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FROM THE BEGINNING": GOD'S DESIGN FOR HUMAN NATURE

FROM THE BEGINNING": GOD'S DESIGN FOR HUMAN NATURE
AN APPEAL TO THE BISHOPS OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA

By Stephen Noll
https://stephenswitness.org/
October 30, 2020

More than a hundred days have passed since the fateful Bostock v. Clayton County decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. I was surprised and in a sense disappointed that this decision attracted scant attention in the secular or church media at the time. Now, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court is back in the spotlight. In addition, the likely election of a Democratic President and Congress make it possible that the implications of the Bostock decision, as outlined by Justice Alito in his dissent and by Joe Biden's promise to enact the Equality Act in his first 100 days, will become the law of the land.

I agree with some Christian "progressives" that the Church has a prophetic call to witness to the powers that be when they seek to set up an idol against the God of heaven (Daniel, chapter 3). Seldom does a law or court decision involve such idolatry, but I believe the Obergefell and Bostock rulings do.

The ACNA College of Bishops issued such a call five years ago in the Obergefell case concerning God's will for marriage. So far they have said nothing about Bostock.

I appeal them to do so again regarding the Bostock decision, which claims to redefine male and female in God's image.

Here is some proposed language, which of course they are free to amend.

Five years ago, in response to the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), the College of Bishops issued a Statement titled "'From the Beginning': God's Design for Marriage." We said:

While this decision grieves us, God's truth and the goodness of the order established in creation have not been changed. The kingdom of God cannot be shaken. We pray with confidence that God will reveal his glory, love, goodness, and hope to the world through his Church as we seek to follow him in faith and obedience....

Marriage is established by God for the procreation and raising of children and for the good of society. For this reason, governments have an interest in marriage and have delegated authority from God to protect and regulate it. But no court, no legislature and no local magistrate has the authority to redefine marriage and to impose this definition on their citizens.

Now on June 15, 2020, the Court has issued another ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County which interprets discrimination by "sex" under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual and transgender identity. While it is not our role to dissect the legal arguments of the case, including the likely social and political consequences of the decision (see Justice Alito's dissent), it is our duty to preach and teach God's design in creating human nature in his image, male and female.

In our earlier statement, we "bear witness" to God's creative purpose in marriage. According to the Prayer Book, the union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind was ordained by God; for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord; for mutual joy, and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; to maintain purity, so that husbands and wives, with all the household of God, might serve as holy and undefiled members of the Body of Christ; and for the upbuilding of Christ's kingdom in family, church and society to the praise of his holy Name.

God blesses this union as part of his good creation, which is expressly affirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:5-6).

The nature of marriage proceeds from an equally fundamental truth: God's creation of man and woman in his image: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). In an important passage about human nature "in Christ," the Apostle Paul states:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28)

This scripture is a non-discrimination charter of a believer's identity in God's Kingdom. In Christ neither race nor ethnicity nor rank nor social status nor male-female difference count as privilege, "but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15). By saying male-and-female, Paul carefully separates sexual identity from other indifferent categories. In doing so, he is in fact reaffirming the two sexes-one flesh character of human nature in Christ.

It should come as no surprise that the same secular attack under the aegis of LGBT on the opposite-sex nature of marriage has moved on to matters of personal identity. If same-sex attraction confers moral and political rights, why not self-conferred gender identity? If sexuality is not "bipolar" but "gender-fluid," then why not abandon, indeed why not scorn the age-old prejudices that cry: "It's a boy!" and "It's a girl!"? Indeed, why limit marriage to two partners and for life?

It is unclear at this point whether the ruling of the Court in Bostock v Clayton County is limited to narrow matters of employment law and will uphold the right of religious conscience. Given the current political climate, this seems unlikely. In any case, the position of the Anglican Church in North America is unchanged from 2015:

No court, no legislature and no local magistrate has the authority to redefine human nature in God's image, male and female, and to impose this definition on their citizens.

In our statement five years ago, we included a "Litany for Marriage," which begins:

We thank you, heavenly Father, for graciously creating us in your image, male and female, and for ordaining that a man and a woman shall be joined as one flesh in the covenant of marriage."

We the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, as we grieve the church's historic failure to uphold biblical justice on matters of race, so also we repent of our failure to teach and uphold God's will for male and female in family, church and society. We urge others to join us in this litany.

Addendum

On 30 October, Rod Dreher published a column on "Joe Biden: Bad for Religious Liberty," in which he outlines the ramifications of the Equality Act, which is merely waiting for a Democratic Congress to pass and Democratic President to sign. Dreher then respectfully cites an article on "Don't Vote Trump for Religious Reasons" by Tish Harrison Warren, an ACNA Priest residing in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who argues:

My deep concern is that we are burning down our own house in the attempt to save it. Curtailing religious liberty in the United States would devastate religious communities and non-profits, weaken our society as a whole, and lead to less freedom and less diversity. But it isn't the worst fate I can imagine. Far worse would be if in our attempt to protect robust religious freedom, the church would so fearfully compromise the message and ethics of Jesus, that we have nothing left worth preserving.

Warren frames her case as a choice between protecting religious liberty and opposing a Republican Party position which she claims "dishonors the basic dignity and rights of our fellow neighbors." She justifies her choice for the latter in terms of the "ethical call" and the "self-giving love" of Jesus.

As I see it, her argument drives a wedge between the ordinance of the Creator and the ethics of the Redeemer. When Jesus defended marriage "from the beginning," he made clear that radical disciples are not abolishing the Creator's laws but fulfilling them. The "rights" of secular humanism are not identical with the just governance of God. The church's calling is to witness to the latter.

Art credit: Jean Fouquet, "The Creator God Introducing Adam and Eve" (WikiGallery)

Stephen Noll is a Consultant on Marriage, Family, and the Single Life

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