John Wesley is credited with the articulation of the quadrilateral for theological reflection made up of Scripture, experience, tradition and reason. It has been likened to a three legged stool in that Scripture is always seen as the foundation with the other three factors providing support. In this section of this disputable matter series, I want to look at the variety of ways we apply these supports to our theological reflections about covenanted same-sex relationships.
Wesley prioritized, after Scripture, the role of experience in theological reflection. The reason for this was that he saw that after Scripture, the lived reality of a theological concept was most effective in determining the truthfulness of the interpretation. When we consider the role of experience in the questions around covenanted same-sex unions there are a few categories to consider.
First of all, there is the experience of same-sex attracted Christians. Among these stories is significant diversity in experience. Some have, through a combination of Christian commitment, personal growth, therapy, ongoing accountability and support, sought to diminish and / or manage their experience of same-sex attraction. For those who have gone down this path, there may be a variety of outcomes. For some, there is an experience of mastery and stewardship in the area of attraction such that they find it manageable to refrain from same-sex sexual behavior. For some this occurs within the context of being committed in marriage to an opposite gender spouse. For some this occurs as they navigate life as a single person.
For others who have attempted this path, the outcome was very different. Their experience was not positive in terms of their experience of sexuality, their spiritual journey, their sense of self, and their ability to meet their legitimate needs for love and intimacy. Despite spiritual discipline, commitment to work through various personal issues, and submission to others for support and accountability, their same-sex attractions persisted or increased in intensity. They may have experienced a sense of losing connection with all sense of desire, a shutting down of their sense of self, their creativity, their longings and their hopes. And this may have come to a point of clearly being unsustainable for them. This may result in the process of disclosure and honesty about the reality of same-sex attraction – out of which some individuals will identify as gay and others will choose not to. This experience may be in the context of heterosexual marriage or singleness.
Other same-sex attracted Christians have jou