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Archbishop More Loving Than God?

Michael Gove Justin Welby

The Michael Gove interview of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is causing a bit of a stir, mainly because of the following:

Few questions have so preoccupied the Anglican communion recently as the morality of sexuality — homosexuality in particular. Traditional Anglicans — whether in Nigeria or Nottingham — have been wary, at best, of the acceptance and welcome given to gay men and women and their sexual choices by secular society. It would be a challenge for any Archbishop of Canterbury to accommodate both the concerns of the traditionalists and the evolving views of the rest of British society. But when I ask this, Archbishop of Canterbury he doesn’t prevaricate.

If one of his own children were to be gay and fell in love with another person of the same sex, and asked his blessing, how would he react? ‘Would I pray for them together? You bet I would, absolutely. Would I pray with them together? If they wanted me to. If they had a civil service of marriage, would I attend? Of course I would.’

But, I challenged him, conscious of what many evangelicals believe, wouldn’t you say to them that while you love them, their relationship was sinful or inappropriate?

‘I would say, “I will always love you, full stop. End of sentence, end of paragraph.” Whatever they say, I will say I always love them.’

Why might this surprise people? Shock people? Is this not what one would expect from any loving parent?

And if God as a loving father, loving parent, is a primary (some will say God-given) image, is that not what we would expect from God? From Jesus?

If we ask God, if we ask Jesus, questions like:

If one of your own children were to be gay and fell in love with another person of the same sex, and asked your blessing, how would he react? Would you pray for them together? Would you pray with them together? If they had a service of marriage, would you be present?

do you think the Archbishop of Canterbury is more loving than God, than Jesus?

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12 Responses to Archbishop More Loving Than God?

  1. To a degree that is a helpful way of framing the issue, but might it only take the debate forward a bit before getting stuck on what God supports and does not support? Change the question to another situation such as, if your child made a mess of his first four marriages, would you and God turn up to bless the fifth marriage ceremony, could we be so confident of either God’s answer or even our own? That both God and ourselves as parents would not stop loving and supporting that child is not necessarily in question if we were to answer that blessing could not be given. (Yes, yes, I know it is difficult to answer from a human perspective why one would keep blessing marriages to the nth degree and stop at n+1, and many Christians answer that God only blesses one marriage, unless the spouse of that marriage has died …).

    • Thanks, Peter. Yes, I’ve tried your reframing in conversations, but regularly find heterosexuals who are OK with the serial polygamy, which you are describing, but vehemently opposed to blessing/marrying committed same-sex couples – NZ Anglicanism formally being in this position. You could stretch your own reframing to ask at which point does the brevity of the time period between one partner and the next shift it from “allowing divorce and remarriage” to promiscuity?

      Back to my own framing: parents/God would not make the Archbishop’s same statements about something that is wrong. The Archbishop of Canterbury/God would not accompany a child as s/he stole/murdered etc. In situations that are wrong, the Archbishop of Canterbury/God would say to them that “while you love them, what they are doing was sinful or inappropriate”.

      Maranatha!

      • What about Psalm 139 that says ‘even if I make my bed in the depths, you are there’

        So – I think loving parents would be present – stay in relationship – and ask God when to speak and what to say to whom and when to say it.

        and you have the entire hermaphrodite issue here with the fact that there are indeed a certain number of people born with both male and female gender . . . check it out with the medical community before people are judged too severely and falsely accused of sinning. And this is all I can ever think of what to say in this conversation, because the truth is – we are all, male, female and male/female, sinners in need of God’s Love and Redemption.

        • Yes, June, the complexities of gender and sexuality are legion. There is our genetic makeup, our body’s physiology (which may or may not “match” that genetic makeup), how we understand ourselves, whom we are attracted to… Maranatha!

          • Bosco
            You say the complexities of gender and sexuality are legion – – – interesting choice of words – I would say ‘endless’ the word ‘legion’ seems to be connected to demonic infuence, I don’t think our birth gender is a demonic influence. I do believe as we grow up in this world that gender and sexuality can become negatively influenced and confused by demonic (unholy) forces that our Lord said are at work in this world. Discernment . . . discern the spirit of influence . . .

          • June, connecting ‘legion’ with ‘demonic’ must be cultural – it is not in any dictionary I know. Blessings.

  2. Indeed, who’s to say Jesus wasn’t gay? About, what, a 1:20 chance? If all of humanity is made in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus Christ assumed humanity, it’s possible the Incarnate Jesus Christ was gay. We don’t know, nor does it matter, EXCEPT if one is offended by this proposition, I strongly encourage self-reflection as to why.
    I see our tradition of the Trinity in erotic terms like perichoresis, kenosis, or romantic love (Sarah Coakley offers one Anglican example), or Trinitarian terms like Lover, Beloved and Love/Loving (from Augustine).
    Given the Trinity is often male-identified (Father, male-identified Logos, and the Holy Spirit, often called “He”), there’s already masculine, heavily homo-erotic language within the Christian tradition– not to mention male-centric language of much of Christian liturgy, male-dominated leadership of most churches, and God’s relationship to “His” male prophets in the Old Testament.
    So, no, I don’t think the ABC is more loving than Jesus. I believe non-LGBT/Q affirming persons and churches miss our own tradition’s same-sex affirmations, and the teachings of Jesus Christ when it comes to love, what it truly means that Jesus Christ assumed humanity, and the living testimonies of LGBT/Q persons in the church today, who continue to greatly suffer due to homophobic policies backed by many churches– in Africa, the UK, the US, and beyond.

  3. This is a great place to start, and a theme of a wonderful homily I heard yesterday and a conversation with a Mulsim friend I had at the local mosque yesterday.

    When we ask what would God have us do, we should start by recognising our common humanity and asking what is the decent and human thing to do, the loving, kind and merciful thing to do; and do that.

    If the theology doesn’t fit that, then it is time to update the theology.

    As Christians, we should always ask ourselves what Jesus, the great teacher of Torah interprettaion, said against homosexuality: nothing. But a great deal about loving our neighbour and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

    Blessings

  4. I think most Christians would say that God loves us at least as much as the ABC loves his children. The disagreement is more over how a loving God would deal with the situation.

    For people with the gift of certitude on the same-sex marriage issue, the answer is easy. Those who favor same-sex marriage will say that God loves the persons entering into a same-sex marriage at least as much as their parents do and will therefore bless their union.

    Those who oppose sexual relations between persons of the same sex under any circumstances
    will say that a truly loving God, like a truly loving parent, would warn his children against entering into such a relationship.

    For those without this gift of certitude, it becomes more difficult. The closest analogy I have found in the gospels is Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Jesus calls her out for having had 5 husbands and for living with a man who wasn’t her husband. But he doesn’t condemn her, nor does he tell her to leave her partner. Why he doesn’t is a mystery. For people in this category, the answer is that God loves us at least as much as the ABC loves his children, but we cannot be certain how a loving God would deal with this situation.

    So perhaps a better question is how would a loving God wish for us to deal with it.

  5. Oh Bosco.

    What did Jesus say regarding homosexuality ( common in Roman times by the way ) Nothing.

    What did Jesus say regarding divorce and remarriage- don’t do it. And how often have we seen evil in divorce or remarriage?

    I have experienced and seen more evil because of divorce/ remarriage than I can see anywhere else because of gay marriage…the jealousy wrecks families.

    But in any case Jesus is always the metaphor ( at least ) for challenging what counts as love or support or compassion.

    I am not gay. None of my family ( to my knowledge ) is. No axe to grind but fairness.

    *

    Wish you were here alongside me as a mathematician in US medical malarkey- it’s totally not my field but even I can call out impropriety and ‘smell a rat’.

  6. I’ll throw in something to get people to think about sexual identity, sexual physiology, and body image.

    If one accepts the Virgin Birth, then here is how I imagine this miracle worked — parthenogenesis!

    Parthenogenesis is virgin birth, where the female animal produces a viable ovum from the progenitor cell before it produces haploid ova. The genetic inheritance is identical to that of the mother. Lots of species of lizards do it. Rabbits do it, and I think that mice do it. I am not aware of it happening in humans, but then, parthenogenesis, even if possible but uncommon in humans would be a huge social no-no in most societies, resulting in punishment or death of the mother (mother-to-be), as it was in the time of Jesus.

    But he was a male, you argue! Well, we already have instances of genetically female babies being born with fully male physiological characteristics, although having full characteristics is very uncommon. I am not quite sure how such persons look when adult, but bearded ladies were once quite common as sideshow freaks.

    If my speculation is correct, then it is a miracle indeed, because this Jesus would be the most complete human there has ever been in a Patriarchal Society — a woman inside the body of a man; the compassion of a woman as opposed to the brutality of many men; the physical toughness of a woman with the strength of a man; the insight of what it means to be both a man and a woman! I could go on, but it seems to me to be the perfect way for God to enter humankind, keeping in mind that in all creatures who propagate by sexual means, the primary genetic blueprint of their species is by definition female: males exist solely to provide the means for propagating genetic diversity.

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