Skip to comments.Nashotah Dean Speaks on Issues on Sexuality
Posted on 05/12/2005 12:17:34 PM PDT by newheart
Nashotah Dean Speaks on Issues of Sexuality in the Aftermath of General Conventio
Recently, I reread Robert Boyd Munger's classic booklet, My Heart Christ Home (IVP). With over ten million copies in print, it has had great impact in aiding readers to better understand what Christ's Lordship really means.
Munger points out that submission to Jesus involves not a single decision, but a series of daily choices that give Him control over various "rooms" in our lives - the study (mind), dining room (ambition), living room (quiet time), recreation room (entertainment), bedroom (sexuality) and even the hall closet (secrets).
Integrated lives are how we respond to Jesus' Lordship. Our commitment to whole life stewardship calls for us "to strive to integrate faith, life and vocation in serving Him." As such, we are to seek to make His will primary and to serve Him with our whole lives.
I have just returned from Minneapolis where I was privileged to be a Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Quincy for the fourth time. As you already know from the media and pastoral letters being issued in many dioceses, among the actions taken by the General Convention was the confirmation of the Bishop-elect of New Hampshire, a man who is living in a homosexual relationship. The General Convention also considered proposed legislation that would have authorized the development of liturgies for blessings "non-marital relationships," including same-sex relationships, for inclusion in the Book of Occasional Services.
The resolution that was eventually passed did not authorize the development of new liturgies, but it did recognize that non-marital relationships will continue to occur and may be blessed in dioceses where the bishop gives permission.
Essentially this means that the Episcopal Church now has "local option" in the blessing of same-sex relationships. In fact, blessings of this sort have been occurring in a number of dioceses for several years, but this action of the General Convention now officially recognizes and legitimizes such blessings for the first time.
What are those of us who love the Anglican tradition to make of what happened in Minneapolis? As I listened to several hours of testimonies in the committee hearings leading up to the vote on the controversial issues, what struck me is that we had lost the ability as a Church to live, in Munger's words, "integrated lives." We have lost the ability to speak with one voice and one message regarding the cardinal issues of faith and morality, and the loss imperils our proclamation of the Gospel, our witness to society, our dialogue with other Christian communions, and our testimony regarding the truth of Christianity to our non-Christian neighbors.
We have lost this ability because we have not submitted all the "rooms" of our existence as Christians and members of the Anglican Communion to the Lordship of Christ. Instead we have made Christ's Lordship subject to our own agenda in the arenas or "rooms" of the mind, ambition, entertainment, and-most obviously at this time-sexuality.
I take seriously the stewardship I have for the seminarians of Nashotah House. In 18 years of seminary teaching I have come to know several hundred seminarians who now hold cures in the Episcopal Church, and the number of clergy who are in confusion and despair, who are known to me personally, is considerable.
I have written the Archbishop of Canterbury of my concerns and let him know that what these clergy and the clergy of tomorrow need to hear now is that they have a place in the Anglican Communion, that biblical faith and morality will be upheld, and that they have some hope of proclaiming the Gospel in a Church that is not so racked by moral ambiguity that it cuts the very foundations from beneath their ministries.
I have been asked by a number of people, both at General Convention and in the days since, what these actions by the General Convention mean for Nashotah House. I want to share with you my response:
First, we at Nashotah House are not going to let issues of human sexuality distract us from our primary mission as a seminary. We are pleased and very thankful to God for the renewed emphasis on mission at Nashotah House. The House's training in liturgical leadership and pastoral ministry, which has always been exceptional, is being complemented by emphases in evangelism, church growth and congregational development. Our strong and rigorous core curriculum provides the best foundation for practical ministry of any seminary I know. We are expanding our course offerings and degree programs, and we continue to seek new ways to serve the Church.
Nashotah House has been an Episcopal seminary since 1842. Our students come from a growing number of dioceses in the Episcopal Church, and we will continue to serve any individuals, parishes, and dioceses that can benefit from the training we offer. We will continue to admit qualified students from other parts of the Anglican Communion and from other traditions who can benefit from a Nashotah House education. We are not changing who we are, nor are we changing our parameters for those we seek to serve.
Second, just because we at Nashotah House are not going to let issues of human sexuality distract us from our primary mission as a seminary, this does not mean that issues of human sexuality do not matter.
Issues of human sexuality matter a great deal, especially as they impinge on our proclamation of the Gospel and our understanding of sin and human nature, redemption, grace, and holiness. The actions of the General Convention present the Church with a grave challenge to our understanding of the use and authority of Scripture and the received teaching of the Church.
What is our position at Nashotah House on the issues of marriage and human sexuality? Our position was recently reaffirmed as one part of our the Statement of Identity, passed by the Trustees on May 23, 2003:
We are committed to... [a] morality which opposes any form of prejudice in ourselves and others as well as any false notion of inclusivity that denies or minimizes the importance of natural differences, including sexual differences, within the created order.
Thus we maintain that sexual relations are appropriate only between a man and a woman who have been united in Holy Matrimony. All are called to chastity: husbands and wives by exclusive sexual fidelity to one another and single persons by abstinence from sexual intercourse.
What is our attitude toward those who are homosexual in orientation? Our responsibility is to reflect the love of Jesus Christ toward every individual while at the same time maintaining our belief that "sexual relations are appropriate only between a man and a woman who have been united in Holy Matrimony."
Many in our Church today are of the opinion that if one is of a particular sexual orientation, it is only natural and acceptable to act on that orientation.
Episcopalians who desire to remain faithful to Scripture and the teaching of the Church maintain that homosexual behavior is wrong, and that in dealing with in these cases, we must "love the sinner while hating the sin."
Some regard this position as hypocritical, but it is only hypocritical if we appear to hate the sin that is in others more than we hate the sin that is in ourselves.
All of us are sinners, and while God loves us and accepts us, we are all guilty of things that make us very unlovely.
God, in his grace and mercy, has forgiven and accepted us, but he leads us toward obedience and holiness as disciples of Jesus Christ.
We must respond with love and compassion toward all people; but we must urge them, as Jesus urged the woman caught in adultery, to "go and sin no more." True compassion entails maintaining the clear teaching of Scripture regarding sexual morality and pointing all people to the reality of sin and redemption and God's call to personal holiness.
Many dioceses around the country are holding special conventions to consider responses to the actions of the General Convention. The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a special meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October. I ask for your prayers for the leaders of our Church and the Anglican Communion. And I ask your prayers for the House as we continue in the service of Christ and His Church.
Yours in Christ,
The Very Rev'd Robert S. Munday, Ph.D Dean and President
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