May 21, 2013 Leave a comment
It has been coming for a long time, but yesterday the day arrived, the day where ’121′ (General Assembly of the Church of Scotland) voted to allow practicing homosexual men and women to be ordained as ministers of Word and Sacrament.
My take was that the motion could have gone one of three ways:
1) The C of S makes moves to begin putting place structures that allow practicing homosexuals to be ordained as ministers. (Which I think could [and in my view should] result in Reformed Parishes leaving the C of S is the decision goes this way)
2) The C of S decides that practicing homosexuals are not suitable candidates for ordained ministry. (This is what I think should happen, and prayed would happen)
3) The C of S decides to fudge the issue again by voting for a period of ‘reflection, prayer & conversation’ which is jargon for “We have no idea what to do so let’s deny that we are divided and hopefully the issue will go evaporate”.
But what actually happened was not one of the above, but was nevertheless a decision that was as a sad as it is confusing. 121 voted in favour of a last-minute (4th) option brought to the table by a former Church irk moderator, the Very Reverend Albert Bogle and his motion was to
”affirm the Church’s historic and current doctrine and practice in relation to human sexuality,
(but) nonetheless permit those Kirk Sessions who wish to depart from that doctrine and practice to do so”.
And to add to this confusing and contradictory decision, the church’s new moderator, the Rev. Lorna Hood, said:
“This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church.”
The unity that the C of S has voted is faux unity, it is not the Unity of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus he says some very important things pertaining to unity. For example the Apostle Paul writes:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We maintain the unity by living lives worthy of the calling that we have received. All who trust in Christ alone are called to live a holy life, called to live a blameless life (Paul says this back in 1:4), we to be humble, gentle, patience with each other, we are to be loving. This should not surprise us, after all, we are all sinful, we are all human, there are times when some will find traits in us hard and even annoying unity but we are commanded to maintain it.
But what stands out to me is that Paul exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to be eager to maintain the unity they already have, not create unity. And the unity that we are to maintain has already been established by God. And the way he established the unity it was by creating a new humanity and the way he created the new humanity was through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus propitiatory death on the cross that creates this new humanity and it is cannot be maintained by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator amongst all those who profess to be Christians.
For example an ecumenical group can invite everyone of different traditions and say “what unites us is our shared faith in God”. It sounds lovely, but it is so vague but this ecumenical unity is not gospel unity. The only the former unity will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything because the moment they do, they offend and the unity is destroyed. This is not the unity that we to maintain.
The C of S has achieved a unity of sorts, but it is not the unity that Christians are called to maintain. True unity is achieved when God’s people give their faithful allegiance and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and live lives consistent with the new humanity that Christ’s death on the cross has created.
What we have in the C of S is faux-unity, a unity of two groups, with different a different Gospel, with a different Jesus. It reminds me of what Rev David Short wrote when talking about the denomination of which I am a minister:
There are now two competing unities in Anglicanism: one regards Scripture as God’s sovereign word written, the other as merely the repository of the symbols of our faith; one names Christ as the unique and only saviour of the world—meaning there is salvation in no-one else —, the other sees Christ as the unique saviour for them only. One sees mission primarily in terms of the proclamation of the gospel, of conversion to Christ from sin through repentance and faith, of lifelong growing discipleship, of presenting people mature in Christ for the last judgment. The other sees mission in terms of extending the church (meaning ‘denomination’), of making the world a better place, of providing religious services, of helping people connect with their inherent spirituality, of affirming people in their lifestyle preferences, of boldly reflecting the cultural Zeitgeist of tolerance, pluralism and inclusivity.
The white elephant within the C of S is that we have two parties preaching two different gospels, proclaiming a different Christ. And the decision at 121 to create unity by accommodating both is to compromise the very basis of the unity that we are called to maintain. It is faux-unity.
Read this statement from ’121′