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What does the Church need to do to approve same-sex marriage?

The Scottish Episcopal Church has been moving in the direction of recognising same-sex marriage as equivalent to traditional marriage from a theological and ethical point of view for some time. At last year’s Synod, it discussed a change to canon law to remove reference to ‘one man and one woman’ in marriage, which it then sent to its seven dioceses and will come back for confirmation this year.

In parallel with this, the Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian rather than Episcopal) is also considering the issue, and as part of that its Theological Forum has published a report An Approach to the Theology of Same-sex Marriage, and for anyone who has been convinced by the church’s traditional teaching on marriage it makes sober reading.

The first section is on the use of Scripture, and rather than explore the scriptural arguments, it offers some reflections on the ways that the two ‘sides’ in the debate draw on Scripture. It identifies two main aspects of the argument ‘for greater inclusion’:

As committed and faithful partnerships between equal persons of the same sex were largely unknown in the ancient world, neither St Paul nor any other biblical writer could have had such partnerships in mind when they condemned same-sex sexual activity.

Another more inclusive argument in favour of same-sex relationships rests on a distinction between the written text of Scripture and the living Word of God, the latter being associated with Jesus Christ who speaks to us in our hearts and consciences.

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Have we got the schedule for Easter wrong?

Have you ever sat and read through the gospel accounts of Passion Week, and tried to work out chronologically what is happening? And have you done that with the four gospels? (It is easiest to do that latter using a synopsis, either in print or using this one online.) If you do, you might notice several things.

Though there are variations in wording and in some details, there is a striking agreement between all four gospels in the order of the main events during the week.
The events at the beginning of the week around Palm Sunday, and at the end of the week around the crucifixion seem very busy, yet the middle seems very quiet—the issue of the ‘silent Wednesday’.
The main issue on which the gospel accounts disagree on the order of events is in relation to the denials of Peter by Jesus, which come earlier in Luke’s gospel, and are spread out in John’s gospel.
Jesus’ trial is more detailed, with more people involved in different phases in John than in the Matthew and Mark, the latter two treating it in quite a compressed way as more or less a single event.
The synoptics claim explicitly that the last supper was some form of Passover meal (which must happen after the lambs are sacrificed), whilst John makes no mention of this, and appears to have Jesus crucified at the moment that the Passover lambs are sacrificed.

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What is the evidence for the resurrection?

When considering the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, we need to separate two issues. First, what are the historical facts that require an explanation? And, second, what is the best, most plausible, explanation for those facts? What are the facts to consider in relation to the resurrection? First, Jesus died on the cross, a victim of […]

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Did Jesus die to ‘satisfy God’s wrath’?

Four years ago I commented on the well-known hymn (which you might have sung yesterday), ‘In Christ Alone’ by Stuart Townend. This had been prompted by the decision in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to drop the  hymn because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God. The original lyrics say that “on […]

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Do Christians really not believe in the Resurrection?

Peter Ould writes: The recent BBC commissioned poll on belief in the Resurrection of Jesus has attracted a lot of media attention. Gavin Ashenden, the former Queen’s Chaplain, pointed out in a letter to the Times (and subsequent news piece) that belief in the resurrection is a core Christian doctrine. If you don’t believe in the resurrection, […]

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Can feelings lead us to truth?

David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, wrote a curious piece last week on the power of feelings. The piece begins with a straightforward observation about the power of feelings in the debates about Britain’s role in Europe. The Leave/Remain divide operates at different levels. During the campaign there were many arguments and claims made on both […]

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Can all-age worship be cringe-free?

Over Easter, there are likely to be several times in any church where the worship service will include all ages together. Some time ago, I helped to lead an all-age service at St Nic’s, where I am Associate Minister, looking at the story of Jonah. I had some interesting and encouraging feedback from the congregation; one person […]

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Palm Sunday according to Matthew

It is always a relief when we celebrate Palm Sunday from Matthew or Mark’s account. Luke 19.36 in his account talks only the garments, and does not mention palm branches, so in those years we have to call it Garment Sunday (which doesn’t have the same ring about it). In fact it is only John, […]

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Should we be bothered about losing ‘Easter’?

There has been a mighty ruckus about the National Trust and Cadbury’s decision to rename the traditional Easter Egg Hunt on National Trust properties the Cadbury Egg Hunt. Two things are quite striking about this story: first, that it concerns something pretty trivial; and second, that there has been widespread and strong reaction to it.

The National Trust was facing a membership boycott amid a growing backlash over the decision to drop “Easter” from the name of its annual Easter egg hunt. The charity and Cadbury’s faced criticism from all quarters including the Prime Minister, other faith leaders, and members of the Cadbury family over the “frankly ridiculous” decision to rename their annual event. Members said that they were reconsidering their payments to the National Trust as many took to social media to ask the charity how they could cancel their subscriptions.

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How do we give and receive love? (John 13)

The new edition of Scripture Union’s Encounter with God has just been published, and this is the third part of my contribution reflection on John 11–13. Acceptable service (John 13:1–17) Why do we find it so difficult to be served by others? Because it draws unwelcome attention to us? Or because we don’t feel we deserve the attention? […]

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