It's time for the Church of England to lay down the law on marriage
By ANDREA MINICHIELLO WILLIAMS
16 FEBRUARY 2017
Wednesday's vote in Synod was not a victory for the LGBT lobby. In whatever way that vote in synod is spun, the real issue is not about same-sex marriage but about the authority of the Bible in the Church of England.
The effect of the vote is that there is no change in doctrine or practice. Marriage remains, as it has for all Christendom, a lifelong union between a man and a woman.
This moment presents a great opportunity for the House of Bishops to embrace that truth and to act to uphold it firmly within the Church, disciplining those who would seek to abandon the authority of the Bible, and whose actions will eventually bring down the Church by actively denying that truth.
The Bishops' Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships was in danger of weakening the Church's teaching. It sought to hold together two positions that are irreconcilable -- the orthodox position holding to the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the alternative which seeks to revise his teaching by insisting on acceptance of same-sex marriage.
People in society expect the Church to believe and teach the Bible. What other authority can the Church have?
Moreover, God's people are called to be "set apart" and clergy are supposed to be examples to their people. Today, however, a crucial faultline has opened up in the Church of England because it has permitted those who openly defy the teaching of Jesus into positions of authority and influence. Male clergy who declare to Synod their "marriages" to other men are applauded, despite the fact that this is directly contrary to the Church's own teaching.
The Bishop of Liverpool, an active LGBT campaigner, took to the floor of Synod this week and pleaded with members tacitly to back the report by voting to "take note" of its findings, because the language within it affirmed homosexual relationships. "Our explanation of maximum freedom will take us to places where we have not previously gone," the bishop said, clearly indicating the direction of travel he intended to take. Such a position runs directly contrary to the teachings of the Church. Yet the Bishop is not even reprimanded.
I wrestled long and hard about whether to vote "take note" of the report. As debate progressed, however, I realised that the LGBT lobby would not stop until it had got full approval in the Church. But the undeniable truth is that the Church can't give its blessing to same-sex marriages when its sole source of authority does not.
The Archbishop of Canterbury himself is clearly wrestling with this contradiction. "To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward," he said, "we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st-century understanding of being human and of being sexual ... the way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ -- all of us, without exception, without exclusion."
Of course, it is right to recognise that we are made in the image of God. But we are left with the question what does radical inclusion mean?
Christians are people who believe that Jesus is Lord and that he knows what is best for us. I believe today is a great moment of opportunity for the Church of England. The schism has been laid bare. It is time for the bishops to lead with clarity and authority. The Church of England has a cherished place in the life of our nation and its duty is to speak to government and people of the hope that is found in following Jesus and his words. Either it will flourish by doing so, or it will wither and die, because it capitulates and seeks the approval of the world more than the love of God.
Providentially this vote means that the Church's teaching on marriage is secure. The House of Bishops declared there to be no appetite among them for changing the Church's official view. Now all we need is for them to follow through by upholding the teaching and, ultimately, disciplining those that brazenly seek to defy it. Jesus Christ proclaimed that marriage is between a man and a woman. It is Him we follow.
Andrea Minichiello Williams is CEO of Christian Concern
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