It was normal in serious Christianity that when you encountered Jesus and gave your life to him you would ask to be baptised.
In your dying to your old life and starting afresh with a new way of living and loving and being loved, you would take a new name – a Christian name. Perhaps the name of someone who had achieved great things for the kingdom of heaven.
This would reflect what St Paul was writing about in Galatians 3.27.
“7 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And in 2. Corinthians 5.17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”.
The Bishop of Grantham has gone to the left wing Guardian newspaper (socialism is a religion amongst Church of England bishops), and ‘come out as gay.’
He may well be a very nice and sincere man, whom I wish well, and will hold in my prayers. It is a horrid thing to be talked about in the public domain, and especially horrid to pressurized to do it by the threat of blackmail, as he was.
But in coming out as gay, he is to some extent repudiating his faith in Christ. Why so? Because he is choosing a new identity that is nothing to do with Christianity or the Gospels or the lived tradition, but is a social and political construct designed to dilute the Judaeo Christian ethics that underlie Christianised culture.
To come out as gay is to adopt and promote an anthropology that is pagan and not Christian. It is to repudiate the paradigms of Scripture and overlay them with a model of human self-expression that the Bible tells us heads off in a different one than the one God intends for us. The Bible and the Christian tradition is very clear. We are made men or woman, and we come together in marriage where the gift of sexual attraction and expression is located with the intention of becoming co-creators with God and having children. The Bible knows nothing about sex as recreation, sex as self-fulfilllment or sex outside marriage. It understands that these are option (known as temptations) and forbids them.
This heading off in a different direction is something we all do (we call it ‘sin’), and the remedy is simple. Jesus has paid the price, so turn round, come back, stop and start again (we call it repentance.).
But by repudiating his identity in Christ and putting on a secular identity which is defined by erotic attraction outside the boundaries of marriage, a Christian would be repudiating his Christian identity and adopting a romanticised-erotic one instead.
Why would a Christian repudiate their identity in Christ and adopt a secular erotic identity instead? Well, it might be to justify pursuing sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex.
But in the case of the bishop of Grantham he has told the world three things.
The first is that he is adopting an erotic sub Christian anthropology as a way od describing his core identity as a human being. No longer primarily ‘in Christ’, but rather primarily ‘gay’.
The second is that he is not pursuing sexual intimacy with another man. That’s a good thing, because the House of bishops have passed ‘guidelines’ saying that is a requirement of bishops. (They could have referred to the Holy Scriptures, but House of Bishops guidelines seem to have more authority in the C of E.)
The third thing he has told the world is that he is ‘in a relationship’ that has no sexual or erotic expression. I find this very confusing. Many men are in a relationship with another man (though married to a woman) to whom they are deeply committed in an affectionate, and non-erotic way. We call it friendship. We could even call it ‘best friends.’ But what is its relevance to anyone else?
Unless of course the bishop means to tell the world that he is sexually aroused by this (and other men), but claims special virtue for not acting on it.
But why would a bishop tell the world who erotically attracts him?
If the Archbishop of Canterbury told us he is erotically attracted and sexually and emotionally aroused by a woman he is not married to, but has not acted on it, I would suggest he just keep it for his confessor. It’s not anyone else’s business.
The difficulty here of course is the euphemism the bishop of Grantham has adopted by talking about ‘in a relationship’. No one can have the slightest idea what this means, apart from the fact that the poor bishop has said they don’t touch each other much (or he doesn’t act sexually on his feelings- whatever that means).
He doesn’t tell us whether he has acted sexually on it (which would be a sin) or whether he will in the future (which would be a sin) only that there is a window in time (which is now) when he is not.
How have we got into this weird mess? Because the bishop of Grantham has adopted a sub Christian erotised anthropology in preference to the orthodox Christian understanding of personal and sexual identity.
Was not being a bishop more important than ‘being gay’?
Might his self-understanding of being a bishop encompassed being in a relationship with Jesus (as a baptised Christian) and being in a relationship with his body, the Church (as a bishop) both of which are undermined by his insisting his primary self- understanding who is as a man who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other men- ‘gay’.)
Whatever confusion the bishop of Grantham might suffer from in his own ranking of self –understanding, the Archbishop of Canterbury suffered no confusion when he appointed him.
He knew that Dr Chamberlain self described as ‘gay’. He knew he was ‘in a relationship’ which was not sexually expressed; (who can imagine what line of questioning is required to establish what this actually means). He appointed him knowing that if the details emerged in the public sphere it would cause deep consternation to orthodox Christians who have no difficulty with a bishop who is single and has deep committed friendships, but do have difficulty with a bishop whose primary element in his self-understanding is to describe his erotic and emotional attraction to other men.
It may be that the Archbishop like the bishop fo Grantham as fallen prey to the spirit of the age and chosen to look at human identity and self-understanding through a sub Christian (and perhaps worse) anthropology.
Rowan Williams faced similar dilemmas. At a personal level he found himself similarly attracted to secularised erotic anthropologies. But unlike Archbishop Welby he understood that his commitment to being Archbishop of Canterbury placed him also ‘in a relationship’; in a relationship with the Church where nothing had a greater claim on him than caring and protecting it in peace and as much unity as possible.
One can only assume that in his commitment to this new anthropology, and the appointing of ‘gay’ bishops, Archbishop Welby has chosen to be reckless with his care of the Church, and if true, that would be a very terrible thing.
In Christ, St Paul reminds us, there are no competing anthropologies. We are gender blind, (no male or female) no racism, (Jew or Gentile) no social snobbery (slave or free), and in Romans chapter 1, no ranking of same-sex relationships above God’s biological and social priorities for us in marriage.
We must pray for the Bishop of Grantham and the Archbishop of Canterbury, that they will find a spiritual and intellectual understanding of what it is to be ‘in Christ’ that is infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than some of the other spirits who inform their theology and their priorities.