The proposed appointment of Stephen Cottrell, presently Bishop of Chelmsford, to be Archbishop of York has significance not just for the Church of England but for all Christians. The Church of England is the major denomination in the UK and bishop Cottrell has made important theological and pastoral comments.
In an article in the Church Times on his proposed elevation it is reported he has warned the church that because of the biblical teaching regarding homosexuality it is ‘seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set’. The bishop’s proposed response to this is to suggest that the church should offer prayers of thanksgiving for LGBT relationships, even going so far as to say, ‘perhaps a eucharist’ should be offered.
In his push to bring about the total acceptance of LGBT practices within the church bishop Cottrell attempts to highlight the historical distinctiveness of the church’s position with regard to the prevailing culture. He is of the opinion that today we are in the midst of unprecedented cultural conflict. ‘I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.’
It is rare to find such historical ignorance in one so highly educated and elevated, it would not be uncharitable to describe this statement as bizarre. Is it possible that bishop Cottrell actually believes this? Perhaps it is more likely that he is an educated man who is willing to rewrite the gospel and 2,000 years of church history in order to justify homosexual practice.
Throughout its entire existence the church has been in conflict with the prevailing culture. Instead of remaining in the historical stream of the church ever striving to challenge and change the culture of the day into a more biblical direction, the bishop thinks today’s church should change its beliefs to accommodate the prevailing culture.
Jesus told his followers that the world would hate them because it hated Him first. Jesus was not accepted and welcomed, neither was he tolerated, Jesus was hated by the culture in which He lived. Had he gone along with the culture of his day he would never have faced the opposition of the religious authorities, would never have been crucified, and we would not have a Saviour.
The early church was the object of hatred because it refused to fit in with the prevailing culture. Early Christians were abused as everything from cannibals, they were accused of eating bodies and drinking blood, to atheists, they refused to sacrifice to the gods. Would bishop Cottrell have told the apostle Paul that he should embrace the ‘normative and desirable morality’ of Ephesus and be reconciled with the worshippers of Diana?
Through 2,000 years the church has refused to bow down and accommodate to the prevailing culture. The church has always been at its most faithful when it has been making waves in the surrounding culture. From the early martyrs to Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church Christians have refused to adopt the morality of the age. Many have paid a high price for doing so. In places like the Middle East and North Korea many are still paying the price for refusing to accommodate to the prevailing culture.
Bishop Cottrell’s appeasement is dressed up in concern for evangelism. He warns of the ‘missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society, and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country, is deemed morally unacceptable by the Church.’
Today’s cultural despisers of Christianity have created a society where the denial of the individual’s wishes is the greatest sin of all, and the greatest desire it would appear is for sex, lots and lots of sex. It doesn’t matter with whom, in what way and to what purpose, sex is good and what few boundaries remain must be broken down.
Bishop Cottrell teaches Christians that homosexual relationships are good and should be valued and blessed by the church, they are ‘normative’. The Bible teaches that such practices are perverted and those who engage in them will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9.
The bishop gets around this by arguing that the apostle Paul, probably the greatest missionary in 2,000 years, was merely a limited product of his times whose teaching has little value today. Pauline passages condemning homosexuality are merely ‘part of our story and our inheritance’. They are reduced to the level of quaint relics from past unenlightened times we can be glad we have moved on from.
‘What we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.’ We moderns are supposedly much more in tune with human relationships than the inspired biblical writers.
We have a bishop about to be elevated to the second highest office in his communion who openly teaches and advocates that which is condemned in the Bible.
The Church of England has, up to this point at least formally taught and upheld the biblical view of sexuality, at the same time as actually allowing its opposite. With the appointment of bishop Cottrell to the archbishopric of York the Church of England has moved from tolerating homosexuality to openly advocating it. What has been accepted informally has been given official approval in the Church of England. This is liberal Christianity at its worst, which is why bishop Cottrell’s elevation is so significant.