With arguments over same-sex love tearing apart the Anglican church, can a solution now be found in the most unlikely of places: warfare?by The Bishop of Liverpool / March 23, 2010 / Leave a comment
“For some in the church, homosexuality has become the defining issue of orthodoxy; the benchmark on how you interpret scripture and apply it authoritatively to the modern world. For others in the church, especially but not exclusively for those who are gay, homosexuality and the church’s attitude have become the touchstone of the church’s seriousness in wanting to include in the kingdom all God’s children.
At the time of the Iraq war, there was animated debate about whether or not that military engagement fulfilled the criteria of a just war. A cursory glance at the history of the just war theory and the ethics of pacifism show that for the last 2,000 years the church has been exercised about whether or not it is ever right for a Christian to take up arms and to take the life of another human.
Augustine made the point that Jesus ruled out malatia (hatred) not militia (military service), and the church, without compromising the principle of the sanctity of human life, has made space for a variety of ethical positions. I suspect that within our synod there is a similar spectrum of moral conviction about whether or not it is ever justified to take the life of another. But on this, the most fundamental of all ethical issues, in spite of any divergent views, we sit comfortably with each other, recognise each other’s integrity, respect one another’s faith and moral judgement and enjoy communion in Christ.
The fact that in both world wars conscripts and pacifists divided along one moral line does not deflect us from acknowledging the moral courage of both. We can stand on either side of the moral argument and still be in fellowship despite disagreeing on this issue, the sixth of the ten commandments.
Just as the church over the last 2,000 years has come to allow a variety of ethical conviction about the taking of life and the application of the sixth commandment, so I believe that in this period it is also moving towards allowing a variety of ethical conviction about people of the same gender loving each other fully. Just as Christian pacifists and soldiers profoundly disagree with one another yet, in their disagreement, continue to drink from the same cup because they share in the one body and bread, so too I believe the day is coming when Christians who equally profoundly disagree about the consonancy of same gender love with the discipleship of Christ will, in spite of their disagreement, drink from the same cup of salvation. This is, I believe, the next chapter to be written in the Church of England and Anglican communion.
I sense there is weariness in the church and the world that we are still fighting each other. It’s the weariness of an internally divided and closed institution, consuming its own resources.
In my 15 years of being a bishop I’ve observed that churches flourish under good leadership where there is a trinity of openness—openness to God, openness to one another, openness to the outsider.
I believe that the wearisome battle over sexuality is a hindrance to that openness and to the mission of God. I think we need to defuse the weaponry. The way to do it is simply to accept the diversity of ethical convictions in the same way that the church has always allowed a diversity of ethical stance on taking human life.”
This is an edited version of an address given by the Bishop of Liverpool in March. The full version is online at www.liverpool.anglican.org