Monday, March 02, 2015

From evangelical to Episcopal, Part 2

I recently found myself in a conversation on facebook with a friend of mine from my evangelical days.  I was a youth minister at a particular church, and this friend was a recent high school graduate from the church when I knew her.  She messaged me to ask a number of questions about being Episcopalian and about my views on certain Christian themes in general.  In this series, I'll simply restate the questions I was asked and then my reply.  These are pretty off-the-cuff responses, but precisely the kind of thing a blog is for.  In other words, they're pretty rough around the edges. 

2. The second set of questions was, Do Episcopalians use the Catholic or Protestant canon?  Where do I personally and the Episcopal Church at large stand on homosexuality?  If we are welcoming of homosexuals, how does that work biblically?

My reply:

The Episcopal Church mostly uses the Protestant canon, but occasionally also uses the Apocrypha.
Homosexuality is a large issue. I would say the church generally recognizes it exists, and that homosexual Christians exist (as do, say, divorced Christians). I think the question you are asking is whether the Episcopal Church condones homosexual relationships as fitting with the way of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. The Episcopal Church at large has no official teaching as yet, and each church differs. That said, in general the Episcopal Church tends to accept the healthy expression of homosexual partnerships as compatible with Christian discipleship. (As do I.)

How does that work biblically? This could take a long time to unravel, so I will have to be brief. In short, I am not convinced that any passage in Scripture trumps any other. Jesus did not come and the New Testament was not written and canonized under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to give us more rules to follow. Jesus as often as not hung out with the outcasts, of course, and he doesn't always tell them to "go and sin no more." Biblically, the foundation of our faith and our way is love--the love of God poured out for we sinners and the love of Christ that shattered death on the cross. What are the two greatest commandments? Love the Lord your God...and love your neighbor as yourself.

I understand that Paul seems to have some harsh words for homosexuals. That is, Paul seems to think men with men or women with women is disordered desire. But I confess that I see no more nor less disordered desire in my homosexual friends who are Christian than I see in myself. (One might want to claim that any desire not directed to God is disordered, but where would that leave marriage...or the second greatest commandment?) In 1 Cor 6:9-10, Paul outlines the works of those who will not inherit the kingdom, two of which have been taken to be potentially about homosexual acts. In Galatians 5, Paul outlines a similar list of the works of the flesh (though without those questionable terms). But notice what he says after. The works of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I have met homosexuals who evince these marks of the spirit. I have met heterosexual, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians who display far more of the vices Paul mentions (fornication, drunkenness, envy, wrath, selfishness, for instance) than my homosexual Bible-believing friends. I find it hard to believe then, based on the testimony of Scripture, that these friends are not or cannot be or should not be Christians when their heterosexual counterparts are considered "good" Christians.

I will have to leave it there, but that is the short story. If we were to disqualify as Christian everyone who lusted after a woman in his heart (which is adultery in Jesus's book) or everyone who was wrathful, envious, selfish, drunken, etc. (the works of the flesh according to Paul), then we would be left with very few Christians, I think. But if we turn it around and look for the fruit of the Spirit, a relationship with Jesus, and a love for the Word, then we will still find Christians who do not think it any worse to be in a committed relationship with a member of the same sex than it is to be in the same kind of relationship with a member of the opposite sex. I take the Spirit's lead on this.

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