Friday, June 27, 2008

Church and gay question

May the Church gives its blessing to homosexual partnerships and remain true to the will of God? Still be faithful in its witness to the love of God as shown in Jesus and revealed in the Bible?

As a minimum it seems to me this is an open question. That is, even if you are reluctant to give a definitive “yes” in answer, then neither can you give a definitive “no”. The reasons for this I explain below.

If it is an open question, then isn’t the only proper response of all Christians who take seriously the ethic of love for neighbour, especially bishops and church leaders, compassion and respect between those with differing answers? For me this means learning from and listening to others; accepting, not condemning, those who in good faith and conscience want to go ahead and affirm homosexual relationships; as well as those who, also in good faith, genuinely believe this can never be an option for a faithful Church.

This much might be agreed by all Christians who have not allowed their party-line allegiances to cloud their spiritual discernment. But can it be shown that this is an open question?

I have several reasons why I think it is.

Firstly, “facts on the ground”. Clearly there are many Christians, homosexual and not, who already believe that homosexual partnerships may be good and right in the sight of God. But these may be false teachers. The New Testament itself warns against those who will lead the Church astray with spurious beliefs. But the errors the New Testament speaks of are central points of faith such as the adequacy of God’s grace in Christ. We are also taught that by their fruits you shall know them. Where there are Christian men and women who are faithful members of the Church and who clearly reveal in their lives the fruits of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and differ from Christian brothers and sisters in no other way than that they answer “yes” to our question then how can they be regarded as false teachers?

Secondly, our greater knowledge of the human condition. The findings of various branches of science and the personal experiences of many people suggests very strongly that homosexuality is a given feature of human life.

Thirdly, the development of understanding of the biblical texts. Whilst it may be clear that there is very little in the biblical tradition to support a positive assessment of homosexual partnerships, and much to endorse the traditional Christian antipathy, it is not clear that the biblical material should be determinative of a developed Christian ethic for the 21st century.

Fourthly, the development of positive aspects of sexual ethics in public life. Many religiously motivated critics of homosexual partnership consider it to be part of a wider decline in sexual mores in Western society. But this ignores the evidence for many positive changes in relation to more traditional cultures. Modern intolerance of rape, of domestic violence, of child abuse and of forced marriages shows that the so-called decadence of Western societies actually displays many strongly moral developments in recent decades.

Therefore in my view there is no case for condemnation on religious grounds of those who believe sincerely that homosexual partnerships may be a faithful Christian expression of human love and companionship

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