When it comes to turning to the Bible to solve moral dilemmas, we often see what we want to see, the Archbishop of Wales said today (April 23).
In his Presidential Address to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan warned that there was no one Christian viewpoint on issues such as same-sex relationships or assisted dying. Rather our attitudes are shaped by our upbringing, education and which particular part of the Bible texts we emphasise.
He said, “We often see what we want to see. We often use Scripture to reinforce viewpoints that we have already arrived at in other ways and for other reasons. Some people have changed their minds for example on women’s ministry and same-sex relationships when they have experienced the ministry of a woman priest in the one case, or discovered their own son or daughter to be gay in the other.
“Holy Scripture itself is far more nuanced, subtle and complex than we often realise….. We cannot just quote Biblical texts on different subject matters and think that that settles an issue. It is easy to opt for prohibitions in Scripture and regard them as the word of the Lord and forget that the Bible contains stories which also convey God’s word to us.”
Moreover, the Church’s views can evolve and change as it responds to the world around it, the Archbishop said. Just as there was a dissonance today between the State’s view on same-sex marriage and the Church’s so there was on the remarriage of divorced people some years ago.
He said, “The State allowed the possibility of divorce and re-marriage for a long time before we did as a Church. Not only do we now bless such unions, we actually re-marry divorced people in our churches. In the past, if a cleric divorced and re-married, that person could no longer continue in the ordained ministry in Wales, whereas now that is no longer a bar to continuing in ministry. So our views have evolved and changed on a subject which Jesus pronounced very clearly. He had nothing to say about same-sex relationships.
“Will we, as a Church, eventually adopt the same approach as far as same-sex relationships are concerned, as we have done about re-marriage after divorce, or is gay marriage in a different category from the re-marriage of divorced people? Whatever our viewpoints, I hope that our discussions can be charitable.”
The Archbishop reminded members that peoples’ lives would be affected by the Church’s response and warned of the danger of the Church being seen as homophobic. However, he urged clergy keen to redress the balance and publicly bless same-sex marriages to be patient.
“Much as some people may want to do so, the rule is the same as was the case over the re-marriage of divorced people – we need to wait for the Church, as a whole, to decide the matter – and we are beginning that process at this Governing Body.”
The full text of the Archbishop’s Presidential Address can be read here.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Wales makes some very good points here – which I have taken the trouble to high-light in the text.
In the final high-lighted paragraph, however, Archbishop Barry Morgan warns his clergy not to ‘jump the gun’ in their keenness to publicly bless same-sex marriage couples, urging them to await the consensus of the C.i.W. General Synod.
Obviously The Right Reverend gentleman is keen that the Church should be seen to not be accounted homophobic in its future actions regarding the blessing of same-sex committed relationships, indicating that – as with its eventual acceptance of divorce and the ordination of women – the Church is often behind public opinion in matters of gender and sexuality, and will in all probability move towards this inclusive move.
The only problem is that, in the interim, people may be lost to the pastoral outreach of the Church – simply because it is seen to vacillate unnecessarily on matters of common justice – especially in the light of the legal right for civil same-sex marriage being now freely available.
One can hope that our own General Synod of the ACANZP in May, will make the decision to move forward on the issue of same-sex relationships, and not wait too long for the Church to make up its mind on an issue that has been talked to death, and now needs some sort of resolution – if only to clear the air for would-be injured parties to decide whether – or not – they can remain in an inclusive Church environment.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch