FIEC statement on same sex marriage

Historic Convictions of FIEC

FIEC holds to the traditional Christian ethic:

  1. Sexual intimacy is a gift from God and is to be enjoyed exclusively within the context of marriage;
  2. Marriage is, by definition, heterosexual.

These convictions are derived from the clear teaching of Scripture: in both the Old and the New Testament, marriage is painted in a positive light, and homosexual activity, along with all other sexual intimacy outside of (heterosexual) marriage, is declared by God to be sinful. Nowhere in the Bible is there an expectation that marriage can exist between two or more people of the same sex.

Old Testament Background

In the beginning God created Adam and Eve – one man united to one woman (Genesis 2v18-25). It is to be noted that sexual intimacy was part of the pre-Fall relationship between the man and the woman and is a gift to humankind. Reading through the rest of the Old Testament, it is apparent that the model set forth in Genesis 2 is the God-given pattern for marriage (e.g. Genesis 24, Song of Songs, Proverbs 31v10-12). Wherever sexual activity occurs outside of marriage it is presented in a negative light, and the Mosaic Law expressly forbids adultery (Exodus 20v14) and fornication (Exodus 22v16), as well as homosexual sex (Leviticus 18v22, Leviticus 20v13).

New Testament Confirmation

It has been pointed out that not all the commands of the Mosaic Law are carried over into the New Covenant; for example, the food laws are rescinded (Mark 7v19), and the New Testament commands loving church discipline, as opposed to the death penalty, for those who wilfully and persistently break God’s laws. The New Testament, however, upholds the teaching of Genesis on marriage; Jesus when asked about divorce refers to Genesis 1-2 (Matthew 19v5-6), showing that he understands marriage to be a one-flesh relationship between a man and a woman. Further, the presupposition in Paul’s teaching is that marriage entails a husband-wife relationship (Ephesians 5v22-33). Again, all the references to homosexual sex are negative and indicate that it is sinful (Romans 1v18-32, 1 Corinthians 6v9-11, 1 Timothy 1v8-10).

Reaffirmation of FIEC Convictions in the Current Climate

Despite pressures from society, FIEC churches will continue to uphold the traditional biblical view that:

  1. Sexual activity is a gift to be enjoyed only within (heterosexual) marriage and that, outside of this setting, it is sinful;
  2. Marriage involves a man and woman, bound together in covenant relationship – a relationship that cannot be redefined. At the same time, we will always seek to make clear the forgiveness and grace that extend to all repentant sinners – including those for whom sexual sin has formed a major part of their backgrounds.

Implications for Practices of FIEC Churches

In line with the above reaffirmations,

  1. We will seek to uphold traditional biblical sexual ethics in both our teaching and our practices within our local churches and our Pastors’ Network;
  2. None of our churches or accredited pastors would in good conscience be able to perform, bless or host same-sex marriage or wedding ceremonies;
  3. Recognising that many Christians struggle with sexual temptation (whether same-sex attraction or heterosexual), we will prayerfully foster, within our churches, gracious support of one another in such struggles.

FIEC statement on women in ministry

Introduction

When the FIEC came into being in 1922, the issue of women in ministry would not have been particularly contentious. The consensus within independent evangelical churches was that the role of pastor and elder was open only to suitably qualified men. Whilst mainline denominations and other Christian groupings have shifted from this position, it is our conviction that the traditional view is in line with Scripture. At the same time, we also want to affirm that women have a very significant place in the ministry of our churches – not only, as has always been the case, in such areas as care and hospitality, but also in terms of teaching.

Gender

God created us male and female, and calls us to live according to our gender identity which is inseparable from our biological sex determined at conception. Our gender may not be changed or reassigned.

Joint heirs in salvation

Before examining the biblical data which address the issue of women in ministry it is essential that we reaffirm the equality men and women have in creation and redemption. Both men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Both men and women receive the Holy Spirit and are heirs with Christ. We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29). Women as well as men belong to the body of Christ and their service and gifts are essential for the proper functioning of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7). It is within this context that discussion about the role of women in the church takes place.

Complementary in ministry

At the creation God stated that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Men and women are to work together in partnership both in the family and the church. There are, however, distinctions in the roles. The biblical texts which speak directly of the roles of men and women in Christian ministry have attracted much attention over the last few years. It is our conviction that, although some of the details may be debated, the essential thrust of these passages is clear:

1 Timothy 2 and 3

Timothy was charged with bringing order to the dysfunctional Ephesian church (3:14-15). There had been problems within the leadership of the church (e.g. 5:19-20), and a key aspect of Timothy’s role was to make sure the church in Ephesus had suitably qualified elders (3:1-7). The qualifications assume that the elders will be men (3:2). This should not surprise us given that he makes it clear in the immediately preceding context that men, and not women, were to do the authoritative teaching (2:11-15).

1 Corinthians 11 and 14

At first glance, there appears to be a contradiction between 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which assumes that women will pray and prophesy, and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 which commands that women be silent in the church gathering. However one seeks to resolve this tension, it is clear that restrictions of some kind are being placed upon women. In 1 Corinthians 11, whilst Paul reminds us of the interdependence of men and women, he also makes it clear that issues of authority are at stake: man is the head of woman. The section in 1 Corinthians 14 also indicates that the women do not have the same freedom to speak in the gathering as the gifted men.

Creation and Trinity

Paul roots the prohibition of 1 Timothy 2 in creation (vv. 13-14) and that of 1 Corinthians 11 both in creation (vv. 8-9) and the nature of the Godhead (v. 3). These commands are therefore driven neither by culture, nor by a particular crisis in the church; rather, they are deeply rooted in who we are as creatures and the relationships within the Trinity.

Marriage

Paul’s teaching on marriage also has some bearing on this discussion. There has been debate as to whether the term “head” implies authority, but the command for the wife to submit implies/suggests that it does. Husbands and fathers have responsibility for the welfare of their families and they should exercise authority in a loving way for the spiritual and physical welfare of their wives and children.

Role of women in the Old Testament

What we see in the New Testament is, as we would expect, a reflection of patterns laid down in the Old Testament. Leadership and teaching were reserved for men; priests, prophets and kings were men. There were exceptions with regard to prophecy, but these are few and far between. However, as in the New Covenant so under the Old, women are co-workers with the men. In the book of Proverbs, we note that both the mother and the father are to be involved in the teaching and training of the children, and the virtuous woman of the closing chapter has a wide remit in terms of service.

Role of women in the New Testament

Women, like men, receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit and are involved in the work of the gospel. Women are witnesses to the resurrected Christ (e.g. Matthew 28) and are to pass on this good news. Many of the gospel workers mentioned by Paul in Romans 16 are women. Women are included in the command for us all to teach one another in the body of Christ (Colossians 3:16).

Implications for church life

Reflecting upon the biblical data, we can see that the primary leaders and teachers of the church are to be suitably qualified men, which does not include those presenting as male by virtue of gender reassignment.

Teaching, though, is not to be restricted to pastor/teacher/elders. All Christians are to be involved in teaching and encouraging one another. This includes women who are to teach other women (Titus 2:4) and who may well be involved in teaching in other forums. How exactly this works out in practice may well vary from church to church.

Implications for FIEC

To ignore the prohibitions of Scripture is not something we can endorse, nor can we be silent on the issue. Healthy oversight is essential for the welfare of the churches, and we believe the word of God makes it clear that this must be done by suitably gifted and qualified men.

This will mean that churches belonging to the FIEC should not have a woman pastor-teacher or women elders.

This also has implications for those wishing to join the Pastors’ Network. Those applying to do so would need to accept the position of the FIEC on this issue.

FIEC statement on Gospel Unity

Introduction

The FIEC was founded in 1922 with the purpose of expressing visible unity between churches on a non-sectarian basis. The FIEC has therefore always been a fellowship of churches which rejoices in our unity in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. While we may differ with one another on a number of matters not essential to salvation, we strive to maintain the unity we enjoy together in Christ. We also seek to express Christian fellowship with other Gospel churches and para-church groups outside FIEC. Our commitment to the Gospel means that we are unable to express Christian fellowship with those who cannot affirm the fundamental truths of the faith.

God’s Purpose of Unity

From the very beginning of creation God’s purpose was that the entire human race would be united in fellowship under his good rule of love and blessing. Tragically ever since Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden of Eden, sinful humanity has been characterised not only by alienation from God but also by broken relationships, suspicion and division from one another. However God, in his great grace, purposed to save a people for himself out of the broken community of this sinful world, and to build a new humanity united as a single body.

The ultimate fulfilment of this vision is the single people united in worship before the throne of God in glory (Rev 7v9). This unity of God’s people is effected through the saving work of Christ on the Cross. Through him both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God:

“…His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross… For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Eph 2v15-18 NIV)

The whole church is to be built up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph 4v13 NIV). This is part of God’s cosmic purpose “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1v10); indeed all things are to be reconciled in him:

“For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1v19-20 NIV)

Christian unity is therefore at the heart of the purposes of God.

Unity in the Gospel

Christian unity is established through the Gospel. It is through this message that we are saved and united to Christ (1Cor 15v1-2, Rom 1v16, Eph 1v13). When the Lord Jesus prays for unity, it is amongst those who receive the Gospel (John 17v20). Some say that we are united as believers by our experience of the Holy Spirit. This is true, but it would be wrong to set the Holy Spirit in opposition to the Gospel. We receive the Spirit through the Gospel (Gal 3v2, Eph 1v13). It is the Spirit who gives us new birth (John 3v5-8), but he brings this new life through the Word (Jam 1v18, 1Pet 1v23). If we have a real experience of the Holy Spirit, then we will find that he deepens our understanding and appreciation of Christ, and his Word (1Cor 2v9-16). When we work and cooperate together, it is in the cause of the Gospel (Phil 1v27).

This truth finds practical expression within FIEC by the prominence that we give to the essential truths of the faith. If we are to find common cause with other believers, it will be partnership on the basis of a shared commitment to the Gospel. This will be expressed by a shared doctrinal basis.

Rejection of False Teachers

Whilst we long to enjoy unity with all who profess the name of Christ, the New Testament warns repeatedly of false teachers and false prophets coming into the church. Whilst such false teachers profess to know Christ as Lord, and appear as brothers, they are in reality wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7v15, Acts 20v29-31). In twisting or distorting the Gospel they rob us of our message for the lost, and instead of building up believers in the truth lead them astray to spiritual ruin (Col 2v18-19, Rev 2v20-23). Elders are charged with the primary responsibility of guarding the flock against such malign influences, and we are commanded to reject them and remain separate from them (Rom 16v17, Gal 1v8-9, 5v12, Phil 3v2, 2Pet 2, 2John 9-10, Jude). These New Testament teachings require us to stand apart from those who would deny the core truths of the gospel, whether implicitly or expressly.

It is important to understand the pastoral motivation of Jesus and the apostles in warning against false teachers. Matters of spiritual life and death are at stake if these false brothers are accepted and their deviant doctrines embraced. We are therefore obligated by love to stand apart from them, both for the sake of the church and its witness to Christ, and also for the sake of such false teachers themselves, as we would long for them to come to repentance and true saving faith.

Summary of Implications for the FIEC

Jesus prayed for the unity of his people, and this is an essential element of our witness (John 17v23). We are urged to maintain spiritual unity, in the face of differences of belief and practice which are not essential to the Gospel. Our commitment to unity extends not only within FIEC, but to all who are united to Christ in a variety of church and para-church groups. We look forward to the day when all of God’s people will be united before him in glory.

This spiritual unity is to be expressed amongst all who confess the truth of the Gospel. It is through the Gospel that we are saved, and built up in the faith. Jesus’ prayer for unity was for those who would believe in him through the message preached by the apostles (John 17v20). Our Doctrinal Basis affirms that true fellowship between churches exists only where they are faithful to the gospel. The gospel of salvation by grace is so precious to us that we desire to stand together with all who believe and preach it. For the same reason, we cannot express Christian fellowship with those who reject it. The New Testament warns us repeatedly to guard the church against the influence of false teachers who deny the truth. Therefore we cannot join in partnership in evangelism or activities of Christian fellowship with those who are unable to affirm the essential doctrines of the faith as expressed in the FIEC Doctrinal Basis and similar statements. We are unable to affiliate formally to groups such as Churches Together which exist to express unity between churches naming Jesus as Lord, but without concern as to whether they hold to the core doctrines of the gospel as expressed in our Doctrinal Basis.

There are many opportunities for us to find common cause with others (both inside and outside the professing church), if these do not compromise our distinctive testimony to the Gospel. For example we may be able to speak together on moral issues, in defence of our religious liberties, or to work together in acts of practical charity and compassion. Such activities are at the discretion of local church leaders.