The ruling body of the national church of Scotland have 'opened the doors' (as the Guardian put it) to ministers in same-sex relationships this week, at the annual general assembly.
The assembly voted in favour of allowing the appointment of ministers in a same-sex marriage, following their decision to approve clergy who are in civil partnerships. I don't plan on discussing the church of Scotland's position in detail, or even same-sex marriage itself; but rather question the nature of such debates - whether they do in fact promote acceptance and love, or whether they completely miss the point.
I'd strongly argue that such debates and decisions can only support the common misconception of Christianity's understanding of homosexuality. The Christian Church, from its very foundation has highlighted that we, as human beings created in the image of God, are 'all one in Christ Jesus.' (Gal 3:28) We are all children of God; and as relational, personal beings, all have the same purpose of learning to love one another (John 13:34-35) and God, our Father.
Unfortunately, Christianity is constantly accused of discriminating against, or hating, homosexuals. Perhaps for this reason, several groups such as the church of Scotland, have been forced to carry out drastic measures to appear politically correct and accepting. For me, this is an unacceptable and unsatisfying approach; not simply because, as the policy itself states, it is an 'opt out of traditional church teaching' or because it goes against the very essence of Christian marriage, but mainly because it completely misses the point; in undermining and pointing the finger at homosexuals, as if they, as equally holy and worthy images of God are the problem. The issue is in fact the difference between 'homosexuals' and the 'practice of homosexuality.'
It is one thing to have a sexual desire, passionate thought, or inclination; and another to act upon it. Not one Scriptural reference, or teaching of the Church states that an individual who has certain thoughts or inclinations has committed a sin. However, if we accept any lustful, jealous, self-centred thought and act upon it, then we do fall into sin. Christ Himself, our very Lord and sinless Saviour, was attacked by several strange and dreadful thoughts in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) but through rejection of these temptations He did not fall. We, as disciples and followers of Christ, strive to do the same; to fight off all unnecessary, unholy thoughts when they inevitably come to us, without acting upon them. For this reason, the Church of Scotland's latest policy, fails to recognise that as Christians we are asked to constantly struggle against thoughts that may lead to sinful acts - and that goes for every person, regardless of inclinations, and personal passions.
Everyone is unworthy and sinful before God - and so by undermining and discriminating against people who struggle with certain temptations would be an abomination, and undoubtedly contradictory to the Christian life and teaching of the Church - that we must not judge (Matthew 7:1) as 'there is only one lawgiver and judge, He Who is able to save..' (James 4:12). In other words, as Christians we all struggle together, each of us with our own personal temptations, and are in no position whatsoever to judge; but on the other hand, in a position to help each other grow, fighting the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) as brother and sisters in Christ.
Christianity, through its Holy Scriptures and Tradition, teaches that homosexual acts are sinful; just as heterosexual acts are, out-with the blessing of God in marriage. Again, it is not a matter of discrimination against a particular person or group; but simply an emphasis on the fact that a way of life without God and His blessing, is a life which will undoubtedly lead to confusion, lack of love, and sin.
Homosexuals are no different to any other human being, with their personal struggles, as well as their great worth and gifts; but such debates simply separate them. They should be treated with the same love, respect, and care as any other person; but by giving in to the pressure and misconceptions of society, the Church of Scotland, as well as many other groups, assume that the only answer is to accept same-sex marriages and relationships (in this case, also as clergyman). This is not the answer. The answer is to reinstate the Christian position; that every human being, as a child and image of God should be guided by the original Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, with its tradition and Scripture in order to struggle against and overcome temptations.
Again, it should be made clear that homosexual orientation is not sinful in itself; neither is it a 'mental disorder' or deadly disease (of course these points are obvious, but unfortunately they must be reinstated due to misunderstandings and misconceptions of the Christian view)
However, just as is the case with many heterosexual inclinations and thoughts, they must not be acted upon:
'Do you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not sexual perverts, not thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God.' (1 Corinthians 6:9)
Therefore all Christians, all equal, all images of God, should struggle against several temptations and carnal desires. Clergy, who serve the Lord and His people should be an example of this struggle; yes, as sinners, but as sinners who 'fight the good fight of faith' taking 'hold of the eternal life' (1 Timothy 6:12) to which we are all called.
The Christian Church has historically never accepted same-sex relationships, for the same reason it has not accepted other relationships not blessed by Christ and His Church. 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.' (Leviticus 18:22) By nature however, they do not have any less value or worth in the eyes of God; but in a way have been given a task, like all of us have; to struggle for the good, for self-sacrifice, and for the holy. As this post has been emphasising; the focus is on the sinfulness of the behaviour, not the person. We are all called to live according to God's commandments, and whether our self-centred desires disagree with this or not, the Church can never turn away from our true calling and purpose; of holiness, self-sacrifice, and fundamentally, love. Each of our temptations can become a pathway to holiness and eternal life. Homosexuals are therefore not called to act upon their desires; but to turn them into gifts far greater than the passions of the body. They are called to self-sacrificially love God and our fellow human beings; love that has no boundaries, no self-gain; and a love that brings true freedom, offering and consequently, holiness.