January 8, 2015
To those who say the Reform voice should be heard in the House of Bishops’ facilitated conversations on human sexuality in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit among disagreeing Anglicans, your curate would respectfully respond as follows:
Biblical sexual morality is a first order issue on which all of us who profess Christian faith are called to holiness. Negotiating on this would surely be contrary to the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 when he commanded that within the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ ‘fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints’ (v3 — NRSV). He went on to say in v5: Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
As is clearly recognised in our Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer in its Solemnization of Holy Matrimony, fornication is defined biblically as any form of sexual intercourse outside of heterosexual marriage.
In the light of Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5, it is clear that, when he exhorted the Church in Ephesians 4 ‘to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’, he expected such unity to be firmly grounded in Apostolic truth and its ethical entailments. The choice by professing Christians to reject Apostolic truth in important spiritual and ethical matters addressed by the New Testament is thus by its very nature antithetical to the unity of the Spirit and disruptive of it.
To apply this to the facilitated conversations, in which the voices of those who have departed from the truth of the New Testament on human sexuality are being treated as legitimately Christian, surely it would not be maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace to participate. For the same reason, it would not be right to participate in any ecclesiastical negotiation in which equivocations about the biblical doctrine of the Trinity were accepted as Christian.
By God’s grace, there are other ways in which the orthodox Anglican voice can be heard – through preaching, synodical debate at which a vote to uphold the received teaching of the Church is offered and in the media. These ways do not involve negotiating but rather contending for biblical truth.
The Rev. Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge in Sheffield Diocese