Anglicans, schisms and homosexuality
I was having a read of this article about the latest Anglican shall-we-split-over-homosexuality antics, by NT Wright. I was a little surprised to see him misquote Acts 27:30-31 in the first line (he says "soldiers" when it should be "sailors"). But the article makes for sad reading in general. It seems the schismatics are at it again: In the Anglican church there seems to be a core group who would like nothing better to split their church. It seems to me (as an outside observer) that several of them are out for their own gain and have been quite pleased with the power and influence that stirring up conflict has already brought them, and they can see even more power on the horizon if they manage to split off a faction of the Anglican church and gain full control of it.
What some of this group is doing with the power they already have is deeply disturbing too. Peter Akinola, one of the leaders of the faction, in 2006 responded to Muslim violence against Christians in his country by announcing in his capacity as a Christian leader of Nigeria that "May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation." Eighty Muslims were killed by 'Christians' in a subsequent backlash. I can only wonder why he has not been stripped of his rank and excommunicated from the church for this... He clearly knows nothing of biblical teachings of love, and so his attempts to "correct" others on issues of biblical morality are laughable.
What I do not understand in this debate is the schismatic faction's strength of feeling on this issue. The number of times homosexuality is mentioned in the bible can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Another issue that occurs in the bible about as often - remarriage after divorce being adultery - was recently deemed acceptable by a general Anglican council without remotely the same degree of hue and cry. Apparently it is okay for people to live in committed adulterous relationships and for these to be sanctioned by the church, but it is apparently a matter of church-splitting importance if people live in committed homosexual relationships. I see a double-standard there. This group seems upset over the issue of homosexuality to an extent that is neither justified by the biblical texts nor logically consistent with their strength of feeling on other issues.
Honestly, I can only conclude that they are homophobic, lacking rational motivation for the degree of opposition on the issue but rather seriously affected by their emotions about it. Peter Akinola again comes to mind, as he has led a major movement in Nigeria against homosexuality and attempted to criminalize it. Perhaps someone might think that given the African Aids crisis he was acting out of concern for people and trying to prevent the spread of Aids, yet the statistics show that it is actually amorous heterosexual relationships that are the problem. The issue of homosexuality just seems to be one that gets people emotional in a way that other questions of divorce-and-remarriage don't. Even among non-Christians, I've observed people get far more vocal and have much stronger feelings about homosexuality than about many other issues. Something about it causes people to feel strongly (pro or con) in a way that other seemingly similar issues don't, and to be honest I'm not sure why this is.
As with all issues this one is often clouded by emotion. A lot of people make up their minds before studying the issue carefully and looking at the evidence. I find a lot of those Christians I talk to who feel strongly (pro or con) about the issue have only the tiniest acquaintance with what the bible says on the subject, virtually no grasp of relevant moral philosophical concepts, and little to no skill or training in careful exegesis of biblical passages. It is my experience and observation that, generally speaking, the majority of the most vocal and firm Christian advocates against homosexuality come from a demographic consisting of under-informed laymen. By contrast, the anecdotal evidence that has come to my attention shows that of those who have been through seminaries (and are thus, hopefully, somewhat more intelligent, more expert in exegeting the bible, and better at understanding moral philosophy than the average pew-sitter) the majority think homosexuality is okay. In my own city it seems to be the case that a few parishes contain a small group of people influential within the congregation who have decided to take a stand against homosexuality and they have told the remainder of their congregation that homosexuality is unbiblical and the rest of their congregation has unquestioningly accepted what they have been taught.
I'm a theologian-philosopher who has studied the biblical, exegetical, philosophical and theological issues carefully for years and concluded that homosexuality is definitely okay. (In fact I would go so far as to say that attempting to suppress or condemn homosexuality could be reasonably classed as un-Christian.) Yet time after time in discussion with lay Christians who are convinced the Christian and biblical position is to be against homosexuality (because their Pastor told them so, and pointed to a verse in the bible) I find that they simply know nothing of the issues that need to be considered before coming to any sort of conclusion. Time and again, they have simply believed others who sounded plausible and feel strongly about an issue they know virtually nothing about and are totally unqualified to have an opinion on.