Comments: opinion

KH is really hitting his stride these days. I'm bisexual. I think at some point I decided girls were more fun but hey! 'de gustibus non est disputandum' (knowledge of that might help our church leaders, whose Latin is generally poor).

Posted by John at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 11:22am BST

Rowan Williams was totally brilliant in the lecture he gave last night on 'Soil and Soul' at Firle Place, near Lewes. How encouraging it is that we have someone of his vast intelligence within our Anglican ranks. I don't think we appreciated nor valued him nearly enough when he was + Rowan Cantuar. One final thought he imparted in his lecture on the environment was that the Church was quite good at assisting people to be "imaginative"! "And if not" that, then what are we here for?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 1:39pm BST

Thanks for putting up the link to Rowan Williams on Laudato Si. I've never been able to develop an appreciation for Williams' dense writing style. Now here is a guy for whom the appellation "scary smart" contains no guile.

Reading Williams is like suffering through the sorrowful mysteries of lent in hopes of arriving at the joyful mysteries of Easter. I waded through this article last week. Like the bishop of Rome, Williams has something to say worth considering-- something to say in his own right about theological reflection on the environmental crisis.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 3:56pm BST

Rowan's work on Teresa de Avila is very perceptive and helpful. I'd recommend anyone starting to explore Carmelite spirituality to study it, along with Ruth Burrows analysis of the Interior Castle, and Marcelle Auclair's lovely account of her life.

Rowan Williams has really authentic spiritual insights, and I personally value him more as a man of prayers and spirituality than as a man of letters.

I know the hurts and criticisms around his role as Archbishop of Canterbury, but I agree with Father David that it is a joy to have someone like Rowan in the continuing ranks of the Anglican communion.

I rate him even if I don't agree with all the events that he presided over or decisions he took. Notwithstanding disagreements, I listen to him, because he speaks from a lived spirituality and I've found his words helpful in my life.

Not least, what he has to say about vocation. That was pivotal for me in my understanding.

And so as not to sound sycophantic, yes, I thought everything was wrong about the treatment of Jeffrey John - and still is.

But I still value Rowan and believe in the whole and the best of him.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 6:50pm BST

As usual, wading through Williams' turgid prose has all the appeal of taking a dip in quicksand. Given the weakness of his argument -- life's meaningless without God; Euthyphro, who he? -- it's little wonder he'd want to walk it off behind a linguistic Berlin Wall.

Personally, I'd apply "scary smart" to those who communicate incisive, original thought simply and concisely, but hey, different strokes!

One thing's for sure: the authoritarian Williams ain't no "liberal," and never was.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 7:15pm BST

I'm surprised at how few people have commented on the article about bisexuality. What is bisexuality? Is it a kind of liminal state that changes depending on context? Or is it that people have a capacity for loving either heterosexually or homosexually, and circumstances dictate which one will govern one's sexual life? Because I don't see how bisexuality can govern what Christians have usually seen as a feature of sexual relationship, namely, a commitment of two people to each other without other such commitments on either side. If bisexuality is a liminal state, and changes with context, how is it possible to accommodate this within the Christian ideal of marriage? Just asking, since I have no idea.

Posted by Eric MacDonald at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 3:18am BST

@ James Byron, "Given the weakness of his argument -- life's meaningless without God"

On the other hand, "now it is time to go, I to die, and you to live;but which of us goes to a better thing is unknown to all but god."

-Plato, Apology ( trans. by W.H.D. Rouse)

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 4:58am BST

Having worshipped and ministered side-by-side with ++Rowan Williams during his final visit to New Zealand for the ACC Meeting, one could not but be impressed by his deep humanity, spirituality and scholarly integrity. His love of Christ in the Sacraments of the Church is unquestionable.

The occasion was a "Rally of the Faithful" at the premier Church Boys' School here in Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand. His sermon on that day was simple and yet profoundly moving. His address at a youth Gathering later in the day was to the point and enthusiastically received - obviously understood by those present, so ++Rowan is not always perceived as over-intellectualised!

His 'mis-step' in the matter of Jeffrey John's stepping down from episcopal selection was a sign of the over-influence of the conservative elements in the Church of England and the likes of the Global South contingency. It would have taken someone like the more pragmatic Bishop of London to have resisted to Sola Scriptura pressures of that sad day in the history of the Communion. One just wishes he could have been in the House of Lords to back Lord Harries in his recent speech to the House; of the need to make its influence felt in the world's understanding of homosexuality.

I agree with those on this thread who recognise the great talent we still have in the person of the former ABC. He is a theologian of great standing - and a great ecumenist.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 7:09am BST

EM,

It's this one: 'Or is it that people have a capacity for loving either heterosexually or homosexually, and circumstances dictate which one will govern one's sexual life?' Then, when (no doubt after a few adventures on both sides) one makes one's choice of an individual, one cleaves to that individual. Can't quite see where the difficulty resides or why this scenario isn't broadly compatible with Christian teaching.

Posted by John at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 11:11am BST

Not that I disagree with you John, but my question was about the nature of bisexuality, and whether in fact it is an either/or or a liminal state, that varies from situation to situation, in which case 'cleaving to that individual' might in fact be incompatible with the state of being bisexual. But I don't know, you see, and that's why I asked.

Posted by Eric MacDonald at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 2:46pm BST

I tried to post a comment on Kelvin's article and made a mess of it, so here again, also in reply to Eric.

Bisexuality is an orientation like homosexuality, heterosexuality, pansexuality and asexuality.
It simply means being physically and emotionally capable of loving men and women. That's all.

Like anyone else, bisexual people find a mate and settle down, only that that mate could be of the same sex or the opposite sex.
If they find themselves on their own again, their next mate could again be from the same sex or the opposite one.

Kelvin rightly points out that bisexuality alters the sexuality debate, because we can no longer say that we tolerate homosexuality only because the poor little dears don't have a choice, and we know they would be properly moral if they could be.

The real focus for the whole sexuality debate boils down to morality.
Are same sex relationships sinful, yes or no. If they are, no-one should have them, if they're not, gay people can be same sex partnered and so can bisexuals.

Morality has nothing to do with the gender of one's partner but with the quality of the relationship.
The same rules apply to all - gay, straight, bi, pan or any shade in between.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 3:47pm BST

Eric,

I think sexual orientation is about attraction not relationship.

Therefore one could be simultaneously in committed relationship with one person, while being attracted by nature and sexual orientation to many: in the case of a bisexual person, both male and female.

Personally I find some men attractive, and some women. But I am in a committed relationship to one woman. So I don't really see any problem. My sexual desire does not have an on/off switch... I don't have to stop finding women attractive to find men attractive. Like any heterosexual person, I am happy in my committed relationship, but also perfectly happy to get on a train, not knowing whether I will find a man or a woman attractive, or no-one at all.

Hope this helps. Other people may have a differing experience, and of course the whole bisexual thing glosses over people who don't fit a binary gender identity at all.

In my experience, as a femme woman, the gender of a person is less important than the 'receptivity' they make me feel. That can be achieved by particular kinds of guys, but also by some women, especially if they are butch!

My committed relationship and my various attractions co-exist happily. Sexual awareness of others, and sense of one's own sexuality, can be such a lovely thing.

In my own case, there's another whole dimension, that informs my approach to sex, and that is the quasi-sexual nature of God and the possibility of divine and holy ardour, desire and love. The Song of Songs expresses that in a way.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 5:38pm BST

I am a bi woman. For thirty years I was married to a man. There was much wrong with the marriage, but I was always physically attracted to him. In those days I still believed I was straight. After he left me, I was single for ten years. Then much to my surprise, I found I had fallen in love with a woman. As most bi people, it is not that my attachments are fickle, or that I 'need' to be with one gender or the other. It is that I fall in love with a particular person, and their gender is irrelevant to me. I have no more need to go to bed with everybody I find attractive than a straight person, and no less desire to find a mate than one either.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 9:56pm BST

@ Rosemary Hannah, thanks so much for your courageous comment. Your comment is a reminder that both the experience of and empathy for people who know first hand what they are talking about are often sidelined in the so called "rational theological debate" over policy issues.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 2:36am BST

"What is bisexuality? Is it a kind of liminal state that changes depending on context?"

Goodness gracious, I honestly don't understand why some people find bisexuality such a conundrum. You fall in love w/ someone, w/o finding what's between their legs (as opposed to between their ears: their mind, aka their "heart") a deal-breaker. What's the confusion? O_o

Posted by JCF at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 4:58am BST

Surely a Christian should choose a partner only on the basis of that partner's love for God and issues such as sexual orientation, indeed sexual attraction, should be entirely irrelevant.

Whether a Christian is straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual is, or should be, an utter irrelevance: a gay Christian might end up with a woman; a straight male Christian might find that the partner with whom he can best worship God is another man.

Whether the relationship is then sexual or platonic is a separate question and again should be decided on the basis of Faith and not sexual orientation or attraction.

As one of the articles says, too often everything gets conflated but I suggest that sexual orientation is not a firm foundation for any Christian.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 7:04pm BST

I too found Williams' text inaccessible. I was taught at school that good writing should have a cadence and rhythm too it, not as poetry or meter, but that the flow and structure of the text itself imparts meaning. In text like his that might mean short sentences when a point is being made and longer sentences when putting the background. All such aspects of writing are for me totally lacking in his piece.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 10:45pm BST

"whether in fact it is an either/or or a liminal state, that varies from situation to situation, in which case 'cleaving to that individual' might in fact be incompatible with the state of being bisexual"

frankly this seems like a more theologically erudite phrasing of a comment i was appalled to have to answer in 2015 (in another online anglican context) wondering how bisexuality did not undermine the gay claim not to alter marriage, as it seemed by definition to exclude monogamy. surely that is not still what anyone thinks the word means?

nobody would suggest that married persons cannot be sincere if they have the capacity to notice others than their spouse sexually. and no one would suggest a religious is slack in their vows because they recognize their potential to be attracted to others.

our sexual identity, our very existence is liminal. but our ability to "cleave to" someone - or to choose the disciplined path of not cleaving to any one individual - has nothing to do with our sexual orientation. no vocational path is "incompatible" with the state of identifying as bisexual.

Posted by Geoff McLarney at Tuesday, 6 October 2015 at 9:00am BST

Kate, with reference to your statement that "Surely a Christian would choose a partner only on the basis of that partner's love for God"

- I'm afraid loving doesn't always work that way. It may be that divine providence allows one to choose one's partner on an entirely different basis, which might just be sexual attraction - or an intellectual affinity. Who knows? Such a relationship might just turn out for the good for both parties, with the 'other' being so attracted by one's love for God that they, too, can find a relationship with God for themselves.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 6 October 2015 at 11:29pm BST
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