The Diocese of North Queensland have confirmed Sunday’s election of the Dean of Darwin Cathedral, Rev Dr Keith Joseph, as their new bishop.
Dr Joseph is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, the key matter of contention facing the Anglican Church of Australia today. He argued publicly for the legislation which was passed last year and also preached in support in 2014 [pdf].
The sermon is notable as one of only three sermons listed on the Cathedral website. In it, Joseph takes a passing reference to Sodom by Jesus in Matt. 11:23-24 (not part of the lectionary text for that day) as a basis for a comprehensive survey of the Bible’s various proscriptions of same-sex activity. His arguments will be familiar to those who have debated this topic:
This brings us to the New Testament. Jesus never mentions same-gender sexuality – his references to Sodom make clear that sexuality is not the issue here. It has been suggested that there are two possible reasons why Jesus fails to mention same-gender sexuality – either it was so obvious a sin he did not need to mention it, or it was such a trivial matter it was not worth mentioning. Given that Jesus often mentions sins which are clearly significant – such as murder, adultery, betrayal and greed – the most reasonable interpretation of Jesus’ failure to mention homosexuality is that it was trivial.
In the end, all we do must be measured by that highest biblical ideal, which is love: it is against this standard that all sexual behaviour must be measured. We must look at the overall tenor of scripture and the overall revelation of the truth of God before we make judgements. We need only look at the campaigns against slavery and racism and the oppression of women to see how bitterly people use scripture as a weapon in order to defend their traditional understandings of society, and fail to recognise the narrative of love that infuses the Bible.
Joseph has also pushed strongly against freedom of conscience for Christians to not be forced to provide commercial services. In his submission to the Expert Panel on Religious Freedom he argues,
The conclusion of this submission is that religious freedom is essential to Australia and ought to be respected and promoted in both private and public spheres. Nevertheless, religious freedom does not entail freedom from general social obligations, including the obligations on providers of commercial goods and services to provide those goods and services without discrimination.
In more modern terms, Christians can provide goods and services to same-sex weddings without condoning the wedding. They are simply being asked to comply with their social obligation to provide commercial goods and services without discrimination: to respect the law and to respect their fellow- citizens. They are not obliged to assent to the actions taking place in the wedding. Accordingly Christians should not be concerned that their religious freedom is being infringed upon by being required to provide commercial goods and services without discrimination. We pay taxes without necessarily condoning all the purposes to which our taxes are put. Likewise the provision of goods and services does not imply that the merchant condones the lawful purposes to which the goods and services are put.
In another paper published on the Cathedral website he refers to climate change deniers as “self-righteous bastard”s and “hypocrites” who are “not Christians”.