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Australian church votes to ordain homosexuals

Cracks in foundation becoming yawning chasms

by

21 July 2003

The big news in Australian church circles right now is something which is incredibly tragic, but has been inevitable for a rather long time. One of the country’s larger denominations, with 1.4 million members, the Uniting Church has voted to allow the ordination (if approved by individual congregations) of openly homosexual (e.g. living in a relationship) ministers.

CMI cites Psalm 11:3 over and over: ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ The logical foundations of the Gospel—the origin of sin and death—are in Genesis. If the Genesis history is abandoned, what happens to the authority of the Bible elsewhere? Jesus said in John 3:12, ‘If you do not believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how will you believe when I tell you about heavenly things?

Once an organization or denomination abandons the Bible’s authority in one area, particularly one as foundational as the Bible’s history of all things in Genesis, it is only logical that further decline will take place within that group. It has happened over and over again in the last century or so. If ‘man’s opinion’ is allowed to rule our understanding of history, overriding the plain words of the Bible, why should not ‘man’s opinion’ over-rule the Bible in the area of morality?

The decision is not a total shock—the official approach to the Bible by most of the hierarchy in the UC since its formation has been rather ‘liberal,’ i.e. the Bible ‘contains’ the Word of God, not IS the very Word of God. Three Australian churches—the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian1—came together to form the Uniting Church. The original ‘basis of union’ document made plain their position that, rather than the Bible being the Word of God, it is merely something ‘in which she [Christ’s church] hears the Word of God.’ And: ‘the Word of God…is to be heard and known from Scripture.’ (Emphases added). It does not take much discernment to see that this is saying that the Bible is a mixture of truth and error, a position which is increasingly popular the more people believe that the Genesis history has been ‘disproved by science.’

Consistent with this long-standing approach to the Bible, in an open ‘pastoral letter’ after the news of the decision broke across the country, the Uniting Church’s president said that ‘the decision [re openly gay clergy] was not new, but clarified what was already Uniting Church practice.’

There are of course faithful remnants in the Uniting Church, like in all denominations. It has been interesting to see Sydney’s evangelical wing of the Anglican Church condemn this move. (Most of the Anglican Church is also liberal in its approach to the Bible. And it allows ‘gay’ ministers, though at this point they must be celibate. The Anglican Church has been involved in merger talks with the Uniting Church, and its spokesmen say that this decision will not slow down the pace of those talks.)

We applaud the Sydney Anglicans’ stand in such matters. But the sad thing is that they cannot see that they have themselves begun a move down the same road some time ago by ‘pushing’ compromise with evolution and millions-of-years ideas, sidestepping or ‘explaining away’ such inconvenient notions as the Fall in relation to the origin of death and disease, and the actual words of Jesus which make plain His belief in literal Genesis.

Similarly, Uniting Church minister Gordon Moyes, a popular media personality, has come out against his own church’s decision. However, here again there is an inconsistency. Moyes has shown open and repeated antagonism to the Bible’s clear teaching on a recent, literal Genesis creation. (This has included hosting and encouraging a public presentation pushing ‘millions of years’—featuring a liberal, evolutionist theologian and a non-Christian scientist.) So how can there be a logical basis for affirming the Bible’s teaching on such matters as sexuality and marriage, etc., when Jesus based His teachings on marriage totally on the literal, historical events in Genesis? It is sadly ironic that the very same statements of Jesus in which He does this (e.g. Mark 10:6 ff) also make clear His belief in a young world—people were present from the beginning of creation, He said. Which of course contradicts the view being promoted in Moyes’ public forum, namely that people only appeared billions of years after the beginning of creation.

These same sorts of ‘cracks’ in the foundations of UC theology (which from the start rejected the historicity of Genesis) did not take too many decades to become yawning chasms. The same cracks are there in many, if not most, denominations. Seemingly intimidated by inadequate understandings of ‘science’ (what its strengths and limitations are, for one thing), they have attempted to somehow ignore, paper over, or actively compromise with secular naturalistic philosophies, pushed as ‘scientific fact,’ which dramatically clash with Scripture.

Each generation becomes ever more consistent in its thinking—if evolution/millions of years are fact, the words of the Bible cannot really be authoritative (in this area, the Bible speaks extremely plainly). If we ‘reinterpret’ the Bible to ‘keep the peace,’‘avoid divisiveness’ and so on, why not ‘reinterpret’ it in other areas such as sexuality, under the weight of prevailing cultural opinions, for the very same reasons and with the same justifications?

The battle lines are being increasingly drawn, as more and more Christians are realizing that one cannot just regard creation/evolution as ‘one more issue’—it is really about the authority of the Bible, which is ultimately foundational to all other issues in Christendom.

Dorothy McRae McMahon, who publicly supported the UC decision, says, ‘My father graduated from the University of Melbourne 70 years ago and entered the ministry of the Methodist Church. He was trained to search for the truth in the Bible, rather than assume that every word came from the mouth of God. [Note the assumption that the Bible contains a mixture of truth and error. So who determines what is truth and error? This is sinful man’s rejection of ‘Thus saith the Lord’.] Fifty years later, I was trained in the same way for ministry in the Uniting Church.’ A while ago, this same Dorothy McMahon ‘came out’ publicly as a practising lesbian.

Reading about this ongoing tragic decline makes us increasingly determined to work to arm and equip Christians to understand what is going on, and to be able to start to ‘take back holy ground,’ in the words of Buddy Davis’s classic song (‘We're Reclaiming Holy Ground’ on By Him All Things Were Created). We thank those who have been standing with us and supporting us, thus enabling more and more Christians to stand firm on the Word, and to ‘give an answer’ when challenged. Let’s take this message of the truth of the Bible far and wide together!

See also Creationism and the Problem of Homosexual Behaviour.

Addendum

Just after this article was published, we came across a transcript of a broadcast by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). The speaker was Roger Magnusson, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney. He was responding to Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, who opposed the decision openly. Jensen had apparently argued in the major media ‘that Christians are not free to make up their religion, and that the final authority is scripture.’ (See also All religions can’t be right, about how Dr Jensen’s brother, Philip Jenson, Dean of Sydney’s Anglican Cathedral, took a firm stand on the uniqueness of Christianity and how the liberal media bashed him, in the name of tolerance of course.)

So far, full marks to him. But Archbishop Jensen is also an influential promoter of the view that ‘God could have used evolution over millions of years.’

Magnusson’s response to Jensen is therefore, though painful in its anti-Christian context, appropriate. On the subject of biblical authority, he says, ‘… there is, despite Jensen, plenty to argue about. Romans 1:26–27 seems pretty clear in its condemnation of men who “burn with passion for each other.” But Genesis 1 is equally and literally clear that the world was created in just 7 days.’ (Emphasis added)

The implication is clear: ‘You Christians obviously don’t believe such a ridiculous notion as a literal Creation Week, now do you, even though the Bible plainly says so? So how can you be dogmatically opposed to homosexual clergy just because the Bible plainly says so?’


Note

  1. There are still Presbyterian churches in Australia today; some congregations did not join the ‘union.’ Return to text.

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