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LAMBETH: Liberal Theologian Supports Same-Sex Marriage in South Africa

LAMBETH: Liberal Theologian Supports Same-Sex Marriage in South Africa

News Analysis

David W. Virtue

A theological facilitator at a Lambeth Press Conference has a long pro-gay history that includes support for same-sex marriages, indicating a deep bias by Lambeth planners in favor of Western pansexuality on human sexuality discussions among the bishops here in Canterbury.

The organizer of the Lambeth Bible Studies, Professor Gerald West said, when challenged, that he had no opinion about Lambeth resolution 1:10 which said that sexual relations are only acceptable within the framework of heterosexual marriage. He also said he had never read Rowan Williams booklet, "The Body's Grace."

West, a Professor of Old Testament at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa and coordinator of the Bible Studies at the 2008 Lambeth Conference has an impressive academic CV. He was clearly chosen by the Lambeth Design Team for his liberal views in order to persuade Anglican bishops that homosexuality is acceptable in the eyes of God.

According to reports VOL has received, here is what he says about same sex marriage in South Africa: "Those churches (and other religious institutions) with unambiguous negative positions on same-sex marriage have been most vocal. What has been absent in the debate has been the voice of those churches who have a tradition of taking a stand with the marginalised in society."

West said the clearest voice had been that of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), which had not only defended the right of the state to amend the legislation, but had also provided a theological argument for why the church ought to respond positively to this change.

"The SACC, however, is not a church, and so its position will not necessarily lead to active participation by its member churches in performing same-sex marriages. But, given the commitment of many of our churches to the struggle for justice for all, I would expect that there are priests, ministers, and pastors who would be willing to perform same-sex marriages."

"Some Anglican bishops, for example, have made it clear that they will withdraw the licences of those who officiate at same-sex marriages. But other churches may respond more prophetically, supporting those of their clergy who heed the call of homosexual Christians who want to marry in the sight of God.

"One of the legacies of Anglicanism is that it has a long history of being interested in the detail of Scripture. That detail can be approached quite differently." Students of Scripture might approach the Bible from a socio-historical perspective, or an historical perspective, or a literary perspective, he said.

West offered a literary interpretation of the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah, that the sin at hand was "inhospitality, expressed through male rape. It may have nothing at all to do with homosexuality." Whenever Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in the Bible, he said, "It's always about injustice and inhospitality."

When VirtueOnline reporter Hans Zeiger asked West whether there are wide differences in the Anglican Communion over Biblical authority, and if so, whether it is even possible to apply a Biblical standard to sexual ethics, West replied, "I don't believe that it's widely different. I think it's claimed that it's widely different." He said that Anglicans have the same overall approach to interpretation.

"The same things are happening. Everyone in the Anglican Communion has their own process of making sense of the Bible. People who claim that their way of making sense is taking the Bible more seriously than someone else are just trying to talk more loudly or stamp their foot more firmly."

He said that Anglicans maintain a "common commitment" to the Scriptures. In 1995 West gave' a series of lectures, seminars and workshops in order to challenge his hearers to envisage new possibilities of reading the Bible "with" marginalized people.

Participants at his lectures, seminars and workshops started asking questions such as: The marginalized were identified as:"Those who are disabled, homosexuals, lesbians, prisoners/ex-prisoners, women, ethnic minorities. The marginalized are therefore those alienated socially and legally".

West listed four elements of applying Scripture to Communion decisions: "a common commitment to be shaped by Scripture," an attention to the detail of Scripture, "a common commitment to bring our contexts into engagement with Scripture," and an "ecclesio-theological framework" that "holds us all together."

West also said that the current Anglican controversies represent a transitional stage in the Communion. He said that missionaries who brought Christianity to South Africa were colonial imperialists, but that Africa is now in the process of moving beyond imperialism. This last statement is totally untrue.

This writer has been to several African countries where Evangelical Anglicanism is strong and they love the Anglican missionaries, mostly British missionaries who brought the gospel to them. Many of the African archbishops and bishops have large photos of these missionaries on their office walls. With West's biases there was absolutely no even- handedness in the Bible study preparation at Lambeth. The deck was stacked against the orthodox from the get go.


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