If you think the gay ‘marriage’ fight is over, you don’t understand the nature of the war

Taken as a whole, this is a war of one kingdom against another. At its heart, this is a spiritual battle.

OPINION

By Doug Mainwaring
https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/same-sex-marriage-vs.-the-real-thing-a-gay-mans-view-of-the-big-picture
Up until now, I’ve used only secular arguments involving logic, reason, and experience to address the issue of same-sex marriage. That’s how I first came to think about the issue. But as I explained at Public Discourse last year, once I began thinking, reasoning, and examining my life, an extraordinary thing happened: I couldn’t stop. Reason led me to acknowledge natural law, which led me to begin rejecting some of my former ways of thinking and acting. Reason then led me to recognize God.

I am now a Christian, and even though I am same-sex attracted–or, more likely, because I am same-sex attracted–I marvel at the extraordinary significance of marriage in God’s eternal plan. Marriage is under siege because it stands at the heart of the Good News of the Gospel.

I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian, and I possess no advanced degree, but I try to be an informed observer and reasoning contributor as best I can. As a former apologist for the sexual revolution, and as a gay man who once promoted same-sex marriage, here’s what I’ve concluded.

No matter what you read or hear, the heart of the battle over the redefinition of marriage and genderlessness in culture is not found in our courts, legislatures, ballot boxes, or media. This is not a tug of war between political parties, between left and right, conservative and liberal. Likewise, this is not a battle of “gay versus straight.” And while focusing on religious liberty is an absolutely necessary pursuit, if it stands by itself, it too misses the mark.

Taken as a whole, this is a war of one kingdom against another. At its heart, this is a spiritual battle.

Accepting this as a spiritual battle has profound personal ramifications. We must each examine and deal with our own spiritual passivity and culpability in casually embracing the ways of the world. Each of us bears responsibility. This battle hinges on one thing: the creation of a vibrant marriage culture based on the participation of millions of individuals who value and commit themselves to the spiritual truth about marriage. These people must commit themselves not only to the structural, traditional aspects of marriage, but also to its vitally important spiritual component. The future rests on our shoulders–yours and mine.

Many now chide those of us who oppose the notion of same-sex marriage, telling us, “The battle over marriage has been decided. Move on.” And for the time being, as a political reality, this may be true. However, there is a much larger, far more important reality that must be acknowledged: spiritual reality. While the political battle may be over for a brief time, the spiritual battle is just beginning.

The Swift Shift from Equal Rights to Same-Sex Marriage

It wasn’t so long ago that LGBT activists like me were fighting for “equal rights.” We only wanted the benefits that accrue to married couples to be available to us as well. But then suddenly, with what seemed like lightning speed, the discussion changed. The battle was no longer for rights and benefits, the battle was over a very familiar eight-letter word: “marriage.”

As recently as 2010, even the Washington Post was pushing for civil unions rather than marriage for same-sex couples:

Justice and simple decency require that same-sex couples be afforded the same legal protections and benefits of marriage that are now, with a few exceptions, reserved for heterosexual couples … . But the group [Equality Maryland] and its lawmaker allies are shortsighted to refuse to consider–let alone accept–anything short of full marriage equality. … Lawmakers who back this provision should at least consider whether domestic partnerships or civil unions might stand a better chance of passage.

There is a surprising element of tyranny to all this. Men and women who dare reveal their reservations about the notion of same-sex marriage are publicly chastised and dealt swift punishments. Even the most powerful, high-profile titans of technology, medicine, and Wall Street are not immune. And everyday main-street business owners–florists, bakers, photographers, and bed-and-breakfast proprietors–are being forced to relinquish their reason, their intellect, and their consciences in order to comply with the new, superiordefinition of marriage.

Where does this tyranny, this powerful fury, this fierce, unearthly will to enforce such a novel idea come from? Why is same-sex marriage appearing in our nation and, in fact, all around the world so suddenly? Just a few years ago it was a laughable, ludicrous idea. Why is this strange new trajectory gripping the planet, and at such a frenetic pace?

The Heart of the Problem: Us

What we now see is occurring because Christians have allowed our own minds to become dull, darkened, and depraved. We’ve allowed this to happen, not out of malice toward God or bad intentions, but because our passive minds have resulted in passive lives and a weakened, impotent, wandering, and often confusing and contradictory witness to the Gospel and the life of Christ within.

Simply put, the world has done a better job of evangelizing us to its ways than we have of evangelizing the world to the magnificent good news of the Gospel.

Upholding constitutional rights and the human dignity of those who are same-sex attracted is a matter of basic human decency. But same-sex marriage is something completely different. As a gay man, allow me to make what is perhaps a startling declaration: same-sex marriage is a great coup for the devil, far greater than individual homosexual acts or relationships ever were or ever could be. Same-sex marriage mocks Christ’s relationship with his Bride, the Church. That is the source of the fury being hurled at those who speak out against same-sex marriage.

Click “like” if you want to defend true marriage.

Of course, only a very few are true believers in the quest to establish same-sex marriage. The vast majority of supporters are extremely passive. Most people would rather sidestep the issue completely, and–either through silence or misguided empathy–lend their weak support for something that deep in their guts they know is not right. But Satan is satisfied with our cooperation, whether it is willful or passive. He enlists men and woman to embrace a lie, fooling them into believing they are on a righteous quest to vindicate the “right side of history.”

It is impossible to grasp the significance of this battle unless it is viewed from a heavenly, not earthly, perspective. Marriage represents to humanity a taste of heaven, a blueprint of the eternity that awaits all who belong to Jesus Christ. Complementarity has never been incidental to God’s eternal plan. It is central, revealing the intentions of the heart of God. In fact, its existence informs us of God’s spousal love for His people.

With complementarity evacuated from the language of our culture and expunged from our minds, it is almost impossible to perceive the fullness of God’s purposes.

Passivity is Capitulation

It is certainly not the intent of most gay men and lesbians who wed to mock Christ and his Church. They are merely passive participants in a larger plan they do not perceive. Self-identified gays and lesbians are simply fallen human beings–as we all are–pursuing what they believe to be the key to their own happiness, without understanding what darkness lies beneath the surface.

The last several decades demonstrate Satan’s tactics: easy divorce, cohabitation, premarital sex, extramarital sex, recreational sex, homosexuality, bisexuality, polygyny, polyandry, gender dysphoria, non-marital childbearing, contraception, abortion, pornography, and more. All of these work to eviscerate marriage by thoroughly undefining it through non-conjugal, non-complementary “marriage.”

Please familiarize yourself with the words of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, before he became Pope Francis, regarding the advancement of same-sex marriage in society:

Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are … talking about … a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God …
This is what we now witness. Every family, every marriage, every parent, and every child has a stake in this battle, a battle in which passivity must now be recognized as surrender.

The Narrative Needs to Change: From Primarily Political to Spiritual

Only love and truth can pry loose the ice-cold, pernicious death grip of the Sexual Revolution and begin to heal its victims–as well as those of us who have been its perpetrators–of all its insidious consequences. And with regard to love, there is an important, substantial hierarchy:

– Good: spontaneous human love, which does indeed cover a multitude of sins.

– Better: love based on natural law, which provides a strong foundation for building a life and relationships.

– Best: Divine Love, the Love displayed in the life of the Holy Trinity: Power Infinite, Wisdom Incomprehensible, Love Unspeakable. This is the Love that beckons us all, the Love that inspires us to lay down our lives for one another.

Marriage–the real thing–is an inestimable gift from God, expressed and experienced in and through complementarity. Marriage is a bright ensign, beckoning us not only in this world, but preparing us for and ushering us toward the great eternal wedding feast.

Doug Mainwaring is a marriage and children’s rights activist. This article is adapted from the introduction to his forthcoming book, Marriage, Ground Zero: The Real Battle Dawns. Reprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute.

AMiE Unveils Church Planting Plan for Britain

AMiE Pioneering from Anglican Mission in England on Vimeo.

What is our desire?

When Jesus looked at the crowds he was filled with compassion. He was deeply moved as he saw vast numbers of lost people. This love for sinners led Jesus to take action. According to Mark 6:34, “…he began teaching them many things.”

AMiE is a mission society that was established by GAFCON to multiply and strengthen healthy Anglican churches in England. Stirred with compassion, we want to assist in the evangelisation of England by starting many new churches. Our gospel ambition is to pioneer 25 AMiE churches by 2025 and 250 by 2050.

How are we planning to do this?

Researching
We will establish a map of promising and needy places to plant new gospel churches. We will do this through conversations at a national, regional and local level. We will build on the information that has already been gathered by other networks.

Recruiting
We will proactively seek out individuals to pioneer AMiE churches and to serve as Assistant Ministers. Those who lead AMiE churches will be men of appropriate character, gifting, training and experience. They will be approved by our selection process. We will also encourage Christians to relocate in order to join a church planting team.

Why plant with AMiE?

Coaching
We aim to provide excellent Biblical church planting training to those in need of it. This will include initial advice, ongoing development and access to resources.

Cash
Our desire is to seed fund the first batch of AMiE church plants.

Connection
AMiE ministers will be supported by AMiE bishops. Since AMiE is connected to GAFCON, all AMiE churches will benefit from partnership with biblical Anglicans around the world.

 


MAKING IT HAPPEN

THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO INVEST IN THIS GOSPEL WORK

1 Pioneer
Could you plant an AMiE church? Could you be an Assistant Minister? Could you lead the student work or the children’s ministry or the women’s ministry? Could you be an Apprentice? Or could you even relocate and join a core team in a new place?

2 Partner
Would you pray that God would make this gospel ambition a reality? Could your local Anglican church link with an AMiE church? An incredible partnership could flourish, involving prayer, ministry being funded and mutual training in evangelism and discipleship. Could you give financially? Imagine what we could achieve together. If 100 churches or individuals each pledged only £500 a year for 4 years, then £200,000 would be available to seed fund many new churches. AMiE would also love to support other church planting initiatives. We would be delighted to share wisdom and give advice to local church leaders about how they can pioneer new churches in their region. Please contact us for more information about what we can offer.


There is much to do. And of course we cannot do everything. But we have a great God whose arm is not too short to save and we have a great mandate to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every postcode in this country. So filled with compassion, let’s pour ourselves out for Jesus and plant as many churches as we can. For more information about how to pioneer or partner with AMiE please email Lee McMunn.

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Provinces: 

Toronto elects first partnered “gay” bishop

bp-shaw

Author:

George Conger

The Diocese of Toronto elected three suffragan bishops at a special meeting of synod including the Anglican Church of Canada’s first “gay” bishop.

On 17 Sept 2016 the synod elected the Rev. Riscylla Walsh Shaw, the Rev. Canon Kevin Robertson and the Rev. Canon Jenny Andison in succession to the Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls who was elected Bishop of Huron earlier this year and the Rt. Rev. Philip Poole and the Rt. Rev. Patrick Yu, who have retired. Synod held three separate elections with Ms Walsh Shaw elected on the seventh ballot of the first election.

The new bishop (44) and her husband, Jana, have two children. She serves as incumbent of Christ Church, Bolton and trained for the ministry at Wycliffe College and also belongs to Canada’s Metis tribe. She told the synod: ““It’s a real honour and blessing to be part of the leadership, bringing that culture and point of view with me. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, I learned a lot and made a lot of connections with the people across the land, so this is a really wonderful opportunity to find different ways to address some of the issues of reconciliation that we have in our diocese, and also to raise the culture of Metis.”

Canon Robertson (45) (pictured) was elected on the fourth ballot of the second election. He serves as incumbent of Christ Church, Deer Park in Toronto and trained for the ministry at Trinity College. He and his partner Mohan have two children. He told the synod: “I realize this is an historic day in the life of our church. It’s no secret that I’m the first openly gay, partnered bishop-elect in the diocese and perhaps in the Canadian church as well, and I know that for some people that’s a real challenge and for others it’s the fulfillment of what they’ve been hoping and praying for for a very long time. The peace and unity of the church is really important to me and I will work to continue that peace and unity as a bishop.” The new bishop added the July vote by General Synod to permit same-sex marriage was a “turning point for the national church and my election today is a turning point for our diocese, and I’m honoured to be a part of that. I’m really encouraged by the developments over the past couple of months – both General Synod and today bode really well for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of our church.”

Canon Andison (44) was elected on the third ballot of the third election. She is incumbent of St. Clement, Eglinton in Toronto and trained for the ministry at Wycliffe College. She and her husband Tim have three daughters. She asked the diocese to “pray for my soul, and that I would be a bishop who is faithful to God and pastoral to everyone. My passion is seeing churches renewed and grow and spread the love of Christ to people who have never heard it, so it will be a huge and exciting privilege to work with the laity and clergy of the diocese to help more people know the love of Jesus.”

Archbishop Colin Johnson noted the three new bishops were in their 40s and came from a diverse spectrum of theological views — evangelical to progressive. He expected there would be concern over Canon Robertson’s election, adding: “Kevin is certainly not the first gay man to become a bishop in the Communion but his election will probably bring a negative reaction in some places and a positive reaction in others. We’re at an early stage in this experience; I think many parts of the world do not understand it, so it will be a challenge for them, but it will be an opportunity for us to explain how and why we have made this choice today.”

The election results will now go to the Ontario House of Bishops for their concurrence, and pending approval they will be consecrated at St. Paul, Bloor Street on 7 Jan. 2017.

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We’re Euthanizing Minors and Chemically Castrating 8-Year-Olds: Child Sacrifice Returns to the West

 

This weekend’s report that Belgium has euthanized its first terminally ill child marks a watershed in the West: the overt return of human child sacrifice to our culture’s religious rituals. We have crossed a chasm. The medical execution of a sick Belgian child, and the bizarre, taxpayer-funded experiments that American doctors perform on confused eight and nine-year-olds, wrecking their reproductive systems in the name of transgender ideology, are different even from abortion.

These are not semi-secret actions undertaken by desperate or selfish parents against children not fully seen or even named, whose humanity the doctors could help them to wish away. No, these new ritual sacrifices of visible children in the full light of day, of kids with names and legal citizenship of highly developed countries, are something starkly new, and genuinely religious in the sense that any anthropologist would recognize if they happened in the Amazon.

These violent, destructive decisions which Western-civilized parents have taken toward their children are distinctively religious because they flow not from cynicism or expedience, but are ethically driven choices taken in accord with the highest ideals of our elite culture. In that way, they resemble the Female Genital Mutilation and honor killings that pervade many Muslim countries.

That fact should lead us to think long and hard about the West’s new ideals, where they come from and where they are leading us. The fundamental “truths” that guide contemporary Westerners are the fruit of poorly popularized science, and a Christian image of man watered down to homeopathic doses. Let us start with the basic premises:

  • Modern science has given us a god-like power over nature, including our own nature. We feel that we should be gods.
  • Tragically, we aren’t. In fact, that same science “proves” we are nothing more than brainy beasts, who will die and not live again.

On the face of it, this stretches us on the horns of a painful paradox. Things don’t get any better when we tease out the implications of these basic “truths.”

  • Because we have no sins to atone for, nor souls to hone, suffering is a meaningless horror — indeed, the worst thing in the universe.
  • There may be no model of ultimate Good, but human suffering is pure evil, and animal suffering comes a close second.
  • Diminishing such suffering is the only action we know to be purely good. Anesthetics, antidepressants, and euthanasia, then, should be treated as practical sacraments. So should medical interventions that help the sexually confused to mold their bodies to fit their perceptions.
  • Any worldview that puts up barriers to mitigating such suffering, in the form of moral teachings or assertions about human nature, is evil and must be suppressed. Considerations of “freedom” are completely irrelevant here — they are leftover illusions from discredited religions, like the fear of black cats or broken mirrors.

With all this in mind, we can better understand the decisions of parents and doctors who are willing to actively end some children’s lives, or irreversibly damage their burgeoning sexual organs. These children, like their parents, have no intrinsic dignity or higher spiritual nature. They are merely potential sites for either suffering or pleasure. If we cannot guarantee their pleasure, we at least can end their suffering. Once you’ve redefined humans, it’s the only “humane” thing to do.

Welcome to Year Zero

The resurgence of child sacrifice in the post-Christian West is nothing if not historic. Centuries from now, chroniclers of events may point to 2016 as the year when our new and peculiar religion really took definitive form. Perhaps they’ll hit “reset” on the calendar, and consider this Year Zero. Like you, I feel privileged to be a witness.

G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man also addressed child sacrifice. In that great work of popular theology, Chesterton views the Punic Wars, between Rome and Carthage, as finally turning not on strategy or tactics, or even economic interests. No, Chesterton sees these conflicts as the war between two fundamental world-views: the benign, if trivial paganism of patriotic Roman farmers, who’d sometimes offer a bread roll to protective “household gods,” versus the cruel cult of wealthy, decadent Carthage, which purchased victory and riches from its bloodthirsty gods with the regular sacrifice of first-born children upon its altars.

That first paganism was foolish and flawed but not Satanic; the world it was creating would be fallen but still remain human, human enough to recognize the God-Man when He was preached there. The basic institutions of government, education, and culture that Rome created would be permeable to the Gospel. It was possible to imagine, and then to create, a Christian Rome.

It would not have been so with Carthage. Had that city and its dark gods conquered the Mediterranean world, the whole of Western culture would have been grounded in ritual murder. Each couple as it got married would see hanging over their heads the monstrous prospect of their first birth — and his or her death.

Chesterton could not imagine how Christianity could have flourished in such a world. So he speculated that God decided to snuff that culture out, giving Romans the rage against Carthage that Hebrew prophets had expressed against the child-sacrificing cults of the Gentiles. The God of both the Covenants rejects such sacrifice as itself the ultimate evil. No surprise, then, that faithful Jews and Christians alike today stand almost alone in rebuking the new religion — which has wrapped up in a scientist’s white lab coat the darkest and foulest superstitions of the ancient world. It’s our job to point out the innocent blood that stains the coat.

ENGLAND: Why are young evangelicals seeking out traditional worship?

By Andy Walton

Christian Today
http://www.christiantoday.com/
I was maybe 13 or 14 and in a Religious Studies class. At my (Church of England) state school, church attendance was compulsory to be admitted. In the class we were asked to draw a picture of our church. It was the prelude to a discussion about our different churches, the buildings, the worship style and our experience of them.

While many people in the class had already stopped attending church once they’d got a place at the school, some still were regular worshippers. They mostly drew church buildings that looked nothing like what I drew.

They sketched out a classic ‘churchy’ looking building. There were spires and old stone structures, surrounded by graveyards – generally places that looked like churches. I sketched out a 1960s concrete and glass structure. At the time, the church we attended was meeting in a Further Education College so that was the building I drew. I was secretly feeling pretty pleased with myself. As the discussion in the class moved forward and some others described the worship in their services as boring, I was able proudly to proclaim that we had electric guitars, and doughnuts before the service (meeting as we called it).

This small incident was a microcosm of the relationship I had to tradition when I was growing up. I saw it as pretty irrelevant to the practice of faith. What could those old, cold buildings possibly have to offer? By extension, what could the kind of Christianity that happened in these places ever offer me? In my mind it was stale, repetitive and irrelevant to the late 20th Century world in which I was growing up.

Fast forward to 2016 and while I haven’t lost my love for electric guitars in worship (and I’m always happy to be offered a doughnut) I realise that my youthful view was far too reductive. The tradition of the Church, liturgy, the creeds, apostolic succession, the Eucharist and much more all play an important role in my expression of faith. It seems many others are on a similar journey — especially younger people.

Across the US and the UK there is a movement of younger people from an evangelical background who are reconnecting with the heritage and tradition of the Church.

This takes many forms, but it caught my eye this week that the Prayer Book Society — a group dedicated to promoting the Book of Common Prayer — is proclaiming a “National resurgence” in its use. The Book, which forms the basis of Anglican liturgy and theology was first written in the mid 16th Century and revised in 1662. Although some parishes have continued to use it since then, many have moved away from it, either using Common Worship — the more contemporary liturgical style, or doing away with liturgical worship altogether.

However, the Society now says that many younger people are expressing an interest in the Prayer Book. “Many young people… are coming across The Book of Common Prayer for the first time,” said spokesperson John Service. “They are struck by the beauty and relevance of the language which has inspired writers like Shakespeare as well as churchgoers down the ages.”

24-year-old Fergus Butler-Gallie who’s training to be an Anglican priest says he’s noticed a pattern with younger people who are keen to have more substantive expressions of worship. “The words… found in The Book of Common Prayer satisfy that hunger as they rediscover past patterns of worship and understand their significance,” he said.

It isn’t just the Prayer Book, though. Younger people seem to be rediscovering more traditional, liturgical expressions of worship across the board.

The Rev Erik Parker has blogged about the phenomenon of being a ‘high church millenial’ — in the Lutheran tradition. Rachel Held Evans has written a book about her journey from evangelicalism to Episcopalianism. It isn’t just Protestant denominations either. Some young evangelicals are becoming Roman Catholics, with one writer suggesting, “college [is] a ripe breeding ground for interest in Roman Catholicism. Among the traits of the Catholic Church that attract… students – and indeed many young evangelicals at large – are its history, emphasis on liturgy, and tradition of intellectualism.”

Indeed, there seems to be a thirst for Orthodox Christian faith as well. The most popular piece I’ve ever written for Christian Today was about the Jesus Prayer — an ancient prayer of the Orthodox Church.

Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, itself now plays host to a community of young people from around the world, who live under a rule of regular prayer, meditation and worship.

This trend towards tradition may tell us many things. The sociological, historical and political factors in all of this can’t be ignored, but there isn’t space to examine them here — in fact whole doctorates could be written on the phenomenon. One thing is for sure though — embracing a more traditional, liturgical style of worship doesn’t mean abandoning more informal, evangelical practices.

The old can (and probably should) be held in positive tension with the new. If we as believers and our churches were open to embracing a broader range of styles, it would surely deepen our spiritual experience.

Pastor Brian Zahnd describes his journey as a charismatic evangelical like this: “As far as I was concerned, most Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and mainline Protestants needed to ‘get saved’ — which is to say, they needed to become my ‘style’ of Christian… [But now] This much I’m sure of: Orthodox mystery, Catholic beauty, Anglican liturgy, Protestant audacity, Evangelical energy, Charismatic reality — I need it all!”

So what does the future hold? It’s hard to say, but the search for tradition and structure alongside the energy and dynamism of evangelicalism is a potent mix. Some churches are investigating a ‘cross-tradition’ approach which seeks to blend these different elements. In an article entitled, ‘Why Millennials Long for Liturgy’, Gracy Olmstead writes, “The millennial generation is seeking a holistic, honest, yet mysterious truth… Protestant churches that want to preserve their youth membership may have to develop a greater openness toward the treasures of the past. One thing seems certain: this ‘sacramental yearning’ will not go away.”

Issues Facing Missions Today: 59 Exercises in Simple Logic: A Response to the Archbishop of Wales’ Defense of Same-Sex Relationships

Revd Dr Rollin Grams

Let us consider the logic of the outgoing Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan’s, recent defense of homosexual relationships.[1]

The First Argument in Two Parts

The bulk of his argument—over half—is this: Since there are ‘different perspectives’ and ‘shifts in perspective’ within Scripture on several matters—parts of the Bible are at variance with other parts—‘there is no one settled understanding of what the Bible says about a number of subjects and … reading it as a whole can alter one’s total perspective.’  This argument has two parts—apart from any assessment of the examples of ‘variance’ that the Archbishop gives.  First, it commits the fallacy of claiming that, because Scripture has different perspectives on several other topics, it also has different perspectives on the topic at hand.  Must one really have to respond to this sort of argument?  Surely one should simply look at the topic itself to determine whether there is any shift in perspective rather than examine possible shifts in other perspectives.  One can imagine an analogous argument for, say, adultery in Scripture.  The Archbishop’s logic suggests that, because Scripture offers different perspectives on certain other issues, it therefore must have different perspectives on adultery, or bestiality, or incest.  As it happens, Scripture uniformly condemns all these as well as homosexual acts.

The second part of the Archbishops first argument is that we need to interpret Biblical texts with principles rather than follow the teaching of concrete texts.  (He might have said this more directly.)  He will later in his speech argue in favour of a particular principle, which will be addressed anon.  Here, we simply need to note that his argument is simply an assertion.  How would one go about arguing the point, though?  Surely one dimension of the discussion should be how the New Testament handles differences from the Old Testament.  This would amount to coming to an understanding of how the early Christians in apostolic times interpreted their Scriptures.  We might note that (1) the early Church affirmed the sexual ethic they found in their (Old Testament) Scriptures rather than reform it as they did some other issues (like circumcision, Jewish holy days, food laws, and sacrificial practices); (2) they appealed to specific Scriptures of the Old Testament on the issue of homosexuality rather than apply a general principle to them.  On this second point, note that Jude 7 mentions Sodom’s sexual sin—not, by the way, inhospitality or failing to care for the poor and needy—in Gen. 19; Paul coins a compound word for homosexuality (arsenokoitos in 1 Cor. 6.9 and 1 Tim. 1.10) that can only come from the Greek version of Lev. 20.13’s use of two words side by side (hence he was affirming Mosaic Law on the issue); and Jesus and Paul both appeal to Gen. 2.24 to affirm that the ground for sex and marriage is the ‘one flesh’ union of a male and female.

The Second Argument

A second of his arguments is that slavery is nowhere condemned in Scripture.  There is ‘overwhelming biblical support for slavery,’ he claims, and ‘as an institution it is regarded [in Scripture] as being a good thing.’  Yet Christians have come to oppose slavery because, the Archbishop claims, Scripture stands against ‘oppression, domination and abuse.’  We see that ‘the Scriptures as a whole and the ministry of Jesus in particular … is about freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanizes people.’  There are several problems with this argument, however.  First, the claims that slavery is nowhere condemned in Scripture and that the institution is regarded as a good thing are far too simplistic and are not accurate.  Would the fact that the slave trade is condemned in the New Testament pose a problem for the Archbishop’s case (cf. Rev. 18.13 and 1 Tim. 1.10)?  Would Paul’s encouragement to slaves to take advantage of the opportunity to gain their freedom pose a challenge to his conclusion (1 Cor. 7.21, reading the text as the ESV translates it in a way consistent with what Paul says in v. 23)?  Would knowing a little about Roman slavery—that is, that manumission was not always as easy as one might wish and may even not have been possible in certain cases—not shed light on how unhelpful this comparison to homosexuality is?  Would it be important to note how Paul’s reconfiguring the master-slave relationship (e.g., Philemon, Eph. 6.5-9; Col. 3.22-4.1) amounts to a challenge to the institution of slavery in fundamental ways?  One does not have to appeal to a liberationist reading of Scripture in order to read against specific texts, for there are specific texts that raise questions about slavery.  The matter is far more complicated than the Archbishop allows.  Furthermore, there are no qualifications of homosexuality in Scripture, such as saying that it is to be approved in one form and not in another.  Same-sex acts are out and out condemned as sinful.  If the issue of slavery proves anything for Biblical interpretation, it is that one should guard against the pressure to read Scripture in service of the reigning culture—whether in service of slavery in the 19th century or homosexuality in the 21st century.

The Third Argument

The Archbishop then goes for checkmate.  ‘So taking the Bible as a whole and taking what it says very seriously may lead us into a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the Church.’  The key move he wishes to make is the claim that Biblical passages addressing the issue of same-sex relationships ‘are not about committed, loving, faithful monogamous relationships with persons of the same sex but about something totally different.’  Thinking to illustrate the point, the Archbishop reserves three entire sentences in his speech to deal with the Biblical data.  In actual fact, he mentions but one passage, Gen. 19’s story of Sodom, which he takes to be about God’s destroying a city over improper hospitality or, more generally, failing to care for the poor and needy. He then asserts that the New Testament texts are really addressing pederasty and prostitution.

Let us suppose that the Archbishop has correctly interpreted the Biblical texts, even though no member of his audience has any reason to do so.  But he apparently thinks that he has understood the Biblical texts and, incredibly, he believes that the texts actually were speaking about bad things that we should continue to oppose—bad hospitality, not caring for the poor and needy, pederasty, and prostitution.  Why, then, does he spend the bulk of his argument trying to show that the Bible shifts perspectives and sometimes condones bad things like slavery?  If he agrees with what he believes these texts say, why undercut his own argument by insisting that the Bible has various perspectives and sometimes needs to be interpreted by principles that speak against what specific texts say? One might have thought that he would argue that condemnation of homosexuality is a similar error to approval of slavery from a past, inferior culture, and we, a now evolved and morally superior race, need to reject those Biblical texts and the Church’s teaching in the past.  But he instead argues that those texts actually were speaking about bad things that we should continue to oppose.  So, which is it?  Do we move on from inferior Biblical practices and views, or do we continue to affirm these Biblical texts because we like them?

To answer such a question, one would have to do more than what the Archbishop does.  One would have to argue not that there is diversity in Scripture or that there are practices the Church no longer endorses but why the Church might take a particular interpretation.  There are indications within the Archbishop’s talk that indicate how he would come to a conclusion, although he might have given real attention to these rather than develop contradictory arguments.  One has already been stated: Scripture stands against ‘oppression, domination and abuse.’  Relatedly, he avers, ‘taking Holy Scripture seriously means paying attention to Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity’ and his affirmation of a ‘freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanizes people.’  Thus, what we have is an indication of his hermeneutic: read Scripture from the perspective of the values of inclusivity and liberation from abusive power, and reject reading Scripture for its concrete commandments unless they relate to these values.

The Archbishop adds an additional argument, or, shall we rather say, makes an additional claim: ‘for past generations, homosexual practice was seen as a moral failure because people had no understanding of human sexuality and how humans are formed biologically, psychologically and socially.  For them, it was a disorder.  We now know that sexual orientation is not a matter of personal choice but of how people are….’  This essay is concerned with the Archbishop’s logic, so a response that would actually examine the claim in light of ancient texts or the various currents of psychology on the issue needs to be addressed elsewhere.[2]  What might be said here is that he gives no proof of this statement and actually shows no awareness of the issues.  Were he actually to investigate the matter, he would need to acknowledge that there was considerable discussion before and after the 1st century over whether same-sex attraction was a matter of nature or nurture.  That is, writers in New Testament times were very much interested in the question of sexual orientation.  Without any attempt to address the matter textually or historically, the Archbishop’s argument simply stands as an unsubstantiated claim.  His claim that the New Testament authors did not have the concept of ‘committed, loving, faithful monogamous relationships with persons of the same sex’ also remains unsubstantiated.  Does his view that such relationships are natural not conflict with his belief that people in antiquity did not engage in this?  (If natural, why only today?)  Would knowing that some ancient texts spoke of same-sex couples living together and even marrying affect his perspective that we have an advanced understanding in our day?

Could it possibly be that the reason for the Church’s interpretation through the centuries on the issue of homosexuality is that it has faithfully interpreted the Scriptures, that the authors of Scripture were of one mind on this issue and did speak directly to it, and that the basic conviction within Scripture about all sexual ethics is that the place for sex is within the marital union of a male and female?

 

[1] Barry Morgan, Presidential Address of the Archbishop of Wales to the Governing Body meeting at the University of Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, on 14 Sept 2016.  Online: http://www.anglican.ink/article/archbishop-wales-declares-scriptural-support-same-sex-marriage (accessed 15 September, 2016).

[2] See S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016).

Archbishop of Wales declares scriptural support for same-sex marriage

 

Author:

Barry Morgan

Presidential Address of the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Barry Morgan to he Governing Body meeting at the University of Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, on 14 Sept 2016

have to confess that over the last 13 years, I have never re-read a presidential address that I have given to this Governing Body. Good job too, some of you may be thinking, once is more than enough for anyone!! Before writing this one however, I decided to re-read the first one I ever gave as the new Archbishop and was amazed to discover that I had spoken about the authority and interpretation of Scripture, the nature of Anglicanism, decision making within the Anglican Communion, and the place of Lambeth Resolutions, all in one address. It smacked a bit of the first sermon of someone newly ordained, when the person includes all the theological insights they have in one go.

The reason I re-read it was because I wanted to see if I had spoken about discerning God’s will through reading Holy Scripture especially in relation to human sexuality. The discussion we had on that at a recent GB was one of the most eirenic, constructive, balanced and prayerful discussions we have ever had in this Body. There was no consensus about how we should handle same-sex relationships and marriage but there was a respectful listening to what each person had to say.

Since that debate, the bishops, as you know, have issued prayers that can be said with those in same-sex relationships and as you might expect, there has been criticism from those who say we have exceeded our authority and ignored biblical injunctions and from those who say that we have not gone nearly far enough in exercising that authority. Be that as it may, the essential question I want to address this afternoon is the place of Scripture in discerning God’s will. And I will try not to repeat anything I said in 2003.

One letter sums up a view held by some people. It began “My Lord Archbishop”. You know you are in trouble when letters begin like that. It went on to say “I write to express my profoundest disappointment and disillusionment with the moral integrity of your office on the issue of same-sex relationships. The church needs to be guided on this matter by the authoritative voice of Scripture.”

The implication of that statement was that the bishops had ignored the Bible and were swayed by the liberal culture of our age and were not therefore taking Holy Scripture seriously. And I want to reply that far from ignoring Holy Scripture, the bishops have taken the step they have because we took seriously what the Bible has to say in trying to discern the will of God.

I don’t want to confine what I have to say to the issue of same-sex relationships. There is a far wider question here about how one discerns God’s will as revealed by Holy Scripture more generally. First, let me state the obvious. The Bible is not one book but a series of books and within those books, written by a variety of authors, are a number of different perspectives but also shifts in perspective about particular topics. Biblical texts are not God’s words, dictated by Him to human authors, but are the inspired response to revelation. The response is a human response however and cannot be regarded as being identical with that revelation especially since parts of the Bible are at variance with other parts.

Let me give you some examples.

The Second Book of Kings records the massacre by Jehu of the Royal House of Ahab at Jezreel. The massacre of the whole of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s family and anyone associated with them is said to have been done by Jehu at the behest of the prophet Elisha, who in turn is said to have been anointed by God to carry out such a massacre.

In other words, Elisha and God are seen to be endorsing a policy of mass murder. I realise of course that this is not the first story of murder and massacre in the Old Testament, but writing much later about this incident, the prophet Hosea 14 says that Jehu behaved atrociously and should have been punished for what he did.
In other words there was a shift in perspective within Scripture about the same incident. +Rowan writing about this incident says “Hosea would have said “I am sure my prophetic forebear Elisha was certain he was doing the will of God and I am sure that the tyranny and idolatry of the Royal House of Ahab was a scandal that needed to be ended, but was it right for Jehu to murder them in that way?” And +Rowan goes on to say that Hosea’s observation was a very powerful moment in the writing of the Old Testament – a recognition that it was possible to grow in understanding of God’s will and to re-think the past.

Something in Hosea’s world, a prophet who writes so movingly about the overwhelming love of God for His people, had opened his heart to a new understanding of God as a being who would not sanction mass murder. Jesus takes the matter much further when He says “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. Forgive your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.”

Both Hosea and Jesus therefore talk about God and see Him in a totally different way from that of other books in the Old Testament and they show that Elisha’s endorsement of Jehu’s massacre was not to be the last word on this topic. So if we were to ask ourselves which viewpoint do we think reflects God’s will, how would we answer?

Let’s look at another example, this time from the Book of Deuteronomy.

In Deuteronomy 23 1-4 we read:

“No Ammonite or Moabite should be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. And those born from an illicit union, will also not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted.”

What Deuteronomy is stating is that all those who were products of illicit or incestuous unions or who were descended from Moabites and Ammonites were in perpetuity to be banned from worship since they were not deemed acceptable to God.

But there are at least two stories of incest in the Old Testament which ignore these prohibitions. First, Lot with his daughters, unions which generate Ammonites and Moabites, and then there is the incest of Judah with his daughter-in-law Tamar. Lot’s daughters and Tamar give birth to sons who form part of the genealogical line which eventually leads to David and then Jesus. Ruth, a Moabite, is an ancestor of David’s. If she and her descendants, and Lot’s daughter’s sons and Tamar’s son are banned from the worshipping community, where does that leave King David?

So Deuteronomy passes a sentence of perpetual exclusion on Moabites and products of incest from becoming part of the worshipping community but these people are David and Jesus’ ancestors. The law in Deuteronomy tells us one thing but the stories of the Old Testament tell us something completely different.

David is a descendant of incest twice over with Moabite blood in his veins and yet he is the King of Israel and the voice of Israel’s prayer to God. In the Gospel of Matthew, Tamar and Ruth are named in the lineage of the Messiah, with no hint that incest and Moabite blood should exclude Jesus from participating in the worshipping community, still less from being the Messiah. In other words, Scripture itself supports the radical inclusion of those whom other scriptural texts have identified as being an abomination.

When in the Book of Acts, Peter begins to associate with Gentiles and baptises them, he is directly disobeying the biblical prohibition in Leviticus to have nothing to do with people of other races because they are impure. The Holiness Code of Leviticus is set aside in favour of belief in a God who accepts impure people.

Let me give you another example which I have alluded to before.

Deuteronomy 231-4 says:

“No eunuch shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord”.

But in Isaiah 564-5 the prophet says:

“Eunuchs who keep my Sabbath and choose the things that please me and hold fast my Covenant, I will welcome to my house and give them within my walls a monument and a name better than my own sons and daughters”.

Finally in the Book of Acts chapter 838 there is a story of the apostle Philip who baptises an Ethiopian eunuch.

Deuteronomy says that eunuchs are an abomination to God and are not welcome at worship because of their sexual ambivalence and because of their reputation for having passive sex with other men. The prophet Isaiah disagrees and says they will be accepted and blessed by God, even more than the Jews, God’s chosen people. And all of that comes to pass in the Book of Acts when Philip baptises an Ethiopian eunuch who has been up to Jerusalem to Mount Zion to worship. The eunuch, a figure to be cast out according to Deuteronomy, now becomes acceptable to both Judaism and the emerging Christian Church.

Foreigners were hated by the Jews and sexual deviants even more so because they did not produce children. Yet an Ethiopian eunuch is accepted by Philip and valued as a person in his own right and his race and his sexuality do not count against him. Isaiah puts aside the prohibitions of Deuteronomy with its purity and holiness laws and the New Testament goes a step further and is willing in the person of Philip to offer baptism to the eunuch.

What all this shows is that within the Scriptures themselves, there are radical shifts in understanding in what it means to discern the will of God. It absolutely will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading. Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.

George Herbert, writing on the Scriptures in one of his poems says:

“Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glory!
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the story.”

All the constellations of the story have to be taken into consideration.

All the examples I have given show that there is no one settled understanding of what the Bible says about a number of subjects and that reading it as a whole can alter one’s total perspective.

Let me give you another example which is even more arresting.

The Bible has a great deal to say about slavery. Abraham had slaves and according to Genesis 24 35, God blessed him by giving him male and female slaves. Joshua, David, and Solomon took captive people as slaves at God’s command. The Ten Commandments take for granted that people will have slaves and the prophets speak about the need to treat slaves fairly. There is nothing in the Old Testament to indicate that slavery is somehow immoral or should be abolished. Nor did Jesus condemn slavery and He speaks about slaves in His parables as if they were a totally natural phenomenon. Paul tells slaves to obey their masters.

There is therefore overwhelming biblical support for slavery. Yes, masters are exhorted to treat them fairly but as an institution it is regarded as being a good thing. Indeed, during the American Civil War, some Christians advanced arguments based on biblical texts for owning slaves.

Why then was slavery abolished given overwhelming scriptural support for it? Why – because if you read the Scriptures in their totality, they are opposed to oppression, domination and abuse. “I have come” says the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel “to set free those who are in prison, to loose those who are bound, to deliver those who are oppressed”.

So in spite of all the passages in favour of slavery, when you examine the Scriptures as a whole and the ministry of Jesus in particular, you realise it is about freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanises people. No Christian I hope would today argue that slavery is good, but for nineteen centuries the Church accepted it and defended it, God through His Holy Spirit has led us into the truth of seeing things in a totally different way today and we are rightly horrified when we read about people who have been kept as slaves by others.

What all this amounts to is that one cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting Scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned. Scripture itself is diverse and theological views held in some biblical books are reshaped in the light of experience by other writers.

As the Jesus of St John’s Gospel says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come”. John 16 12-13

Or to quote Pope Francis at last year’s Synod of Bishops: “The temptation is to hostile inflexibility, of closing oneself within the written word (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, the God of surprises, the Spirit”.

So taking the Bible as a whole and taking what it says very seriously may lead us into a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the Church. I don’t want to look in detail here at the texts that are said to deal with this topic – in any case there aren’t many of them. All I would say is that as you examine them, they are not about committed, loving, faithful monogamous relationships with persons of the same sex but about something totally different.

The stories of Sodom and Gomorrah for example, associated with homosexuality and which have given rise to the pejorative word “Sodomite”, is in fact about an abuse of hospitality and what one writer calls “an attempted gang rape by a mob against two outsiders who are Lot’s guests”. Indeed Ezekiel says Lot’s relatives were punished primarily because they refused to help the poor and needy.

In the New Testament too, some of the passages often cited are not about loving, committed, faithful relationships between people of the same sex, but about pederasty and male prostitution. But all that apart, and given that each of the passages purported to be about homosexuality can be interpreted in more than one way, we come to the fundamental question as to whether taking the Bible as a whole, we can come to the same conclusions about committed, faithful, loving, same-sex relationships as we did about slavery.

We are not thereby abandoning the Bible but trying to interpret it in a way that is consistent with the main thrust of the ministry of Jesus, who went out of His way to minister to those who were excluded, marginalised, and abandoned by His society because they were regarded as impure and unholy by the religious leaders of His day, either because of their gender, age, morality or sexuality. Taking Holy Scripture seriously means paying attention to Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity.

And all of that without bringing into the reckoning what we now know about same-sex attraction in terms of psychology and biology and the experience of homosexual people. And surely if God is the creator, He reveals Himself to us through new knowledge and insights so that, for example, we no longer believe the world was created in six days. As I have tried to show, in the Bible there are a number of totally different perspectives on the same issue. What was responsible for this shift was a growth in understanding about the issue in question.

So for past generations, homosexual practice was seen as a moral failure because people had no understanding of human sexuality and how humans are formed biologically, psychologically and socially. For them, it was a disorder. We now know that sexual orientation is not a matter of personal choice but of how people are and that ought to make a huge difference to the way we view things.
Andrew Davison, who has edited a marvellous book entitled “Amazing Love” has this passage within it:

“We are most truly ourselves when we live for others and we gain life not by clutching to it but by giving it away. Living for others underlines the truest meaning of sexuality. Christians have discovered that most people flourish best when this living for others finds its focus in a commitment to one other person: when a couple make a lifelong commitment within which sex properly belongs”.

Those of us who were or are married have found that to be the case. Why would we want to deny such a possibility for those who are attracted to their own gender?

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