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K. Neill Foster, PhD

The excerpt below is an interesting example of how conservatism has cemented the doctrine of the Alliance Church. Any attempt to make modern day Alliance Church theology consider the moral possibility of women clergy, or gay clergy, is considered by Foster, to be “casuistry,” “scripture-twisting” and an “agenda hermeneutics.”

And it’s no wonder, since gay behaviour is a sin in the eyes of the Alliance Church.

“Today’s hermeneutical adventurers have not exactly returned to the allegorical method, which tossed out premillennialism, but have established new ways, modern ways to circumvent the plain statements of Scripture. A sometimes appropriate cultural hermeneutic, for example, can be a Corban-like way to get around Scriptures one may not like (Mark 7:11). Casuistry it is called. Evangelicals are tempted in the twenty-first century by agenda hermeneutics from the twentieth century.

· Homosexuals who wish to be Christian ministers must first invent a permissive hermeneutic for the Bible before they can convince themselves or others of their legitimacy.

· Egalitarian/feminist views of the Bible require Scripture-twisting which even Clark Pinnock, no biblicist himself these days, called “hermeneutical ventriloquism.”

· Those who wish to advance universalism (or its little sister, inclusivism) must have an agenda hermeneutic to negate John 14:6 in which Jesus claims that He is the way, the truth and life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.”

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Pew Research Global Attitudes Project: report

There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality. There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people’s lives – measured by whether they consider religion to be very important, whether they believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, and whether they pray at least once a day.

From a report on “The Global Divide on Homosexuality Greater Acceptance in More Secular and Affluent Countries”1

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Tolerance, intolerance, and bigotry

Members of the Alliance Church, and other churches in Canada that have suspiciously bigoted views, will often go to great lengths to protect their moral authority.

One strategy for doing this is to accuse their critics of being intolerant. This kind of skewed logic bugs the heck out of me. This is what it looks like in the wild:

Many people will remember a story we told in the spring of 2011 about the firing of Damian Goddard from Rogers Sportsnet after he wrote on Twitter his belief that same-sex marriage was wrong. After this happened, I wrote comments on my own Twitter account that showed support for Damian and hockey agent Todd Reynolds regarding their rights to share their opinion on this matter.

Immediately, I started to receive comments on Twitter that were hateful and were calling me intolerant and a bigot. I know that the comments I received were mild compared to those that Goddard and Reynolds received. Somewhere along the way, tolerance came to mean that people are not entitled to their own beliefs if they disagree with the beliefs of someone else. Of course, the problems with that line of thinking are many because that would mean no one can really have a belief or opinion because it will inevitably go against what someone else believes.

Kirk Giles, President of Promise Keepers

This kind of phenomenon1 could be described as a kind of fallacy of false equivalence. But I’ve been struggling to think of a better metaphor to capture this tortured logic. But I haven’t yet. Instead, here’s a step by step review of what happens.

  1. Christian guy, “Alexander,” says something bigoted, intolerant and hurtful, like, for example, “gay behaviour is sinful.”
  2. In response to this, folks tell Alexander that he said something bigoted, intolerant, and hurtful.
  3. Then Alexander and his supporters complain to anyone that will listen that folks are being “hurtul,” “intolerant,” and “hurtful.”
  4. An optional fourth stage is that Alexander and his supporters then claim that there’s no freedom of speech left and the freedom of religion is also being encroached on.

Nine times out of ten, it’s not a case of Christian persecution. It’s often a case of citizens denouncing bigotry. As much as Kirk Giles wants it be an example of persecution, it’s not.

“Christians have always had to live in a world that is not entirely friendly to Jesus” – Kirk Giles

Instead, it’s a basic failure of Giles to recognize bigotry. Even though the Alliance Church links to the Promise Keepers, I can’t tell if Giles himself is a member of the Alliance Church. But in the case of the Alliance Church, their official doctrine is that gay behaviour is a moral abomination – so whatever is said about homosexuality, is usually a paradigmatic example of bigotry.

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Anti-gay moral colonialism: Lorne and Kathy-Lu White

One problem with the Alliance Church is that it’s really far-reaching. They have a powerful network in Canada, but also world-wide. That is, after all, one of the founding reasons for the church: it’s missionary.

Here’s a part of a blog post by Lorne and Kathy-Lu White who are on a mission in Taiwan. It’s a good example of exactly the kind of worry I have about the impact of the Alliance Church on society, culture and moral systems.

This past week we heard that the education department of the Kaohsiung City government, the largest city in southern Taiwan, passed a resolution that appears to limit the teaching of curriculum that instructs students about sexual purity prior to marriage. Previous communications had indicated that the school curriculum would be changed to include a more tolerant view of homosexuality. This new decision appears to go much further. Christian leaders are trying to get clarification, and have asked us to pray for wisdom as they communicate with elected officials about these matters. We also desire that there would be continued freedom to teach biblical relational values.1

They write here that they don’t like the fact that schools are developing less puritan views of sexuality and a more tolerant approach to homosexuality. So they’re going to lobby the elected officials. No surprise, really, given the strength of the anti-gay moral doctrine within the Alliance Church in Canada, and worldwide.

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Here’s a thought experiment about harm and homosexuality in the Alliance Church

Here’s an idea.

I’m going to start a religion. We’re going to preach “good” things and form communities and develop a huge following with hundreds of thousands of followers. We’re going to participate in civic life, publish newsletters and participate in fora, and spread our moral principles. We’re going to build churches. Many churches. We’re going to be a charity, and raise money toward our community interests and very very carefully never spend more than ten percent of our national budget on political endeavors. We’re going to help our families and our communities to raise their children. We’re going to be a moral authority and a beacon of light and provide emotional and ethical support to the people in our lives.

Here’s the catch. We’re going to have a doctrine that spells out our beliefs about heterosexual conduct. Heterosexual conduct will be sinful.

We’ll love hets. We’ll love and support the heterosexual folks and embrace them and actively recruit them and bring them into our flock. But we’ll oppose their failings. When they act on their dispositions, by hugging, or kissing, or coupling, or having sex, or holding hands, we’ll hate their conduct.

Love the sinner, but hate the sin. We will teach our children not to sin. We will emotionally support each other not to sin. We will help our community, through sermon, and preaching, and public relations and communications to avoid sinful behaviour.

Then we’ll use laws, designed to protect freedom of religion, to defend our schools, our families, our teachings, our political lobbying, our church doctrine and our public discourse.

Imagine that.

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Kevin Theriot, Author, ADF Senior Counsel ADF Senior Counsel

But most pastors and churches I’m familiar with are like Willow Creek and love those caught up in homosexual behavior, wanting them to experience the freedom that Christ can give. They don’t fear them, but they fear for them. As Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently put it in his piece on the topic, “Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.” Well said. If churches truly love those who are engaged in sin that separates them from a right relationship with God, they cannot say sin is OK. That truly would be hateful, not loving.

– Kevin Theriot, Author, ADF Senior Counsel ADF Senior Counsel1

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Supreme Court of Canada Decision: Saskatchewan (H.R.C.) versus Whatcott

[116] The purpose of hate speech legislation is to restrict the use of representations likely to expose protected groups to hatred and its harmful effects. The expression captured under hate speech laws is of an extreme nature. Framing that speech as arising in a “moral” context or “within a public policy debate” does not cleanse it of its harmful effect. Indeed, if one understands an effect of hate speech as curtailing the ability of the affected group to participate in the debate, relaxing the standard in the context of political debate is arguably more rather than less damaging to freedom of expression. As argued by some interveners, history demonstrates that some of the most damaging hate rhetoric can be characterized as “moral”, “political” or “public policy” discourse.

check out the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Saskatchewan (H.R.C.) versus Whatcott.

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Understanding harm: argument from left-handedness

I’ve been giving some thought lately to how to explain to well meaning folks why the Alliance Church doctrine is so messed up. I think it’s harmful. The thing is, church folks are so immersed in it, they can’t see the harm.

Here’s one metaphor that might help.

Imagine for a moment that the Alliance Church doctrine is telling kids not to write with their left hand. They love these kids anyway, but everyone knows that left handed writing is like stealing. It’s like hurting people. It’s a sin in the eyes of god and it’s a sin in the eyes of the church leaders. Kids who write left-handed are encouraged not too. They’re given support and love and they’re reminded that god doesn’t want them to sin. Sinning is sinning. Sinning is bad. Sinning is not the path. Left-handedness is wrong. Stop it.

Obviously, stopping kids who are born with a god-given disposition to write left-handed, from doing so would be wrong. It would stunt their growth. It would curb their potential. It would inhibit their capacity. And left-handedness doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s not violence. It’s not theft. It’s not adultery. It’s not rape.

There was a time when schools and parents did stop kids from writing with their left hand. We now think of these practices as deeply ignorant and harmful.

Most importantly, it was not ideology that told us that left-handedness was okay. It was evidence. We didn’t let what the bible tells us, or doesn’t tell us, provide us with direction.