The issue of homosexuality is now at the political forefront for one of the world's largest protestant denominations. On the one hand, the church has a growing conservative base that, for various reasons, cannot accept homosexuality as an acceptable form of human relationship. On the other hand, there are many who see homosexuality as not only acceptable, but also an issue of human rights.
It is a complex situation, but it essentially boils down to two very different understandings of how to determine what God actually wants.
Conservative Anglicans, especially Evangelicals, quite rightly point to The Thirty-Nine Articles (the official statement of faith of the Anglican church) which state in Article 6:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.Taken to its logical conclusion, Evangelicals essentially argue that the Bible and the Bible alone determines what to believe - not church tradition, not any subjective feelings, not the use of the intellect or logic.
There is no doubt that the Bible takes a dim view of homosexuality. Nowhere is its practice condoned. There are large sections of scripture devoted to explaining why it is sinful. Evangelicals believe the Bible, so they will naturally oppose any idea or practice that comes into conflict with that belief. Whatever your own personal opinion, the fact is that Evangelicals are courageously defending their beliefs in this area.
The problem is that those who support homosexuality have the same courage and commitment. These Anglicans see themselves as part of a different church that does not accept the sole authority of the Bible, but includes things like Episcopal authority (Bishops), engaging with modern philosophy and discerning God's truth through the process of consensus or personal meditation.
These progressive Anglicans have accepted homosexuality, not on the basis of some form of relativistic attitude, but in the belief that homosexuality is a legitimate form of human sexual and relational expression. Moreover, because homosexuals have been persecuted and criticised by those in power in the past, acceptance of homosexuality is thus an issue of human rights. To oppose homosexuality is, for these progressive Anglicans, a great crime for human dignity.
But the Anglican church is more than these two polar extremes. There is a broad base in the middle, and many of those in this middle ground are naturally disturbed by the goings-on of these two extremes. When you listen to these people, you tend to hear things like "Well, it's a complex problem", or "There are no easy solutions", or "We need to listen to both sides". Such an approach places unity above all things. Unfortunately such an attitude does not solve the problem, nor does it respect the stance of each of the extremes.
The problem is that, for a conservative, legitimising homosexuality is essentially the same of legitimising paedophilia. For a progressive, opposing homosexuality is essentially the same as condoing slavery or racism. The solution from those in the middle - to emphasise unity and encourage everyone to get along with everyone else - totally ignores the root of the problem.
There are only two solutions. The first solution is for one group to gain more and more power, and then expel the other group. The second solution is for the church to split, and for each group to take power over their respective part of the church. There is no third way. It is either victory or death.
This inevitable result will occur, not because people have failed to "take a stand", but because people have been courageous and taken a stand. There is no doubting the commitment and courage of those on both sides of the debate. What we have to realise is that, barring a direct act of God to change the views of one side, the only result can be schism.
From the Theosalient Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.