The decision by the General Synod of the Church of England, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, to offer blessings to same-sex couples, is perhaps one of the most brazen steps taken by the Protestant Church on this controversial subject.
It is amazing that 250 of the just over 400 members – comprising bishops, clergy, and laity – overwhelmed their conservative colleagues to push through this position.
Yet, the confusion even within this “progressive” group was exposed by their ambivalence.
On the one hand they supported the offering of blessings to same-sex couples in civil marriages, while on the other, claimed to preserve and protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Sadly, when leaders take refuge in such grey areas, they thrust members into dilemma. No wonder in the Bible, God states clearly that He does not entertain ambivalence – you must be either hot or cold.
The reality is that on matters worship, Scriptural records indicate that God often called out His people to take a decisive stand. Moses once drew the line and challenged the people to take their pick, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side—come to me!” Likewise, Joshua challenged the people to make the free choice of who to worship, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Elijah was even more terse, he went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
In all these cases and others, the point is clear – God does not tolerate ambivalence. The Christian faith is perhaps the one religion in which adherence is based on total freedom of choice of the individual. You enter at will and may leave at will.
Therefore, if and when the demands of the faith have become burdensome, the freedom to leave is ever available. Jesus himself declared to the ambivalent church of Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Unfortunately, the new moralists seem to want the best of both worlds – enjoy practices that are clearly outlawed by God, and still benefit from the blessings of the same God.
No wonder then, in what would appear an attempt to present the decision of the Church of England as an act driven by godly compassion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell announced that the Church of England will “publicly, unreservedly, and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.”
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Whereas it is true that Church doors can never be closed against anyone – from the vilest sinner to the holiest father – yet this grace cannot be used to violate God’s holy ordinance.
It is therefore instructive that a section of the Anglican Church, under the banner of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), has taken exception to the decision by the Church of England.
The GSFA comprising 14 of the 25 Anglican global provinces, mainly from Africa and Oceania, voted to reject the leadership of Archbishop Welby.
This can only be considered tragic. For to be entrusted with leading such a vast global movement is an awesome responsibility and a lifetime privilege. This is especially so because the Archbishop of Canterbury has been considered the global communion’s spiritual and moral leader.
In leadership practice, one of the greatest tasks of any leader is to guard and preserve the fundamental tenets of the organisation. That is why Presidents swear to protect the Constitution and Church leaders vow to uphold the cardinal doctrines of the faith. This task cannot be tweaked even in the slightest way, especially not merely to be politically correct.
Yet, as matters stand, such pressure to conform to the dictates of the new moralists is going to be on the face of every leader – government, religious, or corporate. It calls for leadership muscle and moral backbone to survive.