Irreconcilable Differences

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for a meeting of the thirty-eight Anglican leaders from around the word to address an issue that threatens to fracture their communion. The five-day meeting began this past Monday. The issue is homosexuality.

Trouble has been brewing since 2003 when Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican branch of the church in America. Conservative leaders within the Anglican Communion here in America and throughout the Anglican Church met Robinson’s appointment with disapproval.

Subsequently, a group of conservative Episcopal bishops have split with the church in America and formed the Anglican Church in North America. Anglican leaders from six African nations have threatened to walk out this week if common ground cannot be gained. Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church in Uganda has already said he will not take part if “discipline and godly order” is not restored.

Some have said the meeting will not survive the week and may even be over by the time you read this article. Indeed, the last called meeting of the primates in 2011 was boycotted by a third of the bishops because of this issue. Why is this so divisive?

Welby is frustrated that the real issues of global warming, poverty, and violence are not being addressed because Anglicans cannot get past the matter of sexuality. And that may be part of the problem; he does not think the biblical view of human sexuality is a real issue.

Some have suggested the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. While sodomizing two travelers against their will is certainly inhospitable, God did not rain “brimstone and fire” on two cities turning them into ash heaps because they refused them a meal or lodging.

To trivialize sin as mere inhospitality reveals a disregard for what God says about human sexuality and the consequences of its abuse. Something that God takes very seriously. That is why human sexuality is spoken of in the Scriptures in simple, repeatedly, unmistakable language.

“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female” is a descriptive prohibition. I do not wish to be unkind, but it takes a special kind of stupid to mess that up. So here’s the rub, the issue is not that the Scriptures are unclear about the practice of human sexuality, the issue is do we recognize the authority of God’s word in defining what we believe and do, or do we ignore it?

Welby and those who agree with him do not see the authority of the Scriptures and human sexuality as real issues. The conservative voices within the Anglican Communion see them as the real issues. With such diametrically opposed views it is difficult to see a continued marriage of the two. I see a divorce in the making on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

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