Like other trendy Protestant Churches, the Anglican Church of Canada has conformed its teachings over the past few decades to the current pattern of the world on everything from contraception and abortion to same-sex “marriage” (SSM). This once influential denomination has lapsed into a state of theological confusion, ecclesiastical disarray, and near-terminal decline.
The chaos came to a head within the Anglican Church of Canada on July 11 when the church’s ruling General Synod for 2016 was informed that a motion to permit the consecration of SSM had failed by one vote. In exasperation, John Chapman, Anglican Bishop of Ottawa, promptly issued a defiant pastoral letter stating: “It is my intention in consultation with and in partnership with a number of other diocesan bishops to proceed with same sex marriages immediately within the Diocese of Ottawa.”
Chapman gave no theological reason for flouting the procedures of his own church except to recall that Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada had endorsed the Civil Marriage Act of 2005, which provides for the civil marriage of same-sex couples. While conceding that, “these institutions are not ecclesial in nature,” Chapman argued, “they are of course entrusted with the well-being, safety, and inclusion of all Canadians, all the people of God.”
It almost seems that Chapman is telling theologically orthodox Anglicans: be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, compounded the turmoil at General Synod in a farcical turnaround on July 12, by disclosing that a recount had showed that the resolution to approve the consecration of same-sex “marriages” had passed after all. Still, this outcome did not formally settle the matter inasmuch as the constitution of the Anglican Church of Canada stipulates that a change to the marriage canon is a matter of doctrine that requires approval at two consecutive General Synods.
Nonetheless, several other Anglican bishops, including Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson, joined with Chapman in likewise indicating that they will unilaterally sanction same-sex marriages within their dioceses. In dismay, William Anderson, the theologically orthodox Anglican Bishop of Caledonia in northern British Columbia, pointed out to the Anglican Journal that the determination of these rogue bishops to proceed with the consecration of SSM prior to final approval by General Synod “exacerbates the contempt for our synodical process. I think we’re in for a period of chaos and I think that’s not going to be helpful for the church.”
The Anglican Church of Canada has already lost more than half its membership over the past 50 years. In the months ahead, it is likely to witness yet another major exodus of disillusioned parishioners.
Meanwhile, this dispute has demonstrated once again the vacuous level of theological argumentation regnant in the Anglican Church of Canada. For example, in defense of the motion to permit the consecration of same-sex marriage, Bishop William Cliff of Brandon, Manitoba, told the General Synod that, “as a bishop of the whole church,” he did not want to “stand in the way of those who wish to speak and care and love for those in their midst.”
Correspondingly, the Rev. Allison Courey, Anglican chaplain at St. John’s College of the University of Manitoba, confided to the delegates that she is a legally married lesbian and admonished them to support the consecration of same-sex marriage on the ground that “many of us” gays and lesbians have committed suicide because, “death was better than being rejected by God.”
Faithful Christians should pray for homosexuals like Courey.
Granted, it is hardly surprising that emotion prevailed over reason during a brief and impassioned debate on SSM at General Synod. The select Commission on the Marriage Canon appointed by the Anglican Church of Canada should have been able to do much better. The commission included Archbishop John Privett of British Columbia and Yukon, Bishop Linda Nicholls of Huron in Ontario, and no fewer than four Anglican academic theologians. Yet after several months of study and debate, the best the commissioners could do in their final report is suggest that the Apostle Paul did not mean what he plainly wrote in Romans 1:24-27: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie… Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
In a new twist on the interpretation of these verses, the commission would have us believe: ”Paul’s concern in the passage is not sexuality, but self-righteousness. Indeed, his use of such diatribe is a very specific strategy within Romans to attack the usual ways people see themselves as more righteous than others. New Testament scholar Richard Hays identifies Paul’s purpose as ‘a homiletical sting operation’ in order to show how ‘self-righteous judgment of homosexuality is just as sinful as homosexual behaviour itself’.”
Richard Hays is a Protestant theologian at Duke University. In The Moral Vision of the New Testament, he writes:
Romans 1:18-32 sets up a homiletical sting operation. The passage builds a crescendo of condemnation, declaring God’s wrath upon human unrighteousness, using rhetoric characteristic of Jewish polemic against Gentile immorality. It whips the reader into a frenzy of indignation against others: those unbelievers, those idol-worshipers, those immoral enemies of God. But then, in Romans 2:1, the sting strikes: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”
In no way does Hays suggest that Paul’s concern in Romans 1:26-27 is not about the sinfulness of homosexual acts. To the contrary, Hays affirms:
Paul singles out homosexual intercourse for special attention because he regards it as providing a particularly graphic image of the way in which human fallenness distorts God’s created order. God the Creator made man and woman for each other, to cleave together, to be fruitful and multiply. When human beings “exchange” these created roles for homosexual intercourse, they embody the spiritual condition of those who have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”
That members of the Commission on the Marriage Canon have so grossly misrepresented Hays’s argument is outrageous. However, they can hardly be faulted for failing to square reason, tradition, and Sacred Scripture with the consecration of same-sex “marriage”: Greater minds than theirs have likewise tried and failed to reconcile the obviously irreconcilable.
Let the final word go to Richard Hays:
For Paul, self-righteous judgment of homosexuality is just as sinful as the homosexual behavior itself. That does not mean that Paul is disingenuous in his rejection of homosexual acts and all the other sinful activities mentioned in Romans 1:24-32; all the evils listed there remain evils (cf. also Rom. 6:1-23). But no one should presume to be above God’s judgment; all of us stand in radical need of God’s mercy.