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By David W. Virtue, DD
February 24, 2021

It was inevitable I suppose. Whenever bishops speak, critics are sure to follow.

On January 19, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) published Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops. It sought to address at least three pressing questions:
• What should our biblical and pastoral response be to those within our Church who self-identify as Christians with same-sex attraction? This raises two more related questions:
• What is the biblical vision for transformation with regard to same-sex attraction?
• What is the most helpful language to employ in describing the reality of same-sex attraction?

The bishops issued a very irenic and carefully thought-out statement on human sexuality. Their statement was neither judgmental on the one hand, nor did it compromise the Scriptures' clear prohibition against homosexual behavior, found primarily in the teachings of St. Paul on the other.

The College of Bishops spoke about sexual identity and invited Anglicans "to discern these matters within their own diocesan communities and ministries." ACNA bishops were called on to provide pastoral guidance to local churches, without repudiating the clear teaching of Scripture. This they did. Diocesan bishops were given latitude on its implementation within their own dioceses.

It should be noted that the document was first and foremost a pastoral statement and not a theological statement. The Pastoral letter was one of our identity in Christ and not a theological statement about homosexual behavior. The ACNA bishops said they were committed to biblical sexuality and that they were wrestling with same sex attraction.

But then a layman in Pittsburgh, Peter Valk, released a "Dear Gay Anglican" statement. The statement was supported by some 50 clergy and academics parsing what the bishops wrote, attempting to nuance what the bishops proclaimed. (He later took it down, but the damage was done).

He made these points:
That same-sex attracted people to a higher standard than straight people regarding vocational singleness, procreation, divorce, and remarriage. This is not true. Two ACNA bishops were recently removed from their sees, one removal was for allegations of porn watching. Furthermore, the ACNA has never allowed a divorced priest to become a bishop.

We confess that many gay Anglicans committed to a traditional sexual ethic have labored faithfully in their sanctification, but struggled to thrive because our churches have failed to take the practical steps necessary to promote flourishing. In the words of the Provincial Statement, many same-sex attracted Christians are "fighting the good fight to become more like Jesus" but have "felt ignored by fellow followers of Jesus to the point of feeling invisible."

I have yet to hear of a single congregation that has thrown out a homosexual from a congregation. With the way the way things are going in the culture and the fear of lawsuits, most clergy have been intimidated and cowed to the point that they dare not do such a thing. Most clergy won't even touch on the subject from their pulpits for fear of backlash.

Valk then said this: We confess that Christians have perpetrated destructive reparative/conversion therapies, leading many sexual minorities to lose their faith or die by suicide. Even as God possesses the power to heal any brokenness in this world, none of us are promised relief from temptation. Research has demonstrated that these therapies have been 96% ineffective at eliminating same-sex attraction while increasing the risk of suicide attempts by 92%.

This is pure unadulterated garbage. These figures are quite simply fake and research has shown the exact opposite. Thousands of men and women have left the homosexual lifestyle. At one point in time, whole pages were taken out in the LA Times and other media outlets showing former homosexuals now happily married. Today, they would never be able to buy a space. It would be deemed homophobic. Over the years I have interviewed and reported on homosexual therapists Jeffrey Satinover (a psychiatrist) and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who spent decades helping homosexuals rid themselves of same-sex attractions. Nicolosi's books have been banned by Amazon because they are deemed homophobic by the queer community. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/amazon-removes-controversial-books-father-conversion-therapy-n1026446

For many years, till his death, Dr. Nicolosi, assisted hundreds of clients with their goal to reduce their same-sex attractions and explore their heterosexual potential. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Nicolosi believed that our bodies tell us who we are, and that our bodies have made us for heterosexuality.

Homosexuality, he believed, is an adaptation to trauma; it is rooted in a same-sex attachment problem that leaves the boy alienated from his masculine nature. Dr. Nicolosi did not label this condition a "psychological disorder."

Most of his therapeutic work with clients had very little to do with sex. It centered, in fact, on helping his clients develop comfortable, non-erotic male friendships characterized by mutuality and equality. Nicolosi was a practicing Catholic.

Perhaps Mr. Valk should read a little wider before he makes outrageous claims for all homosexuals.

And what of this statement in their "Dear Gay Anglican..." statement; We commit to take practical steps to train pastors to provide compassionate and effective pastoral care to same-sex attracted people, as called for by the Provincial Statement. We commit to provide the teaching and practical support gay Anglicans in vocational singleness or mixed-orientation marriage need to thrive in their vocations with reasonable effort.

Is he saying that mixed-orientation marriages are in fact okay and not sinful? By all accounts, a foot in the door will eventually lead to the door being pushed wide open and allow for same-sex relationships to be recognized and then ultimately affirmed.

Anglican theologian, the Rev. Dr. Gerry McDermott had this to say; "This letter is the thin end of the wedge that suggests ever so subtly that marriage should NOT be always between a man and woman, because some are not made that way. They are fundamentally SSA, that is part of their identity. And if we would not be biblicists, one could plausibly argue, we should let them follow their God-given identity and be joined in body as well as spirit to their beloved." McDermott nails it.

"I believe in working with gay Christians and have done so for most of my ministry. But I don't think this approach is right, and it would not please some of my friends who are same-sex attracted (SSA) and trying to walk a chaste life. It suggests that being gay is part of their fundamental identity, which is what some have argued for years.

"It denies, either explicitly or implicitly, what the catholic great tradition has taught, that SSA is disordered. It is interesting that the very beginning of the letter denies the efficacy of therapy to redirect and help deal with SSA. It uses bad stats. I have friends who have been helped significantly by such therapy. The letter's attack on this therapy suggests that they think God made them this way, and that they should celebrate their SSA as fundamental to the way God made them. If God made them this way, then how could it be disordered? And their attack on this therapy suggests that the plain sense of 1 Cor 6.11 must not be true."

This letter subtly challenges the truth that "such were some of you" (1 Cor 6.11). Paul doesn't call some "idolatrous Christians" or "sexually immoral Christians" or "greedy Christians" or "drunkard Christians" or "Christian men who used to practice homosexuality," all of which would suggest that habitual idolatry, sexual immorality, greed, drunkenness, and male homosexual practice were parts of their identity. He says instead that some of them were previously in bondage to all of these sinful habits. But now they were "sanctified" and "justified" by Jesus and the Spirit (1 Cor 6.11). He calls them all "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Cor 1.2). No need for further adjectives, no more descriptors other than "saints" being "sanctified/made holy" by the Spirit of God.

The contra statement got Archbishop Foley Beach both engaged and enraged. He said that the statement was "pretty much in your face" and argued that it had "international ramifications."

"I have had to deal with three provinces...and this is just the first day. In many of our partner provinces, the practice of homosexuality is against the law, and to make matters more difficult, they usually don't understand the nuances of the word "gay" or "homosexual attraction" -- they just hear the practice of same-sex immorality."

"Some individuals have expressed that we are now TEC 2.0. Some think this is going to break the ACNA apart -- one quote I received tonight: "If I had to guess what might fracture the ACNA I would've said women's ordination. I never would have thought it would be homosexuality. We gave up everything to take a clear stand on this. It is disheartening to have it being taken away."

Beach said his bishops are not going to back down on their conclusions "which we worked on, received input from all over the province, edited, reviewed, edited, reviewed, and edited. We literally spent over a year wrestling with this in response to questions and concerns we have been receiving from all over the province. It is an excellent document expressing theologically a biblical, historical, and pastoral response to a complicated and enculturated issue. We were not telling people how to refer to themselves, but rather explaining theologically who we are in Christ regardless of our sexual identity."

One North American Nigerian Anglican bishop, Felix Orji wrote this: "As the Coordinating Bishop of the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (CONNAM) I write to raise serious concerns regarding this Statement on Gay Anglicans signed by an ACNA Bishop and several high-ranking clergy in ACNA. No clergy in CONNAM is allowed to sign this document. We believe that Scripture condemns homosexual activity as a sin before God and hence must not be allowed in the Church or condoned by clever manipulation of language."

If this is not nipped in the bud, quickly and with laser-like projection, what happened in The Episcopal Church along with its trajectory, will happen to ACNA and destroy it.

As mentioned, the Valk statement was withdrawn, nonetheless the contents of this story stand as a critique of what happens when any sort of compromise is made that undermines the church's historic position.

You can read the College of Bishops statement here: https://virtueonline.org/acna-college-bishops-pastoral-statement-sexual-identity-comes-under-challenge


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