Voices of Hope – March 21st 2019

“Created in God’s Image” (Part 4) – “Healing & Hope” by Philip Baldwin

Philip Baldwin

The story of the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant is central to my understanding of faith and sexuality. It is also one that has often nourished and sustained me through periods of hardship.

I came out as gay in my mid teens and then discovered Christianity in my mid-twenties, following an HIV diagnosis. St John’s in Waterloo was the first church I began to attend regularly. It is headed by Giles Goddard, who has played a central role in advocating for LGBT people within the Church of England.

Giles loaned me his copy of Jeffrey John’s The Meaning in the Miracles, in which Jeffrey superbly analyses the role of the centurion and his servant. Through his miracles, Jesus sought to include those previously excluded within the love of the Church. The centurion describes his servant as “very dear to him” (Luke 7.2). When this man gets gravely ill, the centurion is so concerned that he asks Jesus to intervene.

Seen in the appropriate Greco-Roman context, the centurion and his servant were almost certainly lovers. Ancient history is full of such liaisons, most notably Hadrian and Antinous. In my view, the inference that the centurion and his servant were in a romantic relationship would have been clear to Jesus and to early readers of the gospels.

I have never experienced any conflict between my faith and my sexuality and Jeffrey’s analysis of these verses reinforced that view. I can see reflections of my own life in the Healing of the Centurion’s servant and hope, one day, to have a committed monogamous relationship, celebrated through marriage in a Church of England church.

I hope and pray that wherever you are, whatever you are going through, that you too might know that Jesus is interested in reaching out to you – that He actively seeks out those on the margins, and that He has time and interest in each and every one of us.

A Prayer

“Lord, we are all gloriously made in Your image to live and love as we choose. Give us strength in the face of homophobia, even when this comes from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us find places of worship where we are accepted, can prosper and grow into the individuals You would like us to be, free from shame.”


Tomorrow – the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley, “No More Shame”, Psalm 34 : 4 – 5

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5 Responses to Voices of Hope – March 21st 2019

  1. Ian Paul says:

    I am afraid that, whilst this is a widespread reading of Luke 7 in these circles, it is a really poor reading of the text. There is no evidence in the text itself; the contextual argument does not really stand up to any scrutiny; and it is an example of distorting what the NT says to fit a case that is desperate for support.

    But I think that this really highlights what is at stake for the Church here. Are we in the business of making the Bible say what we want to hear (on this and many issues—and I am happy to note that that happens on all side of the debate) or are we committing to actually listening to what God says in Scripture and allowing that to shape our lives, our beliefs, and our practice as God’s people? I think it is the latter that I signed up to when I was ordained.

    Here is my analysis of what the text actually says, and the disturbing implications of this kind of reading. https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/did-jesus-heal-the-centurions-gay-lover/

    • Ian Paul says:

      ‘So the key question is: what does Jesus’ inclusion signify in relation to the approval of sexual ethics? If Jeffrey John is right, then Michaelson suggests Jesus is approving of prostitution. Worse than that, if the relation between the centurion and the slave was sexual, and Jesus’ healing did signal approval, then it was approval of a non-consensual, unequal, probably abusive and most likely pederastic relationship. More generally, it suggests Jesus’ general approval of slavery, since he offers no critique of that institution. Jeffrey John’s reading, quite apart from imposing his own sexualising agenda on the text (where there is no evidence for it) is either morally repugnant or logically incoherent.’

  2. Philippa Shaw says:


  3. Revd Michael Selby says:

    The slave of the centurion was ‘dear to him,’ ‘entimos’ means honoured or esteemed, and there is no hint of impropriety. The centurion was a man of power, yet highly esteemed by the Jewish people. He was kind and God-fearing, helping to build the synagogue or at least giving money or time to its repair. His slave could have been replaced if ill, but no, he wanted this slave healed. He loved him and wanted him to be well. It is the love that needs to be focussed upon and not any sexual nature. That should be of no interest to us – as it appears to be of no interest to Jesus. God is a Lord of love and it is love that shines forth – love and faith. It is love that the church needs to concentrate upon and not what people do in private.

Any thoughts?