Mere Anglicanism

Church doctrine evolves to meet the demands of culture, Archbishop states

Biblical prohibitions of homosexual activity should not be taken literally, the Archbishop of Wales said this week, as the Apostle Paul and the Old Testament authors were ignorant of committed same-sex relationships.

Biblical prohibitions of homosexual activity should not be taken literally, the Archbishop of Wales said this week, as the Apostle Paul and the Old Testament authors were ignorant of committed same-sex relationships.

In his 23 April 2014 Presidential Address to the Church in Wales Governing Body, Dr. Barry Morgan stated the “few texts we have in the Bible about same-sex relationships are very negative. Yet, it can be argued that homosexual relationships as we understand them in terms of committed, faithful, monogamous, long lasting relationships, were unknown in biblical times and what the texts rail against is sexual promiscuity and experimentation. In 1972 the American Institute of Psychiatrists believed that homosexuality was a mental illness. We no longer believe that to be the case yet, that view was widespread just 40 years ago.”

Members of the Governing Body will not act upon questions of assisted suicide or gay marriage at this meeting of the church’s synod, but are set to begin a conversation on the options open to them. In preparation for the debates, Dr. Morgan urged the Governing Body to have a right view, a relativistic view, of Scripture.

He argued beliefs held by Christians were relative truths, informed by environment, upbringing and the “particular part” of the Bible they sought to emphasize.

“We often see what we want to see.  We often use Scripture to reinforce viewpoints that we have already arrived at in other ways and for other reasons.  Some people have changed their minds for example on women’s ministry and same-sex relationships when they have experienced the ministry of a woman priest in the one case, or discovered their own son or daughter to be gay in the other,” the archbishop said.

Dr. Morgan noted that church doctrine has evolved in response to its surrounding culture. Gay marriage might be part of that development of doctrine, he suggested. “The State allowed the possibility of divorce and re-marriage for a long time before we did as a Church. Not only do we now bless such unions, we actually re-marry divorced people in our churches.  In the past, if a cleric divorced and re-married, that person could no longer continue in the ordained ministry in Wales, whereas now that is no longer a bar to continuing in ministry.  So our views have evolved and changed on a subject which Jesus pronounced very clearly.  He had nothing to say about same-sex relationships.”

However, resolving the dispute by reference to Scripture would not settle the issue, he believed. “Holy Scripture itself is far more nuanced, subtle and complex than we often realise….. We cannot just quote Biblical texts on different subject matters and think that that settles an issue. It is easy to opt for prohibitions in Scripture and regard them as the word of the Lord and forget that the Bible contains stories which also convey God’s word to us.”

“Will we, as a Church, eventually adopt the same approach as far as same-sex relationships are concerned, as we have done about re-marriage after divorce, or is gay marriage in a different category from the re-marriage of divorced people,” Dr. Morgan asked.

“Whatever our viewpoints, I hope that our discussions can be charitable.”

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