One Fold and One Shepherd

by Louie Crew

First appeared in Churchman 188.5 (June-July 1974): 15.

© 1974 by Churchman; © 2004 by Louie Crew

For too long I came to the Communion table as a thief in the night, not really feeling that I belonged there, but hoping to sneak some grace. For too long I looked to my Christian brothers and sisters to make me feel welcome to the sacred mysteries, and for too long I hid my real self in fear, hoping thereby that my brothers and sisters would make me a part of their communion. For too long I failed to look at the Savior, who always says, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." I am a part; my part is not something other guests can give or deny. Christ's grace is unconditional!

It is time the church listened to the love of Christ and made an effort to be honest about sexuality.

We human beings have very little choice about what is sexually appealing to us. Our bodies, our hormones, our glands, and all other God-designed chemistry announce what is appealing; and our sexual longings are very sacred because they are in the image of the creator who himself made man to relieve his own loneliness.

The Anglo-Saxon word hal contained all the meanings divided among three derivatives in modern English -- whole, hale (i.e., healthy), and holy. Even the wisdom of our culture, not only that of our religion, tells us that whatever holiness or health one can hope to experience can never be isolated from God's wholeness or completeness. So much is sex a part of the whole person that it is fair to say that anyone who denies or suppresses his God-given sexual identification cannot make many steps towards health or holiness. Hence, my God-designed homosexuality is not a definition of my sickness, but a potential ingredient of my health; it is not a mark of my sin, but a requirement of any holiness and salvation that I may experience.

The good news of love has been too long suppressed with very unChristian consequences. In my work as a professor, actor, writer, and frequent counselor of young people I regularly encounter gay brothers and sisters whose spiritual lives and mental health have been stunted by their listening to the damning voices of our culture rather than to the saving voice within. When one wrongly feels that even to be attracted to another person is evil, predictably he's going to be muddled about questions of evil over which he actually has a choice. If I feel condemned merely for being what I did not choose, I can more easily tolerate the evil I choose. Here heterosexuals are no different from me. If my straight brother is sexually attracted to a person who is married to someone else, that attraction is not his responsibility. It is in itself good; his accountability is in how he does or does not act upon that attraction. When Christians misrepresent Christ by saying that all gay attractions and behaviors are evil, they are in effect striving to deny gay people the moral accountability of acting out their desires in Christian, loving, mutually fulfilling ways.

This is good news for straights too. For one thing, the gospel reminds us that God loves indiscriminately. Thereby straights may be spared any sick illusions that God loves because someone has met specified or unspecified qualifications, be they sexual or otherwise.

More importantly, straight Christians need to know that gays and straights alike need to unite for far more urgent spiritual crises facing our time. It is absolutely amazing how much spiritual energy is wasted in church gossip about the sexual identity of priests, of choir directors, or organists, of Sunday School leaders, even of bishops. One priest recently complained to me that while he accepted my whole personhood he was deeply resentful that his own bishop is gay and gives the better parishes to the in-group. Whole churches have lived in an atmosphere of suspicion. One can gossip all year long with no sense of sin; yet let him love another man and it's scandalous. We surely need an atmosphere wherein all can love openly; where it will be no scandal. We need an atmosphere where we are accountable for what we do, not for what God made us to be; an atmosphere where we are taken as whole persons, not just as freaks completely defined by their sexual identification.

Such a healthy atmosphere will be impossible until some dearly kept secrets have been told. The liturgy would be poorer, the hymn book positively tinny, the theology impoverished, many edifices unembellished, many scholars ignorant, if the suppression of gays were to have been effective for the last 2,000 years!

Such a healthy atmosphere will be impossible until we can rid our society of the unwholesome divorce of sexuality from spirituality throughout our society. One of the most intensely spiritual encounters I have ever had was with a young holy man, an Anglican novitiate monk, who spent an afternoon wandering around an English mountain simultaneously seducing me with his understanding of God and with his understanding of how God-given chemistry was magnetizing our two bodies. Many gay sisters have shared with me accounts of similar spiritual impact. Many gay brothers have rejoiced about learning to integrate mind, body, and soul in the rectory.

Some may wish that gays would go away. The Nazis baked us by the thousands, and otherwise outraged Europe and Christendom has yet to raise a whimper of protest. Still every sociological count shows our numbers to be increasing. We may constitute one of the biggest challenges of the church to follow its historic mission to take the Gospel to every creature.

"Go to a gay church," some may say; "get with your own kind." Brothers and sisters, at every Holy Table I am with "my own kind." The Gospels teach that my neighbors are those whom I treat neighborly. The bidding of the Book of Common Prayer requires only that I be "in love and charity with my neighbor and desir[ing] to lead a new life following the commandments of Christ Jesus." I join thousands of gay Christians throughout the world, serving in rectories, in lunch rooms, in hospitals, in teamsters unions, in factories, in schools, in government, in laboratories, in asking straight Christians to take seriously this same bidding, to be in love and charity with us, to treat us neighborly.


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