> but I agree with what I think is his central point
> that homosexual practice cannot be accepted
> in the church.
Your comment brought back a memory. When I was in my teens we lived in a place called Stalham, Norfolk, England. Our vicar was an enormous fellow, given to sleep! I was walking through the graveyard one day when two young people rushed out of the church door in full flight. Shortly thereafter the vicar appeared. He said to me:
"I found that couple making love on the back pew! When I asked them what they were doing they replied, "But it was raining out there!"
I'm afraid I get rather weary of people making "Here I stand statements." I realize they sound romantic. One can cast oneself in the role of Luther or our English martyrs (Anglican of course!) and feel very brave and very righteous.
I find no evidence in the NT that our task is to save the Church. Indeed we assured that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.
My job is to be faithful to the Church as she really is and patient with the church as I see her every day, as I am to be patient with myself. Certainly I am called to witness to the truth as I see "puzzling reflections in a window." I do so with the consciousness that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. As +Michael Ramsey said:
"You can turn out the fornicators, the murderers, and those who apostasize in times of persecution; you can turn out sinners of every kind, but you cannot turn out the sin of pride. This sin, the most deadly of all is always present but not always easily identifiable. So if you are going to purge the church of sinners, you will need to purge it of the sin of pride and turn everybody out. As Anglicans, we believe that these attempts to purify the church by certain ethical criteria cause it to lose the reality of what it means to be dedicated to the holiness of God." (Michael Ramsey, THE ANGLICAN SPIRIT, page 124, Cowley.)
I quote Ramsey because he represents, in my view, the older and authentic voice of Anglicanism. Elsewhere he notes that the exclusionary rubrics at the Eucharist are very carefully worded. It's not "evil doers" who are to be excommunicated. It's those who habitually live lives that cause scandal to the congregation. That doesn't mean people whose lives have been exposed through the malice of others or by determined gossip. The other rubric calls for an equally severe discipline in the case of people who deliberately feud and fuss, thereby disturbing the peace of the Church. In practice the second rubric was used by parish priests in "Hatfield and McCoy" situations and against the puritans who sought to undermine the Church locally and nationally. In both cases discipline was to be exercised against people who disturb the peace of the local congregation by " malicious in your face" behavior.
I conclude that to exclude homosexual and lesbian people because they belong to a caste or group is beyond the authority of any church official. Now anyone who does something "openly and notoriously" in order to gain some perverse delight in causing disunity or to be revenged on someone places her-himself as a candidate for a millstone. Gay people have a right to come in out of the rain, and with everyone else to become new through the means of grace.
I've looked at the OT and Pauline comments on specific sexual acts between people of the same sex. I've noted that St. Paul invariably lists such practices within a catalog of "sin" all of which he attributes to pagan worship (idolatry). Now if we are to apply St. Paul's censure to all the misdeeds he lists, then we'll all be out of the Church.
I'm not a scientist and admit that I'm really not trained to assess the conflicting evidence about genetics, the composition of the brain, and the influence of environment. It seems to me that men and women are not normally "lured" into an inability to have union with those of the opposite sex. Sexuality is an extremely complicated subject. The earlier "Catholic" tradition, while not trivializing sexual "sins" did note that sexual desire is a good deal more difficult for a person to deal with than the deadly sin of gossip and false witness because sexual desire is rooted in the most basic drives. The viceral reaction of so many people to "gay people", rather than to other groupings of people demonstrates to me that we are dealing with deep and often unredeemed emotions. Anything which triggers emotional anger within us is a subject for prayer and discipline. No, I'm not saying that anger is in itself always sinful, but is a dangerous emotion and rarely if ever totally "righteous. (It's at this point that people say to me that Jesus was angry when he drove out the crooks from the Temple. But we are not likely to be as Jesus! But note he wasn't angry with the woman at the well or the woman taken in adultery. His anger was towards those who use faith for their own ends.
I therefore find it very difficult myself to lump the gay people I know with the sort of nastiness St. Paul catalogs in his letters. Of course there are gay people who use their sexuality in unChristian ways. They use people. So do we all in one way or another. I say this not to make light of exploitation but to point out that none of us is in the position to feel superior to those whose habits have become bad, and whose lives are a pursuit of self-satisfaction.
This I do know. All men, women and children are not only made in God's image and likeness but are targets of His unrelenting love. Any suggestion that we should treat any type of human being by "symptoms" rather than in an holistic way seems contrary to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
The Anglican Way has seldom suggested that people are finished works, either to salvation or to damnation. Our way to the Cross is a wandering experience. All of us, as we look back on our lives, are conscious of times when we misused our gifts and have "fallen short of the glory of God." Yet, I hope and trust we are also conscious of God's love affair with us however far we may stray from the injunction to be perfect.
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