In what's described as an historic move, last week the Methodist Church voted overwhelmingly to 'redefine' marriage. By a massive 254 to 46 votes it approved same-sex marriage, while at the same time also affirming co-habitation. How very progressive of them!
On the BBC, the Rev Sam McBratney, chair of the Dignity and Worth campaign group, said, "Some of us have been praying for this day to come for decades ... We are so grateful to our fellow Methodists for taking this courageous step to recognise and affirm the value and worth of LGBTQ+ relationships."
Rev McBratney sounds like an individual of very deep faith. It is, however, a cause for concern that this faith isn't Christianity. At the very least, sanctioning same-sex marriage is a 'divorce' from the Bible, which states explicitly that marriage is the joining together of one man and one woman for life, in monogamous and exclusive union, for their mutual support and encouragement and for the raising together of any children they might have. It is a direct outworking of their creation.
Genesis tells us that, having created Adam, God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I shall make a helper suitable for him.' But instead of starting from scratch, and somewhat unusually given how He'd formed the rest of creation, we read that God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and then He took one of his ribs, and out of that rib... formed Eve. So that from their creation, the man and the woman were a part of, and completed, each other. And then, the Bible tells us, "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2:18-24).
True marriage, therefore, can only be between a man and a woman, and it's a covenant that not only lasts for life, but has spiritual implications too, because spiritually the couple 'complete' each other. In the same way, the Bible explicitly states that all sexual relations outside that union are prohibited. Which, let us be clear, includes same-sex relations; sexual congress between an unmarried man and woman, which it labels fornication; sexual relations between those married to someone else, labelled adultery; and incest, and bestiality. There is no category of "this might be alright... if the couple involved 'love' each other'".
In climbing onto the LGBTI+ bandwagon, the Methodist Church has displayed not just its abandonment, but its essential contempt, for the tenets of Christian belief, as taught by Christ and enshrined in the Bible from page one, when God first formed the Earth, and walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. In fact, with the greatest respect, the Methodists who have voted for this measure are effectively saying that the Bible is doctrinally inaccurate; that it is the product of necessarily blinkered expositors, hidebound by the antediluvian mores that governed the society of their time, and that they know better. They've grown up!
But in this they are apostate. It is sin. In fact, in their celebration of sexual licence, the faith the Methodist Church is following appears essentially pagan, affirming life-giving energy through intercourse, without moral restraint.
Let us be clear, this is not an issue of injustice and misplaced bigotry. Nor is it saying that sinners and, more specifically, those who have feelings of attraction to their own sex, are of no value. Rather, it is an issue that goes to the heart of our being and relationship with God, and it affects our salvation. Because if we exalt and celebrate what is clearly labelled sin in the Bible, over righteousness, then our liberation from error and redemption become impossible. From which it follows that if heaven is reality, we thereby consign the greater part of humanity to hell; because goodness cannot co-exist with evil. And despite what is claimed by secularists – who condemn all idea of God out-of-hand, contemptuously dismissing Him as a 'judgmental fairy in the sky' – it is not that we become subject to judgement by an inflexible and uncaring God, who in fury casts wrongdoers into hell, but rather that our choice of allegiance to 'sin' excludes us from His presence.
So exactly what faith is it that the Methodist Church has now chosen to embrace, and to which deity have the Rev McBratney and his associates been praying?
Christ, by His death, freed us from the hold and oppression of sin and restored us to direct relationship with God. But we cannot enter into that freedom if we insist on clinging to sin. It is either/or – but it sure as hell isn't both.
To enter into that freedom is the gift of God. We cannot and must not attempt to remake God in our own flawed image and, for all its hubris, the Methodist Church cannot and must not redefine marriage.
Rev Lynda Rose is founder of Voice for Justice UK, a group which works to uphold the moral values of the Bible in society.