The afternoon panelists addressed pastoral and counseling issues related to same sex attraction.
Carlos Fayard presented a case study, "The Psychological and Spiritual Care of a Gay Man Who Chose Celibacy." Joe (name changed) is a 62 year old clergyman who was recognized by a parishioner at a gay bath-house or book store. He acknowledged sexual addiction but did not express inclination to change. He began homosexual activity the week of his ordination, and he reported that he had never experienced God. He was identified as having HIV after hospitilization. Psychological issues included sexual compulsiveness, attachment problems, and incongruence between his spiritual beliefs and behavior.
Fayard took a wholistic approach to the therapy, incorporating spiritual with psychological methods. He sees spirituality in neuroscience according to the categories of the seeking system, attachment system, and attribution system. Fayard structured his therapy around these categories. Under the seeking system he addressed Joe's search for love in other men. Under the attachment he addressed the problem of relating to God "on demand" in an emotionally distant way, just as Joe did with his father. Finally, to reconcile his beliefs about God, people, and other attribution issues, Joe wrote a letter of confession.
The therapy lasted for 14 months. The sexual acting out ceased during his hospitalization, but Joe was still restless and not restored. The pivotal moment in the therapy came when he sensed the presence of God during his first moment of sincere prayer. Joe was able to return the parish ministry, and passed away shortly thereafter. The day before he died Joe assured Fayard that he felt secure in Christ.
Peter Swanson read a paper about pastoral care of homosexuals. He recognizes that pastors are generally unequipped to deal with homosexuals in their church. The challenge also includes unsanctified attitudes of church members towards homosexuals, which need to be confronted and changed. He suggested that unfamiliarity breeds contempt of those shunned.
Swanson finds to two common attitudes pastors have towards homosexuals: (1) the pastors job is to find sin and root it out from the community, and (2) the church is to practice hospitality in rescuing sinners by welcoming them. Swanson believes pastors have a duty to be both just and merciful, and therefore should not choose one attitude to the exclusion of the other.
Regarding the debate over whether the Bible condemns homosexual sex, Swanson believes that more important than the opinions of pastors or theologians is the still small voice that says, "This is the way, walk ye in it." He holds that while pastors have an obligation to love audaciously, they also have an obligation to call sin by its right name. He asserted that in as much as we turn people with same sex attraction away from the church, we dismiss the Savior from our midst. He pointed to Jacob as a Bible character to tried on different identities, but after wrestling with God, received a God given identity.
Mark Yarhouse presented on the question of how the Christian community responds to besetting conditions. Besetting conditions are things like same sex attractions and HIV, which, in spite of spiritual intervention, do not go away. He believes that churches are hypocritical if they blame people who have same sex attractions for not trying hard enough to get rid of them while providing those who have other besetting conditions, such as cancer, with comfort and support.
Yarhouse believes that the answer to besetting conditions is the faith that God will provide. However, God's provision does not come in the same way to every person. He believes that we must interpret our response to homosexuality through the answer Jesus gave to the question of why the man was born blind (John 9:1-3). Therefore, we do not need to know how a besetting condition was caused in order to respond to it. He believes that there is a theodicy of sexual identity to be discovered, because God's purpose is to bring glory to his name.
He concluded by answering the question of what would it mean to be stewards of our sexuality. He believes good sexual stewardship (1) Avoids placing to great an emphasis on change as categorical and uncomplicated; (2) values both the married state and the single state; (3) has compelling alternative scripts for same sex attraction, (4) equips all believers in the broader understanding of stewardship, so we do not focus on only one group; and (5) leads by example.
Disclaimer: I have summarized the views of the presenters to the best of my ability, however my summary should not be conflated with their actual views. For this reason, any attempt to debate the presenters views in the comments section will be deleted. Comments that seek clarification are welcome.
Blogging the Homosexuality Conference (other posts)