Issues of gender, authority and sexuality have become defining questions for our society and the wider church. As Christians seek to remain faithful to scriptural teaching on these matters, it is likely that they will come under increasing pressure to conform to the world’s pattern. This pressure may become acute within the caring professions and public services as these spheres are co-opted into a liberal humanist agenda under the heading of ‘promoting diversity’. Indeed it is likely that individuals and institutions which affirm the Bible’s teaching will find themselves vilified and misrepresented in the media, and subject to vexatious civil complaints. This is essentially privatised harassment, which will insidiously constrain the church and attempt to force it to accept the world’s understanding of human nature. In the doublespeak of our time, freedom demands total conformity on these issues.
While liberal humanists can easily ‘sloganise’ their opinions, Christians need carefully to explain a more thoughtful and nuanced understanding of human sexuality. Incidentally this is why evangelicals are rarely any good at ‘soundbites’.
William Taylor has provided a bold but gracious affirmation of the Bible’s teaching on gender, authority and sexuality in a sermon entitled 'Gender matters' which should encourage careful reflection and answer some of the more preposterous taunts of our opponents. Setting out God’s ideal for creation and the subsequent dysfunction introduced by humanity’s grasp for autonomy, we find the Genesis account diagnoses all our contemporary problems and even anticipates the liberal humanist agenda—no need to take God seriously, there are no consequences in defying him and humanity is now God. Sexuality has become a matter of consumer choice, service is perceived through the crude lens of power relationships, and presumed individual rights now cancel out social and family responsibilities. These are the inevitable consequences of our alienation from God, creation and one another; even while they are trumpeted as signs of our liberation they reflect a profounder malady.
Yet the solution is not to be found in petitions or lobbies, which may inadvertently imply a political solution; it is to be found uniquely in the gospel of Jesus Christ. William very helpfully answers those critics from within the wider church who use carefully crafted theological arguments to outflank evangelical Christians on the issue of gender, authority and sexuality. William explains the biblical position on women bishops and how we as a church can actively promote a biblical pattern for women’s ministry. Crucially he starts by reassuring all those for whom homosexuality is a personal issue that it is our sincere hope that everyone who seeks to live for Christ will find a warm welcome here at St Helen’s. The challenge to us all is how we choose to define ourselves in a society obsessed with identity politics; do we allow our sexuality or our gender or our nation or our colour or our ‘whatever’ to define who we are? Jesus challenges all our self importance.
The issues of gender, authority and sexuality are the particular defining issues of contemporary western society, but for the Christian it is Jesus who defines who we are and we find our identity in him.