Monday, 18 February 2008

Evangelical Dispute Over Gay Relationships

This from Ekklesia on disagreement about the validity of committed gay relationship among the ranks of evangelical Bishops. Seems to me that the article's analysis makes an important point but in the end is a little too simplistic. It is too easy to dismiss those like Scott-Joynt as loveless legalists and far from the whole truth to say that if we recognise the reality of gay love it is inevitable that we will come round to accepting gay relationships.

Interesting though to see someone as prominent as Jones coming out on this one. The next big shift among evangelicals or the ultimate taboo for the truly sound?


Glen Marshall said...

Oops just re-read the ambiguous first line of this post. Let me point out that it is the disagreement that is to be found among the ranks of evangelical bishops and not committed gay realationships ... at least as far as I know!

Catriona said...

I suspect people may be a little reluctant to comment on this one because it is a bit risky in terms of who might see what who says.

So I'm going to go off at a bit of a tangent! IVF, fortunately for everyone, is not mentioned in the Bible. I well recall back in the early 1980's the furore in some parts of the church over its inception: it was playing God, it was demonic, it was evil.... now around 30 years later it is quite normal to find requests on church prayer lists for couples undergoing IVF. Although by no means all Christians are comfortable with the technology or practice, the general consensus seems to have shifted as more and more people were directly affected.

The same seems to be true to quite an extent over divorce, remarriage and cohabitation. Whether this is good or bad is not a debate I'm going to open up; I just note that we have shifted a long way on a lot of issues in my lifetime.

So, irrespective of what I may think or believe, it does seem entirely feasible that in another generation's time the church's practice (irrespective of its official lines) will have changed wrt same sex relationships.

I suspect that in a century's time people will look back and wonder why we got ourselves in a knot over this - just as we now wonder about 17th century Baptists who wondered just whom it might be approptiate for another Baptist to marry.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

tim f said...

I think the fact that Glen has to use the phrasing "'committed' Gay relationships" shows how far we have to go on this. If the "Christian church as [a] whole" means as I think it does the Church worldwide, it may take even longer.

I pray that I'm wrong and that gay marriage ceremonies will be widely held in front of full church congregations within a generation, for it to be standard practice for churches to commit to praying for the children of gay couples at dedication services and for older gay couples to be held up as an examples to newly-weds of whatever sexuality. I think we might be talking about a century rather than a generation, though.

Phil B said...

"The church as a whole"?

Does the church as a whole agree on any other issue? I very much doubt that universal recognition will come. The real fight is about whether we can stay united with those who believe something different to ourselves on such a minor (albeit important) issue.

There's a lot more important things to be getting ourselves in a palarver about, if you ask me.

Stephen said...

OK, so it looks like we're commenting on the pole on this post.

I think yes, it probably is a matter of time, but a long long time. The question for me is whether it is necessary for the 'church as a whole' to be of one mind to be able to move forward. I don't think it is, because as Phil said, the church as a whole don't agree on much.

But I would go further. I'm don't think a denomination should be of one mind before you bless gay unions etc. I long for a country where queer people of faith can find safe welcoming communities that will support their relationships, families, and vocations. If schism needs to happen for that to happen then so be it. Instead of two churches in a community where both are luke warm to queer inclusion, but 'united,' I would much prefer two divided churches where one is definitely welcoming, and the other definitely not. At least then the people who need the ministry of a welcoming church can find one.

andy amoss said...

I'm interested to hear what other things the church should be getting into a palarver (i've taken my cue for the spelling of that from you, phil) about rather than this.
This, to me, seems like a real matter of justice, an aparthied issue; A thing which means people are deeply hurt, abused and stigmatised simply because of a social category they fall into. If addressing matters like this is not gospel centric, (slavery, women's rights) what is?
I say this whilst acknowledging that i'm responding to a side note of your point rather than the body of it (which i agree is also an important thing to work towards ie bearing with those you disagree with). I'm just saying i don't think it's quite enough to say 'let's agree to disagree on this' like it's an idea, rather than something which deeply affects the reality of people's lives.

Phil B - sticking his neck out said...

"If addressing matters like this is not gospel centric, (slavery, women's rights) what is?"

Good question and that's what the palarver needs to be kicked up over. Is the Gospel a social movement - a cooler version of the Liberal Democrats - or is it a call to repentance and the effective grace of God through the death and resurrection of his Son and regeneration by the Spirit?

Gay, straight, man, woman, Baptist, URC are all a bit irrelevant in the light of Christ and the message he's entrusted to his church. The real issue in the mainline churches is that we've lost the confidence to proclaim the Gospel. And as a result we decide to talk among ourselves about stuff that is important but not as important as proclaiming Christ.

In Christ and to the glory of his name,

tim f - taking a swipe at phil's outstretched neck said...

(This bit added afterwards: The above post made me feel angry and I'm unwisely responding whilst still a bit angry. Apologies in advance if this comes across, well, in some way that it shouldn't. Which, rereading, it probably does. But I'm obviously not that sorry, because I'm pressing "publish" anyway.)

What is the gospel and why is it worth proclaiming? Who is this Jesus and what does He stand for?

I don't think you can answer these questions without resorting to circular arguments unless you at some point make reference to the world we live in, to our experience, to what we see and hear everyday. I don't believe we can proclaim God's good news without having a little inkling of what He's about and what he means for people in the here and now. And that means at least being interested and working through ideas about God's attitudes to people's sexuality, because that's part of people's identity and what God thinks about it will affect what the gospel means for them. Are we truly interested in others or are we just trying to convert them to make ourselves feel better about contributing to God's kingdom?

Besides that, this is an issue of truth, and love, and justice. God's kinda interested in those things. He defines those things by being those things. Can we really say that He's less interested in how we react to this issue than in us proclaiming the gospel? How can we make a trade-off either way? I can't even understand how you can divide the "call to repentance and the effective grace of God through the death and resurrection of his Son and regeneration by the Spirit" from the social aspects of the gospel. I don't understand the meaning of those words without the social aspects of the gospel. The gospel is more than a social movement but it has no meaning for us without it. The way you speak about the gospel makes it seem to me that it's just about fancy jargon and getting more members into a club. And that's what it seems like to someone who's already a Christian!

Finally, and most importantly, that's the first time I've ever heard the Liberal Democrats described as a social movement!

Phil B said...

You didn't come across as *that* angry. ;-)

I'm coming out of a solidly social gospel position so perhaps I'm reacting too far the other way now, my intention wasn't to antagonise.

I can't disagree with Glen's final point.

My denomination will shortly discuss once again the issue of gay ordination. That will come at the same time as an exciting programme that seeks to get churches to engage with the Bible, prayer and evangelism. My worry is that by focussing on the gay issue we'll lose momentum on our primary purpose which is to proclaim the Gospel.

Thanks for the debate, I'm now trying to think of something controversial for the vegetarian debate...