Bishop Alan talking sense on gay marriage

by Richard on April 21, 2012

I can’t do any better than quote him

…the highest duty of the Church is not to preserve institutions, but to be, simply and completely, good news. The gospel isn’t “good news/bad news” or “good news as long as you buy it properly.” It isn’t even “what would Jesus do?” It’s “What is Jesus actually doing through the whole creation, and trying to do through us if only we got real?”

Jesus referred marriage back to the way God actually made us. Marriage is a gift of God in creation that strengthens community and expresses divine love — that’s what’s meant by calling it “sacramental.”

In fact a very small but significant proportion of every human population is gay. If some of these people want to build stable faithful relationships based on love, that has to be a good thing. Love is love wherever it is found. We know it by its fruits, not its origins. But the fruits reveal the origin. God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. This is the good news.

Thus the prime question Christians have to ask is not “is the idea of ay marriage right or wrong?” but, whatever we make of the theory of the matter, “how can we be good news to the real human beings involved?”

See also Experience: I tried to ‘cure’ gay people

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }


eldar vanyar 04.22.12 at 3:25 pm

The problem we are faced with is the problem of Sin. There is no getting around the fact that whenever the Bible comments on Homosexual Acts it does so in such a way that they are sinful in both OT & NT and that such acts and those who perpetrate them will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It does not refer to homosexual realtionships and acts as being built on love but as sin and idolatrous.

The other problem with ‘love is love wherever it is found’ is that there are no boundaries in place. The bible is very clear on such boundaries and the various definitions of love. One persons love may be another’s abuse.
If there are no boundaries then how can one say that bestiality, paedophilia and incest are wrong. The bible defines such
practices as sinful as well.
Some bishops have begun saying ‘if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it ,must be love’ in reference to gay relationships. The problem they face is ‘if it looks like sin, the bible says it’s sin, then it is sin.’

There is a moral and social element to all this and a creational ordinance of marriage between a man and a woman that Jesus himself referred to in Matthew 19.
Marriage therefore is only between a man and a woman. I don’t expect you to agree with me but that’s not the issue, the issue is what God has revealed about true love in the person of his Son Jesus, his sacrificial love demonstrated on the cross and the the rest of scripture.
Yes God is love, but He is also Holy and we forget that at our eternal peril.


eldar vanyar 04.22.12 at 3:40 pm

I just wanted to say that this is not a personal attack or high jacking of your web site but a response to the Bishop’s thinking.


Richard 04.22.12 at 5:28 pm

Your comment is, of course, welcome. I’ll have to be quick, but here are 2 issues I have with your reasoning. First, there are a number of behaviours which scripture condemn as sin. Lending at interest springs to mind. If one is condemned universally and forever, why not the others? Second, scripture nowhere speaks of homosexuality or homosexual relationships. It addresses specific behaviours, but even this is not without ambiguity. (The interpretation of Roman 1:26 as referring to lesbian sex is relatively modern, for example)

What does the Bible say about…? is rarely a simple question. And, whatever may be claimed, sex is no exception.


Kim 04.22.12 at 6:04 pm

The comparison with bestiality reduces gay sex to the animal. It is an offensive, a repugnant comparison.

On boundaries, on the whole people know very well where to draw them, bestiality being a case in point. Or am I unaware of a dog-marriage lobby? On the other hand, Jesus broke boundaries that divided people and degraded some at the expense of others all the time. The scribes and Pharisees, however — they were precisely the gate-keepers, the border police.

Finally, marrriage — yes, Jesus condemned divorce absolutely. Yet already with Matthew and Paul, there are exceptive clauses. These, however, don’t apply to my wife and me, both divorced and remarried almost thirty years ago. I guess we are living in mortal sin.


eldar vanyar 04.22.12 at 7:46 pm

than you for graciously allowing my post and replying, and I realise your time is short today. I am not in the habit of trawling around web sites and posting looking for an argument, or being abusive,I think they call it trolling.

You are right that there are various behaviours that are referred to as sin. My understanding of usury is that it was not allowed amongst the Jewish or Hebrew people to make money out of each other as they were all at one time slaves in Egypt and they should be helping each other (to paraphrase in a nutshell). Yes it was a big debate amongst the reformers. We only have to look at the current economic climate and situation to see the state we are in.
I suppose the question you raise is what type of behaviour is right or wrong. I think we would agree that murder is wrong, even though the Decalogue was written thousands of years ago. It is an all time ethical and moral boundary. Some may argue that we live in a much more sophisticated society now but we still hold murder to be wrong, even the ardent secularists.
I am a bit confused by your statement that “scripture nowhere speaks of homosexuality or homosexual relationships. It addresses specific behaviours, but even this is not without ambiguity. (The interpretation of Roman 1:26 as referring to lesbian sex is relatively modern, for example)”
What is different in today’s world till then? Leaving aside the cultic prostitution. Is today’s homosexuality different or a new thing? If it is different in that only today are there loving covanental relationships then I think that is a difficult one to prove either way.

Kim, I am not seeking to make a repugnant comparison, and not equating bestiality with gay sex or paedophilia, although there are many who do find such behaviour or acts as repugnant. What I am doing is highlighting that there are various behaviours condemned in the Bible, not just sexual, but also gossip, lying, witchcraft etc there are set boundaries in relation to societal relationships and behaviour. All such behaviour breaks the law of loving ones neighbour as oneself and not reflecting the love of God. How have gay sexual acts become acceptable within biblical boundaries?
Regarding divorce there are two exceptions in the NT , one for pornea or sexual immorality and the other for desertion. The Jews were trying to trap Jesus with their questioning over divorce and the two camps of
rabbinical teaching at the time. Jesus takes it back to creation and God’s intention for marriage but also says that this teaching is hard as well as highlighting that there are some who can never be married it could be argued that homosexuality falls into this group.

Being divorced is not the unforgivable sin, grieving the Holy Spirit is. There really are times when divorce is needed when the marriage covenant is broken by one or both of the married couple.

I think one thing that needs to be thought through is that of inheritance, and that sins of the flesh do not reflect or lead to inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:13-25 highlights the reality of this. The inheritance being stored up for a drug addict or an alcoholic is an early death and chaotic and troublesome life for all around them. There is a biological and physical reality that certain types of sexual behaviour including anal sex,are more prone to cancer because the body is not designed or evolved that way. Interestingly John Stott in one of his books when looking at the issue of homosexuality does not argue against it so much from a theological viewpoint but a medical, physiological and psychological one and the negative effects born out by the statistics.

One thing that always seems to be missing in this debate when it comes to the gospel is that Jesus said to ‘come follow me’ many times, and yes he went to the poor and the lost and some didn’t follow him for it meant leaving behind their old lives. The gospel involves repentance, and transformation, Jesus accepts us as we are but he doesn’t leave us there, he transforms our lives and heals us and sets us free.

I cannot see where the ‘inclusive gospel of love’ has any place or call to repentance and transformation. I think the other question to be asked is what is the liberal understanding and definition of sin and how does that apply today and how has God dealt with it?

I hope by the nature of my argument and some of my reasoning I have not caused offence (although I am afraid that the bible is offensive) and am fully aware that there will be disagreement . At the end of the day we are talking about peoples lives and I have a big enough plank in my own eye, ouch. I will leave it there.
Keep up the good work you are doing and God bless you.


Kim 04.23.12 at 7:18 am

Hi Eldar,

You finally come to the nub of the question — and then beg it. Precisely what Alan, Richard, others, and I dispute is that same-sex is intrinsically disordered or inherently sinful, and therefore needs to be repented. We reach this conclusion because we believe, to put it succintly, with the late Gareth Moore, summing up the biblical texts: “In so far as we can understand them, they are not all concerned with the same things, and they do not all condemn what they do for the same reasons. Most importantly, … none of them clearly condemns homosexual relationships or activity of a kind which is pertinent to the modern Christian debate.” Or, to take the most important NT text, Romans 1, as Rowan Williams asks: “Is it not a fair question to ask whether conscious rebellion and indiscriminate rapacity could be presented as a plausible account of the essence of ‘homosexual behaviour’, let alone homosexual desire, as it may be observed around us now?” These points also relate to, if you like, the contemporary “science” of homsexuality — e.g., its not being a “disease”, or a lifestyle choice — and to the “sociology” of homosexuality, particularly that phenomeon of “disgust”, visceral reactions which have an insidious way of morphing into moral categories (cf. Matthew 9 — and check out Richard Beck’s brilliant book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality [2011]).

Homophobia, on the other hand — now there’s a sin which needs repenting. Not, Eldar, that I am suggesting that you are such a sinner. No doubt as you with me, all that I would say, from your comments, is that your views are lacking in cogency.

For my extended discussion of the issues, including the biblical hermeneutics of the matter, google “Kim Fabricius - Twelve Propositions on Same-Sex Relationships and the Church”.



Paul 04.24.12 at 4:31 pm

Eldar, you mentioned one of the exceptions for getting a divorce: fornication, or, in the original Greek, “pornea”. The fact that Jesus condemns all forms of “pornea”, and that “pornea” at the time of Jesus was thought to include homosexual acts makes me very hesitant to condone the practice of homosexuality. To paraphrase Richard Hays, to argue for the acceptance of homosexual behavior in the church is to argue for a very recent position and to argue against the 2000 years of Church tradition, the (vast) majority report.

That said, being in the Reformed tradition, I’m open to debate and conversion of my intellect on the matter. I say “conversion” because, if God really wants us to not only invite gays and lesbians into the church (which 100% of us should be for) but also allow them to continue to pursue sexual relations, it would have to take the Holy Spirit giving my mind a solid squeegee.

One last thing: enough of this “if it’s love it’s okay” business. Countless adulteries have been justified in the name of genuine love. Many young Christian couples–some of whom I know and whom doubtlessly are in love–have enjoyed the wedding bed without tying the knot. (On that matter one would again have the witness of Scripture and 2000 years of Church tradition to contend with to justify such behavior. Of course, we get married much later than we used to, and puberty delivers the necessary equipment a good ten years before we need to use it, so compassion is key)


Richard 04.24.12 at 4:48 pm

>> “Many young Christian couples–some of whom I know and whom doubtlessly are in love–have enjoyed the wedding bed without tying the knot.”

I think I’m right in saying that for much of Christian history, the marriage bed was ‘tying the knot’.


Tony Buglass 04.26.12 at 2:49 pm

Paul, would you say that the Greek ‘porneia’ includes the sexual expression of a loving, committed, lifelong relationship? Because I do know a number of gay Christian couples, who have been welcomed into the church (well, some churches). On your argument, they would need to remain celibate, in spite of the fact that they are married - in at least one case, married in a church, not just a blessing after a civil partnership. Is their sexual relationship ‘porneia’?

You’ll know the old adage “a text without a context is a pretext.” I can quote all the Greek and Hebrew words you like from my lexicons, but that would be a waste of effort unless I was able to demonstrate from the varying contexts in which they are used that they mean what you are assuming them to mean - namely that any same-sex relationship is evil. In fact, while the scriptures do undoubtedly condemn a whole range of sexual acts, including some which are same-sex, they never address the question of the committed life-long loving relationship. If you want to know what is condemned as porneia, piggul, shiqqutz or anything else in the lexicon, please look at how the word is used and in relation to what situation and context.

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