Catching Up

Hospital CartoonMy apologies for the lack of interaction over the past 24 hours, but as those of you who follow me on twitter know, we’ve been with Reuben in hospital (including an exciting ambulance drive!) dealing with some side-effects of a nasty chest infection. He’s back home now, not 100% but much better.

Normal service will resume tomorrow, but two quick thoughts about bits of news over the past day or so.

  1. Can we please be clear mainstream media that the issue with the election of Canon Glasspool as one of the two new suffragan bishops of Los Angeles is nothing to do with the fact that she’s a lesbian and everything to so with the fact that she is in a sexual relationship outside of marriage.
  2. Since when, if you’re in a backwoods survival contest, is eating a rat to get extra protein somehow an issue? Have you turned over to the numerous Discovery and National Geographic TV channels recently? You’ll see much worse…
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14 Comments on “Catching Up

  1. Hi Peter,

    I am glad to hear that Reuben is on the road to recovery. I logged on here last night, thought it was strange you hadn’t commented on events in TEC and read the tweets. I did pray for you.

    With respect, I do not believe the issue is simply to do with the fact that Glasspool is in a relationship outside of marriage, but with the fact that that is a same sex relationship. The male candidate who withdrew ( forget his name) was legally married because he married during the few months that it was permissible in California. His marriage remains legal, but there would still have been a fuss if he had been chosen.

    There are many bishops who have broken their marriage vows and entered into new marriages, which if you are to stick to scriptural edicts are adulterous. I am not saying I belive this – but I am saying that there is no consistency in the conservative position. Many are willing to ignore, revise, reinterpret, contextualise scripture (call it what you will) when it is convenient to heterosexuals but do not extend such leniency to gay people:

    The dioscesan bishop Jon Bruno pointed this out when Glasspool was elected,

    “They just as well might have withheld their consents from me because I was a divorced man and in my case, it would have been more justified”

    The gentleman has a point! I do not remember any protests or media attention when he was elected, or any talk of a Church in schism.

    Mary Glasspool has been in a faithful, committed relationship since 1988 with someone she loves and cares for. If it is a sin -you think it is , I don’t – but disregarding that, if it is a sin, it is probably among the least of her “sins”. We are all sinful, those who condemn her should consider if their sins might not be worse.

    I would suggest that, when it comes to her private life and the integrity of her relationship, the lady has much to teach all of us, gay or straight. She has struggled with the dilemma of how to reconcile her faith and sexuality, as you have and many have who come to this site. She has reached a different conclusion than you have but that does not make her more sinful than you, nor you less sinful than her.

    • Sue – your comments are heart-breaking. As someone who I’m sure you would title ‘conservative’, it breaks my heart that the hypocrisy of those who position themselves as ‘conservative’ is keeping those like yourself from the gospel.

      You’re absolutely right that we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23) and we’re all in need of that same grace and mercy of God because none of us measure up (Romans 3:10). But there’s no distinction between one sin and another. Differentiation that comes through as we read the Bible is, I believe, reflective of the consequences of the sin that we get trapped in. For example, if I forsake my wife and have sex with another woman I break my covenant relationship, I bring great pain and distress to my wife, my children and many others, I abuse the sexual purity of another woman and I reject the sanctifying work of God betraying an idolatrous attitude where I have set myself and my standards in opposition to God. That’s somewhat different to the sinful telling of a lie when I’m late for a meeting.

      So to the situation and issue at hand – Peter is absolutely right that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is sin. But the point needs developing; we’re not talking about a slip but a deliberate, willful rejection of our enjoyment of God’s glory by His gift of forgiveness in Jesus through repentance and faith. And that’s important, that word I used – repentance. The relationship that Glasspool is in constitutes deliberate and willful rejection of God and turning away from Him. It is unrepented sin. Very simply, anyone who is living in unrepented sin and those unwilling to have the truth and light of God’s Word shone into their life cannot have responsibility at any level for the people of God.
      Let me be clear – I expect small group leaders, kids-church leaders, bishops and everyone leading God’s people to be submitting themselves to humble, godly and loving accountability with a desire to be helped and loved towards repentance.

      As long as Glasspool or anyone who aspires to lead the people of God in response to His calling them (and I have to note that I do not believe that such a person is called by God to this work when living in persistent and willful sin without desire to come to repentance) is rejecting the Bible’s call to repentance and God’s loving and generous commitment to sanctify and lead them in living for Him by His Spirit, they’re not welcome in such a role.

      I want to end by saying that I am Inclusive – the Church exists for sinners to come into a community of repentance and faith and to share in the wonder of being changed such that we have the incredible joy of sharing in and reflecting God’s glory. I, as a sinner, am imcluded the same as the next person.

      • Hi Tim,

        You write,

        “Very simply, anyone who is living in unrepented sin and those unwilling to have the truth and light of God’s Word shone into their life cannot have responsibility at any level for the people of God.”

        Providing that you see those who are divorced and remarried ( other than for the adultery of a spouse) as living in “unrepented sin” then I have no problem with the consistency or integrity of your position ( even if I disagree with it and feel it lacks compassion.) As long as you protest vehemently whenever a divorced and remarried man or woman is ordained, I cannot accuse you of hypocrisy. As long as you do your best to ensure that such divorced and remarried people are not involved in Church leadership, I cannot say that you discriminate on the basis of sexuality.

        I am sure that you were just as upset at the election of Jon Bruno as you are at Mary Glasspool. I am sure you are not dishonest and hypocritical enough to have been otherwise, after all the gospel tells us that we must first remove the plank from our eyes before we help our brothers with the specks in theirs and I am sure you live by these values. I like to think that I live by them too.

    • Sue

      You are quite correct to point out the inconsistency of the evangelical position on divorce in many church denominations, notably the Anglican. One of the key bible verses on divorce is from Jesus himself in Matthew 19:3-9. These verses clearly state that all divorce comes from ‘hardness of heart’ and that divorce can only take place in the case of marital faithfulness. Anyone who remarries in any other case commits adultery! To me, this certainly argues against ‘no fault’ divorce. I think it could be argued that spousal abuse would also constitute marital unfaithfulness through the breaking of the marriage vows.

      The argument for the institution of ‘no fault’ divorce, which I believe was instituted in the Anglican church as early as the 1930s, was one of compassion. Why should two people who do not, or no longer, love each other stay together? Love however is not a feeling it is a commitment, and often requires hard work to preseve and grow. I personally feel that the allowance of ‘no fault’ divorce was a mistake and a major departure from the covenant of Christian marriage. However, there is clearly no going back.

      As you have pointed out, it is however a major inconsistency of position for many evangelicals. I would imagine the arguement becomes one of first- and second- order issues. In this case however the argument then smacks of special pleading. Why should straights be allowed ‘no fault’ divorce (and then even stay in church leadership) when gays cannot marry?

      I increasingly think that there is a case for separating civil partnership registration from Christian marriage, as proposed by Ecclesia. There are disadvantages and I am sure it will speed the argument from some groups for the recognition of all manner of strange and exotic bondings, but it would provide the opportunity for Christian marriage to become a prophetic witness into the culture at large.

      There are however church denominations that stay consistent on the issue of divorce. In my charismatic church in South Africa the previous senior pastor had an affair with the youth pastor and divorced his wife. He was very promptly removed from cbhurch leadership and is no longer a pastor, or is ever likely to be one again.

  2. Hi Philip,

    It is a glaring inconsistency I am afraid and one that conservatives ought to address if they are to have any credibility or integrity.

    Ages ago I was in a pretty conservative church and a friend of mine ( who had married in her teens)saw her marriage break down. Our church leaders told her she must remain celibate. She was only in her early twenties, whole life ahead of her and longed for a family and for companionship and romance (more than for sex as it happens,though I am sure she wanted that as well.) The thought of not having these things drove her to a nervous breakdown and I came to see our Church as deeply unloving and wrong – although technically consistent according to their strict scriptural standards.

    I cannot see any difference between telling a divorced woman and man to remain celibate and telling a gay person to remain celibate ( except the divorcees at least had a taste of sexual intimacy.) I think both are “justified” by scripture and both are deeply cruel – but at least there is no discrimination on the grounds of orientation!

    Why don’t conservatives begin a campaign to rid the church of remarried bishops? Why don’t conservatives stand outside heterosexual nightclubs waving posters saying “repent of your sins” given all the heterosexual “fornicators” in them?

    There is an obsession with homosexual love as the worst of all possible evils – I just cannot see that it is! I long for us to stop judging each other and start judging ourselves! If you are gay and believe you should remain celibate, do so! The Church should respect your decision and offer you the love and support that you will need to help you along that difficult path. If you are heterosexual and you meet a gay person in a relationship, don’t judge them, you don’t know what you would do in their situation. Tell them gently you disagree, if you do, but accept that they have made that decision and show them Christ’s love, just as you do your divorced and remarried friends. They are answerable to God, trouble yourself with your own sins and with your own relationship with God.

    But, if you reject the above as wishy washy, impractical liberalism, at least be consistent in your judging and policing of morality for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, as Philip suggests above. At least do that – how can anyone take seriously heterosexual Christians who cannot practice one half of the restraint that they insist upon for their gay brothers and sisters in Christ!

  3. Sue

    Apologies for the delay in my picking up this thread again – we had a baby yesterday morning at 6:06 and I’ve been exhausted the last 36 hours!

    Thank you for your points about consistency. The logic you present seems sensible. However, it misses the thrust of what I said. My emphasis is on repentance and grace.

    There are all kinds of things in our lives where we live as a consequence of sin. For instance, as a headhunter, there are occasions when I am obliged by my company or get caught in the heat of the moment telling lies to either a client or a candidate. Let me say now that this is a daily problem/tension that I live and struggle with, but one which I also daily bring to the Lord in repentance, trusting in His mercy and grace. When I am regular in coming to Jesus in this way, I find that my behaviour changes (is changed, I might say as I acknowledge the working of the Spirit in me). However, the consequences of my past sinfulness remain in the context of that project where I lied. I cannot change what happened in the past, but I can look to God for His grace and work in and through me so that it doesn’t happen again.

    For the divorcee, the issue is that there needs to be full and thorough repentance of sin and trust in God’s grace. God is in the business of redeeming and restoring broken people and their lives. So I read that God does indeed ‘hate divorce’ (Malachi 2:16), but the context there is that there is a brokenness and all kinds of damage that detracts from our reflection of the faithfulness and wholeness that is in God.

    I emphasised “wilfull and deliberate sin” because that speaks of ongoing disobedience before God and a rejection of His grace to heal and restore our brokenness. There is a world of difference between a repentant divorcee bringing themselves before God, trusting in His mercy and grace to forgive and heal and the person who continues in a homosexual relationship refusing to even acknowledge their ongoing sin in that.

    So to come full circle, back to the point you make about being consistent and having integrity in my position, let me be clear – as a sinful man, I am full of inconsistency and lack integrity. My hope and trust is in the saving work of Jesus who presents me to His Father healed and whole and in the now-but-not-yet of His kingdom, continues to work in me by His Spirit to change me to better reflect His glory. I believe that a repentant person can have that same hope and trust whether repenting of behaviour relating to marriage breakdown or homosexual relationship.

    Trusting and enjoying God’s grace,

    Tim

  4. Hmmm, you know I just simply don’t agree Tim and I say this with the greatest respect. If you are going to be strictly biblical, the sin IS the new marriage and not primarily the breakdown of the old marriage, just as to fundamentalist Christians the sin IS the homosexual relationship not the cause of it (orientation.)It is consistency and even handedness I ask for if I am to trust your integrity and I see so little integrity in the positions outlined.

    Oh well, status quo there – more importantly, CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of your baby!!! I am a woman, you know ( at the risk of perpetuating gender stereotypes :)) and would like to know gender, name and so forth – but also with a thought for Peter here, I know it will be bitter sweet to hear your news.

  5. Gideon – http://www.himherandthem.co.uk/bio.htm for details and click the photo for more

    To answer you very simply Sue, the cause is always the sinful nature, whatever the sin that we’re referencing. I lie or cheat or am greedy or whatever because sin lurks in my flesh, even though it is contrary to what I want to do as a Christian (Romans 7:7-25). Scripture always points back to the heart of man which is set in rebellion to and rejection of God. That’s why it takes the work of the Spirit to prompt us to turn in repentance, to stir faith in us and to perform an ongoing work of being changed to better reflect God’s glory.

    There is sin in entering into a new covenant relationship (marriage) where the binding of the old one still holds and the breaking of it (by man and wife) needs to be repented of so that it is brought under God’s grace and healing.

    From one dirty rotten sinner relying on God’s grace to another (!)

    Tim

    • In terms of Scriptural typology and ethics, surely a true repentance of marital covenant-breaking (and a true experience of God’s grace and healing) would be seen in the restoration and renewal of *that particular* marital covenant.

      It is undoubtedly rare to see ex-spouses remarry each other. But given that it *does* happen, I can’t see how any other form of divorcee remarriage can sit comfortably within a theology of marriage built upon Resurrection-orientation or typology of Church and Christ.

  6. OK, Tim,
    You write,

    “There is sin in entering into a new covenant relationship (marriage) where the binding of the old one still holds and the breaking of it (by man and wife) needs to be repented of so that it is brought under God’s grace and healing.”

    So a heterosexual can enter one marriage, sinfully stop loving and being committed to their partner, divorce, repent,marry again, sinfully stop lvoing and being committed to their partner , divorce, repent, marry again, sinfully stop loving and being committed to their partner, divorce, repent, marry again. Just part of sinfulness.

    A homosexual person can have a sinful encounter, repent, meet someone else and have a sinful encounter, repent, meet someone else and have a sinful encounter, repent, meet somone else…Just part of sinfulness.

    It sounds pretty equal to me.

    What wouldn’t be on is if a gay person met someone, set up with them for life and stood by them through thick and thin. Boy, oh boy, that would be sinful!

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