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A Gay-Straight Christian Dialogue: A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Reaction, Please – `Michael’ and ‘Chris’, Anglican Parish Clergy in The North Of England

April 30, 2016

AGSCDThis booklet was written back in 2005, long before the Church of England held its facilitated conversations on the subject. The advantage of this book is that the conversation is between two friends who have known each other since they were students at an evangelical theological college and who have lots in common, rather than  a bunch of strangers gathered together without known each others’ back stories.

The gay one talks about the opprobrium he feels as being like a constant tinnitus.

They just talk about their sense of self rather than bandying biblical texts about.

The conversation feels a bit forced. It doesn’t flow naturally or wander off the point. Also, the gay one does most of the talking and the straight one operates in a counselling mode so it feel a bit unequal, but the author(s?) are to be commended for their attempt to humanise the subject.

Quotations:

In committing itself to listen to the experiences of gay people within the church, the Anglican Communion set about a task which cannot be achieved through debate or argument. Too often debate involves waiting for the other party to speak while at the same time preparing one’s own riposte. Voices are heard, but not received; arguments rehearsed but the people behind them left unacknowledged.

 Even with a good friend, telling someone that I’m gay is a lot like giving someone a knife and wondering if they’ll stab me in the back with it.

from at least the age of eight I was very much aware of feelings of same-sex attraction. I’d be watching television and find myself totally confused, totally overwhelmed by a feel­ing, and there was nobody to whom I could talk about it. I fancied quite a few men off Top of the Pops, a character or two in science fiction drama, and one of the leads of Press Gang—among many others! And while my peers were exploring heterosexual relation­ships and seeing how far they could go, I was keeping it all in my head—even keeping it from my own conscious self.

There was an ever-present backdrop of disapproval from much of the world, a background radiation of shame that meant I was increas­ingly living in fear, guilt and denial for over 15 years. And that’s bad for self-esteem, bad for mental health, bad for most things. That’s one of the things I think I’ll like most about the new heaven and the new earth—all that white noise of disapproval in print and on television and from some people will fade to silence!

 it seems to me that for a good many people this constitutes their entire understanding of gay people. So what, then, does the average person mean when they use terms such as gay, lesbian, and homosexual? Sadly, I think they are referring to sex, and probably lots of it—being gay equals gay sex. Having sex seems to dominate the whole gay agenda whether in church circles or society at large. I suppose it sells newspapers. What do you think?

Well, I’m not getting any! A wise man once told a joke: ‘What do gay couples do in bed?’

I don’t know. What do gay couples do in bed?

They drink Ovaltine and read books like everyone else. I don’t know the figures but I think I can guarantee it’s not all sex sex sex, just as much as being straight isn’t all sex sex sex. Is it? Ac­tually, what is being straight all about?

I thought you could tell me! Well, for one thing it’s not all sex, sex, sex—although it’s certainly got its place! Being straight is more about that simple word—living. Paying the bills, going to work, having a curry, watching the football, going to the cinema, being on the vil­lage hall committee, worshipping Jesus. I imagine it’s pretty much the same for gay people. I have to say I don’t drink Ovaltine in bed, but a good read—that’s not bad!

whether there’s a gay gene, a gay upbringing or a mixture of the two, it’s not a choice. I haven’t consciously chosen to be gay. Having sexual relations or not—that’s a choice; but being attracted to people of the same sex simply isn’t. Why would I choose to be gay and face all the nerve-wracking things we’ve spoken about? Why choose to face the disapproval, the misunderstanding?

On a positive note, it might be true that my experiences as a gay man have made me a little more sympathetic to people who suffer or are seen as outsiders, or that I am slower to speak and take more care of people’s hearts. On a sad note, I’m fairly sure that my life experiences as gay have made me more protective, more reserved, more abrasive.

Occasionally I’ve entertained the notion that there might be a programme, a series of prayers, some process that would auto­matically and miraculously turn me around. But while God has the power and the prerogative, the kind of insistence that change is simply there for the asking seems to me misguided. I understand the desire to want to believe in that, but it does God an injustice. And I understand other people’s desires to believe in that for me, to recommend or prescribe it—charitably because it might make my life easier, less charitably because it renders both God and the world much more cut and dried. I have a measure of faith in God, but nowhere do I find a promise that God will change my sexuality.

Somewhere in Genesis God remarks that ‘it’s not good for man to be alone,’ and he’s not wrong! I work with people most of the time, and being alone can be refreshing, but equally there’s nobody at hand when I arrive home to an empty house. This past week I’ve visited friends and everything takes a lot less effort when other people are around. In contrast when I’m alone there’s a capacity for my heart to sink and sink. I have lots of good friends, although being a vicar means they’re often around the country rather than around the corner, let alone around the house. So, yes, loneliness and isolation can be an issue. And equally, it’s hard sometimes to find the motivation to do things or to make the house pleasant. Everything can feel a bit hollow unless it’s shared with people. Read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City—there’s a gay character in there who simply wants ‘someone to buy a Christmas tree with’; the moments of intimacy—not especially sex-related—that lift life. Sometimes everything drags, and that can exacerbate any other bad things I’m feeling at any given moment. I think about sharing space, forming a community, getting a lodger.. and I always think, well, maybe tomorrow.

Looking back on that now that I’ve said it, my loneliness isn’t merely a social loneliness. It’s a physical and a bodily loneliness too, skin hunger—and not in a particularly lustful way either. I want to feel safe and held, to feel the assurance and warmth of a body nearby. I’d like someone to rest my head on their chest, and I similarly have the capacity to rest someone’s head on mine. I know it’s a cliché but I’ve got so much love to give and I’m simply wearied by a life with no capacity to give or receive a very intimate love. This isn’t a celibacy that I’ve chosen on a level playing field. Sometimes I hate it

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