The Last Committee on Sexuality (Ever)
by John Fortunato
John Fortunato has been a psychotherapist for fourteen years and directs studies at an agency training health care chaplains. He is the author of Embracing the Exile: Healing Journeys of Gay Christians and AIDS: The Spiritual Dilemma. This article appeared in Christianity and Crisis, pp. 204-205, February 18, 1991. It was prepared for Religion Online by John R. Bushell.
My tolerance for debating whether I am sinful or sick by virtue of being homosexual has, after sixteen years before the mast, reached nil. My intolerance is the result of an intentional, uphill journey toward, a purging of the internalized self-hate that all gay and lesbian people ingest at the hands of a hostile society.
It is rather like an allergy. A single sting of homophobia, and I see I hold the unrealistic belief that gay and lesbian d deserve to live in a wasp-free environment.
In any event, even though this last-in-an-unending series of sexuality committees (which inexorably become homosexuality committees) was clear that it was not to come up with a definitive statement did ask us to "respectfully hear one another." In addition, to encourage "open-minded dialogue" in the diocese, it asked any who wanted to speak with us to come and have their say.
More, the Bishop appointed to the committee someone who was help us maintain "balance."
I scanned several of his articles on sexuality. He was, among other things, an articulate and rigorous homophobe. While he did not make the first meeting of the committee, I could not imagine respectfully listening to him. Nor could I imagine listening "open-mindedly" to the couched or flagrant antigay sentiment that gallops through the diocese. The more I thought about these scenarios, the more I realized I did not want to do this to myself.
I have two objections to being asked to put myself in this position. The first is that no self-respecting gay man or lesbian should have to listen to his or her ontology debated ever again, and the church should be the last institution to sponsor such a forum.
Imagine, if you will, asking black clergy to sit on a "Committee on Race" and listen open-mindedly to a discussion of whether or black people are by nature intellectually inferior to white people (discussions that have not been unknown in South Africa). No one with a conscience would ask a black person to sit through that, and no self-respecting black person would agree to do it. Or again, imagine asking Desmond Tutu to sit with Pieter Botha and engage in a "balanced" dialogue about the pros and cons of apartheid.
The appropriate response to injustice is outrage and protest -- not polite dialogue. But I am even past the point of protest, and that brings me to my second objection.
The Kingdom Coming
I simply cannot be bothered with these endeavors. If the church needs to continue its "tempest in a tabernacle" about sexuality for another 150 years, so be it. But I have no energy for it.
Curiously, at a time when people are becoming increasingly tolerant of varied expressions of sexuality, only the church still clings tenaciously to a sex-negative worldview stemming from its dogged commitment to Docetism. Let it live with its heresy -- and obsess over it if it must.
Myself, I take seriously my baptismal call to be faithful in kingdom making. Sadly, the church is one of the last places I can find companionship on this mission lately. It is too busy consuming its gifts and graces -- resources both human and financial -- feeding ego mills and dysfunctional parishes and agencies, fostering "edifice complexes" and learning to "hate all the people our relatives hate." I am bored with it. The kingdom is at hand.
So I shall continue to embroider at the institutional edges, ministering with dying crack babies and their ruined parents while rejoicing in my sexuality and the rest of God's phenomenal creation; suffering with my sisters and brothers as they die of AIDS and training others to minister to those who are ill; joining people who come to me for psychotherapy in the abysses of their souls as we try to heal unbearable brokenness.
And in the meantime, the church has my full permission to continue debating whether I am sinful or sick, worthy of being ordained or even to sit in the pew.
And when at some point the Frozen Few glance around and note that the pews are alarmingly empty, those deemed worthy to minister to them might convince them to break just one precious stained glass window and look out and see the kingdom coming. They may be surprised to recognize the ushers. They will be soup kitchen hands and street workers, nurses and housekeepers, therapists and social workers. With them will be many other good folks (both gay and straight who have mostly left the church and stopped judging people they are too busy being Christ for them.
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