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Jesus as Good Shepherd leads his sheep in John 10 video discussion

The gospel lectionary reading for Year B is the second part of John 10 (John 10.11-18) on the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, following on from the first part explored in Year A.

This passage needs to be read carefully in the context of this section of the gospel—but also in its first century context, and attending to the typically Johannine use of metaphorical language.

Come and join James and Ian as we explore all the issues in reading, understanding, and preaching on this passage.


The Cass report, children, and the Church of England

Dr Hilary Cass has delivered her final report offering an independent review of gender identity services for children and young people. The report is online, and is long and complex (not surprisingly) at 232 pages for the main body of the report, but there is a helpful summary of the key points on the supporting website. It appears to mark a significant watershed in a change of direction and attitude to this complex and vexing issue, though it perhaps does not go far enough in rethinking the whole approach to the questions of sex and identity that have been like a runaway train in the last ten years or so.

What this report also shows (though I am not sure anyone has noted this) is the value of an independent ‘audit’ approach to complex organisations. When an organisation has a range of different entities which communicate imperfectly with one another, then it allows powerful individuals and lobbies to infiltrate into this structure, and without any single person reviewing what is happening, these can significantly influence the decisions that are made with anyone realising. So this question of review and audit is closely related to questions of power and influence.

As a way into the implications of the Cass review and its findings, it is helpful to note some of the responses to it from commentators in this area.

The non-religious group Transgender Trend, who offer a forum for parents of children questioning their sex identity, but who are opposed to transgender ideology, offer their assessment here. There are several interesting things to note.

First, they welcome the holistic approach to child development which has previously been lacking:

Crucially she has considered children and adolescents holistically through a framework of childhood development and adolescent mental health, and within a cultural and social environment unique to this generation…

The information and recommendations in the report de-mystify the condition of gender dysphoria as something that is uniquely specialised, and places it within the appropriate framework of child and adolescent mental health services. As part of a psychosocial treatment pathway it incorporates standard mental health treatments which have been shown to be effective in the treatment of adolescents with a range of difficulties and adverse life experiences.

Is God ‘willing to change his mind’ (Richard Hays) on sexual ethics?

Andrew Goddard writes: There has been much heat surrounding the announcement of a new book on sexuality by Richard Hays and Christopher Hays. What follows attempts to shed some light on what is going on. After introducing Richard Hays and his major past contributions in this area, the range of instant responses are sketched as sadly illuminating of much of the current state of play among Christians. Drawing on the limited evidence available about the book’s content, I then highlight five key elements in its argument and offer some initial reflections on each of them. These are then set in the context of Hays’ earlier work on sexuality and in particular his discussions concerning experience (and its authority and relationship to Scripture) and the possible usefulness of appealing to the inclusion of the Gentiles as a paradigm for the inclusion of LGBTQ people. The conclusion argues that until the book finally appears later this year it is best to “wait and see” and considers how it might then be evaluated and how we might respond to its contribution.

The recent announcement of yet another forthcoming book on Scripture and sexuality arguing for an “affirming” (“Side A”) perspective is already causing major waves even though relatively little is known about it. The Widening of God’s Mercy: Sexuality Within the Biblical Story, a 272 page academic volume, will appear from Yale University Press in late September (Amazon US) or November (Amazon UK & Yale UP). Its significance arises because of its two biblical scholar authors: Christopher B. Hays; and Richard B. Hays. Christopher Hays is the D. Wilson Moore Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the leading evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary where he has been on the faculty since 2008. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA). His work can be explored on his Academia page. Most excitement has however focussed on the fact that the co-author is his father, Richard B. Hays, who is George Washington Ivey Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. He is ordained in the United Methodist Church.

Introducing Richard Hays

In the words of Tom Wright,

When the history of biblical scholarship in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries comes to be written, a strong case will be made for seeing Richard B. Hays as the leading American New Testament scholar of his generation (Foreword to A Scribe Trained for the Kingdom of Heaven: Essays on Christology and Ethics in Honor of Richard B. Hays).

His co-authoring of this volume is significant in part because it was widely thought that (at the age of 75 and following retirement in 2018 after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2015) he had decided not to publish further—but more because his previous work on sexuality has been a major scholarly contribution supporting traditional (“Side B”) teaching. 

The most famous of these contributions was his chapter on “Homosexuality” in his 1996 classic Moral Vision of the New Testament which remains, over 25 years later, one of the best, short defences of a “Side B” view. It opens with the story of Gary, his best friend from his undergraduate days at Yale. What follows is described as “an act of keeping covenant with a beloved brother in Christ who will not speak again on this side of the resurrection” as Gary died of AIDS in May 1990 before being able to fulfil his plan “to write an article about his own experience, reflecting on his struggle to live as a faithful Christian wracked by a sexual orientation that he believed to be incommensurate with the teaching of the Scripture”. Hays was going to respond to this as a New Testament scholar “concerned about certain questionable exegetical and theological strategies of the gay apologists” (380). This account largely reproduces an earlier influential short article in Sojourners from 1991, entitled “Awaiting the Redemption of our Bodies”, which was revised for inclusion in Jeffrey S. Siker’s 1994 anthology Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate.