Sex within a committed homosexual relationship is perfectly “proper”, the Archbishop of Wales has said, arguing that Christians who support same-sex marriage are not “abandoning the Bible”.
Dr. Barry Morgan used his final address to the governing body of The Church in Wales to suggest that biblical stories should be re-examined and re-interpreted in a way that fully accepts homosexual lifestyles.
Even the story of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as punishment for sexual immorality could be “interpreted in more than one way”, he said.
His intervention is likely to reignite a furious debate raging in the Anglican Church over the correct Christian response to same-sex relationships.
In his speech, Dr. Morgan, who will retire in January, said, “It absolutely will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading.
“Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.”
Comparing biblical interpretations of same-sex marriage to slavery, a practice which he said was defended by the church, Dr. Morgan argued that as opinions on slavery have changed, so too should modern views on same-sex marriage.
“In spite of all the passages in favour of slavery, when you examine the Scriptures as a whole and the ministry of Jesus in particular, you realise it is about freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanises people. No Christian I hope would today argue that slavery is good, but for nineteen centuries the Church accepted it and defended it,” he said.
“What all this amounts to is that one cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting Scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned.”
Despite the Bishop’s claims, the church has a long history of opposing slavery through the centuries, dating back to 873 when Pope John VIII decreed the ownership of Christians by other Christians to be sinful and ordered them released.
The Sachsenspiegel, a German text published around 1220 which laid out the fundamentals of Saxon Law and was used throughout the Holy Roman Empire until the early 1900s, condemned slavery as a violation of man’s likeness to God.
And the abolitionists, who were ultimately successful in ending slavery in the Western world completely by the 19th century, hailed from the Christian Quaker movement.
By contrast, no such movement to legitimise same-sex relationships has existed in Christendom until the latter half of the 20th century.
Nonetheless, Dr. Morgan insists: “Given that each of the passages purported to be about homosexuality can be interpreted in more than one way, we come to the fundamental question as to whether taking the Bible as a whole, we can come to the same conclusions about committed, faithful, loving, same-sex relationships as we did about slavery.”
The Bishop underscored his belief that his stance on homosexuality is consistent with biblical teaching and the Christian faith, saying: “We are not thereby abandoning the Bible but trying to interpret it in a way that is consistent with the main thrust of the ministry of Jesus, who went out of His way to minister to those who were excluded, marginalised, and abandoned by His society because they were regarded as impure and unholy by the religious leaders of His day, either because of their gender, age, morality or sexuality. Taking Holy Scripture seriously means paying attention to Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity.”
The issue of same-sex relationships is threatening to tear the Church of England, and the global Anglican Communion, apart as traditionalists battle with liberals over the correct approach to embracing homosexuals within the church family.
While liberals such as Dr. Morgan are pushing for full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, traditionalists are opposing all measures which they regard as diluting or even ignoring scriptural teachings on homosexual relationships.
Although Dr. Morgan’s views are not new, they will likely reignite fierce debate between Christians on both sides of the divide.
Rev Peter Ould, a traditionalist who has written extensively on sexuality and the church, told Breitbart London that ultimately, however, Dr. Morgan’s intervention may amount to little. “These are the words of a retiring Archbishop who has always been liberal on these issues but felt constrained by his office, so no real surprise,” he said.
“The Bench of Bishops in The Church in Wales decided not to change their stance last year and in reality, there is very little prospect of any dramatic change in Wales in the near future.”