Thursday, 16 February 2017

The one speech at the General Synod marriage debate which brought it all together

Yesterday the General Synod of the Church of England voted not to ‘take note’ of the House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships. 

The report upheld the historic position of the church on marriage as the exclusive coming together of one man and one woman for life.  However it also gave some scope for the affirmation of those in same-sex partnerships.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the report attracted the wrath of both sides. Whilst the House of Bishops voted overwhelmingly to support it by 43 votes to 1, and the laity followed suit by the narrow margin of 106 to 83, the house of clergy rejected it by a majority of 100 to 93, and so it fell. 

This means that the House of Bishops is now back to square one without any clear way ahead after three years of ‘shared conversations’.

In a debate lasting the best part of two hours, in which a total of 34 people spoke, many excellent points were made by clergy and laity who held to the biblical position on marriage.

But there was only one speech which mentioned all of Jesus, the love of God, the Cross, the definition and purpose of marriage, sin, repentance, judgement, heaven, hell, discipline & the need for clarity and leadership from the bishops. 

I have reproduced it in full below (full audio here).

‘From what we have heard this afternoon the two positions are irreconcilable. The Bishops’ report has sought to straddle the two positions but they cannot be straddled. And this is where we as a group of people and the wider church cry out to the bishops to make a stand and to make the position clear.

Jayne Ozanne, Simon Butler, Andrew Foreshew-Cain and Robert Hammond: you have all spoken movingly this afternoon. The Lord Jesus, he loves you, he died for you, he died for each one of us. We are all broken sinners all fall short of the glory of God and it’s on the cross that he took away our sin. We are all beggars, as Andrew Foreshew-Cain described us, in need of a Saviour. But that requires repentance from what (Jesus) says is sinful.

And clearly, Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 demonstrate that all sexual expression outside the lifelong and permanent union of one man and one woman is sinful. It’s contrary to God’s purposes. We have the picture of Christ who will come for his beautiful bride clean. He died for her. We rob society of that picture when we seek to destroy the truth of what marriage is.

God’s people are called to be set apart and clergy are to be examples to their people, to model holiness, chastity, purity, to model the way of the cross.

If sexual immorality were simply a secondary issue as opposed to a first order salvation issue then the Bible would not link it specifically with salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And that is why it is so important to speak clearly with regard to sexual sin, because, actually heaven and hell depends upon it. Our very eternity depends upon it. That’s why it’s loving to hold firm to it. And it’s also beautiful and freeing for all that hear this message.

When {the apostle) Paul heard of the specific case of persistent sexual immorality in Corinth involving a person who claimed to be a Christian believer he acted decisively urging that that person be immediately excommunicated (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

We have to make a choice about discipline. Paragraph 64 of the Bishops’ report states that there needs to be a fundamental trust in the clergy to know and be faithful to the teaching of the church in their own lives and in their ministry to others. We are looking to the bishops to lead in this.’

Andrea Williams (286, Chichester)

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