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(This is my response to the Bishop of Oxford's Essay advocating a change in the Church of England's attitude to homosexual relationships.)

Are sexual relationships a trivial matter on which Christians within the Church of England can agree to differ?

No. The family – meaning father, mother and children - is the foundation of society. If the foundation stones crack or crumble society itself collapses, and there are plenty of signs that indeed this is already happening. We cannot ignore God’s purposes and laws without dire consequences.

God has created us male and female. In creating us sexual beings God had two purposes. The first is for us to produce children: “be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen 1.27-28.) The second is for sex to be the bond of union between two mutual helpers, a man and his wife, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Gen 2.2.24.)

It follows that any sexual relationship outside such a marriage is contrary to God’s purposes for us, and therefore sinful. That includes sex before marriage, fornication; sex outside marriage, adultery; and homosexual relationships. In different ways all these other sexual relationships are damaging both to those involved in them and to society at large.

The damage caused by fornication includes abortion, unwanted children, and single-parent families. The damage caused by adultery includes divorce, loneliness, and chaotic family relationships. The greatest damage of all is to children: emotional, mental, sometimes physical. We are raising a generation of children who say to themselves, consciously or unconsciously, “My daddy did not love me,” or, “My mummy did not love me.” This is a younger generation with no sense of security, plagued by anxiety, confusion and mental illness.

Homosexuality is a different problem. Homosexual relationships are obviously unnatural: bolts are made to screw into nuts. Bolts do not fit into bolts, nor nuts into nut. It may or may not be possible to identify and resolve the causes of such unnatural attractions, but, whatever the causes, homosexual acts are sinful, against the laws of nature and of God.

Jesus lived a single life without a sexual relationship of any sort. He knew that there were all sorts of reasons why some people lead single lives. “Some people,” he said, “don’t marry because they were born that way, others because they were made that way by other people, others for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19.12.) And of course, some do not marry simply because they never meet the right person.

“All you need is love,” sang the Beatles. And it is true. But today we confuse love with sex. We seem to think that the Beatles song means, “All you need is sex”. That is false. A sexless life is not the same thing as a loveless life. Jesus did not marry, yet he did not lead a loveless life. On the contrary he lived constantly in the knowledge of his heavenly Father’s love and found that and the human love of his family and friends more than sufficient. To live unmarried is not to live without love, merely to live without sex. For several thousand years this was regarded as the ideal form of Christian life, that of a celibate monk or nun, following the example of Jesus.

Churches should not condone any form of homosexual activity but should provide a place where everyone can experience the love of God and be surrounded and supported by a fellowship of loving Christian friends.

Yet another issue is transgenderism. It is impossible to change gender. From the moment of conception, a child's DNA will have either two XX chromosomes, or one XX and one XY chromosome, which determine whether the child is a girl or a boy. Nothing can change that. Whether you are born a male or a female is not a matter of choice or preference or opinion. It is a matter of fact. You can pretend to be someone of the opposite sex, by the way you dress for example. You can have surgery, to mutilate your sexual organs, which will prevent you from ever performing the reproductive functions of either a man or a woman. You can take various medications to alter your outward appearance in other ways. But a man can never turn into a woman, nor a woman turn into a man. Again, the greatest damage that is done by the propagation of homosexuality and transgenderism, especially in schools, is the confusion and anxiety that this sows in the minds of children.

The Church of England, misled by the bishops, seems to be contemplating a schism as great as any since the Reformation, over these issues of sexuality. The official line seems to be that differences of opinion and practice over these issues are trivial and can therefore be changed to conform to the world around us. (But note Romans 12.2.) These issues are not trivial.

The Scriptures are clear and unambiguous that any form of divergence from the original purposes of God in creating us male and female is sinful. The number of places in which all such divergences are condemned and forbidden are far too many to quote, in both Old and New Testaments. The Church does not have the right to contradict these numerous and recurring texts. Indeed the Church of England would be acting against its own constitution in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer. Article VI says, “Holy Writ contains all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man.” Article XXI says, “the Church is a witness and keeper of Holy Writ … it ought not to decree anything against the same.”

Next week: Advent and the Four Last Things.

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