The document Human Sexuality and the ‘Same Sex Marriage’ Debate, A report of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission, October 2014 does not make any distinction between promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction insofar as Biblical denunciation of both activities. The document alludes to how both promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction are sinful in that they both draw on eroticism – which is seen to be played out either as physical behaviour or as lust. The document does however make a helpful distinction between same-sex orientation and same-sex sensual activity. The distinction turns on how one may be same-sex orientated yet same-sex sensually inactive. This distinction arises as same-sex orientation does not have an active component from which one would draw a conclusion in sin.
To analyse the document’s consideration of the same-sex orientation and same-sex sensual activity I considered a single chapter in depth. That chapter; “Chapter Five - Ministering to Those Who Experience Same-sex Attraction” is the final chapter of the document. The analysis took the form of considering how both the words “orientation” and “attraction” are used within the document. I have attempted to succinctly record the usage of “orientation” and “attraction”. The added comments are (indicated thus). It has been helpful to group consideration of the words “desire” and “inclination” with consideration of the word “attraction”. The document does not make any meaningful distinction between “attraction”, “desire” or “inclination”. Nor does the document discern meaningfully between “attraction” and “lust”.
Analysis of two words
The word “Attraction” is used thirty-four times. The word “Orientation” is used eleven times. By word count alone one initially concludes that the Chapter is true to its heading. “Orientation” is considered first as its occurrence is in the minority:
“(O)rientation”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex orientation”, is used such:
- That O is multi-dimensional (ergo, there is no support for an argument solely in nature or “born that way”)
- That regardless of causation some persons nonetheless adopt a deep-seated O
- That while it is claimed impossible and cruel for O to be influenced to change, it is not impossible for O to change
- That there is an imperative in ministering to people to bring their conversion to Christ, and growth in Christ, regardless of O.
- That O can unhelpfully fused with self-identity.
- That the world (the example given is a game show) can often identify people by their O
- It is important to challenge the view that it is wrong to encourage a same-sex attracted believer to change their O, and that it is important to challenge the belief that change is impossible.
- O is part of the brokenness of our disordered world (it is not according to nature) so that reorientation is clearly the ideal.
- It is vital that the church help those dealing with same-sex attraction understand that O is not the core of their self-identity
- Churches need to work hard to rid themselves of unhelpful attitudes towards O
“(A)ttraction”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex attraction”, is used such:
- The heading of the chapter (ergo, one is drawn to the priority of consideration of A, rather than O).
- To recognise that A and same-sex relationships are gaining more acceptance in society.
- To recognise the two fold challenge of standing up for the Bible’s view of sexuality and how to minister to persons who experience A.
- To pose three questions: 1) What are the reasons some people experience A?, 2) Secondly, is it possible for someone who experiences A to change? and 3) what is appropriate to expect of someone who continues to battle with A?
- That in light of current societal views and the complexity implied by the three questions many experience difficulties responding to those who present as experiencing A.
- That the chapter seeks to offer some clarification about the nature of A, and in the light of that to offer suggestions as to how we as churches might seek to care for those who experience it.
- That understanding how and why people develop A is complex.
- That genetic, hormonal and environmental factors may all play a role in the development of same-sex desires or A in any given case. (ergo, there are two important points here i) identification of A interchangeably used with “desires”, and ii) an indication that elements other than nature may be at play).
- That genetic disposition towards A, as attributed from one or both parents, is quite low and not typical (ergo, there is little support for an argument in nature).
- While there is said to be a biological component to A, no clear link to a particular gene has been proven.
- Studies into environmental factors have not be definitive in identifying causation of A
- There is little consensus about whether A is unchangeable
- There is a spectrum and degree to A
- In seeking to help those who experience A, a number of factors need to be appreciated and addressed
- Those wrestling with A within the church may do so with great shame and secrecy
- It is important to assist those dealing with A to understand that O is not core of their self-identity.
- That the gay movement appeals to those who experience A to ‘come out’
- Christians who experience A need to understand that they have been washed clean and set free from guilt of their sins.
- That Christians can ‘live out’ unwanted A, without having to deny it, or be defined by it
- That persons who battle against A and resist homosexual behaviour need to be continually affirmed in their determination to be faithful and to suffer for the sake of the gospel. In the context of a Wesley Hill quote that is offered in the document this is a call for suppression of homerotic desires.
- There are a number of important steps, both attitudinal and practical, which church communities need to take in order to positively care for and effectively minister to those with A.
- Churches ought to be especially careful not to use offensive labels for homosexual people or pejorative speech that puts down those who experience A.
- The call to abstinence for those with A can be positioned in the wider valuing of chastity for all who are unmarried.
“(D)esire”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex desires”, is used such:
- D are viewed as “dishonourable passions” and homosexual behaviour regarded as both “shameless” and “contrary to nature” (Rom. 1:26). It is for this reason that it is explicitly condemned in Scripture.
- Like immoral heterosexual desire, and indeed all other sinful yearnings, D is one of the results of the fall and a symptom of a greater disease pervading all of humanity.
- D are not from God, and should therefore not be embraced, indulged or acted upon
“(I)nclination”, usually as part of the phrase “same-sex inclinations”, is used such:
- I does not give permission to engage in behaviour that goes against God’s word.
Consequently, the document specifically identifies same-sex attraction as sin. The following are all active or doing words: “Attraction”, “Inclination”, “Desire” and “Lust” (lust is used singularly in the whole document within Wesley Hill’s quotation). In respect to same-sex; “Attraction”, “Inclination”, “Desire” and “Lust”, can be used interchangeably.
That which one can do; which one enjoys actively, can be subject of one’s suppression.
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:19-24, NIV
The document Human Sexuality and the ‘Same Sex Marriage’ Debate, A report of the Sydney Diocesan Doctrine Commission, October 2014 therefore does not make any distinction between promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction. Both are Biblically denunciated. The document does however make a distinction between both of promiscuous homosexual practice and same-sex attraction & same-sex orientation.