Bobbi Kumari was pleased to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury say the Church should be more unapologetic about the “basic rules of sexual morality” – but is the devil in the detail, she wonders?
Last week, Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a speech at the Religion Media Festival. He was then interviewed and the audience asked some questions. The first one was around the potential risk of disestablishment if Parliament were ever to force churches to conduct same-sex marriages.
The Archbishop’s response was encouraging: “It’s not going to make any difference to the future of the Church, whether it’s established or disestablished,” he said. “It’s in the hands of God”. Amen to that. “Disestablishment is a normal part of church life,” he continued, “and has been for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Addressing how the Church might handle such pressure, he said: “Parliament is sovereign and is entitled to vote on these issues. What the Church would then do would depend on our consciences and, in the end, what we, after prayer and consideration, believe is right in the eyes of God. [This] certainly may involve refusing to do what the law says.”
Prayer and consideration
This is, of course, reassuring to hear. However, given the fact that the recent outcome of six years of “prayer and consideration” from the bishops and the General Synod was a proposal to bless same sex unions, I do have my concerns. I can only hope and pray that should Parliament ever force the Church to marry same sex couples, any future prayer and consideration will lead it to take action which lines up, uncompromisingly, with the Word of God.
Is the archbishop referring to any marital partnership deemed to be permanent, based upon society’s perception of that?
He then responded to another question around sexuality, posed by a 22 year-old woman clearly frustrated with the negative influence of porn culture on her generation’s dating experiences. Seeking a stronger position from the Church to perhaps help define healthier boundaries around sexual integrity, she asked the Archbishop if he felt the Church was “too apologetic about its positions on sexual morality”.
Welby completely agreed. Yes, the Church was too apologetic, he said. He went on to share that, only the week before, the College of Bishops had been discussing how the Church needed to be “more open about the basic rules, the basic understanding of sexual morality within Christian thinking”. He did not want to lecture, he said, but felt the Church should be more “unapologetic about saying sexual activity should be within permanent, stable and faithful relationships of marriage, as that is understood in each society.”
Again, this is encouraging to hear, and I somewhat agree. Yes, the Church should be clearer on its teachings on sex – across all denominations. However, this must be based upon solid, biblical teaching, not a modern, diluted, version of it. Because when Archbishop Justin says he agrees with being unapologetic about “sexual activity within permanent, stable and faithful relationships of marriage as that is understood in each society” I am not entirely sure what he is referring to.
Is the Archbishop referring to marriage as defined by society, or according to the Word of God? Because, according to the Bible, the only form of acceptable sexual activity is to be found within a marriage between one man and one woman, irrespective of whether society defines it differently.
Only a true, biblical foundation for sexuality that can provide society with the capacity to truly flourish
Therefore, as the Church, we absolutely do need to be unashamed and unapologetic concerning teachings on sex, but these must be rooted in the Word of God and not merely on man’s conscience, prayers or discernment - and certainly not on society’s interpretation. Because ultimately, it is only a true, biblical foundation for sexuality that can provide society with the capacity to truly flourish. And unfortunately, it’s because we have moved so far away from this biblical foundation that we find ourselves where we are today - not only as a society, but as the Church.
I pray that the Archbishop of Canterbury will have the wisdom, conviction and courage to steer the Church of England back to the uncompromising, biblical foundations of God’s Word when it comes to sexuality. Heaven and earth (including all earthly cultures and societies) will ultimately pass away, but God’s word will remain forever.