Penitential Walk, Repenting for Past Homophobia.

Slowly, the message is getting through. It is not homoeroticism that is sinful and contrary to the Gospels, but homophobia and prejudice. In some cases the movement is dramatic, manifested in dramatic decisions that impact on entire denominations – but sometimes, the movement is purely personal, directly affecting only one or two lives.

Symon Hill is one of those in the latter category, who once actively opposed LGBT inclusion in church. Over the years, he has modified his views, and is now appalled by his former actions. He is quite clear that it was the influence of misguided religious teaching that influenced his homophobia in the first place – he had no problem with homosexuality or bisexuality before he became a Christian, but thereafter modified his earlier open-mindedness to “fit in” more easily.

However, after grappling with the subject with prayer, and scripture study, he found what many others have done, who have approached the subject with an open mind, and sufficient effort in study – it is not homoeroticism that is sinful, but homophobia:

I had no problem with homosexuality or bisexuality before I became a Christian. But I chose to support a narrow homophobic position, partly out of a desire to fit in at the church I had joined. I stifled doubts about the flimsiness of the arguments used to back up hostility to same-sex relationships. Although that church played an important role in guiding me towards Christ, I am now convinced they were severely mistaken about sexuality.

I have struggled for years with issues of sexuality – through prayer, reflection, personal experience and of course through reading the Bible. And I have come to the conclusion that it is not homosexuality, but homophobia, that is sinful and contrary to the Gospel of Christ.

My homophobia caused direct harm to several people. My support for policies that excluded gay, lesbian and bisexual people from churches contributed to the harm caused to many others.

-from Ekklesia

In response, he has decided to do what Christian tradition expects after an admission of sin. He is to do penance. In keeping with the scale of the sin, and its public nature, the penance will be equally public, and substantial in scale. He will undertake a penitential walk of 150 -200 miles, visiting a range of areas where he has previously lived, speaking in churches along the way, and encouraging the Christian Church as a whole to join him in repentance for homophobia.

Christian writer and activist Symon Hill has announced that he plans to walk from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance for his former homophobic attitudes.

Hill, the associate director of the Ekklesia think tank, will speak at churches along the way, encouraging the Christian Church as a whole to repent of homophobia and to think differently about sexuality.

-from Ekklesia

Hill’s explanation for his decision includes some thoughtful reflection on the value and meaning of repentance in more general terms, which he reminds us

He also reflects on the appropriate use of Scripture, as a means of discernment with the help of the Holy Spirit, and not as a rule book to be applied mechanically:

As Paul repeatedly tells us, Christ fulfils the Law and makes it possible to live by God’s Spirit. It is this Spirit, not the values, priorities and prejudices around us, that we are called to follow. Discerning God’s leadings is far more challenging than relying on convenient rules, but it must be possible if we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is a source of God’s dynamic guidance that points us towards Christ, yet we so often devalue it by treating it as a human rulebook, from which lines can be snatched out of context to back up prejudices. Lines relating to homosexual prostitution are twisted to condemn loving same-sex relationships. This is as unfair as opposing heterosexual marriage on the grounds of verses condemning adultery.

-from Ekklesia

I look forward to reading next year, the reports of his walk and the reception he receives.

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