30 January 2023

International symposium: 'My assumptions were challenged'

Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts

A group photo of the delegates of the symposium

In the spirit of living with difference, Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts reflects on her experience of being a UKI delegate at IHQ's Symposium on Human Sexuality, which took place in Singapore last summer.

Our purpose was clear: ‘We must bring our biblically informed faith perspective, sit under its authority and seek the wisdom of God as we engage in the various topics, as well as seeking to better inform our pastoral responses’ (General Brian Peddle’s keynote address).

As I reflect on all the listening, thinking, participation, exploring and prayer that took place during the event I can say that I was certainly informed and encouraged. It was a safe space, a grace-filled fellowship where my assumptions were challenged.

Distinctive positions assumed to be held by specific regions of our international Army were contradicted. For example, on the day when the subject was same-sex relationships, it was an African officer, Lieut-Colonel Dr Bishow Samhika, who gave a detailed study of Acts chapters 10 and 15, ‘Peter, Cornelius and the believers’. We listened and sat under the authority of Scripture and were reminded that something once unthinkable to the Jewish Christians, the inclusion of Gentiles, became the way forward as boundaries were redefined through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

In my small group, one might assume there would be conflict and struggle in our conversations. Yet from the first of our 10 sessions, there was respectful listening, encouraging responses and healthy curiosity about each other’s lives and work.

As UKI delegates, Bethany and I carried the hopes of many in the territory, that the primary focus of the event would be on seeking a consensus for the international Salvation Army to affirm full membership for LGBTQ+ people and celebrate same-sex relationships/marriages in territories where it is legal to do so.

Delegates from Europe, Africa and Asia sitting in a panel and holding microphones
A panel conversation at the symposium

I was also keenly aware that I represented a territory where there are people who think differently around LGBTQ+ issues. I sought to articulate the challenge that every Christian faces, as we read and interpret Scripture for ourselves and for those whom we may lead and teach.

As Lieut-Colonel Karen Shakespeare said in her paper Living with Difference: ‘Every reading of the Bible is an interpretation and faithful committed Christian scholars sometimes come to very different conclusions when exploring texts. These different conclusions challenge the belief that there can be a “single, controlling interpretation in the text which can then be simply applied to our own context” (Runcorn 2016:68).’

I am grateful for the privilege of participating in the symposium. I hope that in due course IHQ will publish the papers that were so helpful when presented in Singapore.

Written by

Jayne Roberts

Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts

Secretary for Spiritual Life Development

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