I recently talked with Matt Woodley of Preaching Today about how pastors might approach the topic of homosexuality in sermons and other parish teaching opportunities. (The interview is available for free, but you might have to register at the site to access it in its entirety.)
For those who have heard me talk about these matters before, there won’t be much that’s new here. But I thought it would be valuable to try to restate, specifically for an audience of preachers and pastors, some of my gradually-coalescing musings on friendship.
Here’s an excerpt:
I think we need to have an approach to pastoral ministry that allows for a long-term sense of waiting and enduring something that we wish were otherwise. For me, for example, there are many ways in which I just don’t feel that I am made for celibacy. I mean, it often leads to loneliness, to difficulty. The natural impulse of a pastor is to want to say to a person who is suffering, “Let’s make this better. Let’s fix this condition of celibacy so that it’s not so painful anymore.” I think that comes from a good motivation, but the most helpful pastors in my life have recognized there are many situations that people find themselves in that you can’t fix. So the pastoral strategy then becomes not “how do we rescue this person out of this terrible condition?” but “how do we help this person flourish and find love?”
Paul talks a lot in 2 Corinthians about being weak, and you never get the sense from him that God has delivered him from weakness. In fact, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness”—not by rescuing you out of your weakness. I find it helpful when a pastor can recognize that being gay is not something we’re going to fix. There may be a diminishment of same-sex attraction that some people experience, or there may not. But either way, it’s not something that you can just fix. So the question is, How do we help this person find grace and hope in the midst of a situation that may never be what they would wish for?
We also need to remember Christian history’s rich theology of friendship. We’ve forgotten about examples like Aelred of Rievaulx who wrote a treatise called “Spiritual Friendship.” He offers a vision of a very serious, robust kind of love. We need to recover that view of friendship and offer it to our celibate friends like me who need to understand that we’re not doomed to a life of loneliness and no connections. I can really pour myself out in friendship. I can be with others who pour their lives out for me in friendship. So the choice isn’t just between marriage and romance or loneliness. Suddenly the choices look very different.
The rest of the interview is here, and I would welcome your feedback.