In a surprise announcement last week, Church of England bishops declared that prayers of blessing for same-sex couples – based on recommended prayers and readings included in the highly controversial Prayers of Love and Faith report – should be commended for use and now go forward for authorisation under Canon law. It is expected that the process, involving consultation with every diocese, will take until 2025.
This follows a fulsome public apology by the bishops earlier this year to LGBTQI+ people, for the way in which they said the Church had in the past rejected or excluded them. “We have not loved you as God loves you,” the apology read, “and that is profoundly wrong.”
This would seem to reflect a growing trend in popular culture to mis-identify the condemnation of actions that the Bible regards as sinful as hatred for sinners themselves. Such an interpretation could not be farther from the truth. To condemn ‘sin’, which can only damage the individual by tying them into oppressive and harmful behaviours, is an expression of love at its most profound, because only in and by such condemnation is there any possibility of liberation and healing – of restoration to that fulness of being that is the birth-right and gift of God to all. As it is, rebranding what the Bible labels ‘sin’ as virtue makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice, binding the sinner to suffering and eternal death.
Let us be clear, Christ died to set us free from sin and to give us life. In His own body, Jesus bore the price for our rebellion, dying in our place, so that when we confess our sins, we are healed by His blood. When, therefore, the bishops say that what the Bible labels as ‘sin’ is good, they not just make a mockery of that sacrifice – they deny any possibility of liberation and healing. They turn the gospel, in fact, into a mandate for demonic oppression.
We are none of us perfect, but, thankfully, our salvation is not dependent on sinlessness – only on our acknowledgment of sin and repentance, and our obedience to Christ. It is this chance of salvation that the bishops now deny, becoming spokespersons for a toothless and time-serving church that seeks to serve not God, but an immoral State, dominated as it by woke values of liberal conformity.
It is true that, since the announcement, eleven bishops have come forward to say that they believe the collective decision of the House of bishops is wrong, but the disappointing reason they give is that it fails to safeguard the pastoral stability, mission and unity of the Church (https://www.premierchristianity.com/uk-church/exclusive-dissenting-bishops-speak-out-on-same-sex-blessings/16497.article). Their stance would have carried more weight had they simply said that the decision lacked spiritual integrity and was theologically wrong. As instance of which, they could have cited the statement of the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullaly, who co-chaired the steering group for the report and announced, as justification, “… the heart of the gospel is reconciliation – our desire is to remain together as one Church in our uncertainty, finding ways to live well with our different perspectives and convictions”(https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/prayers-love-and-faith-bishops-agree-next-steps-bring-synod).
At every level, she is wrong. The heart of the gospel is the love of God, made manifest in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, who in His own body bore the penalty for sin and died that we might live.
The heart of the gospel is God’s love for the lost and our redemption.
It is not, as the bishop asserts, reconciliation with transient cultural views founded on adult sexual preferences, committed, amongst other things, to normalising and promoting behaviours that until recently were classified as deviant. That are still, according to the Bible, sin. This is what the dissenting bishops should have said, and this is the message the world still needs to hear.
As it is, the wolves have got in amongst the flock and are causing mayhem. But, despite appearances, God has not abandoned His Church and He calls to believers, “Come out from them and be separate … Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you … I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters” (2 Cor 6: 17 -18).