The Zacchaeus Fellowship commends the Primate’s Theological Commission on their thorough and timely efforts in The St Michael Report—a response to the question whether or not the blessing of same gender relationships is doctrinal. We too hope the ensuing discussion will be “sustained, prayerful, respectful and non-polemical” and “will lead to a clearer discernment of ‘sound doctrine’ and to “our goal of wholeness in Christ.” [#1; p.1] The Commission also asks the important question as to whether or not a same gender union would “enable or impair our relationship in the life of God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is also true that in the current discussions, a same gender union is “closely analogous to marriage.” [#2, 3; p.1]
Our members affirm the Commission’s statements regarding the Anglican tradition’s views of sin and confession and their direct connection to salvation through Christ on the Cross, but we also urge caution in allowing our culture to set the parameters for our understanding of Scriptures. We should be establishing our culture within the parameters set out in Scriptures and not the other way around. As a result we acknowledge, as stated in the St Michael Report, that doctrine is “founded on Scripture, interpreted in the context of tradition, with the use of reason,” [#8; p.6] but we should be wary of including ‘experience’ as a fourth factor. In our understanding of Scriptures and the creeds, the blessing of what we hear the Bible saying is sinful would make this revised doctrine one of creedal importance. If we deny the existence of sin, we deny the need for Christ on the Cross, and that is the foundation of our faith. If doctrinal changes are never to contradict the heart of the Gospel [#13; p.7], then we would suggest that this proposed revision does contradict it.
Jesus was clearly counter-cultural. He spoke of God’s grace and our need to repent of our sins. He never spoke of accepting anyone’s sins. He implied that God gave us the Law/rules/guidelines and we are to be obedient, because if God wants only the best for his creation, how could these laws be harmful or detrimental? We should seek to live our lives (including our sexuality) in conformity to God’s plan as revealed in Scriptures and not try to make His Word conform to our society and culture—even should we agree with the world’s position.
As such, our members believe acknowledging homosexual activity as sinful does not exclude anyone from seeking and developing a relationship with God. It does not exclude anyone from fellowship with other sinners, because we believe homosexual activity is a sin, but (contrary to the impression that seems to be left by some people in the current Anglican debate) we also believe that it should not be seen as the sin of all sins. Our sins, regardless of how or whether we differentiate between degrees of sin, leave us in a state of rebellion against God and that is what excludes us from the fullness of relationship with our heavenly Father. In confessing our sins and trying to lead the life God wants us to lead, we accept the saving grace of God offered to us through Jesus on the Cross.
We agree with the Commission’s statement that we “make choices for and with our bodies” and that we are to make those choices knowing that not all those choices “express the meaning of love intended in the incarnation.” Our understanding of love and sexual relationships is based on Scriptures, which tell us that homosexual activity is an abomination to the Lord; it is sinful. We thus have a choice whether to sin or not. We are not saying it is easy to do; all temptations in this world can be extremely difficult to resist, but resist we must in obedience to God’s will. Where the Commission stated, “while human sinfulness has destructive consequences, it does not destroy a human being’s identity as a creature of God, made in God’s image” [#26; p.12], we say that is precisely why we would never exclude a homosexual person from our worshiping communities; it is why we do include them. It is Christ working in our lives (particularly as members of Christian communities) which has led to our experiencing the redemptive, re-creative transformation of Christ in our lives and by walking in faith to God’s Holy Word that we were/are able to receive such transformation. [#28; p.12] We are witnesses to our belief that adherence to Scriptural guidelines and mores for sexual and relational behaviours is achievable through an act of the will, through Grace (the work of the Holy Spirit), and through the care of a loving Christ-centred community.
The traditional/orthodox and Biblically-based position on marriage is clearly stated in paragraph #30 on page 13. The question then becomes as suggested in the following paragraph, is homosexual activity a sin? Our culture and society are trying to persuade us that it is not. We would agree that the discrimination and violence which marked society’s past response to homosexuals are wrong and must be stopped. We do not agree that it is part of God’s creation and something to be blessed when expressed in a committed, long-term, exclusive relationship. With those who uphold the Bible’s teachings on human sexual relationships and activity, we are pained and saddened because the work Christ has done and is doing in our lives appears to be negated and even denied within the Church (such as the defeated motion at General Synod to include the voices of ex-gay and celibate Anglicans).
With the passage of a federal law redefining the civil definition of marriage to include same gender couples, there is a likelihood (regardless of current political rhetoric to the contrary) that the courts will argue that the churches must conform to the law, as priests conduct marriages as authorized agents of the state. Therefore to deny that service to two persons of the same gender for religious reasons will be in conflict with the civil law and hence declared to be unconstitutional. If we are to uphold the Biblical teachings on marriage [#30; p. 13 and #38-41; pp. 15-16], then it may require priests to surrender their civil licences which would then require couples to be wed in civil ceremonies. That in turn would then allow the church to uphold their doctrinal beliefs based on Scriptures and legally bless only those unions of a man and a woman.
The Zacchaeus Fellowship believes the Church has failed all its members by not providing better pastoral care/programmes for all of the brokenness of all Anglicans. In seeking to be all-inclusive, the Church has lost its focus on the Doctrine of Repentance. Brokenness leads to sin which is the obstacle to our full relationship with God. The Church must respect the dignity and integrity of every member, regardless of their particular sin. The Church would do well to remember that the rite of inclusion is baptism, and denying the blessings of same-sex unions is not exclusion. Much of the logic applied to arguing that homosexual activity is not sinful can also be applied to all other sin which then forces the conclusion that there is nothing separating us from our God, which means there is no need for Jesus on the Cross as an atonement—a means of reconciliation—for our sins before God. That not only makes this a doctrinal issue, but one of creedal importance and that is indeed a Communion-breaking issue. We urge the Anglican Church of Canada to reverse its course and abide by the traditional teachings of the Anglican Communion worldwide.
Respectfully submitted by
The Reverend Dr Don Alcock,
the Reverend Dawn McDonald,
on behalf of The Zacchaeus Fellowship
© 2005 The Zacchaeus Fellowship – All Rights Reserved