In recent days the Bishops of the Church of England released their response to the Living in Love and Faith process, which included a draft set of prayers and liturgies. These “Prayers of Love and Faith” are, say the bishops, “a way of affirming welcoming and giving thanks for couples who are committed to be faithful to one another and to serving God” which is all very high sounding and admirable. However, what has precipitated the censorious response from the Anglican world especially the global south, is the fact that these liturgies include “prayers of blessing for couples including same sex couples”. In other words, they can be used to bless same-sex relationships.  The bishops in effect have tacitly approved the godliness and Christian acceptability of same-sex unions such that they can be blessed in the name of the church during a service or in a special liturgy. 
Much of the justification for this stance regarding same sex unions rests on the uncritical adoption of new ideologies of ontology. Chief among these is the adoption of modern gender ideology and its concomitant offspring – gender identity. Gender ideology is a post-modern deconstruction of the biblical understanding of human identity. It stems from a popular culture which, as George Weigel has noted, “…dismisses out of hand the very notion that there is a morally significant givenness to reality: a structure of The Way Things Are that can be discerned by reason and that, being known, discloses certain truths about the way we should live.” In this understanding our sexual selves are believed to be socially constructed, not predetermined and inborn. Thus, “people dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”
Instead of the Christian belief that sexual identity is a given rooted in biological reality; male and female, sexual identity is now something we as autonomous individuals choose for ourselves, based in part on latent attractions, feelings and desires. Thus, arising from the polymorphic nature of fallen human desire, we have the almost limitless varieties of ‘gender’ – gay, bisexual, transgender etc. All ‘gender’ self-definitions are exactly that – ideological self-definitions, intellectual constructs. These self-identifications, which are not only totally subjective and non-examinable assertions, are also contingent on a prior suppression of the truth which accords with the Creators intention. Biblical scholar Robert Gagnon has highlighted how in Romans 1:18-32, Paul bears witness to the fact that all humans sin by suppressing the truth about themselves evident in creation and how that suppression leads to certain consequences. Gender ideology in effect rejects the divine architecture of only two complementary sexes, male and female, which are meant for each other in an exclusive and permanent heterosexual union called marriage. When people reject God’s truth about themselves revealed in their bodily existence, they paradoxically invest those same bodies with the transcendent values that belong only to God – and that of course is a form of idolatry.
To put it another way; if we claim one of the numerous gender ‘identities’ as who we are, we conflate innate desires (even if not chosen) with identity and thus absolve the self of accountability and responsibility for our sexual behaviour. This is in fact to remove the basis for all moral accountability in a social or corporate sense. We become the arbiters of what is right and wrong for ourselves – we claim to be our own gods. It is worth noting that in the Hebrew bible, ba’al  and its cognates means “owner” or “husband” and can relate to both ownership of physical items such as land, being lord or master of a household, or community; or it can mean the possession of certain internal qualities or traits of personality (as in Proverbs 22:24, 23:2, 24:8). In the contemporary understanding of the human person as a private owner of their desires and behaviour, we could well say that in such an understanding people are their own ‘baals’.
The New Testament almost always, when speaking about sexual immorality, associates it with idolatry. Take Ephesians 5:5; “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  The phrase sexually immoral or impure is meant as an all-encompassing phrase to include all sexual behaviour censured by the Old Testament moral code. Here, as with the almost identical Colossians 3:5, 6, Paul is warning believers that sexual immorality is a mark of the pagan lifestyle and a rejection of the Lordship of Christ. Again, in Revelation 2:20, the false teacher named ‘Jezebel’ is accused of teaching and seducing the Christians of Thyatira into sexually immoral behaviour. Here we have a powerful intertextual reference to the Old Testament. Jezebel, of course, was the Tyrian princess whom king Ahab married and who brought into Israel the worship of Baal together with numbers of cultic prophets of Baal.
In a similar vein, Paul warns the flock, “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play””. This is a reference to an incident in the Old Testament in which the people made offerings to Aaron’s golden calf, and then indulged in the immoral practices of the Canaanite Baal cult. To make his point clear and to emphasise it he adds, “We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day”, referring to Exodus 32:28.
Again, the writer to the Hebrews issues a strong admonition; “See to it…that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau…” Sexual immorality is associated with the “bitter root” of idolatry in Deuteronomy 29:18; “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit…”
Prophets of the Old Testament such as Elijah saw the root cause of Israel’s problems as a theological one “How long will you go limping between two opinions”, he says, “if Baal is god, worship him, but if YHWH is god, worship him”. The Israelites did not deny YHWH, nor did they destroy the sanctuaries at which YHWH was worshipped, they merely brought in the Asherah poles. Idolatry here is not disbelief in the true God but permitting another god to stand in his presence – to paraphrase Tertullian. Thus, idolatry can take on a cultic expression, but in essence it is the surrender of the will to something or someone other than God – it can mean the surrender of our will to bodily appetites and desires in place of surrendering to God’s revealed will.
The first chapter of the book of Romans (verses 18-32), reveals the psycho-social dynamic that is released within a culture that suppresses the truth about the creator God. Human beings turn from worshipping the creator to worshipping the creation; in Old Testament terms they turn from worshipping Yahweh the creator to the worship of Baal who is the personification of the creative principle or the principle of generation. This has both a male and female form – Asherah as well as Baal. The phallic symbols associated with Baal cult and other pagan fertility cults throughout the world show how this can eventually turn to the worship of human genitalia.
Idolatry is the divinization of nature, investing what is created with transcendent value which belongs to God alone. This is true not only of external nature – the visual and corporeal, but of inner nature as well. This means our instincts and innate desires are divinized, invested with transcendent value. The practical outworking of this is that people allow their instincts to rule them, instincts of self-gratification, carnal desires of every sort, the seeking after endless pleasure. Satinover accurately describes this process as a return to paganism, the worship of creation –
“In thus spiritualizing the instincts, pagan worship tends naturally to the violent, the hedonistic and the orgiastic…violent intoxication, temple prostitution, the ritual slaughter of enemies, self-mutilation, even child sacrifice; all these historical phenomena can be understood not as pathological but as predictable, and points to the unfettering of human nature”.
The apostle Paul warns Timothy about this very great danger of reversion within the church – people will be lovers of self…lovers of pleasure…led astray by various passions. 
Idolatry is neither a purely cultic nor a purely individual affair in view of its spiritual basis. An idolater is not merely one who prays to Baal, Zeus, or the Buddha (although these are included); nor is it true that individual sin of idolatry has no effect on the wider church. It has a corporate dimension and a corporate effect when practiced, just as sexual immorality does. Paul describes this reality when speaking of the incident in the Corinthian church where a man’s immoral sexual relationship is tolerated by the leadership. We are part of the mystical body of Christ (1 Cor 6:15) and the sexually immoral person sins against the body. A little leaven, says Paul, leavens the whole lump; this corrupting influence includes, among other sins, idolatry, and sexual immorality.
To understand the psycho-spiritual dynamic the scripture teaches is inherent in same-sex relations, it is instructive to start in the Old Testament. The book of Genesis from its first verses reveals the ordering of reality. Space, time, and the universe are all ordered with a binary nature. There is light and dark, heaven and earth, male and female. In fact, the binary of male and female is a representative template and microcosm of the whole of creation and of God’s intended relationship with his human creation (as in marriage).
The rest of the TORAH or first five books, reveal God’s moral order. The Old Testament moral code has always formed the basis of the New Testament moral standards and is explicitly affirmed in the 39 Articles. In Leviticus 18:22-23, the prohibitions against same-sex behaviour and what is now euphemistically called ‘zoophilia” are associated not because they are equivalent, but because they are to’ay’baw (or abhorrence and unclean) and teh’bel (confusion, a violation of the natural created order). Joseph Boot notes that,
“…these terms are significant because biblically these acts are acts of chaos that flow out of a religious perspective that believes in primeval chaos, whereby social revitalization occurs when man returns to chaos by acts of chaos” 
Both these acts are chaotic because they break the God ordered distinctions and separations (the binary nature of creation) which are necessary for human wholeness and flourishing. Same-sex behaviour is placed with bestiality because this act places human beings on the level of animals and distorts the image of God. In addition, Leviticus teaches very clearly that these behaviours both result in the defiling of the individual offenders, the community, and the whole land. The consequence – a vivid metaphor of violent expulsion – the community will be vomited out of their land. This metaphoric Hebrew bodily expression captures the idea of purgation that must follow such corruption if there is to be eventual healing of the land.
It is therefore clearly not merely a prohibition of a cultic practice, but a prohibition of these behaviours in themselves because they ultimately destroy individual lives, the family, and the community. They promote a pagan worldview antithetical to the truth about reality and the purpose of God for human beings. The ‘blessing’ of what God has expressly forbidden in very strong terms as equivalent to idolatry is surely going to have a terrible spiritual consequence for the sanctuaries that host these events. In bringing what God regards as unholy into a holy place is a desecration of the holy and arguably a sign of the spirit of antichrist.
The fact that two people who are engaged in an actively homosexual relationship can come up to the altar rail for a ‘blessing’ is in Biblical terms an affirmation not of something positive and life-giving, but a sign of a return to chaos. It is in essence no different from the idea that two people in an adulterous or incestuous relationship can do so. It is abhorrent to both the letter and spirit of the scriptures. Wolfhard Pannenburg, arguably one of the most respected protestant theologians of the twentieth century, gave a sobering assessment of a church that permits this practice.
“Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” 
….in other words, it would be apostate.
Dave Doveton, February 2023.
[ 1] The distinction between blessing the couple and blessing the relationship is a fine point which will not be noticed by most people.
 Despite denials by the Legal Office, Martin Davie has shown that this is clearly the case. “… by allowing the marking in a church service of same sex civil marriages the Church of England would be saying that it is right (in the words of the Preface to the draft prayers) ‘to celebrate in God’s presence the commitment two people have made to each other,’ even when the couple involved are ‘coupled together otherwise than God’s word doth allow.’ See “Failing the Green Test II”, retrieved at https://mbarrattdavie.wordpress.com/.
 Weigel, George, Reality and Public Policy, essay published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, accessed 5th February, 2023 from http://www.eppc.org/publication/reality-and-public-policy/.
 Weigel, op. cit.
 Baal is a word used by semitic tribes, signifying ownership or possession (especially describing a husband taking of his wife) by a master. It came to denote the Semitic nature god who was worshipped under different aspects in various localities.
 Although in the Greek grammar, the phrase “which is idolatry” modifies the word “covetousness,” most New Testament commentators agree that “covetousness” and thus idolatry is at the root of all the preceding vices. See for example Pao, D.W. Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2012, pp220-221. Non marital sexual relations are always associated with idolatry in the Old Testament.
 1 Corinthians 10:7.
 Hebrews 12:16,17.
 Satinover, Jeffrey, Jungians and Gnostics, First Things, October 1994.
 2 Timothy 3:2-4.
 Boot, Joseph, The Mission of God, A Manifesto of Hope for Society, Wilberforce, LONDON, 2016, p335.
 Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.
 Accessed 06 February from: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/november11/6td035.html.