Almost half the senior bishops in the Church of England have voiced their views in the media about the nomination of Dr Jeffrey John as the next Bishop of Reading. Dr John has been in a homosexual relationship which began 27 years ago but now claims to be “celibate”. In the past he has contributed to a “book of prayers for gay Christians” and has argued in favour of the Church accepting “permanent, faithful same-sex relationships”.
If Dr John is indeed ordained as bishop in October – and that seems almost certain – his Church will be taking a further major step away from scriptural morality, for there is not the slightest suggestion that he has repented of his sin. Very little of the opposition within the Church, at least of what was reported, has been on the basis of Scripture. One exception was the Archbishop of Sydney, but especially forthright was Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, who sees the appointment as a “satanic attack on the Church of God” and based his opposition firmly on the Bible. And the Bible’s testimony is clear. Paul speaks of such sins as flowing from “vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly” (Rom 1:26,27).
One wonders if this appointment encouraged the Westminster Government to propose giving legal rights to “same-sex couples” if they register their commitment in a civil ceremony. The Scottish Executive said it was looking “with interest” at this move, and a Green MSP had already introduced a proposal for similar legislation in Scotland.
Already, the Netherlands and Belgium have granted legal status to “same-sex marriages”. Across the Atlantic, a bill has been introduced in the US Congress by Senator Hillary Clinton that would provide many of the rights of marriage to “same-sex couples”. In Canada the position is more serious. A British Columbia appeals court gave the Federal Government until July 2004 to change its law to include “homosexual marriages”. But the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that to wait for a change in the law would deny couples their constitutional rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; it ordered the Toronto city clerk to issue marriage licenses to several homosexual couples who had applied for them.
The Bible is being set aside in favour of a humanistic concept of human freedoms. And the Bible -God’s Word – speaks strongly against homosexuality. How dangerous for any Church or government or court of law to act as if this sin was anything but an abomination.
Violence Filling the Earth
The world before the flood is characterised as “corrupt before God” and “filled with violence”. That is the condition which we seem to be fast approaching if we are to go by a recently press report of the situation in Los Angeles. It is in this city, in Hollywood in particular, that many films originate which portray violence. If criminal behaviour is glamourised in this manner in cinemas and on television, is it any wonder that young people, prone to take fiction for reality, are found engaging in it.
It would appear that multitudes of young people in Los Angeles have no moral absolutes and it is therefore not surprising to find it reported (in the New York Times) that it is “the murder capital of America”. A city of 3.7 million people, it saw 653 homicides last year, easily beating New York, which has more than twice the population.” It is estimated that over the past 20 years “about 10 000 young people have been killed, mostly as a result of gang-related violence.” Some neighbourhoods are so dangerous that residents are apparently reluctant to leave their homes, even in daylight. All this is indicative of the extent to which the Spirit of God has ceased to strive with men and the extent to which restraining grace has been removed from this generation.
What is to be our response? Not surely a Cain-like shrugging of the shoulders, a tacit acceptance of the situation and the adoption of the view that this is simply the “the way things are”. Is Christ not the King of Nations? Are His eyes not in Los Angeles as in every other place under heaven? Ought we not to call upon Him to intervene and visit Los Angeles – to visit the whole of our sinful world, of which that city is but a microcosm – by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit? When that day dawns, the cry shall be heard: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”
The SARS Epidemic
SARS – short for ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome’ – has been much in the headlines recently. It is a highly-contagious viral infection which appeared in humans for the first time in one of China’s provinces. From there it has spread to other parts of the world and, wherever it has come, the local “powers that be” have had to introduce drastic measures in the hope of containing it.
Because the virus is so easily transmitted from one person to another and because sinful man everywhere is afraid of death, the very mention of SARS is sufficient to make him think of the danger that “the king of terrors” may appear sooner than expected. Frail man! If only he would acknowledge the hand of God in this visitation! “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” Is it not our wisdom to “hear the rod” and the One that has appointed it?
It would appear that the incidence of the illness is now declining world-wide. Singapore, where we have a congregation, was affected, but has now, thankfully, been declared clear. Outside of China and Taiwan, Toronto seems to be the only place where the outbreak has not yet been fully contained. Is He speaking to that city in particular as the place where the so-called Toronto Blessing originated? This was, in our view, a Satan-inspired phenomenon. It also spread like a deadly plague affecting many throughout the world, blinding their minds all the more to the glory of Christ, His finished work and the sufficiency of the gospel to reveal Him.