was instructed by Counsel for the plaintiffs in these proceedings to provide
expert testimony to the court on one of the issues before the Court namely
whether a decision by the conference of the New Zealand Methodist church
to admit a person into full connexion as a minister a person who was a
practising homosexual is to alter or change the doctrines of the Methodist
Church of New Zealand as found in the standard sermons of John Wesley and his
notes on the New Testament. For the reasons set out in this opinion I conclude
that the decision of the New Zealand Conference is to change or alter doctrine.
was provided with the following passages of the Laws and Regulations of the
1.1 The Conference is the governing body of
the Methodist Church of New Zealand and has vested in it final authority on all
matters of the
Church. Its decisions are accordingly final and binding on both Ministry
Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 5-1.1 Conference shall have no
(a) To revoke, alter or change any
doctrines of the Church as
contained in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley and his notes onthe New Testament, nor to establish any new doctrine contrary thereto;
(b) To revoke "The General Rules
of the Societies";
(c) To make such changes in the
discipline as to do away with the
itinerancy of the Ministry;
(d) To do away with the right of trial
and appeal of Members and
Ministers of the Church;"
3.2(h) Seeing that the property in the Parish is not used for
any purpose forbidden by the Laws if the Church or for any purposes,
entertainments or amusements which conflict with the purpose forwhich the Church was called into being, or contrary to what is contained in
the Standard Sermons of John Wesley and his Notes on the New Testament."
BACKGROUND & EXPERTISE
3.I currently occupy the Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian Chair of
Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.It is the only
Chair of Wesley Studies in Canada.At Tyndale
Seminary I am also Professor of Historical Theology.I am also Adjunct Professor, Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto.I attach my
full curriculum vitae. I have been accepted by a Court in Canada as an expert witness on the doctrines of the MethodistChurch found in the writings of John Wesley.
4.In formulating my opinion it is necessary to
have regard to the following notes sermons and writings of John Wesley:-
God gave them up with vile affections; for even their women changed their
natural use to that which is against nature: (27)And
likewise also men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust
toward each other, men with men working filthiness, and receiving in themselves
the just recompense of their error. (28)And as they did not like to
retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to an undiscerning mind,
to do the things which were not expedient: Filled with all injustice,
comments on Romans , "Therefore
God gave them up to vile affections---To which the heathen Romans were then
abandoned to the last degree; even the emperors themselves."
Wesley is plainly referring to the well-attested fact that several Roman
emperors behaved sexually in a way that was not exclusively heterosexual (if at
all).Their behaviour was known and
noted among Christians in that Christians were notorious for an understanding of
human sexuality that repudiated any and all sexual expressions except marital
intercourse.Wesley mentions women
as well as men, since any non-marital (and therefore non-heterosexual
intercourse) was understood throughout the Church as falling outside what God
has ordained as proper sexual expression and therefore pertaining to the human
good.Note that Wesley speaks of
same-gender genital intimacy as "vile" and an instance of
comments on , "Receiving
the just recompense of their error---Their idolatry: being punished with
that unnatural lust, which was as horrible a dishonour of the body, as their
idolatry was to God."
lust" plainly refers to same-gender sexual craving, and Wesley maintains
that it dishonours the body (implying that it thereby dishonours the Creator of
that body) and as such dishonours god.Here
he associates idolatry with "men with men working filthiness"."Working" indicates what these men do.In calling it "error" he does not mean that it is non-culpable
or a trifle or an inadvertence.
comments on Romans , "God
gave them up to an undiscerning mind (treated of, ver.32)to things not
expedient--Even the vilest abominations: treated of, ver.20-31."
Wesley continues, in his exposition of 29-31, to list "Every vice contrary
to justice".He mentions
fornication first. "Fornication here includes every species of
"vile affections"(26) and "that which is against nature"(26)
and "men…burned in their lust toward each other, men with men working
filthiness" is gathered up in "uncleanness".
he discusses in
his comment on Romans , "But
have pleasure in those that practise them -- This is the greatest
wickedness.A man may be hurried by
his passions to do the things he hates.But
he that has pleasure in those that do evil, loves wickedness for wickedness'
sake; and hereby he encourages them in sin, and heaps the guilt of others upon
his own head."
Wesley, with pastoral wisdom and sensitivity, distinguishes between the
unguarded person whose surge of desire overtakes him in the very thing he knows
he should hate and the person who finds pleasure in others who do evil, loves
the wickedness itself, thereby encourages perpetrators in their wickedness, and
brings the guilt of others upon himself.To
be sure, Wesley is not restricting the application of his comment to
"uncleanness", but he certainly includes such "uncleanness".
- - -
his Sermons Wesley amplifies Romans 1:26, wherein same-gender genital intimacy
is referred to, "The will…was now seized by legions of vile
when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in
the law, these not having the law, are a law to themselves;
comments, "Do by nature--That is, without an outward rule; though
this also, strictly speaking, is by preventing [i.e., prevenient, anticipatory]
grace.The things contained in
the law--The ten commandments being only the substance of the law of
"Being only the substance of the law of nature" Wesley means "not
less than the substance of the law of nature."(For Wesley's understanding of relation of the ten commandments to Jesus
Christ, see V.Shepherd's document below.)Wesley
is aware that the ten commandments explicitly forbid adultery.He insists too (see V.Shepherd) that the ten commands are but the
"heads" of the law of God; i.e., the commandment forbidding adultery
comprehends all of the Old Testament precepts pertaining to sexual behaviour,
including those that forbid homosexual genital intimacy.(E.g., "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an
abomination."Leviticus RSV)Wesley's understanding of the ten commandments as but the
"heads" of the law or God precludes any suggestion that adultery is
forbidden but homosexual intimacy is not.
his comment on Romans 1:28 Wesley speaks of any and all "uncleanness"
as "vilest abominations."He
cannot be understood to endorse or even permit homosexual behaviour.
the day when God will judge the secretes of men by Christ Jesus, according to my
comments, "According to my gospel--According to the tenor of that
gospel which is committed to my care.The
gospel also is a law."
lattermost remark, "The gospel also is a law", is crucial.The gospel is the good news of salvation, and as such exercises no less a
claim upon people than the explicit claims of the law.Since the gospel aims at saving humankind from every kind of uncleanness,
the gospel has the same force here as the promulgation of the law.Accordingly, all references to "gospel" or "Jesus
Christ" in the Wesley corpus carry with them the implicit claim that all
beneficiaries of the gospel (i.e., all who make a profession of Christian faith)
repudiate all expressions of "uncleanness".
ye not that the unjust shall not inherit the kingdom of God?Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor
the effeminate, nor Sodomites.
Wesley explicitly mentions sodomy as disqualification for the kingdom of God.To be sure, he reads "effeminate" idiosyncratically as those
who "live in any easy, indolent way, taking up no cross, enduring no
hardship".His point is that
these latter people are no less disqualified than "idolators and
comments on this verse, "But why are these good-natured, harmless people
ranked with idolators and Sodomites?To teach us that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we
guard against those which are thought least; nor indeed till we think no sin is
little since every one is a step towards hell."
he intends here the following:  all self-indulgence is sin;  only
vigilance againstlesser sin will
safeguard us against the "greatest sins";  every sin is a road
whose destination is hell.
his idiosyncratic reading of "effeminate" he states  sodomy is sin,
and (among) the "greatest";  lesser and greater alike, undiscerned,
unrepented of, unrepudiated will issue in eternal loss.
such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are
justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
comments, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed from those
gross evils; and inwardly sanctified, not before, but in consequence of,
your being justified in the name, that is, by the merits of the Lord
Jesus, through which your sins are forgiven; and by the Spirit of our
God, by whom ye are thus washed and sanctified."
includes adultery and sodomy as "gross evils".He emphasises, "not before, but in consequence of", the fact
that the cleansing of the sodomite Corinthians presupposes and in fact is
intrinsically related to their having been justified (for Wesley, this means
pardoned or forgiven).Pardon, of
course, always presupposes guilt; forgiveness always presupposes relief from
merited condemnation.The person who
is pardoned has already been pronounced guilty.In his "through which your sins are forgiven" Wesley obviously
includes sodomy as sin.
- - -
his Sermons Wesley amplifies 1st Corinthians 6:9, "And we know
that not only fornicators and adulterers, but even the 'soft and effeminate',
the delicate followers of a self-denying master, 'shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ and of
in the Sermons Wesley, again amplifying the biblical text mentioned above,
faults the abuse of "the imputed righteousness of Christ" wherein
someone who stands indicted by the catena of sins in 1st Cor. 6:9
claims the righteousness of Christ "as a over for his unrighteousness.We have known this done a thousand times.Such a person "…replies with all assurance, '…I pretend to no
righteousness of my own: Christ is my righteousness"….
"And thus though a man be as far from the practice as from the tempers
[Wesley characteristically uses this word to mean "dispositions'] of a
Christian, though he neither has the mind which was in Christ nor in any respect
walks as he walks…".Again,
Wesley regards all non-heterosexual expression to be inconsistent with Christian
speaking of life-change effected in the Corinthians through gospel as they
repudiated their former behaviour, Wesley comments in the Sermons, "So the
Corinthians were. 'Ye are washed,' says the Apostle, 'ye are sanctified:' namely
cleansed from 'fornication, idolatry, drunkenness', and all other outward
sin."Wesley regards what the
Corinthians had been about to be sin.[1:326]
know the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (9)Knowing this , that
the law doth no lie against a righteous man; but against the lawless and
disobedient, against the ungodly and sinners, the unholy and profane, against
killers of their fathers or their mothers, against murderers, (11)Against
whoremongers, sodomites, men-stealers, liars, perjured person, and if there be
any other thing that is contrary to wholesome doctrine.
his comment Wesley says nothing about "whoremongers" and
"sodomites", in his taste to denounce the practice of slavery
his comment on verse 8 is noteworthy: "We grant the whole
Mosaic law is good, answers excellent purposes, if a man
use it in a proper manner.The
ceremonial is good, as it points to Christ; and the moral law is holy, just
and good, and of admirable use to convince unbelievers, and to guide
believers in all holiness."It
is to be noted here that  the moral law includes the prohibition against
sodomy;  sodomy is a sign of unbelief;  since sodomy is a contradiction of
holiness, those aspiring to holiness repudiate it by using the law lawfully.
his comment on 1st Timothy 1:9 Wesley says, "The law doth not
lie against a righteous man, (doth not strike or condemn him,)but against
the lawless and disobedient -- They who despise the authority of the
Lawgiver, violate the first commandment, which is the foundation of the law, the
ground of all obedience.Against
the ungodly and sinners, who break the second commandment, worshipping
idols, instead of the true God.The
unholy and profane¸ who break the third commandment by taking his name in
vain."Wesley includes sodomy
in the "lawless and disobedient", and he goes on to show that the
perpetrators mentioned in violate the
first three commandments.Sodomy is
an instance of lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, unholiness and profanity.
his comment on 1st Timothy 1:11 he insists that the gospel, so far
from voiding the law, establishes it.In
other words, anyone who claims to be a beneficiary of the gospel (i.e., a
Christian) is thereby pledged to uphold the law.
as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, which in the same manner with
these gave themselves over to fornication, and went after strange flesh, are set
forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
comments on Jude 7, "The cities who gave themselves over to fornication
-- The word here means, unnatural lusts: are set forth as an example,
suffering the vengeance of eternal fire -- The vengeance which they suffered
is a type of eternal fire.""Fornication"
means "unnatural lust".What
this denotes is not in doubt in light of his comment on Romans 1.(See above.)The vengeance
the cities suffered they suffered inasmuch as God avenged himself; i.e.,
judgement was rendered and enacted.Prefatory
to all of this is Wesley's comment on Jude 6: "…eternal displeasure
toward the same work of his hands…because he ever loveth righteousness and
delivered righteous Lot, grieved with the filthy behaviour of the
wicked…them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.
translates the Greek word "aselgeia" as "filthy behaviour.Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament puts forward
"sensuality", "indecency", "vice".The same Greek word is used in several places, together with similar
descriptors: e.g., "uncleanness and wantonness" (Romans , Wesley's
translation), "uncleanness, and fornication and lasciviousness" (2nd
Corinthians , Wesley), and
"adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness"(Galatians , Wesley).
- - -
Galatians Wesley uses
"aselgeia" again, and adds in the Sermons concerning this text,
"'They who are of Christ'…abstain from all the works of the flesh: from
'adultery and fornication'; from 'uncleanness and lasciviousness';…from every
design, and word, and work to which the corruption of nature leads."
amplifying Galatians 5:19 Wesley adds, "It is by him [the Spirit] they are
delivered from anger and pride, from all vile and inordinate affections."Wesley's use of "vile" here denotes every expression of sexual
his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount Wesley refers to Galatians 5:19 and
therein speaks of the Christian, "This is only the outside of that religion
which he insatiably hungers after…the being 'purified as he is pure' -- this
is the righteousness he thirsts after."
that is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still; and he that is filthy, let
him be filthy still….Happy are they that do his commandments, that they
may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers,
and idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.
speaks of "dogs" as "fierce and rapacious men, even as the term
is widely taken, following Old Testament precedent, to mean
"homosexual".It is to be
noted that the people spoken of in are denied
access to the tree of life and are not admitted to the city [the new Jerusalem].
being past feeling, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all
uncleanness with greediness.
Wesley translates "aselgeia" as "lasciviousness" and "akatharsia"
in his New Testament Notes Wesley deems "uncleanness" to include
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS AS WESLEY’S CURE FOR ANTINOMIAN AND MORALIST ALIKE
be noted that Wesley dreaded antinomianism (the notion that the moral law had
been relaxed for Christians) as he dreaded little else.His denunciation of antinomianism and his caution to Methodists
concerning it are found in his Works passim.One particular
instance of his concern here is illustrated by his three sermons printed
consecutively in his Fifty-two Standard Sermons (numbers 34,35, 36):-
The Original, Nature, Properties, and Use of the Law,
The Law Established through Faith, I,
The Law Established through Faith, II.
Note his insistence in the lattermost tract, "`We establish the
law'...when we so preach faith in Christ as not to supersede but produce
holiness: to produce all manner of holiness, negative and positive, of the heart
and of the life."(p.38, Volume 2, Wesley's
Works.)It should be noted too
that Wesley everywhere regarded "enthusiasm" (the elevation of
experience above scripture) as the godless parent of its godless offspring,
antinomianism.It is no surprise,
then, to see him follow his three sermons on the Law of God with The
Nature of Enthusiasm.
It should be noted in this regard that John Wesley explicitly condemned
homosexual behaviour in his longest tract, The
Doctrine of Original Sin (1757).The
"pederasty" of which he spoke includes homosexual sodomy between adult
males as well, more specifically, that between adult and juvenile males.In his Notes on the New Testament
(one of the standards of Methodism) Wesley comments on the reference to
homosexual behaviour in Romans 1:26-27, "Receiving the just recompense of
their error -- Their idolatry, being punished with that unnatural lust, which
was as horrible a dishonour to the body, as their idolatry was to God."Concerning the "base fellows" of Judges 19:16-30, men who were
bent on homosexual indulgence, Wesley, following the English text of the
Authorized (King James) Version of the bible, speaks of "sons of belial",
and adds, "Children of the devil, wicked and licentious men."With respect to Jude 7, "Even as Sodom
and the cities about them, which in the same manner with these gave themselves
over to fornication..." ("the surrounding cities, which likewise acted
immorally and indulged in unnatural lust..." RSV), Wesley comments on
"fornication": "The word here means unnatural lusts: are set
forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire -- That is, the
vengeance which they suffered is an example or a type of eternal fire."The passage from the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus ("You
shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" -- Lev. ) Wesley addresses by referring the reader to his
comments on Romans -27.He does as much with a similar passage in Lev. 20:13.He plainly thought that a point he had made unambivalently once he could
make thereafter by referring the reader to it without the bother of rewriting
it.Several points need to be
(i)While Wesley says relatively little about homosexual behaviour, scripture
as a whole says only enough to remind readers of what everyone is supposed to
know: homosexual behaviour is an abomination to God and is to be shunned by men
and women.(Jesus nowhere comments
on spouse-abuse.No one would
conclude, given the silence of Jesus on this matter, that he was in favour of
it.Everything that Jesus says in
the course of his earthly ministry militates against it.In other words, the explicit teaching of Jesus himself, together with his
endorsement of the wisdom of Israel (he said he came not to abolish the law and
the prophets [the Old Testament] but to fulfil them), provides the context that
interprets not only what Jesus says but what he does not bother to mention in
that it is indisputable.It cannot
be imagined that in the primitive Christian communities a spouse-abuser could
expect to be exonerated on the grounds that his Lord had not explicitly
(ii) In Wesley's era it would not be contested that homosexual behaviour was
immoral, even perverse, falling outside what God pronounces "good",
and therefore to be eschewed;
(iii)Wesley's civility and good taste (deemed desirable in an Oxford-educated,
18th century Anglican clergyman) would prevent him from amplifying a matter in
which he knew everyone in the church catholic to agree with him in any case;
(iv) There is nothing in Wesley's theology or hymns or correspondence that
suggests he approved in the slightest or regarded as permissible same-gender
(v) As someone ordained in the Church of England (and as someone whose Holy
Orders were neither revoked nor surrendered), and as someone who always insisted
that the theology, liturgy and governance of the Church of England were the
finest to be found in Christendom, Wesley would unquestionably have rejected as
a candidate for ordination or as a leader in local congregations anyone who
engaged in homosexual behaviour;
Wesley's laconic comment must be heard: "I allow no other rule,
whether of faith or practice, than the Holy Scriptures." (Wesley, Works,
Vol. XIX, p.73).