Gay Wedding – What we should do now
In my previous two posts I have examined the liturgy of the London Gay Union, showing that it is to all intents and purposes a mirror of the BCP Marriage Service, and looked at the theology of the liturgy and how it affects the doctrine of marriage of the Church of England. I now want to turn to what traditionalists in the Church of England, both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, need to do next.
Although there has been a large outcry from the conservative camp demanding that disciplinary action be taken against those clergy who took part in this ceremony (and indeed I have made that point myself), I believe there is a need for a specific course of action to be taken by traditionalists which so far, in the past four decades, we have not undertaken during this debate. It is a course of action that would require a deep committment from all sections of the church, clergy in parishes, bishops in their diocesan offices and the layity on the ground. It is a course of action that will probably cause more division, but it is one that is a necessary sacrifice. It is a course of action that will in some sense exarcebate the fracture between church and society and between the revisionist and Biblical branches of the Church.
The course of action I am proposing is simply this – we need to begin to put our money where our theological and pastoral mouth is and specifically fund pastors, ordained priests and others, who will, with Diocesan blessing, minister to those struggling with same-sex attraction and other forms of sexual and emotional brokeness, enabling them to live lives of holiness and receive the healing power of the blood that flows from the cross.
Last year I wrote a letter which was published in the Church Times in which I said the following:
In contrast to those who have seemingly dedicated their lives to rejecting the words of Scripture and are therefore obviously troubled by those who might call them to a holy life, many of us with same-sex attraction have lived simple, celibate lives in the full knowledge that the surrender of our desires to God is not “psychological onslaught” but rather the path of grace. Some of us have then, by the mercy of God, moved from the single life to one of marriage as the church teaches and others have remained unmarried but content in a singleness that glorifies Christ in its surrender to him. Such a path is not without its struggles, but ultimately it is the journey that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself commends when in a recent interview he clearly stated “Our jobs mean we have to adhere to the bible, gay clergy who don’t act upon their sexual preferences do, clergy in practicing homosexual relationships don’t.”.
The Church’s statements about healing, wholeness and pastoral care only ring hollow to so many because countless clergy up and down the breadth of this country do not in any way support the ministries of those like myself who seek to come alongside people struggling with issues of homosexuality and other sexual brokenness. Perhaps now is the time therefore for the Church and its Bishops to put its money where its mouth is and make specific diocesan stipendiary appointments of men and women who can encourage those with same-sex attraction to live a life faithful to the teachings of Scripture?
I stand by those words and today I wish to repeat them as a clarion call to the traditionalist community in this land to do more than just spout off everytime that some action takes place that they don’t like. Although I agree with many of my traditionalist colleagues, I am frustrated that despite their godly abhorence of same-sex activity, they seem hugely reluctant to provide any form of material resource to help pastor those who struggle deeply in this area.
In England it is left down to very few of us to minister to those who find themselves attracted to those of the same-sex but believe on reading the Scriptures that they cannot engage in any relationship that would come from following through on such emotions. Often at personal expense, both materially and emotionally, the few of us involved in this ministry seek to help those who struggle, whether it is to aid them finding healing for the brokenness in their lives, or simply to provide support and encouragement in their day to day battle to live a celibate, god-fearing existence. We long to be able to reach out to more people and to help equip the church to do so, but our hands are tied by having other, stipendiary driven, priorities.
Why is this? Why are evangelical church leaders not willing to fund this work when their churches are flooded with other pastoral workers and woship leaders and youth specialists? Why are traditionalist anglo-catholic bishops not able to provide stipendiary diocesan roles for this vital task when their offices are sometimes over-burdened with a whole host of advisors and minor canons addressing this that and the other?
Could it be that we simply don’t believe that God is able to support those who struggle in this area, that we aren’t convinved he brings peace and healing into brokeness? Or might it be that we believe that all we have to do is tell someone to be celibate and happy about it and the job’s over? Or is it possible that we just don’t want to stir the boat, that we’re happy being seen as those who are theologically correct on this issue as long as no-one actually asks us to be pastorally responsible as well.
My great fear is that we will lose the battle in the Church of England on this issue, not because we do not read the Bible correctly, but that we have failed to carry out the call of Christ to bring his kingdom into being by offering the healing and transforming power of the cross. At least the liberals resource the heresy they believe. At the moment it appears that we in the traditionalist camp cannot materially support the truth.
I long to see a Church of England that puts its money where its mouth is. I long to see diocesan advisors on emotional healing and sexual freedom, funded by the church and backed by their bishop. When that happens the society we live in will know tow things – that the Church means what it says and that there is a place to go with your brokeness. At the moment though, all we are ultimately saying is that we don’t like what you’re doing, but we have nothing to offer you instead.