Continuing thoughts on ECUSA
Well, I have made my way through To Set Our Hope on Christ (pdf download), ECUSA’s response to the Windsor Report. It was an interesting read and I am continuing to think about it even now. What it hasn’t done is convince me of their arguments.
I was intrigued by their basic approach in which they essentially appealed to the story from Acts 10 to 15 of how Gentiles became part of the church. Peter sees God working beyond what was traditionally considered acceptable (Gentiles being unclean) and sanctions the inclusion of Gentiles because he cannot deny that God is already at work. In the words of the report, "God took the initiative and it took the Church a while to catch up with what God was doing." (page 14).
In Peter’s dream of the unclean animals, his refusal to eat is in direct obedience to the prohibitions in Leviticus. The inference is that since Leviticus also contains the prohibition of homosexuality, perhaps Peter’s dream applies equally well. The essential argument runs that we have homosexual Christians in our church, they live exemplary lives of holiness, we have been blessed by their ministry, the Holy Spirit works in them and through them. Who are we, therefore, to argue with what God is doing in them?
I have to say that it’s not a Biblical approach that I have come across before in regard to homosexuality. It surprised me and interested me. It is an argument which I cannot refute at face value. I have to take it away and consider it and think. Could it be that God is doing a new thing?
On one level, I had a great deal of sympathy for this line of reasoning. One of the main reasons why I struggle to put this whole homosexuality argument on one side is that I see and know homosexual men and women who love Jesus just as I do, who want to serve Him just as I do and it seems so tragic to put a barrier like this into their lives.
What the report did not do was address the other Biblical passages and in that I think ECUSA made a serious mistake. Like it or not, vocal parts of the Anglican Communion take the various biblical passages very seriously indeed. To ignore them and not try to explain ECUSA’s position in the light of such passages will be seen to be cherry-picking from scripture… avoiding the parts that don’t work for you.
It surprised me that the easiest passage to refute (Leviticus – because the reference there is surrounded by lots of other ‘holiness’ codes that we no longer adhere to and therefore why should we worry about its reference to homosexuality either) was the one they took most seriously. In fact, the only one, other than Acts 10 to 15, that they addressed at all.
It didn’t convince me. I find myself wanting to be convinced, wanting the traditional position to be wrong… but no-one seems able to put forward a cogent, convincing theological position.
The more I think about this whole thing though, the one thing that I am now convinced about is that I do not see this as an issue that should break apart the Anglican Communion. If the Church of England chose not to ‘approve’ homosexuality while ECUSA did, I see no reason at all why they could not be in communion. As ECUSA have set out very clearly – we are discussing men and women who lead (otherwise??) godly lives, eager to serve God and love others. I’m very happy to be in communion with people who confess such a thing.