Biblical scholars aid talks on human sexuality issue

Published May 1, 1999

Biblical scholars have been invited to help the church’s Faith, Worship and Ministry committee widen the biblical discussion on human sexuality, including homosexuality. The action is in response to growing calls for an examination of the “highly volatile” question of how Scripture is brought to bear on issues of human sexuality, says committee member, Archdeacon Jim Cowan of the Diocese of British Columbia. Scholars have already responded to biblical work in a report of a task force on homosexuality entitled Hearing Diverse Voices, Seeking Common Ground. But more work is needed, said Archdeacon Cowan, because some people on both sides of the issue feel the work already done doesn’t reflect their position. “It’s a highly volatile question as to what is happening and people are very set if they have an opinion one way or the other,” Archdeacon Cowan said. “Both look at being faithful to the call and the word of Scripture.” A faith, worship and ministry report to the March meeting of the Council of General Synod said biblical scholars Ian Henderson, Walter Deller, Edith Humphrey and Sylvia Keesmat will be “invited to deepen the scriptural conversation on the broader question of human sexuality.” The report noted that when it comes to the homosexuality issue there is a “level of intemperance on this issue as revealed by the fact that virtually every e-mail chat on the topic of homosexuality breaks down.” After four years, the dialogue between Fidelity, a national resource and study group which supports the church’s traditional teaching on sexuality, and Integrity, a ministry to and by gay and lesbian Anglicans which supports the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of practising homosexuals, has far from broken down. In fact, both groups are committed to continuing the dialogue started by Toronto Bishop Terence Finlay when he established the Bishop’s Dialogue Group. It brought together three Fidelity members and three Integrity members to explore possible common ground between the two groups. One result of the ongoing dialogue is the joint eight-point statement, Emerging Common Ground, which agrees that Scripture is not to be used as a “hammer” in any discussion on homosexuality, and that Scripture is not to be mined for “proof texts” but rather specific passages are to be understood in the larger biblical context. Both Fidelity and Integrity have lost members as result of the dialogue. But with regular meetings scheduled until at least the end of the year, both groups continue to work on “areas where we do not necessarily see eye-to-eye,” says Chris Ambidge, co-convener of Integrity’s Toronto chapter and a member of the bishop’s dialogue group. “One of the favorite ways of Anglicans to deal with problems is to paper over the cracks,” Mr. Ambidge said. “This (dialogue) is making sure the cracks are not being papered over, that people are really going to address the matter and to think seriously about it.” And, as “long as we see the church sincerely grappling with this rather than just ossifying its position, we will continue to talk.” The Rev. Paul Feheley, of St. George’s Memorial Church, Oshawa, vice-president of Fidelity and a bishop’s dialogue group member, welcomes the move to widen biblical scholarship around the human sexuality issue. Though he said the group is “firm on what we believe in terms of fidelity,” Canon Feheley added that rather than just pulling out specific references, all of Scripture needs to be examined in the context of “the whole sense of the relationship between human beings to each other and their relationship with God.” Michael McAteer is a Toronto freelance writer and former religion editor at the Toronto Star.


Keep on reading

Skip to content