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Gay-marriage ban

Why homosexuality?

Gay-marriage banOver the weekend in Auckland and Christchurch Anglican diocesan synods met. Some of the most intense debate was around… homosexuality.

Why homosexuality?

  • Why not evolution? Didn’t Jesus clearly believe and teach Adam and Eve are historical persons (Matthew 19:4-6 – incidentally the same proof-text repeated to argue against marriage equality!)? Does Jesus’ claim that God made humans “at the beginning” leave room for 13 billion years, the majority of the time the universe has existed, before the first humans? Adam and Eve are listed as the start of Jesus’ genealogy (Luke 3:38). Doesn’t evolution and an “old earth” have death entering the world prior to The Fall, undermining the teaching that Adam’s sin is what brought death, and hence undermining Christ’s redemption from this [Romans 5:12-21; I Corinthians 15:20-26]? If death is not the penalty of sin, is Christ’s redemptive death not being mocked? [Not to forget Jesus’ teaching on the flood Matthew 24:37-39]
  • Why not women’s ordination? The Bible and most of Christian history, and the majority Christian position today, appears to firmly argue for male-only ordination, church leadership, “headship”. Yet there are women clergy calling strongly for a “slow down” and “more study” on marriage and homosexuality. Why did that not happen when women started getting ordained? Currently in our church there is a Ma Whea? commission, a reference group, a doctrine commission, “The Bible in the Life of the Church” project, and every diocese and hui amorangi are studying and debating marriage/homosexuality intensely (at the behest of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui GSTHW). Women’s ordination happened without anything like this level of discussion. The discussion about ordaining women as bishops in this country was so negligible that a senior priest in our province, involved in theological education most of his ministry disputed that it had even occurred. There are women clergy calling the marriage/homosexuality discussion a “communion-dividing issue” without noting the irony that the Anglican Communion became impaired when orders were no longer recognised across the Communion because of the ordination of women. Women’s ordination is not just Communion-breaking; more locally, a bishop does not preach in some of her own parishes because she is a woman. And more widely – with women’s ordination, the possibility of reconciliation with majority catholic Christianity has receded from view.

This weekend’s Christchurch diocesan synod had a motion on marriage by Rev. Dr Peter Carrell. I moved an amendment to delete clause 4 of that motion:

(4) Affirms the doctrine of marriage of this church, as explained in Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage.

Appendix to Motion: Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III reads as follows:

“…Christian marriage is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into in the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind and will, and with the intent that it be lifelong…

While there was, at this synod, intense debate as we grappled with post-quakes decisions affecting buildings, parishes, livelihood, and jobs there was never a call for a “division”. That call came that we register our position on my amendment with our names being recorded. My amendment was passed: clergy 42/33; laity 65/36, house of bishops assenting.

Why was it this amendment that generated such energy?
Why homosexuality?

  • Why not abortion? Euthanasia? Genetic modification? Effects of the internet? War? Poverty?
  • Why not divorce and remarriage? Why is Jesus’ teaching about marriage used against homosexuality, but not against divorce and remarriage? Why can priests marry people (record I know of – someone for their seventh wedding) without question? Why can a priest in his fourth marriage hold a bishop’s licence without controversy as intense as around homosexuality? Why can a bishop divorce and remarry without resulting in the sort of intensity we see around homosexuality?

Repeatedly I am hearing, “we need to study marriage more; we need to study what the Bible teaches about marriage more deeply…” I have regularly said we need more and better study, training, and formation – in church history, sacramental theology, biblical languages, spirituality, liturgy, our new and changing context,… Yes, our study, training, and formation may be sorely inadequate – but why only fix it in relation to marriage?
Why homosexuality?

  • Why not liturgy and worship? We had the Christchurch debate in a church building which has disks at the end of rows that you take forward if you want grape juice in a shot glass rather than wine – contrary to our formularies (binding teachings) and the express admonition of our bishop. And the division was called by a priest presbyter who serves in a parish that wouldn’t dream of following our agreed, binding readings.

Auckland diocesan synod passed a motion about working on a liturgy, including at the GSTHW level, to bless same-gendered relationships, Clergy: 91/36; Laity 104/49; the bishops assented. But for another motion, acknowledging diversity of positions, and supporting the legal processes to enable same-gender weddings and allowing clergy, if they choose, to conduct such ceremonies, the votes were: bishops 2 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions; clergy 80 for, 44 against, 4 abstentions; and laity 72 for, 65 against, 8 abstentions. People following it online got “it was lost”, then “it passed”, then “it was lost”. Apparently Auckland used a process they didn’t explicitly have provision for – pieces of paper which included the option to “abstain”. Having done that they came to realise they needed to count abstentions: there were 72+65+8 = 145 laity. That meant they needed 73 laity for a majority. Why does this sort of energy happen around the discussion about homosexuality?

In the comments, usual rules apply: no anonymous comments, no ad hominems,…

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90 thoughts on “Why homosexuality?”

  1. I am really looking forward to ending my status as a ‘senior priest’ and becoming a ‘retired priest’ which may well include retirement from these many issues!

    I think your questions deserve a response, not least from the mover of the Chch motion 🙂 [Incidentally, it would be good to have the final version of the motion available publicly, somewhere, sometime … I am working on that].

    The briefest response I can make is this:

    Evolution: put the way you do, a huge issue and we should look into it!

    Some other issues: I think we would be have a slow careful discussion if as a church we were proposing a change of doctrine to explicitly/canonically embrace (say) war or euthanasia.

    Why homosexuality? Effectively two proposals are being made to the church: that a sin be declared no longer a sin, that the doctrine of marriage be changed. I do not think it is clear to conservatives I talk with that issues you mention such as use of grape juice or following the lectionary involve either declaring a sin to be no longer a sin, or a change in doctrine. (I realise you may disagree with that assessment).

    The closest an issue you raise comes to declaring a sin to no longer being a sin or a change to the doctrine of marriage is the matter of divorce and remarriage.

    Perhaps where that issue offers a way forward is that we do seem to be a church which lives with disagreement on that issue, whether one thinks of living with a remarried bishop or with the priest who conducted that seventh wedding!

    1. Thanks, Peter, for your agreement with many of my points.

      If the primary issue is the church declaring sin no longer to be a sin (and, to be fair, I do not recall anyone in the lengthy debate framing it in that manner), then every time the church baptises the child of an unmarried couple we are publicly declaring that extra-marital sex is not a sin as the couple publicly declare in the church repentance and renunciation of all evil.

      As to grape juice: using wine is the conservative position. It is the traditional matter of the sacramental action given by Christ to the Church. And altering the matter of the sacrament would conservatively (staying with your word) be sacrilegious, so, yes, to do so without the lengthy processes and discussion by the doctrine commission etc. has similar dynamics to sin as the homosexuality discussion, particularly when the altering-the-sacramental-matter approach is undergirding so much of the marriage discussion.

      The lectionary point was made in my post to allude to the speech made by the division-calling presbyter and his focusing on the hypocrisy of those who make ordination vows and sign documents without holding to them.

      Your last paragraph does offer a way forward, still leaving the question why that was so easy to do and this is so, so difficult.

      Blessings.

    2. “that a sin be declared no longer a sin”

      You can look at it that way, or you can say that what was once mistook for sin is realized not to be sin at all.

      I’m pretty sure that the apostle Peter felt that straying outside the Israelite food law was a sin, and he is recorded to have protested vehemently. Yet, if scripture is to be believed, he was told in no uncertain terms that what God had made clean, was clean. So what he mistook for sin, he was convinced had not been sin at all.

      By the way, this passage is specifically about people once mistakenly believed not to be fit for the realm.

  2. “Didn’t Jesus clearly believe and teach Adam and Eve are historical persons (Matthew 19:4-6)…?”
    Of course, Jesus did NOT teach that Adam and Eve were historical persons! He was a Jew, not a Greek. The Genesis story is not history. It is an ancient Jewish saga with which Jesus was very familiar. In the story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ reference to Adam and Eve directs attention to the sanctity of the bonds created in marriage — it is only incidentally connected to the gender of the characters. Biblical literalism is the sin here and no Jew would have committed it.

  3. Bosco,

    I’d be interested to know why you wanted to delete clause 4 ?

    It strikes me as remarkable that Anglicans want to delete the traditional Christian understanding of marriage, but perhaps I’m missing something of the thinking behind that.

    God Bless

    1. I think, Chris, you are confusing clause 4 of a motion before synod with Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage. There was no motion to delete the latter which is what you state was being done. I hope that helps. Blessings.

  4. A further point, and kind of picking up on your last point above.

    Anecdotally we have some history (as I understand it) of previously being a church where selection for ordination/appointment to a licensed position could turn on whether one agreed or disagreed with the prevailing diocesan position on homosexuality.

    I am not aware of any such significant question on other matters you raise above (save for the matter of the ordination of women). Thus potentially we could resume that position as a church, with canonical backing. Conservatives resisting change have a motivation to at least achieve some sense that our church might respect two integrities or, if one prefers, two differing points of views.

    I think conservatives understand only too well that once a substantive change is effected in the life of our church, there will be no going back.

    I don’t agree with you re wine/grape juice. No one I am aware of is seeking to be sacriligious when using grape juice. Everyone is trying to work out what it means to be an inclusive church in a day of sensitivities to the background from which people come, including alcoholism. I think some credit could be given to missional sensitivities re the use of grape juice rather than invoking the idea of sacriligiosity.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I think there are more than two differing points of view, and, as you are aware, like you I want to be a part of a church that holds together appropriate diversity.

      At the risk of distracting this thread to eucharistic practice, on grape juice it is not the seeking to be sacrilegious that is the issue. The background and missional sensitivities have been here long enough for those who want to alter the church’s historic practice to have followed the proper processes for change long ago. There have historically been a number of very good pastoral responses to alcoholism in eucharistic practice. Those who use grape juice do so contrary to historic church practice and sacramental theology, agreed church discipline, and explicit episcopal reinforcement.

      Blessings.

  5. Annelise Schroeder

    I feel extremely offended whenever I see homosexuality being labelled a “sin”. Presumably, then, it is also a “sin” to eat pork or to ordain women priests or to work on the Sabbath.
    I am not as educated on these topics as some of the commenters on this site or indeed its learned author, but I long for the day when we are more interested in questions such as how best to demonstrate God’s love in a world obsessed with violence and power than questions such as how to exclude other human beings because of their God-given sexuality. Surely we can move beyond picking and choosing parts of God’s Word (i.e. many of us reject a literal reading of the Creation story and some of the Old Testament rules about slavery, the food we eat, the place of women and the need for ritual sacrifice, yet as Bosco points out we are still distracted by sexuality), and instead concentrate on actively rejecting hate and prejudice and embracing love and inclusiveness.
    I have often wondered if the reason this issue takes up so much airtime is because some are simply frightened of what will happen if their worldview is no longer dominant (cf white fear of black power, male fear of female power, gentry fear of worker power). Would the world end if a family was depicted as Adam, Steve and their three kids, just as some feared that the world would end if a black man could become president or if women could make their own financial decisions?
    I am also reminded that one possible reason for a restriction on eating pork and shellfish in the Old Testament is the danger of eating those foods in desert regions with inadequate preservation and storage facilities. God was simply looking out for the health of his people. Similarly, sex between men would have been similarly dangerous and still is if adequate protection is not used, in the same way that leaving mussels out of the fridge for three days would be dangerous.
    I am going to celebrate the day when the Church stops arguing about whether we should continue to reject some of our brothers and sisters because of our own fear and bigotry and starts truly practicing Jesus’s overarching doctrine of love.

    1. Thanks, Annelise. You are exactly picking up the emphasis of my post. Whatever one’s position on homosexuality, why is it this issue that is receiving the most energy?! As we speak God’s good news to the world, what many are hearing is our emPHAsis on the wrong syLLABle. The response to the Auckland vote, for example, was to declare “Anglican Church votes against same-sex marriage”. Many speakers in favour of my amendment were very conscious of what people hear. Even one comment here has already misheard what seemed to so clearly being said. Blessings.

      1. Annelise Schroeder

        It is fairly clear to me why sexuality receives so much energy. It is because those who have the loudest voices in the Church are often male, white, educated, wealthy (by world standards) and straight. Attempt to break down some of that power and you have a battle on your hands.
        The question for me is why on earth people are so afraid of marriage equality. Let us not forget that marriage has only relatively recently become something entered into willingly and equally by two people committed to loving each other for life, rather than a political strategy or a property transaction. The acceptance of balanced gender roles, monogamy and marrying for love rather than political or social expediency has naturally led to calls for an acceptance of marriage equality (i.e. formalising a couple’s relationship regardless of gender), which of course has always been a threat to those who traditionally hold power in the Church and other institutions.
        You will probably say that I am missing your point and perhaps I am, but I haven’t heard any reports coming from the Auckland or Christchurch synods about an affirmation of a definition of marriage based on love, which is surely what Christianity should be about. That indeed would be good news.

        1. Annelise
          As a member of the Auckland synod, I can assure you that the viewpoint of your two postings was indeed argued in debate by numerous speakers. Yes, it is unfortunate that this is not reflected in the wording of the resolutions.

    2. “Similarly, sex between men would have been similarly dangerous and still is if adequate protection is not used, in the same way that leaving mussels out of the fridge for three days would be dangerous.”

      This keeps nagging at me and bringing me back to this post, so finally I have to ask what hair-brained fairytale lie that you have bought into that would prompt you to make such a claim?

      1. Annelise Schroeder

        Ouch.

        But I did word that sentence badly. I should not have made that comparison. I did not mean to cause offence and I certainly did not mean to imply that anal sex is somehow wrong or dirty.

        It is my understanding that the vaginal passage has various protections against infection, such as higher acidity and various microflora. I also understand that the vaginal walls are thicker than the walls of the anal canal, which may mean that it is less susceptible to bruising or tearing.

        If I am wrong in my understanding, I can only apologise for not checking my facts. But, as I said in my initial post, I am not as educated as some others who comment on this blog and I was more concerned with making the point that not all Old Testament behavioural prescriptions make sense in the modern age.

        My apologies also that this reply is way off topic! Peace.

        1. Those are not misunderstandings on your part. In fact I heard a physician once describe the intestinal walls as being as fragile as if made up of several layers of wet paper towels.

          But I would like to point out that that is just one form of possible sexual expression between men and not all gay men engage in that form of intercourse. And even if we ALL did, there would still be more heterosexuals who engage in anal sex, just because of their greater numbers. It is one of the most common forms of birth control practiced in the world.

          But I wish that folks would move away from this obsession they have with what two men do for sex. I don’t sit around worrying about what men & women do, or two women. I just accept the fact that humans couple bond and that they find forms of physically expressing that love that meets their needs. Period.

  6. Because sex and food are vectors of control. (I first read it in the words of +Spong; the more I see, the more I realise its truth.)

    To answer your question about the divorce case: because Jesus’ own take on the matter differs between the gospels, so any argument is inherently weak.

    But then again: why not cohabiting couples?

  7. Thanks for your reply Bosco.

    What I’m trying to understand is why Anglicans voted to delete a clause reaffirming the traditional Christian understanding of marriage ?

    Does this indicate a radical break with the traditional understanding of marriage ?

    What is the meaning and significance of this vote ?

    God Bless

    1. Possibly, Chris, you have not gone back to see the full motion of which this is clause 4. I provided the link. I cannot fairly provide a summary of the lengthy debate around my amendment, nor the motivation of voters. One public comment is:

      If you “[affirm] the doctrine of marriage of this church, as explained in Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage.”

      … then there is no reason to …

      “hold conversations in our Church and with the wider community about the nature of marriage”

      I repeat again, since your second question continues to press this against my repetition to the contrary, Clause 1.3 of Title G Canon III Of Marriage has not altered in any way.

      Blessings.

        1. No, I’m pretty sure that he was not saying that. I think that, as he implied with the quote from the person in the post to which you have responded, Claus 4 in the Revd Dr Carrell’s motion would have cut off the conversation before it had begun.

  8. Bravo to Annelise. Her first sentence says what the Bible adorers need to and have never answered.
    The primitive belief in the Testaments as the word of God and not an account of various people struggling to understand life and deity still strangles our efforts to understand the life, the meaning of Jesus. And in much it keeps in place a god of terror, arbitrary and indeed sadistic.

  9. Thank you for your reply Bosco.

    I believe that the public comment you quote illustrates a failure to distinguish between Christian sacramental marriage, which Anglicans retain, and state civil marriage which is now quite a different understanding of committed relationship.

    I believe that the way forward is to understand the importance of this distinction, retaining our traditional sacramental understanding of marriage but finding a way to bless and conduct other kinds of committed unions.

    Where does the Anglican Church stand on blessing same sex unions ? Conducting same sex civil marriages ?

    As for why homosexuality, I believe it is simply one of the issues of the day which Christians are called to address, and it’s a good thing that Christians are discussing it even if progress is slower then many of us would like.

    God Bless

  10. Thank you Bosco for asking these questions. As a gay male (and practising Catholic) I too wonder at the Church’s pre-occupation with this one issue. There are often references to the “homosexual agenda” which apparently includes the determination to destroy marriage. We are so determined to desttroy marriage that we fought hard (and successfully) to be allowed to marry!

    I do have a homosxual agenda: 1 to gain agreement that sexual orientation is NOT a matter of choice and 2 that God did not create me evil or disordered.

    At least the Anglican Church is discussing this matter.

  11. Hi Bosco,
    ‘Why homosexuality?’ – a good question, one I’ve asked myself – although admittedly from a different fort. (My question is why is this issue so important to liberal Anglicans, don’t they see the pain and hurt this is causing to conservative people trying to live faithfully as Christians?)

    Why Homosexuality? As a conservative evangelical I can respond by saying “because that is the issue we’ve been forced to deal with”, let me assure you, if I could avoid this topic as a toic of fracture and disunity within ACANZP I would!

    That said, there are those revisionists among us who are thoroughly committed to seeing homosexuality accepted and celebrated within our Church. Because the Status Quo is being challenged evangelicals are forced to respond, and to respond with intense opposition.

    Why such intense opposition from us on this particular topic? Well, I speak from a place where I value Scripture as the supreme authority on matters of doctrine, life and faith. In our Anglican tradition tradition and reason have always sat under Scripture – the 39 articles are clear about this. So, when the teaching of the new testament regarding homosexuality, and its status as sinful, is challenged we are forced to respond. I stand to decry a move away from the teaching of Scripture for a new gospel.

    I hate that we are distracted by this issue. I wish we were working out the Kigdom of God on earth by dealing to poverty, war, addiction, oppression, but with this issue on the table it is going to keep diverting us from that work.

    I want to ask you to genuinely look from my point of view – why does the liberal wing have to keep pushing this issue? Why homosexuality? Would they be prepared to drop it, and live with the status quo so they can pursue the issues you’ve raised above instead? I hope and pray they might so that we can procialim the risen (bodily) Jesus, who brings salvation.

    1. Thanks for this helpful perspective, Zane.

      Leaving to one side that I do not view things in the binary liberal/conservative construct you are presenting – comments have already shown that those who call themselves “conservative” in one area are actually “revisionist” in another.

      I think, though, you have tried to skirt around rather than answer the question. Unless you can demonstrate that there was a similar engagement with the issues presented earlier: divorce, women’s ordination, etc. And we know that was not the case.

      So we are just back to my primary point.

      Blessings.

  12. Bosco,

    I think the reason why Homosexuality is the issue is due to (IMHO) that this is the faultline on which the Anglican communion is fracturing. And this faultline is due to the collision of two entities with different gospels which are at odds with each other that exist within the Anglican Communion. A statement released by the leaders of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in April 2012 put it this way:

    “The conflict in the Anglican Communion since 1998 [is] a crisis of Gospel truth, not only regarding matters of human sexuality, but the authority of Holy Scripture as God’s inspired Word and the unique Person and Work of Jesus Christ for salvation”.

    I think this pretty much sums it up.

    Grace and peace
    Joshua
    p.s Though I do think Divorce and Re-marriage needs to be looked at again. Albert Mohler on his blog wrote this:
    “Evangelical Christians are gravely concerned about the family, and this is good and necessary. But our credibility on the issue of marriage is significantly discounted by our acceptance of divorce. To our shame, the culture war is not the only place that an honest confrontation with the divorce culture is missing.
    Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience.”

    Ouch! I think he is right. Your thoughts

    by the way Bosco. My blog domain has now changed. Now reflects the name change of the blog also.

    Grace and peace
    Joshua

    1. Thanks, Joshua. I’m not sure that answering why there is division over homosexuality rather than other things by saying “his is the faultline on which the Anglican communion is fracturing” really moves anything forward? I have seen nothing like the intensity of debate around the “Person and Work of Jesus Christ for salvation”, including no motions that I am aware of about this to synods. Blessings.

  13. Hi Bosco,
    I can’t show that there was a similar engagement with the issues presented earlier (divorce, women’s ordination) because I wasn’t a part of those debates.

    I think re: women’s ordination there is more room to have a conversation i.e Paul speaks of women needing to stay silent in teaching situations, but we also know he appointed some women to positions of authority in ministry. Under that tension there is room for a conversation around that issue, which allows both those for the ordination of women, and those against, to argue a case from scripture citing positions which directly address the same topic. The same can’t be said for homosexuality. there is not one example of a homosexual relationship being spoken of positively in Scripture. Does that make sense? I’m not trying to have my cake and eat it too, but I want to help you understand the rationale.

    Did conservatives really not try and stop the acceptance of divorced people for remarriage within the ACANZP? that would shock me. It doesn’t surprise me that it went ahead, I imagine arguments like “These are two loving, consenting adults who wnat to commit themselves faithfully to each other – shouldn’t we support them in this?”, “these divorced persons identify as Christians, we can’t stop them being part of the Church, God didn’t choose them to be divorced, they just are” and “this is a justice issue” were used for the acceptance too.

    I don’t agree that we are back to your primary point, i think you’ve just decided this is a hill to die on, again I ask ‘why does the liberal wing have to keep pushing this issue? Why homosexuality? Would they be prepared to drop it, and live with the status quo so they can pursue the issues you’ve raised above instead?’

    I hope you can answer so i understand where you’re coming from because I genuinely want this to click for me.

    This issue causes me great pain, I hate it because no one is going to come out of this undamaged. I feel like my Church has turned its back on me and now says “there is no place for you here”.

    1. Zane, for an ordained person with a theology degree I am going to ask you to crank up your evidence somewhat and tone down what you are imagining. You don’t have to have been part of debates to be able to have an intelligent understanding about it – we aren’t talking about some sort of disputed pre-history. This is very recent in our church’s history. Why would you imagine what arguments were around divorce and remarriage?! It is not difficult to find out what energy was put into that debate. If you want to respond, please do so to actual things I say, not imagining what would be a hill I would decide to die on (a rather pointed image for you to choose). If you genuinely want this to click for you, do a little research. And as you do that, reflect on who, in this discussion, may actually have the sense that “there is no place for you here” in the Church – is that really someone who is ordained, employed as a priest, and fits comfortably within all the church’s requirements as you are? Blessings.

    2. “there is not one example of a homosexual relationship being spoken of positively in Scripture.”

      I’d say that David who is said to have loved Jonathon more than he loved women comes at least pretty close.

      My Catholic Bishop teaches that homosexual relationships can be genuinely loving; so from a Catholic perspective homosexual relationships certainly can be positive expressions of genuine love.

      I think sometimes we need to get over a fixation on sexual acts and see loving relationships in their entirely; which are mostly not about sex but about relationship and love.

      God Bless

  14. Kia ora Bosco. Good question. I suspect that it is an issue in the church partly because it is an issue of the day around the world. It reflects some critical differences in political thinking, and pastoral theology is always political!

    It also reflects the deep questions we have about scripture. People on every side of this debate claim to be informed and shaped by scripture. I believe them too. It is not that some people place a greater weight on scripture than others, it is that we understand what scripture is saying differently.

    How we treat each other during this time is as important as any other aspect of this whole situation. In particular, how we treat those of us who are being ‘talked about’ is something we must never lose sight of. That will shape how we engage with other issues we should be pursuing with as much energy: Lybia, (un)just military responses, abuse of power in the Church and in the world….

    1. I think your point needs underlining, Mike. Including that different positions all draw from an intention to be faithful to the Scriptures. The response to “Why the focus on homosexuality?” being “It could be because a few of us bothered to read the Bible” fails to start at that point of integrity. Blessings.

  15. I write as a heterosexual.I have read Zan’s post and his apparent anguish over pain caused to what he term’s conservatives. I suspect over time, in fact one can be sure, that more pain has been caused to the homosexuals among us. As noted previously I cannot see how the scriptures, despite the 39 articles with its various oddities, can be either rationally or emotionally held to be the word of God. We are confronted with considerable cruelty, rules we conveniently forget reflecting tribal exclusiveness, prejudice and unclear messages. To take just the commendment ‘thou shalt not kill’ it is evident its purpose was purely tribal or god continually broke it. The alleged commandments, words against homosexuality in the new testament are by my readings open to a raft of interpretations. While significant parts of what we call christianity still persist in such narrowness I can only for see a continuing decline. Perhaps, as I see in many younger clergy, seminarians today , and I broadly except women from this, is an increasing narrow obsessiveness as more enquiring, thoughtful minds shear away from attitudes they perceive.

  16. Thank you, Bosco, for asking a question that is worth exploring as dispassionately as we can, especially as homosexuality recedes from being even a topic for concern and becomes a fact of life in much of wider society around us.

    We can disagree and honour our differences because Christ comes first about taking life in war, baptism, the meaning of the Eucharist, Capital punishment, but this topic seems to steal the show every time.

    It can’t be the Bible. There’s very little in the Bible that is even remotely related to this issue. It can’t be the creeds that say nothing of marriage, it being, as Jesus taught a temporal (literally “secular”) institution.

    It’s got to be something to do with our hang-ups and obsessions that get morphed onto the Bible text, sound bites of which are then served up as absolutes in a way that would be manifestly crazy if done to verses in the same chapters as some of those pressed into service for this purpose — imagine a church that was obsessional about sex with menstruating women, corporal punishment for children, or seething a kid in its mother’s milk, and went on and on about it, and decided to split over it.

    Surely discipleship is about taking every thought captive to obey Christ — including our fears and hang-ups — and then loving our neighbour as ourselves — doing as we would be done by with real people — not projecting our own anxieties onto God then fighting over them in his name with human beings caught in the crossfire.

    After almost twenty years now of Anglicans re-reading the Bible and learning nothing, listening to the experience of gay disciples and apparently hearing nothing, increasing numbers of disciples I meet, and potential disciples, just want the babyish squabbling to stop, people to accept the facts of life, grow up, and move on to the Jesus (red letter) stuff that actually can save the world.

  17. Why homosexuality? I kind of wish that it could go away as well. I’m weary of the whole thing. I’m weary of being spoken about as if I wasn’t in the room. I’m weary of being debated and discussed and not being part of that conversation. I’m most weary of folks who are not homosexual speaking as if they are authorities on the matter because they are heterosexual. And as a Christian, I am weary of having been lied to for centuries about what scripture does or does not say about homosexuals.

    I don’t have the answers for heterosexual conservatives. I studied psychology and earned a BA in Behavior Science so that I could understand myself better. I studied theology and earned a four year Master of Theology so that I could understand scripture and Jewish and Christian history better. We homosexuals no longer have to take heterosexuals word on anything. We now have experts in every field of endeavour. We understand human sexuality as well as the next person. We have folks who have gone back and recreated the history of humankind over the last 5000 or so years. We have experts who can read ancient Hebrew and Greek, as well as Aramaic and Latin. We know what scripture does and does not supposedly say about homosexuality.

    I no longer care what anyone else says. And I guess that I’m lucky, living in the USA now, I’m part of an Anglican Church that is slowly but surely emerging from that quagmire you lot are still in. Marriage equality is becoming the law of the land more slowly here than in NZ, because the political landscape is different (my home and my adopted home are both unions of sovereign states) but both nation’s federal supreme courts have finally made some very advantageous rulings declaring us a suspect class for extra scrutiny regarding discrimination. So as Dr King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” and we are finally seeing the justice in North America. And marriage equality we be upon us in TEC before you know it.

    Pardon my French Padre, but I no longer give a shit what folks like some represented here have to say. It’s now mostly the background noise of the big bang of the universe.

    1. Thanks, Br David, and my sincere apologies if anything I’ve written has increased your weariness. As a regular here you know that I generally focus on other discussions – but I do feel that it is right I post on this from time to time. Blessings.

      1. I always count you Father Bosco, along with Bishop Alan and some others posting here as the good guys! And I’m pretty sure that because you few seem to get it, that you are also weary of it. 😛

        1. Yes, weary too with the fantasy that somehow more study and deeper this or that and longer the other is somehow going alter anything significantly. As Bishop Alan says in his most recent comment here we have to find a way to live together, disagreeing even, and there are models within the Bible for that, as well as, I would add, within Anglican and Christian history. Blessings.

  18. Bosco,

    Whether it moves anything forward, (though I am not sure how we measure ‘moving forward within the Anglican Communion) I don’t know.

    Still, I don’t think I have been remiss in saying what I said.
    I have seen nothing like the intensity of debate around the “Person and Work of Jesus Christ for salvation”, including no motions that I am aware of about this to synods.

    I agree, though just a little something. Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, within the C of E said something that Reformed Anglicans have been saying for a long time:

    “The Church of England knows it has a crisis on its hands. It thinks the crisis might be solved by gently persuading enough conservatives to overcome their convictions and vote yes for women bishops. I am convinced the problem is far deeper than that. I think we hold dramatically different understandings about the nature of God and they are irreconcilable.”

    Just some thoughts across the ditch

  19. i think the stumbling block is that we are so caught up in the topic of sex rather than sexuality. here in Canada; at 2007 General Synod- we were challenged by our Archbishop to get out there in our Diocesan Groupings and talk about gender and sexuality. Studies, workshops, and conversations began. it was not easy and yes… marriage and sin and blessings all were studied from Theological, physical, doctrinal, historical, mental, Sociological, Psychological standpoints. it WAS a lot of work; but we came out of it with a clear understanding and many people changed their initial beliefs. amd individual Diocese’ are coming to different conclusions!

  20. Hi Bosco,

    I think that you should take Zane’s response seriously, rather than dismissing it. The challenge to accept homosexuality is forced upon the church, and it is grappling with it. Also, to many within the Church, it seems like an attack on their whole belief. I did not take that seriously until I was doing post-graduate studies in Anthropology at a US university. Many of my co-students were decidedly anti-religious, especially anti-Christian. But they were interested in the Church’s reaction about homosexuality. For if that battle could be won, the Church could be shown to be wrong and on the way out.
    And I think many people miss the point if they see this as a New Zealand struggle. From my experience, it is a struggle that is most prominently fought against the Churches of the American Bible belt and some traditional American worldviews. That activism has spread around the world and has also shaped action in New Zealand. This is a political issue and at its core is a desire to change our culture.

    As far as addressing your more substantive question. It is my hunch that this addresses something more fundamental. Most of the other issues you have mentioned are really about Church doctrine, at times particularly Anglican church doctrine. I think the homosexuality issue challenges more a deeper Judeo-Christian understanding of the world, which at its heart is also a central cultural value (admittedly shared with many other religious and cultural traditions). That male and female are blessed when they produce children together is a fundamental concept of the Old Testament. In a sense, to marry and have children is portrayed as central to life in the Old Testament, and without doubt was central to life in Ancient Israel and even during the Christian centuries, when monasticism tempered this slightly.
    I think that it is valuable to read the Bible not as a serious of proof-texts, but rather as addressing some of the issues we are most concerned about in our daily life.
    I think unless we understand the centrality of marriage and having children to Jewish life, we cannot understand the Jesus’ sayings of leaving mother and father etc.
    I don’t think that through the radical demands to follow him Jesus wanted to do away with this centrality of the family in daily life, but he challenged us that to follow him should be even more important than what we hold most dear.

    When we read the Bible in context, we can see some of the great themes running through it, as well as the community it intends to shape (and by which it was shaped). We can determine to fight against those central worldviews to come up with a new cultural understanding, or we can affirm them.

    Shalom

    1. Thanks, Tim. There was no desire on my part to dismiss Zane’s response. I am limited in the time I have, but I hope I took it seriously. I struggle to follow the rest of your points; somehow this issue challenges Christianity more than having been wrong on circumcision, evolution, slavery, banking interest…? And marriage after childbearing-age, or for the infertile is unacceptable? And the Jesus who has no marriage or children in his story is understood by…? Blessings.

      1. I have to say that you are pretty good in replying to comments. I am sorry you don’t follow any of my other points. I think it just shows that often our standpoints and world views are so different that we seem to talk past each other.
        Shalom

        1. Thanks, Tim. You have only commented here once without further elucidation, that hardly seems sufficient to claim without explanation that you have an irreconcilably different world view. Blessings.

  21. And to add to your what abouts – what about being stingy in our giving to the church. After all if you are looking for clear biblical guidelines, one of the few (if only?) story of someone being struck for their sin was for withholding property from the church (Acts 5:1-11).
    Homosexuality – 3 undisputed solid mentions in the entire bible as a sin; failing to look out for the widow and the orphan – countless.

      1. I would agree. I was being generous to the argument.
        But I realised read over this and other comments how much this whole debate can affect me – even to the point of getting my theology on sin wrong.
        Homosexuality is not “a sin”. We are born with particular sexual orientation – this is a pretty clearly established scientific fact. It is not just in humans, but also in animals (apparently an issue in salmon farming I am told – don’t ask me for details!). So we have to say God made us this way.
        Sin is turning away from God. Grace is the opposite of sin. In the theology of grace, there is not such thing as “a sin”. There is instructional teaching on the kinds of behaviours are much more likely to turn us away from God’s grace.
        In this context, in the NT, there is one mention relating to a form of male homosexual behaviour (which is probably quite contextual and cultural). In the Hebrew scriptures, there are sets of laws set out to guide the people of Israel to remain in God’s grace. In one set of these laws (and only one I recall), there are mentions of male homosexual behaviour. Here rests the entire case for “homosexuality is a sin”.
        And by the way “love the person, hate the sin” is the one of THE most offensive phrases ever coined, please never ever say that to my face.
        Final note, I should have said “struck dead” in the first para of my original post.
        Blessings Bosco for raising this and as the Bishop says later on – this is one of the vital areas where the church must change or wither away into bigoted obscurity. God is waiting our decision.

  22. This morning’s British Social Attitudes Survey reveals that adherence to the C of E in England has now fallen from 40% of the population 20 years ago to 20%. 20 years of pussyfooting around this issue in ho-hum mode, supposedly in the interests of unity and mission, has by no means done the trick. The same survey reveals that the bottom has dropped out of popular disgust about gay people. So we are trying to be good news in a very different context to the world in which we grew up. IN our diocese the Board of Education I chair has responsibility for 55,000 children in our schools. There is serious evidence that homophobic bullying is worse in faith schools. A structurally homophobic Church, now isolated as the only place left in society there is kicking and screaming about the validity of gay people, seems to have very little to offer by way of good news. It desperately grieves me to have to say any of this, but heads must come out of the sand, and fears be addressed. I have great confidence that in Christ we can do this, and some NT models of how to deal with serious dissonance, for example over meat sacrificed to idols, are coming to life for me in new ways. But our work is cut out, and we must get on with it. The time for pretending is past.

    1. Yes, Bishop Alan, whatever we think we are saying, what is being heard is that having the correct attitude to homosexuals is central to what it means to be a Christian, that we choose our sexual orientation (which people, in their actual own experience, know to be patently absurd), and that homosexuality is curable. All at the cost of evangelism, inter-faith attitudes, what Jesus primarily focuses on, and homosexuals themselves. Blessings.

  23. I think the words joshua Bovis quoted and reproduced again below is central and the church is doing its best to wish away. Hoping to wish it away is in many of these posts.
    Let me just say and I am well aware of the feeling among many- I once shared it- for a church that can share views widely that on some basic issues the differences are indeed irreconcilable.
    To be blunt if some attitudes expressed in posts on this subject were central in the parish I live in I could not be a member.

  24. The quote I ommitted

    Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, within the C of E said something that Reformed Anglicans have been saying for a long time:

    “The Church of England knows it has a crisis on its hands. It thinks the crisis might be solved by gently persuading enough conservatives to overcome their convictions and vote yes for women bishops. I am convinced the problem is far deeper than that. I think we hold dramatically different understandings about the nature of God and they are irreconcilable.”

  25. Here’s what I wrote about this very question back in 2005:

    What has changed? Why is THIS issue – the fuller inclusion and gay and lesbian people into the mission and ministry of the church – THE issue that will split the church when we have managed to work through so many others in the past? We have for decades lived in communion with those who differ on the role of women in ordained ministry in spite of those differences. Why has the ordination of an openly gay bishop – the blessing of gay unions — become the “defining issue of orthodoxy?”

    I actually got to ask that question of David Anderson (president of the American Anglican Council) just a few months before GC2003. And like my 1994 conversation with Bill Wantland it was another clarifying moment.

    David was a clergy colleague of mine in Los Angeles for many years. We agreed about a few things and disagreed about more but were nevertheless “in communion” with each other. We ate lunch together once a month for a year with other clergy colleagues reading and discussing the catechism together as part of a dialogue and reconciliation effort by our bishop. We ran into each other at early morning “Mananitas” services for the Cursillo community to which we both belonged. Heck, I sang in a praise band that was part of the prayer team in David’s hotel suite the night before the episcopal election in the Diocese of Pittsburgh when David was on the ballot.

    Yes, we were always at opposing microphones when debates happened on diocesan convention floor, but at one time it seemed that the essentials of the beliefs we held in common were more important than the very real differences that sometimes kept us apart.Until 2003. A few months before Minneapolis and GC2003 we were both part of a pre-convention meeting between AAC and Integrity “core leadership.”

    After a long discussion I finally said to David, “We’ve been at this for decades, you and I, agreeing to disagree about any number of things. Help me understand why THIS issue is the one that you believe will finally split the church – why is this disagreement one we cannot overcome?”

    And David said to me, “Because genital activity is so important to God that God has drawn a fence around it – and within that fence is only a man and a woman within the sanctity of marriage. Anything outside the fence is not subject to blessing and for the church to do so is to unravel the very fabric of the faith.”

    Excuse me? If I heard David right – and in checking with my colleague in the room at the time I am assured that I did – the essential matter … the thing that matters MOST to God … is “genital activity?” I’ve got first year EFM students who could make compelling rebuttal to that contention – along with the Old and New Testaments, the received tradition and “reason” by any reasonable definition.

    Is that the only argument David has to offer? Of course not – but it was clarifying to me that for the Reverend Canon David Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council, it was a defining one. It was clarifying to me because it was a window into just how far beyond the bounds of historical Anglicanism this small band of conservative reactionaries are willing to go in their quest to turn the Episcopal Church into something neither Hooker nor Seabury would recognize and my sainted Aunt Gretchen – who died with a “Save the 1928 Prayer Book” bumper sticker on her car – would find shocking.

    And it has led me to conclude, in the weeks and months since that meeting, that what we are seeing play out around us has less to do with the essentials of the faith than it does with an exit strategy – an exit strategy devised by those who have determined to split this church rather than continue to live in communion with those with whom they disagree.

    http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2006/08/revisiting-ontological-argument.html

    The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
    All Saints Church, Pasadena | Diocese of Los Angele

  26. Greetings Bosco,

    A fascinating conversation! I don’t think there is a single answer to your question, although many parts of the answer are scattered through previous responses.

    Personally I believe a big chunk of the answer is ‘because there’s no available compromise’. While the debates may not have been so intense over divorce and women’s ordination I suspect that has more to do with the way we ran the Church at that point than how much heat the subjects generated. I still know clergy and many more lay people who are unhappy about both, and occasionally hear comments (related to today’s issues) along the lines of ‘we lost those fights, we can’t lose this one’.

    I have spent many years looking for the ‘middle ground’ where we could all live on these debates. The problem is, you can’t be ‘half-ordained’ and, more latterly, you can’t be ‘a bit married’. Regardless of whether we allow regional variations to practice, as a Church we either sanction the ordination of those in same-sex relationships, and their marriages, or we don’t. I fail to see a way through that.

    Of course the other heat-generator in this is the idea that somehow we are talking about something new and out of step with the history and tradition of the Church. Well, sorry if this bursts any bubbles and leaving marriage to one side, our Church has been ordaining gay and lesbian men and women, some of whom have been in loving, faithful same-sex relationships, for a very long time. In fact the only real change that has occured happened only around a decade ago when our bishops decided they all needed to have a cup of tea and get on the same page before continuing. So far the tea-cup hasn’t been drained.

    Finally, to Zane (and others), I hear your pain and have sympathy for it, but it is NOTHING compared to what has been done to and said about the many faithful and Christ-like LBGTI people who have tried to live out their calling in our Church for decades.

    Pax

    Brian

    1. ” The problem is, you can’t be ‘half-ordained’ and, more latterly, you can’t be ‘a bit married’.” I think that it goes back further than that;

      “…Better yet, be honest and say, “We don’t want you, you don’t belong here,” and don’t bestow upon them the sacrament of Baptism to begin with. How can you initiate someone and then treat them like they’re half-assed baptized?”
      The Rt Revd Barbara Harris

      http://library.episcopalchurch.org/sites/default/files/integrity_eucharist_09_sermon.pdf

  27. At the risk of bringing down on my head an avalanche of comments from upset evangelicals who feel I am maligning them, I think part of the answer stems from this horrible word homophobia. I do believe that much of the debate, in both its secular and its religious dimensions, is informed by a fear of homosexuality.

    I absolutely agree with David Earle that we are born with a particular sexual orientation;putting that another way, homosexual orientation is part of God-given diversity. But there are a lot more than two extreme orientations for God to choose. Brian is right: you can’t be part ordained, or half married. But you certainly can be a little bit homosexual. Many, many people are.

    People who are conservative on these issues try desperately to keep the debate on the level of behaviour, and see homosexuality as simply a matter of various naughty things that two people of the same gender can do to and with each other. but the experience of millions of people over the ages, and the increasing consensus of scientific thought shows that this just is not so. It really is a matter of who we are.

    Extreme examples, as usual, illustrate the point. The virulent anti-homosexual campaigning of Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland was demonstrated to be a mask for his own homosexuality. And most of us can think of people who have been strongly conservative until one of their family comes out as gay or lesbian.

    So that, I think is the difference, Bosco. With divorce, the change was motivated by a need to be pastorally compassionate with people who had failed. same-sex ordination and blessings require us to recognise that they have not failed at all, but the church has failed them.

    Ordination of women did not affect the half of the population who were the only ones able to be ordained, and once the pressure to change became unstoppable, and we saw that ordaining women was not only nothing to fear, but a profound blessing to the church, it quickly became difficult to remember what the fuss was about. But here we are talking about a re-thinking of some of the deepest aspects of what it means to be human; if we step out of the comfortable pigeon-holes that we have each other, and ourselves in, it may be just too scary.

    1. “once the pressure to change became unstoppable, and we saw that ordaining women was not only nothing to fear, but a profound blessing to the church, it quickly became difficult to remember what the fuss was about.”

      Consensus is also that if you go to the various jurisdictions around the world where marriage equality has been enacted, that is also how folks now feel. It has proven to be a non-issue and people find it difficult to remember what the fuss was about.

  28. I was part of the Auckland Synod debate and was also a member of our Diocesan Working Group on the Theology of Marriage that reported to this Synod.
    We had set aside up to an hour for discussion in conference on this report, but I don’t think we used even half of that time. The Auckland Synod was on the whole more energized by the motions before us than it was in working on understanding the different theological perspectives that the report attempted to express. Which I think brings your question into sharper relief Bosco. As a body, we found it hard to step back and take time (even when it was offered) to listen to each other and explore the issues; we seemed to want to get on with the winning of the motions.
    I’m a relative newcomer to the debate in the life of our church (being one of the younger members of the Auckland house of clergy!). But I think there must be multiple strands to any attempt at answering your question.
    I agree with Brian when he says that there seems to be no available compromise – though this only seems to be true for part of the church. As someone who is hopeful for a broader and more inclusive church, I don’t need everyone to agree with me and to be able (for instance) to act as a celebrant at a same-gender marriage. I just want the freedom for some of us to be able to. I feel comfortable in being part of an Anglican Church where there is a diversity of theological perspectives and ways of interpreting the scriptures.
    It seems that some of my more conservative colleagues (and I struggle with the effect of our labels but use them in the interests of some brevity!) have a different understanding of being Anglican, and indeed, of being Christian.
    So I guess I’m left wondering about a different but related set of questions. How did we get to a place where we are seeking unity on an issue that never before has been so central? How did one’s perspectives on the questions of same-gender marriage and the ordination of persons in same-gender partnerships become such a crucial test of orthodoxy? How did differing hermeneutics become so utterly divisive?
    Anglican comity has always depended on arguably far more central things: such as our common prayer (our liturgical and sacramental worship), the centrality of scripture (even if we might differ on interpretation), the person of Christ, our common history, and aspects of our polity (being episcopally led, for instance). (Listed in no particular order.)
    So when I try to think about ‘why homosexuality,’ I guess I am left wondering, ‘why not these any longer?’

  29. ‘Why homosexuality?’

    Because it’s a diversion, a way of engaging people in so-called debate even whilst there is no debate forthcoming.

    Diversion from what?

    Well the Anglican community in the land of my birth royally screwed up recently on the appointment of women bishops, still not resolved, still undermining British democracy…delay, delay, delay.

    Obsession with side-issues. Azazel. Scapegoat.

  30. Bosco,

    Speaking as an orthodox Anglo-Catholic, I absolutely agree with Zane when he says ‘Why Homosexuality? As a conservative evangelical I can respond by saying “because that is the issue we’ve been forced to deal with”,’

    You ask why are people focusing on this issue and not women’s ordination and divorce. You would be aware that both these practices are not universal in the Anglican Communion, let along Christendom and are far from resolved. Perhaps we in the West should do some serious soul searching on the pathway that parts of the church have perhaps mistakenly chosen.

    I am quite disappointed that you keep dodging Zane’s question. Why so much effort to recognise same-sex marriage ahead of other important works of the gospel?

    1. Welcome to this discussion, Jeremy.

      I do not find your boxes helpful – as if there are unorthodox Anglo-Catholics, or orthodox Anglo-non-catholics and so on (especially if there is an implication that you are orthodox and others who disagree with you are to be relegated to unorthodox).

      You write about women’s ordination and divorce as if you have not actually read what I wrote about these in my post.

      I do not keep dodging the question you pose because you are the first to ask it! Marriage equality only became a possibility in this country earlier this year. In my own diocese I am unaware of “so much effort to recognise same-sex marriage”. We have had a conference in our diocese exploring the theology of marriage. You can read the papers here. I do not think you will find “so much effort to recognise same-sex marriage” in those papers. I am aware that there has been a call for a doctrine commission to meet to explore the doctrine of marriage.

      I hope that might assuage some of your feelings of disappointment.

      Blessings.

  31. Bosco – you say: ‘Why is Jesus’ teaching about marriage used against homosexuality, but not against divorce and remarriage? Why can priests marry people (record I know of – someone for their seventh wedding) without question? Why can a priest in his fourth marriage hold a bishop’s licence without controversy as intense as around homosexuality? Why can a bishop divorce and remarry without resulting in the sort of intensity we see around homosexuality?’

    I say that the issues you raise are a problem regardless of same-sex marriage, and reflect a failure of the church, particularly in the West. However, in much of Christendom the things you outline are not acceptable. By the way, I doubt priests can marry people at their seventh wedding ‘without question’. In my diocese, permission must be sought from the bishop to marry any divorced person.

    On the contrary, I am not the first person to ask the question, because it was asked earlier by Zane in his own words, and again you have not answered it, rather you send me a link to wade through a whole lot of conference papers. Could you please just explain to us in a few words why it’s important for you?

    Btw, I don’t think I was creating any boxes. People use descriptions to describe where they’re coming from. I trust that you call yourself a Christian and an Anglican, and that these are not too boxy for you? Many people self-identify as liberal, and that’s their choice. I refer to myself as orthodox because I value the Christian faith as handed down from the Apostles.

    You think it wouldn’t be possible to be an unorthodox Anglo-Catholic, but strangely enough they appear to exist. Likewise there are people who strangely regard themselves as ‘Christian’ but deny the personhood of God. I know, bizarre, but they’re some of your fellow priests in the the New Zealand Church.

    1. Jeremy, now you are proposing I am lying! There is no requirement whatsoever to seek the bishop’s permission to preside at the wedding of a divorcee. And please don’t put words into my, or anyone else’s mouth. As for your suggestion that there are Christians who do not “value the Christian faith as handed down from the Apostles”, I think such accusations tend too easily to the ad hominem. You are welcome to participate on this site, but I reminded people at the outset of the approach in comments here; ad hominems, putting words into people’s mouths, and calling me a liar will curtail your welcome here. Blessings.

  32. It seems bizarre to me that Jeremy and Zane are under the misconception that homosexuality is an issue because “liberal” Anglicans have made it so. It’s an issue because gay & lesbian Anglicans have made it so. I was made a Christian at my baptism at about 1 year of age. I became an Anglican Christian while I was away from my family and my partner while I was at university and he was in the Mexican Army. Gay & lesbian Christians the Anglican world over have been demanding our rightful place in the realm of God for the past 40 something years. We are demanding our rightful place as baptized Christians in all aspects of the life and ministry of the Church. Here in North America we refer to it as the ministry of all of the baptized. Because we believe that it is our birthright as baptized Christians. And when we did that, some Christians decided to make an issue about it and deny us our rightful place. So I would say that it is really the Christians who are pushing to deny us our rightful place as baptized Christians to participate in the full life and ministry of the Church that are making such an issue of homosexuality. For me it’s a non-issue. I know who I am in Christ. And as I stated before, I am weary of the whole thing.

    So the question Zane and Jeremy is why are you hurting me and attempting to deny me my birthright in the realm of God as a baptized Christian by trying to prevent my peaceful participation in the life and ministry of the Church?

  33. No Bosco, I am proposing that you are merely mistaken.

    I was speaking for my own diocese that permission is required from the bishop to marry divorcees. As you say, things are different in your diocese.

    It’s interesting how you say that my claim of ‘orthodoxy’ implies that others are unorthodox. Similarly, the claim of ‘marriage equality’ implies that those who do not support same-sex marriage are somehow opposed to ‘equality’ when they are not.

    But this is all beside the point of the question I asked you in my first post.

  34. Bosco, this is the question that Zane asked which I have followed up on –

    “again I ask ‘why does the liberal wing have to keep pushing this issue? Why homosexuality? Would they be prepared to drop it, and live with the status quo so they can pursue the issues you’ve raised above instead?’”

    1. Right, so you are recognising the difference now between your question and Zane’s, Jeremy. I think there has already been much response to many of these points, including an eschewing of the concept of “the liberal wing” and the dividing into “us” and “them”. I would add to that, now, a need to establish what is meant by “the status quo”. Blessings.

  35. As an outsider at Auckland synod, and an evangelical who has ‘changed sides’ I was struck by how lame and tired the conservative arguments sounded and how their appeal is now primarily to law and tradition (the biblical and moral arguments having been lost). There is a very simple and biblical way forward: follow Gamaliel’s advice (Acts 5) and we can all turn to those other important priorities, leaving God to sort out whether marriage reform is a move of the Spirit or not. We don’t have to be God’s enforcers.

    1. Thanks, Andrew. I do not find that many “change sides” (so I’m pleased to hear from one), which makes me think the energy needs to go to working out how to live together with difference more than trying to convince one another that this or that side is correct. Blessings.

  36. There’s a good number of evangelicals who have changed sides – see http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org for example, with over 600 members. Some spoke in the debate at Auckland or contributed to the report. What saddened me most was to hear young evangelicals trotting out what their mentors have told them, “the bible is univocal in its condemnation… Jesus was absolutely clear” etc, seemingly oblivious to the better evangelical/biblical arguments in favour of revision. I want those young evangelicals to know they don’t have to stick to the party line.

    1. Thanks, Andrew. Around the debate in Christchurch there was also a group who understood discussion as based around uncritically repeating instruction that they had received, and taking to task any who might stray from a certain received interpretation. Blessings.

  37. ‘the claim of ‘marriage equality’ implies that those who do not support same-sex marriage are somehow opposed to ‘equality’ when they are not.’

    If equality equals the same rights, recognition and acceptance then opposing same-sex marriage *is* opposing equality.

    There’s no such thing as being a bit equal…

    In free countries it’s just sophistry to be having this kind of discussion, but there are plenty of places where the churches might be having an influence to prevent persecution of homosexuals and others, instead of acting like an old boys’ club resistant to change, comfortable in tradition, looking the other way.

  38. Some people have repeatedly asked why do we have to disturb the ‘status quo’? If we just left the status quo alone, we could all get on with sharing the gospel together (my paraphrase). The sentiment seems to be, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As if we were all chugging happily along in the church until some folk chose to push this issue and that mucked everything up.

    The trouble is, the status quo is broke… There are many examples of Jesus welcoming and indeed praising people deemed by the established power structures of his day to be unacceptable on religious, cultural, gender, or racial grounds. In all these cases, Jesus acted in the face of criticism and protest from the authorities and also often from his own disciples.

    I believe his inclusiveness and his generosity with God’s love and grace were deliberate and central to his mission and his identity. If we are followers of Jesus, if we are the Body of Christ, we cannot ignore his own praxis. The theologian William Placher makes the point this way: “…practices that drive away rather than welcome, that set strict limits to the grace of God rather than marvel at its superabundance – such practices are not in accord with the practices of Jesus.”

    Therefore it is because of what I find in the bible, not in spite of it, that I believe we should welcome sexual and gender minorities to full participation in the rites and life of our Church.

    The ‘status quo’ is a church that is not welcoming to sexual & gender minorities – period. The status quo is a church that has at best tolerated the judgement and shaming of LGBT persons. So what do we do about all that? Because whether we agree with same-gender marriage or partnered gay clergy or not, those issues are damaging the gospel. So I’m hoping for a new status quo which is grace-filled for all.

  39. Homosexuality IS totally immoral!

    The Bible is very clear on this,especially in the Books of Leviticus & Romans.

    The most well-known of these is ‘Man shalt not lieth with mankind as with womankind,for that is an abomination.Whoever does so shalt be put to death’.

    The Bible also SANCTIONS the death penalty for even BEING a homosexual!

    In my view,those who want to change canon law to allow the Church to endorse the abomination that is ‘same-sex marriage’ ARE GUILTY of blasphemy!

    The only type of relationship that can be acceptable as a marriage is between ONE man AND ONE woman!

    1. Aidan, blind, slavish reverence to false translation of scripture certainly is one option in your available approaches, but coming here and exposing the rest of us to your choice isn’t wise. You’re like shooting fish in a barrel and that’s not really sporting.

      BTW, is that your own paraphrase of what you remember some English translation says? I’m not able to find such poor old English in any translation with which I am familiar.

      And you have now added a new claim. Could you please offer book, chapter and verse of your prooftext that teaches that just being homosexual makes one worthy of death? Even the most ardent of the supporters of homosexual behavior is a sin represented here thus far has ventured to make that statement.

      This is what I am most familiar with as a rendering of Leviticus;
      “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
      LEV 20:13 – KJV

      However, I don’t find that an accurate translation at all of the Hebrew into the English.

      1. Thanks, Br David. I would add to your point about translation, the importance of context. This text is part of the Holiness Code, differentiating God’s people from the Canaanites. It includes forbidding cross-breeding animals, sowing two types of seed in the same land, wearing garments made of two different fabrics, rounding one’s temples, marring one’s beard, and having a tattoo. Unless Aidan is arguing that he is (and we are all) as bound by those as by the sexual rules there is inconsistency. Otherwise such a proof-text loses its potency in any discussion about committed same-sex relationships. Blessings.

  40. “We need a whole new conversation about the Bible and Homosexuality, and one in which (let me be really blunt) people are actually listening to each other, not distraughtly trying to defend God’s truth against its enemies.

    The question at hand is really this: “what is the best way for people of homosexual orientation to live out their discipleship?”

    The people on the hard left who don’t want to live out discipleship, and the people on the hard right who don’t want people of homosexual orientation to inherit the reign of God can go have a different conversation.

    Here in the middle, where we want to follow Jesus, and we want homosexuals to follow Jesus, we come down to two simple possible answers: (a) through a responsible and godly expression of sexuality or (b) through celibacy.

    Which of these answers most closely resembles the ways of a God who liberates slaves, returns exiles and raises the crucified? We need to meditate on the ways and means that were used by the prophets who preached Torah, Jesus and the apostles such as Paul.

    And dare I say it – that conversation is probably not going to really begin until homosexual people are being warmly welcomed by a church who instead of saying:
    “OK, you can be here, but we don’t approve and sit in that corner and never contribute except through money, and if we find out that any leaders are gay we’ll fire them”

    says,
    “are you trying to figure out how to follow Jesus? We are too! Are you confused? So are we! Let’s try to figure it out together.”

    Pastor Karl Hand
    CRAVE MCC Sydney/Christchurch
    Lecturer in New Testament and Greek at Australian Catholic University, University of Newcastle and United Theological College

  41. I’m afraid, Bosco, that whatever arguments can be put forward for the acceptance of homosexuality as a natural sexual orientation for a minority of people (Christians, as well as others) there will always be those – including Christian academics – who cling to out-dated understanding of both human biology and its relationship to Christian spirituality.

    Like any previously defended understanding from the Scriptures that are no longer viable, the gender and sexuality issues currently troubling our Church will be consistently and religiously insisted upon – until some of the prime movers of the rearwards vision become personally affected by the unwanted reality of their own situation, or that of a member of their own family.

    Issues of divorce,re-marriage, slavery, patriarchy, have been defended to the very last ramparts. Why should we expect that the complex issue of homosexuality should prove any different?

    You will always find accredited scholars ready and able to defend the status quo. a doctorate in theology is no guarantee that one is going to explore new ground. Often, received and then propagating theological ‘certainties’ are easier to defend than a principled exploration into new possibilities. After all, it took all the academic might of the Roman Catholic Church a long time to accept the fact that Galileo had a better understanding of the Universe than their own scholars.

    Truth (about anything) is not necessarily within the grasp of us poor benighted human beings. Only in God is All The Truth to be found. The problem is, there are Christians who want to claim that ‘their truth’ is All Truth; when, in fact, even the Holy Spirit is still searching the Mind of God – presumably expecting further revelation.

    I remember a word in Scripture where Jesus tells the disciples that they were not yet up to the burden of receiving the fullest revelation of truth. I believe that there are still disciples who are still ‘not ready to hear the truth’.

  42. Today, on the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi, – an event not recorded in Scripture, because it was only received afterwards – is accepted by most parts of the Church Catholic – despite its occurrence after the revelation of the Scriptures.

    There was nothing in the Scriptures – apart from an oblique reference by Saint Paul – to the fact of stigmatisation (the reception of the wounds of Christ) that would lead anyone not disposed to believe that Francis actually received Stigmata that this phenomenon had actually occurred.

    There are some modern theologians who believe that the incidence of ‘being Gay’ might be considered to be just another form of unmerited stigmatisation – not mentioned in Scripture (except obliquely by Jesus in Matthew 19:12).

    As there are those – even in the Church – who are agnostic about the stigmata of Saint Francis; there are still obviously those, also in the Church, who would not want to acknowledge the fact that the ‘stigma’ of homosexuality might just be a burden to bear for those marked by it.

    This is just one more reason why the Church must really get to grips with the reality of why, if homosexual people exist, and they experience their sexual orientation as a ‘stigma’ in the eyes of the world (and maybe the Church?) the Church continues to resist the idea that they have no place in the order of God’s creation.

    “God looked on His creation and it was good!”

  43. I’m all for not excluding others as we are all made in God’s image. I have no theological training of any sort so I won’t go on and on in the issue. I worry though that the church is being reformed by the secular world big time!

    How about we talk Christ’s love and stand up against crimes of hatred directed at the homosexual community. We have Christians who feel justified to condemn homosexuals do death. Jumping for radical outward changes when the inner person still boils hatred inside does seem like putting the cart before the horse.

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