Sexuality - just the symptom of the Church of England's problems

Sun, 29/10/2023 - 15:07 -- James Oakley

This post is prompted by a discussion on a friend's Facebook post. That friend was horrified to see a post on the Facebook Page of Truro Cathedral, and said as much on their own Facebook wall, and I shared a comment in response.

The picture posted by the cathedral is this one:

Picture on Truro Cathedral's Facebook

Here was what they wrote:

What better way to end our final Gaia By Night session last night than with a marriage proposal? We were thrilled to be able to help make Charlie's proposal plans a reality - a beautiful setting for a very special moment indeed. Our heartfelt congratulations Charlie and Laura!

Now, my friend who commented on this wanted to make very clear he was not wanting to have a go at Charlie and Laura. They've accidentally got caught up in a social media storm that Truro Cathedral have caused; Truro Cathedral are the ones who should know better, and they are in the firing line. (Besides, I've never met Charlie or Laura, I've no idea who they are, I'm certainly not their pastor. I don't pastor people I've never met, or even people I do know, by blog post or social media. If I actually knew them and had pastoral responsibility for them, I'd work through a load of stuff one-on-one, but I am not that person and this is not the place.)

Here's the point: The Cathedral, in displaying the model of the earth named "Gaia", is engaging in a pagan and non-Christian worldview. Gaia was a personification of earth, a goddess in the Greek mythological pantheon. If people want to follow pagan practices and beliefs, they are free to do so, but a cathedral should not be playing host. We worship God the Father, not the earth goddess.

People frequently debate the sexuality issues faced by the Church of England. What becomes clear here is that those are just the tip of the iceberg.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul talks about men and women who have lustful desires for other men and women. This gets used as one of the proof-texts as same-sex relationships get debated. Now, don't get me wrong - this passage speaks powerfully into those debates, and says lots of very clear and helpful things that we are not at liberty to ignore. But we do need to notice the shape of that passage.

It opens with Romans 1:18-19: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them."

This is the main sin of the human race: We deliberately choose to suppress what we know to be the revealed will of God.

Because of this, God is angry (his wrath "is being revealed"), and this will culminate in a "day of God's wrath" (Romans 2:5) when Jesus returns. The main sin that God will be punishing is our refusal to let God be God.

So where do the passages on sexuality in Romans 1:18-19 come in to that? They are two things. 1. Our warped sexual desires are one of the symptoms of our refusal to let God be God, one of the ways our rebellion comes out. 2. Our warped sexual desires are one of the temporal consequences (consequences played out in our lives this side of eternity) of our rebellion against God. They are sinful desires, but they are not The Big Sin that is our main problem.

Now let's come back to the Church of England for a moment.

The Church of England is facing a crisis that its bishops are asking it no longer to believe what the Bible teaches about sexual relationships. Even more specifically, they are asking us to ignore plain teaching of Jesus as recorded in the 4 gospels.

But this is not the main thing wrong with the Church of England. The Church of England contains within its ranks clergy, bishops and cathedral deans who (it would seem) do not believe anything recognisable as Christianity.

We need to ask these questions:

  • Do we believe that the sovereign God of the Bible, who actually sees and acts with mighty power, exists?
  • Do we believe that Scripture is the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct?
  • Do we believe that the fundamental problem of the human race is our sin, and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no-one comes to the Father except by him?
  • Do we believe he will return to judge the living and the dead?

The reality is that, long ago, the Church of England abandoned any pretence that there is unity and consensus on such basic matters as these.

As such, we are without Scripture as authority, without God, without a clear doctrine of sin and salvation, and without hope or accountability.

Given there is no unity or consensus here, the result is predictable when a wind begins to blow in the secular culture on gender and relationships. Indeed, the wind has been building strength since the 1960s, and is now at hurricane strength. Unless a house is united, that house will not stand. It is unsurprising that the Church of England capitulates on sexuality in the mess currently unfolding in the House of Bishops and General Synod, if the basic foundations of the teaching of Jesus are not in place.

As in Romans 1, issues of human sexuality are not the main problem. They are a symptom and a temporal consequence of our refusal to let God be God, and to let the voice of God be our rule.

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