There was much consensus in the discussion, much feeling, much in the way of heart pounding, sweaty palms and faltering voices as this difficult dialogue between and among gay and straight took place. It was notable that few signed up for the workshop but many attended, a metaphor perhaps for the Church; sex is on everyone’s mind but few are willing to sign on officially.
(1) When asked “What has the Church done to help you in your sexual development?” it seems the best that most could answer, both gay and straight, is “nothing.”
(2) Given the Church’s relatively dismal history in assisting and affirming sexuality, some wondered if the Church should just get out of the business of sex completely. “It/we/they act as if we are solely without bodies, exclusively an incarnational Church.” But to stay out of sexuality, the Church loses touch with a key part of our spiritual development. It is remarkable that the pain, suffering and glory associated with sexuality is mirrored in virtually every serious account of the spiritual journey.
(3) In an exclusively modeled culture, gay identity, particularly in youth, lacks an “us-ness.” “I had no us-ness until I was an adult,” said one gay man.
(4) The language to describe straight reactions to gay is limited. There is no word to describe the hate reaction. “Homophobia,” literally the fear of gayness, is usually used to describe any and all negative feelings which straight (and sometimes gay) sexed individuals express. But there is a whole array of feelings and reactions by well-meaning heterosexuals that is generated not by hatred or fear but rather by discomfort and anxiety. Perhaps “homo-shy” or “homo-sensitive” or “homo-timid” are much more accurate. Many straights, progressive in their theological underpinnings, do not identify with the homophobic label, but they can own up to being “homo-shy”.
(5) Enormous amounts of talent and soul are lost by excluding gays from our churches. “We don’t just make good casseroles,” a lesbian proclaimed.
(6) The absence of a theology that validates gay life is the tip of an iceberg. There is a crying need for a theology that affirms sexuality. “There are many churches that are relatively welcoming of gays who are established in nice, comfortable, long-term relationships. But what about all of us who are still looking, still waiting, still in limbo about how-where-when we are coupled?” It is no wonder that both straight and gay young people stay away from the Progressive Church. “We may not like what the religious right teaches but their clear message of certitude can be very attractive to floundering youth.”
(7) Part of normal (but by no means healthy) sexual development entails the repudiation of the other. “It was cool to call your buddies faggots or cocksuckers. It was a way of shoring up my still flagging hetero identity. I would also ridicule women as well, again trying to establish my maleness.” If the heterosexual identity does not mature beyond this good/bad stage, a fixed state of revulsion and malice can easily occur. “It is very difficult to ask any person to love that which they find revulsive.” The Church that affirms loving sex helps both gay and straight, young and old.
(8) There was much talk about the Genesis creation story of Adam and Eve. “This is not just political correctness. The theology is in error.” “The Adam story is easy for me as long as I remember that the Hebrew word for Adam simply means human.” “It didn’t even occur to me, I am ashamed to admit, that Wes’s Adam-Eve metaphor was exclusive and could offend a gay person.” “Wes is a saint. Even heterosaints can be offensive.” It is also noteworthy that the Genesis story is biologically incorrect. “We have known for several decades now that the basic sexual template is female, not male. In utero, a male is nothing more than a female with some testosterone added.”
(9) “Jesus loves everyone, even gays” is not good enough. The Church has to do more than “love” the gays “like we should love lepers and tax collectors.” It must confront the sin of gay repudiation.
(10) The Church should approach the matter of gayness and sexuality not as a “modern issue” but as a “millennial struggle.” The “enormity of the doom and possibility” of finding “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” is a profound spiritual struggle as well as a sensual challenge.
(11) “I remember when I gave up my homoshyness. Reverend ____ was musing about how nice it was that she had just seen two men holding hands on the Mall on a lovely Spring day. ‘They seemed to be in love,’ she said. ‘Yeah, that is nice. Why hadn’t I thought of that?'”
(12) “I’m a member of PFLAG(1) and I’m spreading the Gospel. I have a gay daughter and a straight daughter and they are both blessings . . . but I need more tools, more language, more ideas to help me get the message out.”
1. PFLAG = Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays