Ale & Teviot United Church

THAT Assembly debate … Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships & Ministry

Same-sex Relationships and Ministry : can we find a Biblical perspective?

As has been widely publicised, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will consider today [23 May 2011] the difficult and divisive issue of whether or not people in active same-sex relationships are entitled to minister within the Kirk.

A Special Commission was set up to receive submissions from Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions and to present a report. There are many who have taken up entrenched positions at either end of the spectrum, but we hope you will agree that this submission from your Kirk Session is positive, balanced, and Biblical.

In our ordination vows, we affirmed our commitment to acknowledge the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures to be the supreme rule of faith and life. It is, therefore, a matter of integrity to let the objective authority of Scripture, not the shifting sands of culture, shape our thoughts on this matter.

The blunt truth is that Scripture nowhere authorises same-sex practices. Every reference to it is negative, and It is simply untrue to suggest that prohibitions on same-sex relationships are only “Old Testament”, and so of no importance to a New Testament people – note, for example, the uncompromising statements of Paul in Romans 1.27 and 1 Corinthians 6.9.

The logical conclusion is that same-sex practice falls under the definition of “sin” – that is, anything that falls short of Father God’s best plan for His children – and that any attempt to redefine same-sex practice as “not sinful” because it is now “socially acceptable” has no claim to Scriptural authority.

We need not doubt that those who seek to “move the goalposts” on this issue in the interests of being “inclusive” are well-intentioned. They are, however, sadly misguided. The world may change, the Word does not ; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” [Hebrews 13.8].

We should also recognise that same-sex practice is not, by any means, the only “sin” identified by the Bible. It is listed in 1 Corinthians 6.9f along with adultery, idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander and financial dishonesty. We believe that it is neither Scriptural nor logical to focus on one “sin” to the exclusion of all other. Indeed, “whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at just one point of it is guilty of breaking all of it” [James 2.10].

The uncomfortable truth is that, so far as the Bible is concerned, the person who drives at 31 mph in a built-up area is as much of a sinner as Adolf Hitler or Peter Sutcliffe! Sin is sin is sin. There is perfection, or there is sin – there is no safe middle ground. “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … [Romans 3.23]

But the Good News of the Christian gospel is that the unconditional love of God, the fullness of forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ, and all the promises of His word, are open to ALL, including child abusers, drug dealers, serial killers, and parkers-on-double-yellow-lines.

ALL sin finds its comprehensive solution in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The text we noted above must be read in the context of the following verse “… and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. [Romans 3.24]

Redemption is a much more powerful truth than most of the church recognises. Because of what Jesus did for us at Easter, not only sin, but also its parasitical fellow-travellers such as disease of body or soul – indeed, all the unpleasant consequences of human disobedience catalogued in Deuteronomy 28 : 15-68 – have been totally defeated at the cross.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus”. [Galatians 3.13f].

All the blessings that God in Christ has freely provided by His grace, such as those set out in Deuteronomy 28 : 1-14, we are invited by Our Father to appropriate by means of our faith : “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith”. [Ephesians 2.8]

Faith in Jesus makes available to the believer great power – the same power, claims Paul, that raised Jesus from the dead. [Ephesians 1.20] Therefore, it is our belief that a more robust appreciation of the redeeming power released by Jesus Christ at Easter, and freely available by faith to ALL people throughout ALL time, offers a positive way forward.

The cancellation of the curse and the release of the blessing through Jesus is a categorical assurance that all those who receive His redeeming grace by faith HAVE power and authority to experience freedom from sexual persuasions at variance with what the Bible teaches.

This authority structure is shown in Ephesians 1.22f : God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The power in the name of Jesus is established in Philippians 2.10f : at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All things, including sexual identity issues, are under the believer’s feet. Homosexuality is a name, and it must bow before the name of Jesus. However, this does requires a person in a same-sex relationship to recognise that this is NOT God’s best will for their lives ; that just because it may FEEL right, it does not mean it IS right. Subjective human emotion is no substitute for the objective truth of God’s Word, for only the truth can set us free [John 8.32].

To agree with God that something is not His best and will have to change is the true meaning of “confessing sin”. At this point, God has promised that His grace and power will intervene.

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God — make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God”. [1 John 1.8ff, The Message]

As confession – agreeing with God – releases forgiving grace, it will also release healing power. “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds”. [1 Peter 2.24].

We submit that this Biblically-based approach is faithful to how Jesus dealt with a woman caught in the proverbial act [John 8]. He neither condemned the sinner nor condoned the sin. He freely offered forgiveness and a clean slate, and called her to go forth boldly into new life.

We see Jesus identify with us by coming in the flesh at Christmas ; endure temptation in all points as we are tempted during Lent ; make the final sacrifice to kill the power of sin on Good Friday ; burst forth from the dead, the first fruits of the harvest of new and abundant life on Easter Day ; and release power to believers to fulfil His call on our lives at Pentecost.

The finished work of Jesus is more than sufficient to release ANYONE – including ministers and candidates for ministry – from ANY bondage, including any form of sexual immorality – if they confess their sin [as above], and receive by faith what He has done by grace.

Wilfully choosing instead to live in denial of what Scripture teaches may indicate unwillingness to trust the Lord in the realities of life, and we suggest that this might be a less than totally satisfactory basis for exercising fruitful ministry – the thirsty cannot be fed from a dry well.

Please pray for the General Assembly as it wrestles with this issue.

1 Response to “THAT Assembly debate … Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships & Ministry”

  1. 1 Louis Kinsey

    ‘Subjective human emotion is no substitute for the objective truth of God’s Word, for only the truth can set us free’ [John 8.32].

    A good thought. Thanks for a well-written and carefully put together piece. I hope it helps all of your readers.

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