I believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.
I believe that the inspired Word lays out the story of God’s people as a concave arc, from the original paradise of Eden, down through the Fall and ever-increasing depravity of mankind, then upwards through Sinai and the Cross of Christ to paradise fully regained in the new heavens and earth.
I believe that no scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction or training in righteousness if it is interpreted in a way that wrenches it from its particular place on that arc. Careful exegesis shows that some scripture is always timelessly applicable, but that must be shown passage by passage; it must not be not be adamantly presumed. Yes – by all means make it a working hypothesis in your personal Bible study that any Scripture that you have newly come to is one of the timeless ones, but understand that deeper study may require you to change that understanding.
I believe that God intends us to engage our minds with his world and his word. The prototype for this is found in Genesis 2, when God brings the animals to Adam “to see what he would name them” – that is, how he would classify them.
I believe that our intellectual faculty was corrupted by the Fall, but that it shares in the restoration being brought about by God’s grace. While sometimes God has given his people a command and required obedience without explanation, as in the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this is not the paradigm for our general relationship with his Word. A person who worships God mindlessly does not worship God as He actually is.
I believe that the prohibitions in the Mosaic Law and the New Testament against same-sex relationships allowed no exceptions, but that was because of the place that had been reached on the redemptive arc when those prohibitions were given. At Sinai, the Lord was setting up walls to protect the Hebrew people from the corruption of the surrounding nations while he prepared the way for the coming of Christ. In the New Testament era, the apostles were the servants of Christ as he began to build a church whose mission would include the task of cleaning the Augean stables of the pagan world. At both junctures, less than a total prohibition would have put the main objective at risk. Without it, we would not have come to the place of widespread grace where we find ourselves today.
On the basis of those beliefs, I believe that the time has come when the Church can:
- Heed the testimonies of LGBT believers who tell us that their orientation dates from earliest childhood and that it was not wilfully chosen, and that supposed re-orientation therapies do not work for them, no matter how whole-heartedly they engage with them.
- Heed their testimony that they are not able to form a meaningful, soul-satisfying heterosexual relationship, yet feel barred by the Church from entering a relationship with someone of their own orientation.
- Hear their anguish at this state of affairs.
- Recognise that a faithful same-sex union is not a threat to the Kingdom of God if it is welcomed and guarded with the same pastoral care as a heterosexual union.
- And therefore declare that, while same-sex unions were not part of God’s pre-Fall design for humankind, faithful unions of that kind are covered by the grace of Christ in his redemptive plan and can be accepted and blessed within the Church.
The God who reveals himself to us through the Scriptures is a God of blazing light and overwhelming holiness. If we were to see him, our first reaction would be like Isaiah’s or John’s: “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”, and “I fell at his feet as dead.” But, just as he did for Isaiah, God has sent an angel – Christ Jesus himself – with a coal to purge our unclean lips, and Jesus himself lays his right hand upon us and tells us to “fear not”, for this God reveals himself as both love and light. Through the cross of Christ, he has provided the act of mercy by which he can remain just and be the justifier of everyone who trusts in Jesus. The mercy of his love is able to triumph over the judgment of his light without dimming the latter. It is the post-conversion work of the Holy Spirit that shows us where we must amend our ways so that they conform more perfectly to his light – and I do not believe that the Spirit any longer requires believers to foreswear same-sex relationships, but simply to ensure those relationships strengthen and bring glory to the Kingdom of God.
Dear faithful, conservative pastor-teachers, I appeal to you. Please lift your eyes from your systematic theologies and look unblinkingly at the God whom your studies should have revealed to you. Engage both your heart and your brain. Cease selling God’s love short by trying to make his judgment triumph over his mercy when you deal with LGBT people, by demanding of them what, after all, God does not. Recognise instead that, as Cranmer put it in his great Eucharistic prayer, God is “the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy.” Be imitators of him, your Saviour.