Sunday, 17 July 2011

Institutional Dilemma

As it happens, I have some sympathy at least for the logic of this point as expressed by the Urban Pastor:

I simply cannot see how we can think that it’s a good idea to two adjacent parishes, both belonging to the Church of England, yet teaching opposite things on this issue. Think about it for a moment. If someone who struggled with same sex attraction came to an evangelical church, I hope that they’d be reassured that the full resources of the church would be thrown behind them to help resist temptation and live a godly life for Christ. But a liberal church might simply empathise with their predicament but tell them that they are free to act on their same sex attraction and pursue a homosexual sexual relationship. One church calls them to fight sin and live in holines. The other church reassures them that what some call sin is really holiness. One church preaches forgiveness of sins through Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the transformation of life through the power of the Spirit. The other one sanctifies sin and imperils their salvation. We simply cannot co-exist. Can we?

Logically it seems unlikely, but back in the 1980s I conducted semi-structured interviews with three Christian ministers (separately) where they disagreed on just about every issue. In those days, with at least three clear schools, the areas of disagreement and agreement varied in such a way as to reinforce a balance. With now effectively two schools for the future the institution is much more unstable.

Of course I don't accept the substance of the analysis, in that for me a 'sin' involves a negative; two people coming together creates a positive of more than a sum of its parts. What the Bible says is just mythology, whether Paul says it or not, or whoever does. For some the issue is whether there is a greater biblical ethic than a detail of homosexual activity, as performed by those in Greek religious centres or whore houses or wherever, but for me the Bible is still referring to homosexual sex (and there will have been gay partnerships at that time, people staying together) and so the Bible is just wrong. When, then, the preacher is 'worried' about someone's eternal salvation I just think they ought to wonder what century they are in and what constitutes the real and the meaningful. This is sectarian twaddle, as meaningless as the verbiage from Jehovahs Witnesses and all the rest. This stuff has no purchase, and is like Puritanism without the punch.

As for tanks on Lambeth's lawn, it's more like a single gun, and the silliness is that Lambeth has not tackled the threat. There are all sorts of ways to do it. One is to blast the thing and then to let the lawn recover, but there is also the clever approach of going out at night and loosening its nuts. When it tries to fire, it is useless. Perhaps it takes other Evangelicals to come out and loosen the nuts, or the Archbishop uses the full set of tools shown to be at his disposal to loosen some crucial nuts.

Or else change denomination to one that already accepts LGBT in the ministry, that blesses unions and only has to challenge the prejudices of some congregants.

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