What Do We Know About Sexuality? (GC2016 Newsletter May 13)

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Affirmation LogoWhen I was in high school, I talked my dad into letting our youth group leaders present the Methodist “Sex and the Whole Person” course. It was helpful, but I still wondered what the big deal was with sex and sexuality. Why did it cause such giggles, whispers, and fear?

When I was in college, I figured out more, but on my own time after classes and in Methodist Student Movement. Still questions. Why the silence? Why the hushed tones? Why the whispered gossip?

When I was in seminary, things began to get a bit clearer, thanks to a couple of classes and team-written papers. I got exposed to a wide range of people and sexuality ideas. A major paper helped me work out some of it using the thought of a major theologian and comparing and contrasting two church sex education programs for youth.

But in my first parish, things got more confusing, as I met the conflict between sex as reproduction only, and sexuality as a whole system of values, beliefs, and practices. And I met a man who wanted help with his homosexuality. More whispers, more fear, more hushed talk.

As I got to know first gay men, then lesbian women, then bisexual people, my horizons expanded. I learned about the continuum of sexual orientation: when persons are attracted to others and which sexes catch their eye.

I had noticed the inequality between men and women from my growing up in a family with 3 sisters. I had become a feminist man, and noticed the ways sexism imprisons men as well as women. I found the wonderful recording, “Free To Be You and Me.” I learned about the continuum between “masculine” and “feminine.”

As I have been involved more and more in the movements of Affirmation: United Methodists for LGBTQI Concerns and the Reconciling Ministries Network, I have noticed more things about sexuality: how integral it seems to be in our individual and cultural searches for identity and community, and how social and legal inequality impacts real human beings who might be
different from the norm.

But most importantly, I have learned about the six biological markers of human sexuality, and how each one is a continuum! Talk about complexity! There is a continuum of chromosomal sex, of external genital structures, of internal sexual organs, of gonadal tissue, and even of brain structure! I learned about, but even more importantly, met real human beings whose
experience of gender and sexuality didn’t fit the binary categories of “male” or “female” and all the cultural constructions which are built up around these two concepts.

And these persons were Christian believers, who shared a faith journey much like mine, with questions, discoveries, and ultimately commitments of faith that felt a lot like mine.

Along with all these discoveries about sexuality, I was discovering how large God is, that God could actually create a complexity like this, and call it good--even delight in it! That God could delight in the meaning that God’s human creatures were creating out of it, and delight in the relationship that God could have with each one in a Divine relationship!

Part of this discovery was that Jesus seemed quite OK with the diversity around him of human beings who were trying their best to make a success out of their lives, even when they were racked by “leprosy,” disabilities, and social exclusion. He reached out to each one and challenged them to go deeper in their relationship with God.

So why can’t our United Methodist Church embrace the complexity that God has created and is creating in human sexuality, and reach out like Jesus did to welcome, celebrate, and invite into a deeper relationship with the Divine?

Ben Roe is a former pastor, pastoral counselor and sexuality educator. In retirement, he devotes his time to advocacy with Affirmation, RMN, and the Western Methodist Justice Movement.

Affirmation offers 24-hour counseling during GC2016: call 612-425-5215

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