A lamentable departure

Some of you have asked for my thoughts about recent developments in the Church of England. In case you haven’t heard, a few weeks ago, the General Synod of the Church of England passed a motion to allow prayers of blessings for couples in same-sex civil unions.

This is a lamentable departure from the clear teaching of Scripture that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is sin. Today, this continues to be the understanding for the majority of Christendom, including the majority of global Anglicans (which includes the Anglican Church of Hong Kong). Yet now, the Church of England has authorized the blessing of sin and declared that sin is no longer sin.

Churches ought to be communities where people find their identity in Jesus

There are many implications for this decision by the Synod of the Church of England. Here are two concerns.

First, it does damage to the mission of the church. Holding to the truth of Scripture is intimately associated with the mission of the church. Jesus prays for his disciples that the Father would, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). It’s as a result of this sanctification in the truth that Jesus prays for his disciples to be one, that the world might know the Father (John 17:22-23). In other words, our faithfulness to the truth of God’s word binds us in unity and directs us towards mission. When we waver on the truth of Scripture we do damage to the mission of the church. The Church of England has created confusion about the teaching of Scripture in not being clear on the teaching of Scripture.

Secondly, at a more practical level, the Church of England’s decision undermines Jesus’ call to discipleship: to put aside one’s self in order to live in response to what Jesus has done for us. This is especially the case for the many Christians who choose to abstain from sex outside of marriage, regardless of their sexuality. The Church of England’s decision devalues the discipleship and obedience of many by communicating that sex outside of marriage is not sinful but something for which they can receive blessing.

Unfortunately, churches have often been places where people feel unsafe to say that they are same-sex attracted. We need to work hard to make sure that this is no longer the case. Everyone should feel welcome at church. Churches ought to be communities where people find their identity in Jesus, their joy in knowing his unconditional love, and the peace of having forgiveness in him. All of us are sinners, and are called to repent, and to seek to obey Jesus.

So what does all of this mean for us going forward? For the sake of the witness of the church and the holiness of God’s people, we must always stand for the truth of Scripture, even when it says things that are difficult for us to hear. Our Lord Jesus warned the Church in Thyatira for tolerating those who encouraged sexual immorality (Rev 2:20). Please pray for the faithful witness of the church, that we hold fast to the teaching of God’s word, for his glory.