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The Biblical texts plainly teach God's view on sex and marriage

By Peter Jensen - posted Friday, 18 July 2003

Readers cannot fail to have noticed reports of the recent lively debate in the Anglican Church on the appointment of bishops who are or have been practicing homosexuals, and also on the blessing of same sex unions.

The Primate of the Anglican Church, Dr Peter Carnley provided his own views on the matter in your columns recently. I have been invited to respond to Archbishop Carnley.

Let me commence by pointing out where I agree wholeheartedly with him. We both affirm "the uniquely normative and authoritative place" of the Scriptures within the Christian tradition.


As Australian Anglicans Dr Carnley and I are bound to this view since it is spelled out for us in the second of the Fundamental Declarations in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. That is, "This Church receives all the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as being the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation".

It may be difficult for those looking in at this Anglican debate to remember that Christians don't regard themselves as in any way free to make up their religion. What we are all doing is struggling to obey the living God who has spoken to us through the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures.

So this Anglican debate boils down essentially to the question of the authority Christians give to Scripture, and they way they read it.

Where I find myself in tension with the views of Archbishop Carnley is his suggestion that a plain understanding of God's purposes for humankind, as man and woman, and our sexuality in marriage is not clear in Scripture and that many people allow the Scriptural text to provide simply a "prepackaged answer".

Rather, the historic understanding of the Christian faith, not just by Anglicans but by Christians throughout the world, is caught well in the Lambeth Resolution - for which 90 per cent of the bishops of the Anglican Communion voted in 1998. This Resolution 1:10 rejected "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" and further it stated that it "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions".

Dr Carnley describes this resolution as "cautiously reaffirming received teaching". I do not think his word "cautiously" captures either the tone or the intent of that resolution.


Since Lambeth, the minority who vigorously opposed the Lambeth decision have worked with equal vigour to overturn it. In various places they have pushed the boundaries seeking to break out and away from this Lambeth decision

Our Creator does have a view on sex and the expression of sexuality. It is to be found in those texts Dr Carnley refers to as "ancient texts" whose meanings are "hotly disputed". That is a massive overstatement.

The texts teach that God created men and women and blessed them in life-long, heterosexual marriage. So important is this positive teaching that it is reinforced by the negatives against all other forms of sexual activity outside this norm. This has always been the plain meaning and reading of the Scripture and the historic understanding of the Christian church.

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Article edited by Ian Spooner.
If you'd like to be a volunteer editor too, click here.

Edited versions of this article were published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 2 July 2003.

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About the Author

Dr Peter Jensen is the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.

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