Two interesting news items recently on Evangelicals and homosexuality that call for a bit of comment. First, this piece in the Independent, brought to my attention by Jim Simons. The headline is ‘Evangelicals who say being gay is OK’, and the body of the article goes into some detail about two self-described evangelical clergy who have concluded that ‘there is nothing in the Bible which condemns consensual, loving, committed gay relationships’.

Second, reports like this one on the Church of England’s recent decision that being in what is called a ‘civil relationship’ does not prevent a priest becoming a bishop. The report quotes Rod Thomas, spokesman for the evangelical group ‘Reform’, as saying “It’s a very worrying development… Although the Church says they would be required to declare that they are celibate as part of their appointment, the fact is that this is unenforceable,” and Michael Lawson, chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council, as saying “At the very least [it] will spread confusion and at worst will be taken as an effort to conform to the spirit of the age.”

I don’t very often disagree with Reform, but in this case I think that the Church of England has it right, and that both groups have it wrong. Those mentioned by the Independent are wrong because the Bible condemns sexual activity between two people of the same sex absolutely. The fact that those two people love each other, are committed to each other, and consent to it is irrelevant. The fact that the Bible doesn’t add those words to its condemnation is to argue from silence in a way that is usually rejected as illogical. Rod and Michael are wrong because while they acknowledge that celibacy makes a difference, they don’t seem to grasp that it is the crucial difference, as far as the Bible is concerned. The fact that it’s unenforceable is neither here nor there–so are the standards on chastity within marriage, in most cases. And the fact that it will confuse people and be taken the wrong way is no argument either, especially by clergy, whose job it is to teach and who are expected by Scripture to be ‘apt’ enough to cope with such misunderstandings.

The C of E has got this one right. The Christian response to the temptation to have sex with people of one’s own sex is to say ‘no’, to be celibate. Those committed to that response need support and encouragement.