January 17, 2016

Limited Grace?

The recent actions of the Primates of the Anglican Communion — or at least a majority of them —have led to a good bit of discussion around the web. I will likely say more on that later. But for the moment, what strikes is how much they seem to have missed a truly evangelical moment. I understand they are exercised about homosexuality and think it is terrible. But clearly it is no more terrible, from a biblical standpoint, than fornication, whether that is understood narrowly as sex between parties who have no intention to marry (I think the soundest biblical reading) or more broadly as any kind of sexual immorality (a very subjective reading).

However, if we are to accept the Apostle's teaching (1 Cor 7:1-2, enshrined in Anglican formularies from 1549 on, though soft-pedaled lately) that marriage is a remedy for the sin of fornication, then the embrace of marital discipline of fidelity and permanence by same-sex couples ought rightly to be seen and celebrated as a "remedy" for any sin involved in same-sex sex, just as mixed-sex marriage is the remedy for the sin in unmarried mixed-sex sex.

This ought to be received as revolutionary as the saving grace to the Gentiles (Acts 11:18) when the early church set aside the biblical requirement of circumcision.

I understand that those who follow natural law arguments will place same-sex sex in the categorically irredeemable column, as intrinsically wrong in all circumstances. But if it is the circumstantial presence or lack of marital status that renders sex good or bad for heterosexual people, it does seem a bit perverse to hold that gay and lesbian couples cannot frame their lives as suits their condition, and sanctify their loves by the grace of God, a grace we have been told can do more than we can ask or imagine.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


KJ said...


Prior to coming out, I was in an evangelical faith tradition. It was when I grasped that grace, by belief, was limited, that my journey out was complete.

Anonymous said...

I think I can see you reasoning and even though I do not agree with you I appreciate the way you aim to present a calm and reasoned point of view.

Another truly evangelistic opportunity that could be missed is the possibility of the Episcopal Church leadership deciding to stop law suits stripping conservative Episcopal dissidents of their buildings and assets (and livelihood). Comment from Chris Parsons at the Reluctant Samizdat.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, KJ and Chris.

The litigation issue is complicated, and I wish there were a simple solution. The polar opposites of "dissidents walk away from property" and "church allows all dissidents to retain property at no cost" are unattractive to enough on either side to prevent those solutions, even though either of them is certainly more in keeping with the evangel than the current mess. The matter is further complicated by both church law (which the church leadership is bound to uphold) and civil law (which varies from one jurisdiction to another, thereby offering no overarching answer. I do wish it were otherwise, and have supported a middle way: allow congregations to alienate church property from the use of TEC through a negotiated settlement for a fair value. (The issue is that the current congregation are not in any sense the "owners" even though they may hold title; rather they are custodians or trustees, and church law has long held that the current incumbents cannot alienate property from the church of which they are a part without the permission of that church. This kind of solution has been found in some cases, and I think it is also in keeping with the gospel value of fairness and equity, and the Golden Rule.)

Unknown said...

I remember the stunned look on the face of a dear friend of mine, who's an ACNA priest, when I said "gay or straight, marriage is an inherently conservative institution!" For the very reason mentioned here.