In 1535, Sir Thomas More, chancellor of England, was tried and executed for, among other things, refusing to recognize King Henry’s VIII divorce and unlawful remarriage. He had been under pressure from all sides to bend on the matter, including from the King, fellow churchmen, as well as his closest family. But he refused to betray his conscience. In the play A Man For All Seasons, we have the following exchange:
The Duke of Norfolk: Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!
Sir Thomas More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?
In what is sometimes referred to as the “Post-Christian” era, evangelical christianity is considered by some as the Faith’s lone unapolagetic holdout against the militant secularist tide that has swept the West. Though in many ways subject to the same sociocultural pitfalls afflicting Western culture at large, they remain unyielding on theological doctrine. They have so far refused to follow “for fellowship” the mainline sects down the path of compromise and political correctness. But cracks have begun to appear even in the walls of this last archaic bastion.
DENVER – The auditorium lights turned low, the service begins with the familiar rhythms of church: children singing, hugs and handshakes of greeting, a plea for donations to fix the boiler.
Then the 55-year-old pastor with spiked gray hair and blue jeans launches into his weekly welcome, a poem-like litany that includes the line “queer or straight here, there’s no hate here.”
Tidd is an outlaw pastor of sorts. His community, less than a year old, is an evangelical Christian church guided both by the Apostle’s Creed and the belief that gay people can embrace their sexual orientation as God-given and seek fulfillment in committed same-sex relationships.
“Highlands Church represents a breakout position, where you have a gay-affirming stance that moves beyond the traditional kind of liberal-conservative divide,” said Mark Achtemeier, an associate professor at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “I’m finding lots of moderate conservatives just think there’s something wrong with a default position of excluding gays from the life of the church.”
“I don’t think it can be taken for granted anymore that the traditional evangelical view will be adopted by the coming generations given the changes and shifts in our culture,” Dockery said.
Tidd said Highlands is not a one-issue church but one committed to social justice. He describes it as “radically inclusive but still rooted in the essentials of the Gospel.” The church discourages promiscuity and encourages healthy lifelong relationships.
Tidd said he supports gay marriage and would perform same-sex blessings if asked. A gay man in a committed relationship sits on the church’s board of trustees.
“Our position is not one of lenience, but a matter of justice,” said Tidd, a married father of five. “It’s not that we don’t acknowledge the reality of sin. It’s not a sin to be gay or act in accordance with your nature.”
More gay marriage here.
It’s a tangled and sensitive issue, gentle readers. But we can’t ignore it in hopes it will go away. It should be approached with humility, but also boldly. And because we at CCHQ believe this issue is at the front line in the battle for Christendom, we offer a guide on how to do it.
In the moral and intellectual tradition of Christianity throughout its history, which has nurtured and informed my heart and mind for all of my years on this Earth, homosexual relations have never been, nor will ever be, the moral equal to those between man and woman. We do not believe that homosexuals are any more wicked or evil than the rest of us. But we believe that homosexuality is a disorder in the sense that there is a natural order of things (trying to fit centuries of thinking on Natural Law into a blog post will have to wait for another date). Having a disorder–any disorder–is neither sinful (because it is not a function of the will) nor does it make one less a child of God. But homosexual acts (which do involve the will) are disordered, and therefore sinful.
You might then retort, “But you can’t deny someone the right to gay marriage based on your religious beliefs!” Here is problem with that line of thinking:
1. Opposition to gay marriage is more than a “religious belief,” it’s a moral position held by people all over the world of all religions, and of no religion at all. It’s a universal moral position. Moral positions aren’t unconstitutional. My religious beliefs certainly inform my moral position; in this I am no different from you or anybody else. We all have religious beliefs: atheism is a religious belief, even “I don’t care about religion” is a religious belief. There is also nothing unconstitutional about religious beliefs informing a moral position, as such a thing would be virtually impossible.
2. The fuss over gay marriage is not about, nor has it ever been about, marriage. It is about the homosexual community trying to redefine an institution as part of the larger campaign to have homosexual relations be accorded the same moral status as heterosexual ones. As such, the gay community, is therefore on a mission to try to get their moral position enforced as law. As we at CCHQ oppose their moral position, we cannot and will not support their efforts, and will oppose them in the public sphere, and at the ballot box whenever such measures appear.
I hope our position is clear, gentle readers, and that your position on this issue also be clear. We at CCHQ do not hate homosexuals, nor do we have a particular axe to grind against them. However, morally equating homosexual relations with heterosexual ones is not something that shall ever be forthcoming from me. In the battle for Christendom, we continue to withdraw, to fall back. But the line must be drawn here. This far and no further.