Welcome to part 4 of our “Let’s Talk About Sexual Ethics” series. The first two posts consider the evolution of the sex ethics conversation in the Generous Space community. If you haven’t already read them, I invite you to do so here and here. In these posts, I unpack how a values-centered approach to sexual ethics allows us to both honour an individual’s agency in discerning how to steward their sexual life in a manner that is consistent with their Christian faith and in a way that will contribute to their flourishing and continue to have a shared conversation in which we lean into God’s best for us as a community of faith. In part 3, you can access a video of my teaching the basic framework to understand a values-centered approach to sexual ethics.
One of the challenges of presenting this series on Sexual Ethics is the question of readiness. Any time you invite someone to consider thinking about or doing things in a different way, wisdom suggests that you need to take into consideration how ready they are to engage the process of change. If you push change past their point of readiness, you will inevitably do harm. At worst, the other could experience the proposed change as violent to their belief system, their sense of self, or their capacity to extend respect to the one with whom they differ.
In the case of the Generous Space community, we are aware that exceeding the point of people’s readiness may be counter-productive to our commitment to learn to love each other across difference. We know that shame, judgment, and fear are ready defaults for so many of us in this arena of sexual ethics. And we know that when such attributes are activated, we tend to withdraw, exclude, and disengage from those whose sexual ethics we find threatening or problematic. This is despite knowing Jesus’ teaching that all the law and the prophets are summarized in the call to love God and love our neighbour (including when they feel like our enemy) as we love ourselves.
As I referenced in part 2 of this series, the apostle Paul in Romans 14 reminds us to treat each other gently when seeking to embrace new paradigms of understanding what is life-giving, faithful, and good.
Today, we are sharing with you the keynote presentation that Rev. Evan Smith delivered at our 2018 Ontario Generous Space Retreat. We wholeheartedly celebrate Evan’s prophetic challenge to acknowledge, lament, and address the covenants we have broken in the ways we have excluded and alienated those whom God sees as Beloved who have a place of Belonging in the Body of Christ.
We recognize that Evan’s keynote may push some past their point of readiness in considering paradigms about sexual ethics. While we hope that the explanation of values-centered sexual ethics will help people to process what Evan shares, we also invite people to email us with questions you may have.