Yet deep within this woman was the need to connect spiritually with a source that could bring the fulfilment she yearned; craved; could not find through her sexual exploits neither afford with all that she had garnered from her years of capitalising on that which brought her profit. She did not want a man, for she had had her fill. She could not possibly be lacking money for what she spent on the perfume she would use in that kairos moment was worth a years salary of the ordinary working class person.
She came timidly to the place where she felt that spiritual connection might be made. She came amidst the whispering; the stares; the hushed tones of disbelief, disapproval and discrimination. She found a loving and welcoming Saviour but an apathetic and in some cases ambivalent church.
More than two thousand years later, there is a different kind of social leper. It is no longer the commercial sex worker, who has moved a space up to make room at the bottom of the table for persons belonging to the GLBTI community. The latter group of persons has been finding it extremely difficult to negotiate faith and sexuality.
I have had the opportunity to receive stories from some of those persons about life and the difficulties they encountered on their faith journey. Here are their stories [as they tell it; unedited and all] and my thoughts on some of the findings, which is part of a larger body of work I am putting together.
“It is not gay to be homosexual.” The journey of many a person who find themselves in the position of loving another of the same sex is one that is characterized by masquerade, anxiety, denial, self hate, ostracism, ridicule, shame and sometimes even violence. It is not easy being defined by who you have sex with or choose to love. Many who have chosen to be true to themselves have had to live with the grave consequences. Others – well, others have had to assume a pseudo life: getting married and having girlfriends or become very critical of themselves and others like themselves to be afforded the gaieties (gay-e-teez) that life affords everyone one else.
The reality of stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation has done more than drive, underground, those who wish not to experience such; it has resulted in many choosing to become licentious, abandoning their faith journey to embark upon one that is ruled by self, focuses on self and void of anything Divine. Why appreciate the Divine, when it is widely taught and believed that the Divine finds them repugnant, corrupt and has given them up to be reprobates? The struggle to negotiate one’s identity in the midst of the “conflict” between faith and sexuality is a recurring theme among the stories of constituents of the GLBTI communities.
Here are some of their experiences:
Hi, I’m Wayne and I am a bi-sexual young man. I am 22 years of Age from the Parish of Clarendon. Living in a Christian based home and society, has influence my thoughts and beliefs over the years. Growing up in a church the blatantly rejects homosexuality and tendencies towards it.
I am the second of two children, and I am the only male child for my parents. I grew up mainly around female company who would come by my house on a regular basis as my mother was a dressmaker. My sister was basically my best and only friend, and seeing that she was three (3) years my senior, I basically looked up to her. In my household and my church, we were taught religiously to abstain from sexual activities until after marriage, which was expected to be between a male and a female.
I can clearly recall a recent occurrence when my Pastor at church was speaking on the topic of Homosexuality in the church, as there was a explosion of it on the media, as Gay rights activist aimed to get equality and sort to win the court battles against Gay bashing Singers and Dj’s in Jamaica. The Pastor was literally in a rage when he addressed the congregation in which they responded accordingly as they despised the fact or the thought of having homosexuals in the church. This somewhat caused me to become more cautious with my sexuality especially while at church because of the fear of church members finding out and removing me from active duties within the church. This would really cause a stir in the church as I am actively involved in the Public Relations Department, Youth Ministry, Choir and Also Christian singing groups and choirs. So I’m basically looked upon as a vibrant young Man within the church.
There was an incident once where my Mother found pornography of a homosexual nature on my computer and she was enraged by it. She immediately called my on the phone to question it and I had to deny it because of fear of her telling other family members about my lifestyle. My family also attends the church I attend so they basically share the same view as my church would so in the case of finding someone to talk to with regards to these issues, I don’t consider my church the safest place to do such things. If I am to tell someone in my church, they would pass it on to someone else and then claim to not be fully equipped to handle the issue. Or they would literally rebuke me and plea the blood of Jesus on me and then say I am sinning and it is not right and that I am going to hell if I don’t beg for repentance immediately.
All these issues have influenced me, thus placing a need to be socially accepted so I tend to have a longing to have a female partner even though my feelings and desires are fully engulfed in males. So now I have to be living a life of watching and hoping that I’d be able to maintain a balance between lives which can get quite complicated at times as my emotional needs calls for a male while my social needs call for a female.
So far, I have been having quite a struggle with my Christian journey as the desires of my heart and the doctrines of the church seems to be contradicting thus causing a strain in my mental capacity. So for now, I continually as the Lord to guide me along as I aim to please him and seek out happiness as I know that the Lord will and he indeed is blessing me.
Like Wayne, Michael grew up in church and was devout member of his church. With still a fervent love for God, he was force to choose his feelings over his faith. Here is his recollection of how it happened:
I grew up in what is called main stream Christianity were the life of a gay man was one that was un heard of. Even to discus sex and sexuality was a no, no. I being a vivid member of Sabbath school I would hear the Sodom and Gomorra story being told over and over but didn’t understand of what it spoke and dear not question it because first sex is taboo and must not be spoken of and two how dear you question your elders daddy would have my ass if I should ever do such.
At the age of 12 I realize that I like my best friend and that’s all I knew I didn’t know what it was called or the implication of such act. What I knew the danger of was the fact that I was involved in sex and that was forbidden by both parent and the church. Ministers would preach about fornication and adultery from now to eternity and that’s what I aliened this to.
I was now actively involved sexually with my best friend but that I kept a secrete not because of the act between two men but the fact that I was sex. About 3 years later I fully understood what I was actually doing and what stigma and discrimination that it attracts and the danger of exposing my self to any one so here I was struggling with the feelings wanting to talk to some one about it but there wasn’t any one I could talk with and so I continued on that very path until I became tired of my double life so I got baptized in 1998 with the intention of changing that aspect of my life totally to the point where I prayed and asked the Lord to take away my sexual urges but when that didn’t happen I began to hate my self to the point where I wanted to kill myself and one day when I couldn’t take it any more I told my pastor about it and guest what he went into a deliverance session with me trying to cast out the demon that I was alleged to be possessed with and yes I manifested what is termed as passing out the demon where I vomited but after that the feelings was still there. One of what would considered to be strange in main stream Christianity as strange was that I became filled with the holy spirit, this happen while I had my boyfriend. I spoke in tongues, prophesied, teach and preached. The experiences that I faced within the church was one of that of individuals knowing or suspecting that I am Gay but they wouldn’t directly say it to me but it would be said in the various circles, they depicted the highest level of hypocrisy. After a while the church seemed as if it was no longer a place for me so I left and went out on my own from family and friends that I have known for the past 20 years and have given up three years of ‘steadfast Christianity ‘for a life out side of the church and out of what I had come to accept as my comfort zone. That comfort zone consists of, lies, deception and hypocrisy. This I have grown tired of and wanted so much to allow others around me to know who and what I am.
Living a life of condemnation I lost all self worth and all I saw my self as was some one who have no lot or part with God the creator, therefore I lived my live that exact way didn’t care who or when I had sex as there were times I felt so dirty to the point where just to feel a part of some group or company I would go out to find some man some where that need a bottom to fuck and just do that this is liken to a drug addict that needs to get high that is how I felt and would try so hard to be a part but after that fuck I would be back at that place where I was at the begging lonely rejected and de-humanized. There was no help no one in thee church that I could ever talk to so even when am away from the church I had difficulties trusting anyone so I kept these issues that I don’t know much about in and would do what I think was the best thing to do… but as the years go by and issues have caused me to take a different route I was now exposed to a community of people who didn’t discriminate nor did they judge me of who I was instead I was shown love. Is introduced to Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica, a Gay church? Was my reaction and it took me three months to even consider going to such church all my faith believes and teaching doctrines came in to play and there I stood with the shackles of religion around my feet and neck. Even when I fought for my freedom I refused to let go of the thing that were there in Egypt and look unto that which was being prepared for me. On making the decision to go a head and walk into my freedom I soon became a member of the Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica church and this was done with me testing to see if this was a place that I need to be I asked for a specific sign and that was exactly what I got. Walking now with the faith of the gospel and with the believe that Jesus came and die for every one including me I now realize that my sexuality wasn’t ever an issue with the father cause if it was so how would he have filled me with his holy spirit, bestowed on me the gifts of the spirit and blessed me tremendously. God indeed loved and cared for me through it. And with open eyes to the realities of the nature of God almighty and analyzing my life I now knows that my sexuality wasn’t a choice but it was from the begging of time. I have now accepted who and what I am and have also receive the courage to come clean with those that I love which include the me and the father of creation.
Currently I worship with the Kingston SCJ and play an active role there as a logistics personnel.
I borrow the words of this song to summarize this testimony:
I've had many tears and sorrows, I've had questions for tomorrow… I've been to lots of places, And I've seen a lot of faces, There've been times I felt so all alone; But in my lonely hours, Yes, those precious lonely hours, Jesus let me know that I was His own. Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God; through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon His Word.
There are some striking similarities between the experiences of Wayne and that of Michael. Both have felt ostracized by the church. Both have had to hide the reality of their sexuality. Both felt shame about who they are. The difference though is that Michael found an environment where exploring his faith was not antithetical to who he is sexuality. He found an enabling environment that affirms every child of God and is now growing in that faith and in relationship with God. For others the task of reconciling faith and sexuality is still a bit confusing – self becomes the enemy. Here is what Darren Warren Has to say about his experiences:
Ever since I was 14, I always suspected myself to be a little different. I didn't understand some of the weird urges and dreams I was having at the time, and sometimes, for no apparent reason, my mind would become almost infiltrated with images that always left me feeling ashamed, and sometimes even a little nauseated. But it wasn't until I became 21 that I started to associate those images and dreams with a particular word.
My name is Darren. I'm 23 years of age. A shy person by nature, I’ve always felt more comfortable with fictional characters. Maybe that explains why I became a library in my home town of St. Mary. I still live with my parents, and most of my siblings (all younger than I am) and even a few members of my extended family like my grandmother, who I think is the only person on this earth to truly understand me. I am gay. It took me two years to be able to say or write or even think that, but who can blame me- I live in a community of about 30 residents. Everybody knows every member of my family. Most people even had a hand in raising me during my father's extended absences.
How did I figure out I was gay, you may wonder? My church. Well, to be honest, I can't put the blame on them entirely. Yes, Rev. Green always makes it his point of duty to remind us of the importance of the family, and men being married to women, and damnation for anyone who sought to disrupt this most divine institution (because of him, I’ve always felt it necessary to have a girlfriend, but I can't say I’ve ever felt anything for any particular girl I’ve been with), but after that incident in high school, there really was no turning back for me. I was 17. At my school, St. Mary High School, we were having a Christmas Fair. Everybody from school was there, but there were a lot of visitors, too, most of whom I didn't know. There was this one particular guy I hadn't seen before- tall, strident, eye-catchingly dark; I couldn't take my eyes off him the entire night. Neither could he. After watching the clock (and watching him dance quite authoritatively with some of the local girls) for most of the evening, I decided to make a bold move. I left where my friends were under the ackee tree near the big speaker boxes on the school's field, under the guise that I was going to the bathroom. I made it my point of duty to pass Mr. Dark and Handsome, establishing direct eye contact. As expected, on making my way to a very dark area of the field, he followed me. It was all hands and mouth and grunts from there. My first sexual experience: I still wonder to this day if he used a condom.
Living in a small rural town, there really isn't much to do. As a boy, you either become caught up in school and church or you start hanging out with the other boys. The latter is normal, the former isn't. I chose the former. Church for me was always my refuge. Singing on the choir was always such a delight; naturally, i'm an alto. But church has its dark sides, too. After Pastor Kencott died, Reverend Green was appointed as the head of our church. Whereas Pastor Kencott was affable and warm, Reverend Green was pious and loud. He was known to bring many stories, stories told to him in privacy and all confidence, to the pulpit. He believed in public castigation. I cried when Pastor Kencott died, he was my one true friend at the church. I never told him the nature of what was happening to me as far as my feelings were concerned, but something about his very gentle way with me told me he was knowing. Our relationship was never sexual, but we always embraced, and in his embrace, I felt loved. He often encouraged me to be true to myself, and during my high school years when I was severely teased and taunted, beaten and shaken up a few times by the older boys, he always lent me his shoulder to cry on. At his funeral, I sang his favourite hymn "How Great Thou Art" as my tribute to him.
I never thought that I would ever tell Pastor Kencott of my internal struggles, but he helped me to not feel so badly about myself. When he died, something inside of me may have, too. Reverend Green never made me feel that way at all. In fact, his first message was about change and God introduced great change in the world by the creation of Adam and Eve. With the kind of fervency he injected in his message, tongues and all, it seemed like a personal warning for me to stay away. Pastor Kencott never spoke in tongues, but in a few weeks, most of the congregation certainly did.
My family life was never anything to be proud of. My mother and father weren't married, but they did live together. He would be gone for days at a time, even though he's never really had any real kind of job to occupy his time. My mother, in the space of a year, was a hotel room cleaner, a secretary, a front-desk operator, and a waitress, work all done in nearby parishes as far as St. Ann and St. James. She would be gone days at a time, too. I had 3 sisters ages 6-15, 3 brothers aging 10-19; I shared the task of raising them at different points of their lives with my grandmother. There are a lot of things the first-born considers privilege. The complete and unconditional love and support of your grandmother is one.
Granny is one-of-a-kind; whenever I invite her to church, she always turns down my invitation by sucking her teeth and saying "Mi neva find God inna one church yet, and look how old mi be! U tink dat a gu change?" She's 83 years old. To me, granny will live forever, she seems that wise and that strong. She always knows what to say, what to drink for what, what a certain pain in your body means, when rain will come, when some girl in the district is pregnant even before they know themselves. She has love for everyone, but if you touch her marijuana patch in the back yard, ("Fi mi catarck dem," she says, of which she has none) you will meet her wrath. Several boys here can attest to this.
I came out to my grandmother when she would no longer take my "I'm ok" in response to her questions of "Yu arite? How yu look suh? Weh do u?" She sensed my depression, and she realized that in my answer to her questions, I wasn't lying to her, but rather, trying to convince myself that I really was OK. That day I came out, I cried in her arms for about two hours. She rocked me back and forth in her favourite chair like I were my 8 year old sister. Looking back at that incident now, I realized she had hummed some hymn while rocking me, weird considering i've never seen her enter a church building. Still, her words over the years encouraged me more than any sermon did- "It nuh mek sense yu hate yuself; if yu nuh luv yuself, who gwine to do it?" she had asked me; a pointed question if I do say so myself.
I graduated at the top of my class. Unsurprisingly, I was chosen to deliver the valedictory address. After I left school, I decided to work for a year when my mother couldn't keep a steady job. But knowing full well I would have had to go to Kingston if I were to go to college, and being completely scared by that possibility, I hid under the pretense of "helping out around the house." Granny would have none of it. When she saw that my year of work was turning into two, she sternly prodded me to go back to school- "It seem like yu nuh memba seh u did want tun doctor when yu did lickle!"
In about 5 months' time, I was moving to Kingston, I had been eligible for a scholarship from my sister church in New York, and with the Student's Loan, I would be able to board on campus. The University of Technology had accepted me. I was to read for my degree in Business Management. I have no friends or family in Kingston, and having only been there twice before, the prospect for me was like going to live in another country. Would I meet other gay guys? Would my new classmates tease me like I was teased in high school? Would I have any more sexual experiences? I have to admit I was more nervous about that last bit more than anything else. Would I enjoy it like I did the last time? Did I even enjoy the last time, or was it the mix of alcohol and wanting to enjoy that made me think I did? And if I didn't enjoy it, would that mean that I wasn't really gay? Who knows, but whatever the outcome, I just hope that the outcome will cause me to love myself just a little bit more.
Deitrick Brown says that his experience has been quite difficult. He has been discriminated against not because of any confirmed evidence about his sexuality but because of how he expresses himself. Deitrick shares the pain of his journey:
My life as an MSM (man who has sex with men) is very hard no matter how hard I try to hide it people seem to suspect. Most times it is because of the friends you keep and for some the way you behave that reveals our secret. Though for me being around friends help me to keep my sanity, I am unable to be myself around them.
Growing up in a church like mine and knowing who I am (and not what I had become) was extremely uncomfortable. The general feeling the members of the church had about homosexuals/MSMs is that we are rude, disgusting and promiscuous. Many, having presumed my sexuality, have take passages from the Bible to dissuade me from even attempting to have a relationship with another man or just in case I had already started, they wanted to frighten me enough so that I would stop.
Consequent to the constant nagging and whisperings behind my back I have had to make many adjustments to my life. I have had to adjust my walk; be conscious of my body language all the time; try to modulate my voice so that it would sound “masculine” because it sounded too much like a “girl’s”… The irony is that while I was a child, those were non-issues.
I think when the reality of being a man who has sex with men dawned upon me, I cried for the entire day at school. I probably felt that everyone knew, especially those within my church. There have been many times when persons from my church, again in an effort to try to change/dissuade me or whatever they were trying to do – by telling me that homosexuality is akin to demon possession. I have not even confirmed anything to them about my sexuality and they already seem so bitter towards me. I am afraid to think how they would react if or when I do tell them that I am a homosexual. They will make my life a living hell.
There are times that I ponder on certain things. Though I believe in God, accept and trust and love Him, and put no one else before Him would I ever see Heaven’s gates because I am homosexual or is this life of homosexuality a death sentence. When I die will the Lord put me on the first train to hell? These are the things that concern me.
If I were to move to another church where I know I am accepted, this would be great. I will be able to rebuild my confidence and self-esteem and hopefully grow and spread the word of the Lord even to fellow MSMs.
But for now, this is where I am; in church and unhappy. It makes no sense being a Christian and unhappy, it shows. Maybe Christians who are MSMs should have their own Church. Perhaps that will help.
Those were the real, uninhibited recordings of experiences of persons within the GLBTI community. People who love God but who have been told that God does not and cannot reciprocate that love. People who would love to be accepted by God and man but cannot deny who they are. Why would someone sacrifice safety, acceptance, self, God, to be homosexual? Perhaps this has nothing to do with theological reflection but saying to a group of people that there is no hope for redemption; no hope for relationship with God. We need to interrogate our beliefs. Do they pass the test of reason or practice? Are they void of contradictions? Here are some of the views that are held about the GLBTI community, particularly homosexuality and homosexuals.
The definition of homophobic is: “showing an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people, or their culture”. I am not sure then that one could call me homophobic. My loathing of homosexuality is not irrational nor do I fear homosexuals or homosexuality. I just cannot see how a man would take his penis and plunge it into another man’s anus. I don’t possess in my psyche the reasons that would make a man french-kiss another man or give him a blow job. I do understand that gays say it is more than sex; that it is all about love. But then someone would have to explain to me, since even the marriage laws say consummation is a key, how do you consummate a gay and lesbian relationship? The probable/possible answer to that is what makes me reject the bathwater of homosexuality and tempted to reject the baby called homosexuals.
His mother nicknamed him ‘Son’[interesting status in Christian Theology]; so did his siblings. I knew him from Waterford, Jamaica and he was a good yute. He migrated. I went to the U.S.A. and his sister, who I was having an affair with at the time, took me to see him. We All had a good time. As I said he was a good yute. In 1996 whilst in the U.S.A. for the Olympics in Atlanta I heard that he was ill. I went to Harlem Hospital and cried at the ‘piece’ of man I saw being ravaged by AIDS. He died soon after. He died from contracting AIDS during his homosexual experiences. I did not know that he was a homosexual. I only found out afterwards. What I know is that he was a good yute.
This response might seem lengthy but it needs to be emphasized that the Holy Spirit has convicted me that homosexuals are committing only one of many sins
[1 Corinthians 6:9-11]. With this in mind [as well as knowing ‘Son’] I am realizing more and more that Christians must love everybody as they love themselves. Bar none.
It is hard, nay impossible, for some of us to become close to MSMs, as you call them, but they are not bigger sinners than adulterers and fornicators. And we must allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to reach them. They are in need of Salvation like all other sinners.
The same 1 Corinthians 6 states:
15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
How then can the person of faith in Jesus Christ marginalize the homosexual but quickly forgive the adulterer who just seh him sarry? That is discrimination not found in Jesus Christ. Just as how Jesus, whilst He was earth was in the company of and teaching prostitutes, tax collectors and the demon possessed so must we now also reach these people and others by the power and blood of Jesus the Christ.
My Lord and Saviour has taught me - is teaching me, to love unconditionally. “For God so loved the world” includes gays, lesbians and prostitutes. Their sins can and will be forgiven by God if they want them to be. I have been commanded to forgive and love. Forgive and love I must!
Another Christian writes:
It really is not gay to be homosexual. Earl Wilson states that “homosexuality, like materialism or cancer, is the result of sin in the world. No, I do not consider myself to be homophobic. I view homosexuality as a sinful, immoral practice just like promiscuity. In both cases both parties may be willing to participate, in the practice, but even with consent the practice is still immoral.
I grew up in a community where homosexuality was, gravely looked down on and, violently handled. As a child I was privy to the abuse of men caught in the act of homosexuality. One was so physically hurt that he had to be rushed to the hospital; later he had to send a moving truck to collect his belongings since he could not return to the area. At that age I knew homosexuality was wrong; but I was also very aware that what the people in the community did was just as wrong. My grandmother would always say two wrongs don’t make a right.
My approach to the issue of homosexuality and homosexuals is bordered by and the result of my Christian worldview. I do not believe we should abuse, stone, murder or maim the one who chooses to live this way. I do not believe it is a physical state that makes it impossible for one to not partake in sinful behavior but it is a choice presented. Therefore, the individual can choose to partake or refuse to participate. Consequently, it is my belief that homosexuals too need to know truth and hear the good-news and be shown a different way of life. Jesus, the ultimate teacher when approached, by those who caught a woman in a sinful position, gave a command for the woman to be stoned by anyone who was sinless. Such a command is very relevant to us today. If there is a sinless one among us then he or she is quite in order to stone those who are homosexuals. But I do urge those of us who do not struggle with this sinful practice to beware; since, we too may be stoned for our sinful practices.
Homosexuality is not a human behaviour that can be explained only by physical, chemical & biological processes as Reductionists declare, it is as a result of circumstances and a matter of the heart (which the bible propounds is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).
Like all the other countries in the world Jamaica is not exempt from homosexual behaviour, rather homosexuality has gradually yet extensively infiltrated the society. Unlike many other countries however, Jamaica has a homophobic cultural context which is not only unreceptive to this kind of behaviour, but blatantly judgmental and discriminatory towards it. This is reported that this kind of violent behaviour is so ingrained against homosexuals that the motive is no longer about trying to stop the behaviour but to kill the homosexual – to remove the “accursed thing.” This can be seen in the many reports that show persons being brutalized simply because they were suspected, not even confirmed, of being gay. “it is important to remember as we consider homosexuality that God loves all people, despite any sin imaginable. God loves homosexuals, prostitutes, thieves, even gossips, and complainers. He does not rank sins or categorize them, he loves all of us despite any sin we commit” (Neff et al 1988, 534).
Many Christians today, in an attempt to express their disgust for this homosexuality mount the bandwagon of those who seek to annihilate these individuals. Clearly, such an attitude should never be named among those who call themselves Christians; who seek to live and walk as Jesus did. Our compassion must lead us to love the people of the world and lead them to the only One who can forgive their sins - Jesus. According to biblical principles, we must never condone the practice but we must embrace the teaching of Jesus and love them without discrimination, viewing them as individuals who need the truth of Jesus Christ, who badly need salvation or restoration. In addition to sharing the gospel, we should pray for them asking God to deliver them from the clutches of the evil one who seeks to steal, to kill and to destroy society – including homosexuals.
Therefore, the same concern I would have about an individual who is promiscuous is the same concerns I would have about an individual struggling with homosexuality.
As I read through the musings of Christian orthodoxy Shakespeare’s, ‘As You Like It’ came to mind; "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." In the context of the play, perhaps that quote may mean that we (as humans) go through stages in life. We make entrances onto the stage (we're born), play a role (baby, child, etc.), and then exit (die). To contextualize that reading for the GLBTI community, however, that line may be read from the perspective that, our pain, however real to us, is just entertainment/trivial to others watching. A pessimist view, no? But, without any attempt to be sophisticated in my thinking I would read that line as, “Christianity, when placed under the microscope can put on a great performance.
So often the Chasm between what is said and what is actually practiced is extremely wide. From the sharing of those who identify as Christians, one gets the hint of tolerance toward, and affirmation of members of the GLBTI community. Yet from the experiences of persons within the church who also identify with the GLBTI community awareness and feeling of those hints of tolerance and affirmation seem to be non-existent. Is it as a result of the tension that exists between Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy? Is it that those who are tending toward being tolerant and affirmative are silent because of fear of hostility? Are we really exaggerating the level of intolerance in the church? Or is religious intolerance so enshrined and engrained in Christian psyche that even though we may think ourselves to be out-of-the-box thinkers, we cannot act outside what we have held for so long?
Whatever we estimate the real issue to be or whatever the answers we have to the posited questions, the need to engage in theological reflection on and around religion, gender and sexuality is unquestionable.