Book Launch: ‘Sexegesis’

Today we launched Sexegesis – An Evangelical Response to Five Uneasy Pieces on Homosexuality at St David’s Cathedral, Hobart. I would like to express my thanks to the Revd Joel Kettleton and the Dean Richard Humphrey, for their work in putting together this event.

Here is the introduction which I gave at the book launch:

2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Anglican Church of Australia.  At the recent Synod of our Diocese we gave thanks that our founding documents affirm that we are part of the apostolic and worldwide church, that we are biblically based and that we are Christ centered.

As Anglicans then as we deal with issues such as homosexuality we do so in this context.

We are part of a worldwide Anglican communion and need to listen to that body which has clearly stated in the Lambeth Resolutions (1.10 – Human Sexuality) that homosexual practice is incompatible with the Scriptures.

As that resolution makes clear and the constitution of our Church says we take the Scriptures “as being the ultimate and standard of faith given by inspiration of God.”   The Church is not at liberty to “ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” (Article XX of the Anglican Church’s 39 Articles of Religion).  We need to keep coming back to Scripture, to wrestle with it, understand and apply it, even when it corrects and challenges us and our culture.

Last we do this focused on Christ which means that as this discussion continues it should be done with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience and showing the same kind of forgiving love that God has shown us in Christ.

I welcome ‘Sexegesis’ as part of this ongoing conversation which whilst strongly arguing for a traditional understanding of biblical sexual behavior as taking place within heterosexual marriage, it speaks this truth in love.

I encourage people to read this book and to continue through their own reading and thinking to come to a truly Biblical mind on this issue.  As we do so let us pray the Collect for 2nd Sunday in Advent (BCP),

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Here is the Dean, Richard Humphrey’s Book Launch statement:

Discussions regarding homosexuality and the Scriptures are always challenging, they challenge us in our prejudices, they challenge us in our thinking about authorities in life, they challenge us to think long and hard about what the Scriptures say and how this might apply to our lives, the task of exegesis and hermeneutics.

These challenges are all raised in Sexegesis and Five Uneasy Pieces, the book to which Sexegesis responds, as Christians seek to understand how to be faithful on this issue.

Sexegesis in defending the traditional Christian understanding of sexual behavior helps us in a number of ways.

Firstly I think it rightly challenges the notion that Christian thinking must change due to so called “scientific” and “psychological” discoveries in relation to homosexuality.  The jury is still very much out on issues such as a so called” gay gene.”  We also need to question whether any ethical decision can actually be solved with an appeal to “I was born this way”, which ultimately dissolves into “if it feels right do it.” That might be how our society thinks but it is clearly not how at least a Christian ethic can be constructed.

Secondly it helpfully reminds us that the biblical stance against homosexual practice is not based on proof texts from 5 debatable verses, but rather is developed from the Biblical Theology of sex, gender and marriage founded on Genesis 1-2 and developed by Jesus and Paul.  The lack of biblical theology in Five Uneasy Pieces is glaringly apparent and profoundly undermines its conclusions.  Sexegesis starts to do the hard work of exegesis of the 5 uneasy pieces, which we need to do, but always seeks to put this within the wider witness and theology of Scripture.

Thirdly there is a strong reminder of the need to listen and be pastorally sensitive as we deal with this topic.  Far too often a Christian stand on sexual ethics has been used to justify unchristian language and behavior towards the gay and lesbian community.  Any way in which Christian teaching has been used to promote hate of others is to be condemned.  To any who have experienced such hate from those who claim to speak as Christ’s followers we should ask for forgiveness.  We need to be clear on what Scripture teaches but be Christ like as we deal with people.

Lastly I believe as we think through this issue we need to remember that any discussion on homosexuality cannot be done from a moral high ground.  In Romans 1 Paul sees homosexuality as a result of a disordered society that has turned away from God, but he is not seeking to teach that in the passage.  Rather Paul is using a fairly standard Jewish diatribe against pagan practice to catch particularly his Jewish readers out in their own judgementalism.  As Paul says in Romans 2:1: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”  Which leads to his more well known statement “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Any discussion of homosexuality which does not push us all to fall back on God’s grace and his provision in Jesus Christ I believe will mean that have not truly understood God’s word to us.  That might be an uneasy truth for us all gay or straight, but ultimately is the way of hope for us all.

You can purchase this book here: Christian Education Publications

 

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