Are all sins the same?


When particular issues come up for debate, or are the focus of dispute amongst Christians, a question that is commonly lurking in the background—and might make its presence felt explicitly—is ‘why this issue?’ ‘Why are we not talking about all the other things we might debate?’

In some contexts, this can function as ‘whataboutery’, a way of deflecting a proper focus on the question at hand. But there is often a good reason for asking this, since behind this specific question is a broader one of theological importance: are all contested issues of the same importance? Are there some issues which are important to debate, and others where we can quite easily ‘agree to disagree’?

In relation to questions of ethics and Christian conduct the question then becomes: are all sins the same? The moment we ask this question, it becomes clear that Scripture offers two quite distinct answers.

Answer 1: yes, all sins are the same

The first answer is, at one level, ‘yes’, all sins are the same, in that they represent a human turning from the will and intention of God in the way we live our lives. Jesus makes this point emphatically in his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt 5.21–22)

At first sight, to modern ears, this looks ridiculous. How can just being angry with someone be the equivalent to committing murder? Surely the latter is far more serious than the former? We need to notice Jesus’ use of hyperbole and other rhetorical art here—did you spot his threefold examples (angry/‘Raca’/fool)? Jesus is making a rhetorical point against a tendency in his own context to take the teaching of the Torah as applying merely to outward behaviour.

Any modern reader engaging with the instructions of the Old Testament (‘law’ is not quite the right word) is quickly struck by how practical it is—what you can wear, what you should and should not eat, how you can farm—focussing on the outer expression of human life. Jesus is here making a counter point, and he does so from the law itself: what matters as much as our actions is our attitude. ‘Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matt 12.34, Luke 6.45), and it is what comes from within that defiles us (Mark 7.20).

In our culture, some people still focus on outward obedience—but mostly we make the opposite error, claiming that ‘It doesn’t matter what you do, it is what you believe that matters’. Jesus’ teaching here corrects both mistakes—what you believe, and how you act, are inextricably linked. Thoughts give rise to actions, and even if you try to disguise the one with the other, you will never really succeed. God looks on the heart (the intention) as much as God looks on the action.

Other parts of the New Testament teach something similar. James 2.10 says that ‘whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.’ And Paul is emphatic, in the early part of Romans, that the inner life is as important as outer observance: 

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. (Romans 2.28–29)

The point in all this teaching is to emphasise that all have sinned; even the best of us is subject to the power of sin, is far from the holiness of God, and is powerless to change without the new life that God offers us in Jesus by the Spirit. 

Answer 2: no, different sins are different

At the same time there is other teaching that says the opposite. Jesus himself differentiates between the minutiae of obedience to the instructions of Torah, and the ‘weightier matters of the law’ in his criticism of the Pharisees in Matt 23.23:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

But note his response—in line with his teaching earlier in Matthew, he does not say that the details are unimportant, rather, ‘You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.’ These different issues are not the same—but they do all matter. Jesus is a Torah-observant Jew, and when he corrects his opponents, he does so from Torah.

It was a common point of discussion amongst Jews in the first century as to what the most important commandments were. When Jesus is challenged on this, he gives an answer that would not surprise his contemporaries—love God (Deut 6.4), and love your neighbour (Lev 19.18)—reflecting the two ‘tablets’ of the Ten Commandments, the first focussed upward and the second focussed outward. Yet it is striking that Jesus summarises the law from within the law, and in doing so does not allow us to think that the detailed application of these summaries are unimportant. How do we know what it means to love God, to love our neighbour? Well, we need to read the rest of Scripture!

This differentiation reflects the whole shape of God’s teaching of his people. We often find summary statements like these, then more general longer instructions, such as the Ten Commandments, then detailed application of these principle in particular circumstances (such as the details found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). Likewise in Paul’s letters, he often begins his practical teaching with statements of principle, which he then fleshes out in detailed instructions; just have a look at him doing this in Romans 12.

For us as contemporary readers, this means we will need to assess these different levels of commandments in different ways. The ‘higher level’ principles are more likely to apply to us as they are stated—but particular applications, expressed in contextual terms, might well need to be re-expressed in different ways in our own different context. 

How then can we tell the difference?

Both Jesus and Paul continue to single out specific issues as being of distinct importance. Particular judgement is reserved for those who lead ‘these little ones astray’ (Matt 18.6), and he is using this language to refer to vulnerable disciples, not actual children (despite the way this text is often used). Similarly, even though people might find it hard to accept who he is, there is a particular danger for those who have seen Jesus minister in the power of the Holy Spirit and still cannot recognise the power of God in their midst (that is what the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ is about, Matt 12.31–32). 

In his debate with the Corinthians about sexual ethics, Paul notes that ‘those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies’ (1 Cor 6.18). Because God has created us bodily, male and female, because our bodies are not something we have but express who we are, because Jesus gave his body on the cross to redeem our bodies, because our bodies are now the dwelling place of the Spirit, the place of the temple presence of God in the world, and because our hope is that we will be bodily raised on the last day—for all these reasons Paul sees the holiness of our bodies as of particular importance. 

But alongside this emphasis on the body, it is very striking that Paul in other ways refuses to elevate sexual sin above other kinds of offence! In that well-worn list of vices in 1 Cor 6.9–11, Paul places his four mentions of sexual sin in a list of 10 offences (do you recognise that number?! It is no coincidence!), and treats them all equally as things that endanger our inheritance of the kingdom of God if we persist in them. There is no theological reason to pick out any one of these sins and treat it as more important than any other; God’s call to us to live holy lives in the power of the Spirit applies equally to all, and to all areas of our life. 

This double focus—that in one sense sins are different from one another, but in another sense they are all the same—enables us to respond pastorally and spirituality. We recognised the real damage that sin does to people on the one hand—but on the other we recognise that, though ‘all have sinned’, it is also true that all are offered the free gift of new life that is in Jesus Christ (Rom 3.23–24).

The Churches, sex, and marriage

Why then are so many Western churches, including the Church of England, agonising about sex and marriage? Is it a sign that they are obsessed in an unhealthy way? We need to note three things.

First, the initiative here is coming from our culture, and not from the churches themselves. We live in a highly sexualised culture, and Western cultures currently wear this as a badge of honour, claiming that we are uniquely liberated and enlightened compared with other, more traditional, cultures. Particular offence is taken when sections of society, such as Christian churches, challenge that claim. And I have not yet heard anyone, either within the churches or outside them, call for a formal affirmation of the others sins in Paul’s list of ten!

Secondly, in this kind of context, what has always been a distinctive Christian (and Jewish) sexual ethics comes under particular scrutiny. The late E P Sanders, a leading (liberal) New Testament scholar, noted this:

Homosexual activity was a subject on which there was a severe clash between Greco-Roman and Jewish views. Christianity, which accepted many aspects of Greco-Roman culture, in this case accepted the Jewish view so completely that the ways in which most of the people in the Roman Empire regarded homosexuality were obliterated, though now have been recovered by ancient historians…

Diaspora Jews had made sexual immorality and especially homosexual activity a major distinction between themselves and gentiles, and Paul repeated Diaspora Jewish vice lists. (E P Sanders Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought pp 344, 373).

The distinctive sexual ethic that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman is as challenging to our culture as it was in the first century. 

Thirdly, although some claim that this is a secondary issue and not ‘creedal’, that is not in fact the case. This distinctive ethic of sex and marriage springs from belief in God as creator, who made humanity in his image male and female—that is precisely Paul’s argument in Romans 1. According to Paul, rejection of this ethic is a rejection of God’s creation intention, which is in turn a rejection of God as creator. This explains why, as Darrin Syder Belousek highlights: 

The creational-covenant pattern of marriage…is a consensus doctrine of the church catholic. Until the present generation, all Christians everywhere have believed, and every branch of the Christian tradition has taught, that marriage is man-woman monogamy… Marriage, the whole church has always confessed, is not only a monogamous union but also a man-woman union.’ (Marriage, Scripture, and the Church p 52).

This is why the question of sexual ethics is surprisingly closely connected with other core questions around sin and repentance. Thus Jayne Ozanne, as part of her defence of a changed sexual ethic around marriage, seeks to argue that repentance is not a necessary response to God’s invitation to new life in the kingdom—something that I think just about every part of Scripture rejects, and which is clearly contrary to central teaching in the Church of England’s own doctrine and liturgy.

The Reformers agreed with the Roman Catholic Church on the content of the creeds. But they believed that the Church of their day had taken a decisive step away from the authority of Scripture and the teaching of Jesus—enough to make a break with them in order to be faithful to the apostolic inheritance of the early church. Many believe the same is true today.


A shorter version of this was first published on Premier Christianity here.

For a summary of the texts on marriage and same-sex relationships, see my Grove booklet Same-sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts.


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284 thoughts on “Are all sins the same?”

  1. The reason Jayne Ozanne said that is because she doesn’t believe gay sexual relationships are sinful. If there is no sin then there’s no need to repent (of a non-existent sin.) We might not agree, but it is logical.

    Reply
    • It is logical given the premise. But is there no sin? She and a boyfriend once took scripture seriously enough to search it to see how intimate they were permitted to get. She records this in her autobiography Just Love. I did not agree with her conclusion but she clearly acknowledged the authority of scripture. Evidently today she does not, and I am not aware of any writing in which she explains why she has changed or tries to reconcile her present view with scripture.

      Reply
      • This is from Jayne Ozannes article on why she believe that repentance from sin is not a salvation issue. Jayne does not believe same sex marriage is sinful. She is making a case why conservatives can tolerate gay people (who happen to be married) in other churches being blessed.

        “Of course, repentance is important. It is something we do when we are so overwhelmed by love that we want to change, in order to become more like the source of that love. It is not, however, the condition on which our salvation hinges.We see that in Jesus’ act of abundant grace while he was dying on the cross. We know it from his proclamation in John 3:15: “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life”. No caveats. It is simply what God does for us.”

        Reply
        • That quote is theologically wrong. Gospel preaching in the New Testament is not about repentance because you feel the love of God. It is about repentance because you feel the fear of God. THEN you experience God’s wonderful love.

          Reply
          • @ Anton

            Is JO is entirely wrong?

            Repentance in Scripture is metanoia meaning “to change your mind.” Metanoia’s Hebrew counterpart is tshuva, which means “to return.” In order to be saved, we must repent. JO seems to be suggesting this too.

            Your approach is somewhat legalistic; treating repentance as a transaction: I repent and God gives me salvation. Whilst it is true that salvation comes from repenting (turning away) from sin, the Catholic view is more familial than forensic. It’s not a legal transaction. It’s about being joined to God’s family through baptism and – when we have turned away from God through consciously chosen grave sins, being reconciled through the sacrament of confession.

            The Catholic Church teaches there are two types of sorrow for sin. There’s perfect contrition springing from the selfless motive of love of God and sorrow for having offended Him. Then there’s attrition arising from some other motive such as the fear of punishment.

          • You cannot love something you fear. Unless you are in an abusive relationship. Infortunately, some people are in an abusive relationship with what they perceive as God.

          • Penelope: Fear of God is repeatedly commended to *believers* in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 9:31). Yet God is love (1 John 4:16) and we are also told that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Christian growth comes in the effort to reconcile these apparently contradictory scriptures. Default to a fear-only position and you get the view of God that undoubtedly delayed my conversion. Default to a love-only position and you get a sentimental view of God that brushes aside repentance for sin.

          • Anton

            Catholics are taught that “fear of the Lord” is a gift of the Holy Spirit because it perfects our hope of remaining in God’s grace. This fear is caused by love. We fear to lose God by sin, since we love Him, and we have a reverent fear and awe of Him. Catholics call this “filial fear”, because it like the fear of a child who is afraid to offend his father because of their mutual love. It is different from “servile fear”, which is based on punishment.

            Pope Francis captured this in General Audience in June, 2014, when has said:

            [Fear of the Lord] does not mean being afraid of God: we know well that God is Father, that he loves us and wants our salvation, and he always forgives, always; thus, there is no reason to be scared of him! Fear of the Lord, instead, is the gift of the Holy Spirit through whom we are reminded of how small we are before God and of his love and that our good lies in humble, respectful and trusting self-abandonment into his hands. This is fear of the Lord: abandonment in the goodness of our Father who loves us so much.

          • Fear of the Lord is everywhere in the Bible.
            Nor is it mutually exclusive visavis love. Far from it.
            JO’s presentation that repentance is somehow to do with being so overwhelmed with love that we want to change – words fail me. There is no Bible passage at all that gives that impression. We probably don’t want to change at all most of the time – we just know that it is right that we *should* change -and certainly we reap benefits after we do. Her presentation is not even close.

          • Like you I do not accept “Once Saved, Always Saved”, and that seems to be good reason for a holy fear of the Lord. In fact what I find in scripture is “Once backslid, always backslid” although of course there is the question of how far backslid from how committed a position in the first place.

            Fear God and you will never fear man. I came to understand holy fear when I at last found the book that made sense of the Book of Revelation for me, David Pawson’s “When Jesus Returns”. (Pawson explains the differing schools of interpretation and then makes his own way through the Apocalypse; today, 25 years on, I’d query one or two points but I believe he has it mainly right.) For about two months after I had a holy fear of the Lord that left me permanently nearer Him than before.

          • I’m very fnd of learning from Hebrew word studies but this is about the NT which was written in Greek and the word always used is phobos (whence phobia), which corresponds in English to the generally understood meaning of fear.

          • Yes and No, because in the OT one could not interact with God directly without being frazzled whereas in the NT we may by grace know God personally. That makes the matter of fear less analougus, so to avoid misunderstanding I prefer to consider this question specifically from the NT. Which means checking the meaning of the Greek words.

    • She doesn’t believe gay relationships are sinful, but her argument is wider than that. As I follow it, Ozanne takes a somewhat ultra-Protestant view about the centrality of repentance and the necessity of getting it right. She seems to worry that the way some talk about it, as a precise formula where you have to repent of all the right things, sounds too much like salvation by works – i.e. you’re not saved by the grace of God’s love and perfect sacrifice, but because you said the magic words and ticked off all your sins correctly.

      Ozanne’s point is whether being wrong about a sin invalidates your faith in Christ. All Christians today I think would say slavery was a sin. Historically lots of faithful Christians kept slaves and traded slaves. They wouldn’t have repented? Are they all bound for hell and damnation? What about those who disagree about the death penalty? What about those who enforced rules against things which aren’t sins, such as using contraception?

      Reply
  2. Any sin or impure thought is enough to keep you out of heaven, and to those who say God is unfair I ask whether you don’t want heaven to be perfect and to stay that way. On the other hand the penalties for differing sins differ in the Pentateuch. So I agree that the answer is both Yes and No.

    Reply
    • We read in I John 5:16-18: If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that is not a deadly sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not deadly. There is sin which is deadly; I do not say one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly. We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

      These verses are clear that there is such a thing as “deadly sin” and “sin which is not deadly.” Catholics term these as “mortal” (sin unto death) and venial (sin not unto death) sin.

      John also distinguishes the effects of mortal and venial sin. Members of the Body of Christ can pray for someone who commits a sin “which is not deadly” and “life” (the Divine life of God) and healing can be communicated to him through that prayer. When it comes to “deadly sin,” John tells us not to “pray for that.” This is not meant to say we should not pray for a person in this state of sin. Scripture is very clear that we should pray for “all men” (I Tim. 2:1-2). The context seems to indicate that he is referring to praying that God “give [the wounded member of Christ] life” directly through that prayer. Divine life and healing can only come through members of the Body of Christ to other members in a direct way if the person being prayed for is in union with the Body of Christ. For mortal sin, one can only pray that God would grant the grace of repentance to the sinner so that they may be restored to communion with the Body of Christ through the sacrament of confession.

      There are examples of “venial sins” in I John 5:16 and Matt. 5:19. There are multiple lists of deadly or “mortal” sins in various places in Sacred Scripture. Our Lord himself provides us with several of them in Matthew 15:18-20, Revelation 21:8 and 22:15. Paul gives us the rest in Ephesians 5:3-7, Colossians 3:5-6, Galatians 5:19-21, and I Corinthians 6:9-11.

      Die in a condition of deadly sin and one dies separated from God. Die with lesser sin on one’s soul and forgiveness and “purification” is possible after death of the body.

      Reply
    • Anton, the problem with your position that it is not true that once saved, always saved, it casts doubt on the efficacy of Jesus’ death on the cross. If you are at one point in time saved by God, yet later on He undoes your salvation, what exactly did the cross achieve? Clearly not forgiveness of all sin. It also raises the question why did God bother to save you in the first place given He knew he was going to remove that salvation a few years later? Very odd.

      The OT sacrifices were temporary and supposed to point the way to the cross when God Himself would deal with our sin, supposedly permanently, but according to you the cross’s effect can also be temporary. What then is the difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and that of a goat?

      Such a position seems to me to actually place the responsibility of our salvation completely on ourselves rather than God, specifically Jesus’ death and resurrection.

      It also removes any sense of security in God’s salvation because in the last analysis, it completely depends on us rather than God.

      I just cant get my head around such an understanding.

      Peter

      Reply
      • The Cross gives us back our freedom not to sin. We can still abuse that freedom and spit in God’s face.

        The New Testament is full of warnings about failure to reach your destination. The failure of most of the Israelites who left Egypt to reach the Promised Land is used as a warning in 1 Corinthians 10 and Hebrews 4. The apostle Paul, writing in the Greek world with its fervour for athletics, often compares life to a race, and what counts in a race is how you cross the line, meaning your faith at your death. That faith is what you carry over; how could people who have fallen away enter heaven as nonbelievers? Just after using the athlete analogy, Paul suggests that he himself might lose salvation: “I discipline my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Further warnings are found in parables of shoddy servants and unready bridesmaids (Matthew 25). Again, why bother if believers are ‘once saved, always saved’? Nowhere in scripture is there an explicit statement of this claim. Of the believer who overcomes in his trials, Jesus says in Revelation 3:5, that “I will never blot his name from the book of life,” suggesting that other names can be blotted out (or why not give a positive word of encouragement, rather than a divine promise not to do something negative?) The blotted-out would at one time be saved but later be unsaved, and to find out who such people are, the parable of the sower offers clues (Luke 8:4-15).

        Paul exhorts gentile members of the congregation at Rome to “consider the goodness of God to you, provided that you continue in his goodness; otherwise you will be cut off” (Romans 11:22). In this passage Paul is making a point about relations between Jewish and gentile believers, but those words disprove the universality of “once saved, always saved”. Peter says of certain people that “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (see 2 Peter 2:20-22). Hebrews 6:4-6 says that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance”. Only believers – the saved – share in the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 10:26-29 also warns that fire lies ahead “if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth – then there is only expectation of judgement and raging fire…how much more severely does someone deserve to be punished who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that has sanctified them…?” Anybody who has experienced sanctification must have been a believer. The entire Letter to the Hebrews is a sermon against “once saved, always saved”, because it is warning ethnic Jewish believers who were coming under persecution for their faith in Christ that they must not revert to Judaism (which was not a persecuted religion in the Roman Empire at that time).

        James (5:19-20) states that saving a believer from serious error saves him from death. James means, clearly, the second death, which is hell (Revelation 21:8). The Greek verb tenses used in the New Testament denote more often a continuing action than conventional English translations indicate; for example, ‘we who are [being] saved’ and ‘we who [continue to] believe’. So the assurances made in scripture are to continuing believers. To settle whether they apply to persons who once believed but now do not, the verses above are relevant.

        Matthew 7:21-3 warns that some people who exorcise demons in Jesus’ name will not be found in the New Jerusalem. For that destination it is necessary to have the Holy Spirit; when the sons of Sceva attempted exorcism using Jesus’ name but without the Holy Spirit, they were taught a painful lesson (Acts 19). From Matthew’s passage it follows that some people who have been given the Holy Spirit – that is, believers – will end up in hell. They constitute further counter-examples to “once saved, always saved”.

        Proponents of “Once saved, always saved” quote scriptures such as “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). But who is “you”? The faithful; but what if someone ceases to be faithful? There is also Paul’s rhetorical question, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35-39), in which it is followed by a list of things that cannot separate us. But we can separate ourselves from God. Proponents also point to John 10:27-28: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus is affirming that no third party – Satan or anyone else – can cut them out of the flock; but we are capable of leaving the flock of our own accord. Paul says often that believers are slaves of Christ, but even a slave can disobey if he is prepared to take the consequences; a slave is not a robot. As for Jesus’ words to some Pharisees, “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever” (John 8:35), He next states that believers are set free from slavery to sin, but he does not speak of the sonship of believers in this passage, only of his own sonship. Believers are granted the right to become sons of God (John 1:12), but if they prefer to lapse into a life of sin then they are free not to exercise it.

        Reply
        • My sheep hear my voice – actually Jesus is emphasizing they are completely safe with Him. According to you, you can be one of Jesus’ sheep one day and then not one of His sheep the next. Not what I would call a Good Shephard. And remember how He said He goes after even just one sheep who goes astray.

          And why should the quality of your faith on your death bed be all important?

          Paul made it clear that there is no boasting regarding salvation. But in your understanding there is because it completely depends on you the individual, and you alone.

          Reply
          • PC1 – yes – as I’ve said before, your understanding of these things is very close to my own – the closest of all those who post here. I sometimes get the impression that Anton sounds very much like Saul of Tarsus before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.

          • Please use logic to derive your final sentence from “once saved, always saved” and do not miss out any intermediate steps.

            We are indeed completely safe with Jesus – if we want to be. But if we tell him to, er, Go Away then He will respect our wishes.

            You ask about the quality of your faith on your death bed? I’d have thought the episode of the dying thief on the other cross settled that, but in more detail there is Hebrews 9:27 stating that man lives once and is then judged (Hebrews 9:27), coupled with Paul’s comparison of life to a race. What counts in a race is how you cross the line, meaning your faith at your death. Just after using the athlete analogy, Paul suggests that he himself might lose salvation: “I discipline my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

            If by grace of God you make it to heaven then yo are there eternally, in regard to your shorter comment.

          • Jock: people resort to insult when they run out of arguments. Once Saved Always Saved is very dear to some evangelicals and it makes me wonder what they are refusing to repent of.

          • PCI

            God’s eternal foreknowledge of who will finally be saved takes place “out of time”. He takes into account our response to His freely offered grace and our earthly struggles to overcome sin. Our initial justification can be lost through grave sin, but recovered through repentance and God’s mercy. The free gift of salvation can be just as freely forfeited through stubborn, persistent, culpable sin.

            Scripture speaks of salvation as a past-tense event – Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” It also speaks of salvation as a present-tense event: – Philippians 2:12, we “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And then as a a future-tense event – Romans 13:11, “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

            In John’s Gospel, Christ tells the apostles at the Last Supper to remain in his love. He adds that if we keep his commandments we will remain in his love. But he who does not remain in his love is “cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6). If salvation was certain, why would Jesus tell us to remain in his love?

          • Anton – no insult intended – that (unfortunately) is the way you come across to me. Saul of Tarsus, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, was absolutely rigorous about The Law – and the vital importance of adherence to The Law to get into heaven. and in matters pertaining to God’s law, what was righteous in God’s eyes and the seriousness of sin, he was right (just as you seem to be much of the time). This actually is the tone that comes across (at least to me) in your comments – that you are where Saul was before his conversion on the road to Damascus.

            He refused point blank to accept the necessity of Christ as Mediator; I think there would be absolutely nothing of his understanding of ‘the wretched man’ of Romans 7:14-25 (written in the present tense – describing his mature reflection of the struggles with sin of someone who had reached Christian maturity).

            As I pointed out below, nobody is fully aware of their own sin – we all have egos which blind us to the extent of our own sinfulness – and that includes believers. Such blindness is always a moral issue and never an intellectual issue. Any true understanding of repentance and what it is has to take this into account.

          • Jock: The insult is the fact that you chose to air your view of how I come across. There is no compromise of truth involved in keeping your opinion to yourself, is there?

        • While most here agree that we are saved by grace through faith, it’s clear that there are misunderstandings about the faith that is described in scripture (Heb. 11:6) through which man can be “once saved, always saved.”

          To clarify Paul’s analogy of the Red Sea crossing (1 Cor. 10:1 – 5) refers to the demise of the majority of those who were saved from Egypt, but with whom “God was not pleased”.

          However, (as Heb. 11:6 indicates) God’s displeasure was aroused by their lack of faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

          So, those who died in the wilderness decided that, despite the promise of eventual reward (Ex. 3:16 – 17), the cost of earnestly- seeking God did not outweigh ”the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Heb. 11:25)

          Therefore, according to the scriptural definition of faith, they may have been saved from Egypt, lacked the saving faith that would reap the reward of the Promised Land.

          In his Exodus analogy, the writer of Hebrews is clear that the Israelites experienced the reliability of God’s promises, but, when their perseverance (i.e., to ‘earnestly seek God’) was tested, they lacked any conviction that any endurance of hardship (that earnestly seeking entails) would be outweighed by the ultimate reward of God Himself (Heb. 4:2).

          According to Heb. 3, they saw God’s supernatural works of deliverance for over 40 years, yet their waywardness evidenced a persistent lack of faith. (Heb. 3:7 – 11).

          With reference to your scripture quotes, I mention these analogies because: “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:1)

          So, while the Israelites, who were under the cloud of God’s glory at Sinai (Ex. 24:16) and who crossed through the parted Red Sea with Moses (Ex. 14:29 – 31) may well have earnestly sought to escape adversity of Egypt and to secure providence, they did not see any reward in “earnestly seeking” God Himself. The latter is part and parcel of “saving faith”.

          In summary, experience of the Israelites who died in the wilderness, especially the rebellion at Meribah (Ex. 17; Num. 20), is the OT analogy of Heb. 6:4 – 6.

          The fact that their judgment resulted from God’s displeasure with them means that you can no more apply the Heb. 11:6 definition of faith to them, than to those described in Heb. 6:4 – 6.

          They may have earnestly sought deliverance from adversity, including, in certain situations, the remorse and sense of impending doom that weighed on their consciences. This was the reason that, even before the Meribah incident, the Israelite who rebelled asked Moses to intercede with God on their behalf.

          However, apostasy demonstrates a lack of the faith that is described in scripture (Heb. 11:6) through which we are “once saved, always saved.” Apostates may have faith for something from Christ (1 Cor. 13:2), but not faith in Christ Himself.

          Reply
          • Are we puppets rather than people?

            This is the free will paradox and there is no simple answer. But to “once saved always saved?” there is a simple answer: No. Nobody has yet atempted to dismiss the plurality of very specific verses against it that I have written out in my long post.

          • Welcome to my world Anton…

            For me the “once saved, always saved” doctrine is problematic because it’s tied up with much more sinister ideas in Calvinism, such as limited atonement and irresistible grace. Once you start to say God has a predetermined group he wants to save (and it’s not everyone), and that their salvation is entirely down to him choosing to apply his grace and overcome any resistance to the Gospel, then as tight as the internal logic may be it doesn’t square with a just God who loves the world. If God really were this manipulative, and our free will so illusory, then why wouldn’t God save all mankind? If the Gospel begins, as I think it must, with God’s grace and love for the world (creation was itself an act of love) then these doctrines become very questionable very quickly. They also stand in contrast to the healing of the woman with the discharge of blood in Mark 5 – Jesus walks through the crowd, she reaches out and touches his hem, and is healed. Jesus feels the power go from him and demands to know who touched him. That to my mind, is much more consistent with a view of God’s grace being poured out and available to world (who may or may not reach out and pick it up), rather than a thing which God chooses to dispense and withhold irresistibly.

    • Is is your view that faithful Christians live sinless lives? Or are you arguing that we need to have confessed all our sins, correctly and completely, before we die (making last rites extremely important)?

      Reply
  3. Well this is as good a presentation of the background against which to judge the revisionist case for crossing the boundary around which God placed human sexual expression as I have ever seen or heard. And of course it represents exactly the theological thinking which Church of England bishops needed to explore long ago before the appointment shenanigans and faux arguments captured enough of the church’s political decision makers to land us in the current heretical disaster. Their collective failure in this regard has been shocking.

    If only evangelicals and other likeminded people had shunned the slippery LLF project completely and instead presented, with conviction and energy, this kind of simple yet cast iron biblical case for upholding the church’s doctrine, things might have turned out differently.

    It may be said that a combination of legal realities and voting numbers in General Synod still represent an absolute block against formal doctrinal change. That may well be true (for now) but process alone cannot produce repentance, and there’s more than enough evidence currently in the secular world that even legal processes are far more open to corruption than we are led to believe.

    I cannot see how a church split by two fundamentally divided spirits can survive in a spiritually healthy state. In any event the coherence of our national witness would now seem to be hopelessly damaged. But God remains sovereign. We shall see what happens.

    Reply
    • Don

      Ultimately the problem that all gay Christians run into is “how do you repent from something that you cannot change about yourself and that God refuses to change?”

      You can settle for lifelong singleness and being lesser than lesser than the least or try a mixed orientation marriage, but in the vast majority of cases these lead to really bad fruit that cannot be ignored. And despite a decade of promises from the church of “support groups”, ” covenant friendships” and “zero tolerance” of homophobia, single gay people in the church aren’t accepted any more than gay married people

      Reply
      • how do you repent from something that you cannot change about yourself and that God refuses to change?

        Plenty of married men feel temptation to adultery to the end of their lives, but God gives them power to resist the lusts of their flesh – if they are prepared to use that power. As for “refuses to change”, I accept this is the case for many people, but “has not changed so far” is more accurate. Some now seek to make it illegal to assist in such change, which is truly shocking.

        Reply
          • Anton

            Its not an analogy though. People who commit adultery choose to do so and are choosing to hurt one or more of their closest family members, often destroying one or more families.

            Gay people often get quite upset when you compare us with such things.

            Its like saying whiteness is analogous to child abuse and then getting irritated when the white person disagrees

          • Anton

            Please take my comment starting “Ultimately the problem…” as a whole. I did actually cover singleness and abstaining from sex!

          • “People who commit adultery choose to do so”.

            Well, perhaps, you should read the following article which examined the relationship between dopamine D4 receptor gene variation (DRD4) and imfidelity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2994774/.

            The report concludes: “These results are the first evidence (to our knowledge) of a significant association between a specific genetic locus and both promiscuous sexual behavior and infidelity.”

            So, there you have it! Hard evidence that a person can be genetically predisposed to promiscuity and infidelity, rather than choosing to be unfaithful.

            So, while, as a black person, I understand that the analogy between race and behaviour is wrong, why should those who act upon their same-sex attraction should be exonerated on account of not choosing SSA any more than those who act upon their genetic predisposition to be unfaithful.

        • No, Anton, believing what you would have us believe requires gay people to see their natural desires for intimacy, companionship etc. as an inclination towards evil; not just a horrible act, like adultery.

          It’s all but impossible to see G-d as loving in this position; he’s more akin to a sadist who’d maim his dog then calls on him to run back to him.

          You’re comparing our ability to love someone, what is best in us, to adultery, what is worst in you.

          Reply
          • Lorenzo

            Must love of a person, friendship, and companionship be sexually expressed? This is the core issue – that same-sex attraction tends to seek fulfilment in sexual acts which fall short of the procreative meaning and purpose of human sexuality as given by God and ordered to God’s creative purpose.

            We’ve all become hooked on a Freudian anthropology where it’s assumed that the ultimate motive behind all human action is the desire for pleasure, most especially sexual pleasure.

          • No, it mustn’t be, but it can, innocently. I don’t share the Roman Catholic view that all sex should be open to procreation.

          • HJ

            Gay people who have tried to have non sexual relationships have also been denounced by conservative Christians.

            The cofe currently permits civil partnerships for its priests as long as they are not sexual. Yet I think its fair to say these are not accepted by the conservative wing of the church.

            And there is still a sizeable subset of conservatives in the cofe who are still arguing that nobody is truly gay, we are just people who somehow got addicted or had an overbearing mother or an absent father or lived too long in the city or were raised in the country or whatever the latest excuse is.

          • How true, Peter, I’m in a civil partnership. I abstain from sex because, ultimately, it’s an attachment to a created reality that will have no place in the Kingdom (just like straight sex won’t). But I would never ask such continence of anyone else from the get go. It’s just impossible. And yes, evangelicals will shun you anyway, as will conservative catholics. Christians who think that some brands of sex can be holy, usually theirs, whereas others’ is a sin that will sever them from G-d’s grace are deluded. And quite usually homophobic.

          • Christians who think that some brands of sex can be holy, usually theirs, whereas others’ is a sin that will sever them from G-d’s grace are deluded.

            As a blanket statement that is simply wrong. What about sex between a man and woman who are married to each other and have never been married to anybody else, contrasted with adultery? And adultery is not the only capital sexual sin in the Pentateuch.

          • I disagree. It is perfectly natural and good for humans to want intimacy and companionship. But that doesnt inevitably lead to sexual relations. Jesus didnt have sexual relations, and He is supposed to be our example.

            Your analogy to a maimed dog seems to imply you believe God created a person as gay. But many would dispute that.

            God is not a sadist, even if we get frustrated with Him sometimes. The Father loves gay people, and wants to adopt them as His own.

          • PC1

            If lots of straight Christians were remaining deliberately single then it would be easier for gay Christians to be single in the church. There would be a structure for single people and the gay Christian would not be so singled out and confrontation and abuse would be less likely. But singleness has become a punishment for being gay and is in itself a social snub in churches.

            Its not particularly the requirement to remain single that’s the problem. Its the treating gay people worse than everybody else that’s the problem

          • Peter, there used to be monasticism (for better or worse!)

            Its not particularly the requirement to remain single that’s the problem. Its the treating gay people worse than everybody else that’s the problem

            Where that happens it is deplorable. But the celibate same-sex-attracted Christian movement represented in print by eg David Bennett, Vaughan Roberts and Sam Allberry would not agree about what the problem is. Allberry complained of persecution by liberal theologians for his views at one CoE Synod (15/2/2017).

          • Anton

            There still is monasticism, but a monastry wouldn’t accept “I’m gay” as a sufficient basis to enter monastic life and it still would not mean acceptance or tolerance by the church…more like exile!

          • Peter,

            You wrote: “If lots of straight Christians were remaining deliberately single then it would be easier for gay Christians to be single in the church.” I made clear that lots of straight Christians did remain deliberately single in the past, ie monks, and you affirmed that monsticism is far from dead. So your IF is by your own admission fulfilled. Nowhere did I suggest that you become a monk.

          • “there used to be monasticism”

            Used to be – that seems important. We did away with a general encouragement towards lifelong celibacy several centuries ago, and no-one it seems is trying to bring it back.

            It’s also a misleading comparison in this case. Monks in holy orders voluntarily choose to make their vows (there is no instruction or compulsion). Monasteries won’t accept you until you’re in your 20s at least. They have a long period of discernment to determine you’re maturity, stability, and suitability for what’s involved. Monks share their vows, living communally, to support each other. And the celibacy of monks has a clear purpose, to enable a life of prayer and devotion set aside from wider society. Hence, in Issues in Human Sexuality the Bishops made the point that singleness and celibacy are distinct: celibacy has to be freely and deliberately chosen “in order to devote oneself completely to God and his concerns”.

            None of this applies to a rule of celibacy imposed on gay people. It is not voluntary, it is imposed. The vows are, in effect, made on your behalf. There is no discernment, it is a rule. Far from being something to be carefully considered at maturity, it is imposed for life from 16. There is no question of suitability or not: it’s a rule for all gay people regardless of who they are. It’s imposed secretly, not openly, and there is no suggestion of making common cause with other gay Christians (let alone living together). And unlike a real monastic order the celibacy rule for gay people is literally pointless. If anything there’s a wariness to gay people, even if celibate, taking any sort of prominent role in the Church.

          • Anton

            I’m saying monks and nuns are not ordinary single people in the church. They are people who are outside of normal parish churches.

        • 1) God did not give them the power to resist the lists of their flesh. He gave them marriage.

          2) The notion that lifelong celibacy is analogous to avoiding adultery whilst married is as absurd as saying atheism is just one small step on from monotheism (this is the daft Ricky Gervais line – we’ve all rejected the idea that Osiris, Zeus, and Thor are real Gods, he’s just added one more to the list)

          Reply
          • I am talking specifically about Christians, who *are* given power to resist the lusts of the flesh. Paul recommends believers in Corinth not to marry in 1 Cor 7.

          • You were talking specifically about married men.

            Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says it is good to stay unmarried, but he is at pains to make sure that it is not taken as an instruction: ” it is better to marry, than burn with passion”.

          • Far be it from me to disagree with St Paul! But Jesus in Matt 18 comes to mind if the object of the lust to which the members of your body pulls you is something forbidden in scripture.

          • Various verses of St Paul – let me know if you want them – all of which relate to this from Leviticus: “Do not lie with another man as with a woman” i.e. for sexual gratification; the reason being that it is viewed as toevah. God does not change his mind.

          • Anton

            Leviticus doesn’t say who that command is addressed to. I think we can all agree that it isn’t for everyone, because I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest it is claiming that a woman having sex with a man is a sin.

            It needs to be read in the proper context and considered with the whole canon of scripture.

      • Why on earth is singleness “being lesser than lesser than the least”? Jesus, living the most completely human life ever lived was single.

        I guess it does seem that way in a culture which worships at the altar of Eros. But that is idolatory. Healthy cultures recognise the value of a much wider range of personal relationships. It is our sick culture that cannot see beyond sexual relationships.

        Reply
        • David

          Being gay in (conservative) churches is what I was referring to, not being single. Being “welcome to attend”, but never fully accepted

          Reply
          • I don’t think my orthodox gay friends have any sense at all that I do not fully accept them.

            What I do not fully accept is the idea that you cannot be a full human without acting on your sexual desires.

          • Ian

            That was not my experience and I know a lot of other people, both through personal interaction, and by reading their accounts, have said otherwise. Often experiences are better amongst leaders. There’s almost no cost to abusing congregants, but there can be with church leaders

            I know of someone who was removed from all rotas because they publicly admitted to being gay, not because they had sex.

            I know of someone who was removed from the worship band because he started dating another man, again not because he had sex, while straight men who were having sex with their girlfriends were allowed to remain.

            I know of someone who was required to undergo an exorcism in order to be allowed to continue to work with young people in the church, not because he had had sex, just because he was gay.

            These things all happened fairly recently and all in cofe churches.

          • P Jermey, the reason he would have been removed from the rotas would have been for seeing as a fixed and unalterable state something which clearly was not even present at the most blueprint stages of the person’s life – and could so easily have entered at the most confused stage too.

          • Christopher

            Thank you. You have proved my point to Ian. Your problem isn’t just with sexual activity. You see being gay as bad in itself, not a morally neutral aspect of human diversity?

          • Ian

            I have just seen this story in the news

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-67716140.amp?fbclid=IwAR2FrZZfu2UuVdIfepjFCGtJkj8fgMNnVmFjYfHg5pzWt6BN73GR8QeY6Ts#amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&aoh=17028165299091&csi=0&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com

            It’s yet another experience that the senior leadership doesn’t want to hear. Yes 20 years ago, but nothing has been done to stop these abuses. Indeed, although the bishops have denounced conversion therapy, there’s still a significant powerful church lobby against government making this treatment of people illegal…in this case a teenager.

            Where are the people who did this to him now? Will the bishop of Sheffield care enough even to check the same people aren’t abusing teenagers in another parish?

          • The idea that it should be illegal is disgracefully illiberal. That there has been and still is bad conversion therapy is not the point. I am not unfamiliar with the world of counselling and psychotherapy and, while the best practitioners are wonderful, I consider an alarming fraction of them to be crackpots whom I would not touch in relation to any issue.
            Someone seeks freedom from unwanted desires and you want to say “Tough, you’re gay.” That seems to me the opposite of compassion. Just warn them that there is no guarantee of success.

          • Anton

            There are zero examples of conversion therapy that aren’t abusive. It doesn’t work. It deliberately causes harm

          • Zero? In the entire world? There are entire websites devoted to testimonies of people who call themselves ex-gay. Some are celibate, many are married (meaning to someone of the opposite sex) and it didn’t happen by solitary prayer, but with help.

            https://changedmovement.com

            Whether or not you prefer to categorise them as celibate gay and latent bisexual respectively, it is wicked to try to outlaw the help they received.

          • Diversity?
            You have not thought this one through, clearly, Peter. Is it not obvious that diversity is morally irrelevant? Some examples: Children get a diversity of marks in the maths test but they are not all equally good. People are of a diversity of characters, some better than others. You clearly think that diversity goes together with equality. The above examples show that that idea is not only false but obviously false. Explain why it would go together with equality. Sometimes it does. Often it doesn’t. But never, never can it be simply assumed that it does.

            As for being ‘bad’ – there are different kinds of bad of which moral is only one. It is bad (and also an aspect of diversity) if I am more clumsy than others, but it is in no way either admirable or something that I should be blamed for.

            You are requiring that I think it is equally good to be out of harmony with your body and its design as to be in harmony with it? Come on!

          • Anton

            If I were a betting man I would bet you could not find even one person claiming that conversion therapy had worked for them, that is that they were exclusively attracted to the same sex, underwent exorcism or some other wackadoodle treatment, and are now exclusively attracted to the opposite sex.

            Most have simply agreed to relable their situation in order to be accepted by their community. There are one or two who do claim to be attracted to the opposite sex, but none of these claim conversion therapy got them there.

            During covid there was a great and genuine worry that some of the vaccines were causing a tiny number of people to develop blood clots and, as a result, restrictions were put on them, even though they helped more people than they harmed.

            Even if you were able to show that conversion therapy worked on 1% of cases then it would still be far more dangerous than the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. And the reality is that it works on 0% of cases, not 1%

          • Define ‘conversion therapy’. you cannot possibly be unaware of the points that have been made hundreds of times:
            (1) you are not speaking about one unified thing here;
            (2) intelligent people would be less vague about what they were talking about; scrupulous people would take care to share their definition;
            (3) much of what is specified by this term does not happen;
            (4) much else is illegal;
            (5) much else is harmless and consensual;
            (6) not a great deal is left when you extract (3), (4), (5).

            The reality is that it works in 0% of cases?
            Reality means that you have accurate knowledge.
            That means you have personally assessed every single instance.
            Yes.

            They are so desperate that the two main studies they cite (Turban, Blosnich) are ones that show *lifetime* suicidality rates. Not at all specifying to what extents the said suicidality postdated or predated the so-called CT.

            It is telling that on the 5 occasions I have challenged Jonathan Tallon on this key ‘lifetime’ point, he has been silent. But he remains free to respond at any time.

            Paul Sullins of the Ruth Institute has also very recently picked up on this same point.

          • You need to remember that Christopher Shell’s ideas about conversion therapy are more like reprogramming. They involve showing a person disgusting images and distorted facts until the person feels absolutely repulsed by the idea of what gay sex (and note it’s only about male/male sex) *might* do in the most extreme of circumstances. The fact that straight sex could just as easily do the same never seems to occur to the people who practice this stuff.

          • Christopher

            I’m not out of harmony with my body. But thank you for your concern.

            I agree that there are good points and bad points to being both gay and straight. That wasn’t my point.

          • Christopher

            Conversion therapy is any attempt to change someone’s orientation. Half of cases are carried out on under 18s without their consent. Doctors agree that it can be harmful. There are no known successful attempts. There are endless examples of it causing serious harm. I think electrocution is rare, but exorcism and ritual shaming are still quite common.

        • It’s not just singleness by choice for the sake of the kingdom of G-d. It’s being required to see your desire for intimacy as fundamentally twisted, to consider what is best in other: their faithfulness, commitment, gift of self, as in your case perverted.

          Reply
          • No, not twisted, but misdirected.

            The qualities of faithfulness, gift of self, and commitment can be found in friendships.

            The difference is whether this is sexual or not. By definition, sexual desire arises from the biological sex difference between male and female. So when this sexual desire is directed to the same-sex, not the other sex, then it is directed to the wrong place.

          • What are you saying Ian? That there’s no such thing as gay sexual desire (by definition)? If it’s “misdirected” rather than twisted, are you trying to infer that we could direct it differently?

          • No, I am just pointed out a basic biological reality.

            Sexual desire only arises because we are sex binary. So its natural direction is to the other sex.

          • There you go AJ and Peter and others. You are unnatural according to Ian. I wonder how that feels….
            It does make me wonder why God didn’t create everybody as a conservative evangelical

          • It’s exactly what you said,

            “its natural direction is to the other sex.”

            So it has to follow that it is unnatural if it is directed to the same sex. If you didn’t mean that, what did you mean?

          • Yes, the desire is indeed ‘unnatural’, both in the sense of being misdirected biologically, and in the Pauline sense of being counter to God’s creation intention.

            I didn’t say ‘This person is unnatural’.

          • If the person is doing something unnatural then they are unnatural. You can’t dress that up any other way and it isn’t twisting your words.

          • Nonsense. I am not claiming that at all. It is you who are doing so.
            You are claiming that someone – as part of their being, because we are sexual creatures by nature – is doing something that is unnatural. You can’t separate who someone is by nature from what they do by nature. That goes against ontology.

          • Andrew, according to your ontology, if someone is a kleptomaniac, it is ‘natural’ for them to steal. If they are an alcoholic, it is ‘natural’ for them to drink to excess.

            This desire-reductionism view of humanity is not a credible anthropology, nor is it biblical. But you are helpfully highlighting why sex-desire identity ideology is so incoherent.

          • Yes, those things are natural to them. If they didn’t come naturally they wouldn’t do them.
            The question is which things that are part of our nature harm ourselves or others. That was the primary question for Jesus. Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. That was his anthropology.

          • You are using ‘natural’ in a very strange way.

            And no, Jesus was not a reductionist situation ethicist in your mould. He was concerned, as with all the writers of scripture, about how God has created us, and his intention for us. That is why, on marriage, he goes back to the male-female binary.

            It is so odd that you find it easy to project your own ethic on the gospels, thus silencing Jesus the first-century Jew.

          • Ian, you are fearful of homosexual acts and homosexual people. Every comment you make betrays that fear. And it influences everything you write about the ethics of the matter.

          • What absolute tosh! I think it is hilarious that, when you run out of actual argument, you are reduced to this kind of pop psychology!

            What I do fear is the desperate ignorance of Scripture, reality, and God’s call on our lives which is so widespread in the C of E, and will herald its demise.

          • Ian

            You know this is nonsense. You can say you believe that same-sex desire is misdirected, but not that it is *by definition* not sexual desire. Ask any gay person. Ask your celibate friends. I am sure they will tell you that they experience sexual desire even if they suppress it.

          • “What I do fear is the desperate ignorance of Scripture, reality, and God’s call on our lives which is so widespread in the C of E, and will herald its demise.’

            Ian I think this is something on which we can wholeheartedly agree. The kingdom is never going to come by stupid bickering.
            The CofE is in very serious demise and has been for the last several decades. This has nothing to do with liberalism. And whilst some conservative and hard line churches are growing that is by no means true of all. And if all it took was that to grow the church then there is enough of that kind of Christian religion around in this country to ensure that the church should be growing exponentially and it just is not doing so. That is not the answer.

            Three things attract new believers to churches. One is holiness. One is sufficient humanity to be grounded. And one is humility. All that adds up to enough integrity and a lack of hypocrisy. It’s simply being Christlike. Those things are necessary in leaders and people alike. And there is not enough of that to grow the church. And there is enough of the opposite of all of that to cause its demise. Nothing to do with attitudes to same sex relationships or women in ministry or any other cause over which we have become so fixated over the last decades.

            And of course the safeguarding scandal is because of a lack of holiness, a lack of true humanity and a lack of humility. And they add up to a complete lack of integrity and a very hypocritical organisation. And that empties churches.

            I think the CofE is unsustainable in its present form. We need a root and branch reorganisation. And if we don’t face that now the CofE will be gone within 50 years or less. The stuff we have been fighting about on here is a side show. It’s much easier to fight about that than the huge questions that we continue to avoid.

          • Thanks for this interesting and non-polemical comment. At one level, there is much that I would agree with here. But I think I would want to push back on some other things.

            ‘The CofE is in very serious demise and has been for the last several decades. This has nothing to do with liberalism’. I am afraid the evidence is that it has everything to do with liberalism, in at least two ways. First, there is a universalism deep in the C of E which says ‘People don’t really need to do anything to be ‘saved”. Many of these churches have no interest in evangelism or seeing people come to faith—which is unsurprising and quite logical. Second, research shows consistently that it is churches which are culturally and theologically distinct from a post-christian culture which either grow or at least resist decline. David Goodhew is good on this.

            Secondly, I hope you are aware that, overall, the church in England is not in decline. The C of E is, and now represents about 18% of churchgoers. So have you ever asked which churches are growing? And what do they have in common?

            Thirdly, I agree entirely with you that it is holiness, humility, and integrity that people like. That is why they are completely unconvinced by a church whose (sexual) mores simply marches in step with the secular world. And when clergy, including bishops, take solemn oaths saying ‘I believe the doctrine of the Church, and will teach and expound it’ and then it turns out that they do not, people do not like that hypocrisy.

            The main reason why the C of E is in decline is that people do not know the scriptures, they do not know the doctrine of their own church, they are not concerned with evangelism, and they are not invitational.

            So, Andrew, within the C of E, where do we see churches committed to scripture, to teaching, to outreach, and to invitation? These are the places we will see growth. All the others will die.

          • You have engaged in rather too much point scoring there Ian I’m afraid. There is a lot to say in response but I don’t wish to engage with the combative approach. Thanks.

      • Just for the record, Peter, I was using the word ‘repentance’ in respect of the bishops who have failed to defend and teach the doctrine which they had all promised to do. I certainly don’t expect anyone to repent of something which might be an inherited condition or the result of uninvited or even unwelcome circumstances. These things are obviously complex beyond our complete understanding but for Christians the essential issue is how to handle them in according to what we discover to be the mind and will of God. Such discovery may present a less than welcome cost – one which cannot be avoided.

        We human beings are not machines: we are driven by powerful emotions and bodily instincts which arise both from within ourselves and from external pressures. Whether introvert or extrovert, we fear loneliness, gravitate to social engagement, seek intimacy, in different ways and with varying degrees of intensity. Most of us instinctively prefer to be normal, to belong, and to be accepted. But life doesn’t always play ball. Whatever we’ve inherited, and whatever life’s chance encounters, will play a big part in the lives we end up living. Some Christians will sail through, fit in, and be widely affirmed; others may find that living the Christian life is endlessly stressful. Christians – not least those of us who are evangelicals – regularly attach their own necessities to acceptable Christian living which actually miss the point about what being a true child of God really means; in so doing they may be unnecessarily coercive without even realising it.

        But in all of this, it’s faithfulness to God as individuals which I think he asks of us. I don’t downplay the cost such a thing may entail – and I’m sure that kind of cost is not fairly distributed as we might hope. However, the eternal context must surely trump our temporary troubles and injustices (as we perceive them); because the amazing chance of life for eternity with God is surely enough to drive us to strategies and determination to win that prize (as St Paul would say) at any temporary cost to ourselves – however unfair it might feel in the short term.

        Reply
        • Don

          All Christians have the choice to be kind or mean and have the choice to protect or abuse.

          Gay Christians do not have the choice to be straight.

          So I agree with you, its church leaders who need to repent here, not gay people

          Reply
    • It is deceitful for the church to take new actions which imply changed doctrine while denying that doctrine has changed, and with regret I accuse Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally of deceit. They presumably hope that once these prayers have been used long enough, evangelicals will have got used to them and a doctrine change can then be slipped in. Never.

      Will provocateur gay couples living in a parish with an evangelical vicar seek to sue him for refusing them these prayers? If so, in which courts? Can the vicar protect himself if these people are not regular Communicants? If anybody with a good knowledge of canon law can answer these questions I would be very grateful. I also hope to see legal action which forces the publication of the legal advice received by the bishops.

      I would not be surprised if Justin Welby resigns saying 10 years is long enough. Justin time?

      Reply
      • “Will provocateur gay couples living in a parish with an evangelical vicar seek to sue him for refusing them these prayers?”

        I can’t say with 100% certainty that this could not happen, but there are a number of reasons why this is vanishingly unlikely.
        1. You assume there are such things as ‘provocateur gay couples’. I have yet to meet such people. I know there are people you could describe as ‘provocateur gay activists’, who may use demonstrations to make a point. But couples? Who want to use their most important and significant relationship to make a point? I have never met or heard of such people. Whence do you get the idea that such people exist, and is there any evidence that they exist? I would like to see it.
        2. Further to that, you assume that there are ‘provocateur gay couples’ in existence who are so bothered about the church that they are lying in wait to spring upon unsuspecting evangelical vicars. This is a further level of implausibility. In the course of a long life inside the Church of England and many years of rattling around the CofE LGBT world I am telling you now, these particular ‘provaocateur’ couples simply do not exist. The vast majority of gay couples are as indifferent to the life and machinations of the Church of England as the vast majority of straight couples.
        3. There is a psychological implausibility in what you are suggesting. Individuals may put themselves in uncomfortable situations or may court publicity to further some cause. You might find couples who are dedicated to some cause (Just Stop Oil, nuclear weapons, etc) who together decide they are willing to court notoriety and even arrest by being a public nuisance to make their point, but that is not them inviting a focus on their own relationship as the cause to be exposed by what they do. It is extraordinarily unusual to find people using their most precious relationship as a vehicle for aggression. On the contrary, most people’s natural instinct is to want to protect their loved ones, to shield their nearest and dearest. Can you imagine you doing that with your nearest and dearest?

        What is interesting is that you can imagine nameless, faceless ‘provocateur gay couples’ doing this. Because you don’t think they value their closest relationships in the way that decent straight people do. In this you are wrong; you insult us and our relationships. Your example of “risk” is a fantasy based on no evidence. It is a classic case of attempting to use fear to sustain homophobic attitudes. It is unworthy of a Christian.

        Reply
        • If you want to talk about the psychology of the situation, it was assumed in 1967 that legalising sexual activity between two adult men would be an end to the matter. But it proved to be a start, and the reason is psychologically obvious: nobody likes being told that what they are doing is wrong and that they are merely being tolerated – which was the position in society following 1967, and the church was doing the telling. Orwell understood that nobody must be permitted even to *think* that the secular position was wrong, and most gay persons are secular and suppose that the church is a purely human institution. Far from being indifferent to it because they are atheist, they will want to stamp out this remaining wrongthink, and a way might now now be open for that in the Church of England.

          Reply
          • The legalization of same sex sex in 1967 was only partial – England only, 21+ only and civilians only

            I think its quite ridiculous to suggest that gay people should not want equal treatment under the law and should settle for not being criminalized.

          • Anton, I think many gay people just want to be accepted as they are.

            Even if I agree that God does not view same-sex sexual relationships as ‘good’ I dont think using phrases such as ‘provocateur gay couples’ is helpful.

          • PC1: I am not saying that all gay couples are provocateurs! Most are not, indeed. But a few are, and that is why I ask what would happen if they have an evangelical vicar and ask for the blessing and take it to court when denied. I have explained their motivation in a reply to Jeremy Pemberton.

        • Whether it is true that gay couples would have to not “value their closest relationships in the way that decent straight people do” in order to harass Christians about wedding issues or not, is is certainly untrue that no gay couple ever has done: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterpiece_Cakeshop_v._Colorado_Civil_Rights_Commission

          You seem to be assuming that because 90% of gay couples wouldn’t harass a vicar over this, then nobody should care. That 10% of 1% can ruin somebody’s life (to the applause of the other 90%). That somebody is perfectly right to resist giving them the power to do so.

          Reply
          • And in Northern Ireland, where in 2014 gay activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from well-known Christian bakery Ashers with the words “Support Gay Marriage” and reported Ashers when they refused:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_v_Ashers_Baking_Company_Ltd_and_others

            Not the worst stink about about this case is that the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland supported him in filing a discrimination lawsuit against Ashers. I wonder if Gareth Lee believes it is reasonable that a Muslim bakery should be forced to bake a cake bearing the slogan “Jesus is God”.

          • Kyle

            Its a very different thing trying to buy a cake from a bakery in a jurisdiction where it is clearly illegal for the bakery to refuse to serve gay couples and to force the baker to officiate the wedding.

          • Peter

            Ashers Bakery was willing to serve people regardless of customers’ sexual preferences. It was unwilling to put on the cake the slogan they said they wanted. Ashers would have refused to put that same slogan on the cake if a heterosexual had asked for it, whether to take to a gay wedding or for any other reason.

            Gareth Lee said “I’m very confused about what this actually means. We need certainty when you go to a business.” Really? When I go to my garage without an appointment because of an unexpected problem with my car I am well aware that they might not be able to fix it that day. In any case he got certainty. But if he wants more certainty, perhaps he could try a Muslim baker?

          • Anton

            This isn’t Ashers bakery. The Ashers bakery case was over a custom design of cake that was for an anniversary of a LGBT youth support center.

            This is a case in Colorado. Colorado has an equality law which makes it illegal to refuse to serve someone because of their orientation. In this case the baker refused to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple. Eventually the supreme court ruled that the state of Colorado had discriminated against the bakers Christian faith by prosecuting the case.

          • 90%? 99.99% more like. If you people could just love your neighbours as yourself then there would be nothing to fight for. But you can’t or do won’t do what the Lord says.

          • Jeremy thinks that ‘love’ means giving people whatever they want.
            So if a parent loves a child they give the child whatever they want.
            Right….
            You will see that Jeremy’s understanding is not even close, and is disastrous.
            Love wants the best for the other.
            These are very old and very obvious points.

      • Are there provocateur divorced couples seeking to sue Vicars who refuse to marry them on the conscience based opt out from the decision of Synod to approve remarriage of divorcees in the Church of England? No, so no reason to suspect there will be provocateur homosexual couples either

        Reply
      • Anton

        This idea that gay people want anti gay priests to be forced to marry them or bless them is a red herring. Its never happened anywhere in the world. It wouldn’t happen in the UK. These blessings are clearly in the gift of the priest, they are not something thats open to everyone. Gay people don’t want to ruin the best day of their lives by having someone officiate who doesn’t want to be there

        Reply
          • Anton

            This has never happened anywhere in the world and there is no legal case to force the issue anyway.

            That’s very different than a shop refusing to serve a gay customer when there is a law saying they cannot discriminate

          • The point would be to create a legal precedent, and suing a vicar for what he may or my not do is far more important than the gay cake case.

          • Anton

            UK law says that same sex marriage is up to individual churches to decide and is actually illegal in the church of england.

            There’s no legal case for someone to sue a vicar for not breaking the law

          • Peter

            I am talking about a vicar being sued for refusing to a gay couple the prayers of blessing commended as of today by that pack of wolves the bishops.

          • Like the Bishops have sued vicars for refusing to remarry divorcees you mean? I don’t recall even one instance of that for a vicar who has opted out on conscience grounds

          • T1: I’m talking about the couple (not the bishop) suing the vicar, and the gay issue is much more culturally charged.

          • It’s far from clear that the protection from anti-discrimination laws that the Church of England enjoyed until 33 hours ago re not conducting gay weddings will still prevail in a new era in which one vicar will say Yes to blessing a gay couple in a Civil Partnership in England and another vicar will say No. Precedent might now be cited against the latter as this has already taken place in a church I would not set foot in:

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-67743298

            I asked my well-informed evangelical vicar about the situation yesterday and he was not able to confirm that he is safe from being taken to court.

            Welby is spitting in the face of the One whom he claims to serve and patently has no fear of the Lord. He ought to have.

          • How many clergy got sued for refusing to marry divorced persons? How many churches were sued for rejecting women’s ordination?

          • The driving force in the present situation is far greater than in remarriage after divorce, because that is not about perceived identity. You saw that driving force at work in the gay cake case. Nobody ever tried to force conservative evangelicals to bake a wedding cake saying “Support remariage after divorce”, did they?

            The analogy with women’s ordination is so inaccurate as to be irrelevant, because people – male or female – do not apply to individual congregations for ordination.

          • Anton

            OK but why would refusal to bless gay people leave a vicar open to being sued and not a dozen other issues that would also be up to him to decide? For example he could refuse to remarry divorcees and a neighboring parish agree. If I remember rightly from my diversity training at my old job Marital status is a protected characteristic too

        • Peter: In English Law there are certain ‘protected characteristics’ that one must not discriminate against, and sexuality is one. The other things you presumably have in mind are not.

          Reply
  4. I think that it is right to say that changes in culture have forced discussion of sex and relationships in almost every denomination, but I don’t think culture cares so much about LGB people that this is what has changed.

    What has changed *dramatically* in my lifetime is a really huge shift towards the idea that all sex, even groping should be mutually consensual and abuse of (men) women and children has become toevah. Since ~2000 rarely a week goes by without some denomination facing some new sexual abuse scandal. The constant barrage from the press has forced the establishment to discuss their attitudes to sex, because frankly nobody can defend the behavior of the abusers or the people who knew they were abusing.

    On LGBT issues, society has shifted away from seeing gay and lesbian people as a disease. But there’s certainly not a complete change in attitudes the way there has been with sexual abuse. In the UK we have an equalities minister who opposes LGB equality and seems to see it as her job to protect people who want to ignore equality legislation. In the US we have a speaker of the house (kind of like prime minister) who wants to recriminalize same sex sex.

    Leaders in the church would rather discuss homosexuality than sexual abuse because its something detached from themselves and there’s less to lose if they get it wrong. Failing to out a gay priest is tolerable, failing to out a priest who has been abusing his flock is not.

    Reply
    • “I don’t think culture cares so much about LGB people that this is what has changed.”

      Where did the pressure for Civil Partnerships and SSM come from if not from ‘the culture’?

      Also , are you heading in the direction of saying that all consensual sexual activity is not sinful?

      Reply
      • There wasn’t pressue for SSM and Civil Partnerships – or at least where there was pressuere it came from the ggay movement – culture followed the law, not the other way round.

        Reply
      • We got SSM because David Cameron had a gay family member and there was considerable opposition at the time (and since!)

        I’m firmly of the opinion that all *non* consensual sexual activity is sinful and that’s why the cofe has clashed with secular culture

        Reply
          • Anton

            If that were the case the church of England would be putting at least as much effort into removing abusers and preventing future abuse as it has done removing gays and opposing same sex relationships.

            I think if you asked the bishops they would probably all.say they agreed that non consensual sex was a sin, but actions speak louder than words. Consistently abuse victims find themselves at best lied to and excluded, while their abusers are at worst allowed to retire quietly

          • O yes Peter, actions do speak louder than words. Actions like commending the new prayers despite their obvious incompatibility with current CoE doctrine.

            I am not going to debate that incompatibility. Everybody knows it but some are denying it with their lips.

          • Anton

            Commenting “new” prayers that arguably make gay people less included than they were a decade ago. A decade ago priests could easily bless gay people. Now they are being warned they could be subject to legal action if they bless gay couples.

            Meanwhile there’s been no attempt to make churches physically or spiritually safer for gay people. The abuses still continue to be covered up and the leadership continue to drag their heels on investigation of abuse. There continues to be as-little-as-possible consequences for leaders who abuse gay people, using a flat out denial that it happened, at worst quiet retirement.

          • Peter

            Kindly stop conflating this issue with CoE safeguarding, which everybody (but the bishops) agrees is a deplorable shambles.

            We all know that the prayers commended as of today are a backdoor attempt to get the church to bless gay sexual relations in a particular context, and that episcopal claims to the contrary are deceitful.

          • Anton

            The only issue is the abuse of gay people. That’s the only reason that the cofe has cooked up their fake blessings – to appear to have repented when in fact they refuse to truly repent

          • Nonsense Peter. They have cooked up this scheme to try to get evangelicals used to it in the hope that godly resistance to church SSM will be further worn down.

          • Anton

            Welby cooked up this scheme according to his standard negotiating tactic of trying to have the resolution accepted because it’s viewed differently from both sides. I’m sure he hoped he could convince evangelicals that this was no fundamental change except being a bit more tolerant of gay people – we are just blessing individuals, not the relationships and in the mean time encourage gay people to enter covenant friendships instead of marriage.

            To the gay people he thinks that giving less than we had a decade ago will feel like he’s treating us as almost human beings (and clearly far better than he thinks we deserve). If he says it’s “radical new inclusion” then we will believe him.

            Unfortunately the evangelicals have seen it as “radical new inclusion” and everyone else sees it as a scorpion in place of an egg.

      • Well, I am unaware of a biblical list of what is or is not sinful behaviour. Do you really want to confect such a thing. Biblical concerns do seem to focus about consent and fidelity.

        Reply
        • Firstly, it is obvious that there are other ways of conveying information than lists. For example – if something is mentioned as a sin, then it is a sin. And many things are indeed mentioned as sins.

          Secondly, there are lots of biblical lists. How have you missed them? The ten commandments, the curses in Deut 28, the New Testament vice lists.

          Hence, what you say is weak.

          Reply
          • But remaining single and celibate is extremely difficult, which is one main reason for marriage.
            You cannot force people to accept your view (heavily cultural) that behaviour against biology is not in tension with reality and therefore not likely to contain tensions within itself. But you particularly cannot force that in the absence of a preponderance of evidence.
            The survey you cited is presupposition laden in that direction. It reminds me of the surveys that scratch their heads over why some demographics are more susceptible to STIs than others – after all, we ‘all’ ‘know’ that all demographics are behaving equally naturally and are equally healthy in essence.
            Do we?
            It is vanishingly unlikely that all of their biological-naturalness levels and endemic health/hygiene levels would be precisely the same.

          • I thought marriage was something that has always been widespread. Are they also saying apocalyptic things about people walking down the street?

  5. Yes Paul, a very cogent post, one, I fear, that will not universally be welcomed.
    That some of a myopic mind see that “repentance is not a necessary response to God’s invitation to new life in the kingdom” comes as little surprise.
    In a recent trawl through theologians’ views on Repentance I did find very contrasting views. Some seemed to be talking amongst themselves, using the same limited Scriptures.
    Some arguing no need for repentance as it was considered “works” related religion, only faith required; some arguing for “cosmic “repentance?
    In recently looking at the prophet Ezekiel the people had absorbed the unclean pagan culture.
    In spite of persistent calls to repent, judgement was inevitable. When the prophets saw the Glory of God they fell at His feet, humbled, themselves and thus Sent to the Nation[s]
    To “warn every man”. Of course, warnings are ignored along with the gospel and God said in effect I will make you more stubborn than they. However, like the prophets God gave a message of hope; In that there would be not only a Saviour but a remnant, a “holy seed” through which there would come restoration. The Overcomers of Revelation REV. 2 V 7.?
    This is a time to rest
    2 Thessalonians 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
    1:5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
    1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
    It is a time for singing and praising the “beauty of Holiness” 2 Chr 20:21 and …” Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
    David vowed and said 3 times a day I will Pray: but/and
    7 times a day will I praise you.
    Prayer is the warfare but Praise is the victory
    [Our]Praise a waits you in Zion O Lord!

    Reply
      • Why on earth are they taking J Ozanne seriously.
        First, she has researched and published absolutely nothing on this or any related topic.
        Second, many people whom they are not commenting on have researched and published a great deal.
        Third, it is obvious that what she says is merely correlated with cultural trends, and no-one needs to be brainy to follow cultural trends. Quite the contrary – that is what people do by default unless they are above that in brain or conscience or both.

        Reply
      • As I had the book before Ligonier sponsored the talks I found the book more engaging, though starting with the historical background, ( but the scripture themes of legalism and antinomianism persist, with a perhaps surprising common source of belief) and stimulating of thought and study. (Also I prefer the medium to pore over in time.)

        Reply
  6. It’s unfortunate that the necessity of repentance came up in the context of another sexuality thread. There are some general points that are important. One thing that we do get from Matthew 5 is that we do not understand our own sinfulness and its extent; even good thoughts, words, deeds can quickly become sanctimonious and have sinful motivation (where fueling the ego plays an important role). We are blind to our own sinfulness, particularly when we want to be ‘good’.

    Ezekiel 18 makes the importance of repentance completely clear; if we turn from our sins and forsake them, turn from them and follow God’s commandments for righteous living (in short -if we repent), then we are righteous before Him and we will see life. There is nothing in Ezekiel 18 suggesting that we need a redeemer, but the ‘if’ is very much a counterfactual, a hypothetical conditional. We can’t follow God’s commandments and this is why we need a redeemer.

    Even after we have come to Him, accepted the necessity of the crucifixion in our own lives and have come to believe that, in the resurrection we participate in his victory over sin and that we have eternal life, there is still the down-drag of the flesh and our own ego blinding us to the extent of sin in our own life.

    None of which gives any excuse to people who, like the serpent of Genesis 3, explicitly tell us that the clear and plain word of Scripture (on sexuality or, indeed, on anything else) can be safely ignored.

    Reply
    • Jock

      Jayne isn’t saying that we should ignore scripture. She is saying that people can be in the same denomination and have different understandings from Scripture about what is and is not a sin.

      If a priest in a neighboring parish has blessed a gay couple, it should be of no more concern than a male priest with long hair or another priest with a tattoo

      Reply
      • I do not accept that this is about interpretation of verses that are difficult to understand. The biblical position – God’s position if you are evangelical – is perfectly clear.

        If you want to be married to someone of the same sex in the State’s eyes then go ahead (although I don’t recommend waving your certificate in a Saudi Arabian hotel when booking a room). But evangelicals will not consider you married in God’s eyes, and the church should serve God above State – even the Established church.

        Reply
        • These are heavy misfortunes … but the wife of X must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.

          Reply
        • Anton

          But a significant proportion of the cofe strongly disagree with your interpretation of scripture.

          I think it’s also worth pointing out that you’re reading scripture from a straight male evangelical culture with a whole loaf of unintentional biases

          Reply
          • Anything to wreck the obvious meaning of scripture? Ask your secular gay friends what the relevant verses mean. Thry deplore them but they understand them more clearly.

          • “Relevant verses”

            Which verses are allowed to be applied to gay people and which are not? That’s a big part of it.

            Why is “it’s not good for man to be alone” not inclusive of gay people, but Lev 18.22 primarily about gay people?

            I would put it to you that rejection if gay people has more to do with evangelical culture than serious consideration of how to apply scripture to modern life

          • Adam was the first hominid to be in the image of God, and the “suitable companion” that God arranged was woman.

            Man lying with man for sexual gratification is toevah according to Leviticus, and if you believe in the God described in the Bible you will regard that as God’s opinion yesterday today and forever.

          • You cannot exclude that they would have been straight but for the events of Genesis 3, which is a point under discussion elswhere in this thread.

          • ‘You can explain it away, but Genesis clearly endorses suitability in finding a partner.’

            On what grounds are you dismissing the repeated emphasis that the male human can only find a suitable partner in the female, one that is both equal and different, rooted in the first creation narrative of humanity as ‘male and female in the image of God’?

            You seem to be taking a pair of scissors to the text…

          • Ian

            I’m not. I’m saying not all humans are naturally heterosexual. Heterosexuality is a norm, not a universal state of being or a law

      • Peter – as Anton says, there is nothing difficult to understand, at an intellectual level, about the verses that indicate that these things are wrong. Any blindness, any difficulties with comprehension are (as always) a moral blindness.

        Reply
        • Jock

          There are verses that indicate that denying gay people relationship is wrong.

          Of course if you select only the verses that have been deliberately translated to say negative things about gays then you’re not going to think God cares very much about gay people.

          But when you drill down through translation, context and culture the clobber verses don’t actually say that gay people cannot marry and anti gay marriage Christians have to do theological gymnastics to explain away other verses to maintain their position.

          Reply
          • Anton

            Off the top of my head

            Gen 2.18-24 shows man’s desire for relationship is good and that God desires men to be in relationship with partners who are suitable to them

            1 Sam 18.1-4 deeply homoerotic incident between David and Jonathan. It’s really hard to argue that their relationship would be fully accepted by a modern evangelical church. See also 2 Sam 1.26

            John 3.16-18 & Romans 3.22-24 very clear that heterosexuality is not a prerequisite for salvation and is not even spiritually superior to homosexuality.

            Jude 1.7 clearly rejects that the sin in S&G was same sex sex, since it specifically describes the sinners as seeking “other flesh”

            1 Tim 4.1-7 describes how false teachers will forbid others to marry and will be hypocrites. This seems to fit exactly those church leaders who allowed people like Jonathan Fletcher and Mike Pilvachi to sexually abuse men in their care while condemning gay people for forming consensual loving faithful relationships

          • Peter,

            The suitable helper for man in Genesis 2 was woman. Male-male intimacy is mentioned only after the events of Genesis 3.

            Re David and Jonathan, I consider this to be eisegesis. Greek has four words for ‘love’ (CS Lewis wrote a book about that) and Hebrew is also better off than English.

            Regarding John 3 and Romans 3, one measures faith by obedience. Here is an essay pointing out that sexualilty is a primary salvation issue, and using specific verses to do so:

            http://www.john-stevens.com/2022/12/homosexuality-bible-demands-that-we.html

            Jude v7 speaks of “sexual immorality and going after other flesh”. Both ‘other’ and ‘flesh’ are quite general words but in the context of sexual immorality this means something other than heterosexual relations. That can only mean homosexual relations or bestiality. The passage draws a parallel with Sodom, and Genesis makes no mention of bestiality there.

            False teachers will forbid others to marry? Sounds above all like the regulations that Rome puts on its ordinands, with disastrous consequences.

          • Anton

            Yep you’ve got great excuses for all these verses, but they are only that – well rehersed excuses.

            Eve is a suitable partner for Adam, but not for a gay person. Conservatives sometimes still suggest that gays should marry people they don’t love, but mostly have recognized that teaching has caused a lot of harm. The current teaching thar its good for gay men to remain single is a direct contradiction of God’s word.

            David and Jonathan’s relationship appears to be written about as a positive thing in scripture, but would result in them being partially or fully excluded from a modern evangelical church. You can’t declare undying love to another man and get naked with him and remain in good standing with the CEEC.

            I agree obedience is an important outward demonstration of faith, but it’s obedience to God, not the CEEC.

            By definition “other” flesh cannot mean homosexuality. You would have to directly reject this verse out of the Canon in order to claim the primary sin of S&G is homosexuality

          • Peter

            The question is whether gay is part of God’s design plan before Genesis 2 or whether gay began as part of the distortion of that plan that started in Genesis 3. Do not the creation of woman for man in Genesis 2, and the archetypal expression of male gayness being described as toevah later in the Pentateuch, settle the answer?

            You accuse me of having excuses in my exegesis. I believe the same of you. I am content for the reader decide.

          • Anton

            I don’t think it matters if gay people were part of the original plan or not. We exist. You cannot pretend we dont

          • Well, you personally very much do exist, but the category ‘gay people’ does not. It was only a cynical brainwave to treat this as part of people’s essence so that civil rights claims could be made.

            So if someone is (as happens considerably more than the average) corrupted and told ‘It’s too late, you’re gay now’, and then is confused because that is now part of their developmental history so in a way they are hooked into it, but it makes them feel bad long term – you would call them by this term ‘gay’?

          • My point entirely. Don’t confuse people and behaviours. They are not the same, and no-one would claim they are.

            You however are claiming something even more startling, that a person is a subset of their behaviours.

          • You say some odd thing about David and Jonathan, who are being shoehorned into the wrong category (prayers are provided for friendships on the one hand and romance on the other – samesex romance only bizarrely, with which some people are trying to sneak in sex by the back door). CS Lewis who was just referred to had undying love for many and also like many others frequented Parson’s Pleasure. Indeed, cultural meanings vary sharply.

            And as for the weirdoes who think Ruth and Naomi were lesbians – I repeat, that that utterly shallow and debauched cultural accommodation that shows no awe for the human design and marriage design, and seems never to have heard of friendship, is the road to hell.

  7. In the Sermon on the Mount I think that Jesus dramatically raises the bar far higher than the written law, which by the way was a difficult thing to practice;,In cantering sin in the thought life, such as say thinking about adultery is committing sin then how can one avoid sinning. The rich young ruler made a decent fist of it but Jesus called him to follow Him who is able to break the power of sin,to save us from ourselves, from the corruptions of the world,from the deceptions of satan by a new and living way, a new birth, in short a new disposition wherein dwells righteousness,{new}made holiness which should be “worked out,” manifested. just as sin was previously, to declare that God is Holy through the” God life”[ eternal life] in us.
    To be lights in the darkness, preserving from corruption salt. Not hidden but clear, not useless but always active, in fact works of righteousness
    Which as St. James said “faith without works is dead work.”

    Reply
  8. On Ezekiel
    CH. 9 v4 ff
    Jehovah said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry over all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof.
    6 slay utterly the old man, the young man and the virgin, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark: and begin at my sanctuary.

    Reply
  9. I’ve often wondered about Jesus saying “it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you”; this certainly sounds like some sort of different degrees of eternal punishment for the wicked when most evangelical teaching would say that on the day of judgment either you’re going to be all right or you’re not and that’s it. Can anyone comment?

    Reply
    • The unsaved spend a lot of time working on their position in a pecking order of sins. No doubt, on the day of judgment, they will get some comfort in knowing where they stand in respect to others on the rubbish tip.

      Reply
  10. Are all sins the same?
    In the Old Testament law which prescribed more severe punishment for premeditated murder than for accidental homicide.
    Moses’s law prescribed measures for restitution for various offenses. The nature of the crime, the attending motivations, and the varying circumstances all determine the measure of punishment.
    God the Judge will take into consideration the works, the words (Matt. 12:37), and even the thoughts and motives (Rom. 2:16) of sinners.
    Judgment is not for determining who is in and who is out; it is for measuring guilt and assigning punishment that is measured exactly what every individual sinner deserves.

    This explains why Scripture repeatedly insists that judgment will be “according to works” (Rom. 2:6) and that in judgment “the books”, record books, will be opened (Rev. 20:12 and Rev. 18:6–7).
    Jesus warns of this again in Matthew 23:13: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” This “woe” is pronounced on those who by their actions and teaching block the way to heaven for others in blessing their sins rather than warning them.
    We cannot speak of rewards in this post, except to conjecture
    that we are all of us working towards a *Degree* of one sort or another !

    Reply
    • No it didn’t. It was not a blessing; it was not of the relationship.

      The two women left their husbands whilst in ministry, abandoning their children, and as a result had their licences suspended by the bishop.

      If you think that is something to celebrate, then you live on another planet.

      Reply
      • Line 1 of the national broadcaster, the BBC’s report tonight ‘A couple has become one of the first same-sex partnerships to receive a blessing at a Church of England service.’

        So yes, for 99%+ of the UK population the Church of England is now blessing homosexual couples as established church. If some evangelicals like you wish to ignore that and not do the blessings and think none of this is happening fine but it is.

        You are right in the sense that it was not a remarriage (which some C of E churches do even for heterosexual divorced couples in the circumstances you describe) but a blessing, no more than Charles and Camilla got for example in 2005 at St George’s chapel, Windsor after committing adultery when their relationship developed

        Reply
      • Ian

        I don’t know anything about them, but I do know that lots of gay people of their generation got married to the opposite sex because their churches told them doing so would make them straight. It obviously doesn’t work that way. This teaching has caused a lot of broken families. Be hard on these ladies if you must, but they may well be victims of bad teaching rather than child deserters!

        Reply
      • The position is surely more nuanced than that on your side of the metaphorical aisle? If a couple in a same-sex marriage and with children came to faith I thought the view of CEEC, Living Out, Church Society etc. was that they ought to repent and divorce.

        Reply
          • Possibly. That was the rhetoric at the time of the equal marriage debate. But I suspect most conservative evangelicals would have little problem talking about such a couple as being in a same-sex marriage (even if they took the theological position that it’s not a true marriage). But however they’d describe it, my understanding is that they’d want that couple to divorce, even if they regard as a kindof practical divorce rather than a “real” divorce because it wasn’t in their view a “real” marriage.

          • AJ

            I’ve asked this question before.

            I’m in a same sex marriage raising two kids. I’ve asked does evangelical teaching say we must divorce and our kids be separated from us? I’ve had no response to this question so far. It shows that the last decade has been wasted, because the CofE has no answer to this pretty basic question. If they wait another ten years then they will have grandparents who they might or might not want to divorce and not see their grandchildren again

          • Peter, your argument is that stage 2 could be made worse by entering stage 3. That says nothing about why on earth you entered stage 2 in the first place, given that stage 1 was in such a mess and in so many cases could and should have been sorted out, repaired and reconciled. Now stage 1 is left hanging and unresolved, which makes the entire situation unnecessarily bad.

      • Ian

        This is how the event is being reported:

        Rev Dotchin held their heads and said: “We give thanks for Catherine and Jane, to the love and friendship they share, and their commitment to one another as they come before you on this day, trusting you as the keeper of all goodness, strengthening their love by your love, and gladdening their hearts with your joy.”

        He added that they are continuing on a “pilgrimage graced by your (God’s) blessing, with you as their companion in the dark where they can rejoice and hope in sustaining their love for all the days of their lives.”

        Before the blessing, a woman read a passage from Isaiah promising that God will “bring good news to the oppressed.”

        Sure, there was no ritualised blessing given by the minister, but the prayers certainly implied a blessing and was a celebration of their relationship.

        Reply
        • Jack: The Roman Catholic bishops in Belgium have published advice for blessing same sex couples that is a great deal more .pastoral. The Cof E and people like Andrew Goddard have become totally obsessed with a legalistic approach. Here is what the Belgium bishops have said:

          During pastoral meetings, the question is often asked about a moment of prayer to ask God that He may bless and perpetuate this commitment of love and faithfulness. It is best to discuss the content and form of that prayer with a pastoral manager. Such a moment of prayer can take place in complete simplicity. The difference must also remain clear with what the Church understands by a sacramental marriage.
          This moment of prayer can, for example, proceed as follows. o Opening words
          o Opening prayer
          o Scripture reading
          o Commitment of both parties involved. Together they express to God how they commit themselves to each other. For example:
          God of love and faithfulness,
          Today we stand before you
          surrounded by family and friends.
          We thank you that we were able to find each other. We want to be there for each other

          in all circumstances of life. We speak here with confidence
          that we want to work on each other’s happiness, day by day.
          We pray: give us strength to be faithful to each other
          and deepen our commitment. We trust in your presence, we want to live by your Word, given to each other forever.
          o Community prayer. The community prays that God’s grace may work in them to care for each other and for the broader community in which they live. For example:
          God and Father,
          we surround N. and N. with our prayers today.
          You know their hearts and the path they will take together from now on. Make their commitment to each other strong and faithful.
          Let their home be filled with understanding, tolerance and care.
          Let there be room for reconciliation and peace.
          May the love they share bring them joy
          and make them serve in our community.
          Give us the strength to walk with them,
          together in the footsteps of your Son
          and strengthened by your Spirit.
          o Intercession o Our Father o Closing prayer o Blessing

          Even if the CofE had something closer to that it would be better than what GS has allowed.

          Reply
        • So people who callously rip themselves from their spouses and then have a party about that are ‘oppressed’?

          I can see someone who is oppressed in that situation.

          This is hell.

          Come out of her, my people.

          Reply
      • Ian, I agree with you that it is not a matter for celebration, but surely you don’t believe the deceitful nonsense spouted by the bishops that it is not a blessing, and not about the relationship?

        Reply
  11. “‘law’ is not quite the right word”

    This is where I think some of the serious problems begin. Some people clearly take a legal view of sin – there are a bunch of rules written down, they’re essentially arbitrary, if you break them that’s sin and needs to be justly punished. However, if the punishment is the same for every offence, and the most severe punishment available as well to boot, is that justice? The departure for a Jewish, wholly behavioural view, to a Christian view of worrying about your heart, makes another problem for the legalistic view – we’re endorsing thought crime. Is that just?

    Thee Orthodox view I think can be helpful. They tend to view sin instead primarily as a wound or illness separating us from God. Hence, the wages of sin are death because God himself is the source of life. And whilst the double answer of sin is all the same, but also all different, is difficult to reconcile in the legal view, as a sickness it’s easier to accept. Lots of diseases will kill you, but they all do so at different speeds and with different symptoms and may be more or less difficult to bear.

    That then leads us to consider the role and purpose of Scripture. The legalistic view runs into trouble I think pretty quickly, as we have to conjure up a system for thinking why we’re not straightforwardly following all the instructions to the letter. We are thinking of this as a law, but the law is wide open to interpretation. But why should that be so if the point is to have a series of clear, if arbitrary, rules of behaviour?

    The sickness view again, arguably makes more sense of how we actually deal with Scripture. There is a long history of discernment and debate – Israel is given its name by God, when Jacob wrestles with Him. because it means one who strives with God (Genesis 32). The Scriptures give instructions and guidance, and are not strictly a “law” as w would understand it today. Our ethical behaviour questions do not involve consulting the Bible like you would a car manual. Instead we try to look at the whole picture of Scripture, itself something put together over centuries as a record of that striving with God, to discern the truth.

    If we make the error of seeing it simply as arbitrary rules we neither need to explain, or consider very deeply, we make the mistake of demonstrating our faith in essentially pointless (or wore, harmful and compromising) ways. A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that a particular Jewish sect (Cohamin) were petitioning Transport for London to change a train station roof, because South Kensington station technically sharing a roof with the Science Museum means it under the same roof as dead bodies, meaning that sect cannot use the London Underground. This contrasts with Jesus teaching, which I don’t think can be simply summarised as tightening or raising the standards. Rather, it asks us to consider the purpose of the “law”, epitomised by his observation that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

    Reply
  12. I’ve been thinking about the point raised about this being a highly sexualised culture. Is 8t really? And compared to what?

    Contemporary Western society is very sexually open. But it’s a mistake to think this means it’s a permissive anything goes culture. In fact the statistics and surveys suggest young people today are having less sex with fewer partners that their predecessors in the 80s and 90s. Teen pregnancies are down. So too is rape and child abuse. We may live in a world relaxed about consensual pre-marital sex, but it’s also the world of MeToo, the incels, and parents who worry as much about their sons facing a false rape allegation as they do about their daughters being assaulted. We’re different to previous generations, but whether it’s better or worse depends on your perspective. Prostitution was rife in the 18th and 19th centuries (to a degree that is hard to fathom today).

    What is particularly relevant in how things have changed over the years, is that:
    – we expect couples to be in love before they get married
    – we would be horrified by someone getting married in order to have children to carry on the family line (rather than wanting children for their own sake)
    – we have returned to St Paul’s vision in 1 Corinthians 7 of a marriage of equals who belong to each other

    There is an interesting question on what the contrast between the Greco-Roman and Jewish worldviews actually entails. It’s misleading to imply that the Greco-Roman view on homosexuality echoes the modern view today (and therefore Jewish and biblical thought stood against the original Greco-Roman view and by extension today’s view). Greeks and Romans weren’t entering same-sex marriages as alternatives to opposite-sex marriages. Gay relationships, such as they were, were additional to opposite-sex marriages not instead of them. The people in Romans 1 for example, started out with opposite-sex sexual relationships. Emperors Nero and Hadrian has wives as well as male lovers. The Greco-Roman instead seems to be that gay sex is not really sex, or at least not really adultery. That cultural attitude is still seen in some parts of the world – most infamously Afghanistan where it is assumed to be a cultural legacy from Alexander the Great. Instead the Bible would seem to view same-sex sex as sex, and adultery if you’re married. It puts it on a par with opposite-sex sex, which creates an issue when in a culture where you are expected to marry and have children to protect the family interest and position. That being the case would also explain why Scripture says nothing to gay people about what they should do.

    Reply
    • AJ

      I agree that the idea that culture is especially sexualized needs to be examined. I’m old enough to remember when women were expected to put up with casual assault at work or from passers by. Now rightly these acts are widely condemned.

      I am constantly frustrated though that gay people and gay rights are constantly tied together with sex acts. On a previous article comments section on this website I was called a “whore” for being gay, as if gay people are by definition having sex for money and straight people are not. On this articles comments I have been told that I cannot be given better treatment because then the church would also have to accept adulterers. (In actuality the cofe treats adulterers much better than gay people)

      I’m gay. I’m not a sex act. I don’t think I deserve equality under the law because of the liberalization of sex. I think I deserve equality under the law because I am a human being.

      Reply
  13. One cannot escape the irony that the first receptors of PLF are two adulterous female priests.
    The current epidemic of pornography is a symptom of concupiscence. The current obsession with sexual perversion, the dismantling of sexual boundaries, and the redefinition of marriage are all indicators that a culture is becoming more concupiscent. Romans 1:18–32 warns that continued concupiscence will lead to “a depraved mind” (verse 28). Three times this passage warns that, when people reject God’s standard of holiness, He will “give them over” to their lusts.
    Ongoing concupiscence results in a deadening of conscience to the extent that one can sin boldly without guilt or conviction. That is a dangerous place to be.
    Concupiscence in the Bible always refers to passionate desire for something that God has forbidden.
    In 1 Thessalonians 4v4 concupiscence is contrasted with the believer’s duty to “learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable” .
    Colossians 3verses 4–5. identifies concupiscence as part of what belongs to the earthly nature and lists it as one of the things that invite the wrath of God upon mankind.

    Reply
    • They are not technically, legally nor biblically adulterous.
      Quite ironic when both state and scripture follow heteronormative scripts.
      Although watching people having the vapours over two middle aged lesbians being prayed with is diverting.

      Reply
      • The term ‘lesbian’ can be time-specific. At an age when sexual drive is strong, people behave accordingly. Later when it is less strong, they may prefer to be companionable, and especially with someone who is more like themselves. Degrees of this tendency may vary between genders. None of that is anything to do with any lifelong sexual orientation.
        And if they were happy at deserting their husbands then that is sickening; even more sickening is that the whole people of God was supposed to rejoice with them. They cannot be so much without feeling as not to feel the violation of the bond.

        Reply
        • Christopher

          How do you know their husbands were deserted? If they were both previously married to men before, it may have been their husbands who wanted a divorce or it may have been a mutual decision.

          Surely your theory that women are only lesbians when their sex drive is strong is kind of blown out of the water by couples choosing to marry later in life?

          Reply
          • I said the exact reverse. But most couples do not choose that; and couples have desires at all times in life, just not necessarily the same ones. My point, as you must see, is that the basing of everything on some thing called lifelong sexual orientation has never been accurate.

        • Weird. Some commentors assume that two women living together must be having sex, others that, becasue they are 63, they probably aren’t!

          Perhaps people could stop speculating about what couples do and do not do (sexually) in private.

          Amd, perhaps, stop speculating about people’s private lives altogether and stop making prurient assumptions that these two women deserted their husbands. God, some people are so quick to judge.

          Reply
          • That claim was first made on this thread by Ian Paul. What makes you think he was assuming, rather than basing the claim on information he had?

          • Our sexual relationships are not private, even though they are personal.

            They have all sorts of impacts on others and on culture.

            These women *left their husbands* to enter a relationship. People do not do that with others who are mere friends.

          • Ian

            Do you actually know that they divorced in order to be together or are you assuming that (or repeating other people’s assumptions)? Would you be so quick to assume if they were a straight couple?

  14. Pope Francis now says that same can be done in the Catholic church!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-67751600

    Let’s hope that those who hold to holy scripture and 3000 years of godly tradition put up a better fight in that church than in the Church of England.

    Seeking to end the Western Schism, the Council of Pisa in 1409 expediently declared that the Roman and Avignon popes of the day were both heretics and therefore invalid, and appointed another man. But the other two declined to resign, leading to three asserted Popes. Order was restored because the Germanic king Sigismund, later Holy Roman Emperor, had enough power to insist on a full ecumenical council of Catholic bishops. It met at Constance in 1414 and restored a unified papacy in Rome. It also insisted that the will of ecumenical councils was above that of popes. But The First Vatican Council definitively reversed that position by declaring papal infallibility. Who, then, has authority to depose Francis as a heretic? The godly side will not resort to cantarella, either.

    New Catholic doctrine cannot contradict what Rome has authoritatively pronounced in the past, but (as Carl Jacobs tried to warn Jack on another blog) what matters is whether it is enforced or not. And enforcement is in Francis’ hands.

    Reply
    • Anton

      I think what he’s said is that there doesn’t need to be a deep moral investigation in order for someone to recieve a blessing. Same sex couples are not to be specially prohibited from being blessed.

      This used to be the position of the church of England. Now priests are being threatened with legal action if they bless people in same sex relationships

      Reply
      • Which obviously has no grounds given Synod has voted to allow experimental services of blessing for same sex couples and the first such services have already taken place. Though the Vatican would need to allow women priests as well even if the Pope’s words ultimately led to similar such blessing services for same sex couples before talk of unity between the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England could take place again (at which point presumably the most conservative evangelical churches would leave the C of E anyway)

        Reply
  15. Ian

    You may find this document helpful:
    Dichiarazione “Fiducia supplicans” sul senso pastorale delle benedizioni del Dicastero per la Dottrina della Fede (vatican.va)

    From a very quick read, Fiducia Supplicans, issued today, permits non-liturgical, spontaneous blessings for same sex couples and divorced/remarried, stating: “this declaration remains firm on the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage, not allowing any type of liturgical rite or blessing similar to a liturgical rite that can create confusion.” A blessing conferred on a couple in an irregular union should take place “outside the liturgical framework,” and this “should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.”

    The DDF document cautions: “From a strictly liturgical point of view, a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will, as expressed in the teachings of the Church .. (therefore) .. the Church does not have the power to confer its liturgical blessing when that would somehow offer a form of moral legitimacy to a union that presumes to be a marriage or to an extra-marital sexual practice.” Instead, it aims at “developing a broader understanding of blessings … a more pastoral approach,”, on a par with blessing “the elderly, the sick, participants in a catechetical or prayer meeting, pilgrims, those embarking on a journey, volunteer groups and associations, and more.”

    Therefore, blessings for same-sex couples or others living in irregular unions, should not take a fixed form, “to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.” Instead, it suggests a “spontaneous” blessing in which the priests “could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance – but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfil his will completely.”

    This is a key section:

    “Such a blessing may instead find its place in other contexts (i.e. not in a liturgical one) such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage … as an expression of the Church’s maternal heart – similar to those that emanate from the core of popular piety – there is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.”

    Reply
    • So you’re entirely happy with it? You wouldn’t apply to Pope Francis any of the criticisms that Catholics have rightly thrown at Welby in recent months over PLF and what is behind it?

      Reply
      • Have you read the document, Anton? People will read into it what they want to.

        According to some, it is outrageous:

        Notice that what is blessed, the object of the blessing is the couple. This statement asserts that a relationship of sodomy can be blessed. This asserts that there is such a thing as “couples of the same sex.”
        https://onepeterfive.com/vatican-blesses-sodomy/

        I don’t think this is a accurate reading of the document.

        According to others, it’s confusing and ambiguous:

        The document’s implementation seems likely to produce outcomes as varied as the text’s interpretations.
        https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/what-fiducia-supplicans-declares/

        This is true! Some will deliberately misrepresent it – both Rad Trads and Modernists.

        Then there’s New Ways Ministry hyping it up:

        This declaration is proof that church teaching can—and does—change. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has now overturned in full its 2021 statement prohibiting queer blessings because, it claimed, “God does not bless sin.” And how does change happen? Formal approval in teaching often recognizes what people are already doing pastorally and theologically. Practice precedes teaching. So, too, with LGBTQ+ blessings …

        LGBTQ+ Catholics worldwide welcome this early Christmas gift, which brings them much closer to being full and equal members of the Church they love so dearly.
        https://www.newwaysministry.org/2023/12/18/new-ways-ministry-popes-blessings-approval-is-early-christmas-gift-to-lgbtq-catholics/

        This is as inaccurate as One Peter Five!

        Reply
        • You know as well as I do why you wouldn’t be happy with it.

          Here is Gavin Ashenden, who retains the zeal of the new (Catholic) convert and sees liberal theology clearly for what it is, writing for the Catholic Herald, which is hardly a fringe platform:

          The phoney war is over. Civil war has been launched within the Church by Pope Francis and his recent appointee Cardinal Victor Fernandez… Secular culture has for many decades prioritised the sanctification of erotic and romantic relationships… [supposedly] whatever makes people feel better is good. And since God is good, whatever makes us feel better is good. And God must therefore will it. The problem is that this new philosophy and solipsistic religion is not Christianity…

          There are two pragmatic arguments to be made that do not get much airing, however. One is that… The liberal theologians have made a disastrous category error. The rope that they massage and pull so lovingly has at the other end a noose that will be used to persecute Christians and drive them out of the public square and [persecute them]… There are Christians maintaining their belief in the Bible and the Magisterium who when asked about their definition of marriage and sexual ethics… experience losing jobs, being cancelled on social media, and in the case of one evangelical school teacher in Northern Ireland, being incarcerated in jail.

          The second argument is well summarised by a recent remark to the Catholic Herald by bishop Schneider. No one will die for ambiguity and uncertainty. Liberal and progressive Christianity, whatever placation of secular sensibility it offers, makes no converts. And no one will sacrifice themselves for it. If the blood the martyrs is the seed of the Church, the ambiguity of the progressives is the death of the Church.

          https://catholicherald.co.uk/who-would-choose-to-be-a-catholic-at-a-time-like-this/

          This last passage is the correct reply to your implication that Francis’ ambiguity is acceptable. It is a smokesreen for evil

          If I have little invested in Anglicanism because I take a congregationalist view of church, I have less invested in Catholicism. But I do not like to see evil to make progress anywhere.

          Reply
          • The Catholic Herald, once a reputable publication, has become tabloid trash. Ashenden is an egegious zealot (often the fate of the convert) who does not represent mainstream Catholicism. The trad caths and sedevacanstits are out in force on social media but they are probably even less representative of the denomination than CEEC is of the CoE.

          • One thing remained unchanged when Gavin Ashenden moved from protestant to Catholic a few years ago: his perspicacious view of secularism invading the churches.

          • What is special about mainstream? Sounds like a sinister attempt to conformity. Media people, a particular demographic, can coordinate the perception of what is mainstream, as though it mattered. All that matters is what is evidenced. The ‘mainstream’ message is conform-onform-conform. Chilling.

          • “in the case of one evangelical school teacher in Northern Ireland, being incarcerated in jail.”

            I do wonder what Ashenden is referencing here. A quick Google search suggests the only teachers in Northern Ireland recently reported as jailed are cases of sexual abuse, exam fraud and a very sinister campaign of harrassment and threats against headteachers. It can’t be them.

            There was the case of Enoch Burke though in Ireland. He’s in jail and something of a cause celebre in the trans debate. He’s not in jail for this views on sexual ethics and definition of marriage though. He was jailed for contempt of court because he refuses to comply with a court order to stay away from the school who suspended him for gross misconduct. So I hope Ashenden isn’t misrepresenting the case.

          • Anglican Mainstream happen to be mainstream Anglican and mainstream Christian, of course, but to appeal to that as though it were what made them right (not that they are doing that, probably) would be inaccurate.

            ‘I agree’. First, no intelligent person thinks they can agree with something that has not been said. Secondly ,this is just game playing, which has been a frequent pattern, both cynical and mendacious, in which you claim I have agreed with your position from which I am universally known to be distant.

          • “but to appeal to that as though it were what made them right (not that they are doing that, probably) would be inaccurate.”

            It is exactly what they are doing and what they have done since that peculiar organisation was first created.
            Some parts of the Anglican communion have also taken that line. They claim to be the majority. That, as always, depends on rather distorted statistics.

          • Andrew, you did not at all understand my point.

            First, they claim to be mainstream as far as ‘Anglican’ goes. They are not only that but also mainstream as far as ‘Christian’ goes. But there is no intrinsic merit in being mainstream.

            Maybe they were shocked at the time (20 years ago) that secularised alternative understandings were so easily gaining ground among those whom they thought knew better.

            A claim to be the majority and a claim to be right are two entirely different things. You surely understand that? No?

          • PJ, You are using contemporary culture as a barometer for what counts as being hardline or softline.

            That means that contemporary culture is the most solid and neutral thing that there is.

            No it isn’t. And why are you privileging it over any other culture or system as a norm?

  16. It’s interesting that NCR, not a orthodox publication, shall we say, is quite muted in its commentary on Fiducia Supplicans despite its celebratory tone. Is this a tactic, the sceptic in me asks?

    Jesuit Fr. Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Chair in Roman Catholic Studies at Vanderbilt University, said that the declaration was consistent with Francis’ pastoral focus and his impulse toward accompaniment and inclusion throughout his papacy.

    Morrill noted that the declaration seems “careful” to limit these sanctioned blessings of same-sex relationships within “very narrow parameters” to spontaneous occasions, such as when ministers are approached after Mass, or unexpectedly in public.

    But what the declaration doesn’t acknowledge, Morrill said, is that for many Catholics and others in their understanding of Catholicism, “the notion of receiving a blessing, requesting and being graced or honored with a blessing, is an endorsement.”

    “People are looking for validation. Or it’s a desire for a sense of self worth and dignity,” Morrill said.

    Morrill also said that conservative Catholics may worry that this is a step toward official blessing rituals for people in irregular marriages or in same-sex relationships, even though the document is very clear to dispute that possibility.

    They may also worry that the “very nature of blessings” implies that “this relationship itself is good in itself as it is.” But Morrill said the document is “going out of its way to say it’s not endorsing the relationship itself.”

    Nevertheless, most Catholics don’t make fine theological distinctions, Morrill said, citing the high levels of confusion about teachings on papal infallibility as an example. This lack of nuance may mean that Catholics don’t understand the difference between these blessings and sacraments, he said ….

    (Another commentator) Ish Ruiz, a postdoctoral fellow of Catholic studies at Emory University and a gay Latinx theologian, said he felt “incredible joy” at the announcement about the blessings. “They’ve opened up space for us to take up more room and transform the church through our witness,” Ruiz said.

    Ruiz said that he, like many in the LGBTQ+ community, felt disappointed that “the blessings in the document are framed as a way to assist LGBTQ+ people with their sinful lifestyles,” a continuation of church teaching. That stance, Ruiz said, “is missing the grace that can be present in loving same-sex unions.”

    Even with that disappointment, Ruiz encouraged same-sex couples to reach out to their priests for a blessing.
    https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican-shift-gay-blessings-has-deep-pastoral-implications-say-theologians

    It’s ironic that the anti-Francis bandwagon is rolling so soon and is actually promoting the very errors they mistakenly claim the document is teaching! They’re the ones telling the world that Pope Francis is permitting blessings for same sex unions, that such blessings approve of sinful sex acts, and that this is the first step in a march towards same sex marriage.

    It would be better if they focussed instead on the limited, restrictive, nature of these spontaneous, non-liturgical, pastoral blessings and help reinforce this, not put ideas in the heads of others.

    Reply
    • A priest might bless a crowd or an individual without asking about their personal lives, but if two persons come forward and ask to be blessed *together* then that clearly involves a blessing of whatever relationship is betwen them. That is a point that Welby and Francis are determinedly not acknowledging. Any conscientious priest should then enquire of the nature of that relationship, and should not bless a sinful relationship. The two persons can be blessed separately, of course, using general terms. But the “don’t ask” paragraph in Fiducia Supplicans is disingenuous and that is why. Mentioning same-sex relationships in the same document makes it clear which couples Francis has in mind. You, Jack, have your eyes determinedly shut.

      Reply
      • Anton

        I think that its becoming harder to justify the uniqueness of gay people or gay couples that we alone should have special prohibitions on us.

        The RCC happily married Boris Johnson who doesn’t seem to even know how many children he has or with whom. It would be easier to justify excluding gay couples from things if other, much more obviously immoral behavior, was not given a pass

        Reply
  17. Thankyou Jock
    I have read your prescribed epistles on blessing others. Obvious to me, the product of a committee, quite convoluted on * other * blessings, which I would have thought could well be covered by the general corporate blessing of Numbers Ch.6 v 24ff.
    We chaps on the number 48 omnibus have as our moto 2 Cor 11:3 and 2 Cor 1:12

    On this whole vexed question of ssb’s. From its inception the Church has been engaged in warfare. Witness the temptations of Our Lord, which by the way He Overcame by the word of His testimony, quoting the Law and Holy Scriptures.
    And of course, Paul’s injunction to dress like a soldier [Eph. 6.] for the purpose of
    “STANDING in the Evil day;” being “girt about” [held together] by the belt of truth.”
    This is such a day, just standing,

    History shows that the Church has been beaten down to the extent that godly souls sometimes “despair of life itself” However we must never forget the many resurrections in power which God has visited on His people to the glory of His Name.

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    • Alan – I think you mean Jack (not Jock here).

      I’m not an RC man or a C of E man – and I basically take the Blackadder view of blessing others, which is that it can be very dangerous and is therefore something to be avoided. (There was the anecdote about the knight who kneeled down to receive the blessing of the archbishop, forgetting that he was wearing a three foot spike on his head ……..)

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