Saturday, March 24, 2012

A few thoughts about gay parenting

This is really by way of a supplement to my previous post about civil partnerships, and prostitutes getting to heaven before the priests.

My argument there is that we need to draw a distinction between sanctioning and blessing relationships which are purely about the relationship between the parties involved, and sanctioning and blessing relationships which involve the raising of children. I believe that the wider society has a much stronger interest in the latter than in the former. Whilst there is all sorts of Christian thinking that can be considered in such cases, my overwhelming feeling is that it is for the Christians concerned to establish what is right, between them and God (and if they explicitly seek God's blessing for their endeavours then the church should enable such blessings to take place). In other words, I think it is a matter of taking their baptism seriously, and trusting in the outworking of grace in the lives of brother and sister Christians.

The latter situation, involving the raising of children, involves more factors. Two things to say about this. First, I believe that - in so far as we can use such language - it is part of God's original intentions for humankind that each child is to be loved into being and raised by their mother and father, and that there is something inevitably biological and organic at the root of this. That is, any situation which results in a child not being raised in love by their biological mother and father is the result of sin somewhere along the line (not necessarily sin by the parents - it could simply mean that one parent has lost their life for any of a multitude of reasons). I think that it is important to hold on to this as the normative model for parenting.

My second point, however, is a recognition that, in our fallen world, we have to cope with many situations that fall short of the ideal. What then? Well, we make the best we can from what we've got. We patch up our families, putting together whatever pieces work in so far as we can do so. We recognise that things aren't ideal, and we rely on God's grace to plug the gaps. As I argued before, I suspect that it may be easier for God to do his work when people recognise their own brokenness rather than otherwise ("every heart to love will come... but like a refugee"). Given this, I don't have any problems with couples of all shapes and sizes and orientations adopting or fostering children. Seems to me that if there are loving homes available, and children in need of loving homes, then everybody wins.

However, I would add a caveat to this. If we accept God's intentions as normative - that a child is to be raised by their biological mother and father - then this places a question mark against all the ways in which there is a conscious choice to bring a child into the world without their biological mother or father being the ones to raise the child, eg through artificial insemination. That would seem to be to be actively choosing against what is normative, rather than simply coping with what is not normative and redeeming a broken situation.

So to sum up my present thinking:
- blessing of civil partnerships - big yes;
- adoptions by gay couples - yes (subject to same restrictions as heterosexual couples);
- actively choosing to bring children into world without mother and father - no.

Current ambiguity still to be explored - if a gay couple with children seek church blessing - does that mean 'gay marriage'?! I think not, but I still have further thinking to do on this...!


  1. Sam,
    'this places a question mark against all the ways in which there is a conscious choice to bring a child into the world without a biological mother or father,'. Every child has a biological mother and father, the question is whether the intention is to bring that child into the world without the intention that their biological father and mother should be involved in their parenting. Is that what you meant?

  2. Phil - yes, it is. I'll adjust the text so it's clearer.

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