Monday, June 22, 2009


Note: I met Faith Linton, through our mutual friend Dr Las Newman, at Cranbrook Flower Forest in Runaway Bay. When she told me of her twin sister's accomplishments in Elmira, Ontario, I set out to interview Joyce on a recent trip to Canada. My 1,000 word column in the Observer (see previous post) could hardly contain the wide ranging interview ... 
Faith and Joyce were high achieving students, the children of a brilliant Principal Donald Nation and his devoted wife, Daisy nee Ford ( a relative of Colin Powell). The twins recall that their mother read many books while she expected them, wanting to influence their learning before birth in Harewood, St Catherine! It seems to have worked - they are both distinguished scholars and published authors.
Joyce's son, Malcolm Gladwell has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for years with 'Tipping Point', 'Blink' and his latest 'Outliers' - with the last chapter entitled 'A Jamaican Story' about the amazing Nation twins!
In the article below, Joyce, a celebrated psychologist, urges a Christian approach to homosexuality. - Jean

by Joyce Gladwell - From The Presbyterian Record (click on title for link) - Ontario
When Andrew Faiz (Pop Christianity, May 2008) mentioned “a powerful letter … which spoke of the loneliness and pain a homosexual person felt within the church,” he touched a nerve for me.
I first came alive to the reality of homosexuality in my early 50s. I was then back at university as a mature student preparing to be a marriage and family therapist. One of my courses was on human sexuality and the professor spared us little as he introduced us to the variety and complexity of human behaviour. He brought three lesbians to address the class with their personal stories, in particular how they came to realize their sexual identity. As I listened, I experienced a jolt of identification as I realized: these people can no more help who they are than I can change the colour of my skin.
As a “brown face” from Jamaica, living first in the UK and now in Canada, I have known my share of rejection for what is a given in my life - a characteristic I neither chose nor acquired. So it was with the women before me, but with this difference: I could hardly hide the colour of my skin, but they could hide their identity unless they chose to reveal it. The choice for them was either to conceal and deceive, or reveal themselves and risk being ostracized. They were trapped - caught in a dilemma I was mercifully spared.
I was raised in the Anglican tradition with a thorough grounding in the scriptures that included writing exams on the Bible at the high school level. At university, I was influenced by the inter-varsity movement and learned to set high value on the teachings of scripture, to be wary of selecting the parts of scripture I agreed with while ignoring other parts, and I was discouraged from inventing fanciful notions of my own. Whatever I learned that was new and different had to be put to the test of the scriptures.
As I began to practice as a therapist and to hear more lesbian stories, I took time to reflect on what I was hearing in the light of what is recorded in the Bible concerning homosexuality.
In Leviticus 18:22, among the list of unlawful sexual relations is this: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: that is detestable.” In Romans 1:26 and following, Paul condemns homosexuality as shameful, unnatural, perverse and subject to God's punishment.
I took refuge in the gospels, where homosexuality is never named, and in Jesus' gracious words, his understanding of the human condition, and his heart for those least accepted in society. Still, Leviticus and Romans made me very uneasy.
As I entered into the lives of my lesbian sisters, I tried to imagine what it would be like to live often, if not always, with shame and guilt, to be denied a life partner, to have no hope of family life, to know that if I were found out I would be avoided socially, I might even lose my job. I considered Jesus' promise of abundant life, and the kingdom he came to establish. His mission, he said, was to bind up the brokenhearted, to release the prisoners, and let the oppressed go free.
Here were fellow believers in Christ's church, falling far short of abundant living, captive to the curse of their condition, oppressed by a rejecting society, and surely brokenhearted.
To me this was a contradiction in the life of the church. Even the scriptures seemed to be sending inconsistent messages. Then I read again the story of Peter's vision in the book of Acts. Peter, the observant Jew, is so hungry while he waits for a meal that he falls into a trance, and sees a vision. A repulsive bag of writhing, creeping creatures is let down in front of him three times, and he is ordered to “kill and eat.” Leviticus is Peter's rule book, and in chapter 11 he is instructed to detest certain sea creatures, birds and flying insects, and given a list of reptiles and animals which are unclean and must not be eaten. Therefore, Peter's response to the strange command in his vision is, “No, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is impure or unclean.” To this the Lord replies: “What I have cleansed, do not call impure or unclean.”
The meaning of the vision becomes clear to Peter when he is called to travel to the home of a Roman soldier to share the gospel with his household. This would have been unthinkable for Peter before his vision, “for it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile, or to visit him.” In the vision “God has shown me,” says Peter, “that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
The dividing line between Jew and Gentile was circumcision, the centuries-old mark of those who belonged to God. When Peter's peers, “the circumcised believers,” hear of his visit to Gentiles, they criticize him: “You went into the house of uncircumcised men, and ate with them!”
Reading this account again was a turning point for me. I see parallels between the unsettling issue of Jew and Gentile in Peter's day, and our struggle over homosexuality today. I read God's response to Peter's “no” and I take heart for God's timely resolution to our struggle. I see the dividing line between the churches open to blessing same-sex unions and the traditional church opposing them, and I long for God's releasing word: “What I have cleansed, do not call impure or unclean.” I long for justice for my gay brothers and sisters, for openness as we listen to one another, for fellowship where we are now divided. I read how Peter's peers dropped the barriers and brought their uncircumcised brothers into fellowship, and I see the possibility of the church today being reconciled and open to change.
Lord, we struggle in darkness,
give us light.
Show us where your truth
and mercy meet.
Release our captive brothers
and sisters.
Lift their oppression.
Remove our shortsightedness as
we read and interpret the scriptures.

Are we listening for God? In the noise of our debating, can we hear what God is saying?

No comments:

Post a Comment