Homosexuality and the Church: The Agenda of Unity in Christ
by Kathy Kwon
These days, I wonder about the possibility of certain theological disagreements in and of themselves being more “right” than any of their comprising opposing theological positions.
In other words, is theological disagreement always primarily about defending propositional truths? Or is it—more often than we recognize—an opportunity for the church to give glory to God more splendidly than it ever could in a unilaterally opinioned institution?
A loaded question indeed. Yet more and more I am convinced that the majority of our disagreements within the church are to a much greater degree about the body of many parts of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 than about the need to chop off a hand or gouge out an eye from the Sermon on the Mount.
We need to need one another for the sake of the world.
As someone who’s been on a personal journey with my own sexuality as well as a theological journey with marriage and same-sex relationships, I’ve encountered many opportunities for a watching world to witness the fullness of Christ through “effort[s] to keep the unity of the Spirit”. Sadly, more so than not, I’ve seen such opportunities either ignored or abused. Ironically, it would seem the firmer people desire to stick their heels into the ground on any number of positions on marriage, the more leverage they lose on the grounds of Trinitarian love—by diluting the Gospel, moralizing it, or other such idolatries.
I thus find myself in a profoundly uncomfortable position in my life. I have come to a more “liberal” stance on same-sex relationships by way of a theological journey that I now wish to apply to a ThM thesis on church unity. Though I have seldom admitted it to myself, let alone to others, I often feel tempted to abandon my post and follow an easier route.
However, every time I have felt tempted to coalesce back into a more “acceptable” stream on marriage over the last year, I’ve been called back into the tension. I have struggled immensely with why God has called me into a place so lonely, alienating, and vulnerable to constant rejection, judgment, and criticism.
Then two weeks ago, I took part in an ecumenical dialogue on sexuality and the church. The dialogue consisted of 12 individuals ranging the gamut of conservative to liberal theological persuasions on marriage; of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and evangelical traditions; of ages; of backgrounds—you name it. What held us together? Our profound commitment to Christian faith, Scripture, and the Gospel of Christ, and our desire to see the church healed and, itself, transformed into a healer of brokenness from unloving words, deeds, silence, and inaction around disagreements on sexuality.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…”
Never before have I seen such an instant binding by the Spirit of God of people so differing in theological persuasions, or such commitment to, not simply unity of propositional thought, but unity in Christ.
Since this dialogue, I’ve begun to consider with greater conviction that “conservative” and “liberal” are merely descriptors for one’s socio-political leanings that nevertheless say very little about one’s devotedness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God. Since the dialogue, I can honestly say that I feel a deeper affinity to, for instance, a Presbyterian elder—one with a clear conservative view on marriage and women in leadership, yet an equally vehement and outspoken opposition to the wide array of subtle and overt mistreatments of LGBTQ people within and outside the church in the strong name of Jesus—than I do many folks with similar stances on marriage to my own.
And there is a sacramentality to the beauty of the work of the Holy Spirit among brothers and sisters who are forced to lean all the more deeply into “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.”
I will end with Ephesians 4:1-6 as a challenge to all who hope to stand by propositional truths that seemingly contradict those of one’s brothers and sisters in Christ:
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Kathy Kwon is an M.Div. alum of Regent College in Vancouver, BC, where she studied historical theologies of the moral significance of sexual difference. She enjoys running around in circles, singing praises to the Lord, riding motorcycles, and disguising her cynicism as “idealism” and “realism.” She blogs at BonnesConneries.