There is wide recognition on all sides that one of the central issues revolves around how Scripture is interpreted both in and across cultures. It is our conviction that the hermeneutic task is not simply a matter of ”˜correctly’ interpreting Scriptural texts, but must involve reading any given text in the light of the whole gospel, with a heart that is open to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in each and every generation. The Reformation principle of scriptura sui ipsius interpres (scripture interprets itself) must give us cause to pause and consider such texts in the light of Jesus’ overriding call to ”˜“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Luke 10:27)
There are three issues that we believe we, the evangelical community, need to be honest about.
The first, which causes us significant concern, is that of the high levels of homophobia that appear to go unacknowledged and unchallenged. Obviously, we understand that to assert a traditionalist position on same-sex relationships is not in itself homophobic, and that those who take a conservative line may not be individually hostile towards LGBT people. However, we would plead for some recognition, reflection and repentance of the fact that Christian teaching on this continues to function as the lynchpin, not just in the Church but also in secular society, of a widespread and sometimes subterranean nexus of negative attitudes that frequently manifest in overt homophobic behaviour. LGBT people are all too familiar with the impact of this, and whilst some are able to withstand it, many find themselves internalising feelings of shame and self-hatred, which all too frequently then result in depression, self-destructive behaviours, and even suicide. Are these really to be seen as the side-effects of the good news of Jesus Christ? Credible Christian witness cannot just be a matter of repeated verbal denials of homophobia but must involve active steps to combat it. Should not the churches be as well known for their efforts in this area as they are for, say, supporting issues of social justice? The issue is even more pronounced in countries across the world where Christians are known to be condoning and at times positively supporting proposals for severe penalties, including capital punishment, for homosexual behaviour. Should not the repudiation of this by churches in this country be immediate, public, and categorical?