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Uploaded: 19 November 2005

Anglican schism threat

The visit by Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, to Britain has raised the ugly spectre of schism within the Church of England yet again. Of course, this issue is not going to go away, just as the posturing, wailing and moaning on the issue of ordained women is not going to go away, merely resting in the wings before raising its ugly head once again.

Gay clergy is nothing new, twenty years ago in a church in the North of England I was fortunate to know two of the churches finest in the shape of a gay Vicar and a lay reader. Both these men were a comfort and an inspiration to me at  a time when I was struggling with my faith, and are two of the most 'Christian' people it has been my great privilege to know. I am grateful to them both as they were foundational in the faith I know and enjoy to this day.

So what's the big deal here? To the best of my knowledge Jesus had nothing to say on the issue of homosexuality in his time with us. The responsibility for all this pontificating and furore lies with the apostle Paul, a man who was no stranger to pontificating himself, a self admitted Pharisee among Pharisees: that is, someone used to straining the camel of religion through the narrow eye of dogma and law and enforcing it. 

So far as Old Testament Law is concerned, homosexuality sits right alongside such issues as wearing clothes of mixed cloth, usury (charging interest rates), moving boundary stones and using mixed weights (cheating), and so on, as things that god abhors. None of these made it into the top ten, the infamous Ten Commandments, though cheating got closest in the commandment not to steal. So what's the big deal? So far as homosexuality is concerned I have no idea. 

However, the really big deals that affect each and every one of us every minute of every day, the 'church' is almost entirely silent on. Right at the top of Big Deals ought to be theft or stealing. It dominates our world in every lock we turn, every immobiliser we key, every shop we go into, every CCTV camera we have to tolerate, every security check to obtain every and any official document (Passport, Driving licence, Bank account, you name it) we need in order to just get on with our lives. The more you think about theft and the things we do in order to protect ourselves from it the more affecting you'll realise it is in everything we do. 

So far as we can know the greatest things Jesus told the people were the Great Commandments. He was asked by a lawyer, 'which is the great commandment in the law?' in order to test him, his response was, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' That's from the good old King James version of the bible, though not my personal favourite, it's been around a long time and forms the backbone of the church as we know it. Whatever you believe, that quote is not something I've just made up, it's been around a very long time. Interestingly, when this passage is quoted the last bit is often left off, the bit about 'on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'  What those words highlight, and they clearly need it, is, the Christian faith is about loving God and each other, and for a clearer exposition on love, 1 Corinthians 13 is an excellent place to start.

That loving is not what the organised church is about is why so many of us have left it and why it finds itself in such dire straits today. Basing Christianity on the words of Paul is utter folly, merely swapping one set of laws for another. Addressing the real problems of our times it is very clear that lack of love for each other, heartlessness and hard heartedness are what bedevil us and if it takes schism to drive the message home then it is long overdue.


Keith Lindsay-Cameron 2005

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