Anglican church divided over whether to please God or man

Earlier this year, the Anglican church made waves in Christian circles regarding a decision towards same-sex marriage. ?The media response was divided.?On the one hand, the church is being condemned for their very ?weak solution? as it has announced that priests are allowed, if they choose, to bless same-sex marriages, but not to officiate ceremonies. On the other hand, they are being praised for paving the way and taking a step closer towards acceptance.

The Anglican church spokesman announced that ?the bishops and dioceses of Christchurch, Wellington and Nelson are all committed to finding a way to keep the Church together?. This wreaks of compromise to me; trying to satisfy the fundamentalists yet also to appease the liberals. Half the church want to please God. The other half want to please man. This may seem a fairly crude way to divide the sheep from the goats, so to speak, but through my observations, this very issue is the number one reason that churches are becoming divided worldwide and New Zealand is clearly not immune. Some boast ?we are tolerant?, while others state emphatically, ?God is not?.

Everybody longs to be included in whatever field of life they are drawn to. In the playground, within community, politics, career, social interests, services. Institutions are wising up to the reality of inclusive practice: installing wheelchair ramps, producing material in a variety of languages, welcoming the presence of support people at job interviews, sponsoring LGBTIQA events. ?We naturally desire to have our needs met at every level; physical, mental, social, emotional? spiritual. And this latter sphere is where the supposed conundrum lies.

Believers are instructed (by our creator) to be in the world but not of the world; to flee from immorality and from those things which God has declared to be unholy. We are commanded to hate what is evil and to cling to what is good. A common misconception is that Christians, therefore, hate sinners, but that reasoning would make us hypocrites. In reality, we are even more aware of our shortcomings and weaknesses, of areas in which we fall short of God?s standards because we have come to learn that right and wrong is not determined by our feelings but instead are pre-ordained absolutes by which we chose to live. Once we become aware of His design for our lives and when we come to recognise that our identity is connected to and entwined in our relationship with Him, our purpose shifts from being self-seeking to becoming God-seeking. We demonstrate our love to Him through obedience (ie not partaking of, nor condoning sin) and He demonstrates his love to us by reminding us of his son’s nail-pierced hands and the reason for the punishment he took for us; such beautiful and undeserved grace, available to all. We know that the pursuit of holiness is a tough and narrow road and the fact is that we all fail, constantly, and have the need of forgiveness often ? wretched men that we are.

To bless something which God has declared to be wrong is to fool ourselves. To pretend that God is tolerant of sin is to deny the purpose of his coming? his death, his resurrection; the very cornerstone of our faith. That would be hypocrisy. The label of ?intolerance? is not PC in terms of New Zealand society but to be intolerant of drunkenness, fornication, theft, adultery, gluttony and all forms of immorality is what God requires of us. It attracts the label of ?judgemental?, yet, as Christians, we must make the judgement between right and wrong based on what God says if we are to live a life pleasing to?Him. This is by no means to say that we are to reject the sinner, of course. For once were we! As we know, in order to walk in right relationship with God we must be forgiven.

In order to be forgiven, we must repent. In order to repent, we must be aware of our sin. In order to be aware of our sin, we must gain that knowledge through how God defines it and allow His Holy Spirit to convict us. To blend black with white and make grey the issue is to deny sin and, in doing so, the church is presenting a lie: in effect stripping sinners of the information they require in order to come, uninhibited, to the foot of the cross. So the very place which is supposed to be a gateway to the kingdom of God is becoming a stumbling block on the road to the cross, all on account of appeasing the masses.

Be pro-sin and opposed to God OR be pro-God and opposed to sin but don?t attempt to claim it all in the name of tolerance. Surely that?s the definition of hypocrisy. If you are a church leader, you are in a position of authority and have the responsibility to uphold the Word of God. Many Anglican Church members will be opposed to this year’s decision, and I?m sure not all clergy will? support it either, but to those who are not prepared to call a spade a spade, you are doing a disservice not only to the Christian church at large but also to those you seek to appease.

If a drunken, p-addicted, Muslim, homosexual prostitute walks into my church seeking the truth, they can expect to be welcomed by me, for Jesus draws all men unto Himself. They can also expect to be told that God?s ways are higher than our ways and that Jesus will accept them as they are, but to walk in right relationship with Him they must allow themselves to be changed into His likeness, as He does me, as He does every single one of us.

So the next time the media praises the church for its inclusive, tolerant, acceptance of what God has declared to be a?sin, check that it?s not your church they are talking about. ?Recall the writings of James with regard to teachers and the stricter judgement they will receive. Keep running the race and remember John 15, that ?if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you?.

Although the world of blogging is uncharted territory for me, I have always enjoyed the medium of writing as a mechanism to unpack thoughts, express ideas and articulate views; views I have discovered are seldom held by most. My voice is but one in an ocean of opinions, yet my hope is that these words will affirm truth, validate conviction and provide a voice of response and sound reason to topical issues, albeit as a lone fish facing a fierce tide.