God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships By Matthew Vines. Hardcover, 224 pages; Publisher: Convergent Books (April 22, 2014)

I am not encouraging debating here for and against Matthew Vines’ and similar works – there are plenty of websites and places that energetically debate this, and if that is what interests you – join those ongoing discussions.

Matthew Vines has a “high” view of the scriptures, and his conclusions, supportive of same-sex relationships, are therefore described as a “game changer”. My experience has been different to this. I have experienced different positions about committed same-sex couples to be undergirded by love and commitment to the scriptures and careful, scholarly exegesis.

It is unhelpful and erroneous to state, without qualification, that the Bible is clear that all same-sex relationships are sinful. The concept of homosexual orientation as exclusive, permanent, and unchosen, for example, is a relatively new understanding. The Bible does not directly address this issue, just as the Bible does not, for example, address IVF, flying in an aeroplane, genetic modification, nuclear power, medication to assist those with bipolar disorder, or global warming. One might be able to find principles within the scriptures, the tradition, and through reason, but that is quite different. And let us affirm that different positions are held with integrity.

But also note the regular bizarre situation of divorced-and-remarried people, or those accepting of divorce and remarriage, quoting Jesus’ condemnation of divorce and remarriage and using that as an argument against homosexual people committing themselves to each other faithfully for life!

Matthew Vines is by no means alone in his conclusions. Alan A Brash published Facing Our Differences for the World Council of Churches in 1995 (having previously been its deputy general secretary). He covers similar ground to Matthew Vines (from the sin of Sodom through the half a dozen verses that are the stock in trade of this debate). A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender in the company of Jesus has received a lot of publicity recently. The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart is by Dr. Achtemeier, a PC(USA) pastor and seminary professor, who led the way in his denomination’s barring of gays and lesbians from ordination, and now after years of reflection and study, led the denomination to reverse that stand last month. A significant scholarly work is by Tobias Haller Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality

One fascinating approach is provided by Brian Anthony Bowen. He uses language and approaches most would normally associate with those opposed to committed same-sex couples. For example, he teaches that Jesus will not return for the Second Coming until the Church teaches and practices marrying committed same-sex couples. Here is the link to his online book, The Bed-Keeper.

Recently a second priest left the Anglican Church in New Zealand because of Motion 30 which calls for a working group to report to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) 2016. This group is to work on holding together within the church those who are for and those who against blessing committed same-sex couples, to present a rite for such a blessing, and present further reflection on ordination and its requirements, and on marriage.

In the light of Bill 4 which declares that currently we can only have services which are formularies, and all others have been “[inconsistent] with the 1928 Act and [lacking] fundamental authorisation in the first place”, those in the working group have their work cut out for them. Drafters of Motion 30 appear cognisant of these issues as they include the possibility of needing to go to parliament.

Ps. At our Christchurch diocesan synod in September there is a motion asking us to “receive” Motion 30 from GSTHW. I understand “receiving a report”. I understand agreeing (or disagreeing) with a motion. I have never heard of “receiving” a motion from another body, and I do not know what this means. What would it mean, for example, if our diocesan synod voted against this diocesan-synod motion and did not “receive” GSTHW’s Motion 30?

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