We're not homophobic are we?
Thursday, 18 August 2022 5:45 pm
So now we have a parallel Anglican jurisdiction in Australia, called the Diocese of the Southern Cross. That being so I want to suggest to my fellow travellers that now is more than time to speak truth to ourselves.
I say "Welcome GAFCON and the Southern Cross Diocese". Yes that's right, I did say "welcome". Please however read on for the caveats. I'll start on a personal level.
This is an uneasy time for me. I'm one who is in sympathy with the GAFCON movement, and on the mailing list (that seems kinda' official). Being now retired from active ministry and not expecting to be located any place where it might be difficult to uphold what I consider to constitute orthodox Anglicanism, I don't envisage ever personally joining a national church other than the Anglican Church of Australia. Even so I've long believed that western provinces of the Anglican Communion are in need of reform in favour of (re)submission to the supreme authority of Holy Scripture, and that a split / "schism" such as this has for decades been realistically a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
On the current controversy around the Christian doctrine of marriage, my convictions remain "conservative" (not a term I commonly apply to myself). That is to say I've listened to hermeneutical arguments in favour of same sex marriage as a Christian option, and will continue to listen with respect. However I'm not close to being persuaded by them, and so I continue to believe firmly that marriage for Christians according to Scripture is between a man and a woman.
Yet I'm also one who tends socially progressive, regrets deeply how very badly evangelicals in general have responded to the LGBTQ+ community (on which, see more below), and welcomes the right of any liberal democracy to define or redefine a social institution such as marriage as it chooses, by consensus.
Thus the ground I now occupy in respect of the launch of the Southern Cross Diocese may possibly lose me friends on either or both "sides". This may happen even as people read this post. If so that will be a great sadness to me, but not one I can absolutely prevent.
So on balance the Southern Cross Diocese itself gets my thumbs-up. The timing however troubles me. It seems to me that we've bought ourselves an avoidable pastoral crisis which we now must address, and preferably quickly. The gospel itself is at stake in this. That's the hard bit and it's upon us. The hard bit is that of convincing the world we're not homophobic. This challenge is profound and real for us "traditionalists" (another word I never use of myself) whether we've joined a parallel Anglican jurisdiction or only supported it as third parties.
History is history and we can't rewrite it. But if we only could it would be great to rewind to the late decades of the twentieth century. That was the season when the Anglican Communion had several bishops in at least three western provinces openly denying the bodily resurrection of Christ. What did we orthodox Anglicans do in response? Well we held synods and rigorous debates of course. How more "Anglican" can it get? But even despite the uncompromising character of the Apostle Paul's teaching in 1 Cor 15, especially verses 14-19, we went right on with the time honoured familiar Anglican Communion barn dance. We kept it all together, held Lambeth conferences, general synods and parish fetes, just as they did in the early church. There was little if any use of the S word (schism or split) and certainly no eucharistic discipline or people excommunicating eachother. One might debate the centrality of marriage liturgies to the Christian gospel. But surely there'd be no debate on whether it matters that the tomb was empty.
Bishops denying a core tenet of the historic creeds of the Church might be as egregious as heterodoxy gets. But in another sense it was one more staging post in a decades-long process of the development of two parallel grounds of truth and authority. We (our forbears) could have addressed that head-on even decades prior to denials of the Resurrection. But we (they) just kept up the tea and scones then too.
We kept it together through all of that over a century. That being so it's not unreasonable that some may ask why not now. Why only now do we break fellowship and excommunicate one another? Is it not reasonable for an observer to ask why we can't just keep it together with this disagreement, as we have through all the others including those more definitive of Christianity itself? Why has the Rubicon materialised only here? Why have we broken the emergency glass only now? If it was right and good to remain in fellowship with two incompatible doctrines of revelation and salvation, why is it only now wrong and bad to remain in communion with two incompatible ethics of sexuality and marriage?
And have we even contemplated what this move - in this context and only now - might communicate to the LGBTQ+ community and their loved ones, all of them bearers with us of God's image and people for whom Christ died? This has a personal dimension in a way a change of even core doctrine does not. Never mind defensively satisfying ourselves and eachother that we're not homophobic. We're not the ones who need convincing.
On a general note let's resist the natural temptation to do what both parties to a divorce typically do, insisting that we're the innocent, truthful and wronged party, and that lack of self awareness and disingenuity are the province of the other. We've already very predictably heard all this from both parties. Neither is right. Or alternatively both are right. It all depends on where one places the goalposts. Either way, let's just stop it.
But above all, let's repent. Let's repent of staying together when the gospel itself was denied. Let's openly ask forgiveness for our ambiguous / homophobic messaging. Let's talk about authority and let's state plainly that this is about the gospel and the Bible, and not about gay Christians or the wider gay community.
If nothing else the prospects for GAFCON churches serving the gospel among the LGBTQ+ community going forward demands we do no less.