More than that, he wrote to the Church of England Newspaper to make his growing understanding of faith and sexuality public. His letter holds firmly to the need for salvation whilst challenging a traditional view of sexuality. It has prompted a significant response, and there is a link to AE’s letter of support at the bottom:
In the response to Tony Cullingford’s letter about being on the roundabout concerning fidelity to Scripture as opposed to our natural desire to be compassionate and accepting of gay and lesbian people – I have also been on that roundabout.
I dislike Liberal Christianity’s tendency to water down the experience of the Holy Spirit, the uniqueness of Christ as the fullest revelation of God , the work of the atonement freeing us from the curse of sin and death, the gifts and fullness of the Holy Spirit, and so on, as without these things Christianity quickly becomes something we do in our own strength, which robs it of its spiritual power. Songs of salvation of a loving God who rescues us from our own sinfulness and brings us into a personal relationship with Him must be sung in churches up and down the land and the gospel message must be proclaimed loud and clear that Christ died to set us free and rose from the dead to give us new life.
At the same time, whenever I meet a committed gay or lesbian couple I cannot help thinking that they often show far more fruit of the Spirit than many evangelicals show. Practical pastoral experience comes up against my past evangelical background which sees every verse of scripture as authoritative and binding.
These two parts of me, my evangelical convictions, and my pastoral experience of gay and lesbian people, have been in conflict with each other for several years and it is like Tony’s, a deeply personal journey, and has been, and still is occasionally, a painful and bewildering roundabout.
However, a view has slowly begun to emerge that a converted gay or lesbian couple, living faithfully together, is a far cry from the sort of flagrant sexual promiscuity that St Paul is thinking about in Romans 1. The language he uses does indeed describe sexual passion of a self-centred and controlling, lustful nature – very different from the loving, self-giving relationships I have encountered here in Whitstable.
I also believe that the church has a mission to faithfully enable gay and lesbian and transgender people to come to Christ and be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, just as much as heterosexual people. Pulling up the drawbridge, as so many churches do, cannot lead to this experience of coming to faith in Christ. Conversion, I know from speaking to gay and lesbian people, does not change sexuality apart from in one or two very rare cases which cannot be seen as normative. So providing we preach the clear gospel , and do not water down the heart of our Christian theology, I am willing to warmly embrace gay and lesbian relationships in their fullness, including sexual activity within that covenanted relationship. After all, I am convinced sexuality is not a choice that gay and lesbian people make, but is part and parcel of who they are – and a very precious part at that which should be celebrated.
However, the minute we use a liberal reading of sexuality in scripture to start backsliding into liberal relativism in other areas, then we open a minefield where so much of the work of salvation is undermined. Evangelicals are therefore right to be wary of undermining the authority of scripture in a wider sense. However, an intelligent reading of scripture will see that St Paul was given insight into precious pearls, but he was not God incarnate and neither was he perfect or right about everything.
Rev Simon Tillotson
Click below for our letter of support – published 29th January 2012