Skip to comments.Episcopal Church Delegates Argue Against Scripture, Not From It
Posted on 06/24/2005 5:42:50 AM PDT by sionnsar
In its June 21 presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council, the Episcopal Church USA made an attempt to answer the Windsor Report's request that it justify its election of an openly homosexual bishop and its acceptance of same-sex blessings as part of the common life of the church. That the proffered answer is so feeble is merely par for the course. What becomes clear is that Episcopal Church leaders do not accept the standards of authority by which the Anglican Communion has asked them to measure their actions.
The Windsor Report had asked the Episcopal Church to "explain, from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ" (para. 135). The reply to that request is found in "To Set Our Hope on Christ," a 130-page document that the Episcopal delegates released as they made their presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council.
It should come as no surprise that the section of the document on the scriptural basis for endorsing same-sex behavior is very thin. Indeed, most of the argument is focused not on defending the new pro-homosex teaching, but instead on defending the proposition that the Anglican Communion should tolerate a range of mutually contradictory teachings regarding homosexuality. But the scriptural arguments offered by the Episcopal delegates deserve some attention-if only to note that they are more appropriately called arguments against Scripture, rather than arguments from Scripture.
"To Set Our Hope on Christ" takes pains to insist that the Episcopal Church is not asserting that "anything goes" in matters of sexual behavior. It states clearly that "some expressions of sexuality are inherently contrary to the Christian way and are sinful." Among these behaviors still prohibited, according to the Episcopal Church, are incest, pedophilia, adultery, and rape.
But the "sin lists" in the Bible-for example, Leviticus 18, I Corinthians 6:9-10, and I Timothy 1:9-10-give a different recitation of prohibited sexual behaviors, including fornication and homosexuality. On what basis does the Episcopal Church drop fornication and homosexuality from its list of prohibited behaviors, while retaining incest, pedophilia, adultery, rape, etc.?
The mainstream of the Christian tradition has a straightforward, coherent criterion for how to distinguish acceptable from unacceptable sexual expressions. The acceptable expression is the marriage of man and woman; all other forms of sexual intimacy are unacceptable. This line of reasoning explains why fornication and homosexual relationships are prohibited, alongside all the other sins named in the same biblical passages. Can the Episcopal Church offer an alternative criterion, grounded in Scripture and the tradition, that is equally straightforward and coherent?
"To Set Our Hope" suggests that its criterion is whether a relationship is exploitative. Homosexual relationships (and fornication, presumably) may be non-exploitative, and therefore not sinful. But the document does not develop this notion, common among many pro-homosex advocates, in any detail. It does not address the kinds of objections registered by Robert Gagnon in The Bible and Homosexual Practice-for instance, that the very same line of reasoning that justifies homosexual relationships as "non-exploitative" could also be used to justify incestuous relationships between adults. We are left wondering why homosexuality can be removed from the Episcopal Church list of sexual sins while other practices have not (at least yet) also been removed.
The Episcopal Church document does not offer a positive, coherent sexual ethic. Instead it is focused on a negative task: deflecting the biblical prohibitions of homosexuality, so as to open theological space for possible moral approval of the practice. First, it argues that Scripture has often been misunderstood or wrong when it comes to ethics:
Scripture itself corrected and amended earlier versions of scripture in some cases; in other cases, rival arguments were allowed to stand side by side unresolved. The idea that there is only one correct way to read or interpret scripture is a rather modern idea. (p.10)
The issue of homosexuality does not fit in any of these categories, however. Scripture has a univocal witness against homosexuality. If there were New Testament voices speaking for rescinding of the Old Testament prohibition on homosexuality, that would be a different story.
Neither does Scripture juxtapose arguments for homosexuality beside arguments against it. No-the scriptural witness is uniformly negative toward same-sex behavior. In the areas offered by the report as examples of where Scripture is ambivalent-slavery, war, the death penalty, or teaching evolution in school (p. 16)-few can make the same claim for a univocal witness.
"To Set Our Hope" seems to acknowledge this lack of univocality on most issues. "There is usually not just one biblical point of view. So when someone says, 'The Bible says this!' our faithful response is to ask, 'In what book? When was it written and in what circumstances?'" (p. 18). Again, though, this description does not fit the issue of homosexuality, on which Scripture offers one very clear judgment.
One must note the irony of this argument stressing ambiguity, given the unusual clarity that the Episcopal Church often shows on political issues such as the federal budget, welfare reform and the war in Iraq. In such cases, Episcopal Church leaders are unwilling to admit much room for Christians to disagree on political issues on which Scripture gives little or no counsel. They have no trouble finding absolutist moral language to denounce President Bush's policies. Yet when it comes to homosexuality, the same Episcopal Church leaders are eager to suspend moral judgment while they entertain the question of "What are the reasons given and do those same reasons apply in the same way in our own situation?"
At this point we should recognize that the arguments offered by the Episcopal Church are based in scriptural skepticism rather than scriptural authority. They offer reasons why homosexuality should be left off the list of prohibited sexual expressions, and examples of how Scripture is sometimes wrong and needs to be corrected. But there is no positive argument offered from Scripture for this drastic theological innovation.
Finally, we come to the key argument.
Because we live in different cultural situations, not all biblical commandments or proscriptions apply simply or in the same way to any one person or situation. (p. 18)
The next paragraph finishes the thought:
It seems very likely that there was no phenomenon in the time of the biblical writers directly akin to the phenomenon of Christians of the same gender living together in faithful and committed lifelong unions as we experience this today. (p. 19)
This is quite a statement. Let's first note that pro-homosex advocates have long claimed that there was no concept of a same-sex oriented person in the first century, and that loving, lasting, intimate relationships between persons of the same sex were unknown then. Anyone who has read Plato's Symposium knows that these claims are simply false. Now the claims have grown enormously in specificity.
Note what this Episcopal Church document is demanding of Scripture. This document is arguing that because Paul and other biblical writers had no experience of homosexuality "directly akin" to our experience today, therefore their proscriptions against homosexuality do not apply to us.
Let us put this demand in a different context. Let us say that we were seeking scriptural advice on a war with Iraq. Since there is no concept of a nation-state in the Scriptures, or of terrorism or international law, "directly akin" to what we experience today, then shall we say that biblical teachings on warfare and peacemaking do not apply in the same way to us in our situation?
Liberals would reject this argument, and rightly so. By raising the demand for exact correspondence between ancient and modern contexts to ridiculous heights, it seems that the Episcopal Church has revealed precisely what it thinks of scriptural authority-very little.
Indeed, cultural context is a significant part of interpreting what Scripture tells us about any given issue. However, we cannot dismiss or even invert the commandments of Scripture simply because we do not have a precise cultural analogue. And yet this move away from Scripture is precisely the one that "To Set Our Hope" asks us to make. It pits Scripture against itself in order to muddy the waters enough that it appears there is no clear scriptural mandate on homosexuality. Interpreting Scripture's demands in the context of a very different time and culture is difficult indeed. But this document is not offering an interpretation of Scripture so much as it is offering an excuse to ignore it.
This argument for the irrelevance of the Bible cannot be contained simply to homosexuality. If cultural situation and time can transform homosexuality from sinful to holy, why are other prohibited sexual behaviors immune from the same transformation? The document offers no answers. It offers nothing which the Anglican Communion has not already rejected.
Indeed, why have any damnation of sins whatsoever? If we can prove the Bible wrong in any one context, such as its condemnation of same-sex unions, why read it at all?
This is just one more tactic in the left's unified attack on traditional values and society. Liberals, whatever their stripe, want to destroy the USA as we know it and reorganize with a socialist Big Brother government, and this constant chaos creation constitutes their strategy.
The Bishops and Priests from the Dark Side are non believers of God, Jesus and the resurrection. Their religion is their 24/7/365 perverted sexuality.
This may be (and I'm sure probably is) too strict a view for the pro-homosexual Episcopalians, but I was taught that adultery is having sexual relations with a person who is not your spouse, this occurs even if neither party is married. Perhaps, as others have suggested, these people should just split off and establish a homosexual religion.
That is almost exactly the same language as "proposition one" of the ELCA Task Farce, which is coming up for a vote in Orlando this August. This calls us to learn to live together despite our disagreements, for the sake of "unity in Christ" and the ELCA's "mission".
But REAL unity in Christ is Trinitarian and sacramental, and means being one with each other "as the Father and I are one". This has to do with theosis/divinization/sanctification, NOT stifling of the views of orthodox believers for the sake of "unity" with gnostics and antinomians!!!! "Proposition one" is, like the other two propositions, a bunch of anti-Christian hooey!!
By the way, my Serbian Orthodox congregation (including I) will be celebrating Vidovdan, the observance of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, this Sunday. (The actual date is the 28th.) So Anglicans and Lutherans on this list should remember our Serbian Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in prayer this Sunday, aloud during the prayer of the church in the liturgy if possible!
In 1998, during Clinton's little diversion, I read up on that. Didn't know much about the Balkans before then except that the Nazi's in WWII got a number of black eyes there. When I learned the history behind Kosovo, I knew that we were (are?) on the wrong side. I will remember that in my prayers this Sunday.
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