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Only by embracing all of His works can we truly celebrate God's creation

By Stephen Crabbe - posted Tuesday, 12 August 2003

The stoush raging about homosexuality within the Anglican Church is a manifestation of a number of factors underlying global conflicts of our time, both secular and religious. Among them are fear of difference, refusal to accept facts that threaten one's own prejudice, and the over-valuing of the written word.

Recent articles in On Line Opinion by Dr Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and Roger Magnusson have each dealt in their way with the issue. Jensen, widely seen as the peak representative of one side, seeks to promote the view both within the Church and outside it that homosexual practice is morally wrong. Magnusson asserts that society must protect itself from Jensen's morality while respecting human dignity and human diversity.

Dr Jensen writes that the Anglican debate "boils down essentially to the question of authority Christians give to Scripture, and the way they read it". To him the Bible is the sole repository of the irrefutable concepts, rules and values that we need in our civilisation. He espouses "the plain meaning and reading of the Scripture and the historic understanding of the Christian church".


Jensen's literal approach to scriptural reading, as Magnusson points out, invites charges of extremely selective quoting and internal contradiction. We also need to bear in mind that the biblical authors wrote within the cognitive framework of cultures radically different from our own. No matter how authentic their spiritual experiences, as soon as people try to communicate them to others they must interpret through the understanding of their time.

The people of the biblical stories had many customs and morals that we today find repugnant and concepts that we find incorrect. In the case of homosexuality, they would stare in bewilderment at the scientific evidence now available to show that hormonal factors in the uterine stage cause great variation in the brain structures of individuals and that this affects sexual orientation. In time we may even find that there is also a genetic influence.

Homosexuality is thus the person's being. It is not a choice. It is not a "lifestyle", as a representative of Dr Jensen's Sydney diocese described it on ABC-TV News (4/7/03). It is not something willed by the person, and nor is it a disorder.

"Doubtless many things about modernity are different from antiquity," writes Dr Jensen, "but our sexual make-up and sexual drive are not among those differences." Dead right! It is our understanding of our sexual make-up and our sexual drive that has changed.

In the light of all this readily accessible knowledge, for priests and church-leaders of the second millennium to be mouthing the same homophobic absurdities as people of two thousand years ago or more is simply unacceptable. Like human consciousness, religion must evolve. Scripture demands to be seen in the light of new understanding. And perhaps this brings us to another component of the issue: the place of the written word in human life.

While I deplore the poor grasp of written language among many Australians, at the same time I believe we need a better appreciation of spoken language and sound generally as a cognitive medium. Increasing the time we spend in public talking and listening would help enormously to deepen understanding among Australians and to open doors to our interior life, both individually and collectively. Written language tends to be much more defensive.


More effective use of aural experience - including silence - could make much of our church worship far more valuable for spiritual development. Consider, for example, a point made by priest Matthew Fox. He is a theologian whose books have had a profound influence on the beliefs and practices of very many people inside and outside of organised religion.

"I don't think you can have worship without drumming," he says. "That's why worship is so boring in the West. We're putting people to sleep in most religious services today. Why is drumming so powerful? Why do all native peoples have drumming? … [It] is the heartbeat of our mother whom we were with for nine months, but it's also the heartbeat of mother earth."

Fox is a leader in the development of Creation Spirituality which aims to draw on the mystical tradition in Christianity - a resource too often hidden away by the churches. He advocates seeking God in nature, through dreams and imagination, through creative arts, through personal relationships and community healing and other activities, rather than only through the Bible. One of the historical exemplars he holds up is Thomas Aquinas, the medieval saint and theologian, who wrote that God's Word is found in two volumes: Holy Scripture and the Book of Nature.

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About the Author

Stephen Crabbe is a teacher, writer, musician and practising member of the Anglican Church. He has had many years of active involvement in community and political issues.

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