Warning: (some) sarcasm/irony ahead – read with discernment.
I’m wondering if Lochcarron and Skye didn’t miss a trick with their overture. Or indeed, if those in Aberdeen presbytery didn’t miss the same trick. Rather than re-ignite the homosexuality debate, perhaps it would have been much safer ground to oppose Rev Scott Rennie’s appointment on the much plainer Biblical (and indeed, plainly dominical) stance on divorce. After all, Jesus had nothing specific to say on homosexuality, but he did condemn, most strongly, divorce.
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery. Matthew 19:9 (NRSV)
Actually, on second thoughts, maybe that wouldn’t have worked in their favour. After all, Scott Rennie hasn’t remarried (arguably), so his lawyers would have a field day with that one. But then again, he did divorce for reasons other than ‘unchastity’ or ‘marital unfaithfulness’ so there may still be good grounds here.
OK. Time to switch off the sarcam/irony.
It seems to me that when some base their argument on the ‘plain reading of scripture’, what they really mean is a ‘selective reading of scripture’. No-one would deny that the Bible has passages in it that appear to condemn homosexual practice. But they contain so much cultural baggage that it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that they mean what they say on the surface – unless, of course, you come from the perspective if divine dictation; but even then it’s a struggle to maintain a ‘plain-reading’ position (and, indeed, a selective position).
And so we need to take a step back from proof texts and consider bigger themes. Again, I doubt that anyone would deny that the Bible has an emphasis on male-female partnership, stemming from the earliest creation stories. And before anyone jumps on these as being ‘myths’, that’s not the issue and serves only as a distraction. Regardless of your stance on creation(ism) or intelligent design or evolution or whatever, male-female partnerships are ‘natural’ (and I use the term guardedly) and prioritised, otherwise none of us would be here at all.
But the thing is, male-female partnership is far from being a major theme in scripture. Covenant (with God), justice, love – these are all far greater themes in the Bible and, to be honest, I think it’s pretty clear which side of this debate is exhibiting a closer walk with these.
But what of Jesus’ teaching on divorce? Surely the ‘plain reading’ of it, if that’s how we approach scripture, would preclude a number (and I don’t have the statistics) of ministers from holding office or individuals being considered for training? Yet there does not seem to be any large outcry about this issue! Why not? Could there be an element of selective application of scripture?
But, of course, there have been arguments in the past about the church’s stance on divorce, but has it ever brought the church as close to a split as this issue? It would seem not. So why is homosexuality such an emotive issue? I really don’t know and would hesitate to answer on behalf of anyone who finds it to be such an anathema. But it does seem to me that there is a disproportionate response to it.
I can’t deny being torn on the issue. Part of me shrinks back from the ‘unnaturalness’ of homosexual relationships. Part of me sympathises with the scriptural edicts against it. But another part of me holds to mind the grace of God and His concern for justice and mercy, selflessness and love and the simple fact that no words can ever contain His intentions.
If we want to be selective in our application of proof texts, then we need to be consistent on all issues. But that takes us down the road of legalism, in my opinion. If we want to argue from ‘big picture’ ideas, then we also need to acknowledge that there are specifics to be found in scripture. but, above all, we need to hold in mind that ‘we see through a glass darkly’, and erring on the side of grace seems to be a Biblical imperative.