Sexuality

Christian understandings of sexuality are today being challenged in a number of different ways, and in particular, the issues around homosexuality can be divisive in the church. We who gather in the name of Jesus, need to discern prayerfully how to engage in the discussions, both in the church and in society. Especially from the perspective of mission, we need to decide how to live out our faith in the context of a rapidly changing social environment. This is not just an academic matter, or a question of ‘what do I believe?’ As communities of believers, we need to work out how to follow Jesus in our daily living and loving of others.

We know that people in the churches disagree strongly about these issues, and we have already seen some traumatic outcomes. Instead of rushing to the conventional adversarial positions, how can we model God’s abundant hospitality, and show Christ-like love, in the context of robust debate? Can we show the world how we engage in loving disagreement?

To begin with, there are a number of separate issues to consider. We need to reflect on the significance of sexual orientation, the nature of church membership, requirements for leadership, and the meaning of marriage both inside and outside the church. Given the history of the church’s failings on matters of sexuality generally, we need to be as clear and wise as possible when communicating a public position. These issues also have a missional dimension that we cannot avoid. If we exist to advance the Kingdom of God, we have to work out how we do that in our own context.

Over the next year, the BUV will endeavour to encourage and resource some open, loving, respectful conversations around these issues. Historically, Baptists have stressed the authority of the Bible as our guide in matters of belief and behaviour, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and we continue to uphold the principles of local church autonomy. At least in the first instance, it is in the local church setting that we need to wrestle with these issues.

This is, of course, not the first time we have discussed issues of sexuality:

  • Baptists in Victoria discussed issues around the question of homosexuality and ordination when this was raised in the State of the Union address at 1995 Annual Assembly.
  • The BUV “Homosexuality and Ordination Task Force Report” of 1997 acknowledged the challenging and potentially divisive nature of the issues, and encouraged a new sensitivity to pastoral issues and hospitality, while recommending that practising homosexual persons not be ordained.
  • A 1997 Baptist Union of Victoria Assembly Resolution determined ‘That the Baptist Union of Victoria will not ordain persons who engage in homosexual practices’.
  • In 2011 the Australian Baptist Ministries National Council defined marriage as being “the union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” consistent with current Australian Commonwealth Marriage Act (2004). Baptist Ministers are required to conduct marriages in accordance with the 2004 Australian Commonwealth Marriage Act and 2011 Australian Baptist Marriage Rites. This arrangement would need to be reviewed should marriage laws be changed in the future.

The BUV continues to receive correspondence and pressure to articulate a clear ‘Baptist’ position on issues of homosexual practice, membership of churches, and same sex marriage. But people in our churches hold very different views on these matters, in good faith. A top-down approach would be pre-emptive and ultimately unhelpful.

The BUV’s intent is to empower leaders to journey with their people into these discussions. Through the resources and opportunities provided, we want to help facilitate discussion and discernment within the church, characterised by great humility, tolerance and love. Instead of rushing to the familiar adversarial stances, we especially want people to consider missional and pastoral responses.

Through the Public Issues section of the BUV website, historical documentation of Baptist Resolutions, Reports and Papers will be provided, along with academic papers, media articles, reports, blogs and other resources to inform thinking and discussion from all perspectives. We will provide resources from progressive, conservative and ‘on the journey’ view-points, and links to other websites where relevant material can be found. Over the next year, the BUV intends to host some forums and opportunities for wider discussion amongst churches, where we model respectful dialogue and debate.

Among the questions we need to consider are these:

  • How do we give witness to our unity in Christ and our love for others, in the ways we embrace all kinds of people in our lives and congregations?
  • How do we practise hospitality in our churches and in the wider community?
  • How can individuals and churches contribute to these debates, without being caught up in adversarial arguments?
  • In what ways are issues around homosexuality affecting the church’s mission?
  • To what extent is marriage as performed in Australian Baptist churches a public rite, and to what extent is it specifically Christian? How do/will we respond to any changes in marriage laws?
  • Can we find a way of separating the legal, civil marriage processes from a Christian blessing of a marriage?
  • How can the state protect the freedom of religion while balancing secular rights?
  • What kind of prophetic voice can the Church offer the wider world?

Before you read any of the other resources on this site, this paper provides the broader context within which we hope Baptists will engage in these conversations:

Why Christians should disagree in love (88.2 kB)
Space for Grace in Sexuality Debate
Same-sex Marriage Two Perspectives – September 2015 TMA (22.5 kB)
Age Care Providers and LGBTI Discrimination Announcement 2013 (295.3 kB)
Churches of Christ Discussion Paper Reflections prompted by the marriage debate 2012 (84.84 kB)
Australian Prayer Network – How many homosexuals are there in Australia (43.42 kB)
What God has joined together – Baptist Edit
Mental Health Groups point finger at churches over gay aversion therapy
Beyond Stereotypes, Australian Evangelical Alliance.
Tony Campolo ‘Are evangelicals fixated on homosexuality’
Tony and Peggy Campolo, who have opposing views on homosexuality. See how they sustain their positions with integrity.
Tony Campolo – Jesus & Homosexuality
Glover, M ‘A Pastoral Response to the Homosexuality in the Church’, Oct. 2010.
What Some of You Were. Stories about Christians and Homosexuality, Liberty Christian Ministries
Five Uneasy Pieces, Adelaide, ATF Press, 2011.
Sexegesis: An Evangelical Response to Five Uneasy Pieces on Homosexuality
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/a-christian-perspective-on-homosexuality
Responding to Same Sex Marriage – practical resources
Why Marriage should be between a Man and a Woman

McLelland, H. ‘A Mother’s Journey with Jesus and her Lesbian Daughter,’ Zadok Perspectives 106, Autumn 2010.

Marin, A. Love is an Orientation: Elevating Conversations with the Gay Community, Downers Grove, IVP, 2009.

Robinson, G. God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage. Vintage Books, New York. 2012

Nettleton, N. ‘Supporting Same-Sex Marriage as a Heterosexual, Bible-Believing Baptist Pastor’, in Victor Marsh ed. Perspectives on Same -Sex Marriage Speak Now: Australian, cloudsofmagellan 2011.

Preece, G. & Edgar, B. (eds) Whose Homosexuality? Which Authority? Adelaide, ATF, 2005.

Esder, S. Being Gay Being Christian you can be both. Exisle Publishing, Australia. 2012.

McLaren, B. A New Kind of Christianity. Ten Questions that are transforming the faith. Hodder & Stoughton, London. 2011.

Langley, L. He’s My Daughter: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance. Indra Publishing, Victoria. 2002.

Rick Warren on Gay Marriage: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/videos-for-pastors/171748-rick-warren-on-gay-marriage-i-fear-god-s-disapproval-more-than-man-s.html

Australian Christian Lobby views on marriage equality http://www.acl.org.au/issues/family/

One Man One Woman That’s Marriage www.protectmarriage.org.nz

Evangelical Alliance, Ethos Public Theology: http://www.ea.org.au/Ethos/PublicTheology.aspx

John Mark Ministries http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/28630.htm

Christianity Today Leadership Journal http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2013/april-online-only/gay-marriage-and-christian-volatility.html

Christian Today: Benson R: Sex Stereotypes and scripture http://au.christiantoday.com/article/sex-stereotypes-and-scripture/6156.htm

Zadoc Institute for Christianity and Society: Gender & Sexuality Catalogue http://www.zadok.org.au/shop/shop8.shtml

http://timothykurek.com/ Cross in the Closet. A fundamental Christian man’s undercover journey

Encountering the LGBTI Community: a three-week training series. http://mattglover.com/?page_id=1225

Pornography

Covenant Eyes http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

Guilty Pleasure http://guiltypleasure.tv/

Lifekeys, Valliant Man program http://www.lifekeysonline.org/valiant-man

Every Guy’s Secret https://www.facebook.com/evergyguyssecret

The Conqueror Series provides principles and practical tools to conquer pornography and find freedom – www.conquerseries.com