The gay issue is not going away anytime soon. For Christians who are open to gay people - as Jesus certainly would have been, but not affirming - as all of Scripture and Church Tradition have taught, the issue must be faced squarely and courageously. We are salmon swimming against the flood of cultural opinion and change. Our President proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month for the third year in a row. This does not bode well for us. I can easily imagine churches that will not bend on this issue facing significant cultural and governmental persecution within the next few decades.
I’ve engaged the debate over whether or not a homosexual lifestyle is compatible with the Christian faith. The affirming side does not lack for stories of homosexuals who are otherwise morally and ethically commendable. Many are in long-term committed relationships. Of course, the same can be said of heretical Mormons who also want acceptance by the Christian church. Those who affirm homosexuality as compatible with the Christian faith do not lack in scriptural claims, though their system of interpretation can and should be questioned. I’ve heard the scriptural debates on both sides. Unfortunately, I’m not a biblical scholar. Though I believe we must vigorously engage the fight in that arena, I don’t know the original biblical languages and so feel unqualified to take up that argument. I’ll leave that to others.
In all of the debates over this issue, I have rarely heard the argument of Church Tradition put forward to support those who cannot affirm the homosexual lifestyle. That’s too bad. I believe it may be our strongest hand to play. The two streams of Christianity that are tethered to Tradition – the Orthodox and Roman Catholic – do not dance with this issue. They may have challenges, but the matter is settled. It is only the children of modern Protestantism who have, by and large, rejected Tradition as authoritative that have embraced homosexuality as compatible with the faith.
We modern Protestants have been arrogant and short-sighted in saying that Scripture is our only authority. On what basis, then, do we interpret it? Do we throw out two thousand years of Church Tradition and presume to use our modern exegetical tools alone to arrive at the truth? What of Augustine, Gregory the Great, St. Benedict, and the whole host of medieval mystics? Our answer has typically been that they have been found to contain errors and, besides, they’re Catholic. Who then, is without error? What would our Protestant fathers like Luther, Calvin or Wesley say of the homosexual issue? All condemned it. If we throw out Church Tradition we are deeply impoverished.
To my knowledge, the Church in its two thousand year history has never embraced homosexual conduct as compatible with the Christian faith. Why are some now affirming the lifestyle by ordaining openly gay ministers? It is because history and Tradition mean nothing.
It is time to recall the authority of Church Tradition. We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. To ignore them is arrogance and folly. John Knox must be turning in his grave over the Presbyterian USA action last month. We need our forebears in the faith. Especially today.
Lord, have mercy.