I just saw a really thought provoking (though not “perfect”) documentary which winsomely tells Gene Robinson’s story called “The Bible told me so.” Recently a friend “came out of the closet” with me in a private conversation. The Episcopal Church General Convention did its thing a week or so ago, with the rest of the communion beginning to respond. There are people of same-sex orientation both at my former home parish (some of whom are extremely close friends), as well as at the church were I am currently serving as Assistant to the Rector. I have dear friends (including my parents) at The Falls Church in Northern Virginia, a parish which left their Episcopal bishop over issues related to this. Many others I know are struggling with this complex set of issues. So, I thought it might be time for me once again to clarify “where I am” on all of this (including to myself).
My own interpretation of Scripture, in light of tradition and reason, is pretty much the same as that of Richard B. Hays at Duke Divinity School. This is my “default view,” and I have blogged extensively about it here.
This position is quite traditional on the broad spectrum of things.
As important as the role of my own interpretation Scripture is in all of this, however, I am motivated more by ecclesiology (which, of course, ultimately comes from Scripture via tradition and reason). To go down the revisionist road on same sex issues would violate the trust of our African bishops in the Anglican Communion. It would trample on the catholicity of the church.
You might ask, What about the homosexual persons right here in our own backyard? We must minister to them and embrace them and challenge them with the Gospel. I often find myself quoting Tim Keller who responds to the question “If I become a Christian will Jesus tinker with my lifestyle?” by saying, “To be a Christian, you must make Jesus the reason you get out of bed in the morning.” The Gospel runs deep, deeper than anything else in this world.
I think that is much of what is going on here. In Romans 2:1, St. Paul basically looks at the Judaizing types and says “You religious types who are accostomed to judging others from a distance are condemned because you do the same things.” Wow. I am a “religious type.” And Paul is correct: I do the same things. Am I totally pure sexually? How can I judge others?
Rather than judge, I am totally convinced of the need to listen. I am a big believer in the listening process which was proposed by recent Anglican Instruments of Communion over the last few years, a process which, depressingly, seems not to be “working.” And yet, being in listening relationships of trust with homosexual persons has done more to help me in all of this than anything else in the last couple of years. Such relationships do not make the issues go away, but they do recast them dramatically.
Hey, I might be wrong in terms of my own interpretation of Scripture. I hope that I am wrong. I want to be wrong on this one, just like I hope that all people are ultimately, somehow saved (even though I cannot see how that can be squared with Scripture).
I am grateful to have a bishop who is committed to the Windsor Process, and to the Covenant as a way of deepening the unity among our bishops and provinces globally. I am grateful that our bishop’s close relationship to the Archbishop of Southern Malawi (where our diocese works to dig and construct clean water wells for the poorest of the world’s poor) is one of the factors which compelled him to vote as he did recently at General Convention. That is exactly how things should be; that it what “communion” means.
All of the above comments apply to the Church. When it comes, however, to how to think about homosexuality out in the secular world, in terms of “the culture wars,” I inisist on the importance of thinking about this theologically.
The church is its own body politic and we are in a cultural moment in which the nation state wants to privatize the church and discipline the populace (including the body of Christ) through violence. This is the deep heresy which causes much of our confusion about homosexuality. This heresy must be resisted.
In fact, I have more in common with someone (such as ++Rowan Williams) who identifies and fights against this deep heresy but who has (or has had) revisionist tendencies on this particular sub-issue than I do with someone (such as almost all conservative evangelicals, including almost all of the people in the PCA as well as in CANA) who is oblivious to this heresy which is ripping our culture apart at the deepest levels, but who holds an “orthodox view” on the particular issue of same-sex erotic behavior.
The main thing for the church to focus on is not “the culture wars” but rather the discipline of our own members such that true virtue is cultivated for the common good, as leaven in a loaf of bread. This has nothing to do with violence, except insofar as violence is something to be resisted and repudiated.
More than anything, we must hear and heed Bishop Wright’s call to pray:
I have said many times that, for all those involved in this whole messy situation, the main priority at the moment is prayer. That remains my conviction and my plea. Prayer for the church; for our beloved Communion and the many other Christians with whom we seek to deepen fellowship; for Archbishop Rowan; for wisdom, courage, clarity and vision; for God’s glory, the extension of his kingdom, and the power of the gospel and the Spirit at work in hearts, lives, communities and throughout our world.