There are growing accusations of homophobia against the Church — but you can’t bless what God will not.
Amid the swirl of opinion around the Anglican General Synod's decision to commit to finding a way to bless gay couples, the epithets for orthodox Anglicans have mounted: anti-gay, homophobic, wrong, immoral, betrayers of Jesus, unloving, judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, ostracising, unjust and hypocritical. Doubtless an incomplete list, but enough to paint a nasty picture.
The advice meted out is hardly less blunt: grow up and put your archaic house in order, get loving in the progressive sense - or get out.
I understand where the authors of these epithets are coming from. I recognise their world view is very different from mine, and that within that world view their arguments make sense. I will defend to the death their right to express their view, and to celebrate same-sex relationships in whatever ways the laws of the land allow.
However, I have a right to argue that their world-view is not a biblical one, that the Church should not conform to it, and that all orthodox Anglicans are not as mad, bad or sad as these epithets portray.
When I stand before my congregation I see a mixed multitude in nearly every sense. I know them well, and they are a very loving, caring, humble group, committed to serving God and one another. They visit and care for one another, and for the community in which they live. The parish operates a trust, dedicated to serving the local community. A number work or volunteer for organisations such as Habitat for Humanity, Hospice Waikato and a local cancer support group.
Many face significant challenges in their own lives: serious illness, disability, bereavement and unemployment. One runs an addiction support group for parents. Three families grieve for sons who took their own lives. And yes, a number have gay children, grandchildren or siblings, whom they love dearly, and yet for whom their hearts ache. They simply do not deserve the epithets above.
They have one thing at least in common with Dialogue contributors Glynn Cardy and Simon Cross: they love others and want what they believe to be best for them. Where they differ is that, because their world view is a biblical one, they believe that what is best is what God has revealed in the Bible.
In terms of human sexuality, the Bible teaches that the only rightly ordered sexual union is that between a male and female, within the context of marriage.
A number of passages proscribe alternative sexual unions, including adultery, fornication, incest, rape and bestiality. Same-gender unions are specifically proscribed on five occasions, clearly enough to remove any doubt. They are deemed unnatural and are offensive to the God who created us.
In the Bible sexuality plays only a minor part in terms of human identity. One is either 'in Christ', submitted to his lordship, or still 'in sin', governed by one's own desires and ambitions. Nor is sexual union regarded as an essential experience. Celibate people are fully human too.
Likewise contrary to prevailing views, sex is not the pinnacle of love; self-sacrifice is - even within marriage.
In the light of all this, and of Jesus' own celibate life in the company of his disciples, the biblical requirements of chastity and sexual purity are neither unreasonable nor unloving.
The Church's job is to teach the scriptures faithfully and to support all people to live the new life they are called into when they are baptised into Christ. This includes those sexually attracted to others of their gender.
One of the things that troubles me most is the way that those who identify as gay but take seriously God's call to celibacy are treated, both by those within the LGBT community and those within the Church who champion their cause.
This is the most marginalised group of all. Whereas they want close Christian fellowship and friendship, to be treated no differently from anyone else, and the reassurance that their struggle to remain celibate is pleasing to God and a high calling, they are told they are deluded.
They are not. Those who are deluded are those who believe that they can bless what God will not, and who believe they have a better plan for redemption than what God has revealed in the scriptures.
The Anglican General Synod has failed the LGBT community in far worse ways than Cross and Cardy imagine.
Michael Hewat is the vicar of the West Hamilton Anglican Parish.