The Bishops of the Church of England have decided to stick with the Bible on marriage. It seems a fitting end to the week which started with Mike Ovey's funeral. (http://oakhill2.ablette.net/blog/entry/funeral_thanksgiving_service_for_mike_ovey/)

Mike was a man who campaigned with grace and determination for God's word to be authoritative in Anglican doctrine and practise. This didn't make him an outrageous fundamentalist on the fringes of a generally liberal organisation. This made him a man true to the convictions of the denomination he had joined.

Canon (Church Law) A5 of the Church of England states; "The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures..."

Whether you agree with what the Bible teaches about marriage or not is a matter of personal opinion. But that the Bible does clearly teach that marriage is between one man and one woman is not opinion, it's simple fact.

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)

Therefore, whilst the Church of England says that its doctrine is based on the Bible, it is totally appropriate that it upholds its teaching.

In fact at the service for the consecration of a Bishop this little exchange goes on....

Archbishop: Will you faithfully study the holy Scriptures and call on God in prayer for the true understanding of them, so that you will be able to teach and encourage with wholesome doctrine and withstand and correct those who contradict it?

Bishop: I will, with the Lord's help.

Archbishop: Are you ready to banish and drive away all wrong and strange doctrine that is contrary to God's Word and will you both in public and private urge and encourage others to do the same?

Bishop: I will, with the Lord's help. 

So the Bishops are exercising leadership in the way that they have promised to do so. They are acting consistently with the beliefs that they stated at their consecration.

Now I know that a lot of folk within the Church of England will say that I'm taking the Bible too literally. Or it's just a matter of interpretation. Or I'm hopelessly culturally out of date. And I freely confess to being guilty on all charges. 

I do take the Bible as the literal word of God. Literal in the sense that it is true. But I read its different genres appropriately. I don't read the imagery of poetry in the same way as I read the instructions of a letter.

I do think that the Bible is a matter of interpretation. And that there is wrong interpretation and right interpretation. And that any text has a meaning given it by the author that is timeless. That's why certain groups within the Church of England so upset by today's report. They recognise that it has a meaning that they don't like!

And I am hopelessly culturally out of date. But culture doesn't have authority over the Bible. God's word speaks into our culture. In fact if you read the Bible, and look at the characters it contains,  you will quickly find yourself echoing the writer of Ecclesiastes when he says: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

What saddens me is that those who disagree with the House of Bishops report say that it is "...a failure of leadership..." on their part. I would think that courageously sticking to what God's word teaches, in a culture that won't just ridicule you for it, but will vilify you, is quite the opposite. It is a courageous act of leadership. Whether you agree with their decision or not!

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