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Holding the Man, (1996) Tim Conigrave. Penguin Books. I read this book several years ago when it first came out and am now re-reading it. HTM is a powerful autobiography of friendship and love in the face of the reality of AIDS. This book won the 1995 Human Rights award for non-fiction. It chronicles the lives of Timothy Conigrave and his partner John Caleo. Tim and John meet while attending a Catholic boy’s school in Melbourne. The two boys strike up a friendship and eventually become partners. The book, sometimes very confronting, often hilarious, and unfortunately equally sad, is a good but hard read. Sometimes I cannot put it down even though its 2 or 3 in the morning. Other times I force my self not to read it because it is such a good read I don’t want it to end, or in parts, don’t want to read what happens next. The book, from front to back cover, draws you into a world where you are challenged to face prejudice and emotions which lurk beneath even the toughest and cynical person. It brings humanity out of the depths of our soul and right into the core of our being; where we have no choice but to feel and to react. Anyone who has been alongside someone who has struggled to find acceptance in the heterosexual world or sit beside a friend or loved one who is dying will connect with this book in a profound way.
As I re-read this book I cannot help but think of the debates going on in the church at the moment over the level at which a homosexual person might be a part of the church. That is, are they simply welcome to be in the pew, or can they indeed hold a legitimate valid place in the ordained ministry of the church. I think that one thing that is sadly forgotten in most of the discussions surrounding sexuality and politics in the church, particularly in this respect, are the ‘innocent victims’. That is, those who sit back, hearing and reading these discussions and are made to feel not welcome.
Of course we are human. We try and live the life Christ calls us to live. But we seem sometimes not to be able to transcend our humanity to the point at which Jesus was able to do. Jesus was not one to sit back and see people set aside from receiving the Grace of God’s full embracing love. Jesus made a conscious effort to ensure that all were made to feel welcome in the sight of God. A mission which our Church might sometimes try and strive to do.
I don’t write this to provoke lengthy discussions on church politics and sexuality. Rather to ask ourselves in what ways do we place restrictions on others being able to feel included in God’s loving Grace.