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Were loving, faithful same-sex relations known in antiquity?

This is a guest post from John Pike, making the case that loving, faithful same-sex relations were known in antiquity, amongst other kinds of same-sex sexual relationships.

John is a GP in the Bristol area whom I know online. We have had some very interesting discussions in the context of our having quite different views on whether the Church should change its teaching on marriage and same-sex sexual relationships. But, as with such discussions, we often find unexpected things in common. John here makes the case that, in the range of patterns of relationship, loving and faithful same-sex relationships were known in antiquity, drawing on academic work which is itself based on primary research. Although I might assess parts of the evidence differently, I think he is essentially correct; it seems extraordinary to suppose that contemporary examples of such relationships are a modern construction—and outside the Church debate this is a widely held view, and one that deserves to be taken seriously. But if John is correct in his helpful summary of the evidence, then it makes it very hard to argue that the biblical writers ‘did not know’ of faithful and loving same-sex relationships, or that they ‘only condemned’ abusive relationships of this form. Same-sex relationships, and views about them, seem to have been as diverse then as they are now.

The post consists of the section of John’s discussion relating particularly to the New Testament texts; the whole of his piece is attached at the end as a document for download, if you are interested in the wider argument. It includes sections on the Ancient Near East, more on Ancient Greece, and a section on female homoeroticism.

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The church changed its mind on slavery. Why not on sex?

Will Jones writes: It rarely takes long in any discussion about a controversial ethical issue amongst Christians for someone to bring up slavery. Slavery is the great exemple of how Christian thinking has changed on a key ethical issue. Christians in the past permitted slavery, practised slavery, defended slavery. Scripture clearly permits slavery in certain circumstances, […]

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Is Synod competent?

The General Synod of the Church of England (of which I am a member) met last week in York, and there were many good things about it. We spend most of Saturday afternoon exploring some exciting developments from the ‘centre’ offering resources to dioceses and churches in the task of evangelism and the making of disciples. […]

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Miracle Worker

What miracle(s) does the Church need on sexuality?

There was a brief report in the Daily Mail online that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, believes ‘that the Church of England will need a miracle from the Holy Spirit to solve its long-running row over gay rights.’ The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the divisions cannot be healed by human hands but only […]

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What causes disunity?

It is fairly common in discussion about church relations to cite Jesus’ so-called ‘high priestly’ prayer (John 17) and his concern ‘that they should be one’—not least because Jesus himself connects the unity of his followers with the oneness of God himself, and in both Christian and Jewish contexts this is a fundamental truth about […]

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Debating transgender

One of the most difficult debates facing General Synod when it meets in July arises not from the main business agenda, but from a diocesan motion from Blackburn Diocese, which will be proposed by Revd Chris Newlands: That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, […]

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Can feelings lead us to truth?

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

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Sex and morality in Church and society

Following the debate in General Synod on the House of Bishop’s report on the Shared Conversations, various bishops have been making statements to their dioceses outlining their reflections on the debate and where we have got to as a Church. Perhaps the most striking was that made by Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, in […]

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