To very loosely paraphrase John Calvin, there are almost as many mistakes in Ron Ferguson’s piece in today’s Aberdeen Press and Journal as there are paragraphs. I wanted to correct a few of them, but firstly, I must agree with him. This is a watershed moment, as he says, and one that will affect the Church of Scotland greatly, though perhaps not in the way Mr Ferguson apocalyptically suggests.
First off, Mr Rennie was not, as Ron Ferguson alleges, subject to claims that he abandoned his wife and daughter. This hints at skullduggery and is a deliberate smear of Forward Together, the evangelical group in the Kirk that made an honest mistake in asserting this. A mistake, with no malice intended. An apology with costs was the end of the matter.
Secondly, the case is to be heard by the General Assembly because the Commission of Assembly voted 42-41 to remit it to that court, believing that there was, indeed, a complex case to be heard by that superior court of the church, albeit without giving any indication of what the eventual outcome should be.
Thirdly, the only person I have heard talking of a walkout has been Ron Ferguson. He has mentioned this more than once and seems obsessed with it. I have heard no evangelical in my circle of acquaintances speaking about it, nor do I think that this likely or even responsible. Evangelicals are one with the historic and worldwide church on this issue and have no reason to walkout on a church and its people that deserve to be defended and protected from theological unorthodoxy.
Fourthly, no matter how many times it is clearly stated, Ron Ferguson and others just don’t get it that the evangelical view of same sex relationships does not rest on Leviticus. Our view is that entire Bible states explicitly and assumes implicitly that gender complementarity and heterosexual marriage is God’s will for sexual relationships. There are some instructions in the Bible that are just for those who lived at that time. Marriage and gender complementarity are not amongst them.
Fifthly, the situation is not in the remotest degree complicated just because one American conservative has broken ranks and taken a different view to the vast bulk of worldwide evangelical Christianity, though Ron Ferguson keeps saying so. Indeed, the only Christians who think that God has no issue with same sex relationships are Ron Ferguson and the western denominations that are in decline and disunity. The overwhelming majority of the growing, vibrant and worldwide churches are conservative on this matter. That should tell us a lot.
The question of committed same-sex relationships is, as Mr Ferguson says, beyond dispute. It is true, but not in the way he thinks. Same-sex, committed relationships were very well known in the ancient world. This is genuinely beyond dispute. Pagan philosophers wrote about them. This is beyond dispute. Judaism would have viewed these as anathema. This is beyond dispute. Jesus, orthodox Jew that he was, would have viewed such relationships as anathema, though he would have told those involved to go and sin no more. This is beyond dispute.
Sixthly, the church is not in the business of blessing or promoting or encouraging love wherever it is to be found. I once knew a person who had left spouse and children for love of another, who said to me that because it felt so good, God must have willed it. But God did not will it. God had already spoken about such things in holy scripture and had said no. God has also spoken in holy scripture about same sex relationships, and has similarly said no.
I am listening carefully to the liberal argument in this controversy. When I read Ron Ferguson’s comments, I am not at all convinced that he and others are listening carefully to the conservative point of view.
Soli Deo Gloria