Since the beginning Christians have been disputing what items are essential to the faith. In the West, current debate centers on homosexuality. The Anglican Consulatitive Council has recently acted to exclude the American and Canadian branches for their refusal to bring their views in line with Anglican doctrine (see here and here). In the BBC piece we read:
The Rev Susan Russell, president of the US gay Christian group Integrity, said gays and lesbians were just as capable of holiness as heterosexuals.
But she said: “The more important question, I think, for the Church, is, ‘Does God care more about our sexual orientation or our theological orientation?’
“And if one’s theological orientation is determined to be correct, faithful and holy, then we see no bar to ordination.”
She told BBC News the issue of gay clergy was “not a matter essential to the faith”.
She said: “The more important question to me right now is, ‘Is this an issue that should split a communion when our attention should be focused on people dying of malaria and children with Aids in Africa?'”
Doubtless one’s take on whether homosexual practice is compatible with the Christian faith is not “a matter essential to the faith.” At least not the Christian faith as revealed in Scripture. Just because it is not an essential belief does not mean that particular beliefs in this arena are not truly in line with Scripture – or church teaching – and more conducive to a healthy church. Of course we can trump almost anything with the appeal to deats caused by Malaria and AIDS in Africa. Surely even doctrines that have been considered essential to the faith – the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the resurrection of Jesus – can be trumped by our need to attend to these horrible realities. But the church isn’t just a social service agency. We’re to to make disciples of Jesus. This involves life transformation – in the direction of holiness. Though supporters of the homosexual lifestyle see no conflict between that lifestyle and the life of holiness, it sure looks like Scripture argues differently.
But then maybe this whole point is misguided. Maybe one’s position on homosexuality reallyis an essential matter of the faith. A bank in England has asked a Christian group to close its account because that group rejects homosexuality. It appears that in some circles at least, the acceptability of homosexuality IS an essential matter of the faith – the secular faith, that is.