Slavery or Liberty? A Call to Christian Discipleship

Around 1770, William Wilberforce had a faith encounter as a young man. After that he went off to Cambridge. Sadly, his time at St. John’s College, Cambridge suppressed his faith and got him off track. Instead, he majored in enjoying life and pursued a wild and hedonistic lifestyle. He became known as a witty partier. Eventually, he was influenced to return to the Christian faith, but this time with a powerful evangelical conversion, impacted by spiritual giants like former slave trader John Newton (who wrote “Amazing Grace”).

As his faith revolutionized his life, he could not shake the unjust horrors of the slave trade, eventually taking up the cause of abolition as his life's major purpose. Wilberforce poured out his life to see it ended. During the whole period he fought for abolition, he was in great physical pain and distress from gastrointestinal problems. Eventually, he prevailed, with legislation being passed, but the battle took so much out of him he died. 

The devil is obviously the original author of slavery. Slavery distorts and binds with spiritual and emotional bondage that is as severe as, or worse than, the physical confinement. 

Because of Wilberforce’s efforts, England helped advance liberty and the end of their involvement in the slave trade. In the period that followed, God poured out a tremendous anointing on England's prosperity and expansion of influence around the world. Most notably, in one of the most powerful seasons of expansion of the Gospel, English missionaries traveled the world carrying the Good News of new life in Jesus Christ, bringing millions of people into liberty in Jesus Christ. 

The devil was enraged with both the end to slavery in England and the expansion of the Gospel. He has since worked and worked to have the last word. He stalks the earth as a ravenous lion seeking whom he may consume and consistently targets those who have exhibited spiritual faithfulness to bring them to destruction. One of his greatest evil tools is to press decisions of apparent expedience but that have horrific unintended consequences. 

Christian faith in England was the source of freedom in the slave trade. The devil is moving again to expand an arena to enslave people through encouraging bad moral decisions and through advancing sexual brokenness. This is true in areas of sexual license, but it is especially true in same-sex relations. Obviously, God is not opposed to positive aspects in human relationships, but He is concerned with the unintended consequences of human decisions. 

Tragically, the very church that was the instrument of freedom in ending the slave trade is unwittingly promoting another kind of slavery. The wisdom and compassion of God are clear that same-sex physical intimacy does not bring fulfillment but, instead, moves people into bondage. There is a great conspiracy of silence about the negative health aspects of same-sex physical intimacy--especially with men. In a superficial desire to be "loving," church leaders in the Church of England are welcoming same-sex intimacy and, as a resul,t are becoming utterly complicit in strengthening the chains that bind. The wisdom of the Bible does not address issues superficially. God's omniscience means that He has the capacity to see all the implications of a decision or an action. When we live according to the dictates and promises of His Word, our lives are filled with the most blessing possible. When we depart from His wisdom, we enter into a minefield of consequences that we did not intend. 

Another example of this truth is the area of abortion. Nowhere in the campaigning for abortion "rights" have I ever seen or heard anyone considering the consequence of what the loss of 55 million people as a result of abortion has caused in the United States. Numbered among those millions were people who might have found cures to diseases, inspired nations to greatness, advanced the Gospel in ten thousand ways, and even paid into the Social Security system. With their lives snuffed out, none of those things have happened. Some additional unintended consequences are more readily apparent in retrospect. Social Security is bankrupt, largely because there are fifty million too few workers. Unintended, for sure, but undeniable. 

Many who are making decisions about same-sex relations are doing so with the same kind of superficiality, not examining potential huge consequences. They have been co-opted into addressing only the feelings of those caught in same-sex attraction. The loudest voices in homosexual advocacy cry that the only way to love those who find themselves in same-sex attraction is to authenticate their attraction and behavior. Sadly, not only does same-sex sexual intimacy increase bondage in people’s lives, it has devastating consequences to health and longevity. Studies in North America show life spans shortened by as much as 27 years. That means that the average male in North America who is active in same-sex sexual behavior will likely die almost three decades before the general population. Each person is precious to Jesus Christ. They ought to be precious to us. How can we authenticate behavior that has such devastating negative impact on their lives? Yet that is exactly what church liberals want to promote.  

The devil’s plan is death…God’s plan is for redemption and health. The indications are inescapable that the Church of England is on the brink of adopting services in which prayers will be offered to attempt to bless same-sex physical relationships. Proponents argue that there are dimensions of those relationships that are not at odds with Biblical values. Yet, it is not characteristics like kindness or compassion that are problematic; it is the expression of the relationship in same-sex physical intimacy. God's wisdom proscribes that behavior because it has such devastating negative consequences. Some of those are obvious in the physical arena for those who care to look. There are also horrid spiritual and emotional consequences. Those problems do not disappear just because people want to overlook or ignore them. 

So now, the same church that years ago wrought freedom from slavery for so many is falling under the beguiling spell of the devil and is on the brink of endorsing that which God seeks to redeem. Tragically, in cooperating with the same-sex agenda, the church becomes an agent of bondage. We ought to love people better than that! In the midst of this great failure, however, there is a magnificent expression of redemptive grace. The sons of those whose freedom was brought about when the church dismantled slavery those hundreds of years ago are committed to pursuing Gospel freedom. They will do that even if they need to take the Gospel back to England. 

The fruit of the recent GAFCON/GFCA meeting in Nairobi is to articulate the Gospel in a way that is powerful and concrete, speaking forgiveness, liberty, and life into a thousand areas of human life. Issues of sexuality are not the only area addressed by the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA), but the Nairobi communiqué powerfully articulates the Gospel’s power and liberty, speaking eloquently about same-sex relations and other issues.        

 It is undeniably true that the church has not spoken about this well. Judgments and anger are not helpful. Neither, however, is ecclesiastical action attempting approbation where it cannot be given. Such rebellion falls tragically short of redemptive truth. It is a vapid message that is salt that has lost its flavor. 

 The Church of England will not find fulfillment from pursuing its current course to incorporate same-sex relations into the life of the church. Neither will those who receive these misguided "blessings" find fulfillment in them.  God always has the last word. In this case, the great challenge to the GFCA is to speak clearly, winsomely, powerfully, and lovingly. 

It appears that the Church of England will attempt to pursue blessing of same-sex unions, while hoping that Biblically committed Anglicans will be mollified by the Archbishop of Canterbury's stated commitment not to have same-sex marriages. Sadly, that is a distinction without a difference. In a marriage, the ministers of the sacrament are actually the two people who are marrying each other. The Church pronounces a blessing over the union when it conforms to the teaching of Scripture and the faith as this church has received it. To say that the church is "only blessing" same-sex unions is a complete misunderstanding of Biblical faith and Anglican practice. We have no capacity to bless what God does not bless.  

Some have asked why would the GAFCON 2 statement address same-sex behavior since that topic was previously addressed in the Jerusalem Declaration in 2008.  It is because there are institutional church voices in several Anglican Provinces that are leading people away from the redeeming love of Christ. When that happens, faithful Christians must speak up, so the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) is doing just that. Liberals may hope that people will be encouraged by a new liberal/contemporary value system. The problem is that an unbiblical value system can never yield satisfaction. The fruit of the Spirit can grow only in the garden of obedience to God’s Word. 

The GFCA is a spiritual movement that is led by the sons of some of the very people who were enslaved and then set free by the action of the church under Wilberforce’s inspiration. God does not surrender to the efforts of the devil to steal, kill, and destroy. Instead, He rises with hope and a message of Gospel truth that expresses love to those in sexual brokenness, just as it speaks lovingly and hopefully to each of us in dealing with the sins that seek to scuttle our lives. 

 How do we address this crisis? By indelibly discipling leaders in Biblical faith and then deploying them into each of the spheres of cultural influence. There, with the courage and clarity of indelible discipleship, sons and daughters of God can declare the Gospel in families, government, media, arts, education, and commerce. Only when we faithfully do our job in discipling people can we help things come into alignment with God’s purposes and Kingdom. Like Daniel in Babylon, the witness of men and women who are utterly sold out to the Kingdom of God can speak life into a situation that is headed for death and change the destiny of whole nations.

 This is the Goodness of God. That is the life that GFCA is speaking about in many areas. One of the lightning rod issues is sexuality, but it is certainly not the only issue. Anywhere things are not aligned with what Scripture teaches, there will be a need to speak and act. 

Our responsibility is to speak with clarity, and proceed with actions of kindness, and truth.