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This week, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), one of the four Anglican “Instruments of Communion,” is meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. In the life of a desperately compromised institution, it has been no surprise that the decision of the overwhelming number of Primates of the Anglican Communion has been ignored. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has not only led the rebellious charge to incorporate sexual practices that are proscribed by Scripture, but they (and a few other Anglican Provinces) also have gone a step further…they are blessing what God calls sin. 

What is absolutely remarkable is the great absence of institutional voices to say that what TEC (and other similarly minded Provinces) is doing is wrong. It’s not really hard. W.R.O.N.G. Easy to say, but it isn’t being said.

Instead, the emphasis is on “positive” contributions from TEC and on apologizing to “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgendered, ‘Questioning,’ and ‘Inquiring’” (LGBTQI) people. Most of the apologies center around asking for forgiveness for not fully incorporating those with leanings or behaviors of LEBTQI into the life (and leadership) of the Church.

We are constantly bombarded with people demanding that their lifestyle choices be affirmed and blessed. The problem is that things do not exist in a vacuum. There is a reason that God does not bless same-sex sexual intimacy. It is not because He arbitrarily sets boundaries and capriciously declares some things out of bounds. It is because same-sex sexual intimacy is fraught with problems. Anecdotal accounts suggest that the “typical” same-sex couple is two professors, perhaps in their sixties who have been faithfully living together for decades, reading Dostoyevsky and sipping sherry in the afternoon, occasionally stopping to discuss philosophy. In fact, same-sex relationships are tragically unstable. The last data I saw reported that fewer than 10% of same-sex relationships (i.e., the sexually active ones) are monogamous for even five years, with huge numbers of same-sex active people having 100 to even 500 partners in a life time. 

Of course, the activists would claim that such instability is the fault of the judgment that same-sex active people experience. The problem lies, they say, with the hateful and homophobic rejection that such people experience, which destabilizes their relationships. The “progressive” claim is that if the church just caught up to the avant-garde thinking of liberals, then the relationships would not be driven apart by rejection. There is such a great deal of confidence in the minds of the innovators that they cannot countenance the possibility that they might be wrong. 

The strength of the position of the progressives is so loud that many conservatives are intimidated into silence. But a loud assertion is not necessarily true! Since the arena of the situation is the Church, then the arguments of the progressives should be consistent with Biblical values. Instead, the foundation of their actions rests on experience. In addition, their ideological march proceeds based on what they perceive they can do, rather than what they should do. 

Primate 2016

When the most senior leaders of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury in January, they reflected the convictions of the VAST majority of Anglicans in the world. They decided that TEC needed to be disciplined (although some insist that being denied representation or vote in some circles is not discipline; it is only a “consequence.”) The response from TEC and other institutional liberals was predictable though sad. It was, “You’re not the boss of me!” 

Progressives declared that because specific powers were not enumerated for the Primates of the Communion to act, all they could do is express their opinion—but that opinion could not be binding because it lacks Constitutional authority. I’ve written countless times before that Constitutional authority is not necessary to lead or speak the truth. (Remember the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmin Square!) Casting the conversation around the limits of authority in the Constitution is a recipe for a train wreck, and that is exactly what is happening. In fact, there are two trains a-wrecking. One from the institutionalist who refuse to say what the innovators are doing is wrong, and the other is the progressive who fails to say, “Stop! This is wrong.”

Look at what St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 8:1-13: 

 

Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.   And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.   But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.  However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.  But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?  And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 

 

Notice that, although Paul has the conviction of liberty, he does not impose that on others if it would cause them to stumble. For years, after being stung by the clarity of Lambeth Resolution 1.10, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, did not allow the issue of blessing same-sex behavior to be debated openly. Now, when Archbishop Justin Welby did allow it to be debated, the Primates (the most senior Anglican leaders in the Communion) representing something like 90% or 95% of active Anglicans have been clear that what TEC is doing is out of bounds. Of course, some were willing to go along with that decision, throwing TEC under the bus to take the eye of examination off what is happening in their own Provinces, but the fact remains that the leadership was abundantly clear, even though the discipline was minimal. The godly response from TEC and institutional liberals would have been something like: “If what I do makes my brother stumble, will will [not pursue it], lest I make my brother stumble.”

Instead, what they said was, “You not the boss o’ me.” Godly. Inspirational. Humble. Loving. Kind. Relational. Not. 

At the same time, why is it that only some GAFCON and Global South Primates are saying, “No.”?

The reality is that the progressive agenda to import the values of the world into the Church has not worked to stabilize unstable relationships. It has not actually worked to bring God’s blessing on same-sex intimacies—for God will not bless what He has proscribed and offered to redeem. It has not worked to bring into the Church the flood of newcomers who were promised by the innovators, and, worst of all, it will not work for those who practice or promote unbiblical faith and practice.

The awful truth is that it is possible to pursue a course that diverges from the redeeming love of Christ. Scripture is clear that same-sex intimacy is one such pursuit. Of course there are other pursuits that are also disastrous, but there is no rejoicing in the fact that there are also other ways to depart from Christ eternally. In every case, faithful people will call the errant ones to repentance. Not because it is fun or satisfying to do so, but because the failure to do so is a breach of Christian integrity of the most awful order. 

Of course, all around, we need to do a better job of loving people. Not superficial fluffy love. Rather, the robust kind that nurtures redemption and brings transformation. The kind of love that can even transfigure wounds.

Sadly, that kind that seems to be in limited supply in Lusaka.