Church and Sexuality
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 26, 2008
When I was growing up in Tacarigua, Gilbert Jessop, the priest of the St. Mary's Anglican Church, employed David, a homosexual servant, who was cook, maid, chief bottle washer and the master of his house. Rev. Jessop, the son of the famous English cricketer of the same name, was a bachelor and so David directed the daily routine of his house. Most of the young men in the district liked the arrangement because it gave us free reins to the pastorate which Rev. Jessop turned it into a mini–club house. Rev. Jessop was a master at table tennis–no one ever beat him in a game–and an efficient cricketer. He was the first person I ever saw play the game golf which he did on the Orange Grove savannah.
These memories come back to me as I read about the controversy overtaking the Anglican Church and the possibility that an act of homosexuality may lead to a third schism in the Christian Church and spilt the Anglican Church in two. In this context, it is well to remember that it was the in ability of a king to have full rein of his sexuality that spilt the Holy Apostolic Church and led to the formation of the Anglican Church.
The first incarnation of the Christian Church took place in the 4th century CE when the Jesus cult was formalized into a religion as Constantine, the Roman emperor, led the way in making the Romans, who were pagans at the time, to accept Christ as their savior. In accepting the emperor the young church had to compromise with the Romans and their celebration of the sexual. It allowed the Romans to indulge in their bacchanal even as they accepted the rituals and dogma of the Christian Church. This arrangement led to two days of carnival (the celebration of the flesh) in which one gave vent to the flesh (that is, the sexual dimension of one's being) and then renounced the devil and all his works on Ash Wednesday.
The second incarnation came in the 16th century when the Pope refused to allow Henry V111 to marry Catherine of Aragon. Rather than accept this position Henry simply started his own Church–the Anglican Church–where he could give free play to his sexual and nationalistic tendencies.
The schism between the two factions of the Church occurred because a divorced man could not marry the person he loved and still stay in the church. Therefore, he formed his own church; constructed his own bible, the King James Bible, and issued his own set of rules that are formalized in the Book of Common Prayer. Later, the theologians of the English Reformation came to believe they were more faithful to the teachings of the Holy Bible than those who followed the Pope.
Today, the Church is threatened with a further schism that revolves around the issue of homosexuality; the ordination of a homosexual bishop; and whether there is any scriptural prescription for such behavior in the Bible. The Anglican prelates in the United States and Canada support this position whereas the prelates of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin American see the practice of homosexuality within the Church as a violation of the Church's doctrine.
From June 22 to June 29 prelates who believe that homosexuality is a sin came together in Jerusalem as the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) to declare their independence from the Church of England and to consider how best to form their own church. They are not prepared to be party of any movement that seeks to legitimize homosexuality or same sex unions within the church.
Gafcom is prepared to accept the resolution passed by the Lambert Conference of 1998 where the Anglican bishops say homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture" and homosexuals should not be consecrated. That does not seem to be enough. Gafcom believes that "after five centuries, a new folk in the road is appearing." Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney Australia observed: "Gafcon is a movement, not just a convention, and I imagine that the present Gafcon leadership will be the initial leadership of any movement that emerges."
In August, the Lambert Conference–one of the four instruments of Communion in the Anglican Church–will meet in London to iron out its differences. With 80 million members, the Anglican Church remains the third largest affiliation of Christian churches in the world. Hopefully, Anglicans (of which I am one) will be able to work out their differences.
Yet, as I contemplate their dilemma, it reminds me that sex is a powerful aphrodisiac. It divides families; it divides friends; it even divides churches; whether they are in the bedroom; the board room or the church house.
We, in Tacarigua, got it right. We cared little whether Rev. Jessop was a homosexual or not. He cared for our village and we accepted him. His personal life was his and we continued to praise our God. Maybe God intends that we live out our sexuality as we see fit since it is He who conferred this wondrous blessing on us.
Professor Cudjoe's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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