CHURCH OF SCOTLAND AFFIRMS TRADITIONAL VIEW OF SEXUALITY BUT PERMITS THE MINISTRY OF ACTIVE HOMOSEXUALS
LUKE 13: 10-17
Jesus reduces the sabbatarians to silence
10-12 It happened that he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day. In the congregation was a woman who for eighteen years had been ill from some psychological cause; she was bent double and was quite unable to straighten herself up. When Jesus noticed her, he called her and said, “You are set free from your illness!”
13-14 And he put his hands upon her, and at once she stood upright and praised God. But the president of the synagogue, in his annoyance at Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, announced to the congregation, “There are six days in which men may work. Come on one of them and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day!”
15-16 But the Lord answered him, saying, “You hypocrites, every single one of you unties his ox or his ass from the stall on the Sabbath day and leads him away to water! This woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom you all know Satan has kept bound for eighteen years—surely she should be released from such bonds on the Sabbath day!”
17 These words reduced his opponents to shame, but the crowd was thrilled at all the glorious things he did.
The Sabbath was and is a profound statement about God: that God is pleased with his creation, delighted with his creatures, and offers them a day free from labour to be in felowship with each other and their God. “The last of days for which the first was made.”
Jesus respected this tradition, but he had no respect for those who had made it a complex web of restrictions which divided the law-abiding from the “sinners”. It’s interesting that in this story Jesus uses the methods of Jewish debate to defend his actions. He doesn’t simply assert that healing is OK on the Sabbath. He refers to the permitted custom of untying livestock to water them on the Sabbath and asks if this woman’s bonds should not also be loosed. Of course the God of the Sabbath permits small and great acts of liberation on his holy day!
Behind this issue lies the greater issue of whether certain holy rituals are demanded by God so that people may enjoy his favour. Jesus’ gospel announced that God was coming to his creatures with overwhelming goodness, showing that nothing was needed to gain his favour: it was given, scandalously, openly, to all, except those who wanted to earn it.
Religions often insist on rules about clean and unclean, holy and unholy, which were rendered null and void by Jesus.
My own Church of Scotland General Assembly yesterday had the opportunity to release from their bonds homosexual men and women who are already, or want to become, ministers. Its traditional view is that such people ought to be celibate, or at least have the decency to appear so. It has re-affirmed this view while permitting its constituent bodies to set aside this tradition if they so choose. This compromise, it is said, preserves the unity of the church. In the face of all scientific evidence that homosexual orientation is natural and therefore God-given, the Church has chosen to be kind to those whose prejudice cannot be dissipated by facts and will continue to justify their bullying of people they regard as abnormal.
Satan, as Jesus noted, can work through religious tradition to imprison men and women. His gospel, by contrast, was for liberation.