LAMBETH: Psychiatrist Pinpoints Sexuality Struggles in Church & Family
By Lisa Guinness
Thank you for your attention; because this afternoon is not fringe at all but a vital part of the listening and dialogue said to be the essence of the Lambeth Conference.
A Revolution Ecclesiastes 4 v 1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are practised under the sun: And behold the tears of the oppressed, And they had no one to comfort them On the side of their oppressors there was power, And there was no one to comfort them.
So a revolution is always to cast off a restraint - real or perceived. The purpose is to bring down an institution and create a new freedom in its place.
But in the fall out, there are always casualties and prisoners and the infrastructure, necessary for ordinary life, often gets damaged or destroyed.
The full cost and the supposed benefits only become apparent later.
The institutions in question here were the family and the church.
The Family Sadly in the western world this had been reduced to the nuclear variety without the ancient possibilities of community, rites of passage, a host of relationships and mentoring that were present in a tribal or extended family model. As the social fragmentation started to bite and the walls closed in on the 2.4 children at home alone; so the new possibilities of sexual freedom due to contraception and social freedom of new job opportunities kicked in. A generation of confident independent under 30s did not need God and were proud of their ability to cast off restraint.
Ephesians 3 speaks of all the families on earth emanating from God the Father so what are some of the key elements of family that we have lost in the revolution. They may have seemed confining then, but were in fact the necessary order from which real freedom could flow.
God's original intention is that two adults should have been mature enough to leave their father and mother and cleave to each other in a covenant relationship.
1. Leaving : father and mother being mature enough both sides
2. Cleaving: covenant commitment that gives the security for dynamic evolving personhood c.f. moving on when the going gets tough
3. Procreation: with even more possibilities for evolving personhood with the opportunities to mature into motherhood and fatherhood
4. The family circle bringing more and more possibilities of relationship and becoming.
5. Undergirding this is the presence of the creator, redeemer God so in casting off the restraint of the family, we secured our absolute independence, becoming as god, but without His wisdom
Then the fall out starts to happen as we inflict primal wounds on our children and relationships become uncommitted and therefore indulgent with less and less possibility of being intimate or stable.
This Revolution and The Church One effect of this independence, felt by the church, was a desire also to be allowed to do what was right in one's own eyes.
Another was, as the church presumed that because it felt powerless and contaminated by the sexual revolution that God was too. Best to pretend that nothing is happening. The challenge is too great and too messy. Another strand was a crisis of confidence in power of the Cross and a sense of shame at needing a Saviour.
Which is odd when I am not ashamed to call in a plumber for a dodgy ball cock or take my car to the garage for a service. I have never yet been told by the mechanic that I should have been able to fix the brake pads myself - rather I have been commended for dealing with such a potentially dangerous defect. What havoc am I reeking in my relationships from all my unhealed places! Owning issues of sexuality became very difficult to do in some areas of the church - especially if the church felt it had nothing meaningful to offer.
So what of The Cross Does it have any power? Does it effect any real salvation for the personal and domestic issues in our lives? the hurts and losses, the shame, the confusion, any freedom from the people we need to forgive? Is there any justice or restoration of our full personhood this side of heaven?
Or is the Cross just a symbol or impotent theological concept and there is no hope of change or peace or honour in this the mortal phase of our eternal life?
Because if the Cross has no power then there is no hope of effective pastoral care or salvation, in its true sense of healing, and we are of all people to be pitied. **
And in our hopelessness we will be very tempted to reinterpret Scripture or leave it behind completely and become those with the appearance of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim 3 v 5)
Hebrews 12: describes a key progression See to it that: who knows where this is happening in a fragmented and values personal privacy above true fellowship and accountability. no one misses out on the grace of God -> no root of bitterness grows up in you and causes you trouble ( and we know how much of our behaviours are to assuage the pressure and frustration of disappointment and bitterness) - > no one is sexually immoral -> no one goes for instant gratification like Esau who sold the blessing of his sonship for a bowl of soup.
How many of us have anyone close enough to know if this is happening? Especially where we value of privacy above true fellowship.
And if no one is encouraging us with the goodness of God as our gracious and eternal father or if the notion of father is just a source of shame or pain for us, then our place in God's heart as a son or daughter, will be meaningless or abhorrent, and worth sacrificing. How can we continue to worship a so called loving God who despite our love and sincerity seems to betray us at our point of deepest need.
So pastoral care is seeing to it that the grace and truth of God is real and live and accessible to everyone - regardless of the issues we are dealing with in our lives.
whatever our story or why ever we have sought after God, whatever the cry of our heart,
It is making room for each other before the level playing field of the Cross. We are all sinners in need of God's presence and consolation and it is whilst we were sinners that Christ died for us so we can ask God into our lives without shame or fear. But if there is no hope of comfort or forgiveness for anything in our lives then of course we will resort to independence: tolerating our primal and childhood pain, and despite it being so profound and confusing, we will defend ourselves from God and try to save ourselves and rationalise our behaviour or drives.
So what of today? Post the revolution 20 years experience in ministry in this area have shown me that all the pastoral issues we are dealing with, have these understandable roots - they have not just flown in through the window. People are not arbitrarily picked off - into pornography addiction, same sex attraction, s and m. There are common themes that make psychological, sociological and biblical sense. E.g. fatherlessness is described again and again in the bible ( we all needed an active loving father in our lives) and the outworkings of it in practice include the eroticising of the unmet needs for touch, attention, affection, that are expressed in same sex attraction in men or promiscuity in women.
We work with the whole spectrum of relational and gender issues because often the roots are shared but manifest themselves in different people and personalities in different ways. There are no special cases - we all have own version of the fall expressed in our lives.
So we need to look at Scripture and at psychology to understand some of the roots and therefore the pastoral care.
As a doctor I know that someone can present with the symptom of breathlessness but that it can have many causes: anaemia requiring blood tests, heart failure requiring a stethoscope, lung disease requiring a chest xray. But then if it is anaemia then what is causing that? kidney disease, a leukaemia, an auto immune disease. As we follow through, the pieces fit and pastoral care involves similar investigations, and in it all, will be primal wounds, isolation, self care, unmet needs, shame, abuse, pain, that account for this person self medicating or diverting into these particular behaviours and becoming stuck in them just to survive.
So pastoral care is about applying the compassion of God to the deeply hurting places of our lives; of helping each other into a frank and meaningful dialogue with God; challenging our attempts to save ourselves and sooth our pains.
So what are some of the issues that might need pastoral care within the Church? e.g.
1 sexual addiction and such debt that our children's family home being repossessed
2 Being so frozen and afraid that we do not have a single meaningful relationship and Christmas is total isolation
3 Hating all women after the ways our mother manipulated and smothered us
4 Terrified of maturing as a man if it means being like our father Being aware same sex attraction in our teenage years and being bullied and taunted
5 Wondering why God didn't protect us when we were raped at school and told to enjoy it
6 Being alone since the age of 4 when I vowed I would never show my feelings again
7 Being adopted and supposed to be grateful but inside feeling so empty and abandoned: terrified at times by the fear of death
8 Craving our mother's breast and body; not knowing how to meet a need so primal and deep, overwhelmed as it becomes eroticised and powerful
9 Of being the perfect vicarage family but behind closed doors it was abusive and far from holy These are all the fall out of the culture and expressions of our primal wounds.
And one of the reasons we need e.g. to keep the reality of sin in our faith is because we have sinned against so much and if we cannot call that sin then there is no relief or comfort and we do not honour our broken hearts and our broken bodies and spirits.
What are some of these Primal Wounds? A few quick points: Mother We were to be conceived in the commitment and safety of a covenant union: some of us were conceived in very different circumstances and will have felt it as a foetal cellular memory.
We needed to bond to our mothers and receive life from her in a symbiotic relationship that filled us with both being and well being. Basic well documented attachment theory. If that didn't happen or the connection was prematurely severed then we will have lived with very little sense of personhood and solidity: instead we may have suffered with deep free floating anxiety; a fear of abandonment, fear of death, self hatred or shame. This is not a wing and a prayer stuff: but needs ongoing caring relationships, understanding, healing prayer in the presence of God.
If we were never able to bond, for any number of reasons or the bonding was not allowed to evolve into care and release on the part of our mothers we may still be attached to our mothers in a pathological way: overly loyal yet feeling smothered; idolising our mother but unable to relate in a healthy way to women.
None of this bodes well for healthy gender development: No sense of being is hardly a solid enough foundation for something as intense as our sexuality and as this void becomes eroticised we will be looking to others to fill the agonising void we feel inside.
e.g. of hetero - sexual addiction: As we seek to connect to woman without the need for relationship so pornography can take hold. The emptiness and anxiety is temporarily eased by masturbation and orgasm but not for long and the cycle continues. Numbness and anxiety are often self medicated by orgasm but with the law of diminishing returns. And it is the underlying lack of being and well being needs to be acknowledged and worked with. e.g. same sex attraction in women
Father: His job was to be delighted in us - like the heavenly father was in Jesus: everything else flows from this: to be present through all our early days, as a safe, comfortable lively model of maleness. Until he sensed the time had come to lead us out of our mother's clutches and into life accompanying us as we go. If he had already opted out of family life either to provide by working all hours, or just because he didn't know how to be a father then we will feel on our own. If all he ever said was "ask your mother", from behind his newspaper then our hearts will be heavy with disappointment. It was our father's privilege to discern who each of us really was. Special and enable us to emerge confidently into adult life.
We needed our father to give us: Attention: through his gaze, so I know I am seen and understood and valued Affirmation: through his voice, just for who I am, not for what I may do or look like Affection: through his touch; that I am precious and belong and feelings are safe Advocacy: through his presence; I am accompanied and I can know favour and protection. I am worth defending. I can make mistakes and take risks.
Again these are hugely powerful and essential and their absence cannot be excused. When these legitimate unmet needs become eroticised in puberty we will experience a real confusion between weakness and strength; between drivenness and passivity; between detachment and overinvestment. We will have protected ourselves by detaching from everything that felt negative or shameful in our fathers; but at puberty, as this need becomes eroticised we will be desperate to re-attach wherever we can in a sexual or servile way.
These legitimate unmet needs from father wreak havoc in a teenage boy and girl. The lack of affirmation causes deep shame and self questioning or hatred. It is always a component of same sex attraction however much a man defends his father: absence, aloofness, subtle or flagrant e.g. violence. The ambivalence about maturing into the stereotype male - either because it seems impossible or abhorrent, only contributes to the confusion and shame. We still listen for any male word of blessing, of being noticed or accompanied.
Many of us were effectively orphans and it was left to our peer group to parent us or lead any through any kind of rite of passage:
Mostly we are deeply stuck - unable to move on into maturity; to participate in the very relationships that would fill out our personhood, to be open and receiving from God. Martin Luther described sin as humans turned in on themselves - it is just that with us losing all the potential of loving and being loved by God, others and ourselves.
Siblings and Peers Our siblings may have been a mixed blessing because they were also trying to live off the same short emotional rations. The dynamics of pecking order and favourites, of preferred gender and looks will all have taken their toll.
Sometimes we managed to make a connection that was formative so may have been able to make more headway than the others; or we may have watched them flourish and settled for a profound poverty of spirit.
Peers Again with our peers it was often the blind leading the blind or dog eats dog: we may have had to suffer in silence as the shame of our family got compounded and cemented into the core of our being.
We will have been subject to conforming to Stereotypes whatever the cost, just to belong somewhere, with all the inherent dangers of Comparisons and being found wanting.
So pastoral care is a dynamic process involving the application of psychological theory with the essential truths of the faith : We can be undefended about our participation in:
1. Creation and that a Trinitarian God has made us in His image
2. Gender that we have been made male and female: each uniquely 3. That our response to God is one of relationship not performance 4. That we need a Messiah
5. That Isaiah 53 and 61 are key texts for describing the dynamics of pastoral care
6. That The Incarnation: hallows every aspect of our humanity and assuring us of God's total involvement in His world
7. The death, resurrection, ascension and glory of Christ : assuring us that the benefits of eternal life start here
8. That sins can be forgiven, wounds healed, griefs mourned, sorrows consoled, broken hearts offered for binding up, shame lifted, hope and peace bestowed.
It is enabling people to take up their journey of becoming, that may have hardly started or got aborted years back - leaving them in isolation and not in the place of relationship that God intended.
It is seeing to it that no one misses out on the grace and truth of God where they feel the need it most.
It is as if every mother has been so covered and blessed by her husband, if she has one, that she could relax and bond deeply with every child; as if there were no social isolation or emotional or financial poverty as if there was no migration and the extended family was up and running for us; as if there were no such thing as a disinterested or overwhelmed father; unaware of his children crying out for his attention and affirmation: knowing they have not been seen and discerned as a precious son or daughter; left unaccompanied to find their own way in life. As he says from behind his paper - go and ask your mother. We needed time and focus, investment, space, as if every father was faithful: as if we did not find our mother sobbing again because our father was off on a new affair as if our sibling relationships were stable and safe and edifying as if our peers made space for us in our uniqueness and honoured and supported us in the playground and through our teenage years. As if there was no prep school or foster home or neglect As if there was no sexual abuse or violence or pornography
But there was and we all bear the scars in our hearts, our bodies and our minds. These are the griefs and sorrows, the despising and the shame, the wounds and guilt, the crushings and oppression, the broken heartedness and the prison, the mourning for what should have been and the paralysing fear and frailty that are so vividly expressed for us in Isaiah. Without a Messiah who can bear these for us and die with them but rise without them there is no pastoral care for anybody.
Sin is not about judgement and condemnation its about forgiveness and healing through Christ for us now. Without a dynamic theology of the Fall and redemption we are left blaming God either out of anger or self pity.
We cannot live with such spiritual tension in our lives. God, in revealing Himself in Christ, offers Himself as our solution not an extra layer or twist in the problem.
So already we have some of the pre-requisites of pastoral care and actually of real evangelism!
1. An informed and un-naïve articulation of the Fall
2. A dynamic theology of the Cross
3. A gospel of palpable grace upon grace: full of compassion and welcome
4. The category of sin
The Place of the Family Let's look very briefly at three key relationships: all of them formative.
For many of us our families have fallen at the first hurdle.e.g. two of my grand- parents were alarmingly present in my parents' marriage and to that extent, at times, there was a tangible emotional distance between my parents. Their presence seriously affected my father's ability to invest in us as children. He was often pulled in two.
So effective pastoral care involves:
1. grace and welcome and confidentiality
2. building of trust
3. Letting the heart speak
4. space to be wherever they are or not before God
5. led by them
6. permission and language to express what they feel or is beyond words at the moment
7. space to share what for them may be unsayable when they are ready
8. helped to understand the roots of their issues with God and within themselves
9. work out the first steps: one to one, prayer, group work, stabilising personal circumstances Seeing to it that no one misses out on the grace and truth of God where they feel they need it most.
---Dr. Lisa Guinness is a Director of Living Waters, a ministry to men and women caught in gender identity issues.Central to the organization's philosophy is a belief that God can fulfill the father-figure role that she claims is absent in most gay lives. The ministry the only one of its kind in Britain, is part of a growing pan-European operation with offices in 13 countries. She is based in London.
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