My Photo
Location: California, United States

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Body's Grace

Last night I read a speech written by Rowan Williams (now the Archbishop of Canterbury) and made to members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Association when he was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in 1989, on the subject of human sexduality ... The Body's Grace.

I found some of the concepts challenging, but in a good way . Below I've posted some bits from an interesting sermon on William's speech by the Reverend Thomas Morris. And below that, I've posted some excerpts from William's speech itself.

Rev. Morris ...

Entering the "body's grace", Williams writes, is moving toward " a sense of oneself beyond the customary imagined barrier between the inner and outer, the private and shared -- we belong with and to each other." For us to admit this, that we need another person and for us to stand helpless before that other waiting for that one to need us is also to say we need God. And to know what it is like to be the source of joy and pleasure for another person is to begin to experience being the object ourselves of God's love, of God's delight in us. In the same way God tells Jeremiah, the Divine lover says to you and me, "before I formed you in the womb I knew you." How else would the Psalmist's sing, "Lord you have searched me out and known me; for you yourself created my inmost parts -- my body is not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth."

For some of us we explore our desire in the complex of commitment to one other in the forming of a union that seeks to be life long. For others it is lived in the single life of searching and waiting for the gift of another. And still for others there is a life given to God which is not an alternative to the exploration of desire but a choice to see if they can discover themselves in a life dependent upon the "generous delight of God alone."

Whatever your circumstance, whether by choice or fate, what is true is that our desire is good. It draws us into places and relationships where we know joy as well as rejection, where we face our limits and celebrate our unique strengths. For in our desire we rest in the embrace of the One we seek knowing that we have been found.

And here are some parts of The Body's Grace ...

The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ's body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God's giving that God's self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.

The life of the Christian community has as its rationale - if not invariably its practical reality - the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy. It is not surprising that sexual imagery is freely used, in and out of the Bible, for this newness of perception. What is less clear is why the fact of sexual desire, the concrete stories of human sexuality rather than the generalising metaphors it produces, are so grudgingly seen as matters of grace, or only admitted as matters of grace when fenced with conditions. Understanding this involves us in stepping back to look rather harder at the nature of sexual desire; and this is where abstractness and overambitious theory threaten.

(big snips)

Married sex has, in principle, an openness to the more tangible goals of producing children; its "justification" is more concrete than what I’ve been suggesting as the inner logic and process of the sexual relation itself. If we can set the movement of sexual desire within this larger purpose, we can perhaps more easily accommodate the embarrassment and insecurity of desire: it's all in a good cause, and a good cause that can be visibly and plainly evaluated in its usefulness and success.

Same-sex love annoyingly poses the question of what the meaning of desire is in itself, not considered as instrumental to some other process (the peopling of the world); and this immediately brings us up against the possibility not only of pain and humiliation without any clear payoff', but - just as worryingly - of non-functional joy: or, to put it less starkly, joy whose material "production" is an embodied person aware of grace.

(more snips)

A theology of the body's grace which can do justice to the experience, the pain and the variety, of concrete sexual discovery is not, I believe, a marginal eccentricity in the doctrinal spectrum. It depends heavily on believing in a certain sort of God - the trinitarian creator and saviour of the world - and it draws in a great many themes in the Christian understanding of humanity, helping us to a better critical grasp of the nature and the dangers of corporate human living.

It is surely time to give time to this, especially when so much public Christian comment on these matters is not only non-theological but positively anti-theological. But for now let me close with some words from a non Christian writer who has managed to say more about true theology than most so-called professionals like myself.

I know no better account of the body's grace, and of its precariousness.

It is perception above all which will free us from tragedy. Not the perception of illusion or of a fantasy that would deny the power of fate and nature. But perception wedded to matter itself, a knowledge that comes to us from the sense of the body, a wisdom born of wholeness of mind and body come together in the heart. The heart dies in us. This is the self we have lost, the self we daily sacrifice (Susan Griffin, Pornography and Silence Culture’s Revenge Against Nature, London 1981, p 154).

- Rowan Williams


Blogger Matthew said...

Interesting stuff.

I think the church (Catholic and otherwise) has been terribly negligent in formulating and presenting a coherent and theologically-grounded sexual ethic, opting instead for either affirming or rejecting the sexual mores of the surrounding culture.

I'll gladly read anything you dig up that might point toward a more complete Christian sexual ethic. =)

8:13 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Matthew. In the area of catholicism, I'm reading some of the writings of James Alison, who I mentioned at your blog. One place to see what the catholic church thinks about love might be the Pope's Deus Caritas Est

11:47 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

My blog has few links on that neglected sexual ethic.:-) In the side bar, under Women vocation and dignity.
Theology of the body.:-). And few others.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Victor said...


I know that God loves all His Children but that does not mean that He agrees with us all the time. No matter how sweet we can at times make our words sound but for the love of grace let's not even come close to convincing ourselves that God as Human could ever bless same sex marriages.

Some will say, boy victor, you sure jumped the brake awful fast and what makes you think that humanity is not ready to accept that God is OK with most human love making? What does He care about physical love making when He only judges what comes from the Heart?

I believe that Humanity was intended to become in God's image and although it may take us billions of years, we have a chance to become perfect like Our Heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus told us in so many words that this is what He wants for us. Did He not say something like, Be perfect like your Father in Heaven is perfect?

Me, Myself and I still have a very long way to go but we're not stopping at this trinity. The male dog, the warlord and the angel(s) sounds like an interesting trinity also but I'm not stopping there. I believe that what Jesus Christ said is The Honest Truth or He's the biggest liar that ever walked this earth. If some people think that He was just a nice guy well my Heart of Heart tells me that they are all in for a surprise when they finish their spiritual kindergarten course and let’s hope that they are not too smart for their own good and miss their chance.

I believe that after this life is over, I'll be going into spiritual grade one with the angels. Some of my thoughts lately have been trying to convince me that I'm really only in spiritual pre-kindergarten and I should really be no more than a spiritual seed. Call me skitso if you like but my thoughts also tell me that I should be counting my lucky stars because it is my faith that is responsible for my good fortune.

All kidding aside and there's times when I'm not so sure what I’m really kidding about. (lol!?)

Hey! Jesus Christ said that there's nothing impossible for Our Heavenly Father and I'll gladly take just a spec of what He has in store for me.
For anyone who is crazy enough to believe some of what I say then trust me when I advise you to let Him invest your life. He'll give it all away and there will be times when it will really hurt and you'll say, What kind of a fool am I.

What's wrong with having an Old Man who is The Riches Man in The Universe and He has not yet acknowledged you in reality but you know that in your Heart of Heart to Him You are the World.

I better stop now crystal before I get carried away.


8:18 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor,

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one :-)

1:16 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I meant disagree about same-sex marraige, not about Jesus being God ... we're on the same page with that.

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Victor said...


I truly respect your opinion and really appreciate your pass understanding.

We God's Children have been learning to agree to disagree daily ever since Jesus walked His world proclaiming that The Kingdom of God was at hand and that we should convert ourselves and believe in His Good News. I also believe that we could shine as bright as the sun for ten thousand years and then that would be but a moment for Our Heavenly Father.

This time I'm sure that your Heart and Mind won’t argue with me when I now say that you will truly need to forgive me for my preaching and as a Christian I'm sure that you'll do your best if I can just learn to drop the issue.

God Bless you crystal and please send a prayer my way cause God' Children know that I'm going to need a lot of His Blessings if I plan to start a new blog in September.

May The Peace of Christ be with each and everyone of His Children.

11:44 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Victor, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. I know I'm not always right and I never know when something someone else says to me might help me see things in a new way.

12:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home