Friday, 16 May 2014

Same-sex marriage: Baptist statements

Recently, a news report appeared at the website of Premier Christian Radio which was headlined: Baptist Union to allow gay marriage ceremonies.

The Baptist Union objected to this interpretation of its actions, and the report was modified. It is now headlined Steve Chalke welcomes Baptist Union gay guideline change

The original statement by the Baptist Union is available here.

At Assembly 2014 an update of our process was shared and the following was offered on behalf of the Baptist Steering Group to express where we are up to on the journey. This will serve as a backdrop to our continuing conversations and the way we will seek to behave.

As a union of churches in covenant together we will respect the differences on this issue which both enrich us and potentially could divide as we seek to live in fellowship under the direction of our Declaration of Principle ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His Laws.’

Upholding the liberty of a local church to determine its own mind on this matter, in accordance with our Declaration of Principle, we also recognise the freedom of a minister to respond to the wishes of their church, where their conscience permits, without breach of disciplinary guidelines.

We affirm the traditionally accepted Biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, as the continuing foundation of belief in our Baptist Churches.

A Baptist minister is required to live and work within the guidelines adopted by the Baptist Union of Great Britain regarding sexuality and the ministry that include ‘a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) is deemed conduct unbecoming for a minister’.

The whole story is analysed in great detail by Adrian Warnock. See The Baptist Union to allow differences on Same Sex Marriage and Interview on Same Sex Marriage with Baptist Union Spokesman Stephen Keyworth.

Meanwhile, the dispute between the Evangelical Alliance and Oasis Trust has been analysed in similar detail by Cranmer in Steve Chalke and the artful Evangelical Alliance defiance.

A lot of words have been (and are still being) poured out on the ‘schism’ in Evangelicalism following the expulsion of the Oasis Trust from the Evangelical Alliance over Oasis founder Steve Chalke’s stance on same-sex relationships, which the EA deem to be inconsistent with the ‘traditional’ Evangelical view. It seems that Evangelicals are only ‘Better Together’ (their mission slogan) when there is compliance and uniformity on the zeitgeist obsession of homosexuality. The EA do not expel members who support abortion; nor do they sever links with those who marry divorcees or accept pre-marital sexual relations as a forerunner of marriage. They do not even expel a member for repudiation of the foundational Evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which the Rev’d Steve Chalke terms “cosmic child abuse”, as though God casually murdered His Son for the salvation of the world, and penal substitution is barbaric and utterly morally indefensible…

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Categorised as: equality legislation

Thinking Baptists?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 16 May 2014 at 9:53am BST

Would Justin Welby, John Sentamu and any others in the House of Bishops be eligible for membership of the Evangelical Alliance if they were to apply?

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Friday, 16 May 2014 at 12:09pm BST

Not very surprising news for Oasis Trust.
Many years ago I was around when their leadership team started conversations with LGCM. There was a great deal of uncertainty all around, but the desire to listen and learn from Steve Chalke was humbling. Mostly those on the gay side thought nothing could come of it, even then there was a sense that they weren't looking for a single definite policy or answer, that was where they had come from, underlying those early rumblings there was a deep desire to see people live together in the faith while holding diametrically opposed views.
The political gay view was if you aren't for us you are part of the problem.
No surprise either that the last few Fulcrum ideologues have welcomed this move. Those poor men are really lost and even more obsessed about the topic than former campaigners like me!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 16 May 2014 at 4:04pm BST

Martin, the "Fulcrum ideologues" are so focused because they know that any change to church teaching about homosexuality would destroy their power. They'll move swiftly to expel and marginalize evangelicals who stray from the party line. It's not gay relationships per se that bother them, but the status of biblical authority.

What's more, their focus is working. The majority are indifferent to how the church treats gay people. Many, if not most, young Christians are evangelicals, who hold the traditional line. Christian Unions dominate universities, and future leaders are trained in the HTB finishing school. With the prevalence of homophobia amongst young people (noted by the Stonewall report on school bullying) there's ample recruits who'll be unconcerned. If anything, "hate the sin, love the sinner" would be a step up from the casual bigotry they inflict.

This is where the battle for the church is. If liberals don't fight it as passionately as evangelicals, they'll keep losing, and if the evangelicals get the church, they, missional and media savvy, may well succeed in recruiting millions, and imposing their beliefs on society once more.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 16 May 2014 at 7:50pm BST

Who would have thought that our sisters and brothers of the Baptist Union would ever be seen to be open to same-sex relationships of any kind - let alone legal marriage?

However Good on'em, as they say here in New Zealand. May this be a presage to the C. of E. letting out her stays and allowing same-sex monogamous couples to be welcomed within our Church in England.

Mind you, we are yet to actually see that happen within our own little Anglican enclave at ACANZP.
But God is not in any hurry, apparently.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 17 May 2014 at 2:17am BST

Some Baptist congregations have already voted to marry same sex couples in their churches.


Grove Lane Baptist Church, Stockport.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 17 May 2014 at 3:46am BST

"Christian Unions dominate universities"

No, they really don't. They are tiny, marginal organisations, often in deep tension with student unions because of their openly homophobic and sexist beliefs (see the debacle at Bristol) and with no significant influence amongst the student body outside their (small) membership. They have about as much influence as Doctor Who society. It may be that there are not other, competing Christian organisation of any more influence, but that reflects the simple fact that Christianity as a whole is very much marginal on campus.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 17 May 2014 at 3:03pm BST

By dominate universities, Interested Observer, I meant dominate college Christianity, which I should've made clearer. Sorry about that. :-)

Student unions oppose CUs because homophobia is currently unfashionable on campus. A few short months before matriculation, a great many of those right-on students were making the lives of their lesbian and gay peers a misery. When they rock up in an arena where homophobia will cost 'em, praise be, they experience a Damascene conversion. If evangelicalism becomes popular on campus, they'll lose their pro-LGBT convictions as easily as they found them.

That's what liberals miss. They think people are inherently good, and progress inevitable.

The British government's just reasserted public Christianity: if evangelicalism gains control of the church, all the liberal gains in society will be undone so fast it'll make our heads spin.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 17 May 2014 at 9:47pm BST

I think James is too pessimistic. The changes in social acceptability of homosexuality are not just sleight of hand or laziness - they are backed by a lot of argument and debate, both inside and outside churches. Once slavery had gone people got the idea that owning human beings was wrong, full stop. People are getting the idea that sexual difference is not a reason to disadvantage one small group. Those gains will need defending, sure, but they are not going to be reversed.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Sunday, 18 May 2014 at 6:18am BST

As usual, I tend to agree with James Byron's analysis.

It's not sexual orientation, per se, that is central to the concerns of groups like the Evangelical Alliance, or Fulcrum, but the threat that giving in on those issues will subvert the essential concept of biblical authority and inerrancy.

The primary motivation is, I believe, not sexual oppression, but loyalty to God in defence of a view of the Bible that - when threatened with subversion - fills hearts with dismay, visceral alarm, and reaction.

Turning to the issue of Christian presence on university and college campuses...

I'd say that the evangelically-linked and monitored Christian Unions are indeed the dominant Christian presence at university (based on being a final year student myself at the moment, and on the experiences of my daughter).

Others are right to observe that their influence on the student body as a whole is, frankly, minimal.

It's also worth observing that there are probably many practising Christians at uni who just steer a wide berth from the CU because it represents a simplistic, conservative version of their faith.

But there are few liberal equivalents on campus.

Generally speaking, at some campuses (for example, Lancaster) I suspect the chaplaincy teams act as something of a balance, in trying to raise consciousness and awareness of alternatively approaches to faith, to social justice, to the environment, and to other faiths.

But the underlying reality is that in the UK today, many growing churches coalesce around quasi-fundamentalist teachings, where simplistic dogma offers sense of security and comfort.

Certainly, in my workplace, as a final placement student nurse, a significant number of my colleagues profess this kind of lively, firmly evangelical faith.

In this worldview, gay and lesbian sex are wrong because the bible teaches sex within marriage, between men and women. And because the bible is infallible, because it says it is infallible.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 18 May 2014 at 2:29pm BST

" a great many of those right-on students were making the lives of their lesbian and gay peers a misery."
I would like to know what you mean by this. That evangelical lgbt students allow CU Christians to make their lives a misery?
Or that moderate Christian or non-Christian lgbt people somehow give CU students the power to make their lives a misery?

I understand that if you're an evangelical being brought up in a conservative church you fall under that spell and it is very very damaging and hard to extricate yourself from it.
I understand that if you're in the church or want to be ordained, the church still has the power to make your life very very difficult.

But who are these adult students who just sit about waiting whether CU Christians approve of their lives or not?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 18 May 2014 at 5:20pm BST

Jeremy, d'you think the Eighties 'Sun' subs who wrote about "pulpit poofs" were somehow unaware that their words were hurtful to gay people? D'you think the teens who shout "batty-boy!" and "lezza!" at their peers are likewise oblivious? No, of course not, they know exactly what they're doing. They use the words precisely because they cause pain.

Erika, what I mean is that students who were casually homophobic at school stop the moment they arrive at college because they know the social rules have changed: at school, you persecute lesbian and gay people without mercy; at college, you condemn homophobia. It has nothing to do with religion. They follow the crowd wherever it leads. In neither situation do they care about LGBT people, just their standing with their peer group.

Most people aren't good or bad, merely indifferent. They want a quiet life. You get that by following the zeitgeist. If nodding along to evangelical pieties about marriage gets it, they'll do it in a heartbeat. Social acceptance of equal marriage is nothing but fashion, and fashion, as we all know, is fickle.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 18 May 2014 at 6:49pm BST

The Christian Unions are a potent force. I have seen students from Catholic backgrounds " converted to Protestantism by their work, primarily because they received so little doctrinal formation in what passes for modern catholic catechetics.The former is in my opinion the otherside to child abuse in the Catholic Church.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Monday, 19 May 2014 at 6:59am BST
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