Church of England Diocese of Sheffield Stannington

Connect Service 21/02/2021

28 Feb 2021, 9:45 p.m.

Connect service 210221 to grow in our understanding of & grace with issues around sexuality

Welcome

Connect service purpose is to grow in Christian community through activity, talk & discussion

Today going to be looking at issues relating to sexuality and seeking to grow in our Christian understanding of this & how to grow in grace in this.

The Lord be with you

Hymn: In Christ Alone – in these times of uncertainty it’s good to remind ourselves where our security is found; where our identity is found.

Confession

Compassion and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God,

though we have rebelled against him.

Let us then renounce our wilfulness and ask his mercy

by confessing our sins in penitence and faith.

We confess to you our selfishness and lack of love:

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

We confess to you our fear and failure in sharing our faith:

fill us with your Spirit.

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

We confess to you our stubbornness and lack of trust:

fill us with your Spirit.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Absolution

May the Father forgive us

by the death of his Son

and strengthen us

to live in the power of the Spirit

all our days.

Amen.

Collect

Heavenly Father,

your Son battled with the powers of darkness,

and grew closer to you in the desert:

help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer

that we may witness to your saving love

in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Responsive creed:

Do you believe and trust in God the Father,

source of all being and life,

the one for whom we exist?

All We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son,

who took our human nature,

died for us and rose again?

All We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit,

who gives life to the people of God

and makes Christ known in the world?

All We believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.

All This is our faith.

We believe and trust in one God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Bible readings

Galatians 3:26-29

This reading speaks of an inclusive gospel and the Church of England is currently considering how inclusive it is on issues of sexually. The official position of the Church of England is that the only proper place for intimate sexual activity is marriage between a man and woman. However this is being increasingly challenged by many who feel it excludes the LBTGI community. This is why the Church of England has commissioned a working group which has produced a report called Living in Love and Faith which aims to encourage more discussion and thought on this subject.

I’ve been reading this report and thought worthwhile bringing some of it to you. There are many real life stories in the report and I thought I would read you a couple as a prompt for our discussions. But first here are some statistics:

2019 there were 212,000 same sex couple families

2018 2.2% of >16s identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual

2018 the government estimate: 200-500,000 trans people (where someone’s sense of gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth)

Clinical research estimates that 1 in 300-5000 birth prevalence of atypical genitalia (intersex)

So here are a couple of stories from the report.….

Meet DAMON, CHERRY, JORDAN AND DAN This group gathers regularly to support each other in their emerging leadership roles in various estate churches around the city. On this occasion, they used their time together to talk about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. They began by sharing stories of encounters at church where they have extended welcome to people who expected rejection or had experienced it elsewhere. Jordan helped a young girl rejected by her family for being bisexual: ‘We just prayed about it. And I think she went out a bit calmer and relaxed.’ She goes on: ‘I’m not called to judge her. I’m just called to give her some compassion and some love and friendship.’ Cherry describes a gay young man working as a carer who brought congregation members to church as part of his job. ‘One week he said “I don’t think I’d be welcome in your church.” I said, “Oh, you would. You’d be made really welcome here.”’ Damon says: ‘However kind or nice we all are individually, or not, somehow we’re in an institution which isn’t perceived in that way … and has rules which exclude people at different levels.’ Talk moves to the importance of not judging and of ‘meeting people, not their issues’, citing stories when this approach led to individuals coming to faith and being embedded in church life – a single mum wanting her son baptized but afraid of rejection because each of her three children had a different father; a divorced couple who came to Jesus after being invited to be part of church life rather than just use the church building for getting married. A few people – single and divorced – comment on the assumption within church that marriage is the norm, and the pressure associated with that. Dan observes that Jesus was single and ‘no one told him to join Dateline!’ The group discusses how it’s important for the church to be pastorally equipped to support all kinds of people and be ready to actively participate in society. Jordan puts it like this: ‘It’s a conversation you’ve got to have; you cannot hide what’s going on in the world. It’s out there.’ ‘It’s a conversation you’ve got to have; you cannot hide what’s going on in the world.’ 'We’re all sinners in need of the love of Jesus and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.’ They observe what a privilege and opportunity it would be if young people, those struggling and in difficulty, felt they could come into church, be accepted and talk.

Downloadable version for local non-commercial use. Book available now from www.chpublishing.co.uk This material is copyright The Archbishops' Council 2020

Q1 Share your responses to these stories.

Plenary discussion noted that Christ died for all not just heterosexuals; that God is inclusive but the church is not always perceived that way (one group said how horrifying it was to note this); that the Church gets hung up on such issues whereas God is love & has made us in His image & transcends gender & sexuality.

John 17:20-26

This speaks of Jesus’ desire for unity in the church but on the subject of sexuality Christians interpret scripture differently. Some will view key texts in both OT and NT as irrelevant to our same sex committed relationships we see in society today, whilst others view the same key texts as integral to the Christian message and say that same sex sexual activity is sinful.

Q2. Can you think of an examples (not just to do with sexuality) where Christians have struggled to agree on how to interpret Scripture.

Plenary discussion noted examples such as our understanding of priesthood, women in priesthood, slavery & remarriage; and the need to interpret Scripture well.

There isn’t time today to go into the relevant scriptures in detail- I just wanted to introduce the subject today. But in the next Connect service we will look more closely at some of these passages and the issues surrounding interpreting them for today.

As we seek to discuss this further in coming weeks, it’s important we do that in a loving way when especially if people have differing views. So in preparation for that here is the final question for you to consider.

Q3.How can we know God’s help in this difficult subject and seek to build unity and grow in God’s grace?

Plenary discussion noted the importance of considering what Jesus would do in these situations, seeking to mirror our attitude to His; the importance of considering our own imperfections before we start looking for imperfections in others; the importance of being aware of prejudice when you only mix in certain circles & to get to know people as people (remembering how Peter’s understanding changed after his vision in Acts 10).

Prayers:

<ul type="disc"><li>Pray for God’s grace in the issues raised today</li><li>Pray for God’s wisdom in decisions national leaders face</li><li>Pray for those who are sick or in particular need</li></ul>

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Grace :

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen

Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) (including the Psalter as published with the common worship) material from which is included in this service, is/are copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000.