This year marks the 20th anniversary of the momentous resolution concerning human sexuality adopted by the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops from around the Anglican Communion. In essence, Resolution I.10 reiterated our long-held doctrine that only marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations. Hence one of the opening paragraphs of Resolution I.10 states:
[This conference], in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
The phrase “in view of the teaching of Scripture” is critical. It is the teaching of God’s word that must direct our lives, and despite its counter-cultural perspective in today’s society - as it was in the first century - our God-given sexual desires are not to be satisfied in casual liaisons or adulterous relationships, nor given expression through homosexual relationships, either male or female. For this reason, the resolution goes on to reject “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”. Yet it also endorses a pastoral response to those who are same-sex attracted and the need to care for those who struggle to be faithful to Christ.
The resolution, which passed overwhelmingly, reflects the doctrine of Christ. Furthermore, the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Australia affirmed similar teaching about human sexuality in Faithfulness in Service, the national code of conduct of all clergy and church workers.
Let us be candid. This is not how the Western world sees things.
Many Australians do not believe this. Some of your friends will likewise disagree. Sadly, many church leaders are trying to change the doctrine of our church so that same-sex unions can be normalised in the life of the church. They have already succeeded in North America and Scotland. Only last month, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia authorised bishops to allow same-sex blessings in their churches.
Yet our Lord’s teaching is clear
In Matthew 19:2-12. In answering a question about divorce posed by some Pharisees, Jesus said:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
In speaking about divorce, Jesus taught about the fundamental union of a man and a woman in marriage, a union joined by God and not to be separated. Although Jesus recognised the exception of sexual immorality, the disciples considered this understanding of divorce to be so strict that:
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry”.
To counter this misunderstanding Jesus explains that not all will marry, and therefore not all will engage in sexual relations.
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others - and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Note that those who choose celibacy do so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. While there is honour in marriage, as defined by Jesus, there is also honour in singleness. Yet there is no honour in fulfilling one’s sexual desires in relationships which the New Testament elsewhere claims will place a person outside the kingdom of God (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Revelation 22:15).
Gathered in faith
Ten years ago 1100 bishops, lay people and other clergy gathered in Jerusalem to defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It was the first Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). It was described by many at the time as an alternative to Lambeth - which met later that year - as nearly 200 bishops from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda chose not to attend Lambeth. They believed the gospel had been compromised by the renunciation of the doctrine of Christ, and specifically Resolution I.10, plainly seen in the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first bishop living openly in a same-sex relationship.
Yet the movement did not form solely for this reason. It is mission focused.
This month nearly 2000 bishops, lay people and other clergy will gather in Jerusalem for another Global Anglican Future Conference. We shall express our fellowship in the gospel, our support for one another in mission, and care for faithful Anglicans who have been disenfranchised by leaders who have departed from the ways of Christ. It is an opportunity to proclaim Christ faithfully among the nations.