Future Church of England: A Surprising Clarity?

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:20-21 ESV)

The convulsions of the Church of England and for that matter much of the Christian church in the west over the issue of same-sex relationships is pretty disastrous in terms of faithfulness, witness and pastoral care. There may, however, be something of a silver lining because of the surprising clarity it gives.

In short, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (amongst other passages) is clear that same-sex relationships fall in the category of sin and that denying this is a gospel issue, because sin keeps you out of the Kingdom of God. Someone who teaches that same-sex sexual relationships are legitimate for Christians has therefore changed the gospel and is a false teacher. And we know what we shouldn't do with such teachers. According to Revelation 2:20-21, we should not tolerate them or their teaching.

Why is that a silver lining? Well it gives a pretty straightforward clarity on false teachers and false teaching. It seems to me that for years within the Church of England we have been tolerating false teachers and we should repent of that. However, one of the great difficulties has been to get to grips with what someone believes and whether it is a gospel issue or not. Don't get me wrong, it's not so hard with the 1 in 50 clergy who apparently don't believe in God, nor for that matter with those who deny a physical resurrection. Most however just seem a bit fuzzy and woolly and it's pretty difficult to know. However, if that fuzziness leads to support of same-sex sexual relationships, then it clears the question up of where you stand with respect to the gospel. It's not that this issue will pick up all false teachers (you could be orthodox on this, but seriously wrong on something else), but those it does pick up will be clear.

As always, going into this sort of topic raises problems, which is why the discussions are pretty disastrous in many ways. However, the surprising clarity it gives raises the challenge for those of us in the Church of England, which is to be brave and stop tolerating the false teachers. Complain when they are brought in to teach clergy. Refuse to accept them in your churches, your deaneries and your diocese. Call bishops, archdeacons, area deans and other clergy to account. We can't hide behind the "I'm not quite sure where they stand" defence any more and if we leave our heads in the sand then we can't be surprised if Jesus has something against us as he did the church at Thyatira.

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