Does the Church of England deserve to survive?

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a business enterprise decided to sponsor an educational establishment. The business made widgets, and at the time everyone thought that widgets were just the bees knees. People bought the widgets; they learned about how widgets were made; they visited widget shops and even widget museums, dedicated to understanding all about the history of widgets. People wrote songs about widgets, and everyone sang these songs—even those who weren’t really convinced that widgets were the thing. So when the business decided to sponsor an educational establishment, although the programme of teaching followed the same broad syllabus as other educational establishments, included in the trust statement of this one was a commitment to ‘promote the understanding and appreciation of widgets’. And to that end, a special Widget Representative was appointed to the school, with the purpose of encouraging this to happen.

But times changed. Widgets became much less popular, not least because other companies were now making wodgets. In fact, many people became quite angry with the business that made widgets, because they thought that wodgets were much better than widgets, and why hadn’t they been told? In the educational establishment, the staff decided that they should tell all the pupils that wodgets were best. The Widget Representative found this difficult; what was he to do? He knew that the business that made widgets was in decline, that they were doing all sorts of things to help people appreciate widgets just as they used to—and besides, he still believed that widgets were better than wodgets. But he was employed by the school, so needed to be careful in what he said. He decided to tell the pupils that they did not need to reject widgets out of hand, and that many people still believed that they were better than wodgets. They shouldn’t be forced only to buy wodgets, but should think for themselves and consider the choice responsibly. And as they did that, they should respect those who thought differently from himself.

But when he did that, the staff reported him to the police. He couldn’t believe it! So he wrote to the managers at the widget business, to ask for their support. But they refused to speak up for him, support him, or agree that he had done the right thing! What will happen to that widget business?

You might have guessed by now that I have made this story up. But you might have also recognised a parallel—the case of Rev Dr Bernard Randall, who gave a talk telling the pupils at Trent College (two miles down the road from me, though across a diocesan boundary) that they did not have to agree to the ideas on gender identity currently being promoted in the college. As a result of this, the senior staff in the school reported him to the police’s Prevent programme for dealing with religious extremists who might lead pupils into terrorist organisations (yes, you read that correctly!).

A chaplain at a church school says he was reported as an extremist and forced out of his job after giving a sermon which addressed identity politics and LGBT issues. He’s now taking Trent College to court. Here is the full text of his sermon.

Like many media headlines, there is an important error here: Trent College is not a ‘church school’ but a private school whose trust deeds state that the goal of the school is ‘to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England’.

You can read the whole text of Dr Randall’s talk that got him into trouble here. At the heart of his talk are two key issues: respect for people who hold different views, including respect for those who are LGBT+; and the freedom to ask questions and disagree with contemporary gender identity ideology.

In our own school community, I have been asked about a similar thing [to Brexit] – this is one of the requested topics, and the question was put to me in a very particular way: “How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?” I thought that was a very intelligent and thoughtful way of asking about the conflict of values, rather than asking which is right and which is wrong. So my answer is this: there are some aspects of the Educate and Celebrate programme which are simply factual: there are same-sex attracted people in our society, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, and so on. There are some areas where the two sets of values overlap: no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is – that’s a Christian value, based in loving our neighbours as ourselves, God making humankind in his image, male and female, and himself loving everyone equally. All these things should be accepted straightforwardly by all of us, and it’s right that equalities law reflects that…

You are perfectly at liberty to hear ideas out, and then think: “No, not for me.” There are several areas where many or most Christians (and for that matter people of other faiths too), will be in disagreement with LGBT activists, and where you must make up your own mind.

So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law. You may perfectly properly believe that, as an ideal, sexual activity belongs only within such marriage, and that therefore any other kind is morally problematic. That is the position of all the major faith groups – though note that it doesn’t apply only to same-sex couples. And it is a belief based, not only on scripture, but on a highly positive view of marriage as the building block of a society where people of all kinds flourish, and on recognising that there are many positive things in life more important than sex, if only we’d let them be. This viewpoint is recognized by many people as extremely liberating. And it’s an ethical position which could also be arrived at independently of any religious text, I think.

You are entitled, if you wish, to look at some of the claims made about gender identity and think that it is incoherent to say that, for example, gender is quite independent of any biological factor but that a person’s physiology should be changed to match his or her claimed gender; or incoherent to say that gender identity is both a matter of individual determination and social conditioning at the same time, or incoherent to make claims about being non-binary or gender-fluid by both affirming and denying the gender stereotypes which exist in wider society. And if these claims, which do seem to be made, are incoherent, then they cannot be more than partially true.

It is for these statements that Dr Randall was reported to the police as part of the Prevent anti-terrorism/extremism programme.

All that was in June 2019. At the end of 2020, Dr Randall was made redundant. He is now suing the College for discrimination and constructive dismissal.

You can read Dr Randall’s case expressed in his own words in The Critic.

The Christian tradition has plenty of resources to help navigate such conundra as making sure that there is no tolerance for bullying — we’ve all heard of “Love your neighbour as yourself.” How about supporting teenagers as they work out what their identity is, and how they fit into the world. “Made in the image of God,” anyone?

And if something needs adding to this, then, yes, let’s have that discussion. But if you want to import a different belief system into the school, don’t expect the chaplain to sit idly by. And make no mistake, this is a different belief system. The sign was writ large on that day of staff training. You couldn’t miss it. It said that the Equality Act protected characteristics include “gender,” and “gender identity.” No. They don’t. “Sex,” (you know, that biological thing) is there, and “gender reassignment, (a process of change)” too. If this is just a benign programme, why start with a whopping great lie?

The answer is that this is not simply about supporting LGBT pupils — even supposing we think that LGB and T belong together (the LGB Alliance and many others don’t). It is about an ideology which wishes to break down society, and remould it into … well, I know not what. It’s about Queer Theory, and disrupting all categories. That’s why the mantra “smash heteronormativity” describes Educate and Celebrate’s work so very well. But as human beings we navigate the world by categories — it means we don’t have to process every piece of sensory input or information separately and afresh. The destruction of categories means mental overload, loss of the ability to make timely decisions, paralysis, and chaos. I’m pretty sure no Christian would support chaos. Nor would any reasonable person. Yes, categories, stereotypes, sometime mislead us, but the way to deal with that is to be alert to them, not to dispense with them altogether.

So, we have a situation where a Church of England chaplain, who must have held a licence from the Bishop of Derby, has been reported to the police (though they did not pursue it) for articulating the possibility of believing in something which is the current doctrine of the Church of England, and has been made redundant subsequently, which he believes to have been discriminatory and unfair. What would we hope that leaders of the Church of England might say publicly in support of him and his ministry? What might they say to other clergy who could be in a similar challenging situation? What resources could the national Education department have made available to give guidance to chaplains and Christian teachers in schools using the Educate and Celebrate material?

Answer came there ‘None’.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported on the case, and reported that Andrea Williams, of Christian Concern, approached Libby Lane, the bishop of Derby, as well as the office of both the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for comment. Libby Lane was reported as saying:

Public statements in support of one side in a dispute, prior to the evidence emerging in legal proceedings, is neither in the interests of good legal process nor, indeed, likely to serve Dr Randall’s personal interests well.

York said that there is nothing to add, and Canterbury (in the absence of Justin Welby on sabbatical) said ‘No comment.’

I find that extremely odd. I don’t see how difficult it would be to say something like ‘We cannot comment on this particular case. But we support him in his ministry, and he was, of course, quite right to tell pupils that they can believe in the doctrine of the Church of England.’ The initial talk was in June 2019—nearly two years ago. People have had two years to make a comment, and a clear 18 months before this case was brought.

And I don’t need to take the Daily Mail’s word for the story, because Bernard contacted me himself, in June 2019, to check what he was planning to say, and whether it was a fair expression of Christian faith and Church of England doctrine. I affirmed that it was. And I have therefore also offered an ‘expert witness’ statement for the court case being led by Christian Legal Centre on Bernard’s behalf.

Why is all this particularly important for the Church of England at the moment? Why is it more than an employment storm in a gender identity teacup? I think there are three reasons, and the first is both the most obvious and the least significant.

First, as you will likely be very aware, dear reader, the C of E is currently engaging in the process of reflecting on the Living in Love and Faith resources. It has been repeatedly argued, including on this blog, that this is not a covert attempt to change the Church’s teaching, but a genuine resource for discussion, learning and debate, as we listen attentively to one another. How can those who believe and teach the Church’s long-standing doctrine have confidence in this, if no bishop will ever make a public statement in a case like Bernard Randall’s?

Secondly, the Church of England is asking, from the top, for significant changes to be put in place at the level of the local church. Part of that is through a quite radical strategy of planting new congregations using funding from the Strategic Development Fund, resourced by the Church Commissioners—which, while overall a very positive thing, has made many ‘ordinary’ parish clergy feel that they are not valued. Alongside that, dioceses have actually starting making parish clergy posts redundant in the face of their own financial difficulties, making clergy feel insecure in quite a new way.

And it is in this context that the silence around Bernard Randall sends a very loud message: bishops are not willing to speak up in support of clergy under pressure from what many believe to be anti-Christian ideologies in culture. Stephen Cottrell has been leading a discussion on future strategy for the Church, and one of the key terms in this is that we should be ‘bolder’. Where is the confidence, where the boldness, in this situation?

Thirdly, outsider commentators, including even ‘friendly’ atheists, cannot make sense of this kind of situation. This is yet another example suggesting that the leaders of the Church don’t actually believe in the ‘product’ that they are offering—and, interestingly, this is in marked contrast to consistent public statements by the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, where church attendance is now about double the Church of England.

I don’t write any of this out of a desire to finger-point and find fault; I am of an age where most bishops in the Church of England are my contemporaries (or younger!); many are friends; some I would count as good friends. But this silence seems to be to be a serious failure of leadership, lacking both courage and integrity. I write simply out of an overwhelming sense of existential despair.

In my opening story, the leaders of the widget company didn’t appear to believe that those promoting widgets were worth speaking up for. What will happen to that widget company?

And what will happen to the Church of England?

(The picture at the top is from an article called ‘How to pull a sinking ship off the rocks’. Sounds like important reading.)

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201 thoughts on “Does the Church of England deserve to survive?”

  1. I am puzzled by the statement “it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law.”

    Is it still the case that English law defines marriage as the lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman”? Is that historic definition not superseded by the legislation introducing same-sex marriages?

    • Because the Church of England is the established Church, Canon Law is part of English law – and the definition comes from canon B30. So the historic definition is not superseded but supplemented (a bit like the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship).

      This tension was pointed out when same-sex marriage was introduced, if I recall correctly, but hasn’t been resolved.

      • Thank you, that helps me understand. I’m afraid I am an ex-Anglican (now a Salvation Army officer), so the status of canon law did not come to my mind.

        I’m currently serving in Scotland, so it would be interesting to know if there is a similar definition in Church of Scotland canon law, and if it has the same legal status as the law of the land….Anybody?

      • I feel that a different outcome would have occurrred in times past.
        Particularly thinking of those powerhouses of England and the early Protestant Church – Thomas’s Cranmer and Cromwell.

      • Hi Bernard,

        I just wanted to say thank you. I’ve been praying for you and hope God blesses you in your future ministry.

        God bless brother.

    • The rather selective quotation from Canon B30 is not unusual – but let’s remember it “one man and one woman for life”. The law of the land, if you wish to make much of the status of the Canons, is, prima facie, that marriage is indissoluble. Why is that bit so conveniently stepped round?

      • Exactly, Jeremy. A compromised church (post 1970) loses its power. It is a foul business, and also an illogical one because the law will always do 2 simultaneously wrong things at once: support the divisive/immature and give none to the peaceable/mature. There is compulsion either way, so why give preferential treatment to compulsion to a negative rather than a positive end?

  2. Ian – thanks for this. As you know, I posted on the topic myself, and have studied the sermon. But thank you for additional insider details, not least the fact that Bernard Randall got in touch with you to check his facts and doctrine (despite having been a Chaplain at Christ’s College, Cambridge!). Well done, and thank you for raising the stakes.

    • I had no actual doubts about the material. I contacted Ian because, ironically, I thought a second, expert, opinion would help to protect the school if any parent heard a second-hand report and questioned it.

      Can you share where you posted on the topic?

  3. I am going to make myself unpopular here by saying that I agree with Libby Lane’s statement. The assumption by everyone is that the redundancy happened because of the content of the sermon, and that may be true, but we haven’t heard the other side of the story yet and that will only come out in court.

    • Having been made redundant several times in my working life, I know how personal that feels. However, each time I was reminded that it was the job that was made redundant, not me. In my case, this was either due to restructuring of the organisation or because of budget constraints. An employee cannot be made redundant because of their own actions. To do so would be unfair dismissal. In effect, they have been sacked.
      An organisation cannot make a post redundant in order to remove someone, and then seek to employ another in that same post. In this situation, if the school has made the chaplain redundant, it means that they no longer wish to employ a chaplain in the same capacity.

        • I suspect, as I comment below, that some other member of staff has picked up the chaplaincy duties. The Chaplain was only working 7 hours per week before redundancy.

    • I agree with you Nick. I also have questions about Ian’s expectations about leadership, Bishops ‘speaking out’, and any link between the story (which I agree is very concerning) and LLF.

      • David, do you think that an Anglican clergy person, as chaplain in a school with an Anglican foundation, should be able to say ‘You are allowed to question current gender ideology and you are allowed to believe the teaching of the church’ without being referred to the police?

        When they are referred to the police, do you think that it is reasonable to expect some episcopal support?

        If you cannot say ‘yes’ to both of these, can I suggest you have a chat with some clergy colleagues and see what they think, and what their morale is like?

          • David, you commented ‘ I also have questions about Ian’s expectations about leadership, Bishops ‘speaking out’’

            My questions to you follow on from that comment of yours. So how would you answer them?

    • I make no such assumption. And I explicitly say that comment on the actual case is not the issue.

      The issue is what was happening in the previous 18 months, and why no support was given.

      • “The issue is what was happening in the previous 18 months, and why no support was given.”

        Spot on.

        Peel away any uncertainties about the redundancy, the schools “values” and anything else… this question remains. It’s difficult to view the lack of support as anything other than disgraceful. I’d say “puzzling” but that’s totally inadequate as a pastoral response or a public response.

        If the church is a boat this is like the captain scuppering it.

        • I have been thinking about the image of the CofE as a boat, since many evangelicals still regard it as a good ‘boat to fish from’. I disagree with them. As the navigation officer is plotting a course for the rocks, many of the senior officers are busily drilling holes in the hull, and the captain appears to not notice what is going on (or maybe thinks that what is being done is a good idea), the Good Ship Cof E isn’t a good ship to even travel on, let alone fish from.

    • I disagree with you, Nick, because we already have the perspective of the main pseron with inside knowledge.

      • But we don’t have the perspective of the employer so we only have one side. They may have genuine unrelated reasons for making the post redundant. We do not know because we have not heard their side. For that reason I still agree with Bishop Libby’s statement.

  4. I smiled at the phrase “Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England” I realise that both notions today may mean what they meant when written. Whilst I recognise that statute and employment law may have changed but there is nothing in what was said that should have come under the PREVENT legislation – there was no hate or anger in what he said. I do however think it was possibly a little difficult for school children to follow.

    As for your story at the beginning im sorry to tell you that the C of E uses neither device but is fully invested in the time tested and trusted device known as Bodgeit.

  5. Although I agree with much of this post, Ian, I have to ask myself – does church history show that ANY church or denomination deserves to survive? Every split and schism has given something that has often shone for a while, then suffers and sometimes falls under self-induced (or more often leader induced) corruption or error. Individual fellowships rise and fall, wax and wane.

    I can only trust that Jesus’ mercy and grace will preserve his faithful church in some form or other – and try and remain part of that church. The trouble I find is that, as Tom Wright and others have said, I think that 80% of what I believe is correct – the problem is which 80%?

  6. Ian thank you for this article, we need more people in the church to speak up for biblical principles. If a thief came before a court, he would be told in no uncertain terms that what he was doing was wrong. The judge wouldn’t be afraid of offending him by pointing out ‘the commandment thou shalt not steal’. Our civilisation depends on the truth of the bible and we must not become men pleasers but remain God pleasers. Once the church lets the world dictate its worldy values to it it forgets that it’s a church with its own beliefs and becomes a shadow of the secular world.

  7. Does the Church believe that the world has an order which reflects the divine will? If it no longer believes that then it certainly doesn’t deserve to survive. Next question: is the differentiation between male and female an important part of that order? We must assume that it is. Given that, those who want to argue that gay marriage is permissible or that gender is a matter of self-identification have all the work to do if they want to convince others of their beliefs.

  8. Fast-forward ten years and what hope is there that any person could make a similar statement and not be reported to the police for “harmful” or “hateful” conduct? Evangelicals need to accept that they will soon be social outcasts for defending the traditional sexual ethic itself – regardless of how pleasant and nuanced their statements might be about LGBT individuals.

    Which is why evangelicals will probably cave in over same sex marriage. They’re not used to being socially excluded – they are too middle-class, too socially conservative and they have no recent history of attracting or supporting people who wish to be “countercultural”.

    • Could be – but history does not go in straight lines: it scarcely could. There are pendulum swings too.

      • I know how much you value the importance of evidence, Christopher. I would say the evidence of both recent history and the state of evangelical Christianity today puts the balance of probability very much in Joe’s favour, as Joe himself says. He even uses the word ‘probably’. So is your theoretical caveat really adding anything?

        • It is important. The present trajectory is something so new that there must be questions about its sustainability.

          Also pendulum swings seem to me to be a greater feature of history than straight lines are. The only exception is how many things are invented and the refinement of economic growth thereby. Capitalism is growth-destined by its nature; but even then it does not grow in straight graph-lines.

    • Heb 11

      The Word of God is, was and always shall be “counter culture.” Christ suffered for us outside the gate, which is where we are called to follow Him along with the exhortation to “stand” in the Truth.

      “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.”

      Blessed Saviour.

      He’s coming back. Keep your walking shoes on.

  9. As others have already said, what is most shocking here is not so much the silence from the Bishops when approached by news media for comment in the last few days (a response that on the face it seems reasonable), but the 18 months of silence and lack of tangible support before it.

    Actually, maybe shocking is the wrong word.

    It is sad.


  10. B Randall preached essentially a relativist sermon.

    Christian ideas have as much right to be in the marketplace as any other. No more and no less.

    That is considerably different from my assessment.

    However, C of E authorities apparently do not think this is good enough, having offered the poor man no support.

    So he ought to be saying that Christian ideas are less equal than others (or: than secular or woke).

    So if that is what the C of E thinks then it is curtains for the C of E. For not caring.

    About truth. Only about image and false, pointless diplomacy that only exacerbates the slippery slope.

    But as we have seen with the Labour Party votes, a renunciation of woke is the very one thing voters most want.

    O Lord, please let this be the tipping point.

  11. There seem to be some bits of the story missing and I wonder if the blanks are significant.
    Firstly let me say that reporting the matter to the Police seems quite without merit and the Police clearly saw it that way as well. But now come the gaps.

    The Church Times reported that the Head of the School dismissed the Chaplain after the sermon on the grounds of misconduct. The Governors, on appeal, reversed the decision of the head. As you say Ian, that was 18 months or so ago. Why has this only come out now? What support did the Chaplain ask for at that point, and what was offered by the ‘leadership’ of the Church? Important questions to which there is, as yet, no answer.

    The Church Times also reports that after being on furlough, the hours of the Chaplain were reduced to 7 per week. And then redundancy followed.

    Private schools tend to operate just as they please and I doubt this would have happened in a state school. I have been both a state C of E school Chaplain and Governor of a C of E secondary school. What I am assuming has happened is that the school has financial difficulties and has to save money. I assume that some other member of staff has picked up the Chaplaincy duties. I assume that Dr Randall was not a teaching Chaplain, as many Chaplains are, especially in a Private school. All these questions have bearing on the case. They will no doubt all be answered at the tribunal.
    I agree with Nick that Libby Lane’s comment now is very sensible. She will probably know a good deal more than we do.

    I don’t actually see how this has much bearing on LLF. To make that link is to possible make a certain amount of mischief.

    There are concerning elements in the story. But there are also concerning gaps.

    • Andrew,

      I can fill in some of the blanks.

      This has only come out now because I wanted to give the school maximum opportunity to resolve things informally or through mediation etc. However, because the Tribunal is due in a few weeks it would have become public shortly anyway.

      I was told by an Archdeacon at the time that the Church wouldn’t intervene in an internal disciplinary process. But once that was over, support could have been given (e.g. an offer to mediate).

      My hours were not in fact reduced. That was a proposal which got changed into full redundancy when the initial furlough period ended in November. Yes, money was tight, but not ruinously so (at the beginning of the first lockdown the Head promised that, because of the school’s strong financial position, no jobs would be lost – and that was before the furlough scheme was announced). I did have a teaching role, which was in my contract, but the school refused to allocate a timetable.

      When I returned briefly from furlough in November I was told there was no work to do, and sent home. I was not permitted to work during the notice period for my redundancy.

      So yes, it all seemed very personal – hence the addition of unfair dismissal to the previous discrimination claim.

      • Thank you Bernard, that is all helpful to know.
        Did the offer of mediation then not materialise? It would seem a sensible offer from the Archdeacon.
        So is it right to say you were working full time, but then not allocated any classes? I am not clear how, if you were teaching, you were on furlough? Friends who are teachers have worked harder, if anything, during the lockdown as schools had to provide lessons on line etc. Were other teachers also made redundant? It must, as you say, seem rather personal.

      • Bernard,
        As a former solicitor, could it be suggested that you seek your lawyer’s advice before making any more comments here.
        I realize that, that may go against a calling for truth and openness, but this is not the forum I’d suggest. Time and place can be important. It can be a very lonely place to be, especially when it is a matter not only of high personal interest to you, but also of, properly termed, public interest.

      • Bernard,
        1. I’m praying for you – please offer a link that allows me to have prayer request updates.
        2. I’ll echo a comment here from Geoff about you commenting here. I come from a compliance background where I have handled many employee dismissals. Social media comment as at times caused the process to detrimentally come unstuck.
        3. I’ve long followed the sticky mess the church has itself in. See:

  12. What this case shows (if it were not already clear) is that it is very difficult to be a Christian in today’s society. And being a Christian is difficult in a way that would have seemed unthinkable in, say, the 1950s. There is a real price to pay for those who defend Christian principles. It is no surprise, therefore, that many people wish to redefine Christianity so that the difficulties are removed. I don’t say that this is due to outright cowardice, but there must be a very strong subconscious pressure for people to embrace a version of Christianity (if it can still be called that) which is compatible with modern ways of thinking.

  13. 1 There seems to be little understanding here of the law of constructive dismissal.
    (Andrew Godsall – this could account for what you see as a time gap, on which you seem to place so much emphasis.)
    Andrew, as a former solicitor, I don’t see any disconcerting gaps, on the contrary, I can foresee how a case for constructive dismissal may be built up during that time.
    2 The quoted comment from the B of Derby wasn’t merely no comment, wasn’t anodyne; it could be construed as hostile, with a sting in the tail.
    3 The post is not redundant, if it continues carried on by others (as said above) it is not the person, but the post which is redundant
    4 The so-called *redundancy* itself, could be part and parcel of unfair/ constructive dismissal.

    Anyone who does not see an overall picture with LLF is being disingenuous; how undermining it is to the whole process: any hard won trust, if there was any, will be washed away. Again and again the comments reveal the unbridgeable? Fissure.

    To Andrew Godsall’s credit in the earlier, last LLF comment thread, he was supportive of Dr Randall’s talk.

    But the ABoY remains disengaged. There seems to be a vacuum of explicit leadership on matters of Christian educational principles and doctrine, teaching, sufficient to cast doubt on the motives of the LLF process.

  14. Who exactly reported him to the police? When it is said ‘the school did’ does this mean that the Head reported him or the Chair of Governors?

    Who made this decision?

    • My understanding is that the initiative came from the relevant deputy-head Mr Jeremy Hallows, and also from the safeguarding[!]-lead Mrs Justine Rimington; the latter I gather is no longer in post.

      • If I was a governor of the school, then whoever it was that did this, has brought the school into disrepute and I would demand they be called to account.

        Not much chance of this happening I would imagine…

  15. The headline question, ‘Does the Church of England deserve to survive?’ is posed in the context of a church shrinking at the rate of roughly 3% per annum. The average age of the congregant is over 60, almost certainly over 65. It is already on its last legs.

    There is only one place in the Bible where Jesus gives his own answer to the question, and that is Rev 2-3. The seven churches of Asia were representative of the Church as a whole. It is symptomatic that the contemporary Church does not apply the overriding message of Jesus’s letters to the churches to itself. Four of the seven were told to repent and a fifth had individuals who needed to repent. By no means the most severely criticised was Ephesus, which was told bluntly that Jesus would remove it from its place if it did not repent. We can assume that Jesus’s warning to Ephesus applied also to the other churches. A church community that is unwilling to examine itself before God and, as necessary, repent has no life in it – it is bound to perish.

    As I said in relation to John 17, you can tell whether a church understands the gospel by the way it prays, if it prays at all. Given that the C of E since 2015 has been shrinking 3% a year, as its old people die, surely we should be praying as never before – both for ourselves and for our godless nation.

    • I think you have confused the Good News with your need to be outspoken against transgenderism.

      Out of interest, what would you say the Good News is?

      [Not an idle question: I suspect rather strongly that the sides in this debate have completely incompatible ideas about what the Good News actually is, and indeed why it’s Good]

      • The Kingdom of God is near. Jesus Christ has come promising redemption and shalom for all. He has come to give life and life to the full. He has made known the way to the Father. He has defeated death and the law of sin. We need to respond, repent and put our faith and trust in him. He holds the keys to eternal life. I hope you would agree that this is the Good News?
        I worry so many evangelicals just see the gospel being reduced to ‘speak out against abortion and LGBT equality’

        • The Kingdom of God is near. Jesus Christ has come promising redemption and shalom for all. He has come to give life and life to the full. He has made known the way to the Father. He has defeated death and the law of sin. We need to respond, repent and put our faith and trust in him. He holds the keys to eternal life. I hope you would agree that this is the Good News?

          It certainly sounds like it. Next non-idle question: why is that news good?

          • I’m giving a lot but not getting much in reply. Stop playing silly and say what your point is

          • Stop playing silly and say what your point is

            Just what I asked: why is that news good? Why is it good that Jesus Christ has come — what would have happened if He hadn’t come?

        • Regarding LGBT and transgender issues, I assume the purpose of ‘speaking out’ is because of the view that gay sexual relations and male and female humans believing they weren’t meant to be male or female goes against the Creator’s ‘design’ for humanity. As such issues are now impacting the church it seems reasonable to expect Christian leaders to offer a view on the subject.


        • Of course it is not reduced to any such thing. For 2 reasons:

          (1) It is obviously not an either/or in the first place. One can speak about a variety of topics. There is nothing compelling us to speak only of the eternal gospel and never about anything else!!
          Since that point is so obvious, one might suspect a desperate attempt to stop people talking about certain topics at all, on the grounds that more important ones exist! That will fool no-one.

          (2) One can scarcely not speak a lot about topics that are causing especial harm; or on which society/parts of the church are in danger of going seriously astray/awry. Do those sorts of topics strike one as the sorts of things one should be silent about?
          Christians do not speak about such things – unless society’s obsession with them forces them to. Society is the instigator here therefore.

  16. I read through the entire website of Trent College and it is clear they have done their level best to obliterate any reference to Christianity in the ethos, praxis or purpose of the school.
    Only on one page did I find a single reference to its historical foundation as a school established as a “Protestant and Evangelical” foundation.
    Among the list of governors I couldn’t find a single representative of the Church of England. Very strange in a church foundation.
    They are not alone in this outlook. I have seen this in a number of other independent schools, including some in the Anglo-Catholic Woodford tradition, where the Christian foundation is censored and all the talk about “developing your child” etc is profoundly secular – as if Christian faith had nothing to do with personal and intellectual development!
    It is impossible to imagine that a Catholic school would do this. Catholic achools are not ashamed of their religious foundation.
    The purose of independent schools, especially in the majority of the country without grammar schools, is to provide to a securer route to elite universities for the children of wealthy middle class families. Thee are not enough of these in England alone, so the numbers have to be made up with the children of wealthy families in Eastern Europe and China who wsnt to go to a British university.
    As for the Bishop’s strange silence: at the very least we should expect a statement that Dr Randall has not in any way violated his priestly vows. His character was terribly assailed by the complaint to thr police and he deserves episcopal support.

    • Violated them? How would that question even arise, since he has not come within a million miles of doing so, he was just doing a business as usual sermon. To speak of violation would be to accept the false framework adopted by his whistleblowers; and any framework that equates such a man and ministry with the threat of terrorism has clearly lost the plot to an unfathomable extent.

      • Of course. My point was that as the persons charged with licensing Dr Randall, the very least the Bishop and Archbishop could do would be to confirm that:
        1. Dr Randall had not taught anything contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England.
        2. He had not acted in any scandalous or inmoral way in the fulfilment of his professional duties.
        3. He certainly did not promote “terrorism” or anything illegal in his words.
        Not to offer any support here where his reputation may be inpugned is looks cowardly and unworthy.
        Readers of this blog all know that Archbishop Welby stated – without any evidence beyond an unsupported allegation that was very widely repudiated by historians and others – thst Bishop George Bell was “under a significant cloud” and he has never withdrawn these damaging and unjustified words. The Bishop of Derby should stand by Dr Randall when his reputation has been assailed.

    • “As for the Bishop’s strange silence: at the very least we should expect a statement that Dr Randall has not in any way violated his priestly vows. His character was terribly assailed by the complaint to thr police and he deserves episcopal support.”

      It seems, from what Bernard says above, that at the time this all happened he was offered episcopal support. The archdeacon made it clear that once the internal process was complete, mediation was on offer. And then who knows what else. But this is a problem with independent schools. If it were a Diocesan school there would be quite a different approach.

      I am in agreement with Geoff and Libby Lane – comments before the tribunal are likely to do more harm than good. I think Bernard is well advised to keep his powder dry.

      • Andrew,

        you misunderstood me. “Could have been” is not “would be” or “was.” I’ll say no more.

        • I think that’s wise Bernard. I am so sorry it has been such a wretched time and every good wish for the tribunal.

      • Andrew,
        I’m not being a pedant but repeat a point I made above. The Bishop of Derby’s comment as quoted was not non committal, it had a sting in the tail, implying it would not be of supportive, of benefit to Dr Randall to make comment; implying that something was being held back, something that would be detrimental to him. As I said above, it could be seen as a sting in the tail.

  17. Thanks Ian for the article. Sadly I think the bishops either lack the theological insight or courage to uphold the Gospel and resist poisonous LGBT ideology. It’s not only them. There is a huge amount of fear now among Christians who have not yet convinced themselves they can embrace it publicly. I shared the story on FB but got very little responses. Jokes, pictures of family and animals get hundreds of likes. Faithful Freehold parish clergy are among the few people who can still advocate the ‘official’ CofE teaching without an immediate threat to their jobs but even we are under great pressure to “fall into line” by saying nothing. It is costly in terms of relationships in the church, family and friends, mental health, well-meaning people close to us who urge us to keep silent or are terrified to be associated with a vicarblily who is willing to publicly teach God’s truth. It’s all there in the Bible, what the prophets went through. People love the stories in the book of Daniel but no-one wants to be thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the golden statue! History students will be aware of what happens when gentle, courageous pastors like Bernard Randall get treated like enemies of the pubic good and the church hierarchy disassociate from them or look the other way. Let the reader understand. I think the LLF materials could be used constructively but not in a climate of fear where faithfulness to Christ brings such grief. Shame on every Christian who is not willing to stand with a persecuted brother.

    • “climate of fear where faithfulness to Christ brings such grief.”

      I agree. The non support is not neutral in results. It digs a bit more foundation out and, to change metaphor, begins to saw the branch off behind them/us.

  18. How would the role of military chaplains fit into your rant? Is their only ‘Christian’ (in your definition) response to tell their pastoral charges to lay down their weapons and desert? Or they bound by the rules of the organisation that hosts/employs them.

    • Godly, faithful military chaplains have an important role in witnessing to the final authority of God. They should be willing to speak out against and try to prevent war crimes, breaches of the Geneva Convention, and all abuse of power. John the Baptist told soldiers not to abuse people or be discontent with their pay. Neither he nor Jesus nor the apostles told soldiers to desert although the developing Christian tradition allowed respect and accommodation for conscientious objectors. Jesus didn’t specifically condemn gay sex but this, far from indicating he approved of it, is evidence that he endorsed the Hebrew Scriptures moral standards regarding everyone’s sexual behaviour (Jew and Gentile) laid down in Leviticus 18. No Jew of Jesus time, including Jesus, thought that homosexual practice was not included in the list of things that were ‘porneia’, sexually immoral, and Paul of course confirmed this in Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy.

    • Why “rant”?

      Otherwise, I’m struggling to see the parallel you’re suggesting. Isn’t it the “bishops” who are ignoring the “boundary” of their own rules?

  19. Ian,
    Having read though your opening post several times and particularly your last few paragraphs, are you now at the stage where you are starting to lose hope in the Church of England’s future?

  20. In contemplating whether the Church of England deserves to survive, I guess you have to define what is meant by ‘the Church of England’. A factory of first class workers who make excellent products to the highest standard may nevertheless be brought to ruin by a self indulgent and visionless boss. And if that boss appoints a top and middle management which reflects his or her own character and unsuitability for leadership, ruin must inevitably come sooner or later. Certainly the engine room of the business (the factory and its workers) may deserve to survive; but the leadership – those who bear responsibility for running the business – have undermined it and they do not deserve for it to survive. Unfortunately collapse affects the deserving and undeserving alike.

    I think there’s pretty much a mathematical inevitability of outcome which results from the processes involved in making appointments: get one or two of them wrong and you’ve set in train an insidious path to destruction. We can all come to our own opinion as to how this might or might not apply to the current and future state of the C of E. Fortunately we Christians are not bound to any Christian organisation which has become corrupted. We simply move on and start again. But ‘simply’ refers to the logic of being faithful to our Lord; it doesn’t necessarily mean without pain or personal cost.

  21. Regarding LGBT and transgender issues, I assume the purpose of ‘speaking out’ is because of the view that gay sexual relations and male and female humans believing they weren’t meant to be male or female goes against the Creator’s ‘design’ for humanity. As such issues are now impacting the church it seems reasonable to expect Christian leaders to offer a view on the subject.


  22. You said:

    “So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law.”

    Also postulated on this topic is ther supposition that Chruch Law is, de rigeur, ntirely consonant with English Civil Law! Then; how is it possible that the Law of the Land in England has agreed to the legal provision of Same-Sex Marriage!

    This sounds a bit like the Church of England’s recent support for upholding of the U.N. Bill of Human Rights – when it asked for its own exclusion from thyat Charter in its treatment of matters of Gender and Sexuality By the Church of England.

    All this sounds like a bit of hypocrisy at work in the C. of E.

    • “Then; how is it possible that the Law of the Land in England has agreed to the legal provision of Same-Sex Marriage!”

      That is a good question. We might well wonder how on earth such a thing happened. Until recently it would have been unthinkable. I regard gay marriage as a far greater sin than casual gay sex. It is a terrible thing when society gives its approval to a state of permanent and ongoing sin.

      • David,
        At the time wasn’t a quadruple lock put in place to placate church opposition to a change in the law and to seek to ensure that SSM could not be externally imposed on the CoE?
        The lock is being unpicked internally, by the locksmith.
        Thankfully, the CoE is not the strong fortress of faith in believers of Christ; he is. We belong to him, his treasured possession, his inheritance.

        • It’s a classic slippery slope, Geoff. First they introduce gay marriage but exempt the C of E. That gives time for people to get used to the idea. Then the pressure builds for the C of E to accept gay marriage as well.

          I think you mentioned David Jenkins on a previous thread. Clearly the C of E have had serious problems for a long time. I imagine that many of the hierarchy share David Jenkins’ view on the Resurrection, but they just keep their thoughts to themselves. On LGBT issues they don’t keep quiet. They are moving in a direction which brings the Church into line with society as a whole but which is not remotely compatible with Christian beliefs and tradition.

          • By chaos theory I don’t know why people dismiss the idea that the York fire had anything to do with the installation of the new bishop by the archbishop. If a butterfly flapping its wings in Outer Mongolia can help set off a tsunami…. Everything but everything is interconnected, but some things more directly and obviously than others. The Omen film saw many casualties among participants shortly after filming because getting involved in that kind of thing messes with people’s heads. A similar mess and confusion could enter the atmosphere after such a consecration, and its effects could play out – it could be just another example of the same phenomenon. I don’t know either way, but a case can be made for sure.

          • It’s entirely plausible. We should expect God to work in ways that could be dismissed as chance by sceptics – as well as in more decisive ways. It raises an interesting question. Someone like David Jenkins would dismiss the more spectacular miracles of the Bible. But would such a person also rule out even the more low-key miracles – those involving the subtle manipulation of chaotic systems? And if even the low-key miracles are ruled out, what is left of Christian belief?

            Another question comes to mind. To what extent does the class of miracle-rejectors overlap with the class of gay-marriage supporters?

          • According to Wikipedia, “Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage, is the marriage of two people of the same sex or gender”

            It would be reassuring to know that no one supports this but, alas, I fear that all too many do. By the way, do you also belong to the class of those who reject miracles?

          • Penelope, I see robust disagreement on this blog but generally it is honest disagreement. I don’t see other people playing silly games. If you want to do that I suggest you go elsewhere.

          • By the way, I don’t know if you were trying to fault me for some kind of grammatical error. That seems to be suggested when you say that you don’t support women bishops – even though you do support the appointment of women to the position of bishop. There is, of course, no parallel between the two cases. Marriage is an institution; individual women bishops are not. If I had talked about supporting gay married people, the objection would have been valid, but I didn’t.

          • I’m not trying to fault you for anything.
            I’m simply pointing out that there isn’t a separate category of bishops, known as ‘women bishops’. There are bishops (some of whom are male).
            In the same way, there isn’t a separate category of marriage, called ‘gay marriage’. There is simply marriage. Some married couples are different sex, some are same sex.

          • And, I’m not playing ‘silly games’. I’m making an important point about category errors.

            And a much more charitable and eirenic point than many of the comments on this thread, which are, frankly, revolting.

            Good night.

          • I could have said that some people support the change in the law which allowed same-sex couples to marry, but I think I will stick to talking about support for gay marriage, since it’s easier. If that means that I have to posit a (fictional) category of gay marriage then so be it. (If anyone else finds that confusing, please let me know and I may reconsider).

          • Penelope’s position compels people to adopt her definition which is a minority and upstart one. But without saying why they should do so, let alond be compelled to do so.

          • And, I’m not playing ‘silly games’. I’m making an important point about category errors.

            You’re trying to set the terms of the debate and smuggle in your preferred conclusion by claiming it as a premise.

            If you’re doing it accidentally, you should stop. If you’re doing it deliberately, it’s arguing in very bad faith.

          • It’s not in the least confusing David.
            It’s simply disingenuous, mischievous, and false.

          • Upstart, Christopher?
            It’s certainly not a minority position, even in the CoE. So, not ‘my’ position.
            But I thought we didn’t decide doctrine by majorities?

          • So it’s disingenuous, mischievous, and false to speak of a category within the broader category of marriages in general? If I was talking about marriages between, say, redheads as if such marriages belonged in a distinctive category then your objection might be warranted. But marriages between two people of the same sex really are distinctive. For one thing, marriage as an institution was around for a very long time before the kind of marriage that I am talking about even existed. And, yes, referring to it as a “kind” of marriage may seem like begging the question but I don’t see any alternative.

          • But marriages between two people of the same sex really are distinctive

            That is exactly what Penelope is denying. She needs to back up that denial with arguments, though, not simply assert it.

          • “But I thought we didn’t decide doctrine by majorities?”

            Christopher has changed his mind about this now Penelope. Since claiming that Andrea Williams is de facto the ‘leader’ of the C of E based on the evidence of numbers alone. To quote: “Proportions are numbers/numerical. It is one of those occasions when people don’t bother to count the raised hands since the discrepancy is so vast you just say ‘that’s carried’.”

          • “But I thought we didn’t decide doctrine by majorities?”

            Christopher has changed his mind about this now Penelope. Since claiming that Andrea Williams is de facto the ‘leader’ of the C of E based on the evidence of numbers alone.

            ‘Who is the leader of the Church of England?’ is not a question of doctrine, though.

          • It’s incontestable and uncontested that we don’t decide doctrine or anything else by majorities. Because there is no way that truth could reside in majority vote per se. No-one would be inclined to suggest that truth could reside in majority vote per se.

            The fact that leaders can be identified by how many follow them is not controversial. The fact that as between the present leadership (who seem to be dragooned into conformity) and Christian Concern, it is the latter that better represents all four of biblical, historical, contemporary and international Christianity is also uncontested.

          • Christopher’s position compels one to accept his view that it is an uncontested fact that Christian Concern represents biblical, historical etc. Christianity.
            Christopher presents no evidence for this eccentric assertion.
            Others have argued that Andrea Williams and Christian Concern represent a disagreeable minority cult, with little relation to historical Anglicanism. In relation to LLF, CC produced a particularly nasty and hateful video.
            The Christian Institute loses most of the cases it takes up (which is unfortunate for Dr Randall). This allows them to claim that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country. Indeed, in some cases, they have been remarkably inept.
            Mrs Williams represents very few. Thankfully.

          • In terms of street preacher cases, they are serial winners with an unbroken record – something you did not mention.

            Secondly they take on a bewildering number of cases – for which they deserve great credit for their hard work.

            Thirdly, it is only in this age that they would have lost the cases they lose – it is the very injustice of the prevailing norms (and sometimes of the law itself) that they are highlighting.

            I never once measured CC against anything called ‘Anglicanism’. I measured it against Christianity. The word ‘Christian’ at least appears in the NT. Does anyone honestly think Jesus would have made head or tail of the word ‘Anglican’?? Or that something called ‘Anglicanism’ is of such importance in the grand scheme of things?

            Of course it is self-evident that they hold to traditional historic Christianity – that is what they are known for. Therefore they stand together with the vast majority of Christians through the ages, and of national churches. And yes, majorities are not always right.

          • Christopher

            Since Mrs Williams claims to be an Anglican and serves on General Synod, I’d say it’s very much to the point.

            As for historical, traditional Christianity, CC is more akin to some of the strange little sects which appear from time to time and, usually, disappear. CC follows neither the teaching of the CoE nor the teaching of the Pope, so it cannot be said to represent mainstream, traditional Christianity.
            CC is also implacably opposed to LLF and has made its opposition clear in an horrific video.

          • So what if it is implacably opposed to LLF? – so am I. But not insofar as it is a collection of resources, which is a good thing.

            You mention ‘C of E’ and catholicism as mainstream. This would be an illicit appeal to the majority if true – I could never understand why people put a church body before Jesus: that really is putting the cart before the horse. However, ‘C of E’ is not mainstream, but only one (not the largest) part of the fourth or fifth largest international Christian grouping. And one that represents one sole nation, with all the pitfalls that that brings with it. England against the rest of the world – not mainstream therefore.

          • CC follows neither the teaching of the CoE nor the teaching of the Pope, so it cannot be said to represent mainstream, traditional Christianity.

            Are you sure it’s not the other way around — that the Church of England and the Pope are the ones who have moved away from mainstream, traditional Christianity?

          • Christopher

            You are not addressing the two issues.
            Firstly, however much of a backwater the CoE may be, it is here that LLF has potential significance. It is the CoE Andrea Williams claims to be a member of and in which she is a member of General Synod.
            Secondly, the Anglican Communion and Catholicism, both eastern and western, are a large part of mainstream Christianity. Christian Concern is a shabby little sect.

          • What nonsense. I work in a Catholic business, and the vast majority of Catholics are squarely behind Christian Concern – as would have been the vast majority of Anglicans a generation ago.

            Further, you don’t define mainstream…

            …nor why mainstream would be thought a good thing. Mainstream is often who shouts the loudest or has the biggest army.

            Conversely, it would be necessary to define just why sects have to be a bad thing (not that CC is one – it is something quite different: a pressure group, and moreover one that operates from within existing churches – see AW’s preaching schedule). What if there were a sect that was more accurate in its teaching than the mainstream was? Jesus and his disciples were a sect both before and after the Resurrection.

          • Conversely, it would be necessary to define just why sects have to be a bad thing

            I remember reading somewhere that a lot of liberal Christians in the Church of England seem to be driven by the fear — the absolute terror — of being seen as a ‘sect’. That’s why they are so desperate to avoid a split, or anything else which might jeopardise the Church of England’s established position, such as taking a firm position conspicuously contrary to public opinion.

            It’s as if they see a bright dividing line between a ‘religion’ (something respectable) and a ‘sect’ (something, to use Penelope’s word, ‘shabby’) and the worst thing they can think of would be to find themselves on the wrong side of that line. All else is subservient to maintaining the ‘respectable’ position of being a proper religion, and not a ‘sect’.

            Jesus and his disciples were a sect both before and after the Resurrection.

            Indeed, one does wonder how these people, had they been born twenty centuries ago instead of today, would have responded to the ‘shabby little sect’ led by the scruffy itinerant Galilean who went around dividing people into sheep and goats instead of being inclusive.

          • Except of course it was the self righteous lawyer types who were sure of their salvation and told others they would not be inheriting eternal life that Jesus warned us to be a bit wary of……

          • “vast majority of Catholics are squarely behind Christian Concern”

            The vast majority have never even heard of it.
            I’m pleased that you recognise the importance of the vast majority of Christians in the world however Christopher.

          • Except of course it was the self righteous lawyer types who were sure of their salvation and told others they would not be inheriting eternal life that Jesus warned us to be a bit wary of……

            Indeed; and who in all of history is more sure of their salvation than a modern universalist liberal?

          • Of course they have never heard of it. They are behind their position not their name.

          • When it comes to salvation I’m completely with Archbishop Michael Ramsay. An Oxford undergrad asked him if he was saved. The Archbishop replied “I have been, I am being, and I hope to be”

          • When it comes to salvation I’m completely with Archbishop Michael Ramsay. An Oxford undergrad asked him if he was saved. The Archbishop replied “I have been, I am being, and I hope to be”

            And I bet right afterwards the Archbishop gave himself a good smug pat on the back for coming up with such a clever-clever answer.

          • Michael Ramsey replied in Greek, so he did not say ‘I hope to be’, he said ‘I will be’.

            He was speaking of 3 tenses of salvation of all of which he was assured.

            Have been saved from penalty of sin, am being saved from power of sin, will be saved from presence of sin.

          • Would you remind me of the reference for that please Christopher? I can’t locate where I originally read it! Many thanks

          • Sects aren’t necessarily shabby. Christian Concern is. It is, indeed, supported by some Catholics, as Christopher’s anecdote suggests. Not, I should imagine, most Catholics who follow Catholic social teaching.

            Remember that we are not divided into sheep and goats until the eschaton. And then it is God doing the deciding, not Mrs Williams.

          • Penelope, as a supporter of Christian Concern, I am surprised that you should see fit to characterise it as shabby, and by association its supporters also. Among their merits is the fact that they have decided to support Dr Randall. You know that Satan is called the ‘accuser of our brethren’ (Rev 12:10). Without substantiation, your obiter is both gratuitous and scurrilous, and I’m not convinced anyway that this is the place for you to be expressing such thoughts. I request you reconsider, and withdraw them. Self-righteousness is the spirit of the age and an all-too-common feature of Psephizo comments. We’re all prone to it, and we would all do well to remember to whom we must give account.

          • And you others too. The comments policy is: ‘Good comments that engage with the content of the post, and share in respectful debate, can add real value. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives. Don’t view debate as a conflict to win.’
            Remember that this is a public site. People like me are interested in certain topics, including the comments that follow, but not in unedifying ping pong. The rally had gone on for 39 shots before my own interjection.

          • The content of what he said we know because of the biblical references that use all 3 tenses –

            Past tense 2 Tim 1.9
            Present tense 1 Cor 1.18
            Future tense Rom 5.9-10.

            As to his having spoken in Greek, I have read that he ‘murmured’ the 3 Greek participles with an ‘or’ (e) added, after being asked by a Sally Army lady whether he was saved (doubtless in a Michael Green book), but cannot place it. Not sure if it would have been Green, Meaning of Salvation, which is more of a technical book – probably one or more popular books.

          • It’s not right, I think, that people should criticise the one organisation that is actually doing something and stepping in to help; while saying nothing of all the organisations that are doing nothing. That is the wrong way round, isn’t it?

          • My recollection of the story is that he was in mufti at the time whilst visiting Oxford early in the academic year. The inquisitor was an undergrad who had no idea who he was. Doubtful that he would speak Greek under those circumstances but certainly the three tenses are the kind of remark he would make – and what a superb answer.

          • Steven
            It was not I who introduced Mrs Williams into the conversation. But I am very sorry that Christian Concern is supporting Dr Randall. In my opinion, this will be detrimental to his case.
            And since we are discussing the CoE and LLF, it seems entirely apropos to note that CC is implacably opposed to LLF and that Ben John produced a disgraceful video about the participants in the LLF videos, which Mrs Williams endorsed.
            I do not apologise for being critical of such an organisation. Nor for believing that someone (Mrs Williams) who supports the criminalisation of homosexuality – particularly in countries with punitive measures – is very far from showing Christian virtues.

  23. Ron Smith of Christchurch, New Zealand, should and probably does know that the Anglican Church of New Zealand is in free fall and most of the evangelical congregations in that diocese have left to form a new Confessing Anglican Church. The reason for the creation of the new Confessing Anglican Church was the decision of the NZ Anglican Church to allow the “blessing” of homosexual relationships. The congregations that are left are declining and aging, basically continuing on desd men’s money. Following the LGBT ideology – which is opposed to the Bible and Christian history – has not revived NZ Anglicanism m ut has actually hastened its decline in a very secular country.
    Look anywhere in the Anglican world and you will see chaos and division brought by attempts to “bless” and institutionalise homosexual relationships. The USA, Canada and Scotland show the same dismal story of decline and disappearance. Yet Welby, playing the long game, wants to do the same in the Church of England. It is time he retired.

    • Time to start praying for a successor to Justin. The field of appointable candidates is not huge. I think a more conservative future for the C of E largely depends on the willingness of the diocesan bishops to push back against the creeping centralisation of policy and governance and with it doctrine and ethics.

    • Thank God most Christians in the world are rather more prone to the theology of offering a blessing rather than a curse – in the context of same-sex relationshops. One is remindedof the biblical injunction to the effect:- “Do not call ‘unholy’ that which I have created”. (But this might be one of those pieces of Scripture that primitive Con/Evos may not take as seriously as the clobber passages)

      I’m reminded of the Faber hymn: “The love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind!”

      • “Do not call impure what God has made clean.”

        It is notable that the position on clean and unclean food was changed when no less a person than Peter received a revelation from God. It raises an interesting question. Who in the modern age would claim the authority to change God’s rules on sexual behaviour? It would be astonishingly presumptuous to do so. And yet that is exactly what people are doing.

        Let’s be clear about this. We have no authority to “bless” homosexual relationships. To do so is an act of defiance against God. We may sympathise with those who are driven to indulge in such relationships by their sinful urges, and we should remember that we all have the urge to sin. But to bless such relationships? Out of the question.

          • It is hardly out of the question since blessing same-sex relationships is happening all the time.

            No, what is happening all the time is that people are purporting to bless same-sex relationships.

          • So anything that happens (and things that happen vary from brilliant to execrable, obviously) is worth close consideration simply because it happens??

          • No one blesses same sex relationships. God does.
            And being asked to bless nuclear submarines, asparagus, burger vans and all manner of things, blessing human beings must be a delight!

          • But anyone who tells God his business (‘God, you bless SSR’) ranks above God in the scheme of things. Or acts as though they do.

            Second: which particular God are we talking about here? If it is the one in the Christian Bible, then where does he do any such thing?

            Blessing human beings – exactly. Bless their friendships. Immorality does not deserve blessing – the reverse.

          • “It is hardly out of the question since blessing same-sex relationships is happening all the time.”

            I grant that if it is happening all the time then it is not out of the question. So is it happening all the time? It is true that certain ceremonies are happening but the question is whether an actual blessing is taking place in those ceremonies. I consider that to be hugely improbable.

          • No one is telling God, God’s business.
            Nowhere is God blessing immorality.
            God simply blesses the same-sex relationships God is asked to bless.
            How do I know?
            I see their fruit.

          • How do I know?
            I see their fruit.

            Nice to know you are omniscient. But then I guess you already knew that. Because of being omniscient.

          • So there is no difference between these same-sex ”relationships” – they are all so similar that they can be generalised about en masse?

          • Christopher

            I don’t remember the God of the ‘Christian Bible’ blessing asparagus, nuclear submarines or burger vans.
            Perhaps you can point me to the reference.

          • Ian

            Seriously, why? Are we going to restrict God’s blessing to stuff that was around in the 1st C G/R empire?
            And wouldn’t that mean that we can’t ask God’s blessing on straight couples?

          • Seriously, why? Are we going to restrict God’s blessing to stuff that was around in the 1st C G/R empire?

            ‘We’ can’t restrict God’s anything. God decides what He blesses and doesn’t bless, not us.

            And wouldn’t that mean that we can’t ask God’s blessing on straight couples?

            We can ask. God will decide.

            The point is not to ask for God’s blessing on things that are obviously absurd, because that just makes us look silly at best or at worst exposes that we don’t really care what God thinks.

          • ‘And wouldn’t that mean that we can’t ask God’s blessing on straight couples?’

            We bless them in God’s name because God blesses them. ‘And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”…’ (Gen 1.28)

          • Ian

            That blessing was for the first humans in Gen. 1. No marriages were blessed in 1st C empire. No such thing as Xian marriage for centuries.

          • It was a blessing on humanity, male and female, as they came together to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. This is one of the two foundations of marriage in Scripture.

            This seems pretty obvious to me, and, again, I think these sniping exchanges around the edges appear to get us nowhere.

          • “God simply blesses the same-sex relationships God is asked to bless.”

            The Bible tells us that God’s preferred pronouns are He/Him, please. No need to circumlocute!

    • But doesn’t this just prove one thing? That the antis cannot actually argue about facts and realities, they can only impose uniformity in a lordly manner.

      As soon as actual facts and evidence are presented to them they run a mile and cry ‘foul’ and ‘censor!’. That is why it is always the academics and thoughtful, intelligent people that are being penalised.

    • I am deeply humbled and moved by even a whiff of comparison to Romero. He won a martyr’s crown. Fortunately that is not likely in this country or my case.

  24. The title of Ian’s piece could equally be applied to the news that Church of England schools have been advised to tone down confessional Christian content:

    It is interesting that the guidance encourages young people to feel they have the “space to disagree” about anything said in corporate worship. Isn’t this what Bernard Randall told the pupils at Trent College after they had been given teaching in assemblies from a very different ideological point of view? – and he lost his job for it.

    So, have I got this right?: Church of England schools should be careful not to teach Christian doctrine clearly in assemblies in case it offends people; students are permitted to question and disagree with any mild Christian elements which remain. Meanwhile there can be strong and clear teaching of LGBT ideology in C of E and other schools with Christian foundation and ethos, and anyone who questions it will be subject to discipline.

  25. Three quick thoughts after another interesting article.

    1) Our lack of confidence in the Gospel is really disturbing
    2) I wonder what our persecuted brethren in Nigeria and Iran etc feel about our inability to challenge contemporary culture
    3) It does show how quasi fundamentalist our so called liberal culture is

    • I visited an “inclusive church” today when out with my secular walking group. I could not see any mention of Jesus anywhere, though there were loads of notices and papers around. It became stark to me that we have 2 contrasting confessions in the C of E – a religious club where anything goes to try to get as many members as possible, the other where we have to die to self and take up a cross! With many limping in between these 2 opinions.
      In this diocese (Hereford) after the vote at diocesan Synod went in favour of same sex marriage, nearly all clergy who opposed the motion were made to suffer in some way.
      We look for our overseers to protect the flock and give a public defence of the Christian faith. We are getting neither at present by and large. If we believe Ezekiel 34 we can only expect the Lord will take notice!
      Richard Hill

    • “I wonder what our persecuted brethren in Nigeria and Iran etc feel about our inability to challenge contemporary culture”

      Vernon hello and hope you are well!
      I slightly sighed when I read this. Firstly because of the sexist language – we have brothers and sisters in Nigeria. I think it shocking that sisters in Nigeria don’t count as highly as brothers but I find it even more shocking when we collude with that.
      Secondly because I expect many of the persecuted in Nigeria would be delighted to live in the contemporary culture that we enjoy so much of.
      Thirdly, because I suspect you only mean gay men when you write ‘contemporary culture’. I expect that the role of gay women doesn’t even occur to you – see my first point for why.
      Fourthly, I bet there is quite a lot of contemporary culture that you enjoy and wouldn’t remotely wish to challenge.
      Fifthly, I am sure the ‘brethren’ in Nigeria are not monochrome on the issues of human sexuality.

      Worth thinking less quickly about?

      • “Brethren” means “brothers and sisters”. I thought everybody knew this – evidently not. You don’t want us to say “sistern”, I hope?
        Of course many millions of Africans would like wealthier lives. So what? We knew that already. That is why they keep crossing thd Med and the Channel.
        They would also like an end to the conflict with Islamic cattle raiders in Nigeria. Any guidance for them on this?

        • Brethren:
          plural noun: brethren
          fellow Christians or members of a male religious order.

          The persecution and corruption are both alarming. One alleviating solution might be to elect a much more liberal and less corrupt ruling class.

          • Brethren:
            plural noun: brethren
            fellow Christians or members of a male religious order.

            Indeed, so I think it was clear from context that the ‘fellow Christians’ meaning was the one intended and not the ‘members of a male religious order’ one.

            One alleviating solution might be to elect a much more liberal and less corrupt ruling class.

            I’m no expert on the region but a quick skim of news reports from Nigeria suggests that that is not really an option in a country where voting has next to no actual effect.

          • Exactly. So don’t moan about liberalism when a more liberal culture would be part of the solution, not the problem.

          • So don’t moan about liberalism when a more liberal culture would be part of the solution, not the problem.

            Um, nobody moaned about liberalism. What was being moaned about was a ‘so called liberal culture’; ie, a culture which hypocritically calls itself liberal but is not actually liberal at all.

            Did you not actually read that to which you were responding?

          • Yes – that’s why I wrote “when a more liberal culture would be part of the solution”. A properly liberal culture would be far healthier in the West as well.

          • Yes – that’s why I wrote “when a more liberal culture would be part of the solution”.

            But then why did you write ‘So don’t moan about liberalism’ when no one was moaning about liberalism?

          • This is some staggering pedantry.. 😉

            Sure, ‘brethren’ can mean males/brothers, but it can also mean the christian family in a broader sense. It is not like ‘fraternity’, with a clear exclusively. It takes a far bigger leap to assume Vernon was being exclusive, when the context is pretty clear that he meant all Christians in Nigeria.

            Can anyone actually answer the question?

            What do our Christian family in the developing world think of us, if they even pay us much mind at all….?

          • Very glad you are so supportive of liberalism

            I am very supportive of liberalism (as opposed to libertinism).

        • There’s a perfectly good gender neutral term – siblings.
          No need or excuse to use exclusive language.

          • There’s a perfectly good gender neutral term – siblings.

            Doesn’t have quite the same connotation though does it?

            No need or excuse to use exclusive language.

            Complaining about ‘brethren’ is on the same level as complaining about ‘unmanned rocket’ — you’re not complaining about the meaning but the etymology.

            You’re not one of those who would complain about ‘unmanned rocket’, are you?

          • You clearly don’t have much feel for historical linguistics. Siblings is used to denote brothers and sisters in a natural family. It is biological and has no religious meaning. Brethren is never used that way. It us an archaic word that denotes fellow menbers of a Christian association; Brethren of the Common Life, the Church of the Brethren, the Plynouth Brethren etc.
            Really, I thought everybody knew this.
            Anyway, Andrew Godsall’s comment is trivial as well as uninformed.

          • So spacecraft are “piloted” or “crewed” rather than “manned”. Interesting. One small problem. Language is organic. It has a life of its own. A clumsy term like “crewed” can’t just be foisted onto the language. An even worse case is the attempt to introduce new pronouns into the language as alternatives to “he” and “she”.

          • James
            Since my first degree was in English I have a pretty good understanding of historical language and linguistics.
            Thing is, language evolves. It is also imprecise: there is always a gulf between writer and reader, speaker and listener.
            It is perfectly possible to understand the historical freight of words like Brethren (which is only ‘religious’ because it was utilised for that context and continued to be) and prefer, for accuracy and inclusivity (which are surely Christian aims?), terms like siblings. Brothers and brethren are both translations of the originals. So is siblings. It not only includes both male and female, but also non-binary people.
            It is worth remembering that Christ assumed humanity, not maleness; not able-bodiedness, not cisness, not heterosexuality, not whiteness. If the CoE fails to realise that – apropos Ian’s original question – it doesn’t deserve to survive.

          • for accuracy and inclusivity (which are surely Christian aims?),

            And what does one do when accuracy and inclusivity are mutually incompatible? Which should one prefer?

          • We can scarcely even use the word ‘inclusivity’ unless it is coherent or properly defined. Why can’t people see that it belongs to the category of Trojan Horse ill-defined single-word slogan-words?

            Ought babies to be included in receipt of income tax?
            Ought those who get 1 out of 10 be included in prizegiving?
            Ought those who behave badly to be included in merit or good behaviour awards?
            Which designations are to be regarded as referring to behaviour, which to essence, which to pathology, which to any mixture of these, and on which is the jury still out?

            There are legion reasons we cannot simply treat ‘inclusive’/’inclusivity’ as a self-explanatory term.

          • Christ assumed humanity but is there no significance in the particular way that he assumed humanity? That would be difficult to argue. In one respect we can be sure that there was nothing random in the choice. Jesus was a Jew and not a Gentile. In this way God’s promise to Abraham that the nations would be blessed through his seed was fulfilled. Before that promise could be fulfilled a certain historical path had to be followed. We can imagine other ways in which it might have been done but God works in His own way. Jesus was not born into a culture that accepted homosexuality. He was born as a member of a race which believed that God created them “male and female”.

      • Dear Andrew,
        Firstly , I am sorry that the language caused offence, I guess two things, one I was thinking of two people One in Northern Nigeria and one in a prison in Iran when I wrote this. Words on screen are easy to misinterpret, and we do necessarily know
        the full context context, or background behind what people put on blogs such as this. Yes our context is very different to Nigeria but we are called to be distinctive and a Holy people in this context, and I think this is a real challenge for the church in England.
        I wasn’t thinking of or referring to Gay Men, I was reflecting on the individualistic, materialistic and the ecological damaging aspects of our culture. Working with environmental groups , I am horrified by the amount of damage that humans are doing to the environment. On contemporary culture another thing I find concerning is the binary nature of debate, in our country ie: X is a a member of this party so must believe abc and Y is a member of another party and must believe DEF, and nver the train shall meet. As a church we must be open not to make assumptions about people’s belief sets or motivations.

  26. There’s a whiff of liberal western imperialism in your comment, Andrew. And it seems far from live and let live, let alone your world view of subjective pluralism and universalism. It is intersectionalism unstitched and unravelling.
    Maybe you could turn your attention to Islam, if you don’t see or include Vernon as a brother.

  27. I don’t know whether anyone here has heard of the pop star Demi Lovato but she is in the news today. Apparently Demi has “come out” as non-binary. Demi has now officially changed “their” pronouns from “she/her” to “they/them”. Here’s a quote from the BBC website:

    “The singer said they are still “learning and coming into myself” and doesn’t consider themselves an “expert or spokesperson” on the subject.”

    One noticeable feature of this quote is the difficulty the writer has in maintaining grammatical consistency. The verb number switches between singular and plural. The effect is quite disorienting. Still, I suppose we’ll have to get used to this sort of thing.

    • Still, I suppose we’ll have to get used to this sort of thing.

      We’re already seeing diminishing returns in terms of the notice people are paying to this as more and more Z-list celebrities make exactly the same bid for some fleeting headlines. I wonder what such attention-seekers will move on to once this particular strategy is completely worn out from overuse, and nobody bats an eyelid any more.

          • I wonder whether the person who wrote that report had any choice about the way it was written. I assume that there was no choice. That is actually very disturbing. Imagine being told to write a story about Demi Lovato and refer to her as “they”. You can’t refuse without causing yourself a lot of grief.

            There was a bit in Dr Randall’s talk about transgenderism and lying. Reading between the lines, I think he might have been referring to this kind of situation. If you have to refer to Demi Lovato as “they” rather than “she” then you are being forced to lie. If you refuse to do it, you face serious repercussions.

          • If you have to refer to Demi Lovato as “they” rather than “she” then you are being forced to lie. If you refuse to do it, you face serious repercussions.

            It’s all gone a bit Václav Havel, hasn’t it?

          • Don’t let anyone force you to lie. Who exactly are they anyway, and why are they assuming authority over the rest of us?

            If they are people to whom lying is no big deal, then the people in authority ought to be the other lot: the people mature enough for lying to be a big deal for them.

  28. From Havel to Exeter University today (and CoE?). Freedom of what? Freedom for what? Freedom from what?… do we have, do we aspire to, advocate for? A secular spin-cycle witout pause, or stop button to dizzying confusion.
    Matthew Parris has an interesting article in the Times today about Stonewall, its genesis and over-reach today.
    There is recognition of Stonewall’s over-reach into education and – as Parris points out into Queer Theory- will there ever be a similar recognition by the CoE?

  29. Who is eligible to take part in a women’s athletic competition? That is not a question that would have needed to be asked until recently. Now it is. There are cases where men who “identify” as women want to participate in women’s sporting activities. This raises a broader question. Do we have the right to determine someone’s gender on the basis of objective criteria or does the person’s self-perception override that right? If a man identifies as a woman, does he have the right to take part in a women’s athletic competition, or do the organisers have the right to forbid this? And if the organisers do forbid it, are they thereby guilty of “hate”?

    There are many ramifications to this question. Suppose that one man is in a bar and another man approaches him and makes a pass at him. The first man tells the second man that he is not gay and is therefore not interested. The second man then says that he is not gay either. The first man is confused. The second man explains that he identifies as female. The first man says that it makes no difference, he is only interested in real women. The second man is offended. He wants his self-perceived gender to be respected. The first man sticks to his guns and insists that he is only interested in real women. The second man accuses the first of being “hateful”.

    It’s a funny old world.

    • If this were a live (as opposed to presently fashionable) issue, then why have there never even been so much as campaigns before for people who feel female or male to run in said races?

      The campaigns were more for testosterone not to be given in too large doses to (e.g.) East German athletes, because of the resultant unfairness. The present campaigns nullify or reverse that.

      • It seems that the full implications can’t be revealed all at once. It has to be done gradually. The demand that a person should be referred to by pronouns of that person’s choice may be seen as reasonable (although it isn’t, of course). Once the ground has been laid, further demands can be made. If a man is actually a woman (despite all the evidence to the contrary) then it is “logical” that he should be allowed to compete in women’s sporting events.

        It is also “logical” that a man who identifies as a woman should be able to date lesbians. At this point the T may fall out with L, G and B.

        • The T have already fallen out with the L, G and B, and in a big way. Hence the recent formation of LGB alliances both in the UK and in other countries. The spurious LGBT category wasn’t even invented until late last century, and that illogical and misleading initialism came into general use only in this one, being gradually imposed on an uncritical public by means of continual, shrill repetition by trans activists and their supporters.

          As the social theorist and philosopher Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans has noted, the notion of “LGBT as one homogenous oppressed group” is simply an example of revisionist history.

          • It’s interesting to hear that. I agree that the alliance doesn’t make sense. Homosexuality seems to have a clear definition. It is the attraction between two people of the same sex. But if you don’t know who belongs to which sex then everything is thrown into confusion.

        • Precisely. Envisage, if you will, the following scenario. A man is in a bar and a woman approaches him and makes a pass at him. The man politely tells the woman that he is gay and is therefore not interested. The woman replies that she is well aware that he is gay, and that she is gay too. The man is surprised, and asks her why, in that case, she doesn’t look for another lesbian woman instead of wasting her time trying to get off with him. The woman explains that she isn’t a lesbian but identifies as a gay man. The man says that it makes no difference, he is interested only in genuine men. The woman is offended. She insists that everyone else has an obligation to recognize and affirm her “gender identity”. The man sticks to his guns and insists that he is attracted only to genuine men. The woman accuses him of being transphobic, tells him that he needs to get over his “genital preference”, and threatens to report the matter to the police so that it can be recorded against him as a “non-crime hate incident”.

    • If ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are defined by self-proclamation (based perhaps on feelings), not physiology or genes, what definition is used by someone with a penis and testes from birth and XY genotype who claims to be a woman? To say “A woman is anybody who claims to be a woman” still doesn’t answer what a woman is. So keep asking: “You say you are a woman; you are using the word, so it must mean something to you; what is your definition?”

      Regarding sports in schools and elsewhere, Caitlyn Jenner, who as Bruce Jenner won the Olympic decathlon, stated (on May 1st this year) that “It’s an issue of fairness and we need to protect girls’ sports in our schools.” A collision is coming in elite women’s sports.

      • Here is another question. How do people learn what men and women are in the first place? No one learns what men and women are by exploring people’s inner states, since we don’t have access to people’s inner states. No, the only way that the definitions can be learned is by observing actual men and women – who are identifiable by objective criteria and not by their inner states.

        That applies as much to those with gender dysphoria as it does to the rest of us. Someone with XY chromosomes and a penis who thinks he is woman has learned what women are by observing external reality. In which case he should also know that he is not really a woman.

  30. When religion takes the place of lived faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ, and Christian representatives are seen as the ‘great and good’ ‘the learned’ and the respectable in society, we will hear more stories like this. The church is not a denomination or a clique or class of people, it is simply those who are called and who follow and obey Jesus Christ obediently. A lot of what now passes for church activity is just worldliness. Was it ever thus? The concerns of the great and good and the universal sweepings of the latest humanism are what we see, not those who lay down their lives for Christ. Christians should be feeding the poor, housing the homeless and helping the broken. You will indeed know them by their fruits.


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