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The discourse of the sexuality debate

DisagreementI am reluctant to comment too frequently on sexuality, not least because there are other pressing issues, and some which might not be urgent but are rather important and deserve our attention. But there is a lot going on just now, and the intensity of debate will continue for the next few months at least until Synod next February, when the House of Bishops will bring a proposal. So in the next week I would like to offer three comments on different aspects of current discussion.

Last week, GAFCON UK issued a list of supposed breaches of the ‘international agreement’ at the 1998 Lambeth conference, known as Lambeth I.10. I immediately had a range of concerns about this list, as a result of which it seemed to me to be extremely unhelpful to those within the Church of England who would like the Church to remain in its current teaching position on marriage and how same-sex sexual relations are to be seen in relation to marriage.

1. As was quickly pointed out, it contains several inaccuracies. This has been defended as relatively trivial by those associated with it, but if you are going to issue a list of actual breaches of something, and you cannot actually accurately describe such breaches, then you are undermining your own position. One of these inaccuracies was about whether a person named actually had a licence from his bishop, and this is not mere detail but a material issue.

2. Although it was labelled a ‘naming and shaming’ list, as a subsequent clarification highlights, all of the information was in the public domain and therefore potentially known already. Some of those named on the list have now created a website for those ‘proudly breaching Lambeth I.10’ to which you can add your name or a comment of support. But the GACFON statement was not originally written for those in the West with access both to the internet and the gossip network, but for Primates in other parts of the world who might not have easy access to such information. In that sense it is doing something other than simple collation.

3. My biggest concerns is that it demonstrates misunderstanding of the current situation in the Church of England including issues of licensing and discipline for clergy. It names some who are in breach of the Church’s own current teaching, and who are ‘still in post’. To imagine that it is a simple matter to remove someone from post (under freehold or common tenure) or that this is the only and necessary discipline, is to know little about the C of E historically or in its present state—though of course it might appeal to someone in another, more authoritarian, culture where this was possible. And to name a civil servant working in the area of pensions suggests ignorance of the important distinction that has consistently (and rightly) been made between those in ministerial leadership and others.

4. Lambeth I.10 includes this statement:

while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

as an integral part of the motion. To list people in breach of other parts and not those in breach of this lacks integrity and credibility.

5. I found the tone of the statement unhelpful, and it raised the question of what the statement sought to achieve—some sort of response of action, or just a sense of justification for anticipated decisions? This was Peter Ould’s main observation online: what is the statement for?

If GAFCON want action taken against these folk, do they have a game plan as to where that might take us? There is HUGE uncertainty in turning our cold war into a hot one. It is a golden rule in handling weapons that you simply DO NOT unsheathe or brandish a loaded weapon unless you know exactly what you are or aren’t going to do with it AND you are fairly certain as to what the medium to long term outcome of such a firefight will be. I’m afraid the publication of this letter (as opposed to its use internally within GAFCON which seems eminently sensible) is the equivalent of a foolish young Lieutenant leading his platoon into battle without understanding the enemy, the terrain, support or reinforcement or having any concept of the war he is involved in beyond the sight of his muddied and broken periscope. It is Balaklava.

I have been asked by several people not to be ‘critical’ of GAFCON since, as an evangelical, I share some of their concerns. But it is easier to be supportive of something that is supportable, and I haven’t had much joy in asking those people to be similarly collegial.


All of that made me sympathetic to the Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam’s letter in the Church Times, in which he highlighted the problems with personal naming, with inaccuracy, and with the lack of mutual respect. Holtam was in debate with Andy Lines, the spokesman for GAFCON, on Radio 4’s Sunday programme last week, and he articulated many of these concerns clearly. But in doing so, he also threw in two other assertions which are equally problematic. The first was the fact that Lambeth I.10 acknowledged that there were differences of view within the Anglican Communion, as if these different views were considered to have equal weight. The second was to deploy the language of ‘good disagreement’ (quoting Justin Welby) as if that meant that we are already in a situation where there are two equally acceptable views within the Church, co-existing with equal status.

Some of the problems (and complexities) of communication around this are highlighted in the comment issued by William Nye, Secretary General to both the Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod, made in response to the GAFCON statement. The statement clarifies the status of Lambeth I.10, and corrects some of the inaccuracies of the GAFCON statement that I have highlighted above. But at least as interesting are the omissions around each of the observations, which are an important part of the situation in which we find ourselves.

The statement is quite right in highlighting the status of Lambeth I.10, and its limitations in relation to discipline with provinces. What it omits to mention is that the motion was received in the Church of England, in that subsequent debate in Synod did not demur from it, and (more significantly) several subsequent statements from the House of Bishops have referred to it as one of the key statements for the Church, and have expressed the position of the Church of England in reference to it, using it as a touchstone which locates the C of E firmly within the stated position of the Anglican Communion. (The statement does note that these statements are ‘consistent with’ I.10, but in fact they are more than that.) Those listing themselves as ‘proudly in breach’ of Lambeth I.10 are therefore also ‘proudly in breach’ of the current teaching and discipline of the C of E as the bishops have articulated it.

Nye’s statement rightly highlights the fact that clergy are permitted to enter into civil partnerships, but it does not note the caution that the bishops expressed in saying that, and the need for clear commitment to celibacy to avoid giving the impression that this is a quasi-same-sex marriage. The statement also notes that possibility of pastoral prayer—but again does not mention the similar qualification around that at the time, that such prayer must not allow the erroneous impression that this is any form of blessing.


But overall I was left with a bigger question. William Nye is an employee and a civil servant, serving the Church (very capably in fact) in his role—but he is not appointed as a spiritual leader. It is quite right that he should correct points of fact in relation to the Church—but this issue surely goes beyond points of fact into questions of the teaching and discipline of the Church. So where was the episcopal comment on all this? Apart from Nick Holtam, the only other episcopal voice to be heard was that of Alan Wilson, who commented on Facebook:

The irony is Pastor Steven says gay people should kill themselves – he’s crude and up front about his disgust and hatred and the result is truly morally disgusting. Ironic that his underlying theology is the one C of E bishops say they have to maintain as an official position or the Anglican Communion will split – much of Lambeth 1.10 is just a more polite and more hypocritical version of the same old basic reactionary fear and disgust, dressed up as theology.

So the only two episcopal voices are one asserting that two views already co-exist equally, and another likening the Church (and so his fellow bishops) to a murderous homophobe. Why no other comment? Despite the mistakes of their Statement, GAFCON are highlighting an important issue which has not been addressed: that the Church and its leadership have been inconsistent in implementing its own stated policy—and that requires change.

As the conversation becomes more fraught over the next six months (as it is likely to do), what we need is not less, but more clear episcopal leadership, articulating with clarity and credibility the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Without this, the vacuum will be filled with ever shriller voices, and the debate will descend into political and moralising point scoring on either side.


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65 Responses to The discourse of the sexuality debate

  1. Mat Sheffield November 24, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    “what we need is not less, but more clear episcopal leadership, articulating with clarity and credibility the Church’s teaching on sexuality.”

    I agree.

    However, if this statement from GAFCON is not able to achieve this (as it appears to not be) then what ‘bigger guns’ are available to create the situation you want? Are we relying on the individual conscience of senior clergy to speak up in defense of the current position, or does more weight need to be brought to bear on them before they dare to?

    • Ian Paul November 25, 2016 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks Mat, but I don’t know what mechanisms there are to do this…do you?

      • Matt Sheffield November 26, 2016 at 11:28 am #

        Well no, that was why precisely why I asked you, someone who is far more likely to know the answer.

        My primary frustration with this debate is that too many people outside of the church (as well as a good deal within it, but probably not a majority, it’s hard to know) act as if the decision on SSM has already been made; an assumption exacerbated by the silence of senior clergy being taken as approval towards those who are leveraging them for change.

        This is frustrating precisely because, as you point out, there is very little counterweight that can be bought to bear, at least not yet.

        My hope is that when the shared conversations process ends, if it ends with an affirmation of the traditional position, as I suspect it will (Yes, that’s conjecture, I know) then that will provide the counterweight we need, prompting episcopal leadership to find the confidence to speak authoritatively once again on matters of teaching.

        But this in itself is also frustrating, because this response would be also ideally be the best thing to happen in prelude to SC.

        The outcome we most desire would also be the most effective trigger to generate that outcome. This is the least clear comment I think I have ever written on your blog, but I hope you can see what I’m trying to articulate here.

  2. Andrew Godsall November 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    The problem with GAFCON-UK is that it is basically a schismatic body. And the C of E has never related very well to schismatic bodies. At best GAFCON is seen as a bit of a joke, and at worst it is seen as a homophobic rabble rouser. If they wish to be taken seriously at all, they have to change both of those images. Having the only bishop on the panel of reference who is a bishop of the Free Church of England doesn’t exactly help either.
    You then need to consider GAFCON’s link with AMiE. Hardly any of AMiEs churches seem to actually be C of E churches. I’m sure they are lovely churches, but there must be a reason they aren’t part of the structure.

    • Ron dismuke November 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

      My family in Wyoming USA fellow what’s going on

    • Ian Paul November 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

      Well, I don’t think that is indisputably the case—but I agree with you that the patterns of relationship are not promising. I don’t know why they did not do the smart thing and involved more committed Anglicans.

      • Prudence November 24, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

        They are seeking to become broader, which is precisely why I agreed to be associated with them. I’m the very last person to want to break away – I have quite a lot of friends in the ACoC and a few in TEC, none of whom have broken away, so that’s where I’m coming from. I don’t think there’s anyone more ‘committed Anglican’ than me – I tried to save the Covenant, for goodness’ sake! I don’t think my gay friends think I’m homophobic, either. The trouble is, it’s quite difficult to persuade a broader range of people to get involved… because they’re worried that it’s too narrow. Catch-22.

    • Ro Mody November 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

      Don’t get it. Does not the Church of Rome think that the COE is inherently schismatic? Since Anglicanism came out of the Reformation schism, I can’t see that schism in the COE for a strongly held doctrinal reasons is necessarily a bad thing.

    • Christopher Shell November 26, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

      Andrew, if something is bad you do not join with it, and if something is good you do join with it. Your untenable position is that schism is intrinsically bad. It is intrinsically neutral. If schism were instrinsically bad, then schism from Satanism would be bad, schism from Westborough Baptist Church would be bad, schism from the Unification Church would be bad. So you have to just agree with everybody and everything.

      Or rather pretend to agree, which is another word for lying.

  3. Philip Almond November 24, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Ian
    I have not looked in detail at all the issues involved with and surrounding the GAFCON list. But I generally share the concerns stated in your article. But I draw attention again (sorry if it appears ad nauseam to some) to the brontosaurus in the room (sorry again for the phrase). Namely the fact that only a minority (OK! I accept I can’t prove it!) of ordained persons in the Church of England believe from the heart that the Articles of Salvation (9-18 and 31) rightly summarise what the Bible says and are therefore true. This disagreement surely must be deeper and more important than the sexuality disagreement, important though that is, since those Articles clearly say that we are all faced with the wrath and condemnation of God merely by being born into a Fallen race. To ignore this brontosaurus and spend so much time on the sexuality issue (important though that is) is, relatively speaking, to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, whereas the top priority must surely be to sound out the note of warning to flee to Christ from the wrath to come.

    Phil Almond

    • Jill Mans November 25, 2016 at 9:02 am #

      Very well done, Prudence! Catholic Anglicans will not endorse Gafcon because of women’s ordination or lay presidency (a la Sydney Anglicans).

      • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 9:23 am #

        Jill: Catholic Anglicans will not endorse Gafcon because Catholic Anglicans are split over the substantive question. Being in the London diocese you ought be very aware of that.

        • Jill Mans November 25, 2016 at 9:36 am #

          Link not working.

      • Jill Mans November 25, 2016 at 9:38 am #

        Oops, replied to the wrong post. (Sun shining on computer screen!) Sorry.

    • Ian Paul November 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

      Phil, that might be the case, and I have commented elsewhere on some of the other questions around Anglican identity…but this is the presenting issue at the moment.

  4. Ron dismuke November 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    I like how scripture directs you thru His spirit to hold your position on things.Even still it may not be popular. His Word changes not even thou the culture changes.Hold ever fast the faithful Word.

  5. Eric Kyte November 24, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Hi Ian,
    Like you, I too am more than a little hesitant to step once more into this ring, but perhaps a brief reflection? The heat of this argument is I suggest in large part sourced from the disintegration of human community throughout the west, which has been occurring in effect since the Industrial revolution, which saw the emergence of the ‘nuclear family’ from the wider net of kinship.

    The nuclear family thus separated out from wider forms of support, then required (eventually) state welfare to allow people even to have a basic existence (in many cases). So financial support began to substitute for familial support, not least in the area of child rearing. (to this day remaining an untouchable aspect of the welfare state – although I may be wrong as I’ve been away from the UK for five+ years now 🙂 Certainly here in NZ there is child related support.

    But with the collapse of those industries which created mass employment, welfare enabled people to move away from their nuclear families, to find employment. The support of family was less and less necessary as the wider support of community had already become. This in turn led to deeper individualism, and the rise of the isolated self, with the endemic loneliness which pervades much of the West. Ours is a culture of ‘hyper fluidity’ with people moving here and there at increasing speed (witness for example the decline in the average length of ministries nowadays) Relationshio is increasingly ephemeral

    In this context marriage as widely understood has taken on the role of dealing with this loneliness, rather than as the place wherein children were born, the root of our existence (it is not that every child needs a mother and father, so much as every child Has a mother and father!).

    At a recent ‘conversation’ here someone said that to hold the Church’s teaching in his regard was to ‘condemn people to lives of loneliness’ and however much one might talk about other forms of relating than marriage, it is pretty much the only thing left which seems to hold out the promise of deep relating threat we are created for, as SSA conservatives point out . . .

    In other words, the emotional investment is huge for ‘marriage’ seems to be all that is on offer, thus people are understandably heated.

    GAFCON which I understand is largely a formation from the global south, represents folk for whom the collapse of rich forms of wider community let alone the family is either Unknown, or a terrifying possibility being worked out the ought the inexorable power of what is a Western artifact, globalisation.

    There is I suggest far more at stake here than matters of ‘biblical truth’ rather what is at stake is fundamental human existence in any meaningful sense, but without calmly stepping back from The Issue and asking, ‘but why here, and why now?’ we may be unable to find a way forward in this regard.

    Too much heat, not nearly enough light.

    Blessings
    Eric

    • Ian Paul November 24, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      Eric, thanks for this perceptive and intelligent comment, which I think touches on things rarely articulated in this debate.

      I love your final question: ‘Why here? Why now?’ and I resolve to ask that of all I talk to who advocate for change. The standard answer, of course, is ‘We, of all generations in history, are enlightened, and all that went before us were bigoted, blind and benighted’. I am not convinced that that is a persuasive answer, but it is the only one I have heard on offer.

      • Fr Richard Peers November 24, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

        Ian, an important question and one that deserves a richer answer than you’ve heard so far.

        • Ian Paul November 25, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

          Richard, I am not aware of a better answer—which leads me to the conclusion that this change would not be right.

          What about you?

      • Eric Kyte November 25, 2016 at 12:37 am #

        Yes, this tends to be the answer one gets, but I would aver 🙂

        Why, we might ask, if we Are so enlightened, is the created order crumbling around us? ‘THAT’ ine might be told ‘is another matter entirely!’, but it is the curse of our hyper nominalistic culture to assume that we can know things in isolation. ‘Here’ can only be understood with regard to its place geographically, ‘Now’ can only be understood with respect to history. It is the wider world which begs the question re the myth of progress too easily overlaid on ‘History’.

        My perspective is that this argument is largely being conducted amongst members of the most wealthy and privileged people ever to have lived. (I have heard the adjective ‘spoiled’ used, I tend to agree). Their (our) lives are lived out at profound cost to those amongst whom we live, witness for example the continued ghastly unbreathability of air in Indian cities, or the inundation of the Pasifika to pick just two contemporary examples.
        In other words we are living in a bubble.

        As regards The Issue, I tend to the view that the disintegration of marriage and the family and community is at once symptom and cause. We move inorexably to nothingness

        • Ian Paul November 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

          In particular we move inexorably to the idea that sexual conjugation is the only form of intimacy which ends loneliness.

      • Blair November 25, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

        Hello Ian (and Eric),

        I think you’re right about Eric’s comment, Ian, but can’t help wanting it noted that Michael Vasey, in ‘Strangers and friends’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 1995), also gives a compelling, nuanced social history …I wonder if it’s anything other than prejudice which stops his work being referred to. Also, I don’t think it inevitably follows from Eric’s comment that committed same-sex relationships are wrong.

        “Why here? why now?” may well be an incisive pair of questions – but not as ‘knockdown’ as you think, I suggest. Why here?….but if this is meant to imply, ‘why in the west?’, that isn’t the case – witness movements in various African nations and South American countries. Why now? I accept there are voices giving what you call the standard answer, but if that is “the only one I have heard on offer” it’s tempting to suggest you haven’t listened widely enough or that you are sketching this ‘debate’ in wholly self-serving terms. Rowan Williams, discussing the St Andrew’s Day statement’s use of Romans 1, says that the authors’ move from discussing behaviour to desire more widely, “might leave some readers uneasy, however willing they might be to agree the folly of approaching this question with a bland assumption that we are so much better than our forebears at making sense of these things. It is quite possible, *without subscribing to any such flannel*, to ask whether and how we can be sure that the ‘phenomena’ under review are the same [emphasis added]”. And at the end of the same essay: he wants “to enter a plea for some recognition of the fact that those who want to argue what I have called a revisionist position on the possible legitimacy of ‘sexual expression’ for the person of homosexual inclination may, like their opponents, be trying to find a way of being faithful and obedient to the givens of revelation” (‘Knowing myself in Christ’, in ‘The way forward’, ed. Bradshaw, Hodder & Stoughton, 1997).

        Moreover, others I have named on here before (James Alison, Sarah Coakley, Rabbi Steven Greenberg, Gareth Moore OP) also proffer arguments which have nothing to do with what you’re calling the “standard answer”.

        in friendship, Blair

  6. Don Benson November 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    After Eric Kyte’s comment above my thoughts are rather more limited to the immediacy of our situation… and I too have had far too much of this issue but it cannot be ducked.

    It’s almost always the case that groups which seek and agitate for change are more highly motivated and better organised than the majority who remain pleased with the status quo. Our present situation exemplifies this perfectly. We are now at the stage when revisionists could be in sight of a major victory, except that the present makeup of the group of bishops who will come up with a recommendation to synod appears unlikely to achieve a unanimous position which, presumably, means ‘no change’. (But who believes that will be the last of the matter?)

    I have no personal links with Gafcon UK but it seems pretty clear to me that those who started the ‘Rainbow List’ in response to publication of the Gafcon list deliberately misunderstood its purpose, probably because of how it was portrayed rather than what it contained. Of course that is pretty clear but, as an opportunity for synthetic hysteria in the present febrile atmosphere, I guess it was too good an opportunity to miss. It is a mind-numbingly trivial matter but such trivia can have disproportionate power to shape perceptions when the fundamental issues are not being honestly addressed.

    The immediate issue here is the failure of CofE bishops, most obviously starting with those at the top, publicly to declare their confidence in and support for the Church of England’s position on marriage and sexuality and, accordingly, to implement fair and consistent discipline. Few of us want dictatorial and unjust management but clarity, integrity and coherence are needed if there is to be justice over disciplinary matters, and they are not evident at present. Bishops have thus given an impression that they expect and look forward to a change in the church’s position – on the basis of no formal (and publicly elucidated) consideration of either the church’s historical position and (more pertinently) what the bible has to say about it. Surely no one would suggest that ‘shared conversations’ achieved that purpose?

    It also has to be said that those bishops, clergy and lay people who strongly oppose any change in doctrine have failed and continue to fail to organise themselves effectively as one unit. Indeed there appears to be a certain amount of sniping (perhaps a mini turf war?) which prevents energy from being put to the fundamental cause around which everyone agrees. This type of disunity is amateurish and counter-productive if you really want your case to prevail. There appears no leader around whom everyone is prepared to unite.

    Gafcon UK, which is not hidebound by vague, outdated practices and deference to the established CofE hierarchy, is free to look at the wider and more important spiritual and missional picture. It is Anglican in doctrine and enjoys primatial oversight; it is not here to put noses out of joint but it can and will get on with its Christian mission, whether or not those more tightly bound to the Church of England way of doing things approve – and so it should. Had things been done better in the past, both here and in the wider Anglican Communion, Gafcon would not need to exist. As things stand it may well become the best hope for those Anglican Christians whose home in the Church of England could eventually be taken from them.

  7. David Shepherd November 24, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    Peter Ould wrote:
    ‘It is a golden rule in handling weapons that you simply DO NOT unsheathe or brandish a loaded weapon unless you know exactly what you are or aren’t going to do with it AND you are fairly certain as to what the medium to long term outcome of such a firefight will be.

    Regarding weapons, I’m reminded on Michael Moore’s perceptive prediction about Donald Trump’s appeal to the masses:
    ‘Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to [expletive deleted] with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who’ll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.

    Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever sh** he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don’t have to agree with him! You don’t even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!’

    Nevertheless, just as the American liberal meritocracy contemptibly dismissed Trump supporters as predominantly ‘uneducated’, we see a liberal commenter here articulating the dismissive perception that: ‘at best GAFCON is seen as a bit of a joke, and at worst it is seen as a homophobic rabble rouser’.

    So, while you wonder why GAFCON’s list has been lobbed like a Molotov into the midst of sexuality ‘cold war’, I think that, as with Brexit and the American Presidency, it’s the mealy mouthed Church establishment, intent on ‘peace at any price’, which misjudges the visceral indignation of conservatives who won’t be played by the selective connivance of CofE politicking.

  8. Clive November 24, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    I read William Nye’s full letter.

    It is a masterclass in obfuscation.

    He states that Lambeth 1.10 was not their only resolution and, in so doing, pretends (noticeably without saying it) that other resolutions were more important or somehow alter and diminish resolution 1.10. He never actually says what other resolutions are that are more important he is simply vaguely trying to wave his hand in the hope that he can pretend that Lambeth 1.10 is obscure. Yet the original letter from GAFCON UK is only talking about Lambeth 1.10 which the Bishops have not altered or erased since. Since the Bishops have not altered or erased it then it is still there.

    GAFCON UK never said there weren’t other resolutions, so it is difficult to see any point to Mr Nye’s comment. After all, if there weren’t more resolutions than Lambeth 1.10 then there would be no point whatsoever in Lambeth as a conference.

    Mr Nye’s letter is true obfuscation and extremely disappointing.

    • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 9:20 am #

      Clive:
      William Nye’s letter is gently pointing out that making a golden calf out of Lambeth 1.10, which is what GAFCON-UK (and some others) seem to be doing is simply not going to get them anywhere. It has no binding force, and they are only interested in some parts of it. Of course there are lots of other resolutions, but that isn’t at all the point of William’s letter. And of course the bishops haven’t altered or erased it. They don’t need to. It has no binding force.

      I have a suggestion. Let’s invite and encourage GAFCON-UK/AMiE to set up 500 new churches across England but strictly in our rural and deprived areas. They can rent some C of E Parish Churches – the income would be handy. They could have a ten year lease and the C of E is used to have shared building arrangements so there is precedent. GAFCON can call out, train and ordain as many clergy as it would like. It can devise whatever structures it wants to live by. Healthy competition could be very good for us all. Then in ten years time there can be a review of the relative health and life of the Church in these rural and deprived areas. If GAFCON are doing well, maybe they can then buy some of the buildings they have been leasing.

      I think it’s a win-win proposal?

      • David Shepherd November 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

        Andrew,

        Presumably, it was ‘tongue-in-cheek’ when you wrote: ‘healthy competition could be very good for us all.’ Unfortunately, that’s not how the CofE works.

        Consider the situation with Rev. Tim Davies, who was ordained in the CofE in 1993, who was the founding minister of Christ Church Central, church plant of around 50 originating from Christ Church Fulwood in Sheffield.

        As Rev. Julian Mann (Cranmer’s Curate) Sheffield vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge explained: http://trushare.com/0164JAN2009/18a/parish_planting.htm :

        ‘A non-parochial church plant is a group going from a large evangelical church and planting in the parish of another church without diocesan approval and meeting in a school or other venue. More of these churches may get diocesan approval now that the system of Bishops’ Mission Orders is in place, but hitherto such ventures have usually involved the minister stepping out of the licensing system.’

        ‘We have an example of this here in Sheffield Diocese in the form of Christ Church Central. It was planted from Christ Church Fulwood in 2003 when Canon Hugh Palmer, the current rector of All Souls Langham Place (2005), was vicar. The Revd Tim Davies, curate at Fulwood, led a group of around 50 to plant in the parish of St Matthews in central Sheffield and they started meeting in Egerton Hall. Canon Palmer was chairman of the diocesan mission committee at the time, so his decision not to go down the parish planting route was understandably controversial’.

        It doesn’t take a genius to work out why a non-parochial evangelical church planting was preferable (BMO’s weren’t invented until 2007/8) to a parish plant when St. Matthew’s is a proud member of the Anglo-Catholic movement.

        Rev. Julian appears to suggest that it was the former canon’s decision. However, by founding a non-parochial church plant, Tim Davies was effectively removed from the clergy licensing system.

        Since 2003, the congregation of Christ Church Central has grown to 150 adults: http://www.findachurch.co.uk/details/sheffield/11155.htm

        Despite this growth, Tim Davies simply describes the outcome of the exploratory discussions in 2002 by saying: ‘diocesan support was withdrawn’. The previous Bishop of Sheffield (Steven Croft) stated that: ‘the plant could not be contained within the legal structures of the Church of England.’

        Again, even with the advent of BMOs, no prizes for guessing why an Anglo-Catholic incumbent would have no interest in supporting a thriving evangelical church plant in the same area.

        So, the CofE can’t, in one breath, favour ‘healthy competition’ for GAFCON-UK/AMiE to set up new churches in rural and deprived areas (with the vain hope of getting them to pay rent to cover the dilapidations and possibly take over the ‘millstone’ assets after ten years) and, in the next, impose an oligopoly on urban areas, like Central Sheffield, where incumbents fear that the likes of GAFCON might hasten the demise of the ‘bells and smells’ brand!

        That’s not win-win. As with the episcopal overtures towards Christ Church Central, that’s a pretty desperate attempt at ‘heads, I win, tails you lose’!

        • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

          David: Peter Ould has a really helpful exploration of some of what went on in Sheffield here:

          http://www.peter-ould.net/2013/02/19/a-little-spat-in-sheffield/

          • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

            And the explanation from Christ Church Central is here:

            http://www.crosslinks.org/sites/default/files/mission-partners/newsletters/Davies-Newsletter-Dec2010.pdf

            “A year ago the Bishop of Sheffield Steven Croft invited us to consider the regularisation of Christ Church Central through a Bishop’s Mission Order. The Church Oversight Team and Trustees were pleased at the extent to which our correspondence and discussions covered so many of the questions and concerns that we have. We were also encouraged by Bishop Steven’s personal commitment to orthodox Christianity and to reaching the un-churched of Sheffield.

            We are however deeply concerned over the direction that the Church of England seems to b heading in the area of human sexuality and in the consecration of women bishops – that no legal provision has been made for those who cannot in conscience come under the episcopal oversight of a woman. We couldn’t help but conclude that there seems to be little desire within the Church of England as a whole, and a lack of willingness on the part of a significant and influential proportion of its leadership, to maintain orthodox and biblical faith. The trajectory seems to be more in line with an unorthodox revisionist agenda. For this reason we decided it wise, at this point in time, to decline the invitation to consider formalising our connections with the Diocese of Sheffield. “

          • David Shepherd November 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

            Thanks Andrew,

            I was on comment thread for that post (‘why doesn’t that surprise me’, you ask)

            Have a look at the comment thread to Peter’s later post: http://www.peter-ould.net/2013/02/27/sheffield-bishops-statement/

            The whole debacle was an episcopal exercise in managing territorial incumbent.

            A bishop can’t expect a thriving church plant to comply with onerous BMO requirements for remaining within CofE structures.

            With Christ Church Central adrift of diocesan support, there was no means to ordain its leaders. Whatever the official statement, this was the underlying reason that Pete Jackson (Christ Church Walkley) ended up looking to Kenya for ordination.

      • Ian Paul November 25, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

        Andrew, what William’s letter fails to highlight (and not through fault of his own; I don’t think he is the person who ought to be commenting) is that Lambeth I.10 has been cited explicitly in statements from the House of Bishops since then, which have referenced it as a touchstone and been aligned with it.

        I am not aware of any other motion from Lambeth 1998 which has been highlighted in this way, or referenced and reinforced by subsequent statements.

        So, according to the HoB, Lambeth I.10 does indeed shape the current position of the C of E. Those rejecting I.10 are also rejecting recent statements from the HoB, which is why GAFCON has picked it up (though I think they could have expressed it much better.)

        • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

          Ian: maybe the letter is just signalling the fact that the House of Bishops have realised that Lambeth I.10 is not the golden calf and they have to stop worshipping it.
          Whilst he might not the person who ought to have been commenting, you can be absolutely certain he would not have commented had not the Archbishops been aware that he was going to and had seen the text beforehand.

          • Peter Ould November 25, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

            I’m not sure the Bishops have been worshipping the golden calf of Lambeth 1.10. Seems to me though that revisionists do worship a Baal of “I can have sex with who I want” (which ironically is exactly what the copulating bull was all about).

          • Andrew Godsall November 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

            Well whatever it is Peter, the letter from William Nye does rather make it clear that Lambeth 1.10 isn’t quite the final word.

          • Peter Ould November 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

            It’s a clever letter because it’s very clear that the House of Bishops HAS taken part of Lambeth 1.10 and made it informal policy. It’s also clear that Issues is now formal policy (even if revisionists spit their dummies out about it).

            The CofE hierarchy is very good at avoiding answering questions it doesn’t want to be held accountable on.

          • Andrew Godsall November 26, 2016 at 8:32 am #

            But even if that’s all true Peter, neither Issues nor Lambeth 1.10 are the last word on the matter. The letter makes that clear.

          • Ian Paul November 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

            Lambeth I.10 might not be the last word, but the Bishops have consistently treated it as the latest word we have, and one that shape teaching, doctrine and policy until the Church is agreed (and the whole Communion) on a different word.

            So it is the word we are currently living with. To deny that is simply to say that we do not accept the teaching authority of the bishops.

          • Andrew Godsall December 1, 2016 at 9:46 am #

            Ian: do you really think it’s likely that William Nye would have written that letter without checking that the Archbishops were content with what was said in it? The letter is an official response, not a private opinion.

          • Ian Paul December 1, 2016 at 10:40 am #

            Andrew, do you think a Civil Servant has felt comfortable about being put in the position of articulating the Church’s teaching, when this kind of statement should, quite clearly, come from a bishop?

            Do you think that we should take this in any sense as indicative of the Church’s teaching position, given its manifest incompleteness?

            i.e. should we clutch at such administrative straws?

          • Andrew Godsall December 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

            Ian: are you saying that the Archbishops would not have seen this letter before it was posted? That is quite unbelievable ….

  9. Philip Almond November 25, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    Eric
    My comment on your “There is I suggest far more at stake here than matters of ‘biblical truth’ rather what is at stake is fundamental human existence in any meaningful sense…” (24/11/16 7.09 pm):

    Nothing is more important than ‘biblical truth’ because it is truth from God and about God and about ‘fundamental human existence’ as viewed by God. The truths of the Fall and Original Sin and the wrath of God are the keys which open to us a realistic understanding of the whole of human existence and its predicament and diagnosis, including the alienation and ‘spoiled bubble’ which you so rightly describe.

    Phil Almond

  10. James November 25, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Tone is referred to at the start of GAFCON’s latest:

    http://www.gafconuk.org/news/secretary-generals-letter-shows-why-gafcon-uk-needed

  11. Blair November 25, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    Hello Peter,

    “Seems to me though that revisionists do worship a Baal of “I can have sex with who I want” (which ironically is exactly what the copulating bull was all about)”.
    Can you quote a named (Christian) person who campaigns on this basis, or a Christian organisation for whom such a petulant cry is their official position? Seems a shame to me that you’re now making comments like this, having once had an active blog hosting some good material and debates…

    in friendship, Blair

    • William Fisher November 25, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

      Just what I was thinking.

    • David Shepherd November 25, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

      ‘Well, let’s look at Changing Attitudes’s Sexual Ethics: A report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Working Group:

      ‘Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace. Risky, but then as Paul Tillich said ‘A Christian is safest taking risks!’p.11.

      http://changingattitude.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Sexual-Ethics1.pdf

      This openness to view ‘brief and loving [sic] sexual encounters’ as occasions of grace sounds very much like ‘I can have sex with who I want’. Unless, you think that the mere mention of ‘loving’ somehow ennobles casual sex.

      And this paper has still not been repudiated by Changing Attitude!

      • Blair November 25, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

        Hello David,

        I wondered if that would be brought up, which is partly why I asked above for an organisation to be named for whom this is their *official position*. “I can have sex with who I want” is not CA’s official position, nor what they have ever campaigned for. And I would suggest that “we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace”, is not synonymous with ‘having sex with who I want’ – granted that it may be a questionable thing to say.

        in friendship, Blair

        • David Shepherd November 25, 2016 at 11:37 pm #

          Blair,

          You were countering Peter’s comment about revisionists ‘worshipping a Baal of ‘I can have sex with who I want’.

          The study group’s statement about ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’ being occasions of grace was a counter to the wholesale rejection of all casual sex as ‘addictive and destructive’. Their position gives licence to the notion that casual sex (which is ‘I can have sex with who I want’) can be redeemed by being ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’.

          The study group describes itself as commissioned by the Annual General Meeting of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation to meet and ‘see if it was possible to articulate some common approaches to sexual ethics from the standpoint of our experience as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglican clergy.’

          So, the group articulated their consensus on ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’ as part of the consensus they reached on sexual ethics.

          Yet, despite all this and Colin Coward on several occasions refusing to repudiate it, your own challenge clings to the tenuous thread that CA’s connivance at and publication of the commissioned study group’s conclusions doesn’t constitute a part of CA’s ‘official position’.

          Oh, well, I guess that gives the CofE a free pass for conniving at African Anglicans supporting the criminalisation of homosexuality.

          After all, mere official connivance at homophobia doesn’t make the same a part of the CofE’s ‘official position’…does it?

          • Blair November 28, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

            hello David,

            I have a handful of thoughts, and I imagine that none will convince you…!

            On the one hand, it’s possible to accept the logic of your post above, which seems to me a kind of mutual cynicism – you have your reading that Changing Attitude is simply trying to justify any and all casual sex, and I could have what you suggest could be mine, i.e. that despite Lambeth 1.10, the Dromantine communique, etc, homophobia is inescapably part of the C of E’s official position. But I hope that we could do better than mutual cynicism….”If unanimity fails, that is a pity. If charity fails, if we no longer listen and speak in love, that is a disaster…” (Gareth Moore OP). This debate (if that’s the word) has been well into ‘disaster’ territory for some time (I’m talking more widely here).

            So on the other hand, and perhaps simply showing myself a hypocrite, I think you’re reading CA uncharitably: the fuller quote you gave further up does after all say “casual sex can often be addictive and destructive”, and read attentively doesn’t simply amount to a more prolix ‘I can have sex with who I want’. I think also that the bit about “occasions of grace” is something that can only be seen and understood retrospectively – that it can’t be a pre-justification. (& I don’t think homophobia is inescapably tied in with the C of E’s position, for what it’s worth….).

            I wonder also if the words we’re quibbling over, could be read in the light of this…: “People do discover… a grace in encounters fraught with transitoriness and without much ‘promising’ (in any sense): it may be just this that prompts them to want the fuller, longer exploration of the body’s grace that faithfulness offers. Recognising this – which is no more than recognising the facts of a lot of people’s histories, heterosexual or homosexual, in our society – ought to be something we can do without generating anxieties about weakening or compromising the focal significance of commitment or promise in our Christian understanding and ‘moral imagining’ of what sexual bonding can be” (Rowan Williams, ‘The Body’s Grace’).

            I wonder also – perhaps this should be a separate comment, but heck… – what the impact is of the medium in which so much of this ‘discussion’ is now taking place. The internet and e-mail are after all definitely not face-to-face media – it always seems ironic (if understandable…) to me that so much talk about the most bodily things happens via the most disembodied media. Does this mean more disciplined online discussion is needed? Or even moratoria…?! hmmm…

            am sure I’ve gone on long enough,
            in friendship, Blair

          • David Shepherd November 30, 2016 at 8:06 am #

            Hi Blair,

            There is the prospect that this exchange may well descend into uncharitably pejorative assumptions of bias: ‘Now, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’ However, mutual charity should not involve an apologist imposing the most flattering, but unlikely construction, which might be supported by the text. After all, both CA and the commissioned study group have squandered numerous opportunities to re-phrase and clarify what was actually meant.

            Also, I never suggested that the paragraph amounted prima facie to ‘I can have sex with who I like’. Instead, I explained how the study group’s consensus on this could exonerate instances of casual sex in which merely identifying them as ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’ invokes the pretext that they are, in special circumstances, ‘occasions of grace’.

            You wrote:‘I think also that the bit about “occasions of grace” is something that can only be seen and understood retrospectively – that it can’t be a pre-justification. Now, that stance may well inform your own position on the subject, but nothing in the offending paragraph implies any restriction to seeing one’s actions retrospectively.

            You waxed lyrical in explaining away any offence caused by the paragraph, as you wrote: ‘“People do discover… a grace in encounters fraught with transitoriness and without much ‘promising’ (in any sense): it may be just this that prompts them to want the fuller, longer exploration of the body’s grace that faithfulness offers.’

            What destroys that notion is the group’s attempt to contrast the conventional understanding of ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ (‘persisting over a long period of time’) with the ‘overwhelming demand to remain to our covenantal relationship with God through the Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional family obligations)’.

            The use of ‘thus’ means that the group is indicating that such a contrast is exemplified by ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’, in special circumstances, being ‘occasions of grace’; that, as long as its loving, the brevity of the encounter may be understood as grace provoking a response to God’s challenge to forsake conventional family obligations.

            This clearly grants a pretext for claiming that specific casual sexual encounters can be ‘occasions of grace’. One only has to invoke God’s higher calling as superceding any conventional understanding of ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’.

            This is clearly what was meant and such a mistaken notion is not borne out by scriptures (1 Cor. 7:10 – 14).

            When, on Radio 4, Colin Coward was challenged by Chris Sugden to distance himself from gay pressure groups which want to: ‘redefine marriage by making the multiple partner approach of many, not all but many gay people, the norm.’, he declined.

            Quote from his transcript of the BBC Radio 4 interview (From http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/3558.):

            Chris Sugden: ‘Well, I want to hear you then say that there is a difference and you denounce those who in these pressure groups are saying they’re wanting to change the whole construction of marriage.’

            Edward Stourton: ‘Okay, you’ve got 30 seconds to say what you want to say, Colin Coward, because sadly we’re coming to end of our time.’

            Colin Coward: ‘I am not going to denounce anybody. I am simply going to repeat that society has accepted equality for lesbian and gay people. It is the church, a minority in the Church, who are opposing it, and that minority has to repent of its own homophobia and change.’

            Despite Coward’s willingness to denounce homophobia, the study group’s consensus should be understood in the light of CA’s former spokesman not wanting to alienate those holding such views who would be useful in forming broadest possible LGBT coalition.

            Consider, for instance, CA’s close ties with Stonewall, an organization which has partnered with the Lovebox festival, which, in turn, self-describes as ‘“freewheeling, groundbreaking, no-holds-barred, non stop polysexual party, pulling together elements of the very best gay clubs, fiercest underground parties, cutting edge fashion, hottest emergent artists”.

            Whatever the slippery slope, or guilt by association counter-arguments, I’m just a bit tired of LGBT groups in the church, which turn a blind eye to pressure groups partnering with those affirming even reckless sexual anarchy, while charging anyone who dares to express concern, or challenge their single-issue cause with blatant homophobia.

          • Ian Paul November 30, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

            David, that transcript from Colin Coward is pretty devastating, and I hope Blair can take seriously why those who believe in the Church’s and scripture’s teaching on sexuality are rightly so concerned.

          • David Shepherd November 30, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

            And check this excerpt from CA response in the comment thread:

            ‘James, I do not agree that pre-marital sex is intrinsically sinful. It is a view held by some Christians but I am not going to be aligned with those who want to induce unnecessary guilt into people’s lives, straight or gay. Straight bishops might not want to repent of sexual activity before they married because like me, they didn’t and don’t believe there was anything wrong in the pleasure they enjoyed.’

            Now that does demonstrate a 1:25 gradient with zero traction.

          • Clive December 4, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

            Dear Blair,

            In your item of 1st December you wrote:

            …homophobia is inescapably part of the C of E’s official position.

            You the wrote in the very next sentence:

            But I hope that we could do better than mutual cynicism….”If unanimity fails, that is a pity. If charity fails, if we no longer listen and speak in love, that is a disaster…” (Gareth Moore OP). This debate (if that’s the word) has been well into ‘disaster’ territory for some time (I’m talking more widely here).

            David Shepherd has never, ever said that “…homophobia is inescapably part of the C of E’s official position…”
            – so it you who has been seriously uncharitable in spite of the very next quote you made from Gareth Moore OP and therefore when that quote speaks of disaster as the consequence you don’t seem to have avoided the disaster.

          • Clive December 4, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

            Sorry, I gave the date as December 1st but it was actually November 28, sorry.

  12. Philip Almond November 25, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    Thanks Ian for your 25/11/16 2.49 pm post. This is indeed ‘the presenting issue’. I comment as follows. But first to say that I am sure many are praying that God in his grace will revive and reform all who name the name of Christ and bring us all to confront ourselves with the God and Christ of the Bible in repentance and a greater united obedience to his revelation and will.

    No doubt you are aware of the discussion paper put out by CEEC. I have a poor track record at predicting the future (I got the EU referendum and the American Election wrong, for instance) but I think it unlikely that, even if the CofE changes its stance on this issue (to CEEC Option II or Option III), any of the ways the CEEC suggest of ‘dividing’ the CofE will happen. But if I am wrong and some division becomes seriously possible, surely such a division should be based on deeper differences than the sexuality disagreement (important though that is). Of course, agreeing where the dividing line should fall would be very challenging indeed. For instance, you and I disagree about the ordination of women. And even if the CofE sticks with CEEC Option I, these deeper differences which we have lived with for so long will have to be faced eventually.

    Phil Almond

  13. Don Benson November 25, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    At last… http://gafconuk.org/news/secretary-generals-letter-shows-why-gafcon-uk-needed!

    Gafcon UK says publicly what at least some of us have been saying for over 2 years and praying would be said publicly by leading evangelicals and all those who share our dismay at what is being visited on the Church of England by its leadership.

    It is now going to be very hard for that leadership to continue saying one thing while acting the opposite (the reason for the Gafcon UK’s list) – which it has got away with for far too long. The dissembling, the manipulation, the carefully constructed wording, the turning a blind eye to blatant disciplinary violations could not have continued for much longer; and it is clear that William Nye’s abysmal letter to Gafcon, scornfully implying ‘that was then, this is now and anyway Lambeth 1:10 carried no legal authority’ is the last straw.

    There is still time for all of us in the Church of England to call a halt to something that will destroy us as a faithful Christian witness in a desperately needy nation. There is still time for us to repent of our dismissive colonialist attitude to the wider Anglican Communion – our ignorant and ridiculous assumption that we are the establishment and the rest of the world must pay due deference.

    This coming Sunday is Advent Sunday. What better time for a New Christian Year’s resolution ‘that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light…’ What an amazing year that could be and what a contrast with the mortal blow which otherwise faces us.

  14. Blair November 30, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Evening David, and Ian,

    Having to respond down here as there aren’t any more reply buttons up above…

    Ian – you are welcome to talk to me directly, rather than thru’ David 😉

    David: I’m not sure what the distinction in your second paragraph amounts to, but if you’re accepting that even a report of one part of CA doesn’t simply amount to ‘I can have sex with who I like’ then perhaps you’re agreeing (even only a teensy bit!) with my challenge to Peter’s comment… perhaps that’s a bit mischievous, but still.

    Having actually checked CA’s website now, I think it worth noting that the link to this report appears under the sub-heading ‘Some older material’. It is not pushed as something they’re campaigning on. Also, on the ‘what we believe’ page, it says, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people are called by God to express their sexuality in loving, faithful and committed relationships”. I rather doubt that you will take this as a distancing from the report, but it does at least stand in tension with the paragraph you quoted.

    I would also have preferred it if Colin Coward had been clearer on this when challenged – but on the other hand, given that CA’s website says he retired more than a year ago (July 2015) as chair, it seems a bit much for you (and you, Ian…) to denounce what he said as though he were still in post. Similarly, I think it’s simply uncharitable for you to criticise CA for linking with Stonewall. There is no evidence (I don’t think…) that CA supported the Lovebox festival, and it is quite possible to partner or work with an organisation without thereby supporting everything that organisation stands for or does (if, more generally, this isn’t possible, ecumenical relationships would be in trouble….).

    Little thing re your 4th paragraph by the way – that was Rowan Williams who “waxed lyrical” and whose words you quote.

    My other thought is one I meant to include before, and is about consistency with your own logic. If you, David, and Ian, hold that same-sex sex is wrong, always and everywhere, then it follows that it does not matter whether it’s casual sex or the most committed monogamy – it’s still wrong. And in that case, on what basis are you concerned about the ethics of same-sex sex? There cannot be an ethics of something that is intrinsically wrong, surely? If your position is as I’ve summarised I suggest you aren’t following through on its logic.

    in friendship, Blair

    • David Shepherd November 30, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

      Hi Blair,

      As I stated earlier, you were countering Peter’s comment about revisionists ‘worshipping a Baal of ‘I can have sex with who I want’. You’ve challenged the notion of such false worship reductively by asking him to name ‘a (Christian) person who campaigns on this basis, or a Christian organisation for whom such a petulant cry is their official position’.

      The real test of such Baal worship is not a campaign stance, or official position, but the kind of excusing deference which connives at promiscuity (whether tacitly or overtly), .

      You’re putting far more effort into exonerating CA than even CA does. After all, the cited paragraph remains as unchallenged by the present CA leadership as the quoted comments of their former head, Colin Coward.

      Now, it would be a simple matter for CA to do a bit more than placing the commissioned study group’s findings under the sub-heading ‘Some older material’. However, you wrote: ‘Also, on the ‘what we believe’ page, it says, “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people are called by God to express their sexuality in loving, faithful and committed relationships”. I rather doubt that you will take this as a distancing from the report, but it does at least stand in tension with the paragraph you quoted.

      Well, the study group’s reach a consensus, as commissioned, which contrasted their view of ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’ with the conventional understanding of ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ as ‘persisting over a long period of time’.

      As long as the report’s consensus remains unchallenged by CA, then there really is no reason for anyone to assume that CA’s use of the self-same words might convey a distancing from (or should stand in tension with) the quoted paragraph.

      In contrast, I’ve highlighted the objectionable statements made by the study group and CA’s former spokeman for which you’ve sought to provide alternate, but unsubstantiated justifications, such as:

      1. Though questionable, this doesn’t represent their official position, or a campaign objective (despite CA uncritically publishing the commissioned report as representative of their consensus)
      2. Surmising that it could well be read more charitably in the light of Rowan William’s quotation (despite Colin Coward’s own unequivocal exoneration of non-marital sex).
      3. That the new leadership of CA has no responsibility to distance itself publicly from previous statements (if the organisation now deems them unacceptable) which were made in its name by its former official spokesman (who only retired last year).
      4. That re-posting of the commissioned report under ‘Some older material’ somehow badges it as superseded by other unknown ‘newer material’.

      Clearly, you will accept nothing short of an organization overtly worshipping the Baal of ‘I can have sex with who I want’. Perhaps, for you, only a set of ‘free love’ manifesto commitments will do, but such a reductive view of worship is not consonant with Christian belief.

      Finally, in response to your comment about consistency, I would respond by stating that revisionists are articulating their consensus on sex generally, and not just same-sex sexual relationships. For instance, the commissioned study was entitled ‘Sexual Ethics’, not same-sex sexual ethics.

      However Ian or I might view the latter, we are exploring the implications of revisionist sexual ethics for the breadth of human sexuality, and not narrowly applying it to just LGBT persons.

      • Blair December 1, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

        Evening David,

        You wrote that I’m “putting far more effort into exonerating CA than even CA does” …:) well, maybe, but I’m attempting (I think…) to read charitably, without agreeing wholesale.

        You added that “The real test of such Baal worship is not a campaign stance, or official position, but the kind of excusing deference which connives at promiscuity” – it won’t surprise you that I think that’s questionable, but even if it were accepted, my point is not to be “reductive” about this but to suggest that you need more/better evidence if you’re going to prove a charge against ‘revisionists’ in general.

        I accept that “it would be a simple matter for CA to do a bit more…”, but still think the report is best read as a discussion document rather than a definitive statement. It is not listed under ‘Position statements’ on their website (something else I should have noticed sooner). Also, you refer more than once to the report’s consensus – but the report itself makes clear in its first pages that it was written by one person, arising from meetings of a sub-group of five (the remainder of an original group of twelve). So it may well be a consensus, but not of a multitude. On what basis do you take this one example and generalise from it to assume it presents the views of all revisionists? I’m not the greatest fan of Goddard and Walker’s ‘True union in the body’ but I think it is correct to note that ‘revisionist sexual ethics’ are not monolithic. It’s also tempting to ask why you pick this example… after all Jeffrey John could fairly be labelled a revisionist on this issue but has very clearly said he is only arguing for monogamous relationships (and as far as is known, has lived this out) – why not generalise from his example, and those who agree with him?

        Lastly, you reply to my challenge about consistency “by stating that revisionists are articulating their consensus on sex generally”. But are they…? If so this report isn’t especially good evidence of that – despite its title, early on it says “This paper attempts to start formulating a common ethical framework for sexual relating for LGTB [sic] people. Hopefully it will
        turn out to have a wider validity” (p3). So I suggest it is arguable that the report isn’t primarily about “sex generally”….

        in friendship, Blair

        • David Sheugh pherd December 1, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

          Blair,

          Your challenge was to quote ‘a named (Christian) person who campaigns on this basis, or a Christian organisation for whom such a petulant cry is their official position’.

          I’m responding to you through the specifics of a report commissioned and published by CA. And, for the avoidance of doubt, we have the public statements of its spokesman.

          Despite this, your response now implies a far greater onus of proving ‘a charge against ‘revisionists’ in general’. I have responded to your specific challenge, so I did not seek (nor did I need) to make generalized inferences about all revisionists, as if their views were monolithic.

          We may agree to disagree that ‘the report is best read as a discussion document’, but you then have to turn a blind eye towards the repeated statements of CA’s spokesman.

          Your approach is analogous to evaluating UKIP as non-racist on the basis of their current manifesto alone, while dismissing the inflammatory rhetoric of its resigned leader, Nigel Farage. Just read the ‘Position Statements’, right?

          In terms of your attempt to probe whether ‘revisionists are articulating their consensus on sex generally’, you should read a bit further on in the report:

          ‘It is tempting to propose a separate LGBT sexual ethic in reaction to our rejection by the church, but we think this would only reinforce divisive policies. We have therefore attempted to formulate an approach that can apply to the whole range of human sexual and intimate relating rather than something specific only to LGBTs.’ (p. 8)

          You assert that ‘the report isn’t primarily about “sex generally”. Yet, the report sought to ‘formulate an approach that can apply to the whole range of human sexual and intimate relating rather than something specific only to LGBTs’.

          To do so requires ‘articulating their consensus on sex generally”. If that remains arguable to you, I’ll charitably move on.

          In Christ, Dave

          • Blair December 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

            Hello again David,

            I’m aware you’ve responded to my challenge – although I’ve questioned that response – but my previous comment wasn’t meaning to move the goalposts but to be a reply to your post above, which it seemed was taking the report we’re quibbling over as emblematic of the views of all revisionists. The last 2 paragraphs of your comment (from Nov 30th) seemed particularly to do this.

            Your analogy with interpreting UKIP as non-racist gave me pause, not least because one of the (many…) low points in the EU referendum campaign, was Nigel Farage’s grinning visage in front of that poster depicting a large number of refugees. I fear you’ll simply find this tenuous, but what stops me thinking the analogy holds is your words about “inflammatory rhetoric”. I fully accept that Nigel Farage has many a time deployed this, but, following the comparison through, I don’t think that the words you’ve quoted from Colin Coward amount to such rhetoric. And stating that you don’t believe pre-marital sex to be sinful is not synonymous with ‘I can have sex with who I want’…

            I accept that the report that CA published (I don’t think they commissioned it) could well be read as about “sex generally”, given the last part of your post from Dec 1st. But I am still resisting the verdict that it amounts to a validation of ‘having sex with who you want’, or that one can generalise from this one report to the views of all who believe that current church teaching on same-sex sex is wrong.

            in friendship, Blair

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2016 at 10:41 am #

      (I think I was talking through the blog comments on my post…) 😀

  15. Blair December 5, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    Hello Clive,

    am replying down here as again I can’t find a reply button nearer your comment.

    Could I suggest that you read my comment from Nov 28th more carefully – I didn’t flatly say that “homophobia is inescapably part of the C of E’s official position”, (nor imply that David S has said this). My point was that if what I read as the mutual cynicism of his previous comment were accepted, a possible outcome would be reading the ‘Sexual Ethics’ report as simply validating promiscuity, and mirroring this, taking the current C of E position as homophobic. I was attempting (evidently not very well…) to argue against such cynicism – as I’ve droned on about above, I don’t believe the report is just a validation of promiscuity and likewise I don’t believe the C of E’s official position is homophobic. It seemed to me that David S understood what I meant, as shown at the start of his reply:
    “There is the prospect that this exchange may well descend into uncharitably pejorative assumptions of bias: ‘Now, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’”.

    in friendship, Blair

    • Ian Paul December 6, 2016 at 9:55 am #

      When the comments have been nested three times, they will nest no further, so you just need to reply to the last comment that had a reply button; all further comments will align under that one. (If not, then you would get infinite indentation, which is Not Good.)

      • Blair December 6, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

        Thanks Ian – noted 🙂

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