Pastoral Care of Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families
This was an online book that I found called “Pastoral Care of Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families”. The first thing to note about counseling homosexuals in church settings is that when clergy are aware of their being gay that very few of the clergy do any counseling or spiritual guidance of homosexuals. “Many lesbians and gays want God, but not the Church and its representatives. This is a tragic anomaly. Yet at the same time, it is understandable,” writes the authors David K Switzer and John Thornburg.
It is often made clear to homosexuals that they are neither wanted nor are they approved of. So we must ask why would they want to come to Christian education or why would they want to participate in a Church that is not willing to work with them in spiritual guidance, to seek help in trouble, so that they can seek the way of salvation?
Many of the clergy are completely unaware that we are already ministering to a crowd of homosexuals that are a part of our congregations. The authors pointed out in an earlier chapter that “in almost all congregations of any size, and in a number of small congregations, there are gays and lesbians among the membership and the worshippers.” However, the authors pointed out that if these folks would come forward that the relationships could grow and we could minister to them even more.
The authors make a great point that the number one barrier to be effective, consistent ministers to those whose needs are revealed to us is that we are indeed human.
Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care
“The mission of the Church is to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people and to minister to all people in his name. In our time and culture, special challenges are faced by those Church members who carry out this mission among persons who experience same-sex attraction.
There are many forces in our society that promote a view of sexuality in general, and of homosexuality in particular, not in accord with God’s purpose and plan for human sexuality,” it says in the introduction in this article put together by Catholic Bishops. This article proceeds to discuss God’s plan for human sexuality within the context of His creation and how that homosexuality cannot fulfill that plan. This article then proceeds to say that having homosexual inclinations is not a sin in and of itself, but that acting upon these inclinations and desires is indeed sinful. But the meat of this article is found in the pastoral care guidelines:
1) Church Participation- “As baptized members of the Catholic community, persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they may live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life.”
2) Catechesis- “Catechesis ought to reflect the fullness of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular. ‘Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.’ In tone, catechesis ought to be welcoming yet challenging, charitable but firm in the truth.”
3) Sacraments and Worship- “Catholics who are living in accord with the Church’s moral teachings are invited and encouraged to participate fully and regularly in the sacramental life of the Church. The importance of frequent reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, for one’s ongoing strengthening and sanctification should be emphasized.”
4) Pastoral Support- “Many virtuous people who experience same-sex attraction are ardently striving to live their faith within the Catholic community so as not to fall into the lifestyle and values of a “gay subculture.” The Church’s ministries are to encourage them to persevere in their efforts through teaching, guidance, and fellowship. Primary among these is spiritual direction from a priest.”
I believe that even though these guidelines are Catholic specific that they can be taken and applied to any faith community.
The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons: A Psychological Note
This article seems to be written from a more psychological standpoint. They begin with an introduction to homosexuality then go on to explore the origins of male homosexuality, which are not rooted in biology. There is not enough evidence that is clear enough for such a theory to become fact. Then the article speaks of female homosexuality, but to a lesser degree since it has not yet been studied in depth as much as male homosexuality. Then speaking of the defensive character of homosexual relationships the article goes into how homosexuality can stem from a bad relationship with the parent of the same-sex. The author writes, “Moberly (9, p. 178), discussing homosexuality in general, observes: ‘From amidst a welter of details, one constant underlying principle suggests itself; that the homosexual—whether man or woman—has suffered from some deficit in the relationship with the parent of the same sex; and that there is a corresponding drive to make good this deficit—through the medium of same-sex, i.e. “homosexual” relationships.’”
The article then goes on to discuss the variety in the homosexual condition saying that there are three components that motivate homosexuality and homosexual tendencies: “affective dependency, power, and sexual gratification.”
This eventually leads to some implications for how we ought to offer pastoral counseling to homosexuals. First, homosexuals have a very bruised self-esteem to begin, and so in our ministering to them we must treat them with the utmost respect and love. The dignity and personhood that lies within them is to be recognized. Each of these people are fashioned in the image of Christ and carry a Cross of their own. The article says, “They also need particular support from the Christian community , in order (among others things) not to define their identity exclusively in terms of their sexual orientation. Among the possible forms of help that may be provided by psychology, sociology, and medicine, one may suggest in particular the possibility of encouraging homosexual persons to undertake a suitable depth-psychotherapy when this is possible. Bieber and Bieber report that from 30 to 50 per cent of male homosexuals can, with the aid of such therapy, overcome the problem of homosexual orientation. Even if a person does not succeed in changing sexual orientation, such therapeutic assistance can be a help in achieving greater impulse-control and to living more at peace with oneself.”
The article then goes on to explain that this is fashioned to help them overcome their problem and not to engage in the behavior further. This is designed to help them overcome their temptation and not to give into it.
Committee to Give Direction about and for Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members
This article has a section that I really want to focus on. It discusses common spiritual issues among the homosexual community that I feel we really need to understand. The article says, “Persons who experience same-sex attractions have some common experiences that require the ministry of the church. The first and in many ways the most significant of these is their experience of themselves as different, as abnormal, as being not the way most others are. Since their differentness is related to their sexuality, it is a very personal and private matter.” The first common issue is that they can feel a very deep sense of shame that can be very pervasive, and it can lead to an alienation of themselves from genuine community.
The second is helping them realize their place in the community. As a community of believers that have been forgiven there is no place for shame in our churches. Part of being a Christian is being made a new creation. We have to come under and serve our brothers and sisters who struggle with this temptation but want to be healed of it.
The third is assuming an identity. This is formed by the questions of “Who am I?” and “Who is God?” This involves not allowing the sin to define who they are and how they view themselves. In the Church we are a new creation and their identity is found in Christ alone.
The fourth is to differentiate between temptation and sin. Having homosexual tendencies that tempt one is not a sin. We must emphasize that sinning takes place when we act upon those temptations we have. We must make this clear to those who are homosexual who have reframed from sexual encounters, so that the shame they may feel from just having those feelings will leave.
The fifth issue is that of self-control or celibacy. We must teach that to have meaning and purpose in life do not stem from our relational status, but that often being married can complicate our service to the Lord.
The sixth is that God is in the business of healing and that we must emphasis that. There is freedom for us from our sins and sicknesses. “God promises the healing of all our diseases, of whatever distorts our lives, of that which troubles our relationships, and of that which destroys shalom—whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. He tells us that healing and the gospel go together. The power of God is shown in changed lives, changed in all sorts of ways. When Jesus, the firstborn of the Father, came into the world, the new creation was made manifest. Those who believed in him became new people, and those who were sick were healed.”
LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS
This is a letter written by the current Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still a Cardinal in the Church. This article points out eighteen points of pastoral concern for the Church of which I will address put a few. This first point is that the debate about homosexuality has gone public indeed. And so the public often pushes the debate in a direction that the Church cannot accept, so it is highly important to train clergy how to deal with this.
The fourth lies with hermeneutics and the confusion surrounding Christian teaching on homosexuality. Many churches have confirmed with the world and this is in complete confrontation with the Church’s teaching, that includes the majority of Christians and not just the Catholics.
The sixth point lies in the fact that Genesis defines human sexuality. The letter says, “Providing a basic plan for understanding this entire discussion of homosexuality is the theology of creation we find in Genesis. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.”
The twelfth point mentioned is for those who are homosexual and living in the Church, but follow the Lord. They are called to enact the Lord’s will for their lives, which is to crucify themselves so that Christ will live in them.
In conclusion, there are some basic concepts we should follow in pasturing homosexuals. Concepts like loving and respecting them, caring for them, accepting them, but not encouraging their sinful behavior. We are to make known to them the light of Christ by our own lives and by the love we have for them. There are many sins and we are all sinners. Sin is not about breaking rule or regulations, but it is about the heart for sin is a disease of the heart. The only thing that can cure our disease, no matter what form it is, is the blood of Jesus Christ.