Here’s a question from a letter I received this week: "What we're asking for is a straight answer out of you people on where in the Bible you find a passage that shows God approves of same sex relationships. Can you do that or not?"
Finally a question I can answer without hesitation.
The answer is "no."
There is no single text -- no specific chapter and verse -- that I can point anyone to and say, "Here is the clear truth of scripture" on the issue.
Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" in support of the ordination of women.
Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" on the sanctity inter-racial marriage.
Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" opposing the death penalty.
Nor is there any "clear truth of scripture" supporting the abolition of slavery.
Finally, if there WAS a single text argument for any of these hotly debated issues YOU WOULDN'T FIND AN ANGLICAN MAKING IT! We’re not a Sola Scriptura people. That is not how we do theology -- never has been and (God willing) never will be.
And yet, there are forces at work urging us to ignore our history and abandon our traditional methodology and polity – substituting literalism and “confessionalism” for traditional Anglican comprehensiveness. Key to that effort is the ongoing “spin” of the controversy du jour as the sole responsibility of the mythical gay agendists hell-bent on undermining western civilization and destroying Christianity as we know it. “The clear truth” is that these are not arguments about sexuality but arguments about biblical authority -- and we have been having for CENTURIES.
Check out Terry Holmes for a little historical perspective: “The Puritans taught that the Scriptures provided a certainty that transcended all other certainty, including reason, which reason they wished to confine to “science” (e.e. all forms of human learning). They believed that the Scriptures must be read for themselves and devoid of subsequent interpretations, namely, tradition. Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased.
Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority.
Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason … Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous. It becomes the mirror for the misdirected person to project his or her own opinions and give them the authority of God. The sin of schism in the result.” – Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 11-13
Hmm … “the sin of schism” … perhaps we detect a pattern here! Some of us had Puritan ancestors who jumped ship over this very thing in the 16th century and some of us are losing friends and colleagues in ministry over it in the 21st. And the battle goes on.
And to equip ourselves for it, I commend "To Set Our Hope on Christ": ECUSA's response to the invitation of the Windsor Report to explain "from within the sources of authority that as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ."
It is available for order through www.episcopalbookstore.org or downloadable in a PDF format here.
Inwardly digest it.
Study it in a group and reflect on it in your prayer time.
Give thanks for the blessing it represents as a 21st century reflection of the historic faith we inherit as Anglicans.
And pay close, close attention to the powers and principalities organizing to take that historic faith and turn it into something neither Hooker nor Seabury would recognize.