The road through northern Burundi wound through spectacular hills as it drew closer to the Rwandan border. Crowds of people moved in both directions; on foot, sometimes on bicycles. Huge, lumbering trucks, heavily overloaded and breathing black smoke, occasionally slowed the progress. The reverie was broken by a voice from the back of the car.
“What is the Church of Ireland’s position on homosexuality?”
Before an answer was possible, the driver answered. “They don’t have one. It would split the church, so it is simpler to say nothing”.
A dismissal of the Church of Ireland, or a cue to avoid a leading question?
The leaves of the trees at roadside were a shade of green unlike any that one might find in Ireland.
Dismissal or evasion, the answer was true. There is no answer to the question; there is no clearly enunciated position.
The press reports (that began in Northern Ireland) on the registration of the civil partnership of Dean Tom Gordon of Leighlin can be met with a plain rebuff – there was no church policy, so there can be no breach of it. Tom Gordon has been open about his sexuality; he has been in a relationship for twenty years. Any church leader who claims to have been unaware of the partnership is deceitful or incompetent. Tom Gordon held a teaching post at the Church of Ireland Theological College for two decades and no-one raised an objection. Why now object to a civil registration?
Why has sexuality be come a cause of division?
There is a complete imbalance in our preaching of the Gospel.
Jesus talks a lot about money and very little about sex, but where is the church’s condemnation of wealth? Where is the church’s condemnation of buildings costing millions while children starve? Where is the condemnation of the Prosperity Theology embraced by many African churches which is completely contrary to Jesus’ teaching on discipleship? The bishop of the city of Bujumbura from which we were travelling had a brand new jeep, something far beyond the pocket of a Church of Ireland priest, gay or otherwise; where is the church’s condemnation of such avarice and greed?
The silence from most evangelical leaders is deafening. Their claimed adherence to biblical teaching is less than convincing
Turning the Gospel into a matter of perceptions of personal morality; turning aside from the values of the Kingdom of God; ignoring Jesus’ teaching on peace and justice; saying people can be Christians without grasping what that means for ethical living; aren’t these sins condoned by evangelicals? A very traditional cleric in the North used to say that the Church of Ireland “preached the disembowelled Gospel”
Jesus describes the last judgement in Saint Matthew Chapter 25; the sheep and goats are separated on the basis of public morality, on how they responded to the poor and the homeless and the hungry. When that judgement takes place, what will Jesus make of the African bishop with the new jeep, or the one who rides around in a black limousine? What will he make of the evangelical leaders who opposed a faithful relationship, but were silent on oppression, injustice and killing?