Sex, Humility, and Awe (1997)

It’s “sexual orientation” day in seminary. I’m cranky even though nobody did anything wrong. I’m grateful for professors who push to talk about hard things. I’m just tired since I’ve been “on the record” for so long. This is what I wrote in a 1997 issue of The Other Side magazine.

God created us as sexual beings. As God-given gifts, our sexualities should be approached with humility and awe.

 We find Scripture to be ambiguous on homosexuality. Through cultural assumptions, selected passages are often mistranslated, misunderstood, and misused as weapons of abuse and condemnation.

 Marriage is not a synonym for procreation, but a model for embodied companionship and covenant. We believe same-gender relationships should be affirmed, upheld, and supported by the Christian community just as heterosexual relationships are.

 In June 1978, after a year of staff study and discernment, The Other Side published its first issue addressing homosexuality. “The Gay Person’s Lonely Search for Answers” offered a cautious affirmation of gay and lesbian Christians. Its publication was met with a deluge of subscription cancellations and angry mail. The magazine’s founders broke all ties with the organization. Advertisers withdrew.

 In the decades since then, The Other Side has given increasing voice to the experience and insights of gay and lesbian Christians. We’ve published Christians and Homosexuality: Dancing Toward the Light, (now in its fifth printing) — a groundbreaking study resource of biblical, ethical, and personal reflections. One concrete organizational expression of our commitments is full benefits for covenanted partners of our gay and lesbian staff and their families.

 As a six-year old in 1978, I certainly could not have understood the ramifications of The Other Side‘s prophetic stand for my life. But some fifteen years later, as a reader, I found in it support when I was still filled with fear. Later, as a new staff member, I found a place to stand.

The Other Side stood for me when I was too vulnerable to speak for myself. And now that I am finding my own voice, it stands with me. My questions are sometimes different than those of my heterosexual coworkers, but we will continue to listen and be challenged by one another as we find ways to stand together with integrity.

This same challenge faced the early church. The assertion that God’s covenant was for Gentiles as well as Jews was controversial and divisive in the fledgling Jewish-Christian community (Gal. 1-2). But visions from God and personal encounters with those deemed “unclean” (Acts 8-11) led early believers to preach a radically inclusive gospel — despite subsequent persecution and struggle.

Debate about “homosexuality” currently rages in our churches. Its intensity testifies that issues surrounding human sexuality touch the most fundamental assumptions of our lives together, affecting how we think and feel about ourselves and the world.

Each of us must open ourselves to the Spirit and allow our assumptions to be tested in an ongoing way. Together, we can wrestle with what it means to be sexual beings created in the image of God — a God who is both passionate and embodied.

Let us pray for Wisdom to guide and comfort us on our journey together.

–Chris Paige, Assistant Publisher

From The Other Side Online, © 1997 The Other Side, May-Jun 1996, Vol. 32, No. 3.

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