Alan Storkey: “Resolving the gay issue”

Few will disagree with the statement that the gay issue has created an Anglican impasse which seems unbridgeable. It involves people’s intimate lives, their Christian beliefs and the character of ordained ministry. The division is largely between those who are gay and believe they have rights of respect as Christians acting in good conscience and those who see gay practice as wrong on biblical grounds, and wrong for Christian practice and ministry.

I believe this impasse can be resolved, though, of course, such a process would involve opposition and conflict. Initially, what is required is that the issue be better understood mainly in Christian sociological terms. Also needed is an informed public debate to address current secular perspectives. Then probably comes an outpouring of humility.

The point of departure is the modernist viewpoint which sees homosexuality as a noun describing persons and a phenomenon. On this view one is homosexual by nature, and the question then becomes whether one is free to practice what one is. This just is inaccurate. The National Sexual Survey showed that nine out of 10 of those with homosexual attraction or experience also had heterosexual attraction or experience. Many move from homosexual to heterosexual experience and vice versa.

Further, there is abundant evidence of the social construction of homosexuality (and heterosexuality). Single-sex cultures in Athens, Sparta, Islamic countries, public schools, San Francisco (the Gold Rush), Oxbridge and theological colleges induce homosexual experience. The survey figures for public schools and the upper classes are about two or three times the normal level. As anyone half awake knows, a strong component of much of this behaviour is father hunger caused by separation and other parental dynamics.

Homosexual culture is also passed on from older to younger men and learned through a range of experiences. Given the levels of divorce and parental absenteeism, the psycho-social tensions expressed in homosexuality are not likely to decrease.

The current liberal secular culture will not admit that for many homosexuality is problematic and changing. It only focuses on individuals and their rights, and pretends that “gay rights” is all that has to be said on the issue. Yet, this is a relational issue, just as marital, heterosexual and dating issues are and the current patterns are ones of substantial chaos, breeding hurt, hardness and relational failure on a massive scale. Sooner or later the culture will have to face this breakdown.

At the same time homosexuality cannot be addressed just as a moral issue. Many of us struggle with things related to our early development most of our lives. They each have their own character. Sexual abuse, parental coldness, cross-gender parental difficulties, eating disorders, learning problems and other areas of behaviour are difficult to address. Homosexuality is a tenacious orientation, perhaps made stronger by the concept of coming out and its modernist reification. Many of us are locked into lifestyles that require grace, patience and healing to resolve.

Moreover, trothful homosexual relationships can have things about them that are good – love, non-judgementalism, friendship and companionship, and we can have very bad experiences with Christian heterosexuals without judging their faith.

It is important that all the dimensions of the issue be addressed. Part of that, too, is the biblical business of man-woman mutuality throughout all of life. The locus of the issue is pastoral.

Of course, heterosexual marriage is a universal God-created human institution. That is factually as well as normatively true; non-marriage is marginal world-wide. The failures of the present, more ephemeral forms of sexual union and co-habitation are precisely that. Marriage as troth is the normative model for adult humanity. Although the gay lobby make some noise, marriage, biblical teaching, love, faithfulness are not under threat, except as they have always been, from human failure. In those terms our western individualist, self-pleasing culture is undergoing a crisis that it partly recognises alongside its self-rightness and liberal assertiveness.

The failure of some evangelicals is not to have the sociological assurance that a full biblical understanding of relationships gives and not to address the God-denying culture of the day. To fixate on homosexuality to the virtual exclusion of the crises of divorce (no fault?), parenting, heterosexual relations, adolescent manipulation and consumerism, to mention only a few, is the typical response of a ghetto subculture.

In a word, it is reactionary, which, of course, is what the Gospel is not. God is always the thesis and not the anti-thesis. How could it be otherwise? There is a need to get out and argue a Christian case, and do it with some sociological awareness, and also to restore fellowship and be pastorally aware.

The other side of the issue is to recognise that the modernist liberal rights model of homosexual affirmation fails to address the complexities of these and indeed of all relationships. The bluster of the Church gay lobby is not good enough. The right to divorce? The right to sex? The right to mess up a family? These concepts are not up to the task of providing guidelines for living, and it is time the liberal culture was persuaded of its weaknesses.

–Church of England Newspaper

25 Responses to “Alan Storkey: “Resolving the gay issue””

  1. DJ+ Says:

    A well thought through essay. It articulates some of the problems attendant with a more or less exclusive focus on homosexuality as the primary threat to marriage and family (although we have had the issue forced upon us of late). A courageous, holistic, proactive expression of the Christian case is needed in an increasingly rudderless society.

  2. John Wilkins Says:

    A fair article. I’ve never bought into the idea that homosexuality is “natural” regardless of my agnosticism about its moral character. He allows for adequate openings for a sort of culture that may permit kinds of homosexual relationships. The more sophisticate queer scholars themselves aren’t unanimous about culturlal fixity.

  3. Phil Snyder Says:

    Our society is fixated on sex. Sex is everything in our society and the ability to express our sexual desires seems paramount. We seem to have the following series of statements running through our mind:

    God is Love.
    Love is Sex.
    Sex is God.

    This is a false idea. Can you imagine a society where you could get business men to drop $500 in a night to simply LOOK at and smell food and have food rubbed on their bodies? What would you say about that society’s appetite for food? I would say that it is out of whack.

    The same is true for western society’s appetite for sex.

    When we learn that God calls all of us to Chastity in our sexual appetites we will be in a much better place.

    Chastity includes over expression of sexual conduct. It also includes dress, ideas, social interaction, and how we relate to others of the opposite (or same) sex. You cannot be living in chastity (even if married) and dress like a hooker (or gigalo).

    May God have mercy on us and lead us to chaste lives.

    YBIC,
    Phil Snyder

  4. Marion R. Says:

    “A fair article. ”

    “He allows for adequate openings for a sort of culture that may permit kinds of homosexual relationships.”

    I assume the latter implies the former?

    Also, please elaborate on what exactly is a “sophisticate queer scholar” and how or how not inventing ‘queer scholarship’ fits with the viewpoint Storkey expresses.

  5. Dale Rye Says:

    As #1 points out, a single-minded focus on genital sex (with whichever sex) simply does not reflect either Scripture or Tradition… and it isn’t very rational either. There are other issues at play, some of which are both broader and deeper than homosexual practice or same-sex attraction. So long as reasserters can be represented to limit their definition of “sound faith” to opposing homosexuality (see Central Africa), they will be unable to emerge either from the “ghetto mentality” Alan Storkey describes or from the actual sociological ghetto to which many of them have been relegated. Reasserters and reappraisers have a great deal to offer one another, but only if both sides are willing to take risks.

  6. Howard Says:

    “God is always the thesis and not the anti-thesis.”

    Maybe the synthesis?

  7. Sick and Tired of Nuance Says:

    Hegel would be so proud!

  8. Moderate somewhat Bemused Says:

    Interesting, thoughtful article. I particularly appreciate his point that the Church needs to articulate a positive view of traditional marriage. And he is right that we also need to consider the other “crises”.

    Where I challenge anyone who says not to focus on same-sex relationships, is that is the question of the hour, that is being brought up by “modernist liberal rights” movement. The Church is being asked, here and now, to bless same sex unions. My question to Mr. Storkey is, when and up or down vote is called for, what are we to say? It is not simply about the traditionalists deciding that same sex attractions are bad. It is about the Church being asked to bless them as good. If we take Mr. Storkey’s points, we must admit this is not the time to do so.

  9. Moderate somewhat Bemused Says:

    My grammar failed me a bit there. Oh well.

  10. Hursley Says:

    I cannot help but feel this is precisely the direction the Anglican Church needs to take; it clips the wings of both the “parties” that have seized control of discourse, but have done so often without due diligence to examine basic assumptions &c. Though not without flaw, this is the kind of thinking which recognizes the shortcomings of simplistic, reactive solutions to complex issues. Those solutions – however much they may be imposed with institutional force and coercion – do not lead to the kind of God-centered, Kingdom-focused vision of the Beatitudes or the Parables. The strategies being employed by some in our Communion are based on trying to go around or over the question of sexuality, but this is not what the Church did in regard to the Trinitarian or the Christological questions, for instance (which were also crises in the Church deeply tied up with cultural understandings). Rather, it was the Spirit’s guidance that required the Church to journey (resolutely) through the conflict and the question. This is, naturally, what we must do.

    It was Our Saviour who showed us this way by faithfully journeying through suffering, loss, shame, pain, abandonment, and death itself…all so that Life could be encountered and given back to us. Since then, the authentic journey of the Church (Christ’s Body) has been to follow its Head. The Spirit – always pointing to Christ – forces the Church to confront and redeem, rather than to avoid and deny. In fact, some of the worst failings of the Church have been precisely when it has tried to find some other way forward, rather than to take up the Cross and follow its Lord through the difficult and risky terrain of faithful discipleship. So, I feel we need to engage the homosexual issue from the position of faith in the same way the Great Church of Christ in the 4th and 5th centuries confronted its great challenges, rather than continue to use either junk-science/sociology or an impoverished theological critique that is deeply motivated by a desire for clarity without mutuality, or mere victory – rather than redemptive, faithful discipleship

  11. Moderate in Search of Zion Says:

    Hursley, I appreciate your point very much, but the 4th and 5th century Church “journeyed” through the controversies by holding ecumenical councils and making concrete decisions. Sometimes those decisions resulted in division (cutting off the gnostics and Nestorians). Sometimes they resulted in condemnation (Arius). But they did result in decisions, like the creeds. And they enabled the Church to move on and witness. Unfortunately, a truly ecumenical council is pretty impossible now. But concrete decisions are being made, for good or ill. Which is why I ask, what do we do when an up or down vote is called for?

  12. Hursley Says:

    Dear MISOZ,

    I agree that we are not in the 4th century, and that we are unable to have a truly ecumenical council at this juncture in history. These observations are fairly clear points I concede. I was referring to the manner in which the process of determining the Church’s response to innovations is formulated, articulated, and defended. I think that is what A. Storkey’s article point out. Much of what I read now boils down to accepting intellectually/spiritually weak arguments, using the language of rights or values, or retreating into a very narrow read of Scripture. I am here describing the kind of approaches used by many in both “camps.” This paucity of depth in argument is helping us to remain locked in what many on this blog seem to feel is a “tit-for-tat” level of theology and ecclesiastical life.

    An up-or-down vote, when it comes, will probably not be understood for what it was until some time after the event. My understanding of the decisive events in Church history is that there was usually a process, rather than One Grand Occasion, that revealed the bankruptcy of non-catholic teaching. Certainly, Nicea was a great event, but it took the next Council in Constantinople to seal this, and even then, the Arian problem was not “solved” in the life of the Church for a long while (one wonders if it has, indeed, ever really been solved — given the tone of much of ECUSA’s leadership today). I think the sexuality question will likely work along similar lines. In fact, those I know in other, more conservative, traditions tell me that they are having to deal with many of the same issues, but in a very much more “behind the scenes” way. I don’t get the sense that the sexuality questions are going to be voted away in a single event. It seems to me that we are dealing here with a much deeper and long-term question of Christian anthropology that was not fully addressed in earlier conflicts.

    I suspect there will be a series of votes that will gradually reveal who is based on rock and who on sand, but these votes will be accompanied by many more events which will bring to light the fruits of the various viewpoints. There are many days when I want much more clarity and haste in revealing the Truth for all to see, but then, I must return to Revelation, and recognize in that book that the process of revealing the final will of God in the Triumph of the Lamb and His Saints requires a rather long and complex series of events. I do not believe we can expect any more or less from this process.

    A great deal happened between the Councils; in fact, some decisions were made by those ultimately judged as heretical that were, for a time, considered authoritative and carried considerable weight. But, they simply did not have God’s blessing, and were revealed for what they were by skillful, thoughtful, and careful reasoning in the writings of the now-accepted orthodox Fathers. My original post simply was an expression of frustration with the often knee-jerk sensibilities of those who wish to make snap decisions on complex matters. Such reactionism often makes for poor decisions rather than wise judgments that can serve as an effective foundation for later apologetic.

    I am sorry if the term “journeyed” was nervous-making for you. I meant it in the sense of Christ’s journey to the Cross, not in the sense of some abstract New Age aimlessness.

  13. Moderate in Search of Hope Says:

    Hursley, thank you for your response. I think you’re right. I guess I am nervous, because I do see an onset of events, pushed by the extremes, to make us all decide on which side of the line we ultimately fall. Not to choose sides will be a tough decision, one attacked by all. I can also see a moment, this GC or next, when there will be a vote on a ssu liturgy. I wish we could have the certainty of a council. You also have an admirable confidence in the Holy Spirit to lead the Church rightly, one that many lack, perhaps even I.

    You have in fact reminded me that I have been pulled to one side of the divide. At my core has been a hope that there is an equitable solution, that justice could be done for homosexuals without doing violence to scripture and tradition. A hope that there is a middle ground, that will hold, between liberal activism and conservative reaction. A hope that the Church would come through, and the Holy Spirit will lead us on through it. This is a hope I’ve lost sight of. Thank you for reminding me.

  14. AnonymousCoward Says:

    Moderate:

    An up-or-down vote, when it comes, will probably not be understood for what it was until some time after the event.

    The up-or-down vote has already happened, in 1998. It was understood as such then, and continues to be understood as such now. What is so hard about this?

  15. John Wilkins Says:

    Marion, the aricle is fair because it is accurate in its representation of the issues, opening up some places of agreement, and witholding absolute judgement.

    “To fixate on homosexuality to the virtual exclusion of the crises of divorce (no fault?), parenting, heterosexual relations, adolescent manipulation and consumerism, to mention only a few, is the typical response of a ghetto subculture.” is a legitimate challenge to both reappraisers and reasserters. And I, as someone who occasionally calls himself a liberal in the multiple senses of the word, welcome the challenge he made in his last paragraph.

    As far as gender or orientation “fixity,” many queer scholars are agnostic, and consider nature to be a cultural construction. I’m not saying I believe it [I’m a Kantian by nature], but its part of the arguments being made…

  16. Hursley Says:

    Dear AC:

    Yes, LC ’98 was probably analogous to 1 Nicea, in that the majority of the Bishops determined that the innovations around sexuality where incorrect and ultimately incompatible with the Faith; but, ’98 was likely analogous to 1 Nicea in another way, as well. Though Arius was condemned, Arianism actually continued on in the Church (often with different names), and actually experienced a rise in power and popularity after the Fathers of Nicea had spoken. It took a sustained effort by people such as St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzus & the like to expose the deep failings of Arianism in whatever guise is chose to wear.

    Remember, too, that the Nicene faith really carried the day when those who were “in the middle” began to see that this was not merely a fight over abstruse philosophy, or mere iotas, but a struggle over the very core of the Gospel message. That process required the very best application of holy wisdom to demonstrate the weakness of the Arian point(s) of view. It also took a long time. But, in the end, Arianism simply did not “have the goods,” and its narrowed, over-stated notion of who Jesus was/is and what God can do failed before the vastness and power of what we now call orthodox Christianity.

    So, ’98 may have been an up-or-down vote that some in the West are only just now beginning to see for what it really was, but there will be a number of other decisive steps in exposing the Truth in all its richness on this matter. The point, I believe, is to stay tuned, stay faithful, and stay assured that the Victory has already been won.

  17. Mark Andrews Says:

    John, the broad spectrum of thinking about sex, gender, and behavior is not exactly helping the gay cause. Mary Daly, former Catholic and a radical separatist, has no doubt whatever about her sex, gender and behavior. Judith Butler, on the other hand, sees nothing intrinsic or fixed whatsoever - “There is no gender, only behavior,” Butler says. Well, which is it?

    Is being gay so determined by genetics, and therefore fixed - and created by a creative and loving God (so the argument goes) , that my mere existence and intention to be and live Christian life - makes my sex, gender and behavior (among many other things) a) worth of blessing in marriage and b) fit for ministry to God’s People in the Church?

    Or, after Butler, there being no “fixity” but instead a wide range of observed behavior, does telos = freedom, and freedom = telos. Is this true to the extent that gender, behavior, spirituality, belief, worship, values, ethics and morals (to mention just a few things) are simply (but not simple) social constructs. That being the case (so the argument goes) that humans are now self-consciously free to rummage through the junk drawer of history and experience to invent, reinvent and create, well, gender, behavior, spirituality, belief, worship, values, ethics and morals because it seems like we need those things? Or not?

    There doesn’t seem to be room in either scheme for the astounding idea that God exists, has a personal interest in Creation, entered into that Creation - actually and bodily, actually has a personal interest in me, and might have put up a few fixed points of reference. One of those points being that, across the wide array of possible sexes, genders and behaviors, God blesses exactly one, small subset: a covenent (sorry an overused and mis-understood word, that) union between exactly one man and one woman in marriage until death separates them. And that union mirrors and makes explicit the unity and creativity inherent in the inner life of the Triune God.

  18. Hursley Says:

    Dear Mark Andrews:

    Well said! Bravo! I have always wondered why this fundamental non sequitur has not been pursued. As those who are pushing for innovation are now in the ascendancy, this matter can no longer be cloaked. I suspect the requirement that there be some consistent response to this question will ultimately prove to be the idea’s undoing, as so much of the discourse coming from the reappraising “side” of the debate hangs on an atomistic concept of the person, something ultimately incompatible with Trinitarian teaching.

  19. Merseymike Says:

    Only Butler has precisely no impact outside the academy - in the real world, gay people know that they are gay and in the UK, where I live, have achieved considerable success in gaining equality.

    The Church stands outside, looking patehtically irrelevant - which, sadly, is the reality and will remain so, given that we grew out of evangelical superstition many years ago.

  20. Mark Andrews Says:

    And what of Butler’s arguments, mersymike? Are they also a prisoner of the academe, or do you hear them in boardrooms, bars and bedrooms across the land? The rhetoric of the Gay Liberation Movement of the ’60s is practically expressed today as “gaining equality.” Yes, freedom is a great thing, but without responsibility freedom can be a noose around one’s neck.

    The wonderfully inconvenient thing about begetting children (or adopting, if, like me, you are incapable of having children) is that it forces you to be future-oriented. For a parent, responsibility is realized as foresight. Its a counter-balance to the unitive side of marriage expressed in the marriage bed. Or to paraphrase Fulton Sheen, sex is the only way God could induce people to raise kids.

    Yes, the Church is outside - in the world but not of it. Standing “outside” enables one to offer an independent opinion, hopefully an objective opinion. Freedom, respect, consent, care and inclusion are all great ideas, but a civilization can’t include Every Damn Thing. Human beings simultaneously crave freedom AND limits. So, the industrialized West has now seen fit to reduce its sexual limits in favor of freedom. Gay Liberation was not created in a vacuum, its a subset of the Sexual Liberation movement of the 60s. Sexual Liberation was not created in a vacuum, either. I read it as a response to a number of trends, some recent, some old, some ancient, and some springing from The Fall.

    Expanding the definition of sexual and relational freedom to include every variety in Kinsey’s surveys, limited only by the dictum to “live and let live” is ruining society by lives, marriages and families at a time. I use the plural because it never just affects one person. It would be instructive to see if there is an historic correlation between this expansion of freedom and the later growth or destruction of the affected country, society or civilization.

    Civil partnerships are now available to all and sundry in the U.K. How does that strengthen my marraige in California?

  21. Mark Andrews Says:

    Let me add, by the way, that I do NOT define personal responsibility in some overt, overbearing political sense. I am NOT saying the way to personal freedom rests in some overbearing (if not vicious) regime like the North Korea, China, Zimbabwe or, to tip my hat to mersymike, some Thatcherite Excesses.

  22. Beacon Says:

    #20; you are completely right in saying that ‘gay liberation’ is a subset of 1960s ’sexual liberation’; and as the latter represented a move away from Christianity, so too does the former. Trying to accomodate it under the rubric of marriage (as the more conservative gay apologists like Merseymike do) only has the effect of rendering the nature of marriage itself problematic.
    And let me further ad that the most extensive damage to society is done not through trying to mainstream homosexuality but through disconnecting child-rearing from marriage. Therein lies the true disaster that afflicts the West.

  23. Jimbo Says:

    Alan Storkey notes: “The National Sexual Survey showed that nine out of 10 of those with homosexual attraction or experience also had heterosexual attraction or experience. Many move from homosexual to heterosexual experience and vice versa.”

    I would be interested to know just which “National Sexual Survey” these figures were extrapolated from, and how the categories are defined, as they bear so little resemblance to any figures I have seen quoted in scientific research?

    “National Sexual Survey” turned up few responses in web searches, and some of those linked to research from Paul Cameron, an American who was expelled from his professional association for violating its ethical principles, and whose statistics on homosexuality have been widely discredited.

    “As anyone half awake knows, a strong component of much of this behaviour is father hunger caused by separation and other parental dynamics”

    This viewpoint appears to be based on the theories put forward by Freud and reasserted in the early 80’s by Moberley. These theories have been discarded by modern psychology as unfounded. The only groups still supporting them tend to be those very few pushing “reparative therapy” for homosexuals, a therapy that is opposed by the major professional associations due to its high risk and unproven efficacy.

    “The division is largely between those who are gay and believe they have rights of respect as Christians acting in good conscience and those who see gay practice as wrong on biblical grounds, and wrong for Christian practice and ministry.”

    This appears to ignore the large numbers of non-gay Christians also acting in good conscience who do not necessarily see “gay practice” as wrong, but who are perhaps a little less vociferous.

    I agree with Alan Storkey that there is an apparant impasse, and that informed public debate is indeed required. I just hope that those looking for information look further afield than this CEN article.

  24. Nigel Feilden Says:

    When I first read Alan Storkey’s article, I thought “this is a really good article”. Since then, I’ve begun to modify that to “this is nearly a good article, but has missed the mark in some major respects.”

    There seem to me to be some inconsistencies:

    1. “The locus of the issue is pastoral”
    This is what Canada and ECUSA have been arguing - the issue is pastoral, local, none of your (ie other provinces) business.

    If Alan S means by what he wrote that the issue is primarily pastoral - I think he is profoundly mistaken.

    In my opinion, this issue is primarily about truth. Without truth, there is no justice; without truth, compassion is going to go off at half cock; ditto pastoral care. And truth leads to righteous doctrine.

    As Alan S nearly says, the orthodox Christian sexual ethic is not significantly different from that of many other cultures and religions. It is truly a universally wise way of living one’s life for individuals and societies. This true ethic can be arrived at from purely prudential considerations. The novelty of Christianity is not the ethical content, but the assistance Christians get in keeping the ethic and in recovering from failures to keep it.

    2. “Of course, heterosexual marriage …”
    This “Of course” is very much not “Of course” for those pushing a gay liberation agenda. In fact, there is significant evidence that one of the prime objectives of that agenda is to redefine marriage. So far, we have in the UK, the civil partnerships act, and similar things are going on in several first world countries.
    In view of this, “Resolving the gay issue”, against determined opposition which is in rebellion against truth that does not suit their agenda, is not likely to be easy. We may be better advised to concentrate on winning over the undecided - but that requires clarity and a well presented case.

    I fully agree that the argument should include the whole scope of sexual ethics and its working out in the lives of individuals, families, communities. It should neither focus narrowly on same sex issues, nor ignore them. In my view, it needs a major apologetic effort to put a positive Christian case forward. It may be that the most effective way to do this is to argue the prudence case, and then note that, surprise, surprise, this is what Christians have always believed and taught.

    So I agree with much of what Alan Storkey says, but think his strategy to meet the crisis is rather muddle headed.

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