The Church of England decided this week to allow gay men who are in civil partnerships to become bishops as long as they take an oath of celibacy. The evangelical Anglicans were up in arms about this and there were a lot of spirited comments on the article from people whose caps-lock key appeared to be stuck. It does raise a very interesting question of where the lines are drawn for Christians who are opposed to homosexuality.
Presumably a celibate civil partnership between two gay men would involve a legally-binding lifelong commitment between two people who love each other and might express that love physically without having sex. To oppose this arrangement as sinful means one of two things. You’re either saying that any romantic relationship between two people of the same gender is sinful regardless of whether sex is involved or you’re presuming that the person in the civil partnership is lying about their celibacy. Either way what you’re saying is that gay people have to live alone for the duration of their lives in order to be acceptable to you.
Is it impossible to imagine that two people could love each other and live together but decide for religious reasons not to be sexually intimate? There is a lot of documentation of Christian monks and nuns throughout history who had relationships that were definitely more than platonic even if they weren’t sexual. Many heterosexual marriages become mostly celibate after a period of time even if this isn’t the result of an official decision. It’s not inevitable that two people who love each other romantically and live under the same roof will be unable to resist having sex.
When I spent a year in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps just after college, I lived in a house in DC with four girls and one other guy. Many evangelicals assume that this kind of living arrangement would inevitably result in sexual promiscuity. There was chemistry in the air at certain points. There was some physical affection. But never anything that got close to sex. Because we all knew how dysfunctional our community would become if we went there. In any case, I just don’t think it’s impossible to draw that boundary in a relationship even if it’s a lifelong companion with whom you share a home.
If you believe that homosexuality goes against Christian teaching, would you say then that gay people cannot enjoy a lifelong companionship with another person even if they don’t have sex? If you hold this position, how do you support it? Because you’re going beyond any possible interpretation of scripture that I know about.