Archive for July, 2014

Liberals Now Deeply Divided Over Religious Freedom and Homosexuality

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

 

By Napp Nazworth , Christian Post Reporter
July 2014|1:27 pm
Gay rights advocates (Photo: AP Images / Jacquelyn Martin)Gay rights advocates march by the White House in Washington, on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. Thousands of gay rights supporters marched Sunday from the White House to the Capitol, demanding that President Barack Obama keep his promises to allow gays to serve openly in the military and work to end discrimination against gays.

Should those who disagree with liberal views on homosexuality have the freedom to express and live according to those beliefs in civil society? Liberals are now deeply divided over this question.

This split was seen most recently over a debate about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

ENDA, a bill that would prevent workplace discrimination based upon sexual preference and gender identity, passed the U.S. Senate last year. Speaker of the House John Boehner has said the House will not vote on the measure. President Barack Obama recently announced that he will issue an ENDA-type executive order that would only apply to employers with government contracts.

Liberals are divided on whether ENDA, the Senate bill or the executive order, should include an exemption for religious groups.

Religious organizations contract with the federal government to provide services, such as aid to developing nations or prison programs. Some of these organizations require assent to a set of religious beliefs and behavior consistent with those beliefs as a condition of employment. As a result, they may not hire someone in a same-sex relationship. Without an exemption for religious employers, therefore, these groups may be forced to no longer provide those government services.

Religious exemptions are not unusual in American law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had one, for instance, related to non-discrimination in hiring and employment. These exemptions have been widely considered consistent with the religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment.

The Senate bill, supported by every Democratic senator (except Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, who did not vote), included a religious exemption, which states: “This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

While the Senate’s passage of ENDA was largely celebrated by gay rights groups at the time, there were some stirring of concern over extending the same religious exemption found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The editors of The New York Times described the exemption as “terribly broad” because it included, not just houses of worship, but religious institutions like hospitals and colleges.

The exemption, they wrote, “would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end.”

Debate among liberals over the religious exemption heightened over the past week. The American Civil Liberties Union and three other gay rights organizations announced they were withdrawing support for ENDA because of the religious exemption.

The bill already passed the Senate and it will not even be debated in the House. So what changed? Two things: 1) Obama’s pending ENDA-like executive order, and 2) the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

 

 

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court said that closely held companies cannot be forced to pay for certain types of contraceptives in their employees’ health insurance plans if it violates their religious convictions to do so. The Hobby Lobby case was not about gay rights, but the gay rights groups became concerned about the Court’s recognition that religious freedom protections do not disappear when individuals start a corporation.

The Court’s decision, the organizations wrote, led to their withdrawal of support for ENDA: “The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision. Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination.”

Other liberals, though, strongly encouraged Obama to include a religious exemption.

Michael Wear, who led the faith outreach for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and worked in Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, wrote a letter to Obama, along with 13 other signers, encouraging him to include a religious exemption. Dr. Stephen Schneck, director of Catholics for Obama, also signed the letter.

“Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom,” they wrote.

Unlike the statement by the ACLU and other groups, Wear’s letter was not in response to Hobby Lobby. The letter was being composed before the decision and would have been sent to Obama even if Hobby Lobby had lost.

A separate letter was sent by Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a liberal Evangelical organization, who also encouraged Obama to include a religious exemption.

For some liberals, opposition to same-sex marriage and the belief that homosexual behavior is a sin is not the only punishable offense. Simply asking for religious freedom for those who hold those beliefs is also a punishable offense.

Wear’s letter was also signed by D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, a Christian college near Boston. As a result of his signing of that letter, the mayor of Salem, Massachusetts ended a contract the city had with the college and the college’s accrediting agency will be investigating whether to end the college’s accreditation.

While liberalism has historically been appreciative of pluralism and toleration, we are now seeing the rise of “dogmatic liberalism,” Damon Linker, a liberal columnist wrote Friday for The Week.

“The decline is especially pronounced on a range of issues wrapped up with religion and sex,” he said. “For a time, electoral self-interest kept these intolerant tendencies in check, since the strongly liberal position on social issues was clearly a minority view. But the cultural shift during the Obama years that has led a majority of Americans to support gay marriage seems to have opened the floodgates to an ugly triumphalism on the left.”

Why the rise of intolerant, dogmatic liberalism? Linker argues it’s related to a decline of religion.

“Human beings will be religious one way or another,” he wrote. “Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things.

“With traditional faith in rapid retreat over the past decade, liberals have begun to grow increasingly religious about their own liberalism, which they are treating as a comprehensive view of reality and the human good.”

Why “Good Disagreement” and “Conversational Ecclesiology” are neither good nor missional

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

By Canon Phil Ashey, AAC

 

Phil Ashey

 

Today I write to commend three resources to you in support of the proposition that we will do well as followers of Jesus Christ not to fall into the trap of endless conversations about human sexuality and the Bible which end in accommodating culture over Biblical content.

 

At the very best, such processes divert the Church from proclaiming with clarity and certainty the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his saving, transforming love for all people, everywhere and at all times.  At worst, such processes give access to false teachers to lead God’s people astray. False teachers also lead those who do not yet know Christ to eternal separation from God.  Finally, such processes divert the time, talent and treasure of God’s people from the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission.  Remember the famous “Decade of Evangelism” of The Episcopal Church USA? Remember how it was utterly eclipsed by “conversational ecclesiology” and “good disagreement” over gay rights, same sex blessings and ordinations/consecrations of leaders (clergy and bishops) in same sex relationships?  There is a lesson and a warning here for The Church of England (CofE) and the rest of the Churches in the Anglican Communion.

 

The first resource which I commend for you to read in its entirety is an essay by Dr. Martin Davie, “Why Disagreement is not good.”  Dr. Davie is a lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College, Theological Secretary for the Council of Christian Unity of the Church of England and a Theological Consultant to the CofE House of Bishops.

 

Davie draws a distinction between the mission of ++Rowan Williams (trying to find core areas of doctrine all Anglicans could agree upon through the ill-fated Covenant) and ++Justin Welby (who has abandoned this mission in favor of getting people to learn to live with theological differences – “good disagreement”).  Of course, neither ++Welby nor the Church of England have ever defined what “good disagreement” looks like regarding theological differences!

 

In the face of this moving target, Davie asserts that disagreement is actually a result of our fallenness – our inability since the Fall to see things as they really are, as God created and intended all things to be.  And with respect to disagreements over theological differences, our inability to discern truth is a result of our fallen inclination to listen constantly to the voice of the one who says “did God really say…”  (Genesis 3:1)  Fortunately God restores our ability to discern the truth through Jesus Christ (truth incarnate), the Holy Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit guiding us to “continue in [His] word” (John 8:31-32).  Therefore “good disagreement” can NEVER be the mission of the Church:

 

“What all this means is that the term ‘good disagreement’ is an oxymoron like ‘virtuous sin’. Disagreement can never in itself be good. We disagree because in our fallen condition we either don’t know the truth, or are unwilling to accept it when it is presented to us. The vocation of the Church is therefore not to practice ‘good disagreement.’ The vocation of the Church is to be a community where as far as possible disagreement does not exist because truth is known, accepted and celebrated.”

 

For these reasons Davie concludes:

 

“In the light of all this I suggest that Archbishop Welby and the House of Bishops should expunge the term ‘good disagreement’ from their vocabulary. They should talk instead about the importance of the Church of England being a truthful community, a community which aims at agreement in the truth and in which those with leadership roles take seriously their responsibility to encourage this search for truth and, as far as possible, to protect the faithful from error.”

 

The second resource I commend to you are the” Lectures in Contemporary Anglicanism”  by the Rev. Charles Raven, assistant to The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Chair of the GAFCON Primates Council.  In his three lectures at George Whitfield College (May 2014, Cape Town South Africa), Raven sets out his aim as follows:

 

“taking the Lambeth Conference of 1998 as my starting point, the aim of these three lectures will be to survey the contours of two very different Anglican ecclesiologies as they have emerged out of this recent history. One is what I think we can most accurately describe as conversational ecclesiology; the other is the recovery of a confessional ecclesiology.”

 

Raven goes on to describe “conversational ecclesiology” as a shorthand for the belief that “truth emerges out of the ‘community’ of faith in a constant process of dialogue with Scripture, the culture and one another.”  This is the ecclesiology of ++Rowan Williams and ++Justin Welby, The Anglican Communion Office, ++Katherine Jefforts Schori, and many of those Primates who showed up to the last (and perhaps final) Primates gathering in Dublin in 2011.  By contrast, confessional ecclesiology is firmly anchored in biblical revelation, finds its basic expression in Anglicanism within the GAFCON Jerusalem Statement and Jerusalem Declaration of 2008, and has for many “a conscious echo of the Confessing Church of 1930′s Germany” which exalted Christ and Biblical revelation over culture. In his diagnosis of the “pathology” of Anglicanism since Lambeth 1998, Raven observes that conversational ecclesiology by its very nature cripples the commitment to Christ’s Great Commission:

 

“Inevitably, conversation with itself [the church] means that converting conversation with the world takes second place in the Church’s life and in any case the message inevitably becomes confused because the church is debating its own proclamation.  In contrast a Church with a confessing ecclesiology should be by definition a witnessing Church.”

 

You can find all three lectures here.

 

How did we get to this sharp division within the Anglican Communion between conversation and confession, process and proclamation?  May I commend to you our American Anglican Council presentation at ACNA Provincial Assembly, “The Global Anglican Reformation: What is God doing?”  You can find this presentation with video and narrative here.

 

We know that all of the different acronyms and players can be confusing: ACC, Lambeth, ACO, GAFCON, etc.  Our hope is that this presentation will help you and your congregation understand what is at stake in the battle for the soul and future of the  Anglican Communion so that we may pray both for those Churches standing firm in the faith once delivered, repentance for those who have succumbed to conversational ecclesiology and “good disagreement,” and renewal for all of us in our commitment to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

 

Yours in Christ,

Phil+

Archbishop Welby Prepared to Bulldoze Synod

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

This article from London’s Guardian reports that, should the Church of England General Synod again reject the ordination of women as bishops that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has plans to bulldoze the measure through–trampling on the whole synodical process in the Church of England.

For those who don’t know how it works, the Church of England decides everything through a democratic synodical system. The General Synod is made up of three houses: laity, clergy and bishops. For a major decision like women’s ordination they need a three quarter majority in all three houses. When the vote for women bishops happened in 2012 it was defeated in the house of laity by six votes. When that happened the church was in an uproar. The feminists had campaigned for women bishops tirelessly since their victory over women’s ordination twenty years earlier. That they lost by six votes was a major reversal.

According to church rules they were not allowed to bring the legislation back to the General Synod for another five years. Never mind. The powers that be changed the rules. A few back room deals, a few hush hush conversations in the House of Lords and the Bishops stacked the deck in their favor. Old white men calling the shots? Patriarchal types moving the goalposts? High up establishment white men doing whatever they damn well please? Privileged upper class white male elite changing the rules to suit themselves and their agenda? We’ll have none of that talk now! None of that. No sir.

Anyway, the C of E bishops got together and changed the rules so they can all vote on it again this summer. If it doesn’t go through this time they are going to dissolve this synod and have new elections and try again.

The naked emperor nobody seems prepared to shout out about is that this reveals the entire synodical system for the farce that it has been all along.

Consider this: the vote for women’s ordination in 1992 in the General Synod was carried by only three votes in the House of Laity. When the vote was in favor by only three votes there were great tears of joy. “At last the Holy Spirit had opened the door. It was miraculous! The Spirit has moved and the Synod has expressed the will of God.”

But twenty years later when the measure for women’s ordination to the episcopate is defeated the cries are of foul play, dismay, anger and a rush to change the rules, over rule synod and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

To complicate matters further, the British parliament has told the Church of England bishops that if they don’t get their house together and get rid of this foolish sexism and ordain women as bishops pronto that they will put legislation through revoking the exemption the Church of England now enjoys from civil sex discrimination rules.

In other words, the Church of England will be ruled by parliament. End of story.

The ramifications of this are profound. Essentially the Church of England General Synod is a foolish, expensive waste of time. If the system doesn’t work the real powers that be: the Bishops and the British Parliament will bulldoze through anything they want anyway. The same thing is happening, and will continue to happen over the issue of marriage regulations. Same sex marriage will be forced on the Church of England whether the like it or not.

That in itself is an open question for anyone in the know accepts that the majority of Church of England bishops are in favor of same sex marriage and have been for some time. Being upper class Englishman, and smooth politicians all, they have simply learned that you accomplish nothing by public campaigns, protests and angry radical talk. No indeed. No. “One gets much more done, don’t you know, with the smile, the smooth small talk, the occasional witticism, the enquiry about what school one attended, a few well dropped names and above all a willingness to conform to the party line.”

Not only is the General Synod a waste of time, but the fact that the Church of England is more “England” than “Church” is truer now than it ever has been. That the British Parliament could threaten the church with legislation is, for any right thinking Christian, outrageous, but this is an everyday accepted part of being a member of the Church of England.

The head of state created the church in the first place. What else should one expect of an Erastian body?

“So Peter Opened His Mouth” — The Preacher’s Calling Reduced to Five Powerful Words

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

 

Albert Mohler

Peter-Kornelius

 

The Bible presents an astonishingly simple method of preaching. In Nehemiah 8:8 we read that Ezra and his fellow preachers “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

There is no calling as majestic as the Christian ministry, and yet the central task of ministry is breathtakingly uncomplicated. We read the Bible aloud, we read it clearly, and then we explain what we have read, so that hearers understand the meaning. Of course, no one said it was easy. This is an arduous calling, but it is incredibly simple in design.

The most amazing thing about preaching is the fact that God chose to use human mouths for his message. It is astounding that God has willed that the earth shall hear his voice by means of the human voice.

Martin Luther put it this way:

“Thus when you hear a sermon by St. Paul or by me, you hear God the Father Himself. And yet you do not become my pupil but the Father’s, for it is not I who is speaking; it is the Father. Nor am I your schoolmaster; but we both, you and I, have one Schoolmaster and Teacher, the Father, who instructs us. We both, pastor and listener, are only pupils; there is only this difference, that God is speaking to you through me. That is the glorious power of the divine Word, through which God Himself deals with us and speaks to us, and in which we hear God Himself.” [1]

In this light, perhaps the most clarifying way to understand the preacher’s task is to consider its most quintessential act — the opening of the mouth.

Look with me to the Book of Acts, 10:30-43:

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” [Acts 10:34-43].

The context is one of the most significant turning-points in the Book of Acts. This text explains not only how Cornelius came to be saved, but how we — the Gentiles — can be saved. This came after Peter had received his vision and heard the voice from heaven declare: “What God has made clean, do not call common” [Acts 10:15].

Peter was commanded to follow three men, who took him to the house of a Roman centurion, Cornelius: “And they said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say’” [Acts 10:22].

Notice carefully that Peter is told that Cornelius was directed by an angel to hear what Peter has to say. When Peter arrives, Cornelius declares to his entire household: “Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” [Acts 10:33].

This is one of the most powerful teachings in Scripture about the proper disposition of a congregation. This congregation may have been relatively small, but it was ready to hear a word from the Lord, delivered through God’s preacher.

Just imagine if every congregation awaited every sermon with such an announcement: ”Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

Imagine the expectation that statement reflects; the faithful eagerness that statement projects. They were gathered to hear and to receive and to believe all that God would command his preacher to say.

So Peter opened his mouth. That is the very next verse — “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality’” [Acts 10:34].  So Peter opened his mouth. That is the essential act of preaching reduced to five earth-shaking words. So Peter opened his mouth.

In his commentary on Ephesians 6:19-20, Peter O’Brien notes: “The expression ‘to open the mouth’ appears in contexts of solemnity where a grave or important utterance from God is about to be made.

We can imagine no more important utterance than this — salvation is for the Gentiles, too.

This phrase is used in the Old Testament as well, with reference to prophetic utterance. In Ezekiel 3:2, the prophet says, “So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat.” He was to eat the Word, then preach the Word. In Ezekiel 33:22, Ezekiel explains that he was ready to preach when God opened his mouth, and “so my mouth was opened.”

So Peter opened his mouth. He obeyed the call. He fulfilled his calling. He did not remain silent or hide, he opened his mouth and declared all that God had commanded him to say. Paul once asked the Ephesian Christians to pray “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly” [Ephesians 6:19].

And what did God command him to speak?

That everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins through his name. Everyone. Jews who believe in him receive the forgiveness of sins through his name. Gentiles who believe in him receive the forgiveness of sins through his name.

Peter had declared the story of Jesus, who went about doing good and healing, but was put to death by hanging him on a tree. God raised him up on the third day, and after appearing to many witnesses he commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to all people, to all nations.

The Christian ministry requires courage, and we can see even more courage required in the near future. There may well be a higher price exacted for opening our mouths. But God has called us to open our mouths so that others can hear his voice, believe, and be saved — so that his church will be fed and taught, and be matured. Can you imagine any higher calling than that?

So, dear preacher, go ye into all the world, and open your mouth.

Bishop of Sheffield orders Welby Facilitated Conversations on Sexual Immorality in Communion/CofE

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

From Titusonenine:

The Pilling Report, published in November 2013, recommended that the church’s internal dialogue on the subject of human sexuality might best be addressed through a process of conversations across the church and involving others in the Anglican Communion. This recommendation was endorsed by the College of Bishops in January. The outlines of the process were agreed by the House of Bishops in May.
…..
Under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, Canon David Porter, a team of around 20 trained facilitators will support a process of conversations across the Church of England. They will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory.
…..
Following the meeting of the College of Bishops, the process will then extend across the dioceses, with dioceses working in “clusters” to enable 12 regional conversations, each involving around 60 participants, to experience the process….
….
Dioceses will look at ways to use their relationships with their companion links to involve participants from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion.
+Steven Sheffield
26 June 2014

Read it all [pdf]
________________________
The previous appeals and warnings given to the Church of England Bishops not to compromise their position in the Anglican Communion include:

Statement of the Global South Primates

The Global South considers forward movement on the Pilling Report’s recommendations as equal to what the North American churches did ten years ago which caused much confusion in the Communion.
….
After more than 10 years of listening and conversation, we do not see a value of endless conversations and indabas.

We are clear on what the Bible teaches about sexual relationships outside of the marriage of one man and one woman, and the need for pastoral care for those who find themselves in relationships outside of this. The dissenting view written by the Bishop of Birkenhead captures well our position. For us in the Global South, his view is the majority view, and we hope the Church of England Bishops will recognize this. The Church of England needs to be cautious in taking decisions that will compromise faith and the position of the Church of England within the Anglican Communion as well as the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury more

and from the GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala

Read here

Christians gather in SA for Anglicans Ablaze

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

The energetic ‘blazing band’ supporting sung worship at the conference
Photo Credit: Bellah Zulu/ACNS
Related Categories: Southern Africa, youth

By Bellah Zulu, ACNS

Around two thousand Christians from Southern Africa and beyond are in Johannesburg for one of the continent’s most popular Christian gatherings: Anglicans Ablaze.

Day one was characterised by lively praise and worship songs led by Bishop Martin Breytenbach of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, backed by an energetic ‘blazing band.’

The Bishop told attendees: “People are spiritually thirsty and desperate for a living God” and he encouraged participants to be “engaged and meet God despite the different styles of praise and worship” at the conference.

The Anglican-run conference, with the theme Hope is Rising, runs from 2 to 5 July, and will address various topics ranging from re-imagining mission, the environment, social justice, discipleship and leadership, among many others. Speakers have been drawn from various backgrounds, denominations and countries mostly from Africa.

Hope, an anchor for the soul

‘Hope’ was a common thread to many of the presentations throughout the first day. “Christian hope is not wishful thinking,” one speaker said, “but our confident expectation in Christ.”

In his charge, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, drew extensively from Scripture and various theologians on the meaning and the need for hope in the church.

“Hope is the belief that we’re called and invited to be ready to respond to the love of God,” he said. “Anglicans should be witnesses with a difference, and nothing, not even death shall separate us from the love of God.”

Archbishop Makgoba addressed many other issues within the Church and the country. He spoke of “the need to care for the environment” and the current efforts to organise local clean-up campaigns and even lobby government for an eco-conference. He also bemoaned the disparities that exist between the rich and the poor, the employers and the employees.

Theological education also took centre stage in his charge. The Archbishop has been outspoken on the need for improved education in the country and the way it could impact the nation in general and the Church in particular. He said: “Theological education of parishioners is important in addressing the many challenges the church faces today.

“Theological education is a must for Southern Africa and equips us to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope. Education boosts the levels of trust among Christians,” he said. “Unfortunately distrust is taking over in South Africa due to lack of transparency in the nation and therefore, the Church needs to act to bring about a renaissance of trust.”

Re-imagining mission

Steve Maina is a charismatic Anglican priest who heads up CMS in New Zealand. He gave a rousing speech on “re-imaging mission” in 21st century Africa. He said, “As Anglicans we sometimes get caught up in the debates and forget what our core essence is. The Kingdom of God is not only about the seed or weed, but the whole story.”

He added, “It’s about the small seed becoming the big tree and therefore Anglicans should not despise small beginnings. Breakthroughs don’t always happen at the centre but at the fringes.” He encouraged Christians not to be scared to be in “obscure places because that’s where the renewal and expansion of the church is happening.”

“It’s time for Africa to evangelise the world,” he proclaimed. There is need for quality and depth in churches and discipleship. Boundaries should be broken to re-imagine mission and share the gospel of Christ.”

However he explained that African Anglicans need a plan to successfully evangelise the world. He explained the various opportunities that the Church can take advantage of in order to effectively evangelise.

“Children present a wonderful opportunity for sharing the Gospel with others,” he pointed out. He wondered why the African church had ignored Christians in diaspora. “Those should be commissioned and prayed for,” he said.

He explained that this missionary model is not capital intensive since the people are already out there and hence the church does not need to spend to take them there.

A different form of worship

Mrs Nancy Nyagi is a social development leader from Kenya. She addressed young Anglicans in a special workshop on social development. She said: “Social justice is a different form of worship. Let justice roll in our countries.”

She related social justice to the teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. “We need to care enough for our neighbours as Jesus taught us,” she said. “We need to build relationships and break bondages of injustice.”

Mrs Nyagi emphasised that the Church needs to break the bonds of injustice and set people free. “The Church should break the bondages of dehumanising poverty and let justice roll while doing away with oppression,” she said.

In conclusion, she warned: “However, giving aid only is like trying to be God and trying to fix everything in the world without understanding the source of the problems.”

The Anglicans Ablaze conference has been organised by Growing the Church (GtC), the province’s growth institute. It is a follow up to a similar conference held in 2012 which saw the participation of about 1,400 Christians. This year the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion will be the keynote speaker.

The biblical texts on same-sex unions

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 13.14.04My Grove booklet on the key biblical texts on same-sex unions is now out. You can order it from the Grove website, either as a printed booklet or as PDF.

I cover the debates around Gen 1 and 2, Gen 19, Judges 19, Leviticus 18 and 20 , Jesus and the gospels, Acts 15, Romans 1, 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1. For each of these, I set out what I see as the ‘traditionalist’ and ‘revisionist’ readings of these texts (though these and any other terms are always problematic) and then evaluate them in the light of interpretation of the texts in question.

I hope that the booklet will serve to clear the air a little on the debate, by clarifying what the Bible does and does not say on this issue. Here is part of my introduction.


Why another Grove booklet on same-sex unions? There are numerous reasons. For one thing, since the first Grove Biblical booklet was published addressing this question some 15 years ago, the landscape of the debate has changed both significantly and remarkably rapidly. Secondly, this question has dominated media coverage of the Christian churches and their engagement with society. (Some of us have argued that there might be more important or even more urgent things to consider, but the media, and in particular social media, does not appear to agree.) Thirdly, this issue is often tied in together with the issue of women’s leadership in the church, and as the Church of England is moving decisively to ordain women as bishops, many are saying that the church’s position on same-sex unions is the next thing that must change.

But this leads to the fourth, and perhaps most important reason for a short, accessible overview of the biblical texts. Something quite strange has been happening in the public debate about same-sex unions. Although there is extensive literature on the question, and specifically on the issue of how we read the biblical texts, conclusions that once could be called well established now appear either to be ignored or forgotten.

For example, one leading advocate of a change to the church’s position, from what is described as an ‘evangelical’ perspective, argues that we should ignore the texts on sexual ethics in Leviticus 18 and 20 because we ignore the prohibition on eating shellfish and wearing clothes of mixed fibres. I had thought that this kind of ‘naïve’ (in the strict sense) reading of the Old Testament, which assumes that all commands have equal significance so must be accepted or rejected together, had been set aside in the debate. But it is continuing to make its presence felt in popular discussion.  Another example occurs in recent scholarly work; a text published only last year (Brownson’s Bible, Gender, Sexuality) questions the link between Paul’s term arsenokoitai in 1 Cor 6.9 and the Greek version of Lev 18.22—a link which I think most would regard as very well established (p 271). There is really no other plausible explanation for this term, which Paul appears to have coined himself.

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 13.14.04 - Version 2So the purpose of this booklet is not to bully people, nor to make a minority in the churches or society feel marginalized, nor to defend the mistreatment of people who experience same-sex attraction in previous generations or other cultures. It is, however, to set out the key texts, to explore concisely the issues in the interpretation of these texts, including engaging with important and recent commentators, and to see whether the biblical witness can offer any warrant for the affirmation of same-sex sexual union as a ‘way of life, hallowed by God’ on a par with the marriage of one man to one woman. This is not an attempt at an academic treatise, but aims to be relevant and accessible for church members and leaders who would like some guidance through this discussion. I have engaged both with academic and popular arguments, and sought to connect the two areas of discussion.


Order now from Grove Books