Friday 24 January 2020

My good conscience is my guide on my spirituality and sexuality

In church for service
The last church service I attended was two Sundays ago at The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr (St George’s Cathedral) in Cape Town, just a 10-minute brisk walk from our hotel.
My partner and I were out the night before, but as it was our last weekend together, we were determined to attend church that morning. I got up first and to get Brian out of bed I had to sprinkle water on his face, I eventually succeeded.
We left our hotel dressed in matching jackets and just missed the processional hymn. We settled in our seats and joined the sung eucharist of the 1st Sunday after Epiphany.
Sharing our spirituality
Brian is the first partner I have had with whom I have been able to freely express my spirituality and this in the Church of England, the history of its inception is somewhat irrelevant to the scheme of things, because whilst the church appears to attempt to conform to conservative values, it has to exist in contemporary times and there is much adaptation going on, despite the public pronouncements.
We chose St. George’s Cathedral because it has a history of tolerance, acceptance, and the subversive, especially during the Apartheid era. One of the stained-glass windows has a depiction of the Garden of Eden with a black Adam, from the mid-1960s.
A traditional welcome
It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cape Town who is also the Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa occupied once by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu from 1986 to 1996. He has always been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and the church in its outreach beyond the tenure of this world-renowned and well-respected archbishop continues to invite all people to fellowship and take communion in the congregation of the blessed.
It is interesting that my home church in Manchester does not appear to be as traditional as the one in Cape Town, canticles, incense and Latin feature a lot in the service. There are times when I almost feel lost in what is going on. In Cape Town, the clergy conducts most of the service in English, but the readings will be done in isiXhosa and Afrikaans along with the Eucharistic and Communion prayers.
Bearing gifts to all
It makes for an inclusive and representative church and it is impossible that we have not been noticed since we began attending the church since Easter 2019. That last Sunday, as the offering was being taken, we were approached by the ushers to help take the communion bread and wine to the altar.
Confused as we were, we were well instructed and walked the full length of the church down the aisle just behind the incense bearer to the altar where we presented the gifts, bowed to the clergy and then stood aside for the gifts to be blessed before we walked back to our seats.
The surprise, the amazement, the suddenness of being randomly chosen to serve in the church, only for a moment meant so much to us. Whilst not reading a vindication of our relationship to it, at the very least, when Brian and I get married, we would indeed seek to be blessed at the St George’s Cathedral.
On the matter of who we are
On the issue of the pastoral guidance [PDF] issued by the Anglican Church regarding abstinence from sex in gay or straight civil partnerships, it is a matter of conscience for me. That they have adopted the directive that sex outside marriage “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings” is understandable as it helps avoid the straining schism in the church between traditionalists and modernists, I do not intend for it to be dogma, instruction or commandment. [The Guardian]
I am as a human being and sexual being, I find expression for it in the relationship that best helps me thrive as a human being. I am a gay man, I am in love with another man, our relationship is predicated on more than just sex, it is a matter of the heart, of the soul and of the body, the moments shared, the love we have for each other that is not available to another, just between us. I do not also intend to return to an early time in my life where who I was consumed me with guilt and self-loathing, for what I could neither change nor deny.
In my good conscience
Maybe some people are called to abstinence and others to celibacy, it is a gift for which not everyone is equipped to observe without fallibility. The pastoral guidance seeks to impose the impossible about human expression and humanity in the fulfilment of a loving relationship, something everyone who is of age should be able to enjoy with impediment when in a committed relationship.
I will neither deny my sexuality nor my spirituality, both are a complete declaration of who I am, what I am, how I exist and where I belong. Jesus Christ went to the cross for all, not for the few. If I in my good conscience before God and man is not convicted of wrong in the person that I am, I approach the altar with humility and service, partake in the Communion and fulfil the calling on my life.
In that, I am satisfied, it is guidance rather than diktat. We live at peace with each other and get called suddenly to serve in the body of Christ. Shalom!

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