes - not least the constant struggle to unite church and sexuality. I am very clear that I mean 'church' and not 'faith'. The pain of loving the church's potential and yet being so hurt by it's failings is, at times, unbearable. My desperate emotional attempt to leave the church and to hurt myself was the physical expression of the emotional tension - remain in the church and be hurt vs leave and find peace.

This is a stark reality and one that is uncomfortable. It seems so unfair to say that the church has hurt me, when I have and continue to be, so cherished by friends and loved ones who are some of the most honest christians I know. And yet there is a pernishous thread, an invisible undercurrent of tension. Ultimately it is this - how do we hold together the opinions of those who's faith is homophobic and biblically based and those who are accepting and biblically based, and how in all of this, do we stop those who are Gay or Lesbian from being torn apart by this tension.

We cannot underestimate the depth of this darkness; its lonliness, its potential to undermine the most stable and confident of people. Equally, we can underestimate how difficult it is for the church to see the light - to experience and accept the joyful and profund love that is the Gay community.

There are so many candles out there! So many churches and christians who are loving, compassionate and accepting of all God created difference, and whilst we rejoice in these moments of amazing ressurection, we must also remember that countless other enlightening gay christians feel stiffled and voiceless.

The pain for me, is that it is one thing to be accepted, it is quite another to be free enough to speak openly about my sexuality and the wonderful things it brings to my life, my loving and my minsitry. 'Accepting' is all to often limited to 'tolerating'.

Light in Darkness.
It is present. I should know!

The problem with the light is that it exposes all that hides in the dark.
I can and will no longer accept all those things that have made me feel small and afraid.
I will no longer hide in the hidden spaces of Christ's Church - spaces where God's people are only allowed to seek wholeness rather that to grasp it with both hands, spaces where God's people cannot be honest about their pain and joy without being told that it is too uncomfortable to hear.

If this sounds like anger - then good - because that is what it is.
Unsupressed and joyful loving anger; born from confidence and a passion that God is love and that God's church is a place where all are welcome!
I thank God that I have found such suffering in the Church - because I now burn with the passion of all that the church can be!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Good Friday has not disappeared - but it shines with inestinquishable blaze and exposes all that cheapens and darkens our faith.

God bless you all this Easter

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Give of Life

Here is another hymn written back in February 2006.
It is written to an original tune which has an odd metre of 66 66 6 - so do please ask me to email an mp3.

This is a gentle, urging, joyful song which seeks to explore the church and our humanity within it.

Giver of Life, Breath, Love;
In you we grow, laugh, die.
Holding us firm, Your voice
Gives to my heart joys song.
Here in the still, we sing!

Bringing our hidden lives;
All we ourselves shun, despise,
We rest them here in peace,
Here we will come as friends,
Not as a judge condemns.

Worship is bliss to us!
Space for our hearts to dance,
Lifting our souls to you,
Praying our world your peace
Singing with Christ’s new tune.

Sharing this time, we come
Not by ourselves alone,
But as a church we bring
Sacrament, offering;
Memory of God shared Wine.

Spirit of God, moving,
Calling to us, walk, live!
Here we respond, give time
To hear God’s voice afresh.
Spirit of God, we come!

Words © Martin Knight (4th February 2006)
Tune: Giver of Life - 66 66 6
Music © Martin Knight (4th February 2006)

Monday, 26 February 2007

Raise your voice O God!

A joyful psalm to God calling to hear God’s voice ever more strongly in our lives.
It comes as a cry of love to the Lord and not as a demand from God’s people!

Raise your voice O God!
Lift us with your song
Urge us with your trumpet call
Raise your voice O God!
We would hear you sing
And respond with hearts brought alive.

Raise your voice O God!
We would hear your word
And its call to change and live.
Raise your voice O God!
Give us ears to hear
that your love for us never dies!

Raise your voice O God!
In the still of night,
As I rest each ache of day
Raise your voice O God,
As the morning breaks
And your Glory radiant display.

Raise your voice O God,
In the shops and streets,
In each person that I meet.
Raise your voice O God,
In my comfort zone
And each time I try to retreat.

Raise your voice O God,
Shout across the world,
In each tongue and faith you call.
Raise your voice O God,
Show us we are one
And with you we face heavens goal.

Raise your voice O God,
Lift us with your song,
Urge us with your trumpet call
Raise your voice O God,
We would hear you sing
And respond in love of your tone.

Words © Martin Knight 15th February 2006
Music © Martin Knight
Tune: Cheetham Hill – 557 558

God, in whom we have our being

Over the past few years I have been paying much more attention to writing hymns, meditations and other liturgical stuffs - so I will offer them in this section.

For most of the hymns I have written the music as well but they will also go to more familiar tunes and metres. If you would like my tunes then just ask and I can e-mail midi and mp3 files.

All I ask is that you use the correct acknowledgements in OfoS etc and let me know where they have been used - just out of personal curiosity!

So, the first one I offer is below. It seeks to explore a personal intimate relationship with God, without using a lot of pious individualistic language that drives me so mad!! It acknowledges our insecurities and seeks to confront them.

God, in whom we have our being;
guide us as we search for You.
In our hidden depths and longings,
stirring, You seek out our new.

God, by whom we have creation;
growing, moving, always fresh,
You inspire, confront and call us;
breathe for us each morning breath.

God, through whom we seek our freedom;
searching out the homes of fear.
Justice, truth in true repentance:
dare us Lord, to hold them dear!

God, with whom we cry for friendship;
here, we ache for love to lead.
Point us in the right direction;
facing pain and human need.

God, made known in human breathing,
turning tables on our sin.
Strong compassion, gentle power;
from cruel realms, Christ calls us in.

God, in whom we have our being,
guide us as we search for You.
Spirit thrilling to invite us,
Christ, stir up your word anew!

Words © Martin Knight
Music © Martin Knight
Cornford: 87.87 (Trochaic)

Safe to Come out?

Whilst I wait for surgery on my back I have the 'joy' of watching more telly than is helpful - but just occasionally there is something really worth watching.

This morning the gay rapper Qboy presented a program about young boys coming out at school. Aged about 14/15 these kids find the inner integrity to be open with friends and family at a really young age. In fact, probably exactly the right age - during puberty as we begin to realise who we are. The program showed that it is not always easy as some of them experienced worse bullying after coming out - but even being able to come out so young does show that the level of wider acceptance makes this more possible.

Things were very different for me and for countless others. School was hard. I lived as a shadow of myself. I looked all around me for any positive role models - in fact, for any models at all. It was a big enough step for me to admit that I went to Church - let alone that I'm a poof!

There is something really important here.
For me - the only prompts about sexuality and being gay came from church - and they were all negative. Its not that my home church was really vocally against homosexuality - but more that they didn't really say much at all - but what was said was prejudiced. This was the only place I heard a voice on the issue. All my self questions trying desperately to understand if I was sinful, if it was evil, illegal or dirty - found there answers from church and set me on a path of emotional pain.

At this pivotal time in life - realising that I fancied boys, I learnt that I was evil and so emotionally I chose to shut down and tried everyday to be 'normal'.

As society became more accepting and more vocally positive, my prompts became confused and I was left stuck in the middle between my faith and the world in which I live.
It was only when I went to theological college that I started to explore my faith, to ask questions and dig a little at those pious statements like 'hate the sin, love the sinner'.

The place I'm in now is much more healthy, but I've struggled. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of what local churches and denominations as a whole say about sexuality. For the young in our churches it is vital to find a place that, if not accepting, can at least be questioning and open.

It is becoming clear that the gap between 'church' and society on this issue is broadening every day. This is not an argument to force the church to be accepting, as we are called to follow Christ and our decisions should be based on this. For me, the fact that I follow Christ is what makes me clear that we are called to be totally accepting of all people. I am created gay and my sexuality has much to offer the church!

This gap between church and society creates a huge problem for young gay Christians. Where do they find there prompts for life? Where do they find the building blocks for emotional well-being? What does there spiritual self have to say about sexuality?

Not in the church.

To dismiss homosexuality, to ignore it, to hope it is "not in our church" - does much more damage than we can imagine.

Equally - to say homosexuality is fine, "it's not a problem", does the same - it dismisses the questions and the difficulty of 'coming out'.

As people of faith - any faith, we are people of questions. We are people who are on a journey seeking to explore our humanity and our relationship with God. Our sexuality is not something beyond these questions!

My faith has become much more questioning and as a result has become less certain and much more vulnerable - but I think this is healthy and I think it is Christ like.

Our sexuality is one part of us - but an important part, as it is key to our emotional and relational selves. As the church, we need to be understanding of the impact we can have when we talk about or ignore this issue.

It's a rant - I know - but that's what blogging lets us do!!
Reflections welcome!!

Monday, 5 February 2007

Welcome to my world!

At last I have found the will to get blogging!

I've named it 'Out on Holy Ground' after a book by Donald L. Boisvert - a very useful exploration of Gay spirituality within and without the church.

To be honest - it's just a great title and seemed very fitting for the thoughts and ramblings that will follow.

This blog is Holy Ground for me and I hope to share my thoughts on the church at this critical time as we struggle so desperately, with the issues around human sexuality.

I was a minister in the URC (United Reformed Church) before I so spectacularly fell apart and am now well on the road to loving life afresh!

However hard life gets - there is hope - thank God!
Pious it may be - but true!

I hope you will excuse the cathartic element to this site but life's experience does shape the way we feel and know God.

So - welcome one and all - to my world.
Feel free to comment, reflect and do your own thinking as I lay my own frustrations and dreams before you!!