Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Moving Testimony

A lively discussion is underway at Stand Firm in Faith over fears that gay activists, self-styled "Rainbow Warriors" may seek to disrupt the Easter Eucharist of an Episcopal parish wearing rainbow sashes or other insignia.

Fr Matt Kennedy, who began the discussion on the assumption that his parish might be the target, has the following to say: "The display represents an attempt to abuse the Lord's table for political gain and public notoriety. If permitted it will cause great injury to their own souls and to the Body of Christ. As ordained ministers of the gospel and pastors of a flock it is, in my opinion, our duty to prevent this abuse."

In it, he suggests what he considers as "perhaps the best way of handling such an eventuality both for those enslaved by the sin of homosexual behavior and those who enable their enslavement, not to mention the congregation at large."

What Fr Kennedy says has raised a host of questions on the nature of sin and of redemption, on the nature of the Blessed Sacrament and how it is to be administered and received and on pastoral ministry. I commend the thread to you, particularly to those of you who are clergy.

But what I want to focus on here is the testimony of a man who identifies himself by the monicker Episcopalienated, which was posted as a comment on Fr Kennedy's thread about "Rainbow Warriors." He is a homosexual who has embraced Christ and the Church's teaching on the sinfulness of sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and a woman.

I asked Episcopalienated for permission to post his testimony on The Continuum, and he has most graciously given that permission. It is a truly moving and inspirational witness to the power of faith and of spiritual discipline.

Before I share it, though, I want to say that I asked his permission with a bit of trepidation. I feared for some uncertain reason that he might decline because this blog represents the continuing movement and that he might not be inclined to feel sympathy towards us.

So first, I publish his permission.

Albion, you are certainly free to post my testimony on your blog and I am honored by your request. I did check out your website and initially got your version of APA (Anglican Parishes Association) mixed up with the Anglican Province of America. I mention that because one of their parishes is just down the road from me. I have never visited there and I must confess that I have always been a bit leery of “continuers,” but perhaps that is an irrational prejudice on my part which I need to overcome.

As you read what Episcopalienated has to say, I ask all of you who are continuers to ask yourself that question: Is his prejudice an irrational one?

Here is what he says:

Before I became a Christian, I understood perfectly well that there was one Biblical standard for human sexuality: that of lifelong, faithful, heterosexual monogamy. No exceptions! As a sexually active gay male, that was one of the best reasons I had for not wanting to be one (a Christian, that is). The Church was honest with me, and I was more than happy to return the favor.

After my conversion to Christ, my understanding remained fully intact and I knew what was expected of me. In order to be faithful to Our Lord and the demands of the Christian faith, active participation in a gay lifestyle had to go, and so it did. I have been practicing sexual abstinence for fifteen years now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It may seem strange to many, but I have actually come to find it quite liberating.

Having said that, let me add that I still don’t have a “straight” bone in my body. Although I have participated, to my tremendous benefit, in so-called “ex gay” ministries and counseling, I never pursued reparative therapy or imagined that becoming a heterosexual was something that God had in mind for my life. To be sure, celibacy isn’t for everyone, and I am very happy for those who have gone on to achieve the necessary healing in their lives which has enabled them to become Christian husbands and fathers (and yes, God be praised, that does happen!), but I do not envy them, or feel particularly deficient because I am unable to follow their example. I have developed a real sense that God is calling upon me to be faithful at all times, but not necessarily “successful,” where heterosexuality in itself is the norm by which such success is measured.

Perhaps I am one of those people who discovered, upon becoming “a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven,” that this was simply a vocation to which God would have eventually called me in any case, regardless of my sexual orientation. As scripture says, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Amen! I may never know the tremendous joy, or bear the awesome responsibility, of being a husband or a father, but I do know what it would mean if I abandoned my commitment to chastity and returned to active involvement in a homosexual lifestyle, “monogamously partnered” or otherwise: the effective renunciation of my faith in Christ and a willing involvement in mortal sin. It would be both spiritually and intellectually dishonest for me to pretend otherwise.

God loves us all very much, exactly as we are, and the Christian life is one of joy, celebration, and fulfillment. But I think the call to conversion is also an invitation to place ourselves, our very lives, between the hammer and the anvil as God undertakes the serious business of forging us into new creatures in Christ, to the extent that we will allow Him to do so. There is a real sense in which we simply must “count the cost” of discipleship if we are to become Christians at all. (And I have tremendous respect for the honest pagan who says, “No, I simply cannot believe any of this, and I am not prepared to live this way.” Such persons can be safely entrusted to the “Hound of Heaven.” I am confident that He too appreciates their honesty, and manages to catch up with quite a few of them!) We are always free to decide for ourselves that the cost is too great, but we are never free to decide on our own just what that cost is going to be. Ultimately, we must accept it upon God’s terms or not at all. He seems to want all of us, all that we are, and all that we have, and, unless we turn Him away, He simply will not settle for anything less. Our sexuality doesn’t change a thing.

As I struggle with temptation, and against any residual tendencies towards despair and resignation (and I do again and again), I am always drawn to the words of St. Peter to Our Lord: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” To whom else, indeed? And so for me, the journey of faith, and the challenge of faithfulness, continues.

5 comments:

poetreader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
poetreader said...

Wish I'd said that! And sooner or later, I probably will.

Seriously, aside from details (some significant), Episcopalienated's testimony could be mine. I, too, am a male whose primary attraction is toward my own sex. I, too, lived for a time as an active part of the gay 'community'. I, too, was raised on sound Christian standards of sexual morality and chose to depart from them. Unlike him, I tried hard to justify my 'lifestyle' by revising my understanding of Christianity. To this day I could give the arguments of Episcopal gay activists as well as they themselves do - but those arguments are wrong and self-serving. I came, finally, to reject them. Scripture makes room for but one active sexuality, that of husband and wife in lawful marriage. Unlike him, I did marry. We were together until her death after 14 years. Like him, I am now determinedly celiebate, and glad to be so.

Two messages come from all this:
1/ Temptation is not sin unless it be embraced.
2/ Celibacy is a God-ordained good, not, as is so often declared, a terrible deprivation.

ed

PS. Albion, how did you get in touch with him? I couldn't find any way on that site to do so, and would welcome the chance to correspond with him.

Albion Land said...

Ed,

I just sent a comment on both threads, and eventually he replied. I do not know his name, nor how to contact him. You might try to do the same as I did, as he is continuing to follow those threads. There is also the possibility that he may follow this thread.

D Bunker said...

Thank you, Albion, and Episcopalienated, for sharing this post. It was a welcome message in this time which seems obsessed with disorder of all sorts. If readers are looking for a small book to read and share, may I suggest Thomas Dubay's "And You Are Christ's..."? It explores the charism of chastity in its positive fullness.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

We see in this testimony the difference between tolerance and charity. Only one of these two is a virtue, and it is not the former.