How do we respond pastorally to same-sex couples within our congregations? What theological and Biblical tools can help to shape our thinking about same-sex relationships? These and other questions were the focus of a pastoral training day held at Roomfield Church in February 2014.
Focusing on the theme of Christians Exploring Issues Around Sexuality, we considered some of the insights from different academic disciplines as well as looking at Scripture. The day was facilitated by Sue Clements-Jewery and Revd Brian Davison, both of whom have had a considerable involvement in developing the Baptist Union’s work in this area.
Of particular interest was a session that aimed to take a fresh look at Scripture. The facilitators were keen to stress that this was not the old ‘liberal vs evangelical’ debate, and in fact many evangelicals wanted to undertake this. We looked at two particular passages – Numbers 20 and Romans 1:18-32 – and discussed what we thought to be the key themes of the passages, the context of individual points and the general principles that might be derived. Overall, however, the workshop aimed less at a tour of Bible passages and more at the approach we would need to adopt in reading the Bible.
There was also a very immediately practical focus to the day. The final session used a number of case studies to explore the numerous challenges that churches might face in responding pastorally. Real situations, inevitably, are often much more complex and nuanced than our presuppositions, and thus it is useful to examine the various dilemmas that people may have. The day was not designed to give people all of the answers but rather to understand the issues much better and, hopefully, to enable churches to start thinking about how to improve their response in this area. One lesson we should all take home is not to wait for an issue to split our churches before we start to respond.
Half of those who attended were from churches other than Roomfield, which was very encouraging as we seek to offer our sessions to those outside of our own congregation. We aim to have training days on other issues in the months ahead would very much welcome suggestions for topics to be tackled.