PART 6 OUR NEW IDENTITY IN CHRIST

PART 6 TESTIMONY

Should a Christian Follow Societal Norms Concerning Sexual Behavior?

There are probably many examples of societal norms pertaining to sexual behavior that we could present. Instead of overkill on this subject, let’s just mention a couple of them.

Let’s begin by taking a look at some articles that I found online pertaining to sexuality. This one has to do with the Romans during the time of Christ.

 

3 AWFUL FEATURES OF ROMAN SEXUAL MORALITY

Roman Sexuality Was [about] Dominance

Sexuality was tied to ideas of masculinity, male domination, and the adoption of the Greek pursuit of beauty.                                                                                                                                

Romans did not think in terms of sexual orientation. Rather, sexuality was tied to ideas of masculinity, male domination, and the adoption of the Greek pursuit of beauty. “In the Roman mind, the strong took what they wanted to take. It was socially acceptable for a strong Roman male to have intercourse with men or women alike, provided he was the aggressor. It was looked down upon to play the female ‘receptive’ role in homosexual liaisons.”                                                     

A real man dominated in the bedroom as he did on the battlefield. He would have sex with his slaves whether they were male or female; he would visit prostitutes; he would have homosexual encounters even while married; he would engage in pederasty (see below); even rape was generally acceptable as long as he only raped people of a lower status. “He was strong, muscular, and hard in both body and spirit. Society looked down on him only when he appeared weak or soft.” So, Romans did not think of people as being oriented toward homosexuality or heterosexuality. Instead, they understood that a respectable man would express his dominance by having sex—consensual or forced—with men, women, and even children.                                  

 

Roman Sexuality Accepted Pedophilia                                                                                                

The pursuit of beauty and the obsession with the masculine ideal led to the widespread practice of pederasty—a sexual relationship between an adult man and an adolescent boy. This had been a common feature of the Greek world and was [adopted] by the Romans, who saw it as a natural expression of male privilege and domination. A Roman man would direct his sexual attention toward a slave boy or, at times, even a freeborn [child] and would continue to do so until the boy reached puberty. These relationships were seen as an acceptable and even idealized form of love, the kind of love that expressed itself in [poems, stories, and songs].                                                                                                                             

In the Roman [world,] a man’s wife was often seen as beneath him and less than he was, but a sexual relationship with another male, boy or man, represented a higher form of intellectual love and engagement. It was a man joining with that which was his equal and who could, therefore, share experiences and ideas with him in a way he could not with a [woman.] Pederasty—pedophilia—was understood to be good and acceptable.

 

Roman Sexuality Had a Low View of Womanhood

Women were not generally held in high regard in Roman culture. “Women were often seen as weak physically and mentally. They were inferior to men and existed to serve the men as little more than slaves at times.” A woman’s value was largely in her ability to bear [children,] and if she could not do so, she was quickly cast off. Because lifespans were short and infant mortality [was] high, women were often married off in their young teens to maximize the number of children they could bear.

When it came to sexual mores, women were held to a very different standard than men. Where men were free to carry on homosexual affairs and to commit adultery with slaves, prostitutes, and concubines, a woman caught in adultery could be charged with a crime. “The legal penalty for adultery allowed the husband to rape the male offender and then, if he desired, to kill his wife.” Under [Augustus,] it even became illegal for a man to forgive his wife—he was forced to divorce her. “It is not enough to suggest that women were under-appreciated in Roman culture. There are many instances where they were treated as second-class human beings, slightly more honored than slaves.” 76

 

I think we would agree that in America [today,] most of society would not approve of pedophilia. What about homosexuality or lesbianism? Again, I think we would agree that in the ‘50s and  ’60s, homosexuality or lesbianism was considered by society as being perverse, unnatural sexual acts between two people of the same sex. That was until the 1970s, which was called the ‘Me Decade.’ This was a time when many marginal groups continued their fight for equality. Over time, some forty plus years later, on June 26, 2015, in the case of ObergefellHYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges" v. Hodges, the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage.

With these thoughts in mind, there is confusion in many churches as to whether to sanction marriages between two people of the same sex or not. Here are two articles that pertain to such. The first has to do with a mainstream church in the USA. The second has to do with the Church in Wales.

                                                      

WHY A VOTE ON GAY CLERGY AND SAME-SEX MARRIAGE COULD SPLIT THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH                                                                                                                                             

The church is considering a proposal to end its prohibitions on same-sex marriage and ordaining gays and lesbians, but a rival plan to keep those policies in place appears to have more support.

The United Methodist Church is meeting in St. Louis this week to vote on whether to strengthen or end its prohibitions on same-sex marriage and ordaining gays and lesbians — a decision that could splinter the church.

The denomination has been grappling for years with how to respond to social changes that have buffeted other mainline Protestant congregations, with individual United Methodist churches adopting contradictory — and sometimes competing — practices. At some churches, clergy members have come out as gay or lesbian from the pulpit, while other pastors have preached that homosexuality is a sin.

With [twelve] million adherents worldwide, including seven million in the United States, the church gathered 864 members in St. Louis to vote on the way forward.

But the meeting has laid bare the denomination’s fissures. “The church,” said Gideon Salatan, a member from the Philippines, “[Is] grievously wounded.”

Here’s a look at the two leading proposals, known [as] the Traditional Plan and the One Church Plan. No matter which garners the most votes, there are fears that significant numbers of people will be dissatisfied with the [outcome,] and many will ultimately leave.                                                         

 

What is the Traditional Plan?

This proposal essentially maintains the church’s practice of denying gays and lesbians equality and appears to have the most support. The church’s policy, which dates from 1972, states that “[The] practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The plan prohibits gays and lesbians from becoming clergy and forbids same-sex marriage. It defines homosexuals as people in same-sex marriages or civil [unions] and those who “publicly state that they are practicing homosexuals.”

Clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings would receive a [one-year] unpaid suspension. A second offense would result in removal from the clergy.

The policy would also require groups within the denomination to “certify adherence” to the rule. Those who refuse would be “urged” to leave the United Methodist Church, which would prohibit them from using the denomination’s name or logo.

The primary supporters of the proposal are church members from African nations and the Philippines, as well as evangelical Europeans and Americans, who expressed a desire to retain the church’s longstanding rules.

“I was born into a traditional church, so I am learning [what God’s will is],” Julia Stukalova, a church member from Russia, said Monday. “God loves everyone, but he wants everyone to live according to his word.”                                                                                                                           

And what’s the alternative?

The One Church Plan would allow individual churches or regions to decide for themselves whether to hire gay clergy or to perform same-sex weddings.

It would also eliminate the church policy that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity.

Churches that choose not to hire gay and lesbian pastors or to conduct same-sex weddings would not be punished. Bishops and clergy who choose not to officiate at ordinations or same-sex weddings would be protected from being sanctioned.

The majority of support for the proposal comes from self-identified progressives, many of whom are from the United States.

“I will be very sad not to be able to claim the cross and the flame because I am being kicked out,” said Cheryl Johnson Bell, a clergy member who said her family had been part of the church for five generations.                                                                                                                             

 

What’s next for the church?

The church is scheduled to vote Tuesday about which plan to pursue.

If the Traditional Plan is successful, some places, particularly in California, would probably begin preparing to leave the United Methodist Church, according to church members.

If the One Church Plan prevails, congregations in Africa and Asia might start preparing to form an independent Methodist church.

Any exit, however, involves a fairly cumbersome process and would most likely not occur for several [months] or even years.

“It is true that some persons and some local churches have an interest in withdrawal and separation,” said Kenneth Carter, president of the church’s Council of Bishops. “Unfortunately, the losers will be the most vulnerable, who won’t have the protection of a united church.”77

                                                 

EVANGELICALS PUSH FOR NEW BISHOP AFTER CHURCH IN WALES ALLOWS PASTORS TO BLESS GAY MARRIAGES

By Nicole Alcindor, CP Reporter

Evangelicals who hold to traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage are pushing for a new bishop to be appointed in the Church in Wales following the results of an early September vote to allow pastors to bless same-sex marriages.

The Church in Wales, composed of six Anglican dioceses in the United Kingdom, does not allow clergy to conduct legally binding same-sex marriage ceremonies. However, in a Sept. 6 vote of 28 to 12 in favor with two abstentions, clergy were approved to host blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions in their churches.

On Monday, members of the Evangelical Fellowship within the Church in Wales expressed formal disagreement with the vote. 

In a statement, EFCW addressed the Church in Wales Governing Body, asking for more "clarity and consistency" in the plan to protect and care for dissenting churches and leaders.

EFCW is calling for a new bishop, whom it said, can represent those who "hold to an understanding of the doctrine of marriage as only being between a man and a woman."

The fellowship further expressed that it finds that the Governing Body of the Church in Wales "no longer properly represents the convictions of the wider membership of the Church in Wales."

"[EFCW] deeply regrets the recent decision of the Governing Body to [authorize] a liturgy to bless same-sex civil marriages and partnerships [and] we [recognize] the difficulties faced by the bishops and others within the Church in Wales as they have wrestled to bring better pastoral provision for those who are LGBT," the statement reads. 

The statement acknowledges that the [Church] has "not always engaged well" with the LGBT community by being "deeply insensitive" and "hurtful." 

"This is something of which we repent unreservedly," the statement expressed. "The Good News of Jesus Christ is for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. However, the decision to introduce a rite allowing for the blessing of same-sex unions, while well-intentioned, is the wrong step for the Church to take."

The EFCW finds that the Church in Wales has "departed from" the apostolic faith as revealed in Scripture. 

"The only biblical context for sexual activity is heterosexual marriage," the statement argued. "The new rite for the blessing of same-sex unions, which introduces liturgy permitting the blessing of same-sex civil marriages, has, de facto, changed the Church's doctrine on marriage."

EFCW also said they find that the approved vote has caused damage to the Church in Wales' relationship with "the majority of the provinces in the global Anglican Communion" — which has taken a stance "committed to an orthodox understanding of human sexuality."

Relationships with bishops and clerics who choose to perform such blessings are now "impaired," the statement stated. 

"This decision has brought disunity to God's Church," EFCW added. "Such disunity is a grave and serious matter which grieves the heart of God. The decision [dishonors] those [who] persuaded that Scripture teaches that sexual activity is restricted to heterosexual marriage, have chosen to remain celibate, often at tremendous personal cost."

As a result of the vote, ECFW claims there are a "significant number of Welsh Anglicans" who are faced with the "tough decisions as to where their future spiritual home lies." There "have been and will be resignations from Clergy, Lay Readers, Worship Leaders, Church Wardens, Sunday School Teachers, and parishioners."

"A number have withdrawn their regular giving to their churches. Others are determined to remain in the Church in Wales structure. A significant number are seeking help and guidance on deciding their future in the Church in Wales," the statement adds.

"EFCW is committed to helping in this discernment process, including conversations with those offering alternative Anglican structures, and will continue to offer fellowship for all Evangelical Anglicans regardless of whether they stay in the Church in Wales or leave it."

While some clergy have been told that dissenting ministers will not have to surrender their church buildings for blessing services, the statement warns that other bishops "believe they can exercise their prerogative to insist that a same-sex blessing service take place in any building in their Diocese, regardless of the conscience of the local cleric."

"This needs clarity and consistency across the [province] with details on how dissenting PCCs, Lay Officers, congregations (as well as ministers) may be protected and cared for if they do not wish their church buildings to be available for such services," the statement asserts. 

Even with the current "difficulties, [pain,] and grief," the fellowship assures that it will continue to place its "hope and trust in God."

"God has not abandoned Wales or His people," the statement concludes. "We pray for all those engaged in proclaiming Christ boldly and faithfully to this nation, for it is in Him that help and salvation are found."78

The principle in which I wanted us to gain perspective is the fact that society determines what is considered acceptable sexual moral behavior. And this consideration can change from generation to generation, from centuries to centuries. However, this question remains.

Should a Christian follow societal norms with respect to approving certain sexual behaviors, or is there another avenue that he/she should pursue?

 

Endnotes

76 Tim Challies. “Roman Sexuality Was About Dominance,” <https://www.challies.com/articles/3-awful-features-of-roman-sexual-morality/>.

 77Timothy Williams. “Why a Vote on Gay Clergy and Same-Sex Marriage Could Split the United Methodist Church,” 2019. <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/us/united-methodist-church-gay-same-sex-marriage.html>.

78Nicole Alcindor. “EVANGELICALS PUSH FOR NEW BISHOP AFTER CHURCH IN WALES ALLOWS PASTORS TO BLESS GAY MARRIAGES,” THE CHRISTIAN POST. 30 September 2021 <https://bit.ly/2WrnxRF>.

 

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Should a Christian Follow Societal Norms Concerning Sexual Behavior?
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