Robert Piggott, the BBC Religious Correspondent, got it about right on Saturday on Radio 4. In his piece on the Today Programme he commented that, in launching the AMiE, conservative evangelicals had parked their tanks on the front lawn of Lambeth Palace.
It’s obviously the case that the establishing of this new mission society is seen by some as unnecessarily provocative. Even by some of those who are orthodox on the issue of human sexuality. But it’s worth asking why some evangelicals thought that such a drastic move was necessary. A ‘conversation’ is supposed to be taking place between, if I may simplify, the liberal revisionists and the evangelical reformers. But clearly one side doesn’t feel that they’re being listened to. They are now, I’ll wager.
Friends within the Church of England (people who I respect, whose company I enjoy and with whom I share some similar doctrinal positions) profoundly disagree with what’s taken place. They may, as Piggott suggests, find it temperamentally easier to compromise. But it’s surely not as simple as that. The concerns expressed on the Fulcrum website are to do with an approach to negotiation and political action within our Denomination. Those represented by the wonderfully named ‘moderate’ evangelical group are unhappy with the approach of the more ‘radical’ AMiE. They think that the current action is precipitate and fundamentally inappropriate. But for people like me, the presenting issue (though perhaps unpopular and unwelcome) really matters. People’s eternal salvation is at stake. And sometimes that calls for drastic action. Like tanks. On the front lawn. At Lambeth. To my mind, it’s been along time coming.
Let me explain what I mean. In 1 Corinthians 6 The Apostle Paul teaches that the issue of homosexual activity is a salvation issue. People engaged in habitual, unrepentant same sex sexual activity (or greed or drunkenness for that matter) will not inherit the kingdom of God. That’s what the Bible says. I want to believe and live by the Bible. And I want to run churches that do the same. I belong to a denomination that’s supposed to be all about that. And so I don’t reinvent what I don’t liek or our society finds unpalatable. But some think that they can. But Paul is teaching the consistent New Testament position, that there is no salvation apart from receiving Christ as Lord. We cannot, surely, allow churches to go on reassuring sinners (like me) that our sin doesn’t matter. It does. What God thinks of it is made clear by Jesus’ death on the cross. It is unholy and worthy of His judgment. He’s judged it; in Christ. Get in! But He now calls me to turn from that which provoked His righteous anger. And so we are to repent of it, whatever it is. And that includes homosexual sexual sin. And greed. But we now have a de facto institutional approach to homosexuality that’s driven more by our cultural context than by the biblical teaching. And that’s not right.
I simply cannot see how we can think that it’s a good idea to two adjacent parishes, both belonging to the Church of England, yet teaching opposite things on this issue. Think about it for a moment. If someone who struggled with same sex attraction came to an evangelical church, I hope that they’d be reassured that the full resources of the church would be thrown behind them to help resist temptation and live a godly life for Christ. But a liberal church might simply empathise with their predicament but tell them that they are free to act on their same sex attraction and pursue a homosexual sexual relationship. One church calls them to fight sin and live in holines. The other church reassures them that what some call sin is really holiness. One church preaches forgiveness of sins through Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the transformation of life through the power of the Spirit. The other one sanctifies sin and imperils their salvation. We simply cannot co-exist. Can we?
Anyway, back to Radio 4. Paul Perkin continues to state the problem well and was, apparently, fairly reported. But it’s extraordinary that an hour-long interview should be edited down to three 10 second segments. I’m sure it was the same for Stephen Kurht and Giles Goddard. I wouldn’t mind hearing the whole interviews some time. But you can listen to the four-minute segment here.