Perspective from a Fifth-Generation Episcopalian
“The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.” (Genesis 18:22)
The shifting paradigm of sexual morality is a source of much controversy in Western culture, and thus, in the Christian Church. While those exhibiting sexual disorientation or gender confusion are less than 3% of the population (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control), they are at the center of this controversy.
The secular civil rights of consenting adults are in contest with the timeless Judeo-Christian foundation for the family and society.
At the World Anglican Communion’s decennial Lambeth Conference, Bishops representing 77-million Church congregants worldwide overwhelmingly passed a resolution reaffirming that homosexual ordination, same-sex marriage and homosexual practices were “incompatible with Scripture.” The are on the frontlines of this issue because the American sect of the Anglican Communion, the 2.3-million member Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., are advocating for the approval of such affronts to the foundational tenets of the larger church.
The Episcopal Church has debated the “normalization” of homosexual practices, same-sex marriage and the ordination of practicing homosexuals, for two decades. Episcopal Bishops have come perilously close to approving the ordination of practicing homosexuals at their last three triennial conventions, setting up a schism between the Episcopal Church and the World Anglican Communion, and prompting a growing number of Bishops, both domestic and international, to view the Episcopal Church leadership as heretical and, thus, declare the U.S. a mission field for reseeding. Against the objection of the former and current Archbishops of Canterbury, George Carey and Rowan Williams, several Archbishops in the World Anglican Communion have been ordaining American Bishops and Priests under their authority since 1998.
At its 2003 triennial convention, the Episcopal House of Bishops voted to confirm an unrepentant homosexual as Bishop of an American Diocese, the first such confirmation in the history of the Anglican Church. This action is arguably heretical, a willful violation of Scripture and the historic faith, order and governing canons of the Church, codifying a schism between the American Church and World Anglican Communion.(1)
To discuss this crisis meaningfully, we must get beyond the “pro-this/anti-that” labels and dispel a false dichotomy, which has infiltrated our dialogue on the role of homosexuals in the Church and the role of the Church in regard to homosexuals.
Homosexual advocacy groups often rebut dissenters by claiming they are pharisaical, intolerant and judgmental – accusations which serve only to preclude discussing this issue consequentially. Those who apply such labels do so only as a means of arresting discourse. Disagreement with the social agendas of homosexual advocates has no direct correlation with one’s capacity to love or have compassion for homosexuals. Nor is such dissent necessarily related to judgment, which is for God alone. Rather, it is about discernment between right and wrong, and obedience to objective truth rather than the cult of subjective relativism popularly justified under the contemporary aegis of “tolerance” and “diversity.”
In John 8, when the pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Jesus for judgement, he said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
When her condemners had departed, he turned to the woman and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, Lord,” to which Jesus responded, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Homosexuals use this incident to suggest, rightly so, that we are not to stand in judgment of others, for as noted above, that is for God alone. However, those who invoke this interaction, ironically in judgement of Christians who exercise discernment regarding homosexual sin, never include the final words Jesus spoke to the woman: “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
To discern right from wrong in the Episcopal Church, we find in Article VI of Religion, (BCP, p. 868) that “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation….” Scripture is the first resource of our faith, and the foundation on which the tenets of reason and tradition reside. The “First Promise” taken by all of our clergy in their ordinal vows is to abide by this foundation. If Scripture is not accepted for what it is – the authoritative, infallible Word of God – then there remains no foundation for faith in the Triune God.
Opponents of biblical inerrancy within the Episcopal Church (and other mainline denominations) must address themselves to an essential question: If Scripture cannot be trusted as the infallible and inerrant Word of God, what then is our source of knowledge, of truth? If the Word of God is relegated to the “culturally relative,” how do we know anything from Scripture? How do we know anything?
Epistemological certainty must begin and end with a reference point, an objective source, outside of the subjective self. If we do not begin with God Himself – as He describes Himself in the self-contained, authoritative word of the Bible – then how do we proceed to know anything? If this presupposition regarding the nature of Scripture and the God of Scripture is denied, no common view of truth or knowledge remains, and there is no further ground for discussion in the context of the Church.
Some Episcopalians suggest that the Church’s foundation is like a three-legged stool, the seat resting equally on Scripture, tradition and reason. But there is nothing in the history of the Church to support such an errant analogy. Episcopal tradition and reason rest on the foundation of Scripture, and are not to be equated with God’s Word.
In Psalm 78:2-4 we find that the teachings of old must not be hidden from our children. The teachings of both the Old and New Testaments tell us homosexuality is sinful. Among the various references, we find in Leviticus that it is “an abomination.” In the New Testament, Romans 1:24-32, the Apostle Paul says, “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another…. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who would practice them.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul adds, “Do not be deceived, neither the immoral…nor sexual perverts…will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Paul uses the Greek word “arsenokoitai” in these texts, which means “sodomites.”
While Scripture is abundantly clear in its condemnation of fornication, homosexual advocates argue that Jesus is silent on the issue of homosexuality in the Gospels. Is He?
In Matthew 19, Jesus speaks to us about marriage and sexuality:
“Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning made them male and female, man and woman, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’. ” (2)
Many Episcopalians endeavor to differentiate between Scriptural truths, which transcend time and culture, and teachings, which are relative to a specific historic culture. In Leviticus for example, one may conclude that the legal stipulation for unrepentant homosexuals – death – is relative to an ancient culture. But, to conclude that all of Leviticus or the entire Bible for that matter is relative to whatever measure we choose, defies truth.
Article VII of Religion, (BCP, p. 869) states that “…no Christian man whatsoever is free from obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.” If the Episcopal Church finds no transcendent truth in Leviticus or in Christ’s words from Matthew, what are the implications for Christianity and mankind?
In Luke 12, Jesus speaks to us about denial of the truth:
“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Some Episcopalians endeavor to ally Scriptural understanding with reason in the Scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas. God’s universal plan and its inherent truths are thoroughly revealed in science and the study of the natural order. Within that order, we are entrusted with the land and all living things, a trust frequently violated in selfishness and submission to evil, as in the story of Eden. We are also entrusted with the sexual design and relationship between “male and female, man and woman.” This design is as clear in reason as in Scripture, and should not be violated.
As Jesus concluded in the passage above from Matthew 19:
“What therefor God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
While the legal status of homosexual “marriage” and other “rights” are matters to be determined within the context of the legislatures and courts, the objective truth concerning such behavior has long been revealed through Scripture. Therefore, the institutional bodies of our respective denominations should not seek to normalize homosexuality or any other sexual aberration.
So what do we do with the homosexual agenda in the Church? Romans 12:21 teaches: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are commanded to reach out unconditionally in love, and seek to heal. While discerning right from wrong in our denomination and society, we must not predicate love for our brothers and sisters on condition of their obedience to God’s moral truth, as set forth in Scripture. But, we also must not equate unconditional love with subjective relativism, and uphold sin as righteous. To do either violates God’s word and design.
Homosexuality is the ultimate expression of self-love, narcissistic vanity, which is antithetical to the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. Thus, to abandon homosexuals in sin, be that sin by choice or pathology, is not an expression of “love” anymore than abandoning a homeless person in a gutter is an expression of love.
As for unrepentant sinners, and the inclusion of such persons as in good standing among Christ’s people, 1 Corinthians 5:11 confirms: “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral…. With such a man do not even eat.” This does not mean we are not to reach out to sinners, and seek to foster repentance and healing in them. But it does mean we do not hold them up in their sin as in good standing among our own.
Episcopal Church leaders are gravely mistaken in elevating a practicing homosexual priest to the position of Diocesan Bishop. By its nature, this action projects that homosexuality is desirable in God’s eyes and nature, and somehow complies with Scripture and the canons of the Church. This projection is not only heretical but insidious in that it suggests overt sinful behavior is to be upheld and honored.
As for those who disregard our foundation of Scripture and the Articles of Religion, prominent clergy and laity who suggest that sinners should be upheld and honored by the Episcopal Church, I refer them to the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:15,
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
There are many thousands in Christ’s flock who continue to worship corporately in the Episcopal Church, though many Church leaders have forsaken God’s Word and substituted their own. Of Church leaders, Paul writes in Titus 1:7-9: “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work…he must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Holding firmly to the message has always required much faith and courage.
It can be difficult to stand in defense of God’s Word and plan for His people, particularly when leaders of our beloved Church denomination have discarded their ordinal vows and departed the faith. It is much easier to uphold sin than it is to confront sin and love the sinner enough to guide him or her toward healing. This accounts for why most homosexuals are abandoned to their misery by the church and even their own families.
Christians, however, must stand firm, remaining defiant in the face of errant teaching, and we must know that we have been called to do so in His name. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)
Remain vigilant and know that your calling will subject you to much ridicule. In the words of our Savior in Matthew 5:11: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
May God bless and keep you, and may He restore Truth and Light to the Episcopal Church of America.
(1) To understand why most Episcopal clergy rebuff the World Anglican Communion, and Bible-based Christian denominations in the U.S., a widely-distribute church pamphlet entitled, “The Episcopal Church, A Faith for Thinking People” provides the answer. Elitism. This publication notes, if “you want to serve God in a realistic, meaningful way,” the Episcopal Church provides “a thoughtful approach to religion.” Regarding the Bible: “literal or fundamentalist interpretations are tolerated, but do not represent the understanding of most Episcopalians.” In summary, the pamphlet notes, “Basically, it might e said that it is a church which asks not for blind faith, not for unthinking obedience, but for thoughtful, responsible commitment.”
(2) The passage in Matthew refers back to Genesis. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) Later in Matthew 19:10, Christ also says: “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth…” (In the Greek text, one finds the word “eunouxoi” meaning one with a congenital defect or castrated, and without the ability to consummate marriage. The reference is distinctly different from the Greek word for homosexuals or sodomites as referenced by Paul. Homosexual advocates sometimes incorrectly invoke this passage as justification.)
ATCSI – The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity – Helping clients bring their desires and behaviors into harmony with their values.
Freedom Every Day is a Christ-centered support organization focused on encouraging, empowering and equipping men and women overcome sexual addiction and pathology in order to live everyday in sexual integrity.
Courage is a national network of support for Roman Catholics who struggle with homosexuality.
NOTE: Permission to reprint or forward this article with appropriate citation is herein granted. You can e-mail the author, Mark Alexander, by using this contact form.
“The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes.” –George Washington