Written by Paul Gibson, the subtitle to this book was interesting to me for several reasons: The Bible and Homosexuality in Anglican Debate. Over the last few years I’ve become more comfortable in my Anglican home church, and although the church seems okay with my perspective on homosexuality, it also seems that a lot of people haven’t really thought about it. Or at least they’re more interested in the cultural acceptance of it, and their belief in a God who would not discriminate, which effectively negates what tradition says the Bible teaches about the subject. Some of my best conversations in the church have been with people in the parish who are, quite validly, struggling with the issue. Although I have to do it internally (as a gay man) they are just as much responsible before God to make sure that their reactions to LGBTQ people are Godly and loving, and also Biblical. I don’t want people to accept me as a gay man because the cultural opposition to Biblical teaching is so strong: I want them to do so because they’ve looked at the teaching and have processed through it, realizing the error. Even for straight people, this is one of the big issues of the day.
The book is divided into several sections, each of which builds a context for the ultimate presentation of his views on homosexuality. In the first, he describes the changing effect and understanding of culture over the last decades and centuries on faith and religion, and how these have affected the Anglican church through their Lambeth conferences. He describes this modern perspective, the “secular city” as “de-sacralizing” (pg 22) the natural order and the perception of Christianity. He touches modernist and post-modern thought, dismisses the clock-maker God of the 18th century Deists and moves on to to a perspective that is much more current and forward-thinking, trying to “hear what the gospel is staying to a Secular age”. With that background, he recounts to us the conflict that resulted in recent history as homosexuality was addressed directly in churches and conferences. The 1998 Lambeth Conference was key in this regard, where “traditional” met “centrist” to produce a statement regarding tradition, the Bible, and sexuality. It was, unfortunately, not very accepting of natural, active homosexual behaviour.
The second chapter was very thorough in its presentation of exactly what the Bible is and how it has come to us, including a quick history and overview that was a refreshing review. He included a significant discussion of the history of how different denominations or groups of Christians have seen different parts of the Bible; although I approach the Word more as an Evangelical, I cannot ignore that other parts of my faith have seen it differently. He does an excellent job of reminding us of some of the more difficult to interpret sections, particularly those more violent and even vindictive. He spends some time on the changing interpretations that our culture has adopted over the centuries, such as the prohibition against charging interest for loans in Exodus 22:25 & Deuteronomy 23:19. Yet in spite of America being a “Christian nation”, it’s entire economic power is fundamentally built on the charging of interest and loaning money to each other: in particular the poor. He also reviews changing attitudes toward the treatment of slaves and the domination of women, as well as polygamy in our current day. Gibson reminds us that one of David’s most punished sins was the taking of the census in 2 Samuel 24 & 1 Chronicles 21. How are we to interpret these “literally”? I mean, I was one who protested the cancellation of the Canadian Long-Form Census in 2010 (Bowles, 2010). If I were to take these stories literally or too seriously, I might not have done so. As it was, I saw it as a violation of minorities’ civic rights, and therefore against the spirit of the Bible (see chapter five).
This is the first of two parts on this subject: see Discerning the Word (2)
This post will be published July 30, 2013.