I am trying to read the House of Bishop’s document on Same Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church, and it is making me dizzy. So far, I have only gotten partway through "A View from the Traditionalists.” The logic…I am having trouble with the logic. Here’s a paragraph that makes me go “huh?”.
Taking the [Biblical] passages individually, there is some plausibility in the critical reinterpretation (except, we would say, in the case of Romans 1 where the liberal case is specious). A coherent understanding emerges from setting these passages in interrelationship, not least because sometimes they are alluding to one another. Further, setting these various passages in the context of a broader theological framework has the effect of reinforcing the traditional interpretation of the texts. Specifically, Scripture sets proper sexual expression within the context of God’s designing a lifelong exclusive heterosexual relationship as the context for bringing up children. (p. 12
Let me see if I understand what they are saying:
Taking the [Biblical] passages individually, there is some plausibility in the critical reinterpretation
In other words, yes, there are some arguments against reading the usual passages as definitive statements against what we have as same-sex relationships in contemporary culture.
(except, we would say, in the case of Romans 1 where the liberal case is specious)
The passage in question is Romans 1:26-27 which says, “Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.” The Traditionalists who wrote this paper say this is “cleverly dealt with by limiting its reference only to those individuals, whether heterosexual or homosexual, who act against their natural instincts and (perversely) engage in erotic activity with those to whom they are not naturally attracted to. In other words, homosexuals who have an inherent same-sex orientation, it is argued, are not in view in this passage, because they act in accordance with nature.” (p. 12) Seems pretty straightforward to me, and a quite literal reading of the text. How is this specious? I don’t understand that. Truly.
A coherent understanding emerges from setting these passages in interrelationship, not least because sometimes they are alluding to one another. Further, setting these various passages in the context of a broader theological framework has the effect of reinforcing the traditional interpretation of the texts.
So…even though each one individually can be shown to have little to no bearing on contemporary consensual same-sex relationships, together they prove the case? I’m stymied. Especially when this is followed by
Specifically, Scripture sets proper sexual expression within the context of God’s designing a lifelong exclusive heterosexual relationship as the context for bringing up children.
Ummm…I’m completely at a loss to see how Scripture gives this as a clear message, given, you know, Abraham, David, etc. Aren’t sexual and familial relationships culturally based throughout the Scriptures?
I'm not trying to be snarky, here. These are genuine questions. Truly, I’m just pole-axed by this document. It’s not that it’s simply recycling old arguments; it’s that it does it so feebly. I’m trying to read it with an open mind but…this is all you’ve got?
Another claim in this document is that “At the heart of our position is the conviction that the issue of same-sex marriage simply cannot be put in the same category as other social issues on which Anglicans and Christians in general have changed their mind.” [p. 7] Why? “[E]ach issue has its own rationale, pattern of biblical material and its interpretation, and its own distinctive relationship to science and philosophy. When this is done, the case for same-sex marriage does not have the same kind of biblical support and philosophical rationale as women’s ordination and a moderate divorce policy have, for example.”
The problem for me is that the arguments DO sound exactly the same. Take the argument over slavery, for example—one that is so clear-cut today. It took me two minutes to Google an article called Battle for the Bible by Mark A. Noll, a history professor at Wheaton College, not known for its liberal tendencies. I heartily recommend it. One paragraph that leapt out at me:
As early as 1846, the Connecticut Congregationalist Leonard Bacon, who very much wanted to oppose slavery as a sin, nonetheless hung back. His analysis of the spirit-over-the-letter argument caught the dilemma exactly: "The evidence that there were both slaves and masters of slaves in the churches founded and directed by the apostles, cannot be got rid of without resorting to methods of interpretation which will get rid of everything." In Bacon’s view, the well-intentioned souls who "torture the Scriptures into saying that which the anti-slavery theory requires them to say" did great damage to the scriptures themselves.