Much Ado About Something!
Last week, the archbishops of the Anglican Church worldwide came together in Northern Ireland to try to resolve a disagreement which threatens to splinter their fellowship.
The discussions revolved around a possible final separation for the church in North America from the rest of the Anglican Communion.
The matter came to a head recently with the consecration by the US Episcopal Church of an openly homosexual bishop. Meanwhile, concern has been growing about the blessing of homosexual partnerships by the church in Canada.
After the meeting, 35 Anglican primates from every continent on earth emerged with a statement which said, basically, that the North American churches should either change their stance on the ordination of homosexuals or reconsider their position within the fellowship.
Unless something dramatic occurs soon, a split seems inevitable.
Some observers will see in all this nothing more than a petty disagreement, a war of words over an issue which should hardly even rate a mention in these 'enlightened' post-modern times. They will see in all this just another instance of a church which is out of touch with reality and Christians who are unwilling to practise the reconciliation they preach.
Yet for Christians -- and not just Anglican Christians -- there are two much more fundamental issues at stake.
First, there is the stance of scripture on this issue. The Bible has long been seen by Christians of all stripes as the final and fundamental authority on all matters of life and faith.
Even a cursory reading of the Bible indicates its unequivocal support for the stand taken by the world bishops last week.
The biblical stance against homosexual practise is not limited to the Old Testament alone, so it cannot be deemed to belong to a pre-Christian dispensation.
The New Testament is also quite direct in its simple statements that homosexual practise is unnatural and displeasing to God and something which ultimately cuts us off from fellowship with him, both now and in the life to come.
Some people have attempted to change the meaning of words and phrases in the New Testament to make them somehow line up with modern public opinion. All these attempts, though, rely more on personal bias than authoritative translation.
It must be stated in the very strongest terms that homosexual people, like all human beings, are in need of Christ's love and the redemption and restoration which he offers.
We all need Christ's redemption and we all need it in every aspect of our lives, including our sexuality.
The same Bible which commands us to abandon homosexual lifestyle also demands that we have nothing to do with adultery and sex outside marriage.
According to the Bible, people who practice the latter are also living in a way which is displeasing to God and which calls for sincere repentance, forgiveness and healing.
The Bible teaches that when we treat these things as sinful, when confess and repent, God will forgive, clean up our lives and restore wholeness. In the process, we leave behind something which we thought brought joy for something which is infinitely more powerful and blessed.
But we must be willing to turn our backs on what we had previously embraced. This applies to homosexual practice just as much as it does to adultery and sex outside marriage.
The issue of condoning homosexual practise is not simply one of private conscience. Nor is it a matter of political whim which tries to practice whatever opinion polls suggest will win us more adherents.
It is fundamentally a question of obedience, of adhering to the teaching of the book from which Christianity draws its authority and on which it bases its faith -- the Bible.
Another important issue is at stake here too. That is, the Bible's teaching on the need for Christians to separate themselves from people who profess to be believers but whose lives suggest otherwise.
Christians are never told to isolate themselves from the secular world in which they live. On the contrary, Christianity is a call to engage with and in some way change the world around us.
Yet Christians are told not to associate with people who say they are part of the church but who consistently demonstrate over time, by their actions, that their faith is in something other than the Bible.
The scripture gives clear guidelines on how discipline should be applied within the church: starting with private, loving admonishment and progressing, if needed all else fails, to separation. The goal is always a loving restoration to God's ways, but if that can't be achieved, then removal must follow for the good of the whole body.
Some observers will see bodies like the Anglican Church as little more than political interest groups which have a shrinking power base anyway.
For them, a split in the Anglican fellowship would mean little more than the split of a political party: regrettable but hardly worth getting steamed up about.
There are, however, millions of people around the world who belong not just to the Anglican Communion, but to local Anglican churches. They are involved not because of any wish to make a political statement, but because their local church provides a focal point for sound Bible teaching, worship, fellowship and Christian action.
For these people, the important thing is what the Bible teaches, not the political machinations of lobbyists, secular or otherwise.
Many of the bishops who stood against the ordination of homosexual bishops are from areas of the world which were once considered Christian mission fields. Today, rather than being the recipients of Western Christian influence, they are the ones taking the lead.
Fortunately, they have not as yet been infected by the curse of political correctness which teaches, unashamedly, that all lifestyles are equally valid and all ideas of truth are equally true.
We can only pray that their lead will continue to be strong and that they will not be cowered in any way by the protests of people who have more regard for public opinion -- which changes like the wind -- than they do for the Bible.
© Mal Fletcher 2005
Keywords: Anglican Communion | Anglican | Anglican Church | political correctness | homosexuality | homosexual practice | the Bible | public opinion | homosexual bishops | ordination of homosexual bishops | the Bible teaches | redemption | Christ's redemption | repentance | forgiveness | healing | comment | social comment
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