The second session of the morning was led by Paul Brown and was on homosexuality. It was one of the best presentations I have ever heard. The message is worth getting hold of. He began with three propositions.
1. Homosexuality acts are sinful and deserve God's judgement
2. God is willing to have mercy on all who repent and believe no matter how wicked they are
3. Christianity is not a psychotherapy that offers an instantaneous or easy cure to every problem
he then expounded these briefly.
1. It is the act that is sinful. The act is serious sin as is clear from Leviticus. Such acts are also against the God given and natural order. Such sinful behaviour deserves God's judgement even though this is often denied today.
2. We believe there is mercy but sometimes our attitude is not in line with this when it comes to homosexuality. There is a need for sensitivity.
3. We tend to assume a change of sexual orientation is easy. It often is not. The gospel calls us in some ways to a harder existence than that outside Christ. He quoted from an article by Betty Vivian to show how hard it can be to live (see here).
He then went on to talk about homosexuality in the UK today. How many are there? Is it 5% or 6%? The latter figure would mean 3.6 million!. The actual figures for lifetime homosexual feeling are much lower. Civil partnerships have been taken up only a small percentage of the undoubtedly low figures. Candidates for same sex marriage would no doubt be even smaller.
He then went on to talk authoritatively of the high levels of mental disorder that have been found among homosexuals. This is usually put down to society's disapproval but could well be due to damaging childhood experiences that have led in that direction.
He also spoke of change. He mentioned a recent reference to being post-heterosexual (see here). If there can be such a thing why not post-homosexuals? We cannot assume such a change will be easy. We are not all called to be married though celibacy is necessary outside marriage, which is not easy for some whether they are homosexual or not.
There were some helpful things on sin and its power to disorientate. At the heart of sin is a rejection of God's authority. Like Eve, however, part of the problem too is how attractive we find sin. Other notes struck were the need for humility in preaching, the need to see sin as the real problem, and the fact that we are all disabled in one way or another due to sin.
He helpfully rejected the Gay community/heterosexual community distinction, warning that it is nowhere near so simple. A whole variety of sexual perversions and tastes exist. He quoted Rosaria Butterfield's striking statement too "I believe that the Lord is more grieved by the sins of my current life than by my past life as a lesbian" and remarked on the extraordinary survival capacity that sin seems to have.
His final remarks noted how difficult homosexuals are to reach. However, we evangelicals are well able to sympathise with their sense of marginalisation. There ought to be some prepared to engage with them as individuals. In counselling such people we need to know our limitations. Some are converted and we need to do all we can to help such in positive ways.