Fleming Rutledge is a preacher and teacher known throughout the US, Canada, and parts of the UK. She is the author of eight books, all from Eerdmans Publishing. Her most recent book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is the product of the work of a lifetime and is being described as a new classic on the subject.
One of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, she served for fourteen years on the clergy staff at Grace Church on Lower Broadway at Tenth Street, New York City.
Fleming and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009 and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She is a native of Franklin, Virginia.
Thoughts for a congregation divided as it faces the homosexuality issue
Thoughts for a congregation divided
as it faces the homosexuality issue
by the Rev. Fleming
This is a substantial portion of
an address delivered in December 2003 in a parish where there was significant
division and some rancor. In places where there are omissions, there
is a double line. Omissions represent portions of the address that
have not been worked out for general release. The name of the parish
is withheld simply because I am trying to broaden the application.
Note to the reader: the
strong majority in this particular congregation favored the traditional
position opposing ordination and marriage of gay people. There was a
much smaller group strongly favoring
revision. Some of these had already left; others were wondering if there
could be a place for them. The emphases in this address are therefore
somewhat different from those that might be made in a parish where the
dividing line fell the other way.
Since 2003 I have not had any strong
feeling that I want to revise the general opinions here expressed in
any significant way.
presentation is divided into several parts. First is an address
to each member of this congregation which I hope might
be of some assistance to you as you face the issues that are before
us. Then I will move on directly to the question of homosexuality.
heart’s desire and my prayer is that this blessed congregation would
stay together and work through the pain. My heart’s desire and my
prayer is that you would remain within the Episcopal Church and bear
your witness by modeling your capacity for enduring the struggle. Many
of you have spoken to me or emailed me about your distress. It has been
my privilege to share some of this with you, but also my burden. I am
comforted to know that this burden has the shape of the Advent life
where conflict and struggle are expected but the promise comes to us
from our Lord: In the world you will have tribulation; but be of
good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
important New Testament idea is formulated by St. Paul who writes to
the Philippian church: Have this mind among yourselves which you
have in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). He also writes to the Corinthians,
saying, We have received...the Spirit which is from God, that we
might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this
in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting
spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit...we have the mind
of Christ (I Corinthians 2:12-3, 116) I want to focus on two things:
the teaching of the Spirit and the mind of Christ. In my judgment this
is one of those times in the history of the Church when we are going
to have to wrestle through to a new understanding of the mind of Christ.
We may come to the same conclusion in the end that the Church has held
for two thousand years, but my best judgment tells me that we cannot
simply say “this is the way it has always been.” I think that God
is requiring us to think it through all over again. We do not yet know
the full mind of Christ for our time. Again, we may come out in the
same place, but I do not believe we have the luxury of withdrawing from
it. That is why I am standing here. I have tried to withdraw for too
long. I am now going to offer some guidelines for the discussion. My
particular goal is to make more room, to enlarge the space for our disagreements.
kind of example that I am suggesting to you is desperately needed in
our church. Very few parishes are modeling this. Most have simply gone
to one extreme or the other. It is much easier to withdraw into a group
of people who are all in agreement than it is to endure this conflict
close up. The wider Church desperately needs to see congregations that
have taken a strong stand but continue to encompass personal relationships
that are surviving not only deep disagreements but real hurt, real pain,
real anger. This suffering will be hallowed by mutual acts of self-sacrifice.
I have already heard of two striking instances of such acts within this
congregation. This is what it means to take up the Cross.
great English poet John Keats wrote in a letter: “Negative Capability,
that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts,
without any irritable reaching after fact & reason” (Aileen Ward,
Keats’ biographer, observes that this is what today is called “tolerance
for ambiguity”). I have found this conception very useful (I have
written about it in my book Help My Unbelief) but I would redefine
it as the capacity for living within a situation of conflict and
uncertainty without insisting that one’s own strongly held position
be absolute. Again, I am hoping to make a contribution to your struggle
by making a larger space for you to work together, remembering that
in all things God is working together for good for those who love him
I bought a book at Waterstone’s bookstore in Boston and they gave me a bag with a quotation from the French writer Roland Barthes: “Literature is the question without the answer.” That expresses something of what I want to say. Jesus Christ is indeed the answer to all our questions, but we do not always know what shape that answer takes in this life. A theological book that I read recently speaks of the “painful and piercing questions that trouble all our answers” and notes that whereas faith sees the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living [Psalm 27], it sees this goodness not as deliverance from all danger and ambiguity, but as encouragement to see them through. (Charles L. Bartow, God’s Human Speech, 112, 89)
The great German pastor, theologian and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer similarly wrote of “living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world—watching with Christ at Gethsemane. (LPP July 21, 1944)
I said, many people in this congregation are confiding in me their deep
hurt. Drawing on Bonhoeffer, I read the situation this way: the biggest
problem in situations like this is that people are not trying hard enough
to understand one another. People are taking their own distress so seriously
that they can’t see the distress of the other, or they give the impression
that they don’t care about the distress of the other. People on both
sides who have not already left the parish are drawing lines, not talking
to one another. As in a marriage, that is very dangerous for a relationship.
too, there is the matter of money. Throughout the Episcopal Church,
money is being used as a means of sending a message, This is inevitable.
We all stop giving money to causes when they disappoint us. The problem─and
this is a serious one─ is that the people with the most money have
the most leverage and gain the most power, and the entire teaching of
the Old and New Testaments warns against that.
My impression of this congregation is that you have been deeply committed to one another as a Christian family, and it is obvious that you have had excellent leadership for many years. All that can be lost in a matter of months if you allow your divisions to fester and deepen. This is what the apostle Paul was worried about in the Corinthian Church─the congregation was dividing into factions, each thinking itself superior to the other. Paul writes to them in the most impassioned terms, pleading with them to work through their divisions. I would also point to his letter to the Philippians where he is entreating his most beloved congregation to pull together. Two leading women of the church are fighting. He speaks to them directly, and to an unnamed colleague, saying, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:3). This is one of the most important passages in the whole Bible about the role of women, yet it is often overlooked. Paul addresses the two women in Philippi as leaders whose dispute is significant enough to affect the whole congregation.
Now “agreeing in the Lord” does not necessarily mean holding the same opinion. It also means “having the same mind,” that is to say, having the “mind of Christ.” I would offer an example of two people who serve together on the faculty of the Duke Divinity School, Richard Hays in New Testament and Stanley Hauerwas in theology. They have opposing views on homosexuality and complementary views on almost everything else. They have worked together for many years.
a congregation like yours, however, this will not be easy. Specific
decisions will have to be made about your relationship with the diocese,
the bishop, and the AAC. Votes will be taken and there will be winners
and losers. It will then be incumbent upon the “winners” to bend
over backwards toward those who voted differently. A great deal will
depend on the conduct of those in the majority. The party or person
in power always has the most responsibility to wear that power as Christ
wore his. Thus Paul wrote to the Philippians: Complete my joy by
being of the same mind, having the same love...Do nothing from selfishness
or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests
of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ
Jesus, who was in the form of God but emptied himself and took the
form of a servant or slave (Philippians 2:3-11). Paul knows that Christians
will have fights. He is teaching them how to fight. Here he is speaking
there especially to those who are on top, so to speak, calling them
the minority, too, will have to struggle. The “winners” are tempted
to charge ahead with little regard for the feelings of the minority─that
is their danger─but
the minority is in danger too. The minority will have to fight off the
temptation to self-righteousness. Those in the minority will find it
difficult not to think of themselves as superior because they feel that
their position is more loving, more “inclusive.” It takes a lot
of work on both sides to avoid these traps. Let me suggest some
questions that you might ask yourselves. Can you ask another person
the question “Why does this issue bother you so much?” Can you give
the other person lots of time to answer? Are you willing to struggle
to understand the answer even if you do not agree? Can you grant that
the other person holds his or her position with integrity as you hold
yours? Are you willing to offer something of yourself to another person
who has deeply offended you? Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is
the way of the Cross, and though we disagree about human sexuality and
many other issues, there can be no disagreement that our Lord calls
us to the way of the Cross.
most important of all, when you have overstepped or failed, can you
apologize and ask for forgiveness ? For 22 years, from 1975 to 1997
I worked in parish ministry, and it is my experience that repentance
and forgiveness is a factor that outweighs all others. It affects relationships
on the deepest level. When old friends of many years, or even family
members, find themselves on opposite sides of an inflammatory issue,
the pain and the recriminations can be ferocious. During the Civil War,
not only the nation but also families were split. This was the situation
faced by a great theologian, Abraham Lincoln. He was a
theologian profound enough to stand alongside the giants of Christian
history. I am quite serious about that. A recent book discussing his
theology is an examination of the Second Inaugural called Lincoln’s
is well known that Lincoln changed his mind about slavery. Lincoln wrestled
long and hard with theological questions raised in his mind by slavery
and the Civil War. In a private letter to a newspaper editor in Kentucky,
a slave-holding state, he wrote that both the South and the North
would be judged for complicity in the sin of slavery, and that such
judgment would ultimately cause men “to attest and revere the justice
and goodness of God.” In his essay “Meditation on the Divine
Will” he mused, “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance
with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong.
God can not be for, and against the same thing at the
same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s
purpose is something different from the purpose of either party...”1
own feeling is that this must be true of the present conflict, which
is probably just beginning. It will be another full generation at least
before we begin to see what the sexual revolution has wrought, but we
must always be aware that God’s purpose is probably something different
from the purpose of any party or group. Therefore it is not a good idea
to act as though one side or the other is in possession of the absolute
unmitigated truth. I have been
speaking for many days here with you about God’s judgment and the
way that Christ took God’s judgment upon himself, commanding us not
to judge others (Matthew 7:1). At the same time we should note that
there was a very strong note of judgment in our Lord’s words on certain
occasions. Who he would judge in the present situation is not clear
Of first importance:
A word to those present who are heterosexual:
Homosexual people deserve to be seen,
understood, and taken seriously. It would not be Christian to patronize
them, categorize them, or talk about them in the third person. Gay people
want to know that insofar as there is distress, we are distressed
on their behalf, not just because of them or as a result
of them as thought they were a problem we wish would go away. We
who are “straight” must bear the pain of this difficult time
in our persons, not push it away as though it were someone else’s
problem off in a remote location.
Let us always remember that the Christian
faith calls for a different use of power. I was struck recently
by a sentence in a book by Philip Gourevitch, We Wish To Inform You
That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
(Winner National Book Critics Circle Award 1998). This is a highly praised
account of the massacres in Rwanda and the abject failure of the American
and European powers to do anything to stop it. Here is the sentence
that struck me: “Power largely consists in the ability to make
others inhabit your story of their reality”
If “power largely consists in the
ability to make others inhabit your story of their reality,” then
the way of the Cross consists in allowing those others to tell their
story in their own way.
A word to homosexuals and those connected to homosexuals:
I am addressing not only the openly gay people who may be here, but also those present
I do not wish to speak to you as though
you were a problem. I do not wish to speak to you as though you were
in a different category from the rest of us, as though you were sinners
of a special sort more serious than the sinfulness of the rest of us.
I do not wish to speak about you as if you were not present. My sense
of our Lord is that he always spoke to, not about,
every one who was present and that he continued his gracious address
to those who were considered beyond the pale even though he knew it
was deeply offensive to the “godly.”
Now for the matter
at hand. I open with a few theological observations for background.
Christians we must be theological—not anthropological─in
our decision-making. Theos means God, anthropos means
man, human being. Most of the argumentation going on in the Episcopal
Church right now is only vaguely theological. If we really intend our
discussion to be Christian and not just generically religious or humanist,
we need to focus on God, on God’s nature as revealed to us in Scripture.
Much of the argument during the women’s ordination controversy was
anthropological, that is, it emphasized the experiences of women
and various socio-political themes rather than the light that was breaking
forth out of Scripture. The debate gradually became dominated by a group
that was not interested in thinking theologically.
me give you some examples of anthropological thinking. There is a sentimentality
in much of the debate coming from the “liberal” side. Homosexuals
are romanticized and the seriously disordered aspect of many (not all)
gay lifestyles is overlooked and ignored. This is analogous to the belief
that if we could just get women into leadership, the church would be
a better place. (No doubt there are some who still believe that; I certainly
do not.) Those who favor the new thinking about gay people are often
found sentimentalizing their own position, thinking or perhaps even
saying, “See how loving and inclusive we are compared to
you.” I was guilty of this myself during the civil rights period.
I still have to be careful about romanticizing the black church and
African Americans in general.
is a theological statement that we can all agree on? How about “God
accepts you just as you are”? That is true. But that is only a part
of the truth about God, as I have been saying for more than a week in
the Advent presentations, because it takes no account of the fact that
none of us can stand before the face of God without some serious
remedial work. What then? All around the church in our time it is heard,
“We have an inclusive gospel.” Yes, we do, but on what basis
is it inclusive? That is the question. What is the role of judgment,
correction, purgation? And why are those who talk so much of inclusion
so eager to exclude evangelicals, caricaturing us just as many evangelicals
categorize liberals and homosexuals?
First, a very quick sketch of the
relevant Biblical material. When I was in church on the October
6 just past and heard the readings for the day, I thought to myself,
this is almost the complete picture, right here.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a partner fit for him.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man leaves his father
and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis
[Jesus] went to the region of
Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again,
as his custom was, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order
to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses
allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.”
But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this
commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male
and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So
they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined
together, let not man put asunder.” (Mark 10:2-9)
theological ideas lie at the heart of any discussion of human sexuality.
They are theological, even though they are about anthropos,
because God is the determining factor, not human experience.
This is called “the order of creation” and it is very difficult
if not impossible to dismiss, because it is not only set in the creation
but also endorsed specifically and powerfully by Jesus himself. I will
return to this shortly when I get around to talking about divorce.
irregularity of every kind is regarded with abhorrence in the Old Testament.
It is depicted in grim detail─incest, rape, the whole thing─but deeply imbedded in the account of God’s
dealings with Israel is the sense that Israel is to be distinct from
the pagan culture around it─distinct in holiness, which covered many things
but certainly sexual behavior as a major component. Israel’s sins
of idolatry and covenant-breaking are repeatedly indicated by sexual
metaphors. Especially notable in the Hebrew prophets is the imagery
of infidelity, harlotry and adultery denoting the most grievous sort
is the easiest thing in the world to make fun of the Book of Leviticus.
It is harder to read it for its overall theological message. I did that
yesterday; I read the whole thing (not for the first time, but for the
first time in a while). Some of it was tedious indeed, and I do not
necessarily recommend your trying it. But in the end, if one reads it
with a reasonably fresh eye and ear, one comes away from Leviticus with
a different impression. There is a good deal in it about justice, honesty,
kindness to the neighbor, care for the poor, and so forth. In spite
of the numerous prohibitions and strictures that seem so strange and
even offensive to us today, the book carries with it a deeply Hebrew
sensibility that is strikingly different from anything around it in
the various pagan cultures. I don’t mean that other cultures did not
have prohibitions, sacrifices, atonement rituals, etc. What I mean is
that when you take the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament as a
whole, there is a quality of materiality about it. It is not
“spiritual,” it is earthy. That has always been noticed about
the faith of the Hebrews and it has always been recognized as something
distinctive, even unique, in ancient religion. The body matters, and
what is done in and to the body matters.
across now (and this is really skimming, not deep-diving) to the New
Testament, we begin to see the rise of gnosticism, a complex and highly
“spiritualized” form of belief which held that the body and all
that is associated with the body was unspiritual and inferior. The Corinthian
church was being influenced by gnostic teaching and this had led to
two contradictory practices:
1) Extreme asceticism, manifest in practices such as abstinence even within marriage, punishment of the body, mortification of the flesh─all for the purpose of showing that only the “spiritual” counts
2) Extreme promiscuity, drawn
from the same premise─the body didn’t matter
this emerging Christian gnosticism we have Paul’s teaching which,
with its Hebrew roots, takes the body very seriously indeed. There is,
for instance, a very important passage in I Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul
explains why sexual purity is crucial for Christians: The body is
not made for immorality but for the Lord...the immoral man sins against
his own body...Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy
Spirit?...You are not your own; you were bought with a price.
the argument is frequently made today that : “Jesus never said anything
about homosexuality. ” This is disingenuous at best and dishonest
at worst. No educated interpreter today believes that we can make a
simple separation of Jesus’ teaching from the church’s reflection
on that teaching, and it is annoying that some are pretending that we
can. (In any case, Jesus is quoted as condemning porneia,
which would certainly have covered the entire spectrum of illicit sexual
behaviour repeatedly spelled out in the Old Testament. If he had not
meant it to, he would have specified so.).
know something about male homosexuality and one of the things I know
is that there is a great deal of ignorance about it among straight people
in the Episcopal Church. People on the “left” tend to romanticize
and sentimentalize gays as charming, lovable innocents out of La
Cage aux Folles. People on the “right,” though they make supposedly
informed pronouncements about gay people, in my experience often are
quite deceived because they have not made much effort to know gay people
in depth, and indeed do not know many gay people at all (or think that
am sorry that I cannot speak about lesbianism. I know a little about
it but not much. One of the problems about this whole issue is that
it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to find out enough to
speak publicly in an authoritative way. There are a few things that
we do know about the differences between male and female homosexuals.
Lesbians (speaking generally) are much more likely to seek commitment
to a single partner, and are much less likely to seek anonymous or promiscuous
sex than are male homosexuals. (At least this was true until recently.
It may be changing now.) There is a significant amount of lesbian literature,
and it is well known that some of the best old-line women’s colleges
have become lesbian havens. However, there is nothing in lesbianism
comparable to the male personal advertisements in the gay magazines.
I would strongly urge anyone who has a sentimental or romantic view
of gay life to read some of these magazines and have your eyes opened.
It is notable that relatively few
male couples have sought single-sex unions in Vermont or Canada, far
fewer than expected. A recent informal canvas of gay men in New York
indicated that a significant number, perhaps even a majority, of gay
men are not interested in monogamy or the institution of marriage, let
alone adopting children. At the same time, support for sexual morality
and the institution of marriage is breaking down before our very eyes.
Last week in The New York Times most of the “News of the Week
in Review” section was devoted to this subject. The increase in cohabitation
and childbearing outside marriage is astronomical.2
weeks ago the conservative writer David Brooks wrote a column lamenting
the state of marriage and arguing that conservatives should support
gay “marriage” because it will promote the values of fidelity and
family plus supporting a more wholesome style of life. This is not a
new argument but it was a surprise to hear it coming from a conservative.
Continuing the subject of the phenomenon of homosexuality:
are my beliefs, based on considerable research and observation:
Gay men do not choose their orientation (though I do not believe it
is a gene). No one would choose a way of life that causes them so much
social difficulty. I do not wish to go into this in any detail but I
hold the view (which is more widely held by specialists than most are
willing to admit) that male homosexuality is largely a result of the
boy’s inability at a crucial time (early in life, in the 4-to-7 range)
to make the shift from attachment to the mother to attachment to the
father, a difficult shift to make at best, but especially so in the
absence or perceived absence of a warmly empathetic, emotionally accessible,
dependably supportive father or father figure with whom the boy can
joyously identify. My various male friends who have gay sons obviously
did not know that was happening to their sons and did not intend
it, but their ways of trying to compensate were too little too late.
I therefore believe that the Church would do well to give much more
attention to the whole matter of fathers. There has been too much idealizing
of mothers and too little support and encouragement of fathers.
I do not believe that a male with an exclusively homosexual orientation
can be changed. 3 Twenty years ago I was very interested
in two cases that were widely written about in church publications.
One man wrote extensively about his own “cure” and subsequent marriage
and it sounded extremely persuasive. Another was held up by one of our
leading traditionalist clergymen as an example of a “cured” or changed
homosexual. I was duly impressed by this at the time, and consequently
very sobered when, ten and fifteen years later, it emerged that these
cures or changes had not in fact occurred.
I have been considering the argument that the Biblical writers did not
know anything about people with an exclusively homosexual orientation.
This point has been widely made and I find it somewhat persuasive, in
a provisional way at least.
I have great respect and reverence for people who maintain celibacy
if they are unmarried, divorced or widowed. This certainly remains the
classical Christian standard. However, I do not believe that many people
are granted the gift of celibacy. Even St. Paul, who put a high value
on celibacy, recognized this in his teaching on marriage. I therefore
believe we must find a way to support healthier lifestyles for Christian
gay people who are beset every day by invitations to participate in
the anonymity and promiscuity of the street, the bathhouse, the bar
and the club. We will do well, I think to make an honored place for
the devoutly Christian gay people who sincerely want fidelity and stability
in their lives insofar as that is possible for them. These couples are
in the distinct minority and it seems to me that we should support them
in their wish to carve out a more responsible style of life. I therefore
agree (I think) with those who say that we should be discussing the
possibility of some sort of blessing for gay couples who fit this description.
those who take comfort in what I just said will probably be very disappointed
in the sequel, which is this.
Homosexuality is being called by many a “normal variant of human sexuality”.
This seems to me to be an entirely untenable view, even from a completely
secular perspective. Everything we know about men and women and reproduction,
it seems to me, argues against that position, beginning with human anatomy.
What then is homosexuality? Is it a “perversion”? Many heterosexual
people will always have difficulty understanding it any other way, no
matter what they may say publicly. Is it a “disorder”? “Disordered,”
theologically understood, means “not according to the order God
intends.” In that sense homosexuality is a disorder, but there are
a great many disorders─many. If we compare the standard set by our
Lord, which is “one-flesh” union between one man and one woman,
a great number of human relationships are disordered; and there are
many long-married, monogamous couples who have disorders within their
marriages like alcoholism, abuse or sexual problems. Indeed, a truly
“ordered” marriage is rare and is a gift of God when it exists at
all. For the phenomenon of homosexuality I would suggest the word “adaptation.”
Homosexuality is not a normal variant of human sexuality but an adaptation
to the circumstances, whatever they are, that have produced exclusively
homosexual desires in a person.
I do not believe that gay couples should be “married” as heterosexual
couples are married. There needs to be some tacit acknowledgement that
this is something less than the full intention of the Lord in creation.
My own sense at present is that gay unions would be conducted rather
like second marriages after a divorce─quiet, restrained, and dignified (at least
that is the way second marriage ceremonies used to be).
Church has been quite permissive lately with regard to premarital sex
and divorce, even extramarital sex. Indeed, we have been largely voiceless
and impotent in these matters. I have the impression that the mainlines
are not even trying, and as for the Christian right, I have read in
an evangelical magazine that there is even more divorce among American
evangelicals than in the population as a whole. Therefore I do not think
that those of us who are evangelicals can afford to be toplofty about
our superior Biblical sexual standards.
withdrawal from the Episcopal Church:
do not believe that there is such a thing as a pure church. Do we want
the church to be purified of gay people? In a “reconfigured” church,
there will be virtually no openly gay people and, I should think, very
few closeted or celibate ones. This, in my judgment, would be a situation
we cannot allow. If the Church is anything at all, it is an image of
the mercy of God for a widely disparate and unlikely assortment of people
who have been made one in Christ in spite of their continuing condition
as simul peccator et iustus (simultaneously saint and sinner).
are saying that if the Episcopal Church splits it will warn other denominations
not to go where we have gone. This may be. On the other hand, I met
a leading Presbyterian the other day in Charlotte who was in great distress
at the possibility that an Episcopal split would mean a greater likelihood
of a Presbyterian split, which would be almost unbelievably tragic since
the Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches came back together only
a few decades ago.
This ends abruptly because it
does not include my concluding remarks which were not written down. I did not write them down because I wanted to be free to speak extemporaneously and personally as I addressed a large crowd of people whose faces I could see and whom I had come to know fairly well in my several visits to this parish. Unfortunately, this portion of my remarks was not recorded.