THE behaviour of the Church of England hierarchy in permitting same-sex blessings reminds me of a little story in the second book of Kings.
Jehoash is made King of Israel and, feeling that the Temple is in disrepair, orders the priests to use the money from the Temple treasury to repair, adorn and beautify it. At Jehoash’s instruction, the priests commission men to make all the necessary changes. Despite some significant setbacks, this project is going well until Jehoash buckles under the threat of invasion by Hazael, King of Syria, and hands over all the precious treasures of the Temple (ornamentation, liturgical and ceremonial items along with the contents of the treasury), consecrated to God by virtue of their sacred usage, as protection money. Jehoash attempts to flee and in so doing is swiftly hunted down by his own men and put to death for his cowardice, stupidity and desecration of the Lord’s Temple.
This story relates powerfully to the current state of the Church of England, but the bishops are played not by the priests of the Temple – that would be far too obvious a correlation – but by King Jehoash. Like Jehoash the bishops of the C of E began in a way ‘which was right in the sight of the Lord’ (II Kings 12:2) and for many centuries were diligent in their charge to ‘banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word’ (as the Book of Common Prayer ordinal has it). Of course, the Church has always been subject to human fallibility, sin and corruption, but in recent decades a particularly malicious form of heresy has entered the Western Church and is so pernicious because it is so saccharinely pleasant. Unlike the chest-beating, hubristic heresies of the early centuries, modern-day heresies come meekly and gently by softly spoken clerics, mitre-at-knee, wishing to avoid conflict wherever possible. Doe-eyed, these clerics suggest ever so gently and convincingly with reassuring, expensively educated tones, like so many episcopal opticians, that if we just made a little alteration to Scripture here, or reconsidered the historicity of this passage, or questioned the divine inspiration of this verse we could conform our spiritual vision to the metaphysical myopia of the modern world, which would lead souls flooding through the lychgate like pie-wielding fans through the turnstiles at a cup final.
The problem with this tactic is that the Zeitgeist-shaping contemporary world is besieging the Church as the Syrians surrounded Jerusalem, menacing, taunting, ready to destroy. The secular culture scavenges what it can from Christianity (be it the belief in the inviolable dignity of each person, the legal system, university education, healthcare – you name it) just as the Syrians sought to rob the Temple of its treasures, and both the Syrians and the secularists will quite happily leave the holy places in ruins so long as they derive pragmatic benefit from their once having existed.
Spoils have no agenda.
The fact is our secular, Syrian-esque society just doesn’t care, and trying to sexify the Church only makes it look pathetic and stretch-marked when its calling is to be clothed with a Christian world-view incomprehensible to the world, like a mediaeval mystic stripped of her habit to be jeered at in the marketplace. The Church needs to show the culture how shallow and unfulfilled it is, not seek to be fulfilled according to its warped metrics, be they sexual or otherwise.
Like Jehoash handing over Temple booty to placate the Syrians, the C of E bishops mean well by allowing same-sex blessings, and whilst I do not believe same-sex unions may be blessed either in the context of ‘marriage’ or otherwise, I commend their desire to affirm the dignity of same-sex-attracted persons, as all Christians must. Jehoash and the Anglican bishops’ mistake is that they care more for temporal gain than they do heavenly. They care more for the approval of their would-be destructors than they do for the Holy Church of God and His promise of perpetual defence against foes martial and spiritual. In this spiritual amnesia, the Anglican prelates lose sight of the very Christ whose Gospel they were ordained to propagate.
The Church will evangelise the contemporary culture not by capitulating to its every demand, but by faithfully preaching the Word and lovingly administering His Holy Sacraments. Jesus calls us to change our hearts in conformity to His, not the other way around, and so the Christian is called to daily sacrifice of self in order to be transformed into something infinitely more beautiful (c.f. Luke 9:23). We are all sinners. Every one of us fails to live up to the sexual purity to which Jesus calls us. However, that fact does not make sexual sin permissible but instead indicates our need for the Grace of God in overcoming it. An established Church that cares more for the approval of the enemies of the Cross than for the approval of Jesus Christ has committed a fatal error and cannot long survive.