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Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth, a minister in the Scottish Episcopal Church, is in the news after arguing that Christians who want to see the Church of England embrace a more open view toward the LGBT community should pray that Prince George, England’s four-year-old future king, grows up to marry a man. The post originally ran in January of this year but regained notice following the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It has since been deleted, but that hasn’t stopped news sources such as Time and The Guardian from offering their two cents.
While the statement was far from Holdsworth’s only suggestion, it has generated the most headlines. And it’s not difficult to understand why. After all, very few on either side of the LGBT debate support the notion of using prayer to try and sway the sexuality of a four-year-old. While the reasons behind that belief may differ, a bit of common ground is seldom a bad thing.
And while I imagine that most of us stand in opposition to Holdsworth’s petition to prayer, it’s worthy of closer examination as it reveals two important insights on the host of issues the reverend attempts to address.
What determines our beliefs?
First, if Holdsworth is right and a gay king would truly change the beliefs of some Christians on the sinfulness of living out a homosexual lifestyle, then it says more about us than the teachings of Scripture. As Tim Keller writes, “When I see people discarding their older beliefs that homosexuality is sinful after engaging with loving, wise, gay people, I’m inclined to agree that those earlier views were likely defective. In fact, they must have been essentially a form of bigotry.” The reason why, as Keller then explains, lies in the fact that our personal experiences do not change the truth of Scripture (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1).
If our views on homosexuality shift after meeting someone living out the LGBT lifestyle, then they were never really based on the Bible in the first place. As Christians, none of us should find joy in condemning the lifestyle chosen by members of the LGBT community, but our preferences do not change the truth of God’s word. As a result, the most loving thing we can do is to help people better know Jesus and experience his grace. Teaching them the truth of Scripture and holding one another accountable to those realities is a fundamental part of that process.
If Holdsworth’s theory is correct, then it stands as an indictment of our commitment to God’s word rather than what Scripture teaches on the issue of homosexuality.
Why we can trust Scripture on this issue
Second, the reverend’s encouragement to pray that the prince would be gay, rather than simply making his case from Scripture, typifies an argument often seen among those who cannot make their claims biblically. Because Holdsworth deleted his post, I cannot know what, if any, such attempts at a scripturally based argument he made. Yet the reality remains that the sort of exegetical gymnastics typically required to claim that the Bible does not call homosexual activity sinful are difficult to accept.
Still, a number of well-intentioned Christians have tried to make such a case. And while their arguments vary, they most often come down to the ideas that we currently misunderstand what the Bible says about living out an LGBT lifestyle and that the near-universal consensus of almost two thousand years’ worth of Christians has also been wrong on the subject.
That last part is especially important as most Christian proponents of homosexuality argue that the church’s traditional stance is similar to issues such as slavery, divorce, Christian participation in war, women in the ministry, and a host of other views that have often shifted over the years. As Keller points out, however, those comparisons are flawed in that none of the other issues enjoyed anything close to the level of consensus among believers as seen with regards to the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality.
In short, there has never been a period in Christian history, save for the last few decades, when anything close to a majority of believers thought that God’s word permitted homosexual activity. And while tradition does not guarantee correct beliefs, it does establish a rather large burden of proof on those who would offer a different understanding.
As Christians, we can have confidence that Scripture condemns homosexual activity as sinful. At the same time, however, it’s vital we remember that the Bible never singles it out as more sinful than the host of other faults that can have an equally large impact on our walk with the Lord.
While Holdsworth’s suggestion that we should pray for a four-year-old to be gay is both terrible and tragic, our Lord has no more patience for us when our rhetoric and actions toward the homosexual community drive them further from him. But while God’s word makes that clear, our approach often tells a different story. To a heavenly Father who just wants what’s best for all of his children, no matter their sexual orientation, that sad reality is equally tragic.
Truth in humble love should characterize our response to Holdsworth as well as the members of the LGBT community he’s trying to help. Is that how sinners of any sort would describe your witness today?