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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Monday, June 30 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterChristians and the sexual revolution - 4

There are several strange aspects to the case of the recently appointed "gay bishop" (Anglican) of Reading, England. For one, as mentioned on Friday, even though he lives with his male significant other, the bishop claims they've been celibate ("platonic," is his word) for years. That's all the church has always expected and the New Testament sets as the standard, not only to clergy members but to the unmarried clergy and laity as well. Though the Vatican recently said "gays are unsuitable for the priesthood," many expert observers agree that Catholic orders have had many homosexuals in all periods of the church's history, and so have had other Christian communions. (It's not clear whether the Vatican was using the term as a synonym with "homosexual," or the more specific definition I pled for last week, of one who advocates an active homosexual mode of living.)

St. Barsanuphius, a seventh-century monk/spiritual director revered in both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, in his writings answers questions repeatedly asking for spiritual help in resisting temptations raised by visual attraction to a fellow monk, and his replies never treat the question as extreme or even uncommon. Catholic Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco (retired), in an archdiocesan spiritual position paper on homosexuality within the past generation, actually recommends that persons attracted to members of the same sex live together, but in pledged celibacy, giving each other support to maintain their chastity.

Many church denominations have probably drifted into acceptance of homosexual behavior among its members and, over several generations now, even among clergy, because they lacked either the will or the mechanism to discipline, or often not even discuss, sexual sins. Denominations that have by default, as it were, drifted into the acceptance of divorced and remarried clergy have, by New Testament standards, found themselves condoning adultery. How are they then in a position to judge fornication (sexual sin among unmarried individuals, including gays)? Gays who are asking for equal treatment socially and legally, who have been raised in churches where adultery has been overlooked, do have grounds for their arguments.

Though most "mainline" denominations may have drifted into acceptance of gay sex among their people, the Anglican Church specifically drafted a position statement a few years back saying that, among the laity, admitted practicing homosexuals are acceptable in the church and eligible for holy communion. So the controversy over the "gay bishop" hinges on whether what's been specifically permitted for lay members can be extended to the clergy, especially the episcopal (overseeing) clergy. (The position statement specifically says they cannot, but such "standards" are "evolving" in denominations that are more rooted in social practices or democratic votes of the membership than in biblical doctrine.)

Roman Catholic (by far the largest communion in Christendom), Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelical Protestants (in the British and American sense of the word "evangelical"; the Germans and probably other groups use it much more broadly almost as a synonym with any kind of Protestant) call on Scriptures like the Apostle Paul's Epistles [Galatians 5:19-21*; Romans 1:28-32 ; 1 Corinthians 9-10; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5-8; 1 Timothy 9-10; 2 Timothy 2-5] and the tradition of the early church to proscribe any sexual behavior outside marriage, straight or gay. Historians agree that the Roman Empire of New Testament and subsequent times was sexually loose, with orgies not uncommon. But Christians were enjoined by their ministers from any sexual immorality, and were known—and eventually admired—for their chasteness.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

*"Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God" (St. Paul to the Church in Galatia). The list of New Testament references cited above is from the current edition of the Catholic Catechism (1995).

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Thought for today

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— Oliver Wendell Holmes
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