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Garth George: Same-sex unions a matter of spiritual life and death

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    Garth George: Same-sex unions a matter of spiritual life and death - 25-May-2006
    At last a senior and respected clergyman has stood up in New Zealand and addressed in no uncertain terms the vexed question of some churches' attitudes to sexuality.

    In fact, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, has gone so far as to say that human sexuality is correctly the issue at which Anglican churches should consider breaking fellowship.

    But it is not just the Anglican Church torn apart by this controversy; the Presbyterian and Methodist churches are similarly afflicted.

    Archbishop Jensen made his comments in an address to a conference of the evangelical Latimer Fellowship in Christchurch. His remarks, of course, did not receive a line in the daily press or - as far as I know - on television or radio.

    So because I consider what he has to say is critically important - and not just to Christians - I give up my podium this week to the good archbishop so a summary of his remarks can receive wider circulation.

    He said: "The biblical ideal of sexual relationships specifically excludes same-sex relationships. The biblical teaching makes this a matter of spiritual life and death. That is crystal clear from both the Old and New Testaments.

    "I say with all solemnity to those who say the blessing of same-sex unions is okay, and who will ordain clergy living in same-sex unions: how can you do this when the souls of those involved are in peril?

    "This is an enormously serious matter. And in the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration or ordination of persons living in those relationships, we are saying to the community as a whole that these relationships have the blessing of God, when the scriptures say those who are in them are excluded from the kingdom of heaven.

    "This lifestyle is spiritually perilous. Encouraging it is endangering the lives and eternal destiny of those involved, and it is inconsistent with the duties of a minister of God's word.

    "This lifestyle is also unhealthy. I am astonished that the medical profession has not risen to a person and told us the truth and opposed it. The dereliction of duty of the medical profession is one of the most shameful parts of this whole thing."

    Archbishop Jensen said the whole sexual revolution - and not just the homosexual part of it - was anti-human and dehumanising.

    "What the Bible teaches us about the right way to live is profoundly humanistic - it's very good for us. It's very obvious that it's true but we seem to be so wimpish about saying it, as though somehow the secular world has it all right."

    The advocates of same-sex blessings and ordinations had been rather surprised at the response in the churches, said Archbishop Jensen.

    "It might be that having seen that women's ordination has come relatively painlessly, they thought this development would be accepted widely as well.

    "It is also the case that the higher leadership of many of the churches has been more liberal in theology than the people in the pews. The bureaucracy has been ahead of the pew.

    "Of course, the cultural flow is with them. The roar of approval of sex outside marriage has been quite deafening. The theological appeal to tolerance, to rights, to justice, to individual liberty have all had the approval of the cultural elites of the Western world.

    "And if you're a church leader and you mix with the cultural elites, as you listen to your mates they all say, 'Good on you, wonderful'.

    "Editorials in newspapers will praise you for doing this.

    "The person in the pew might think rather differently. But any opposition to theological liberalism is easily labelled with the dreaded words 'homophobic' and 'fundamentalist'."

    The fact was, said Archbishop Jensen, that human sexuality was immensely important to our sense of self and it touched on the authority of scripture in a profound way.

    "There is a very considerable group of people saying that this is the point where we must make a stand. If we are not prepared to stand here, we will stand nowhere.

    "Defending such doctrines as the uniqueness of Christ will prove impossible - the culture will see to that, and the church has developed a habit of succumbing."

    Archbishop Jensen said it was important to note that the belief that the practice of homosexuality was wrong was virtually the unanimous verdict of Christians in space and time.

    "It is weird that modern Western culture so easily trumps theology in the church, and particularly in a church which has apparently always respected tradition.

    "It is part of the propaganda war to label those who take my point of view as obsessed, homophobic, fanatical, negative, fundamentalist, divisive and puritan ...

    "But it is one thing for those responsible to take no action when the law is broken; it is another thing when a diocese or church adopts a policy which is contrary to scripture and which touches a matter of salvation.

    "When such things occur at an official level, and I am part of the institution, then I am involved whether I like it or not."

    Archbishop Jensen said such developments had been some time coming, and protests should have been made long before to serve as a warning that "what we see coming towards us constitutes a schismatic offence".

    "Dioceses and bishops around the world have to realise an official endorsement of sex outside marriage - heterosexual or homosexual - will lead to disturbances and problems within their church.

    "Evangelicals and many others will not be able to acquiesce as a matter of conscience. There will be permanent disruption in the affairs of the church - I believe it will become ungovernable if people persist."

    The archbishop has the right of it - mark my words.
    Ref: - NZ Herald

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