Martin Davie: A Failure to Take Sex Seriously

Though this article refers to the situation specifically within the Church of England, it does offer a brief, biblical, and classically Anglican response to trangenderism and why the Church cannot (if it is to be truly loving) accept it.

UK: A failure to take sex seriously: A response to General Synod Misc. 1178


By Martin Davie
Jan. 25, 2018


In July last year the Church of England’s General Synod passed a motion brought forward by the Blackburn Diocesan Synod. This motion declared ‘…that this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’

In advance of this February’s General Synod the House of Bishops has responded to this motion in GS Misc 1178, An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People.’[1]

The three key paragraphs in this paper are paragraphs 3, 6 and 4.

Paragraph 3
In response to the call in the July Synod debate for the Church of England to welcome and affirm transgender people, paragraph 3 declares:

‘The House of Bishops welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the Church, the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that one body, into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit.’

The problem with this paragraph is its use of the term the term ‘unconditional affirmation.’

It is unquestionable that all people should be regarded as having infinite value because they have been created by God in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27) and because Christ died and rose for them in order that they might have eternal life (Romans 5:1-21). It is also unquestionable that in obedience to the Great Commission (Mathew 28:18-20) the Church is called to welcome everyone in order that they may have the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

However, this does not mean that is right to offer anyone ‘unconditional affirmation.’ We live in a world in which ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) and this means that there are many aspects of everyone’s lives which it is not right to affirm because they are contrary to God’s will. For example, it would certainly not be right to affirm the ‘works of the flesh’ listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:19-21.

As a result what we need to offer to everyone is ‘conditional affirmation.’ We need to

Continue reading Martin Davie: A Failure to Take Sex Seriously


I Got a Sermon for Y’all

I’m late posting my own sermon from last week, but I’ve heard a good one at this link from my mentor Troy Ogle preaching at the First Church of the Nazarene near Detroit. Click the sermon titled “Suffering.” I know that’s not an encouraging title, but it’s a good word on topics we all face!

Notice he has several sermons in the list. Check them out. He’s the guy who taught me to preach – and is better at it than I.

Highly Recommended Christianity Today Article (by an Anglican biblical scholar)

Christopher Wright—Learning to Love Leviticus

The Old Testament laws…exemplify how God wanted certain kinds of situations to be handled. They embody values and objectives, on the assumption that people would understand how to extrapolate from a particular case to a general principle and apply that to new situations. So to take all of the Old Testament laws at face value is to misunderstand their original intent in the first place.
How commands can function in relationships and communication. If I hear someone on the street shout, “Freeze! Put your hands behind your head!” I need to know two things. First, who is shouting? If it’s a police officer—someone whose authorized command I need to submit to—then yes. Second, is he addressing me? Likely the answer is no. It’s addressed to the guy who just robbed a street vendor and is running away. So the command has authority because of who gave it, but it is not addressed to me in that moment. It claims my respect—I should not break the law in that way either—but it does not claim my compliance.

Read it all.

How to Hear a Sermon

Fr. Franklin Saunders emailed this wonderful quote from Anglican priest and poet John Donne. Good, good stuff and a perspective we oft neglect to hear.


     Doe thou therefore [go before] the Preacher;  Accuse thyselfe before he accuse thee; offer up thy sinne thy selfe; Bring it to the top of thy memory, and thy conscience, that he, finding it there, may sacrifice it for thee; Tune the instrument, and it is the fitter for his hand.
     Remember thou thine own sins, first, and then every word that fals from the preachers lips shall be a drop of the dew of heaven, a dram of the balme of Gilead, a portion of the bloud of thy Saviour, to wash away that sinne, so presented by thee to be so sacrificed by him;
     for, if thou onely of all the congregation finde that the preacher hath not touched thee, nor hit thy sinnes, know then, that thou wast not in his Commission for the Remission of sinnes, and be afraid, that thy conscience is either gangrend, and unsensible of all incisions, and cauterizations, that can be made by denounceing the Judgements of God, (which is as far as the preacher can goe) or that they whole constitution, thy complexion, thy composition is sinne;
     the preacher cannot hit thy particular sinne, because thy whole life, and the whole body of thy actions is one continual sin.  As long as a man is alive, if there appeare any offence in his breath, the physician will assign it to some one corrupt place, his lungs, or teeth, or stomach, and therupon apply convenient remedy thereunto.  But if he be dead, and putrefied, no man askes frrom whence that ill aire and offence comes, because it proceeds from thy whole carcasse.
     So, as long as there is in you a sense of your sinnes, as long as we can touch the offended and wounded part, and be felt by you, you are not desperate, though you be froward, and impatient of our increpations [rebukes]. But when you feele nothing, whatsoever wee say, your soule is in an Hectique fever, where the distemper is not in any one humor, but in the whole substance; nay, your soule it selfe is become a carcasse.

— From John Donne, Selected Prose.  Ed. by Neil Rhodes.  London:  Penguin Books, 1987.

Oops…but wait!

Last week we had a WONDERFUL service, and we were really excited about getting it online. Then we found that there had been an error…well, I found out that I had made a mistake, and there is no recording. Sorry, Cullen!

So… I decided that it was a good time to post a sermon from my mentor and “spiritual dad”, the Rev. Troy Ogle. This sermon was preached recently at Detroit First Church of the Nazarene and will be a blessing to you. The sermon is from Habakkuk’s dialogue with God and faith put under pressure. Trust me; this man has lived what he preaches here.

Habakkuk’s Dialogue with God

Bishop N.T. Wright’s article from The Times, July 15

The Americans know this will end in schism

Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family

 Tom Wright
     In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of  Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships.  This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
     Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop  a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s anguage, they have chosen to “walk apart”.
     Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.
     Of course, matters didn’t begin with the consecration of Gene Robinson. The floodgates opened several years before, particularly in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals. Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.
     That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).
     Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to  scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself,  and of the entire Christian tradition.
     The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.
     Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of identity” parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the “gay community” much postmodern reflection has turned away from “identity” as a modernist fiction. We simply “construct” ourselves from day to day.
     We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to “homosexual clergy” and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may “love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.
     The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great  majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.
     Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship. Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.
Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham

Living Within God’s Narrative

This is the “Robert Webber Quote of the Week” sent by Dr. Kent Walters of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies:

I once understood the gospel as God asking me to let him into my narrative, to find room for him in my heart and life. But now I realize that God bids me to find my place in his narrative. In God’s story, he, with his own two hands—the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit—recapitulated and reversed the human situation so I can now live in him. Through him I can live in the expectation of a restored world without the presence of evil. Here and now, because God became incarnate and recapitulated all things, I live in him, in his narrative, and he lives in my life, which is to be a witness to his narrative for the world. [Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 174-175.]

We often live in a posture of  “inwardness”, bringing into our allegedly safe and controlled lives the situations and relationships that will “fit”.  We guard ourselves and manage our worlds as closely as possible.  We live in fear of calamity, illness, joblessness – anything that might crack the wall of the  fortress we live within.  Even Christians sometimes live inwardly, seeing God as something to bring into the inner system as an extra measure of comfort and control.  This is not as it should be!

Christ calls us to live in a posture of “outwardness”.  Secure on inside because the Spirit of the Lord is there, we are able to turn outward and live into the larger work of God’s redemption – not just our personal redemption but the ongoing renewal of all creation that has begun with the rising again of Christ!

Fear causes one to shrink back and protect oneself.  Perfect love, scripture says, casts out fear.  We can open up and give of ourselves, knowing that Christ’s abundant life in us never runs out of grace to give.  Instead of becoming the people who are “saved”, we are able to become, by the divine life within us, a “saving” people.  We live in the story of God’s creation, redemption, and renewal of all that is around us.  Let’s live out that story with gusto!