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Evangelical Episcopalians Begin Long Slide away from Orthodoxy on Same Sex Marriage

Evangelical Episcopalians Begin Long Slide away from Orthodoxy on Same Sex Marriage

By David W. Virtue DD
August 18, 2015

In what was once thought to be almost impossible to imagine or think, evangelicals in The Episcopal Church are slowly abandoning the solid foundation of Scripture on human sexuality.

When Louie Crew (who is not an evangelical) began his long and successful campaign decades ago to change the Church's teaching on sexuality, very few took it or him seriously. His relentless and dogged push and pursuit (based on his own lifestyle preference) slowly persuaded priests, bishops, and presiding bishops that his preferred sexuality and a host of other sexualities, including LGBTQI, would become the sine qua non of the Church's moral foundation and teaching.

With almost Blitzkrieg like speed the Episcopal Church rolled over, in the name of inclusivity, diversity, gender differentiation, emotion, felt pain, pluriform truths, and a headstrong gay culture that yelled hatred and homophobia at anyone who dared oppose the sexual zeitgeist.

Christians (but mostly evangelicals) by and large believe that homosexual acts are wrong and did not feel threatened (at first) by a small percentage of the population (less than 2%) who believe their sexuality is immutable.

They underestimated the power of the secular and later religious homosexual lobby who pressed the need for full acceptance. With the Stonewall riots, all that changed with spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.

In time, the major Protestant denominations began to feel the heat of their anger; thus began the steady roll over by the large liberal Protestant churches to the full acceptance of homosexuals and their lifestyle.

Prominent among those churches was the Episcopal Church. Seven years later in 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

Along the way, The Episcopal Church garnered a lot of attention, but with the help of organizations such as Integrity USA, the church continued its push toward full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Episcopalians. In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated; in 2009, General Convention resolved that God's call is open to all; and in 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized, and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited. In 2015 the Church authorized gay marriage liturgies and made the church's marriage canons gender neutral.

Even as other liberal mainline denominations slowly rolled over, three groups remain staunchly opposed to changing the Church's received teaching on sexuality. Mormons, Roman Catholics, and Evangelicals of one stripe or another remained firm that homosexuality activity is contrary to God's law. This was reinforced by the rising influence of the Global South; at the 1998 Lambeth Conference they declared that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and that Holy Matrimony is, by intention and divine purpose, to be a life-long, monogamous and unconditional commitment between a woman and a man.

Most of the Communion believed that would put an end to it...the Communion had spoken, everyone would get in line. It did not happen. TEC bishops stubbornly moved ahead in defiance of Lambeth 1:10 and proceeded to where TEC is today. While Mormons continued to hold the line, a group of Progressive Catholics rose up to challenge their church's teaching.

Evangelicals stood stubbornly on Scripture; that included those still in TEC that had not left to join first the Anglican Mission and then the Anglican Church in North America.

Then an evangelical sea change occurred. Certain evangelical leaders began to roll over. A new poll released by evangelical research firm LifeWay Research in April of this year demonstrated this shift. It showed that 66 percent of American evangelicals, fundamentalists, and born-again believers say that same-sex relationships go against God's will. While still a majority, it is a substantial decline from just three years ago, when the same poll found that 82 percent held this view.

Big names began to fall. David Gushee, Matthew Vines, Steve Chalk, Vickie Beeching, David Neff, and the Grand old Man of evangelical activism Tony Campolo, to name but a few.

Still and all, evangelicals in the Episcopal Church (those who had not left for greener spiritual pastures like the ACNA, Ordinariate, or Rome) remained firm on Scriptural principle that there is no allowable legitimate sexual expression outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

Now another sea change has occurred.


The Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida and the rector of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA, the flagship evangelical episcopal parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and one its largest and most prestigious parishes, announced that they would now accommodate practicing homosexuals in "covenanted" relationships.

A statement by Bishop Gregory O. Brewer said he would allow legally married same sex parishioners to come forward for a blessing at their anniversary. He did say he felt no need to change his stance opposing same-sex marriages. He plans to uphold the teaching on Holy Matrimony that is reflected both in the Scriptures and in the Book of Common Prayer. He signed the Salt Lake City Statement of the Communion Partner Bishops as well.

But he slid a wedge under the door. (He had only recently been blindsided by two gay men who wanted their son baptized. After the issue erupted at the cathedral and its two leading priests resigned, the two men never showed up with the child.)

To even allow partnered gay men to receive a blessing acknowledges the legitimacy of their relationship. That's the first problem. The second problem is that by not offering pastoral counsel to these men, he has abrogated his responsibility and legitimized their lifestyle. He has said in effect, "I acknowledge that you are living in this relationship and that's okay by me." Brewer has said that how they live is not sexual sin and they can be blessed! Really! And what sort of blessing will they receive? A blessing that acknowledges the "truth" of their marriage and that repentance is not necessary? How else can one interpret this "blessing"? How does one interpret the holiness of God to these two men?

He observed, "There are also pastoral considerations yet unanswered. I give only one example: should legally married same sex parishioners come forward for a blessing at their anniversary when it is the parish's custom to publicly offer these blessings? My answer would be to welcome them and pray for them -- so long as the prayers used do not come from the BCP marriage service.

"One prayer for such occasions could be, 'O God, we ask that you pour your grace and mercies on N. and N. Guide them with your wisdom, protect them with your love and fill their home with your presence all the days of their life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.'"

This is a blatant attempt to legitimize an unbiblical union that has no basis in Scripture, history, or the Church's 2,000 year tradition...or Anglican tradition. Can you imagine a Nigerian bishop saying this?

"I also want to uphold a call to compassion and care, and for the Church to extend grace, love and mercy to those who are in such relationships," Brewer wrote. But how can one extend "grace, love and mercy" if one is living in unrepentant sexual sin? One can only offer the latter after confession and repentance is made and restoration to God's original intention is done. What Brewer is offering is a slippery slope.


The second more intellectual and academic approach is contained in a 27-page statement written by the Rev. Richard Morgan, an Englishman brought into the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA, following the resignation of Fr. Brewer.

Morgan makes a convincing case for the orthodox view of marriage as between a man and a woman until he draws his own conclusions about same sex marriage, which by any measure are sub-biblical.

He says there is a diversity of views on this topic, both within Good Samaritan and within the national church. Really? My wife and I attended that church for over 20 years; if there was a "diversity of views," I never heard them and they were never publicly stated. I knew of no one that held to pluriform views on sexuality in that parish. I would love to know who they are.

If that was and is the case now, Brewer clearly fell down on the job not teaching what the Bible teaches on human sexuality (and I don't recall he ever did except to make noises about the family), in which case the fault lies directly with him.

Morgan summarizes his position by saying that, "Same-sex covenant relationships have a very famous and solid biblical precedent. Fidelity is a good in its own right, and can be exemplified by same-sex couples. Same-sex couples should be supported and encouraged as human beings and as parents trying to figure life out in the same way that we support and encourage all manner of people, none of whom have perfect lives."

Morgan says that the relationship David had with Jonathan was sexual. "The model of same sex covenantal relationship in scripture is the relationship between David and Jonathan. It's worth quoting some of the references to that relationship because in the liturgical provision for same-sex blessing the text does not really go beyond the strength of relationship described in 1 and 2 Samuel."

Numerous theologians have blasted this interpretation. Homosexual interpretations of David and Jonathan mistake non-erotic covenant/kinship language for erotic intimacy, they say. The Rev. Dr. Robert Gagnon, a Presbyterian theologian and a world authority on homosexuality, commented, "The statement that 'the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul' (1 Samuel 18:1) can be compared to the non-erotic kinship language in Genesis 44:31 ('[Jacob's] soul is bound up with [his son Benjamin's] soul') and Leviticus 19:18 ('You shall love your neighbor as yourself'). It can also be compared to formulaic treaty language in the ancient Near East, such as the address of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal to his vassals ('You must love [me] as yourselves') and the reference in 1 Kings 5:1 to King Hiram of Tyre as David's 'lover.'

"Similarly, the remark in 1 Samuel 19:1 that Jonathan 'delighted very much' in David can be compared to the non-erotic references in 1 Samuel 18:22 ('The king [Saul] is delighted with you [David], and all his servants love you; now then, become the king's son-in-law') and 2 Samuel 20:11 ('Whoever delights in Joab, and whoever is for David, [let him follow] after Joab').

"When David had to flee from Saul, David and Jonathan had a farewell meeting, in which David 'bowed three times [to Jonathan], and they kissed each other, and wept with each other' (1 Sam 20:41-42). The bowing suggests political, rather than sexual, overtones. As for the kissing, only three out of twenty-seven occurrences of the Hebrew verb 'to kiss' have an erotic dimension; most refer to kissing between father and son or between brothers.

Morgan is simply wrong in his interpretation of the relationship between David and Jonathan. Biblical authority matters. He ought to reconsider the David and Jonathan relationship in a more not less biblical interpretation.

The Anglican view of authority is not that scripture, reason, and tradition are equal voices, but that reason and tradition are essential to understanding the scriptural witness. There's room to argue this question on biblical grounds, says Morgan.

Both J.I. Packer and Richard Hooker would disagree with Morgan. "Anglicanism is first biblical and protestant in its stance, and second, evangelical and reformed in its doctrine. That's a particular nuance within the Protestant constituency to which the Anglican Church is committed -- the 39 Articles show that. Thirdly, Anglicanism is liturgical and traditional in its worship," said Packer.

Hooker believed that there is a clear or plain sense in Scripture. Because it is clear, it needs no interpretation and should simply be believed. He then argues that reason and the Church, by which he means tradition, hold sway. Where the Church rules on something that is in accord with reason, this overrules any other opinions or theories on offer.

"The conservative argument should be broader than the handful of biblical texts that deal with same-sex relations," says Morgan. Not if you believe what Hooker wrote. We cannot go outside of Scripture if the plain meaning of the seven texts is clear (and they are) that Scripture prohibits in part and totality all homoerotic activity. Morgan is simply wrong. Even Louie Crew once opined that Scripture is not kind to homosexuals.

"The understanding of marriage has shifted within society and has been shifting for a long time. Marriage as understood by society and by the law of the land and marriage as historically understood by the church are now two different things. The question of whether same-sex couples should be able to participate in marriage as understood by law, and the question of whether same-sex couples are able to participate in the sacrament of marriage as understood by Christian tradition are different questions. Don't confuse them," writes Morgan.

Perhaps the separation of the two means the church should never shill for the state any longer and marry persons. Let all go to a Justice of the Peace obtain a marriage license and then afterwards have a Christian marriage; but the Church can never ever endorse or accept that a homoerotic union is blessed by God and can be blessed by the church. To do so is to allow a defective form of marriage (a gay "marriage" that can never be legitimately consummated) is outside the purview of God's will.

"In my opinion, I'd rather we'd stuck with the blessing of lifelong covenants for same-sex couples and retain marriage as defined by the procreative union of a man and a woman," says Morgan.

Gagnon brilliantly rebuffs this argument, "Gay Marriage" is a contradiction in terms. First, legal and ecclesiastical embrace of homosexual unions is more likely to undermine the institution of marriage and produce other negative effects, than it is to make fidelity and longevity the norm for homosexual unions.

"Second, homosexual unions are not wrong primarily because of their disproportionately high incidence of promiscuity (especially among males) and breakups (especially among females). They are wrong because 'gay marriage' is a contradiction in terms. As with consensual adult incest and polyamory, considerations of commitment and fidelity factor only after certain structural prerequisites are met.

"The vision of marriage found in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures is one of reuniting male and female into an integrated sexual whole. Marriage is not just about more intimacy and sharing one's life with another in a lifelong partnership. It is about sexual merger--or, in Scripture's understanding, re-merger--of essential maleness and femaleness.

"The creation story in Genesis 2:18-24 illustrates this point beautifully. An originally binary, or sexually undifferentiated, adam ('earthling') is split down the 'side' (a better translation of Hebrew tsela than 'rib') to form two sexually differentiated persons. Marriage is pictured as the reunion of the two constituent parts or 'other halves,' man and woman.

"A same-sex erotic relationship can never constitute a marriage because it will always lack the requisite sexual counterparts or complements.

"By definition, homosexual desire is sexual narcissism or sexual self-deception. There is either (1) a conscious recognition that one desires in another what one already is and has as a sexual being (anatomy, physiology, sex-based traits) or (2) a self-delusion of sorts in which the sexual same is perceived as some kind of sexual other. As one ancient text puts it, "seeing themselves in one another they were ashamed neither of what they were doing nor of what they were having done to them" (Pseudo-Lucian, Affairs of the Heart 20). The modern word "homosexual"--from the Greek homoios, 'like' or 'same'--underscores this self-evident desire for the essential sexual self shared in common with one's partner."

Gagnon concludes, "The New Testament recognizes the importance of the Genesis creation stories for establishing a 'two-sexes' or 'other-sex' prerequisite for marriage.

"St. Paul clearly understood same-sex intercourse as an affront to the Creator's stamp on gender in Genesis 1-2. In his letter to the Romans, Paul cites two prime examples of humans suppressing the truth about God evident in creation/nature: idolatry and same-sex intercourse (1:18-27). Paul talks first about humans exchanging the Creator for worship of idols made 'in the likeness of the image of a perishable human and of birds and animals and reptiles' (1:23); then about 'females [who] exchanged the natural use' and 'males leaving behind the natural use of the female' to have intercourse with other 'males' (1:26-27). This obviously echoes Genesis 1:26-27: 'Let us make a human according to our image and . . . likeness; and let them rule over the . . . birds . . . cattle . . . and . . . reptiles. And God created the human in his image, . . . male and female he created them.' Taken together, we have not only eight points of correspondence between Gen 1:26-27 and Rom 1:23, 26-27, but also a threefold sequential agreement:

"A. God's likeness and image in humans

"B. Dominion over the animal kingdom

"C. Male-female differentiation "

Both Brewer and Morgan have caved in for reasons of cultural pressure and poor theological judgement that will, in time, come back to bite them. You cannot change the ontology or cosmology of human sexuality just to satisfy a handful of pansexualists at the beginning of a new century. It is doubly sad that both these men who claim to be evangelicals are trying to do just that.

Here is a link to the original document: http://www.good-samaritan.org/content/same-sex-marriage


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