The Christian blogosphere – particularly the more fundamentalist element – has been full of chat about the furore we are witnessing in the run-up to the Church of Scotland‘s General Assembly, due to meet in a couple of weeks.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s all about a recent decision by Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen to appoint a homosexual minister, Rev Scott Rennie. There’s an increasingly popular petition doing the rounds, calling for the Church of Scotland to prevent such an apparently awful thing from happening.
I was going to ignore this issue for fear of fanning the flames of division and unncessary debate in the church – a lot of Christians, including folk in my own church, read this blog. However, having been emailed twice in the last week or two by people asking me to sign the petition, having read a few articles online about the issue, and having thought and prayed hard over the last few days about whether or not I should write this, I really feel that a counterbalance to the voices against the appointment must be provided.
No doubt those who signed the petition, and who peddle a belief that the Bible is unambiguous and unequivocal in its condemnation of homosexuality are very balanced, reasoned and logical in reaching their viewpoints and in deciding to add their names.
As a result, they’ll be fully able, I am quite sure, to answer the following questions:
- Leviticus 20:13 is apparently clear about what should happen to homosexuals: they should be killed. Presumably, it would be against the teaching of the Scriptures to leave them alive any longer: there’s no mention of any period of grace. Can you please confirm when the lynching of Mr Rennie and his partner is to take place? Or is it a secret, that you can at least assure me is definitely going ahead?
- The minister in question previously served at Brechin Cathedral. Where in the Bible does it state that homosexuality is permissable in the city and royal burgh of Brechin? I’m not aware of any petition against his ministry there; so either homosexuality is fine in Brechin, or I missed where that earlier petition was posted. Can you enlighten me please?
- As instructed in Leviticus 19:27, shaving one’s beard is against the law of God. No mention of exemptions for women either, I am afraid. What is the church to do about a doubtlessly rampant disregard for the Bible? Indeed, I am shortly to have a shave this evening as I am getting a bit stubbly – what will happen to me?
- If you have ever eaten pork or shellfish, can you please explain what you are doing to reconcile your disgusting dietary habits with your Lord?
- I thought parishes in the Church of Scotland could call whichever ordained minister they are led to call. Can you explain to me why you disagree with this fundamental principle of Presbyterianism and of church law? And why is this matter the business of anyone who is not a communicant member of that particular parish?
- All Christians are called upon to be servants of the church and each other. Therefore other members of the church – homegroup leaders, administrators, lay preachers, welcome teams etc – must, I suppose, strive and appear to be as Biblical in their lives as ministers must. Can the petitioners guarantee that there are no publicly or secretly gay people in our churches in positions of authority or influence? And how about gay Christians who quietly, devotedly pray for the church as a whole? Heaven forfend, they could be praying for you and me right now, influencing our faiths and our lives without us knowing! Surely they must be stopped, yes?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should all go out and appoint homosexual ministers. There’s not enough to go around, for a start. I don’t know the individual involved in this case and would hazard a guess that not being in a legal marriage is an inappropriate environment for a sexual relationship (although given that gay marriage does not legally exist, I find it hard to blame the couple involved).
However, as I’ve said before when I wrote about a similar matter a couple of years ago, homosexuality is at the very least an immensely grey area. Those proposing that homosexuality is clearly wrong are exercising an interpretation of the Bible that is loaded with a very human perspective – something which is precisely what so-called reappraisers are accused of doing.
The Bible is a complicated book, and occasionally even seems to be ambiguous and self-contradictory. To take snippets of it without social context (or indeed any other context) while failing to do so with other snippets (such as those which condemn figs, shellfish, pork and so on) is to undermine and damage its message.
Yes it’s the word of God and inspired by God, but written by humans and therefore certainly not the inerrant and infallible word of God. To treat it as such is to misuse it. The Bible has a message we must follow as a result of trying to understand it, not by dogmatically, primitively and unthinkingly following it word for word, letter for letter.
Those on the liberal side of the church are accused of picking and mixing the Bible. Perhaps that’s true, but it’s just as true for those on the conservative wing. We can only read it with human eyes, after all, in the same way that those who wrote it did so with human minds.
This whole wider issue of homosexuality in the church is a tedious, repetitive debate about minutiae of Biblical interpretation. The debate does not deserve the coverage, impact or participation it is receiving. It makes the church look like a bunch of legalistic, sexuality-obsessed pedants who care much more about this issue than the big battles against war, hatred, poverty, disease, spiritual desertification and suppression of individual liberty that the church should be famous for fighting.
Unless of course, there are answers to the above questions…