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Blessings same sex couples sml

Sex Obsessed

blessing same sex couples

Theologians talk about the ‘marks’ of the Church. The ‘mark’ of the Anglican Church is… an obsession with sex. Same-sex to be clear and precise. We have been debating this decade upon decade upon decade.

The Very Revd Dr Jonathan Draper recently blogged about the obsession in a post Obsessed about sex?. Do read the whole post. Here is a taster:

My hunch is that the seemingly irreversible decline in church-going in this country – across all denominations – is a self-inflicted wound. We’ve clung on to passé ideas, refused new knowledge, hidden ourselves (and the Gospel) behind noise that creates more heat than light, and are now shocked and surprised to find that few people find us interesting anymore. Our moral authority went with the child abuse scandals; our intellectual authority went when we stopped taking scholarship seriously and put a kind of shallow Biblicism in its place.

It’s not clear to me that this position is recoverable; the damage may already be too great. There aren’t even that many deck chairs left to re-arrange. But perhaps this season of self-indulgent obsession with sex can be followed by a season of openness, learning and humility. We need to do what politicians find so difficult and admit we’ve got it wrong. We need to apologise for decades spent chasing our tails while opportunities for radical service and thoughtful listening were scattered around the hillside like sheep without a shepherd.

Let’s put the Anglican obsession with talking about same-sex relationships into the proportionally-much-bigger context of heterosexual issues that appear to get no energy. I’ve already, and formally, shown that ethics in relation to heterosexuals gets little to no traction in our church (we still await a reply to my open letter formally presented by our church’s General Secretary to General Synod Standing Committee, the Chancellors, and our Liturgical Commission).

We can look beyond divorce and remarriage of heterosexuals. In our country, TV is currently screening “Married At First Sight NZ”. Couples who have never met marry on national television and then people watch what happens (I haven’t so I cannot tell you what does). If overseas versions of the franchise have faked the wedding, NZ hasn’t. These people are legally married. I’ve more than once challenged those who see Marriage Equality as debasing marriage that I haven’t seen those usual suspects write about Married At First Sight doing so. [I have only ever seen a single allusion to the programme in one comment on another website]. Add to that: the TV advertising for the series (I have seen the advertising) used the image of a bride (white dress, white veil) running up towards St Stephen’s Chapel, Auckland, a church the Anglican Church specifically built to sign our Church’s constitution.

I hadn’t given any thought to the marital status of our new Prime Minister until someone a couple of days ago pointed out to me that she isn’t married. Again – I wonder if the usual suspects would have made more of that if this was not a straight couple.

Let’s be specific about the disproportion. We, as a church, (on purpose) keep no national or Church-wide statistics, but the best estimate, from my diocese (the second largest in our Church, and our diocese does keep some statistics), is that we are debating blessing 4 same-sex couples a year. That’s where a lot of our energy is going. At the start of next year, our diocese will call a special meeting of our synod. Guess what the focus will be about. Our declining numbers? How we might form contemplative communities as a response to the passion for positive psychology and mindfulness? An appreciative inquiry into how our church responds to the biggest move of people in our history because of the earthquakes? Child poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor? No. We will look at proposals for how, as a diocese, we might react to blessing 4 or so couples a year.

That was the dominating debate at the last meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the main debate at the next meeting.

Is the way forward not to join the debate whatsoever? To give it no air at all? Tempting. But I was encouraged by others to work towards a response to the latest proposal – and I have been preparing for that with help from comments in a series on this site.

I had a quick look through the posts on this site this year. It’s hard to categorise some but – approximately:
33% are about liturgy, prayer, and contemplation
31% are about faith in the contemporary, technological world
20% are resources and commentaries Sunday by Sunday (with a focus on the collect)
13% are working through Matthew’s Gospel
and yes,
4% are about sex.

I’m not unhappy with that proportion.

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17 thoughts on “Sex Obsessed”

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Elizabeth. Yes – what is it about same-sex relationships that makes this worth so much more energy than evolution, divorce, women in ministry, contraception, euthanasia, or any number of other questions that Christians encounter? Blessings.

  1. I have never been so disgusted with the Anglican church…..they are losing congregants constantly by not moving into this century.

  2. Bosco,

    Thanks for this. I particularly appreciated:

    “We’ve clung on to passé ideas, refused new knowledge, hidden ourselves (and the Gospel) behind noise that creates more heat than light, and are now shocked and surprised to find that few people find us interesting anymore. Our moral authority went with the child abuse scandals; our intellectual authority went when we stopped taking scholarship seriously and put a kind of shallow Biblicism in its place.”

    Thank you for what you are doing to help address these Bosco; your efforts will bear fruit.

    Since you mention my friend Jacinda Ardern, is there there something we can learn from her? She is light years ahead of the Church on same sex unions and the preferential option for the poor.

    She knows how to empathise and work with people. She can identify the issues and is not afraid to lead change.

    Perhaps we should get with the programme?


    Many Blessings

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Chris.

      I don’t know Jacinda Ardern’s current faith position. I know she grew up in a Mormon family.

      I was encouraged by last Sunday’s Old Testament reading which spoke about God acting through people who do not acknowledge God. So often I think God is not affirming the actions of those who constantly use His Name. And God is powerfully present and active in places where God’s Name is never heard.

      Yes – we need to get with the programme, especially the preferential option for the poor. And Pope Francis is also sharing that vision for the church.


    2. Yes, great point about King Cyrus. Who would have thought that God would choose a pagan idolator to lead our people into freedom ?

      Imagine that those ancient stories could actually say something to us 21st Century postmodernists !

      Maybe there is something to all this liturgy business after all?

      BTW, the Catholic diocese of Auckland have just announced their support for the programme, and some suggestions for improving it.


      Many Blessings

      1. Thanks, Chris. And I am encouraged by the Auckland diocesan statement – and hope the suggestions are discussed seriously. Blessings.

  3. Thank you Bosco. This whole debate, which has dragged on for years and to which there apparently is no end, seems to me to have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ.It is not good news.

  4. ‘God acting through people who do not acknowledge God’

    God is love. That has always been the universal position in my lifetime. I think, well it’s what I understood to be.

    That was in my father in law’s church painted over the altar.

    I’m sure it’s gone now, when love is now apparently a spiritual weakness not just to him and his religion but to most religions. He preaches hatred if he doesn’t agree.

    Not that I don’t think some of the marginalized are culpable for taking things into the public arena which are private.

    I am pretty moderate I guess but I much never felt the need to act out sexually OR spiritually in public as some people do.

    Love is endless kindness, and sometimes we have to understand that means empathy to others, even people we don’t agree with.

    The more I live and the more I study scripture and experience various things…the less sure I am that I can interpret what is ‘real’.

    You are weaving a tapestry here Bosco, who cares is my first question.

    I mean in terms is it intellectual, religious, bible, humanitarian etc.

    Where does Jesus fit in all that?

    Who questions themself without losing their religion, it’s a balance between those things?

  5. Dear Bosco
    I note the irony that in your previous post you continue a series of reflections on how, over 1000 years ago, the Western church got a comparatively small theological matter wrong (the nuances of how the relationship of one Person in relation to the other two Persons of the Trinity should be described), but in this post you are critical of those who continue to work on another comparatively small matter which (1) we are not agreed on (2) like the Filioque controversy have capacity to lead to schism.

    Might a little “obsession” in the late 20th and early 21st centuries be helpful for bloggers in 3000 AD so they do not need to try to correct something we got wrong in the West today?

    I assume, by the way, that Eastern Orthodox bloggers in the same future year will wonder why the Western church bothered to consider change on such a matter!

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      And – yes and no…

      Percentage-wise, on this site, I have obsessed considerably more about sex than I have about the Filioque.

      The Filioque controversy was part of the 1054 schism, but by no means the whole of it. The schism – it’s complicated…

      At least being aware of and discussing the Filioque helps clarify our belief about God. Polytheism, tritheism, and henotheistic tendencies are evident even in our Church, and those tendencies are possible to find in (or draw from) even our formal Prayer Book. Spin the liturgical bottle – and who will you pray to today?!


    1. God’s Spirit opts to be elusive the very moment there is any notion in prayer or worship to pinhole or stereotype that Essence. In my experience at least. Learned my lesson, thanks to Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Bultmann (oh and Stephen May and Keith Carley).

  6. Dear Bosco, you rightly point to the people in Scripture who may not have formally acknowledged God, but whom God seems to be able to use in the Mission. Whatever relationship our new Prime Minister has with her partner, she certainly seems to have a heart for the poor and disenfranchised. I did not vote for her but even I recognised that grace at work in her life, emulating that of Jesus.

    Our real problem here, is those who protest their faith in Jesus – as a reason for their criticism of loving s/s partnerships, but who do not practise his love for sinners like themselves. This, I think, is an instance of God using society to teach the Church a much needed lesson about what love is and about judgement of others when we ourselves are less than perfect. We need to use the good we see in people and work on that – if we are to be of any prfactgical use to the world for which Christ died.

  7. ‘re the Great Schism…I remember Henry Chadwick saying East -West controversy was like Ravel’s Bolero…with 1087 the climax.

    The Anglican Communion changed it’s mind on contraception between 1880 and 1930.Has any scholar analyses that debate esp the arguments used against it? It was probably the major ‘re think on sex we have ever done and may have led to the firming up of the RC position in Casti Conubi…I noticed recently Andrew Goddard wrote in The Oxford Handbook of Anglican Studies that the bible was conflicted on women’s ordination, and divorce, against same sex relations and silent on contraception. But I find that odd…did the Lambeth fathers oppose contraception for over 50years WITHOUT discussing the Bible?

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