As usual, God is far, far ahead of all of us in our international Anglican shenanigans. Here’s this morning’s Old Testament reading (Ezek 2:1 – 3:11):
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel- not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
Do you get it? When it comes to apostasy, even though God has given them a hard forehead and a stubborn heart, he’s given those of us who speak the truth an even harder forehead. Anybody for a Glasgow kiss?
Sometimes speaking God’s truth feels like banging your head against a wall. The people who should be listening aren’t. They don’t care. They don’t think the message has anything for them. In rejecting the truth of God’s redemption of fallen and broken sexuality they then create the only other possible pastoral response – to produce liturgies for same-sex unions and declare fallen sexuality “holy” and “blessed”. They pass scorn on those of us who claim that there is a better way, that God is good enough to either support a life of faithful chastity or even powerful enough to heal the wounds of the past.
There are some of us who have trusted, eaten the word and found that it truly was in our mouths as sweet as honey and able to transform homosexuality, trans-sexuality and all manner of broken situations. Christ met us in our brokeness, he healed us, he restored us, he guided us to the place where we cry “such were some of us”! (1 Cor 6:9-11)
Amidst all the realignment and schism of the coming days and weeks we are in danger of losing this. This is not simply a battle for doctrinal purity, it is a battle for pastoral practice. The TEC House of Bishops want a “breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care” but some of them never ever even contemplate that ministries that help those who struggle with homosexuality are the resources we should now develop and promote. Even strongly orthodox bishops in the USA and England are happy to do the theology but less eager to put their money behind this kind of vital pastoral support. When was the last time you heard of a Diocesan Bishop providing a stipend and resources for a priest to offer this kind of crucial ministry to the whole church? Never.
This is the time for us to put our money where our mouth is. If we truly believe that this is a struggle not just for doctrinal purity but also for orthopraxis that comes from it, then we need to have bishops who not only make bold stands for truth but who also have bold wallets to support those of us on the ground who day after day field calls and emails from men and women who struggle in this area and need our help. We have the Bishops who publicly patronise Integrity and Changing Attitudes. Where are the Bishops openly promoting Redeemed Lives, Desert Stream, Living Waters and True Freedom Trust?
What are we afraid of? Sitting amongst scorpions, briers and thorns if the world with its unscientific mantra of fixed sexuality derides us, despite the fact that we are awash with those who have seen their lives transformed? The Gospel of redemption from sin and its effects is like honey in the mouth, the word that proclaims it a two-edged sword.
If we win the battle for orthodoxy and lose the battle for pastoral practice, then the struggle is ultimately in vain. All we will have done is made those who do not struggle in this area confident of their faith, but left out in the wilderness those for whom this is their painful daily life. We will simply be a ghetto of self-righteousness, a lamp hidden under a bowl rather then salt seasoning a world that longs for the taste of freedom, holiness and the transforming power of the cross and resurrection.
Let’s not end up just banging our heads against the walls of the church buildings we flee with or build anew. Let’s not. Please let’s not.