Joseph Galgalo and Debbie Royals
One way of describing what we are engaged in as a Communion and in using the resources of this book is the task of spiritual discernment. Among the claims being made by some Anglicans is that they have experienced the Spirit of God at work in the lives and relationships of people in same-sex unions. The Episcopal Church, when asked in the Windsor Report to explain ‘how a person living in a same-gender union may be considered eligible to lead a flock of Christ’, claimed that ‘Christian congregations have sought to celebrate and bless same-sex unions because these exclusive, life-long, unions of fidelity and care for each other have been experienced as holy. This chapter seeks to explore claims such as these by considering questions relating to spirituality and sexuality.
More than with any other chapter in the book this chapter consciously brought together two people whose understanding and experience of same-sex relationships was quite different and asked them to get to know and listen to each other. Debbie Royals wholeheartedly owns the statement quoted above from To Set Our Hope On Christ. Her spirituality is informed by living a life of commitment to Christ as an indigenous person who is in a covenanted relationship with her female partner. Joseph Galgalo, in contrast, finds it difficult to comprehend as Christian any claim that a same-sex union can be holy. He brings to this conversation a depth of spirituality which emerges from his evangelical heritage in the Church of Kenya and from his understanding of the Christian heritage through his insightful academic study of the Church Fathers. What they have in common is a desire to hear each other and the clarity, personal relationship with Christ and academic ability that enables them to respond to each other.
Joseph and Debbie came together for a week to listen to one another, work together, travel together, read the Scripture together and pray with and for one another. This was one of the most uncertain of all the partnerships established in the creation of these resources. There was no guarantee that they would find any common ground. They were specifically asked not to seek a compromise. In contrast to most of the other chapters no joint statement was expected. The goal was to clarify both the differences between them and those things they hold in common. During the week they met with members of the Iona Community - a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship - who were able to talk about their experiences of the spiritual life as lesbian and gay people within their inclusive community of prayer and action. Joseph and Debbie asked hard questions of those they met and of one another. They did so, however, in a spirit of mutual respect and without trying to diminish or victimize the other.
This chapter is written in the form of a conversation which follows the flow of the dialogue of the final day. It covers a wide range of crucial questions - their understandings of spirituality and sexuality and the relationship between them, the nature of gender identity (Debbie identifies as a Two Spirit person) and how sexuality and spirituality relate to personhood, various expressions of spirituality and sexuality in different relationship patterns and in different cultures, and finally how these themes relate to such important theological concerns as creation, holiness, the example of Jesus and covenant. As with the earlier chapters, this can only provide an introduction to these major themes. For that conversation both Phil Groves and Adrian Chat-field were privileged to be present. They heard the conversation and occasionally asked questions but the conversation was between Debbie and Joseph. Common ground was found, but differences are not papered over or hidden. In what follows Joseph and Debbie speak for themselves. But this conversation is not over. No resolution was reached but both trust in Jesus Christ who is to reconcile all things (Colossians 1.19-20).
As you read, listen carefully to what they are saying to each other and consider how you would have joined in the conversation if you were present. Then see if you can find ways in which you can enter similar conversations and dialogue with other Christians who view things quite differently from you. Both Debbie and Joseph learnt more about their own spiritual journey from the encounter. We hope that as you share in some of that encounter and pray as you read their conversation and the Scriptures to which they refer that your own relationship with Christ will also be enriched and enlivened.
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