The Truth shall make you free

The Truth shall make you free
Sunday October 01st 2006, 3:14 pm
in Evangelicals Now – October 2006

by Chris Sugden

The Archbishop of Canterbury has grabbed headlines around the world with his interview in which he stated that “We welcome people into the Church, we say “you can come in, and that decision will change you”. We don’t say “Come in and we ask no questions. I believe that conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions.” He has been understood to say that homosexuals have to change their behaviour if they are serious about being welcomed into the church.

The Zacchaeus Fellowship of ex-gays in Canada wrote an open letter to Archbishop Rowan: “We applaud your recent interview with a Dutch journalist, to whom you said that while the Church welcomes homosexual persons, they are called to align their behaviour with the mind of Christ. We endorse the reassertion of the Church’s traditional teaching against homosexual acts. We look to the Church for pastoral care and moral direction, subject to the authority of Scripture, which would empower us in the ordering of our relationships (as stated in Lambeth Resolution 1.10). We yearn to hear our Church boldly preach the gospel message of transformation and discipleship.”

Canon Dr Vinay Samuel of India reflected: “Theology is both ideas and relationships. What relationships is Archbishop Rowan addressing while he mulls over his ideas? Is he addressing the relationships with the hurting and persecuted minorities in the USA, or is he perhaps addressing his relationship with Rome.”

Archbishop Rowan knows the Pope is giving very serious consideration to recognising an alternative Anglican entity in full fellowship with Rome in a way that in the current ecumenical winter with Rome that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion is not. This entity would be orthodox on sexuality and prepared to negotiate on women in the ordained ministry. So it is arguable that Archbishop Rowan is also talking to the Pope and taking away any casus belli he might have with the Anglican Communion and its leadership.

So what Archbishop Rowan precisely means to say is not entirely clear. Has he changed his own ideas? He certainly is asking homosexuals to change. He does not yet say they have to repent. But what are the resources for them to change and support their change unless it includes the biblical gospel preached through and supported by the fellowship of the church? Will he then follow his words with consistent action to discipline ECUSA which does not believe homosexuals can or should change and give primatial oversight to orthodox Anglicans in the USA who do?

Perhaps it is that the Archbishop sees truth as only emerging dimly from a great fog of unclarity. The dominant approach to truth in our culture is that it emerges painfully from a great deal of confusion and muddiness and only then might convince a Richard Dawkins that all sides of the question have been taken into account. There is a great deal of fear of those who think they have the truth and might then impose it on others.

Such a view of truth needs to get a life. It needs to get out more and experience real truth changing people’s lives.

Vinay Samuel again: “Anyone who works in the field of HIV/Aids knows that for change to happen in your behaviour you need to know yourself. The Bible is a resource to discover the truth about yourself and by which to judge yourself. The Bible gives a connection with the transcendant reality of God who forgives, frees and transforms. It is also the case that no one can sustain such change on their own, they need a community who will support them in that change. That is the church.”

That is why the letter from the Zacchaeus Fellowship is important. That is why those who are quietly supporting real change through their churches in the lives of those with HIV/Aids, same-sex attraction, criminal tendencies need to share their testimonies.

Yes Archbishop, everyone needs to be changed by the gospel. That is why support for those who faithfully preach the gospel and discipline for those who default is important. The truth is not a set of abstract correct ideas. Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. The truth is something to be appropriated and experienced as we respond to the teaching of Jesus, and “the truth will make you free” which is the motto of the Anglican Communion.

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