The decision late last week by the Church of England to now bless civil marriages and partnerships of same-sex couples made precisely no one happy. For those hoping to amend official church teaching, the measure fell short of legitimizing so-called gay marriage in the church. Advocates of historic church teaching and Biblical morality see this move as only the latest in the wrong direction by the Church of England, and another indictment of church leadership, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York.
In response, the Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and Chair of the Gafcon Primates Council (a body that represents the majority of Anglican leadership and churches around the world), bluntly described what this move by the Church of England means:
The decision taken yesterday by the General Synod of the Church of England and the explanations given are clear indications that the Church of England is moving a step at a time to fully accept the practice of homosexuality as part of the life and practice of the English Church. To some of us who have been hoping that the Church would remain with her distinctive identity from those who don’t believe the teaching of Scripture, this hope is diminishing.
We have lived through this with other Western Anglican Provinces that continually wavered on the ‘faith once delivered’ (Jude 3) and now outright deny the doctrine of biblical anthropology regarding gender identity and moral behavior. Those in the secular press and culture will argue that these are matters of justice, but God’s justice can never contradict God’s righteousness, and we know these changes attack the very core of biblical authority. Have the Scriptures been clear on human sexuality through the centuries? Yes, they have. The majority of Anglicans around the world have concluded the same. And yet, now, the Church of England has authorized the blessing of sin and declared that sin is no longer sin.
Jesus does not change his mind about what is sinful. Instead, Jesus gives us a way out of a bondage to sin by putting our trust and faith in him as our Saviour and Lord. That’s why it’s possible for us to “Go, and sin no more.”
Whenever a church, Christian leader, denomination, or pastor shifts on the issues of sexuality, gender, and marriage, an excuse is given that masquerades as an argument: Traditional morality is keeping people away from God. Missed in this claim is not only what God has clearly revealed through Scripture about sexual morality and created norms, but who He has revealed Himself to be in Christ Jesus. Simply put, this move will be branded as more welcoming. In reality, it only further alienates people from God.
That was the main point of Benjamin John, one of the faithful followers of Jesus in the Church of England. His brief sermon is worth hearing in its entirety. Here is Ben John:
[W]hat our world needs, whether they know it or not, is the Gospel. They need the Savior Jesus Christ. Don’t we all? The Jesus who washes, sanctifies, and justifies us. The hope, the Gospel for all of us, whatever our struggles and sins and temptations, is that in Christ, we are forgiven, and that our sins and desires no longer define us. As Paul says, such were some of you. We do not need to hold on to sinful identities and behaviors. We have not been given a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. We have been given a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by whom we cry, Abba, Father.
These proposals are wrong. They say that Jesus doesn’t wash and sanctify you, that you do not need to take up your cross and follow Him, that there is no call to holiness, that the truth does not set you free.
But Love rejoices in the truth. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing. Love calls people out of sin and to Christ, snatching them out of the fire with discipline so that their spirits might be saved. Please bishops, I plead with you withdraw the proposals and prayers. Turn from this path that you are on. Fear God, not man. Be the shepherds that God is calling you to be. Protect the sheep entrusted into your care by driving out this teaching that perverts the grace of God into a license for immorality. This teaching that tickles our ears to suit our desires. A teaching that leads to the broad road and not the narrow one.
It’s not too late. Turn to the beautiful, wonderful, glorious Gospel. Why make ourselves like the world when we have the one thing that the world needs? The Gospel of Jesus Christ, where we receive our true identities, as precious daughters and treasured sons of God. Amen.
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