The Church and homosexuality
I want to speak to you on a matter which over the years has caused me much sorrow - the question of homosexuals and their eligibility for acceptance by our Church - once again the subject of bitter controversy amongst our people.
I think it is the most difficult thing I have ever attempted, and I cannot help wishing that my late husband was here to support me as undoubtedly he would have done. It is only with God's help that I am able to speak out, but I am impelled to do so because I believe the Church must step out in faith and offer to those who are at present considered by some to be without the gates and yet who feel called to serve Christ, the opportunity to become members and, yes, even ordained ministers within our fellowship.
Perhaps you have had very little to do with homosexuals and if you think of them at all you picture them as either paedophiles or those who take part in parades down Queen Street. I would remind you that our newspapers are full of stories of heterosexual men who have transgressed against children - sadly some of them have been ministers or respected members of churches. You will also have seen on TV and at the magazine counters pictures of the depths to which heterosexual men and women can descend.
I want to show you another view.
I am the mother of a homosexual son who for the past 27 years has lived in a stable and loving relationship with a man whom I (and John when he was alive) love as another son. They are men of integrity, loving and caring.
I recall to this day the devastation I felt when Euan told me that this was his sexual orientation. John at the time was absent at a Church Youth Conference in another city and those few days before he returned were difficult indeed.
We have two sons and a daughter, all very much loved and brought up within what we hoped was a happy Christian atmosphere. I suppose we were extremely innocent or naive for we failed to observe the signs which I expect were becoming obvious. Our son was popular with both boys and girls and had had at least two girl friends. I had wondered why the friendships were of fairly short duration and I did begin to wonder why he was bringing home young men friends only.
When he told me his situation it was obvious that he was deeply distressed. He said he had long wanted to tell us what was happening to him, but knowing our involvement with a Church which took very seriously its condemnation of homosexuality he feared what our attitude might be. He had even thought of suicide. Of course we were able to assure him of our continued love for and acceptance of him. Our regret was that for him there could not be the happiness of having a home and children as his brother and sister have. He did, at my suggestion, consult with a Church counsellor who, while sympathetic, was unable to help. Looking back now, I feel guilt and regret that he could not confide in us earlier but had to endure a long and agonising period of silence.
John and I began to study the literature on the subject and found much
divergence of opinion as to the reasons. One theory which made me
angry was that mothers could be responsible by smothering a boy with an
unhealthy kind of love. I could not accept that this was valid
- certainly not in my case. There were many different
theories and there still seems to be little agreement among
researchers, although I understand that there is a definite leaning
towards the belief that children are predisposed towards homosexuality even
before birth. The more I read, and from my own
experience, the more convinced I am that this is true. I
should like to think that this could be proved in my lifetime. One
thing I am sure of is that many of them are very caring sensitive people
who, through no fault of their own, are faced with the
terrible dilemma of living a lie or confessing their sexual orientation to
the world at large, thereby bringing upon themselves the opprobrium
which is often directed to them by so many of their heterosexual fellow
human beings. I well remember Euan saying to me -
"Mum, who would want to be one."
We thank God that our son found a partner whom we value and love as a full member of our family. Many are not so fortunate and drift into promiscuity in their search for happiness. The worst situation to my mind is that of the man who, in an endeavour to appear to be heterosexual, marries and fathers children. It cannot be a cure for his problem and only leads to great unhappiness for his wife, often divorce and consequent distress for the family. I do understand that it seems to be specially difficult for heterosexuals - I think particularly men - to understand and accept homosexuals. But each time I hear folk referring to such people as "queers", "poofs", "fairies" etc I feel like crying out "You are talking about my son". When I listen to the condemnation from Church members I want to say - "What would you do if you found your son or daughter was homosexual?"
I have not referred to our son's position as far as the Church is concerned. After revealing his situation to us he and his partner for some time attended a Church but felt uncomfortable, believing that if their life style was made known they would run the risk of ostracism. They felt that they were there under false pretences, so they ceased attending although they longed to be accepted and understood.
The controversy which has arisen within the Churches has prompted me to make
this contribution, in the hope that it will move those who feel there
is no place in Christ's Kingdom for practising homosexuals to look again at
their entrenched beliefs. I think that many Church members consider
the answer is relatively simple. The sinner is bidden to pray and
ask for strength to conquer thesexual drive and become "cured",
after which he will be admitted to fellowship. I do not think that
many homosexuals have succeeded in achieving this. I have no doubt
some, like my son, have tried without success and are left
with a terrible feeling of rejection. Not an inconsiderable number
are so distressed that they have been driven to suicide. I have had
a recent personal experience of this when a fine talented young man took his
own life because of his total failure to gain the understanding of his
parents, who denied the reality of his sexual orientation.
What does this say about our inability or refusal to accept such people?
Do we have any responsibility for such desperation?
I thank God that there has been a happy ending for Euan and Malcolm. By His Grace they came to know of His all-embracing love through Dr David Bromell and the congregation at Glenaven Methodist Church. Many of the members are quite old and one would have thought would have been very conservative, but Euan and Malcolm were warmly welcomed and are now members in full standing in the Methodist Church. Malcolm is an accomplished pianist and organist and his talents are being used to the full, while Euan has been elected to the Dunedin Methodist Parish Meeting and is also a Dunedin representative to the Otago and Southland Synod. He has served as one of three Parish Stewards, the senior office-bearers in the Methodist Parish structure. He was one of the Dunedin representatives at the Methodist Conference in Christchurch in 1994, when that Church courageously agreed to order its life within the intention of the Human Rights legislation and reject discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He was a representative at the Annual Conference in Whangarei when, I am told, he spoke eloquently in support of "allinclusiveness" in the Church. He reminds me strongly of my father, a Bible Class leader and elder for many years in our Church. Dad was a man with a passion for justice and fairness - ever ready to espouse the cause of the oppressed.
Over the years Euan and Malcolm's home has been a place of peace and hospitality for many - both heterosexual and homosexual. It was there that I came to know Martin Dixon who was licensed to preach by Dunedin Presbytery. When I faced moving from the home in which John and I had lived for 37 years Euan suggested I might like Martin to hold a brief service of farewell and blessing on my new circumstances, which he did very sincerely and appropriately.
When Euan and Malcolm celebrated 25 years of life together Martin, before supper, in the presence of a large number of friends some of whom would have no Church connection at all, prayed in a most sincere and moving way, witnessing to his faith as well as to Euan's and Malcolm's. In November 1995 Martin was licensed in Knox Church - the first openly homosexual ordinand to be licensed by the Presbyterian Church. It was a moving service. To date he has not been called to a parish. I cannot help wondering why such a committed Christian, having spent years of training to serve his Lord in ministry, should be rejected by a Church which so desperately needs young men and women of integrity and vision.
I do not think I am being blasphemous when I suggest that perhaps those
members of Presbytery who opposed the licensing of Martin might remember
Gamaliel's injunction to those Pharisees who were bent on frustrating the
spread of the Gospel - "For if this counsel or this work be of
men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye
cannot overthrow it lest haply ye be found to fight against God" (Acts
It is strange that for many years John and I prayed that all our children would become committed Christians - and this son is the only one of the three to feel the call of God and he is a homosexual. To me it is a miracle and I only wish that his father was here to rejoice with me. It is truly wonderful to be able to discuss with him the things that belong to our faith, to go to Church with him and pray.
I was baptised in Mornington Presbyterian Church almost 86 years ago and am still a member, but I am not at all sure of my place in the hereafter and if Euan and Malcolm have no place there I don't think I want to be part of it. But perhaps I am limiting the Grace of God and should take comfort from Christ's promise when he said, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out". I am reminded of a hymn which we sometimes sing - I hope with conviction -
For the love of God is broader than the measures of man's
and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.