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LAMBETH: Theologian Compares Orthodoxy to Pro-Slavery

LAMBETH: Theologian Compares Orthodoxy to Pro-Slavery

By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
August 2, 2008

CANTERBURY -A distinguished liberal theologian who led a series of seminars for Anglican bishops about human sexuality has compared the orthodox position on homosexuality to past arguments for slavery and apartheid. The Rev. Dr. Richard Burridge, Dean of Kings College London, said at a Lambeth Conference "fringe" event this week that both sides in the debate over homosexuality claim Scriptural authority, but that the side most often associated with the Bible can be likened to British and American advocates of chattel slavery and South African advocates of apartheid.

The title of Burridge's lecture, sponsored by Inclusive Church , was "Being Biblical: Slavery, Sexuality, and the Inclusive Community." Burridge said that it can be simplistic to draw exact parallels between the debates over homosexuality and the debates over past injustices, but "a lot of the rhetoric is very familiar." He said that the debates over homosexuality, slavery, and apartheid are "debates in and among those who want to be Biblical." And in the end, he concluded, "To be truly Biblical is to be fully inclusive."

Burridge cited an orthodox organization (Anglican Mainstream) and a liberal organization ( Inclusive Church ) as examples of Christian groups that claim faithfulness to Scripture on both sides of the schism that is dividing the Anglican Communion.

During the slavery debate of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the pro-slavery voices who took their arguments from such places as Genesis, Romans, Ephesians, Titus, and Philemon, while abolitionists were accused of "undermining Scriptures and the Law of God." "Even the Anglican Mainstream website wants to claim that the abolitionists were really biblical," said Burridge.

Burridge also said that the Dutch Reformed Church advocated for apartheid in South Africa , event though they were a "Protestant, biblical, prayerful church" and "Backed by excellent faculties of Biblical studies." Today, he said, the Dutch Reformed have admitted their theological error.

According to Burridge, Jesus supported inclusiveness in his earthly ministry. When it comes to his interactions with the marginalized, "He accepts them as they are and proclaims that they are forgiven." While the New Testament also includes rigorous ethical demands, it also requires adaptability in order to be not only "perfect" but also "merciful." Burridge cited Prof. Gerald West, coordinator of the Lambeth Bible studies, as his authority; Biblical interpretation requires "listening to the voices of those who will be impacted by whatever our Biblical teaching is."

Burridge concluded with an overview of some of the Scriptural passages he had gone over with the bishops throughout the Lambeth Conference. He said that apparent condemnations of homosexuality must be read in the context of other condemnations that we no longer consider valid. When it comes to Paul's treatment of homosexuality, for example, Burridge said that readers must remember "Paul's concern for an inclusive community."

Meanwhile, a leading Anglican bishop has also raised the issue of slavery in the context of homosexuality. The Rt. Rev. Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt, North Africa , and the Horn of Africa, denounced on Friday the "advocacy of unscriptural practices." He diagnosed sexual obsession, including homosexuality, as "a new form of slavery: a slavery to modern secular culture and to immoral desires and lusts."

Anis also said that he sees at Lambeth "a great wall being put up by revisionists against those orthodox who believe in the authority of Scripture."

YOU TUBE video comments of West's Press Conference can be seen here:



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