Bishops, Centurions and sexuality…

So the Church of England is in the middle of another storm caused by the nomination of Jeffrey John as one of the candidates to take over as Bishop of Southwark. He is openly gay, although celebate, and has already had to stand down as suffragan bishop of Reading because of his sexuality after protests from traditionalists.

It makes more likely the prospect of a split in the Anglican Communion, a prospect which makes me sad, as the real strength of the C of E is it’s diversity- and generosity to a wide range of theological positions.

Tonight, our housegroup had a discussion around chapter 8 of Matthew’s gospel- including this familiar passage-

5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

(NIV)

Audrey and Paul discussed the fact that they had hear it suggested that the relationship between the centurion and his servant may have been sexual. Apparently it would not have been unusual for Romans to take ‘servants’ as homosexual lovers.

The speculation then is whether the centurion did not want Jesus to come to his house because he was trying to hide the true nature of their relationship.

But if this is true- then Jesus would have known. He was Jesus after all.

And if he knew, it was not relevant to him was it? He did not mention it, focussing on the faith of the centurion, and the fact that those outside the religious institution of his day- or even outside the ‘kingdom’- might yet be welcome at the table.

I am sure you get my point.

My position has moved a long way on this issue. The dominance of individual sexuality as a measure of a person, and as an exclusion criteria for their service in the church- I am increasingly frustrated by it.

And I remain convinced that in 20 years, the dominant view within a broader cross section of the church will move in this direction also. I just hope that the C of E will make it that far.

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