Excerpts from a letter delivered to Bishop Michael Curry by a number of priests in the Diocese of North Carolina
November 26, 2003
Dear Bishop Curry,
Your support of the ordination of Canon Eugene Robinson and vote to acknowledge the blessing of same sex unions as a part of our common life is a matter of gravest concern to us. We believe you are in serious error, and that your leadership of this diocese and the broader church is sorely hindered by your acceptance of beliefs contrary to the Word of God and by teaching these beliefs to your flock.
It is the clear teaching of Scripture and the Universal Church that the union of a man and a woman in marriage is the will of God for sexual expression. In Genesis 1.27 we find that God created the different sexes as a demonstration of his original will. Human beings bear the image of God. The Imago Dei rests not just on male or female, but on both sexes. God blessed ‘them’. Blessing is a divine act of bestowing active favour; it is God’s prerogative. God’s will is communicated in commandments. His first command to humanity was to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1.28). The blessing and command of God, then, can only be fulfilled in the male/female union. We may bless only what God blesses.
You have gone to great length to explain away the currency and authority of the Old Testament texts concerning homosexual activity, saying they concern only abuse or rape. The passage concerning Sodom in Genesis 19 certainly does refer to homosexual rape, which all agree is heinous.
The holiness code citations in Leviticus 18 and 20 are a different matter. You have argued that Christians have left the Old Testament commandments long ago. In a limited sense that is true. We no longer keep the commandments of the ceremonial/sacrificial system because that system culminated in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The same dynamic is at play regarding the civil laws of the Old Testament. Since we are not part of the temporal nation of ancient Israel (due to God’s permissive will in its dissolution) these laws do not apply.
Your error is to exempt the moral law of the Old Testament along with the ceremonial and temporal laws. This error is especially glaring when we recall that our Anglican tradition distinctly handles this issue. Article 7 of the 39 Articles (BCP 869) says that Christians are not obligated to keep the ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament, but are obligated to obey the moral laws. According to your teaching in print and on the radio, the moral laws of the Old Testament – including, we must surmise, the Ten Commandments – are out. Where did you get the authority to do this?
Obedience to the Old Testament moral law has dominical force. Jesus says, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished’ (Matthew 5.17–18). If Jesus places this much authority in the moral law of the Old Testament, then we should also.
Jesus also mentions the male/female union. When Jesus was confronted with a question regarding divorce, and faced with a decision, he quoted the Genesis account specifically. ‘Haven’t you read’, he replied, ‘that at the beginning “he made them male and female,” and said, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ Jesus affirmed the original creative intent of God as expressed in the text of Genesis. The direct teaching of Jesus affirms heterosexual, monogamous marriage, and no other. The creation account, the Holiness Code, and the Lord Jesus speak with one voice.
When people argue ‘Jesus never said anything about homosexuality’, they are technically right. The argument from silence is the weakest of all arguments. Jesus never mentioned incest or bestiality either. The incarnate Lord was a Jew operating in a Jewish culture. He didn’t mention homosexuality or other sins listed in the Old Testament, because he didn’t have to. Everybody was in agreement that the Torah was God’s will.
He did mention homosexual practice indirectly. ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what makes a man ‘unclean’ (Matthew 15.19–20a) Jesus condemns adultery – breaking the marital covenant – first. He then adds ‘sexual immorality’. The Greek word in the original text, porneia, is a term that would include all the sexual deviations listed in the Old Testament. To pull homosexual practice out of the list would be dishonest.
To say that Jesus loves everybody, including homosexuals, is true! Homosexual orientation is never condemned in scripture. It is the practice of non-marital sex that Jesus proscribes. Here is where we come to one of your major mistakes. We are not free to make Jesus into someone who would bless whatever relationships we choose, just so long as we feel love. Jesus teaches us over and over that our loves are disordered. He shows us that we must not trust ourselves. Fallen human beings need to be taught a new life where we love what God loves and hate what God hates.
In public statements you have said that even the New Testament texts regarding homosexual expression should be dismissed because those texts are about abusive relationships. You have said that the current practices of loving, monogamous, life-long same sex relationships were unknown to the biblical writers, therefore, what they were proscribing has nothing to do with the current debate.
You should have known better. Plato (in the 5th century BC), Philo and Josephus (both writing in the first century AD) and many others wrote clear and detailed records describing loving, lifelong, same sex relationships. The Mediterranean world of late antiquity was a pagan world where same sex relationships were celebrated and common. This is why Paul, the cosmopolitan, well-travelled Jew, takes on the issue of homosexual practice – most famously in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. (Romans 1.26–27) It is clear that Paul (under the leading of the Holy Spirit) finds same sex relations shameful – not because of abuse, but because they are same sex, and therefore against the will of God revealed in Scripture and nature.
We believe scripture, tradition and reason reveal God’s will. We simply cannot see in the deposit of our faith where God could possibly bless the novelty you support. Simply put – this is a salvation issue, an issue where souls are in the balance. The stakes are so high that we reluctantly write this letter to you – a man we love, holding an office we deeply respect.
We prayerfully call you to repent of your actions and thereby honour the creative work of the Father, the redeeming work of the Son, and the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.