Lambeth invitations and the Communion’s future

Andrew Goddard writes: In January I raised a number of concerns about the invitation policy for the 2020 Lambeth Conference.  The issue hit the headlines again in February following further developments – the election of a same-sex married priest to be Bishop of Maine and the February 15th message from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion which contains much encouraging and positive news about Lambeth 2020 but also confirmation that all serving bishops are being invited and the revelation that same-sex spouses are not being invited to the Conference:

I need to clarify a misunderstanding that has arisen. Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend. But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies. 

The non-invitation has led to much outrage and controversy not just online (for example, Peter Leonard’s application of the Pastoral Advisory Group’s recently released Pastoral Principles) but at the Executive Council of TEC (remarks by the House of Deputies President Gay Jennings and a resolution).

Election of the new Bishop of Maine

On February 9th, the diocese of Maine within the Episcopal Church elected the Reverend Thomas James Brown as its tenth bishop.  Thomas Brown “is married to the Rev. Thomas Mousin, who is currently the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston”.  He is the fourth same-sex partnered priest to be elected as a bishop within the Anglican Communion.  The first two – Gene Robinson (2003, now retired) and Mary Glasspool (2009/10, now in New York) – were also within TEC and led to major conflict in the Communion. The third – Kevin Robertson in Toronto (2016) – caused some tensions and difficulties within the diocese but received comparatively little comment across the Communion and none from any of the Instruments of Communion.  

It would be possible to argue that the election of Thomas Brown is of little consequence: his province has already changed its doctrine of marriage and is now simply following through the logic of that decision in its criteria for the acceptability of bishops.  There are, however, other important factors which make the election significant – 

  • it is the first ever election of a priest in a same-sex marriage to serve as bishop, 
  • it is the first election in TEC of a same-sex partnered priest since 2009/10 and so the first under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and
  • it follows the statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016 (their first meeting since Dublin in 2011) that reaffirmed, following the decision of TEC to change its marriage canons, the traditional doctrine of marriage, the problem of “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity” and the consequence that such actions “further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us” resulting in “places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships”.

I explore the consequences of this—particularly its relationship to Anglican and ecumenica understandings of episcopacy—more fully in the longer document which is attached at the end of this piece

Inviting all bishops to the Lambeth Conference

The statement from the Secretary General confirms the decision to invite all bishops and offers the first public explanation and justification of this: “That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend”.  In the furore over spouses this has received little or no comment and most supporters of same-sex unions have failed to acknowledge or welcome its significance.

The difficulty is that this statement offers no rationale for why this is “how it should be”.  Nor does it recognise that, as I set out in detail in my earlier piece, this is not “how it used to be” as it is a reversal of Archbishop Rowan’s clear approach.  Nor does it acknowledge that it is not how the Lambeth Commission, on which the Secretary General served, unanimously understood the role of the Archbishop in relation to invitations to the Lambeth Conference in the Windsor Report (para 110):

This Commission is of the opinion that the Archbishop has the right to call or not to call to these gatherings [of the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting] whomsoever he believes is appropriate, in order to safeguard, and take counsel for, the well-being of the Anglican Communion. 

There therefore urgently needs to be clarification as to what change has taken place and why. There would appear to be a number of options, the main ones being:

Option A – Archbishop Justin has rejected Windsor’s judgment and believes that he as Archbishop of Canterbury has no discretion in invitations.

Option B – Archbishop Justin accepts he has discretion but he has decided not to use it for this Conference.

Option C – Archbishop Justin accepts he has discretion and has used it and, after careful consideration, he believes that it “is appropriate, in order to safeguard, and take counsel for, the well-being of the Anglican Communion” to change the approach of his predecessor and invite “all those consecrated into the office of bishop”.

If A or B is the rationale then it would mean that each province determines on its own basis who is a bishop in good standing and the Archbishop invites them, whatever the consequences for “the well-being of the Anglican Communion”.  This would appear to increase the role of provincial autonomy and remove one of the few existing means by which the Instruments might act to order their common life.  It raises the question as to whether this applies no matter what a bishop has said and done. Gene Robinson was not the only serving bishop not invited in 2008.  Then, and possibly now, other bishops – for example those who are a cause of scandal because clearly involved in serious political or financial corruption – maybe should not be invited even if they have not been removed or disciplined by their province.  If this franchising out of the invitation decision to each province is the rationale then it would even be possible for a bishop to be uninvited because they insisted on upholding Communion teaching and discipline in their diocese and were removed from office as a result.  

It may be that option B has been followed because the Communion is now so conflicted and there are so many possible grounds for non-invitation (intervention in other provinces, support for criminalisation of homosexuality, corruption etc) that the Archbishop feels unable to pass judgment. 

If C is the rationale then it is clear that a judgment for the good of the Communion has been made and so, as Rowan Williams did, it would be wise to explain that judgment.  This is particularly important since it is diametrically opposed to his decision even though we are now dealing with the doctrine of marriage, there is no doubt as to the determination of most bishops in TEC to have no regard for the Communion’s teaching and call for restraint, and a significant number of provinces (notably through GAFCON) have called on him not to invite certain bishops.  It may, for example, be that he believes it important, for the well-being of the Communion, to have everyone present across the divisions in order to seek a resolution to them, in which case it is important to clarify this and set out how that is to be attempted.

Related to this is whether it has been judged that there has been a fundamental change in the character and nature of the Lambeth Conference and, inextricably linked to this, of the Anglican Communion.  This is quite possible given all the recent turmoil.  But it has never been clearly articulated.  Given the determination of a number of bishops not to act collegially in relation to Communion teaching on sex and marriage and the fact that a small number of bishops themselves now embody this through being in a same-sex marriage it is hard to see how – if the Lambeth Conference is to fulfil its historic role in relation to collegiality, conciliarity, and communion – it is obviously the case that it is “how it should be…that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend”.  If, however, the conference is being conceived in a new way then inviting all could make more sense.  

The sense of a diminution of the ecclesial and episcopal significance of the Conference has also been seen by some as evident in the much more integrated role of spouses in a “joint conference”.  This change has also increased concerns about the second element in the Secretary General’s statement.

Not inviting all legal spouses to the Conference

The policy for inviting spouses has now been stated – “it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference” – and has already led to significant protest and the wife of the Bishop of Liverpool deciding not to attend.

In one sense there is a logic here: the spouses invited are those who are spouses according to Communion teaching.  Same-sex spouses are therefore not invited (as presumably civil partners would not be).  There are, however, a number of significant paradoxes or contradictions.

Firstly, the Archbishop of Canterbury is refusing to be selective and exercise his judgment in relation to the more important participants in terms of ecclesiology – bishops of the church – and where there is precedent for non-invitation.  He is, however, being selective and exercising his judgment in relation to the less important participants in terms of ecclesiology – spouses – where there is not an obvious precedent for non-invitation. 

Secondly, the reason that is offered for this different policy for spouses is given as “the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference” but this is not applied to those bishops (who are of course legally same-sex spouses) but only to their spouses.  The logic of this is that were Thomas Brown’s same-sex clergy spouse to be elected a bishop in TEC before Lambeth 2020 he would thereby become eligible to attend the Conference as a bishop.  

Thirdly, appealing to the doctrine of marriage to justify non-invitation of spouses makes clear that the Archbishop is willing to invite bishops whom he accepts are, in his eyes and according to Communion teaching, living in a non-marital union.  He is thereby welcoming as a bishop of the Communion, to sit in its counsels, someone who, by his decision in relation to spouses, he has declared to be living a life that bears false witness about the nature of marriage.  

Fourthly, the appeal to Lambeth I.10 as the ground for this pays no regard to that resolution as a whole or the way in which it has been received and implemented by the Communion as a whole for the last 15 years through the Windsor process. 

Fifthly, there are questions as to why spouses are invited (or not invited).  It is hard to believe that the ministry of same-sex spouses is significantly different from that of opposite-sex spouses or that their role is less vital in the ministry of the bishop.  As a result, there is an understandable sense of injustice and grievance that they should be excluded when the ministry of their same-sex spouse who is a bishop is being treated as no different from that of the other bishops.

Sixthly, the apparent inconsistency and incoherence arises because the Communion’s doctrine of marriage is being seen as only of relevance in relation to identifying spouses and to have no bearing on the invitations to bishops.  It is unclear what the logic for this difference is but it would appear that either (a) provincial autonomy and difference is respected and inviolable in relation to election of, and so invitations to, bishops but not in relation to definitions of marriage and so recognition of spouses, where Communion teaching is determinative and/or (b) it is held that the Communion’s doctrine of marriage has no relevance in determining which bishops should be invited.  

It might, of course, be that the decision was simply a pragmatic and political one rather than one based on principle.  There is evidence of this in the reported comments of Archbishop Justin to Kevin Robertson a few days before the election in Maine – 

“He said to me there are only two of you in the communion in this situation, you and Mary, and he said if I invite your spouses to the Lambeth Conference, there won’t be a Lambeth Conference,” Robertson said.

It is, however, more likely that inviting same-sex married bishops but not their spouses will be rejected by people across the spectrum of views within the Communion.  There has been a very strong negative reaction from supporters of same-sex unions while many who support Communion teaching have also been very critical with GAFCON’s Stephen Noll writing of the hypocrisy of the policy. As I noted in considering this option in January, this policy “would also need to be justified and risks producing the worst of all possible worlds” and there is now a real danger of it further weakening the standing of the Archbishop and the Conference as Instruments of Communion.  

Conclusion: Exploring and Explaining the Inevitability of Visible Differentiation

Unless the current policy is reversed and all legal spouses invited, the Lambeth Conference will involve visible differentiation of some form.  At present this only applies to same-sex spouses and the rationale for it remains unclear and with little support across the spectrum of views on sexuality.  It would appear, though, that some further visible differentiation is likely given the “consequences” agreed by the Primates in 2016.  It has recently been confirmed that there will be a Primates’ Meeting in January 2020 and that the Archbishop of Canterbury wants 

the Primates to discuss the 2020 Lambeth Conference; and also the work of the Archbishop’s Task Group, which was established following the 2016 Primates’ Meeting to explore ways to restore relationships, rebuild mutual trust and responsibility, heal the legacy of hurt and explore deeper relationships within the Anglican Communion.

The consequences, applied also to SEC in October 2017, included “that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”. It is therefore clear that at least some bishops invited to Lambeth will be excluded from some decision-making and it is hard to see how, especially if the recent election in Maine is confirmed, TEC bishops will be able to be fully included in decision-making.  

In other words, having apparently included all bishops in the Conference but then excluded same-sex spouses, it is possible that the Archbishop of Canterbury is at some point going to have to exclude bishops from provinces supporting same-sex marriage from certain parts of the Conference where there is “decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”.  There would appear to be two possible ways to avoid doing this.

First, as in 2008, there may be a Conference which does not formally make any decisions.  Although this has not been clearly and publicly ruled out it seems unlikely.  It is reported that one argument being used by the Archbishop to persuade people to attend is that unless they do attend they will not be able to influence decisions – “If you don’t turn up to the crease you can’t score any runs”.  This variant on “les absents ont toujours tort” or Woody Allen’s “eighty percent of success is showing up” only makes sense if there are decisions going to be made, runs to be scored.  

Second, there may be proposals to the January 2020 Primates not to renew such consequences for TEC and perhaps even bring them to a premature close for SEC.  This would enable all bishops to participate fully in all aspects of the Conference, including any decision-making.  This would mark a major reversal of the earlier decisions and likely alienate many in the Communion leading to visible differentiation being embodied in widespread non-attendance.

Unless one of these paths is followed, there is going to need to be some visible differentiation made among the bishops invited in relation to their actual involvement in the proceedings and decision-making of the Conference.  In my January article I argued that this represents the best way forward and that it is consistent with the theology of communion that has been developed and articulated over recent decades and has wider ecumenical support.  I explored what this might look like in an article for Covenant back in October 2017 and a deeper theological rationale for it has been articulated in The way of Anglican communion: Walking together before God.  

Such an approach, however, needs to be carefully thought through and the sooner this happens and is presented publicly the better.  Further delay in making this clear runs the risk of the Communion being stuck in the worst of all possible worlds.  On the one hand, it may be seen as “too little, too late” by those currently unhappy with how invitations have been handled and considering non-attendance.  On the other hand, it will cause even more outrage from those who are already upset at what they see as the rejection of “radical Christian inclusion” through “discrimination” being applied to spouses.  

Given the tensions and divisions within the Communion and the importance of the Conference within the Communion’s life, it is important to understand the thinking of the Archbishop of Canterbury as he gives shape to the conference and responds to developments in the Communion.  

Whether one agreed with him or not, Rowan Williams frequently articulated his vision.  This vision, supported by Anglican and ecumenical theology concerning episcopacy, communion, common counsel, the relation of autonomy and interdependence etc, shaped his decisions.  All of these areas are now once again in play and under question and so serious theological work is needed.  It seems clear from his decisions that Archbishop Justin is no longer following his predecessor’s vision.  It is, though, as yet unclear why that is, what the alternative vision is, or what is its underlying theological and ecclesiological rationale.  

There have been two other main visions for Anglicanism on offer in recent years as alternatives to the communion ecclesiology found in past Lambeth resolutions, The Virginia Report, The Windsor Report, The Anglican Covenant, and ecumenical agreements: a GAFCON-style confessionalism and a TEC-style stress on acceptance of provincial autonomy and consequently looser bonds of inter-provincial communion and weaker commitments to interdependence.   Archbishop Justin appears to be moving towards the latter, although not explicitly or consistently.  Unless and until his intentions and rationale become clearer there are real risks that his decisions, the lack of justification offered for them, and the range of responses seeking to understand and react to them will mean that “there won’t be a Lambeth Conference” as an Instrument of Communion in recognisable continuity with the past.  Such a tragic outcome in turn increases the risk that “there won’t be an Anglican Communion” functioning in recognisable continuity with the past in terms of both its historic ties to Canterbury and a vision of what it means to be Anglicans as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

(A fuller version of this piece is available as a PDF: lambeth2020revisitedfulltext)

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Associate Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (KLICE), Cambridge and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anglican Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

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155 thoughts on “Lambeth invitations and the Communion’s future”

  1. Cards on the table: failing to invite the legal spouses of bishops in same-sex marriages is not the “radical inclusion” which the Archbishops in England say they champion. The reality is that there is no single view on human sexuality in the various provinces that call themselves Anglican, nor indeed within single provinces in England. To try to insist on uniformity as a road to unity is a failed project (eg the Covenant etc). Anglicans in Nigeria, for example, cannot impose their consciences on the consciences of Anglicans in the US, Scotland, Canada, and large swathes of English churches. Respect for conscience requires the maturity and love and grace to acknowledge our unity in our diversity.

    And a couple of questions:

    1. If people are being ‘biblical’, why stop at banning the faithful spouses of gay and lesbian bishops? What about bishops who have been divorced?

    2. What about single bishops and widows/widowers? The attention given to spouses in a way sidelines the equally important friendships that provide support and companionship for single people. Could the Archbishop not invite ‘companions’ to come, so that single people, widowers/widows. and gay or lesbian bishops can be accompanied by their ‘companions’? That way, the excluded spouses would still be able to come – in their roles as companions – even if they are only perceived as spouses by those who believe they are?

    Finally, the Lambeth Conference is a UK charity and, as such, is sailing very close to the wind in terms of discrimination and equality law. Yes, there are religious exemptions, but this whole episode causes further deep offence to many decent people in the UK, including the half of the Church of England (and it *is* at least a half) who affirm gay and lesbian sexuality. Like I say, “radical inclusion” it is not.

    • Even framed in terms of amoral realpolitik, this decision’s absurd: excluding same-sex spouses won’t appease the hardcore antis, who’ll be fuming that gay bishops are being invited under any circumstances; and including all spouses wouldn’t be the tipping point for moderates.

      I’m more convinced than ever that the fraying “Anglican Communion” should be allowed to unravel. The two positions of affirmation and refusal to so much as tolerate affirmation are irreconcilable, and always will be. If churches with a shared heritage wish to form their own bonds, great; but the club can’t now include all.

      • Exactly. The idea is for reconciliation (which others call compromise) but where 2 worldviews are so opposed, reconciliation is either impossible or a bland fudge, neither of which is good.

  2. Incidentally, when Andrew writes “Second, there may be proposals to the January 2020 Primates not to renew such consequences for TEC and perhaps even bring them to a premature close for SEC” I am unclear what ‘consequences’ are being referred to. If they are the ‘consequences’ proposed by the Primates in January 2016, it is worth bearing in mind that ACC 16 declined to endorse those consequences.

    Justin had reported to the AAC: “The Primates’ Meeting in January set out some consequences for any Province…” Yet in fact, It had no authority to do so.

    Justin – with whom I have no quarrel as a person and I wish him well – on this occasion went on somewhat risibly to claim: “By receiving my report, which incorporated the Primates’ Communique, the ACC accepted these consequences entirely.”

    That was simply nonsense. I ‘receive’ junk mail in the post, but that does not mean I agree with it. Nobody at that meeting said they accepted the consequences. He was indulging in a spin for the GAFCON Archbishops.

    If anything, sadly, Justin was the ghost at the party in Lusaka, the presence with the embarrassing problem… that his Primates’ Meeting had seriously over-reached their powers.

    There is no worldwide Anglican Church. And there are no Popes and cardinals controlling the worldwide provinces. If anything, the ACC arguably has more justification to be seen as an instrument of policy guidance, but even that can in no way impose policy on Anglican provinces.

    Subsequent to the AAC 16, senior members of that meeting had to go to the extent of releasing a letter, stating that by “receiving” the text of the Primate’s proposed consequences, that did not mean they “received” the text in the sense of endorsing it.

    One of the reasons for NOT renewing ‘consequences’ for TEC, Canada, Scotland is that however ‘interdependent’ we would like to be, we have diverse positions of conscience, and the kind of crass uniformity that the Covenant proposed to dominate conscience was repudiated here in the Church of England.

    I fear we are elevating the idea of the Primates’ authority to impose doctrine on Anglican provinces beyond what is reasonable and pragmatic. Like I say, we are not a worldwide Anglican Church. To that extent, Lambeth risks being another exercise in unreality – and raises unrealistic expectations/hopes of doctrinal uniformity that cannot be realistically met.

    What is desperately sad, and I say this as a parent whose daughter works in Christian service in a slum community in Uganda, is that over-grandiose prelates risk tearing apart the fabric of our ‘interdependence’ and our fellowship of compassion, through doctrinal rigidity. The desperate lives and poverty of peoples across our world who, as Anglicans, we seek to serve and live alongside… these hurting, pitifully needy communities deserve our love and grace far more than our doctrinal purity. Interdependence is more than just a word. It is solidarity with the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and THAT’S the radical inclusion we should live out and extend… to all, regardless of age, sex, gender, race.

    • Presumably, your statement cuts both ways, i.e. “If anything, the ACC arguably has more justification to be seen as an instrument of policy guidance, but even that can in no way impose policy on Anglican provinces”.

      So, on that basis, apart from policy guidance, should there ever be any ‘consequences’ which affect the role in the Anglican Communion of provinces, such as Nigeria and Uganda? Especially, given their public support for the criminalisation of homosexuality?

      • No, there should not be ‘consequences’. Also, I am unclear that the (Anglican) Church of Uganda supports criminalisation. Any evidence of that? Their culture is certainly significantly different to ours.

        From the point of view of the Church of England, our rejection of ‘The Covenant’ should make us realise that we do not accept imposing uniformity on other provinces, nor do we think the Anglican Communion should do so either.

        There is no worldwide Anglican Church, and the various ‘Anglican’ churches in various countries with various cultures determine the care of their own communities, while hopefully seeking bonds of love – not consequences – to enable us to collaborate and have solidarity with each other in the huge tasks that are faced in addressing so much poverty in communities, so much pitiful need.

        • Concerning evidence that the Anglican Church of Uganda supports criminalisation of homosexuality (while rejecting the earlier death penalty clause):

          You wrote: “the various ‘Anglican’ churches in various countries with various cultures determine the care of their own communities”.

          So, that self-determination would include a province’s determination that its members will neither (in the words of Lambeth I.10) “minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation”, nor “condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”.

          The alternative to rejecting the formally triggered consequences for communion (as characterised by the Covenant) is not resorting to a policy of complete impunity for church provinces which connive at the kind of irrational ‘moral’ panic which resulted in last year’s arrest of 57 men suspected of participating in a ‘gay initiation’ party at a Lagos hotel.

  3. ‘But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference.’

    – truly bizarre. Never mind their same-sex ‘spouses’, the bishops themselves should not have been invited. Ill leave aside the question of whether they should be allowed to continue to be bishops with a nice well-paid job.

  4. Please can someone summarise for me the key differences between ‘the communion ecclesiology found in past Lambeth resolutions, The Virginia Report, The Windsor Report, The Anglican Covenant, and ecumenical agreements’ and ‘a GAFCON-style confessionalism’? Is the Anglican Communion not confessional?

  5. oh dear – the search for a Via Media has lost its Via in the Media

    I think Susannah is right to challenge the inconsistency if not hypocrisy of this whole mess

    PC1 is right to ask how the Bishops can be invited if they have disdained the communion by their actions (wrong to think they have a nice well paid job – not nice, and modestly paid)

    Will is right to probe what exactly it is that the Anglican communion believes and can unite in communion around – there are more fundamental doctrinal issues to face than presenting ethical dilemmas.

    • The presenting ethical dilemmas are little more than the surface level tremors of shifting tectonic plates. Whole paradigms are colliding, below these culture wars on human sexuality. Fundamentally, there are clashes on how we even understand how to read the bible.

      Somewhere in all this, there is a small voice called ‘grace’, beseeching us to love one another, and hold together in bonds of fellowship – to serve the poor, the abandoned, the desperately sick, the outcasts, the hungry.

      And so I long for the ‘magma’ of the love of God to come surging through the hard and grinding rocks of our resistant and clashing hearts, and our arguments and differences. Love calls to us. Cries ‘Mercy’ for the desperate and deprived. And bids us open, open our hearts, to grace, and love for one another.

      Meanwhile, as I know too well from my daughter’s weekly prayer requests, the cries of the poor are pitiful.

      The Prelates need to back off. This Conference should be about solidarity for the poor, not other people’s sex. It is beyond bizarre.

      Love and grace and mercy – that’s where the via media leads. That’s what we have in common in the end. Compassion. If we do not love one another, we are already contradicting the imperatives of God, and denying by our hardness of heart to each other, who God actually is. If love is not lived out, we are already in a state of distance and denial from God.

      Do we turn our backs on each other, because we have different views? Do we abandon working together to try to help the desperate and pitiful needs of the world?

      In a world in such desperate plight in so many places, where Anglican links and bonds of love can at least offer solidarity and collaboration, do we indulge instead in turf wars about different views on sex?

      As a nurse, I have never known a dying person who needed my doctrinal views on gay sexuality. The person who is dying needs our hand of love, our presence, our kindness, and God’s grace.

      We need to get real about what really matters, and for the rest, seek grace to acknowledge different views from our own, and keep on trying to love, and co-exist.

      Like it or not, we are – in all eternity – one in Jesus Christ.

      Let us pray for one another’s flourishing.

      We can’t dominate each other anyway, but we can love. Every single day there are people to love. People in whom we may encounter Jesus Christ. The homeless person in the doorway. The abandoned mother at the food bank.

      It doesn’t get much more fundamental than the raw abandon people find themselves in, the desperate plight, the forlorn end of the road.

      And meanwhile… “See how these Christians fight one another.” Oh wait…

      • The person who is dying needs our hand of love, our presence, our kindness, and God’s grace.

        Surely the most important thing a person who is dying needs is to confess their sins and repent, so that they can have eternal life instead… well, instead of the alternative?

        All that other stuff might make them person more comfortable in the moment, but that rather pales in importance next to their eternal fate, doesn’t it?

        (I suppose you did write ‘God’s grace’, and yes they do need prevenient grace, but unless they respond with repentence they are still damned, aren’t they? Unless you’re a double-predesination Calvinist and you think saving grace is irresistible, but I didn’t think that was the Church of England’s party line?)

      • What you are describing are two different religions. You think what you believe is true to Jesus Christ; and I think your ideas are fictional, unreal and untrue.
        There can be no meeting of minds because what you believe about the Bible is not (as far as I understand) what the Apostles believed and taught. Christ commands repentance and obedience. Sexual disobedience is not a matter of adiaphora, nor is our creation as men and women something to be ignored or played with. Perhaps you think I am ‘judgmental’ but this is a universal condition. In my experience, the most ‘judgmental’ and condemning of people in the world are atheists.
        ‘Acknowledging different views’ is not about agreeing to differ over other people’s taste in wallpaper or preference for spicy food. We are talking about salvation, not aesthetics. Christ is our Judge – like it or not.

        • “What you are describing are two different religions.”

          You’re correct there! Yours make me shudder in horror.

      • “I have never known a dying person who needed my doctrinal views on gay sexuality. The person who is dying needs our hand of love, our presence, our kindness, and God’s grace.”

        That’s where the trouble and divide hit the ground. What the dying person needs in the personal context of love, presence and kindness, is to hear of the grace and mercy of God in Jesus. It’s not at that stage probably anything about forensic examination of an individuals sin (sexual or otherwise) only the acknowledgement of ones need for mercy and hearing about Jesus. Sweet thoughts don’t cut or cure it.

        Because ” Like it or not, we are – in all eternity – one in Jesus Christ.” isn’t true. “Those who received him, who believed in his name etc”.

    • ‘wrong to think they have a nice well paid job – not nice, and modestly paid’

      – The typical bishop salary is £45,000. Taking into account free accommodation, in many cases for decades in properties worth an average of £2.25 million – those of us in ‘secular’ jobs have to pay a large chunk of our income for a mortgage or rent on a small house or flat – plus expenses (bishops attending the House of Lords can claim up to a further £27,000), plus chauffeurs in some cases etc, then most would view it as a well-rewarded job. Perhaps less than the equivalent in the private sector, but that is as it should be.

      • It’s a side show here… But please don’t include expenses as if they are personal income. It isn’t. The “free housing” is a benefit but the running costs, for sometimes a large, cold and completely uninsulated house are not totally provided. In fact they don’t always get the use of the whole property. The few bishops I knew who used a chauffeur worked constantly in the car or driven home exhausted at the end of very long days. They often doubled up as the gardener for an otherwise unmanageable garden….used by others.

        Don’t get me wrong. It’s comfortably enough as income. The stipend system (that one gets enough to live on but not profit from) is skewed in practice in that a bishop’s personal need seems to be somewhat greater than a vicar’s.

  6. If your foundation is not truth and inner coherence but pleasing people, then sooner rather than later you create contradictory situations, and they just go on getting more and more contradictory. This is a necessary and unavoidable process. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Solution: don’t practise to deceive, but have a regard for evidence and truth.

  7. Urgh, what a horrible, undignified and squalid mess this is. I hope to God that this is the last Lambeth Conference of all and we can finally give this unseemly, worldly and dysfunctional conference the last rites and a decent Christian burial. The Anglican Communion has already fragmented beyond repair. It was inevitable that would be the outcome back in 2003. What did Jesus say about a house divided against itself? Let’s reconstitute and move on from this decennial embarrassment.

  8. It *is* a horrible, undignified and squalid mess – and the fault is pre-eminently Justin Welby’s for his failure to teach and act according to the teaching of the Ordinal, and for the calculatedly ambiguous and dishonest way in which he has acted.
    It is patently obvious to any observer where Welby wants the Anglican Communion to end up: in affirming homoerotic sexual relations as “holy” and “good” and same-sex “marriage” as the equivalent of marriage between a man and woman. To this end, Welby has quietly advanced the same-sex movement in the Church of England, appointing two bishops (one male and one female) who were secretly in same-sex relationships, giving the green light to other partnered homosexual clergy to become Deans and Archdeacons – like the new Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight. Welby just wants to create ‘facts on the ground’ so that the C of E embraces the new (im)morality de facto before changing the law. This is exactly what happened in TEC and Canada and is now breaking up the Anglican Church in New Zealand.
    In 1998 Robinson was not invited; now the same-sex “married” are invited but the “spouses” are supposed to stay at home. How is this anything less than hypocrisy and an attempt to avoid the cameras? But Gafcon knows and the pictures have already gone around the world.
    Welby has strayed very far from whatever he learned in his Holy Trinity Brompton days. He wants the C of E to go the same way as Tec and ACC – into oblivion and extinction. A desperately sad outcome.

  9. Lots of words being used here but what I am looking for (as a bishop intending to be at Lambeth 2020, with my spouse, and looking forward to many conversations) is whether African provinces such as Kenya are going to turn up and whether Western provinces such as TEC are going to boycott the event. We won’t get all bishops there – obviously – but a decent turn out will mean a robust wide ranging conversation. Such conversation could lead to a compromise-kind-of resolution which guides and leads the AC, including future Primates, ACC meetings forward.

    ++Welby may or may not be heading in a certain direction re homoeroticism but he is certainly heading in the direction of finding a way forward for the AC to have a future.

  10. It is wishful thinking to assume that any ranging or robust conversation will find a way forward that will satisfy both parties. Those conversations have largely been had ad nauseam in many different forums . There is nothing really new to discuss. SSM is not a diffuse issue with a number of different interpretations but a starkly differentiated one. You either believe it is sin or it is not. If you do then it is difficult to see how you can remain in communion with those who don’t since by doing so you are de facto accepting it as a legitimate Anglican position. A split is inevitable.

  11. Our experience in ACANZP is:
    1. A split has occurred.
    2. Many conservative minded Anglicans nevertheless have remained.
    3. Many of us appear to be unwilling to accept an “either it is sin or it is not” approach because we recognise that life is complicated and the church can live with complications; notably people cite the ability of the church to live with a variety of views on divorce and remarriage and on the ordination of women; further, some of us (and most notably Maori Anglicans) are emphasising church as family (Maori: whanau), by which is meant, especially when we use the word “whanau”, a group of people who are always there for each other, who stick together, even when there is disagreement and dispute in the group.

    • 1. The NT on occasion requires separation/excommunication
      2. Why should the faithful conservatives leave their church because others have left the faith?
      3. Life is complicated but sin is never not sin. Jesus regrettably permits divorce in the case of unfaithfulness and sin by one partner. Homosexual sex is never permitted in Scripture. Jesus demanded Faithfulness to himself and the kingdom over any family allegiance.

    • Yes, Peter, a split has occurred, because you and others like minded consented to a liberal-driven theological contradiction, that some clergy could affirm as godly what the vast consensus of Christianity has called sin. It’s as absurd and incoherent as saying both Athanasius and Arius were correct – but then ACANZP has never been known for depth and acumen, only for easy-going kiwi pragmatism. The action was not done on theological principle but as a political compromise, in other words, shadowing the post-Christian society that is New Zealand today.
      As for Maori Anglicans, they are a shadow of what they once were. Why have Maori abandoned Christianity so widely today? (And given the dysfunctional nature of so many Maori families, it’s strange to invoke tribalism and ‘family values’ as a guideline for God’s “new society” where there is – or should be – not Greek or Jew or Scythian or Maori or pakeha.)

    • It’s fatuous to cite the co-existence of various views on divorce and remarriage as exemplifying how conservative and liberals should “stick together, even when there is disagreement and dispute in the group”.

      Whatever the variety of views, we might disagree on the extent of the scriptural warrant, but, at least, the Matthaen and Pauline exceptions provide a strictly qualified permission for divorce.

      In contrast, there is considerable scriptural warrant for the Church to reject sex between same-sex partners as contrary to the Genesis archetype to which Christ harked back.

      If a descriptive geometry working group is tasked with “squaring the circle”, then they’d probably start by explaining that straight lines belong to the ‘infinite radius’ subset of curve geometry.

      Then, they could indicate that squares and circles do not differ in the type of vertices, but only in the number of vertices comprising them (respectively, four versus infinite).

      In the same way, I’d have no doubt that the working group appointed by ACANZP General Synod would find a similar way to ‘square the circle’ when its remit was founded on the notion that:
      1. To permit clergy to exercise discretion over whether or not they will liturgically affirm same-sex sexual relationships is tantamount to what Synod called “maintaining imtegrity in the Church”
      2. “There is no questioning the depth of love and commitment in some gay and lesbian relationships and their commitment to serve the wider community and to be disciples of Jesus Christ.”

      When conservatives go along with such premises, there’s little doubt that they’ll find a way to belittle obvious incongruences.

      In the current ACSNZP context, I’d be surprised if clergy could be expelled for a personal decision to introduce Jewish circumcision, despite being contrary to repeated emphatic apostolic prohibitions.

      Oh, I can even hear the justifying rhetoric already: “After all, are not those who hold to the rites of Judaism part of our Lord’s family too?”

    • Thank you, Peter, for a sane and intelligent viewpoint that puts the *whole* of our mission, as Christians in fellowship, before the individual components that could always separate and divide us.

      When you think of the huge and benevolent work, and the huge needs, of community after desperate or hurting community all over our fractured world… and *everything* we are trying to do…

      …to exercise maturity and grace, even when we have differences, seems to me to be the ‘grown up’ way to proceed. Prioritising what you refer to as the “whanau” and that ‘living alongside’ one another in community, it seems to me that is exactly the pastoral instinct that in the end allows for difference of view, but never stops loving and journeying on together in solidarity.

      To throw all the toys out of the pram… to threaten schism… to demand everyone believes the exact same uniform belief as ourselves… that sort of seems the easy, but facile, way to me.

      I have said many times, I believe the real test for us as Christians who have different views on human sexuality, is not just “Who is right?” because perhaps more importantly, and perhaps the test God is setting us (a far more challenging test): “Are you willing to open up to grace, and love one another deeply, even with your recognised differences of view and consciences?”

      Anyway, thank you, Peter. I have been in correspondence and exchange of view with over 45 Church of England bishops (including my own cousin) over the past 2 years, and the main desire I hear from most of them is for us to find a way to exercise ‘good disagreement’ and maintain bonds of fellowship and unity, even in the context of our diversity.

      I hear each week by email from my daughter in Christian ministry in Uganda of the pitiful needs of frankly desperate communities – she works with pregnant teenagers, women with alcohol problems, abandoned mothers, underweight babies, infants who need adoption – and it is very very obvious to me that if the Anglican Communion holds together – even with differences – the solidarity and shared journeys we can commit to across the globe, in fellowship, in shared experience and deeper understanding… these things speak, in the real lives of real communities, of the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.

      May God bless you, and give you the grace, in the challenging vocation you find yourself in the midst of.

      with love from Susannah

      • All said, without even a single nod towards scripture.

        Based on what you’ve written, Paul must appear somewhat churlish for refusing to allow elders to exercise discretion on performing the rite of circumcision.

        Evidence, no doubt, that Paul’s scriptural admonitions against the Jewish rite were but a small step on his path towards full inclusion of Judaism.

        And evidence, no doubt, of yet another inscrutable paradox (read, unjustifiable inconsistency) in which bonds of charity (read, starry-eyed connivance) can ‘transcend’ (read, dismiss) scripture, tradition and even reason, when it suits.

      • To throw all the toys out of the pram… to threaten schism… to demand everyone believes the exact same uniform belief as ourselves… that sort of seems the easy, but facile, way to me.

        This is the fallacy of the excluded middle, isn’t it?

        ‘Either you agree that anyone can believe anything, or you are demanding that everyone believes the exact same uniform belief’

        But this is simply not the case. No one is arguing, for example, that it’s okay to have sex with children, or that we should live alongside people who believe that in a spirit of ‘whanau’.

        So the principle that welcome is not universal is established. There are limits.

        The discussion is simply about where those limits ought to be.

        But it’s a total misrepresentation to suggest that anyone who puts the limits in a slightly different place from yourself is ‘demand[ing] everyone believes the exact same uniform belief ‘.

      • Morning Susannah – “good disagreement?” mmmmmm

        Did Jude show this? v11 ‘Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
        Jude 12    These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

        Good disagreement – did Paul show this in gal 1v7f ‘Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!

        Good disagreement? Did Jesus advocate or commend this path with church in Ephesus “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

        Or the church in Pergamum “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

        Or the church in Thyatira “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.”

        Susannah – the dominical mandate and apostolic instruction is separation of/from those who persist in doctrines and practices contrary to the gospel and the kingdom. So this is no small matter that we can agree on and move on from to focus on the marginalised.

        I fear you make light of it having decided it is not a big deal. But changing 2000 years of Christian practise and doctrine let alone 1000 years + of Jewish doctrine and practise is no small thing. You have admitted you are happy to reject what Paul wrote. But whilst some of us dont, you understand why we cant so readily pass over this church crisis.

        I care not a fig for good disagreement if it puts me at odds with Scripture and Jesus on the matter. And that is what we need to get to nub of – what does Jesus say?

        as ever

        • “You have admitted you are happy to reject what Paul wrote.”

          Not all that Paul wrote. And I don’t ‘reject’ it as relevant to Paul’s time and culture, or to Paul’s particular personality and faith, or as applicable in certain situations.

          What Christians like myself do assert is that Paul may not always be ‘right’ if his words are applied to all communities and all times and all cultures. We need to God in our consciences about some things – not just this elevated scriptural infallibility which some people seem to champion.

          But I’m writing this clarification to assure you and readers that I do indeed value Paul’s narratives, and find moments of profound truth in things he says, but I’m part of a Christian tradition that believes we should read, understand and receive scripture in context.

          You cite various local problems Paul was addressing, in his particular place in time and space. Clearly there were perceived concerns about idolatry or sexually immoral practices. Some of those practices may have been dark and evil in any age. Others may have been perceived by Paul as ‘immoral’ because of his own culture and assumptions.

          When it comes to gay and lesbian couples who use their sexual intimacy to express love, fidelity, devotion, commitment – in our own point in time and space, and in our own (UK) setting, we may take a different view to Paul. Clearly these relationships cannot be compared with child sacrifice, or other obvious evils. It really is reasonable to suppose and propose that Paul’s comments on man-man or woman-woman sex were natural expressions of his own culture and time, rather than an eternal edict for all societies and all cultures.

          That’s why God has given us conscience, and capacity for reception from the Holy Spirit. And it’s part of why half the members of the Church of England no longer regard gay sexuality as a sin.

          We live in different times.

          As for doctrinal rectitude: I’m mindful of the prophet Micah’s words. That the real spirituality God desires of us is to “act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

          Part of that humility may involve accommodation of paradox, and differences, and inconsistencies… if in that context we actually *open* our hearts to the flow of God’s compassion and mercy for people in our actual communities who need help, housing, food, comfort, solidarity.

          We have ***so much*** in common. We know the mercy and love of Jesus. We know the call of God on our lives to get on with loving and serving our neighbours, our communities.

          Let’s do it, in the best and most conscientious way we feel as individuals and communities we can. Let’s let the love flow. Let’s give ourselves in service. And for some of us, conscientiously – like the inclusive church I belong to – that means ‘acting justly’ and ‘mercifully’ towards gay or lesbian or trans people: recognising their decencies, respecting their devotions, and humbly acknowledging that before God we are all sinners through lack of love, and yet we are called to open up to God together, and live alongside one another, and love, love, love.

          That is our burial, as Christians. That is more vital than fasting or sacrifice. That is more urgent than appropriating what we believe to be moral rectitude and doctrinal purity.

          The Church of England is not a Puritan Church. It is a hotch-potch of diverse traditions, diverse expressions, and differing views and emphases. Always has been. And that can be a strength or that can be a fatal weakness. The way I believe the Church of England has received charism through the centuries is through the tension and paradox and juxtaposition of different views (like we are having here)… and how that draws out of people the grace to look beyond the legalism to the love God has for all of us.

          Jesus is an enigma, placed at the hub of history by God. He never wrote anything, as far as we know, except a few letters scrawled in the sand when they were going to stone the poor woman. We don’t, with any certainty or proof, know exactly what Jesus said, or how it was meant to be taken. We have accounts. Accounts put together by religious communities. I find much in these accounts that is compelling.

          Above all, the account of Jesus’s life and sacrifice, which if you like is the encapsulation of ‘what Jesus said’. It is his statement, lived out if you like. It is an expression of what love is like, and what God is like.

          And to the extent that the gospel narrators get it right, that compelling message of love is given priority in the greatest commandments of all – the commandments of love – and the call to ‘love one another’.

          That should be our priority as the Church of England, and should be the priority of the so-called Anglican Communion as well.

          God bless you. Don’t pull away from me, from us. Co-exist. Share where you can share. I respect your faith, your love of God, your conscience on these matters. In eternity, whether we like it or not, we are in communion because we are God’s much-loved children, and one in Christ, drawn in to the vast consciousness and awareness of God, who alone understands all, but who implores us to love. We should be more gentle with one another, not less. We are co-workers in Christ, every time we befriend a person on the street, or comfort the bereaved, or visit the lonely or sick. In my opinion, schism is the easy way out.

          • The phrase ‘gay sexuality’ is obscure. We know that it is only in very recent times that we have sufficient biological understanding. We know that AI only ceased being a staple because of AIDS. Things that are natural and good (certain foods, exercise) have been so throughout thousands of years of history. The thing you promote sees a staggering average/early death toll, whereas it is obvious that good people are in the business of preventing death and promoting life. Anything that requires ‘protection’ even now (and would also have done so throughout history, for 99% of that time without sufficient understanding to remedy anything) is ipso facto not part of the natural way of functioning. The disease-rate is a red light. That is why it needs and needed ‘protection’. And that is even before we come to the lack of fruit which is nature’s imprimatur, the way that we can have evidence that something is part of the natural order. I can’t believe that something so obvious is not being seen.

          • Hi Susannah

            Apologies I short-handed your view on Paul re- homosexuality in a way that of course did not do your considered view justice.

            I commend your tenacity in drawing us to care for the poor, bereaved, lonely sick etc I value this too, indeed have published a book on it. I am not sure why you may think that serving the poor is at risk if we go our separated ways? The poor we will always have with us and must always be attentive to – no-one would question that.

            But we read Paul in Galatians receiving the Apostolic mandate to care for the poor and him saying that ‘remembering the poor’ is the one thing he wanted to do. But that in no way compromised his fierce defence of the church and its gospel. The God who calls us to remember the poor also he calls us to go to the lost wth the gospel, and to deny ourselves and take up our cross in faithful costly holy discipleship.


          • So, absent “child sacrifice and other obvious evils”, we are now told that the Church should entrust its sexual ethics to 21st century Western consciences, infused as they are with such God-given insight that they can usurp and relativise the very archetype of marriage in Genesis to which Christ Himself harked back, despite Moses’ later OT provision for divorce.

            Apparently, you only need to invoke the p-word (paradox) in order to brush aside a multitude of sins.

            Such an approach is just so tiresomely disingenuous and self-serving that it doesn’t merit further engagement.

            I’m done here.

          • Goodness. I wondered how long the comment thread would run before Christopher introduced his concern – some might say obsession, but not I
            It seems singularly inappropriate as a reply to a piece on the spouses of bishops. Or am I naive in assuming that bishops do not partake of risky sexual acts with multiple partners. Might we be safe in assuming that lesbian bishops don’t indulge in anal sex?

            But that still leaves me with two questions:
            I should be interested in seeing statistics on the decreasing incidence of AI (in both same sex and mixed sex couples) since AIDS?
            What is wrong with ‘protected’ sex? Until the menopause most of my sexual activity was contracepted, as it is for most couples

          • Decreasing incidence among homosexuals undoubtedly. I wasn’t thinking of others.

            Re protection, you can see that I was pointing out only one thing: the implications for what we can call natural and what we can call unnatural. There is no way that anything that requires protection (this requirement that could be discovered only by trial and error, and the means of protection could be discovered only by a second round of trial and error) is natural.

            I think people are trying to force others into using language like ‘gendering’. Obviously they have no right to do so. Language presupposes worldview. If someone does not hold a worldview, and also if most people in history have not held it, then there is no way on earth it can be an actual requirement to hold that worldview – that we will all agree on.

            It is not that people should not be condemned for speaking the truth (though obviously they should not be) it is that it would normally be assumed that people will speak the truth. They will think different things. Obviously they are allowed to say those things. Those things deserve to be affirmed should they be backed up by evidence.

          • Susannah, you say that ‘we live in different times’, but intellectually there is not the slightest reason why people should meekly the follow the prevailing currents of their own times, is there? It is always the brighter people that can think for themselves (and will therefore sometimes accept and sometimes reject the prevailing currents) – and surely we’d want to be among their number, the number of those capable of independent thought and free enquiry?

          • Christopher

            You have avoided answering my questions.
            Where are your statistics on gay men giving up anal sex since the advent of HIV/AIDS?
            What has the dangers of anal sex to do with lesbians?
            What has the dangers of anal sex to do with married bishops, who we assume are being faithful?
            What is wrong with protected sex, since much sexual activity is contracepted?

          • Hi Penelope

            I was not aware of anyone who doubted that AI (the cause of so much HIV/AIDS) had dropped dramatically among MSM according to post-AIDS advice. The figures I read in Gagnon were 52% previously practised it, dropping now to less than 20%. There is no way that in the circumstances there cannot have been a drop. However, I will endeavour to find the more precise stats.

            This is now the 2nd time that I have said that I did not speak of ‘having something against’ contraception – though in fact I have several things against it and there’s nothing good I can see about it – but about wondering how anyone can see any practice as natural and part of what is proper for humans when it cannot even be undertaken without that.

          • “Might we be safe in assuming that lesbian bishops don’t indulge in anal sex?”

            How boring – or not as the case maybe!

          • We need to listen to God in our consciences

            Do you really think so highly of yourself that you think that your conscience is a more reliable judge of the truth about God than Paul’s letters and the two thousand years of scholarship that has been built on them?

            That’s quite an opinion.

          • I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem to fit with exhortations to ‘walk humbly’.

            I mean what could be less humble than deciding that the vast majority of everyone else through history has been wrong, and you, in your one small sliver of time, in your restricted cultural viewpoint, know best?

      • Your response Susannah to Peter’s good letter is talk about love in terms of accepting everyone and everything in terms of tolerance without personal acceptance. Worryingly we have arrived at the point where society has changed the meaning of the term “tolerance” to mean exclusion. What society means is that they will tolerate everyone except Christians, what the Western Anglican Church means is that they will tolerate everyone except for Orthodox Christians.

        It is very difficult to understand the discrimination against, and hatred for, orthodox Christians by the HoB. They really do want to take the Church away from orthodox Christians, yet orthodox Christians have done nothing to warrant such bad and hypocritical behaviour by Synod and the HoB.

        • Clive,

          Your point needs to be taken seriously. In my work in school with teenagers, I do feel (for example) that children of conservative Christians can feel the sharp edge of toleration, in that the prevailing affirmation of LGBT peers. They will be challenged, and in some cases ostracised by their peers, if they state in class that they think gay sex is against God’s teaching. And I feel for them.

          I think your comments about bishops is sweeping and generalised. I have discourse periodically with about 45 bishops. Without betraying confidences, I think it is public knowledge that someone like Rod at Maidstone does not at all hate ‘orthodox’ Christians that you refer to, and there are others who would appreciate your point. And although I agree, that the trajectory of the Church of England (at least at present) is towards acceptance of diversity, I have found diversity and nuance of views among the House of Bishops.

          But I do want to acknowledge the fair concern you express (even though I hold many so-called ‘liberal’ / ‘progressive’ views. The danger you face, I think, trying to be honest, dispassionate, and objective, is the ‘slippery slope’: that what today is negotiated as ‘optional’ and a diversity of belief, can if we are uncaring become ‘imperative’ and compulsory.

          The Philip North affair at Sheffield was not a good precedent for those who advocate acceptance of diversity. It seemed to say that acceptance of diversity would in the end close off parts of the Church to people with some views. And yet Philip is a pastorally very caring person with many gifts.

          The same could be said about Jeffrey John, of course. It works both ways.

          But being honest, yes, I think that if you hold conservative evangelical views, you are a bit up against it in the Church of England today. My position is I desperately don’t want schism – for the sake of all the communities we serve up and down the nation. So I desperately DO want acceptance and accommodation of diversity. Like many of the bishops I speak to, I think I recognise that may not be completely possible, because some churches in the end will walk out (not that many I suspect) if they are pushed too far.

          And yet the language I’ve met here quite a lot, is ‘We worship different Gods’ or ‘We are following different religions.’ I take a different view: we worship the same God, but we have differing views. We need to seek the grace to co-exist, to respect one another (I respect your orthodoxy, I am conservative myself in some respects), and we need to open our hearts more to each other. I have tried to do that here.

          • Dear Susannah

            You’ve managed to mention just one Bishop on his own and the Philip North affair shows just how intolerant “liberals” are when using the word “tolerance” so disingenuously.

            We are ALL sinners and your argument of young people calling gay people sinners is deeply fake and now depressingly well tried and repeated in the MSM in the vain hope that if you repeat a lie often enough it might magically become true – No it won’t.

            Any Biblical statement is not about homosexuality but against the homosexual act. Jesus does NOT cast either the first stone nor any stone and Christians try hard to follow him. Christians hope for genuine tolerance that they show themselves but they are not being shown genuine tolerance in return themselves as episodes such as the Philip North afair shows.

  12. Susannah reveals in his website a lot about (some of) his life and time as a parent, and he is open about some of the conflicts he faced. These would readily bring a person into tension (to say the least) with what the Apostle Paul says about Christian faithfulness in the Greco-Roman world he encountered. As for Jesus, Susannah, following liberal historicism, is not sure if the Gospels really give us trustworthy information about him, but still he professes to follow him. I can’t understand this doublethink unless it reflects a residual conservatism from his HTB days. But we don’t have any thing for a dialogue or ‘staying together here’. These are two different religions.

    • Brian
      I have read some despicable things on this blog. But you take the prize. And in Lent too. Shame on you.

  13. Brother – you and I seem to agree on much theologically and I disagree with Susannah on much theologically – and much is at stake here for the future of our church. But your last post is too sharp and too personal. Play the ball not the player.

    • It’s okay Simon. In 10 years since I transitioned I have never actually encountered this ever before, except in the form of street abuse, and admittedly if feels sort of weird, but I have a principle: that if I seek respect from other people, I must also respect other people’s right to their conscientious beliefs. It works both ways.

      I regard it as pretty impressive that in 8 years in healthcare, not one single patient or colleague referred to me as ‘he’. And in my post looking after 1200 teenagers’ healthcare, I have never had even one single student failing to refer to me in the gender I identify as. I have had some incidents on the street with ignorant idiots yelling at me and calling me out – a drunk guy outside a pub once; and a couple of young guys digging a hole.

      I appreciate the manners and civility that I experience day to day, from bank clerks, people on trains, shop assistants etc etc who may perhaps recognise I am trans but still choose to show me what I regard as good will. Frankly it simply doesn’t matter to me, because I am happy, I am loved, I am leading a private life with as much decency and kindness as I can. How can someone’s gendering of me change that well-being in my life and my relationships and efforts (like we all make) to care for other people?

      The only irritating thing for me, mildly, is that I come here to discuss religious issues – in this thread, the issue of gay spouses not being invited to Lambeth. I don’t want the conversation to develop into a conversation ‘all about Susannah’. So whatever follows here, and I hope it is civil and kind (as I have found you in all our discussions, Simon) I won’t comment again, because it just de-rails and personalises stuff.

      This is the internet! You must expect all sorts of things if you post online on an internet forum. But I would re-iterate that this is the first time (apart from a few yobs in the street) this conscious use of the pronoun ‘he’ has happened to me, in all the kindnesses and shared lives and experience of the past 10 years since I transitioned. It’s not usual, but it’s a person’s right if that’s their conscientious view on the matter. I bear no ill will. I am happy and unashamed of who I am. We have to love one another, and I’m not sure what more I should say beyond that.

      Now back to the topic…

    • Simon,

      I’m not sure that Brian’s comment amounts to ‘playing the player’. Perhaps, instead, he’s refusing to play by so-called ‘rules of gracious engagement’ which some revisionists who comment here are only too eager to set aside in furtherance of political expediency.

      Jesus didn’t mince his words when he declared the spiritual ignorance of Judaea’s religious neighbours: “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22)

      Paul didn’t mince his words, when he said of the Judaizers: “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:22)

      Neither should we.

      • David

        I am very sad and disappointed to read your collusion in Brian’s uncharity and cruelty. You and I have often sparred on here and on FB, but we have neither of us, I hope, descended to homophobia, misogyny, anti semitism, transphobia, ageism or racism.
        I am appalled by such deliberate nastiness from professed Christians.
        Some conservatives who comment here are only too ready to emulate the strong language and actions of Jesus and Paul. Perhaps Lent might be the time to remind them that they are not the Son of God, nor Apostles, but merely humble disciples.

          • The comments by Brian and Davis S disgust me and contravene every policy the Church of England has on the matter in hand. There is not a bishop in the C of E who would not condemn and distance themselves from these comments. Ian would be well advised to remove them.

          • But Andrew, to stop people speaking the truth as they see it is (strong word alert) disgusting. So to stop them doing so on occasions when they are right would be even more so. You would be effectively forcing people to lie and/or go against their conscience. But everyone knows that that is a controlling stance, and also one that you have no right to take. It is certainly not a stance that the opposing party takes – not even close. Which is more important? Truth on the one hand, or the world’s 4th biggest denomination on the other hand?

          • Then, David you are following a different Christ, and, belong perhaps, in a different church. Transgender priests serve in the CoE and transgender people can marry others of the different gender. That ship has long sailed, whatever you think of liturgies to mark transition.
            Perhaps Romans 14.3-4 might be a better text to reflect upon.

            I cannot say how sick at heart yours and Brian’s cruelty has made me and that you can’t even repent of your sin makes it even worse. evenremr

          • Christopher

            The truth as I see it about you, David S. and Brian is that you are cruel, privileged, disgusting homophobes and transphobes. You, in particular, are completely obsessed with the perceived dangers of anal sex and introduce it into nearly every comment thread even when it has no bearing on the topic in hand. As now.

            You shew me nothing of Christ.

            Now, I wouldn’t have dreamt of writing any of this. I think it’s most unkind and unnecessary. But you seem to think that stating the truth as one sees it is a good.

          • Wow! All that for speaking the truth? It is well know that truth is by definition a good thing, the best. Nor is it loving to lie.

          • So, it is a good thing, the best, to be called a homophobe and a transphobe and obsessed with anal sex?

          • To say things does not make them true. When they are just cliches, the likelihood of their being accurate drops, as does (more importantly) the likelihood of their being coherent.

            You see what is happening. The chalk and cheese, the never the twain shall meet, is crystallising before our eyes. Where worldviews are incompatible, that is what will happen; all the more so when people think they can invent the way the world is just to suit their convenience. It has always been our party that took that view of things, and stood against things like good disagreement.

          • As for the jargon words you used, I analyse the incoherences of the H word in What Are They Teaching The Children? 274-5. The slang ‘homo’ and the suffix -phobia are known to the layperson, and the entire concept is a halfbaked layperson’s concept – unless the inoherences can be addressed. As for the T word, it is only recently that the thing that people are apparently afraid of (though I have never seen any running away in fright) has been in common parlance at all. You are treating it as something ubiquitous because that is what cultural fashions are pulling the strings of people to do. It is uncritical merely meekly to acquiesce.

          • Christopher
            Too right. To say things does not make them true. So your cruel misgendering is simply a case of saying the truth as you see it – as a cishet conservative male (ditto Brian and David S.). That is not objective truth, that is privilege.
            And yes, transphobia and homophobia are neologisms. So, once was evangel and arsenokoites, and heterosexual. We know exactly what they describe: fear and hatred of gay, bi, and trans people. Othering those we don’t consider normal or normative. Having the arrogance to decide what is best for ‘them’ and how we might describe ‘them’.

          • Oh, come on then, Andrew. Show me the part of CofE’s policy (rather than optional guidance) that my comment has contravened.

          • This word misgendering I don’t get. Penny is expecting we accept the word. But the only way we can accept it is if we think that transient thoughts (circumstance-driven and culture-driven) are something more probative and undeniable than biology. In fact it is undoubted that not only is that untrue, but the reverse is true. So by what sleight of hand was ‘misgendering’ introduced as a concept that everyone is bound to accept. No we do not accept it; though you are acting as though we do, you have never heard us say that we do, so your ‘assumption’ that we do can only be wishful thinking; it was invented more or less yesterday; and we have spoken about why it is incoherent.

          • Christopher,

            I hope you will cut me some slack, and recognise that I have tried to be respectful towards somebody else’s conscientious belief that gender transition is essentially ‘fake’. To me, based on an interpretation of scripture, that’s a position that can be held with faith and out of love and obedience to God. I have acknowledged that. I do believe in people’s right of conscience and their best attempts at fidelity towards God.

            Biologically speaking, I can understand why it can be argued that through gender transition I am actually ‘misgendering’ myself. But I think it’s easy to conflate gender identity with ‘sex’. In terms of my microscopic, invisible to the naked eye, chromosomes, I would be biologically defined ‘male’ in terms of my sex. Those chromosomes did their work in my foetal development, to develop my ‘male’ features.

            At the same time, and set against that, I have psychology and brain function (the brain is biology too) that for some reason – I suspect a quirk of foetal development, but who knows – led me to identifying with females and as female. And here, I am talking about gender identity, not sex. I simply don’t feel ‘male’ like you guys. My whole sexual reproductive make up felt deeply and distressingly incongruent with the feelings and identity and understanding of who I was and am. That is an understatement. It was a problem which grew more and more accentuated, and needed resolution. I resolved it (with professional and medical assistance which has overwhelming support from medical professionals, the NHS, the GMC, the NMC, Parliament, the law, and most of society at large).

            Now you may see that as tinkering with God’s creation plan. That’s a conscientious position I have acknowledged and respect your right to have.

            For me, though, it was transformation: almost immediate psychological ease, and end to decades of (sometimes life-threatening) self-harm, a peace from the incongruency, a deepening faith and spirituality like a renaissance, a closeness to God, an opening up of my personality, my freedom of expression, and end to the psychological torment and distress that had blighted my life.

            The brain is biological. I hated the effects that testosterone created when it locked on to my countless receptors. I understandably hated the effects it had on my body in terms of incongruency with my deep sense of identity and being. When I started transition, and oestrogen receptors started receiving the oestrogen, and the testosterone supply was blocked off, the effect was not just physical in my body beyond my brain: it was releasing and congruent and powerful in my brain, my physical brain, with its physical receptors.

            And it was like peace and tranquillity almost immediately – certainly within a week or two. A peace and calm that deepened and deepened. Now some readers may theologically begrudge me that, because it challenges your theology. But theology is also compassion. My life was transformed. It wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t some kinky sexual fetish. It wasn’t about psychological disorder – at least, not after the transition began… all the self-harming stopped overnight. Having a gender isn’t disorder: everyone has some kind of psychological gender. Mine happens to be ‘female’ as far as anyone can approximate towards our concepts of what ‘female’ is (and it’s hugely diverse).

            So… for the past 10 years, I have just led an ordinary, but transformatively happy and productive life. I re-trained as a nurse. I won prizes for my nursing (but that’s immaterial, you nurse because it’s in your heart to serve, and it’s so deeply fulfilling). And if I got up today and dressed as a man, started using guy’s toilets, started pretending to be ‘male’ in my gender presentation to society… it would be… so weird.

            10 years have passed. I have lovely boobs. I have a vagina. I have a clitoris. My skin is soft. Male stuff like chest hair just disappeared (thank goodness). I have a church. I have a convent. I have friends. I have family (who have journeyed through this with me). Almost everyone who knows me now, at work, in town etc only knows me as female and a transgender female. And it’s all ordinary for them – to them I am just a woman who they know. And they’re decent to me. And they afford me that ‘space’ to identify as female. In other words they ‘gender identify’ me as female. And I don’t have to think about it. Life is just normal for me. Doing normal stuff.

            And trying to be a decent human being. Not being branded as ‘disordered’ thank you very much. I was ‘disordered’ psychologically when the incongruency was ravaging me. Decades of self-harm was ‘disordered’. I look back and think ‘Ew! Why did I do all that stuff, and hate my body so much?’ but I am out of all that. The disorder is behind me. I am calm and peaceful and happy.

            That’s what gender transition can do for people. Not for every single person. There are some people, a minority, who find that transition did not resolve their problems. Maybe they had other issues. I don’t know. But for the majority of people who transition – through hormones and surgery (recognising btw that there are other people who are trans but live out things a different way)… for the majority of people who transition, they are far far happier after transition, even if they can still face inordinate societal pressures and hostilities. But you take responsibility for your decisions, and find courage, and it’s true what Anais Nin said: ‘Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.’ My life has expanded. Through nursing, through creativity (I am also a novelist), through relationships, through prayer, through spirituality and relationship with God.

            So what I have found is that the vast majority of people show me respect and space (and a little dignity and kindness) by ‘gendering’ me in the gender I identify as and understand myself… I mean, I have boobs, I have vagina, I have clitoris, I have female formones teeming through my body, I express female, I am known female… so they ‘gender’ me as female… which is what really helps, because frankly to ‘gender’ me male, while it is a conscientious right of anyone in chromosomal terms, is SO incongruent with how I feel, how I look, how I express.

            It is so incongruent (like a harmful return of the dysphoria I suffered with for decades) that I think many in society would say, “You know what? That’s deliberately misgendering. You know how she identifies. You know how the misgendering hurts and resurrects the psychological distress. Don’t be a dick.”

            I don’t go that far. I believe in respecting right of conscience. But sorry, when you’ve been living an ordinary and decent life 10 years, in a distinctively female body in some (but not all) senses: it does *feel* like a kind of gender car crash, when someone pointedly calls you ‘he’. And in terms of how it jives with your own psychology and the acceptance of most decent people in your life… 10 years on… when you frankly can’t remember what being male was like without effort… that does impact as a kind of ‘misgendering’ to the individual concerned, to their close family and friends (my children would be *furious* with the comment posted here), to their workmates… all of whom SHOW RESPECT.

            I know people have the right to ‘speak the truth’ and that sometimes ‘you have to be cruel to be kind’. Well, technically yes, when I call myself ‘she’ I’m misgendering myself in terms of my invisible chromosomes. So fair play.

            And no, I am not trying to appropriate everything it means to be female. I have too much respect for all the women of the world. I never had periods, I was never socialised as a girl by my family, I can never (at least not at this stage in science) have a baby. But my daughter just has, and I rejoice for her. I am a transgender female. There are all kinds of females in our world: butch, femme, genderfluid, tomboys, assertive, passive, fertile, non-fertile, strong, weak, good, bad. There is huge diversity. I am part of that diversity and part of that womanhood, without claiming to be all of it.

            That’s how I live. Most people will accept me as female. Not for theological reasons, but out of decency and kindness.

            One other thing: people can be transphobic or homophobic in effect, even if they don’t actually ‘hate’ trans people, or gay people or lesbian people. I can go to some churches where I get ‘cold stares’ and people look through me. It feels cold and locked out. At my church I am valued, I am understood, I am affirmed, I am accepted for how I understand myself, and respected… and loved not on someone else’s theological terms, but loved for who I am, in all the freedom of who I now am.

            Be very careful: you can destroy people. Call it gendering or misgendering. It is a terrible thing if the Church, in its self-righteousness, becomes a place that is toxic to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans people. Be very careful, if you feel you ‘have’ to exercise your right of crashing your pronouns into that person… that you do it with infinite love, and tenderness, and gentleness.

            I know she’s mentioned so often that she’s almost a meme, but having been in close discourse with her priest Nick, and acutely aware of her parents who I pray for every day… I can never forget the 14-year-old Lizzie Lowe, who was faced with a church that cold-stared her sexuality, taught it was wrong (being cruel to be kind?)… and the inner pain and incongruency between her faith and her sexuality ended in that ultimate self-harm of taking her life.

            I’ve been there.

            I give thanks to my God, that somehow, through God’s own love and acceptance and drawing close… and the love of people close to me… I got through, to live in the openness and happiness of the wonderful life I live today… to be able to live more freely and openly… to love and to serve… to feel more congruent and whole.

            Judge according to your own beliefs. We are ordinary decent people, transitioning and finding productive lives: as teachers, nurses, police officers, pilots, doctors, lawyers… and all manner of other roles valuable to society. Judge, but also listen. To God. And to the individual. You haven’t been there (in that dysphoria, unless you’re trans). We have.

            It does not incapacitate our abundant capacity to love. In my own experience (and admitting I fall short as much as anyone else) it liberates the capacity to love. Because gender stops being an issue, stops being in the way.

            And then someone feels a duty to introduce the incongruency all over again. It is rarely helpful. It changes nothing, but it resurrects harm, and distress. I am strong and confident (because I am so loved). But not all people are. Oh, be so careful.

          • No, Christopher, I am expecting that you accept the reality. Attributing transgender to cultural imperatives is ignorant and prejudiced.
            Perhaps you could read more about gender fluidity both in history and at present. There’s lots of science and evidence.

          • David
            The ordination of transgender priests.
            The marrying of transgender people.
            That isn’t ‘guidance’, it’s doctrine.

          • Asking people not to speak the truth as they see it is controlling, and its motives, which can be guessed at, don’t look pure. But asking them not to voice obvious truths like ‘your biology is firmer ground than your transient thoughts’ is even worse.

            How would you know what it feels like to be the other gender?

            How can it be the case that *you* felt that (the real you that you were born as, the you that you are in essence), rather than came to feel that several years down the line, once you had memory and desires?

            Surgery of such magnitude is incredibly drastic. Amputation, no less? And how can a person retain integrity with their origins? Losing a sense of being grounded in origins is the most dangerous thing, as you can become a person without definition or boundaries.

            People can become disaffected through rebellion (which is delicious, and much-pursued) and through self indulgence (which is fun and popular). So it does not take much at all to become disaffected/dysphoric. Become, not be in essence or be by nature.

        • Penny,

          Homophobia and transphobia are irrational fears.

          Perhaps, you can explain the rational basis upon which you’ve resorted to this last round of name-calling.

          Or is it that, if the conservative position has become resilient enough to resist with rational debate any capitulation to the flimsy arguments of the affirming camp, then it becomes high time that the ‘no more Mr. Nice Guy’ ad hominem ‘phobia’ denunciations should be trotted out?

          Declaring that “they be ‘omophobes and transphobes and obsesssed with AI” should be enough to rouse the villagers to march on us with pitchforks and torches.

          (Even if one or two ‘obsessed’ villagers might reply: “I prithee enlighten me concerning this other sorcery you call AI”)

          • David
            Please don’t patronise me with talk of ad hom, when you have insulted Susannah in a most disgraceful manner and in flagrant disobedience to CoE Guidelines.
            It is quite possible to hold conservative views with integrity, without being transphobic and simply childishly nasty.

        • The fact that the Church has decided that being transgender is no bar to Holy Orders in the CofE does not mean that Church doctrine affirms gender transition as blessed by God.

          Similarly, it may surprise some here that the Church’s decision that belonging to the Labour Party is no bar to Holy Orders in the CofE does not mean that Church doctrine affirms Labour policy as blessed by God.

          • The fact that the Church has decided that being transgender is no bar to Holy Orders in the CofE does not mean that Church doctrine affirms gender transition as blessed by God.

            More to the point, this argument is being made by someone who thinks that church doctrine as regards same-sex marriage is wrong and needs to change.

            You cannot consistently say ‘this is church doctrine, that settles the matter’ on one issue, and ‘church doctrine is wrong, it needs to change’ on another.

            Either current church doctrine is must be accepted ipso facto as correct — in which case the church’s doctrine on same-sex marriage must be accepted as correct — or church doctrine must be regarded as provisional, not a settled fact, and open to revision, in which case the church’s doctrine of gender transition must be open to revision, and cannot be appealed to to settle an argument.

            You can’t just say that church doctrine is definitive when it agrees with you, and should be changed when it doesn’t.

          • Nonsense. Our doctrine is in our liturgy and if we ordain transgender priests we affirm their ontological reality.

          • Liturgy makes no mention of a person”s gender as an ontological reality.

            Especially since a person’s sex is of no consequence to ordination.

      • David, I don’t count it as not mincing words. No-one is going to prevent people speaking truthfully, nor even (on other occasions) what they thought was truthfully even if it wasn’t. The alternative is to lie or go against conscience. And those are serious things.

      • Hope I am not talking in riddles. Basically I meant: When people speak truthfully, that is not an event, it is just same old. When people speak truthfully and are in addition correct in what they assert, the same applies in spades. Christian people expect to speak truthfully always – it is the default. If you say 300 things a day, it is axiomatic that people will disagree with plenty of them (for evidenced and non-evidenced reasons) – how could it be otherwise?

        • And I’m sure I would disagree with most of your 300! I think it depends on what sort of character you’re trying to build in your life: for me I want to be known as kind, patient, loving, generous, friendly, respectful etc. The fruits of the Spirit matter more to me than dogma.

          • ?? You are saying that the fruits of the Spirit and dogma constitutes an either-or?

            All will agree that that is an untenable position. You cannot, I imagine, name a single way in which the one excludes the other.

  14. There is far more a stake, than personal slights or antagonism, either in respect of personal invitations to Lambeth or Susannah and it’s been covered seemingly countless time in Ian’s blog, and it is the nature of scripture and of the unique Triune God of Christianity, sin, holiness, the fall, Christian theology, more particularly as far as the CoE is concerned, protestant Christian theology.
    While I don’t look to do a full trawl of Susannah’s comments on all of the articles, I emphasise a couple of points (without direct quotes). No doubt there will be a rejoinder if I get it wrong.
    1 Scripture, particularly the OT is to a large extent myth, perhaps following Bultman and others. It can not be relied on as the triune God reliably communicating to unreliable humanity, but a mere human construct.
    2 Recently, above, Jesus may be described as an “enigma”.
    3 God today speaks reliably today through conscience, putting it above the authority of scripture, So God could not and has not reveal himself in times past to speak to the present and future. This is set against God revealing personally to Susannah, that Hitler is in heaven! Maybe he has had post death prayers to the saints said for him. indulgences, in Chantries. Or salvation through infant sprinkling.
    4 There seems to be something of a superiority, or “chronological snobbery” of revelation, but to me is a large and and dangerous dose of Gnosticism at the least, masquerading as angels of light. There is an anti-supernatural view of scripture, but at the same time there is a personal supernatural revelation to Susannah. Not much abounding consistency, coherence, cogency.
    5 There must be spiritual discernment. How so, how to measure, against what? And there are counterfeit gifts and spirits, demonic. How the test, by what measure(s). Individual conscience?
    6 But, of course, we know better now in the west, from the time of the scientific and philosophical, material enlightenment world view, through to postmodern, individualistic, neo-super-spiritual mysticism, channelling some dead Catholicism, to the sovereignty of individual conscience over and above God and scripture and built on the shifting theological sands of the Emergent Church.

    • This is set against God revealing personally to Susannah, that Hitler is in heaven!

      Now I know that the writer in question has made some outrageous claims — spiritual orgasms! — but this seemed so mad I had to check it out.

      And I have to say that based on the discussion I found, this is a totally unfair characterisation. It was never claimed that Hitler was in Heaven. The most that was said was that we couldn’t know Hitler was not in Heaven — that it was logically possible that he might be in Heaven.

      And this, I believe, is totally orthodox Christian belief: this side of the veil, we cannot know who is and is not in Heaven. It is possible that, as the fatal bullet was entering his brain, Adolf Hitler realised the depth of his sin and sincerely repented. In which case, I believe, he would have been saved.

      I don’t think this happened. But it could have. So we cannot say for sure that Adolf Hitler, or anyone else, is or is not in Heaven.

      (I also think it’s a bit lazy to use Hitler as the exemplar of someone who may not be in Heaven. Yes, he killed millions (although less than Stalin and Mao). But as C.S. Lewis pointed out, one man may be so placed, historically, that his rage, anger and prejudice kills millions. Another may be just as sinful, but be so placed that all he can do is kick the neighbourhood cat. But the stain on the soul is just the same.)

  15. I think that Brian, referring to Susannah as ‘he’ reflects his belief that transitioning to an opposite gender and calling her ‘she’ would be conceding that such an occurrence has physical or spiritual validity. I would imagine that his understanding of transitioning into another gender could never be seen as biologically equivalent at the most fundamental levels to a birth gender, but rather is a matter of self-identification.

      • Even so, arguments have no sex and, indeed, are totally independent of the proposer of them.

        It is relevant to point out when the same person has advanced arguments which may shed light on the current discussion (as I do when I point out that certain proposers of certain arguments have asserted that one-night stands can be holy, and that this proves their judgements on all moral questions, especially of sexual morals, to be highly questionable).

        It is not relevant to speculate on how someone’s history has caused them to believe or not believe such-and-such a thing. That has no bearing on the only important question, which is whether the thing is true. Someone’s history may lead them to believe something which is false; someone’s history may equally lead them to believe something which is true. The only way to tell the difference is by interrogating the thing and the arguments for it. The history which brought the person to that belief is irrelevant.

        The Church of England is in enough trouble. Let it not descend to Bulverism.

        • I think its unfair to quote things like one night stands out of the context in which it was mentioned. And just because we may get something wrong, it doesn’t then follow that everything we then say is wrong.

          • Origen

            The person who argued, in a different thread, that some one-night stands could be considered Holy is me,
            Clearly S therefore deduces that this makes all my ethical precepts questionable, to say the least.
            That says rather more about S than it does about me.
            However, anyone who misgenders or condones misgendering a Christian sibling, need to repent

      • Yes.

        Though it has legal validity and after decades presenting as a woman and having surgery to transition it surely has physical validity, if not biological.

        However, to press home this view by pointedly, repeatedly and awkwardly inserting the pronoun he/his/him 8x in quick succession and referring to Susanna’s own story from her blog read as ad hominem attack – unnecessary and ungracious.

        • My above comment has got posted out of sync – it in reply to Chris & Christopher’s comments – not S’s directly above, although I also say yes to him 🙂

          • Yes, the present state is real, as is the biological essence, and we get a grasp on the realities by seeing synoptically as many relevant angles as possible.

            My main concern is certainly the truth one. It is widely agreed that is dangerous to stop people speaking the truth as they see it – yet Penelope is trying to stop that happening. In fact, it is far worse than that, for there will be a subsection of ‘truth as I see it’ which will actually be true (so far as one can ascertain from science, stats, commonsense and logic). For that subsection, the same applies in spades. It is grossly controlling to try to silence people who are speaking the truth as they see it, which in some cases will actually be the truth (which makes things worse). This they obviously have no right to do, and when they try, Orwellian visions beckon.

          • It is widely agreed that is dangerous to stop people speaking the truth as they see it – yet Penelope is trying to stop that happening

            I agree but:

            ‘Susannah reveals in his website a lot about (some of) his life and time as a parent, and he is open about some of the conflicts he faced. These would readily bring a person into tension (to say the least) with what the Apostle Paul says about Christian faithfulness in the Greco-Roman world he encountered’

            is pure Bulverism. It is attempting to discredit an argument not by attacking the argument but by explaining how its proponent came to hold the view. It is not logically valid.

            Ideally, we would all be anonymous and totally ignorant of each others’ identities and histories, the better to engage with ideas rather than as people. This becomes hard when people (inadvisedly) provide links to their biography in their name-headers; but when they do the best thing to do is to ignore that information entirely, as it is not relevant to finding the truth.

          • Christopher

            Penelope is following CoE guidelines as well as her own conscience and careful reading of scripture and tradition.
            I have written some things above which show how cruel the simple recitation of truth as one sees it can be.
            If you disagree with CoE policy in this area, it is possible to argue that, sensibly and robustly, without insulting fellow commenters.

          • Yes – but I don’t get the perspective which puts CoE guidelines (a local matter) above both truth (a cosmic matter) and freedom of speech to boot. What’s the calculus there?

          • Freedom of speech is not a free for all. I cannot call David S. racist names. That curtails my freedom. But protects his.
            Cosmically, we do not know everything about sex. But we do now know that it is far mor complex than chromosomes, gonads, genitalia and hormones, those past mrakers of what is most probably a false binary. Since you seem so keen on science and evidence, this is something you could research. Similarly, recent re9has shown that there are very few differences between male and female brains.
            So, the CoE’s wise and inclusive policy may even reflect a cosmic truth.

          • But we do now know that it is far mor complex than chromosomes, gonads, genitalia and hormones, those past mrakers of what is most probably a false binary.

            No, we don’t.

            We know there are various disorders which can interfere with the proper development of an organism into a male or a female, such as androgen insensitivity syndrome, and leave them, for example, infertile.

            And we understand much, much more about those disorders than we did (though sadly not how to prevent them and make sure all embryos develop as they were meant to).

            But they are disorders, with associated morbidities such as infertility, not part of the normal variety of development and not indicators of a ‘false binary’ or a ‘more complex’ set-up.

          • Christopher
            there is a time to speak truth, and a mode and manner in which to speak it – ‘in love’. It may be so that the Liberal has often sought to silence the conservative voice whilst freely saying whatever they want however they want. But let us speak the truth in love, not just the truth and let all our conversation be full of grace, seasoned with salt.

          • Yes, that’s basic. I mentioned above the point that lying is an unloving thing to do. And of course indulgence is not loving either. Truth is enervating, joy-bringing, and a staple of humour is to state truths that others don’t dare state. So in general truth does everyone good. Pleasing people and not upsetting people is what leads to (socially, not intellectually) impossible impasses like the present one – if there is another way out of it other than a return to truth for those who forsook it (for the twin emphasis on love is already well-known and already present) I don’t know what it is.

            It will be at times when society has least regard for truth that people will be most tempted to overcompensate.

            Penny, I saw only one study that said that. Certainly it is well worth looking into. My experience is that there is no way that one central thing (biological difference) can fail to have ramifications in all directions. Whatever the topic (Brexit; the sexual revolution) what appeared to be a single change/difference ends up being legion changes because of ramifications and interconnectedness.

            Certainly I believe that people should never, never be made to feel that they can’t speak true things (that is terrorising, behind which the motivation is unlikely to be a wholesome one). And that those doing said terrorising should never, never have the right to do it. If they position themselves against the truth-perpsective (which most would have assumed to be just the default), then how is their position to be accurately named?

            When David Wilkerson ran his Teen Challenge, the ‘snap out of it’ (cold turkey) approach, that believed in the possibility of instant transformation, got better results than its rivals. Wanting the best for people as I do, I know that hiding the truth will not serve their best interests, far from it. I do define/understand love to be wanting the best for another. I am very interested in finding what can be *demonstrated* in this regard – what approach serves people best and gets best results. It’s a very important question.

          • S
            Your research is out of date.
            Intersex (which is not what I was referring to), is not a disorder. Not all intersex people are infertile.
            Sex simply isn’t binary. It isn’t dependent simply on chromosomal difference. That is outdated biology. Trying to base truth on a Genesis myth is just bad science and bad exegesis.

          • Intersex (which is not what I was referring to), is not a disorder.

            It is though. It is the result of some problem that prevents the proper, ordered development of an embryo; how else would you classify that?

            Not all intersex people are infertile.

            Didn’t say they were. Wrote: ‘for example’.

            Sex simply isn’t binary.

            It simply is.

            It isn’t dependent simply on chromosomal difference.

            True: it’s dependant on reproductive telos.

          • Christopher – I was not for one minute suggesting at all that you spoke (or wrote) truth without love



          • Simon, you are extraordinarily generous. Given that the kind of love I believe in is wanting people’s best interests, I will regularly think myself to be showing tough love, and people will want to know where the love is because they can’t *see* the kindness. My understanding of things (based on past evidence) is that you have to be tough (not cruel, but tough) to be kind.

          • S
            Sex really is not binary, you need to do some reading on this.
            Intersex is not a disorder, you really need to do some research on this.
            The telos of humanity is not reproduction.
            The telos of sex is not (only) reproduction. If it were, why, as I have asked before, does a female human have a clitoris?

          • Christopher
            I too define love as wanting the best for the other.
            Which is why I would never other anyone by:
            Misgendering or dead naming them
            Insulting their committed, faithful relationships
            Describing their identity or biology as disordered
            Assuming that their life choices and identities need more repentance than mine
            Believing that the gospel teaches (white) cisheteronormative patriarchy
            Excluding liminal voices
            Arguing that casual cruelty is an honourable concern for speaking the truth

          • In other words, you have bought wholly into the jargon of the relatively small (and extremely atypical) culture you happen now to be in. Words like that are nonsense to so many intelligent people, who would want a less uncritical swallowing of them.

            To accept jargon like that is to say that we have to accept their vocabulary. But that is a lie. As it happens, we do not find their vocabulary coherent.

            The issue is which vocabulary best represents reality. The way you pose things is that you think this debate should simply not happen. The vocabulary of the revisionists should (according to this way of thinking) be accepted by all. Worse, it should be accepted by all without even having any debate about the matter.

            Why should people accept it? They don’t. It does not seem internally coherent, nor to represent reality.

            When we see people who are not prepared to debate which vocabulary we should be using, we see therefore people who want to impose control – to be the masters in a 2-tier system. Is it any wonder we resist and expose this?

            Your vocabulary is not ours. We are opposed to having it imposed on us. We suspect a hidden agenda in any high-handed resistance of debating presuppositions, as though those presuppositions (even those widely viewed as ‘barmy’) were sacrosanct.

          • Christopher
            I suspect a secularising and modernist agenda in your attempt to mandate a cisheteronormative, western narrative on a gospel which celebrates the atypical, the liminal and the non normative.
            I think you will find that your jargon is provisional at best.
            And respecting a sibling’s gender is not ‘barmy’, it shows agape.

          • Sex really is not binary, you need to do some reading on this.

            No, I don’t.

            Intersex is not a disorder, you really need to do some research on this.

            Of course it’s a disorder. What else could it be? If someone is born without a hand, or foot, or blind, or with foetal alcohol syndrome, or with their development disrupted because of the zika virus or thalidomide, is that not a disorder? How is developmental disruption by something like androgen insensitivity syndrome any different?

            The telos of sex is not (only) reproduction. If it were, why, as I have asked before, does a female human have a clitoris?

            And as I have answered before, I don’t know, but then there are lots obits of the body whose function we either still don’t know or discovered only recently. At some point perhaps we will find out.

            Mo idea who Titania McGrath is

            When you find out it will be like looking in the mirror, I suspect.

          • S
            I don’t know why I’m wasting my time, but isn’t invincible ignorance meant to be a sin?
            There is a huge difference between disorders like those produced by drugs and an entirely normal but atypical variation in sexual characteristics.
            And, as we know, the telos of sexual intimacy is not only procreation. And, as we know, not all intersex people are infertile. So your mechanistic model of insert tool A into slot B and get result C is neither scientific nor biblical.

          • I don’t know why I’m wasting my time, but isn’t invincible ignorance meant to be a sin?

            Um, the whole point of invincible ignorance is that it’s not sinful. You may be thinking of vincible ignorance, which is culpable (as well as being one of the few chances you get these days to use the word ‘vincible’ so thanks for that)?

            Anyway the point is that I don’t need to read any rubbish about how reality is socially constructed and all categories are human-created and meaningless.

            There is a huge difference between disorders like those produced by drugs and an entirely normal but atypical variation in sexual characteristics.

            Yes, there is, absolutely. Intersex conditions are firmly on the ‘disorder’ side, because they are not a result of a normal biological process which produces varying results, but a result of the normal process being interrupted by something like androgen insensitivity syndrome.

            Just like there are normal variations in eyesight, with some people being able to be airline pilots and some needing thick spectacles to see clearly beyond the end of their nose; but there’s a qualitative difference between variations in focusing ability and being unable to see anything. Blindness is a disorder (and if it wasn’t, why did Jesus heal — ie, restore to their properly ordered state — those born blind?).

            And, as we know, the telos of sexual intimacy is not only procreation.

            As you keep claiming, but no matter how much you claim it, that still doesn’t make it true or something we ‘know’. It just makes it something you like to say.

            I like to say ‘My name is Angus Prune, and this is my tune.’

          • Actually S, you’ll have to do better than that.
            The doctrine of the CoE is that procreation is not the only end of marital sexual intimacy.
            Pleasure is not a by product of the clitoris. It is its function.
            Intersex is a variation of the human sex/gender spectrum. It is not about something going ‘wrong’, in the same way that left handedness is not ‘wrong’; though it was once believed to be and corrected.
            Your argument about doctrine and liturgy is specious. Doctrine and liturgy have accommodated female priests and trans priests. Doctrine and liturgy could accommodate same sex marriage.

          • Penny,

            You say “sex is not really binary”. I’m not sure what you mean by, in particular what you mean by the noun ‘sex’.

            Here is my take. I would like to know where you take issue with the following:

            1) Sex, the attribute, is in biology associated with reproduction. I.e. there is sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction. (Some organisms reproduce both ways).

            2) The attribute is fundamentally associated with gametes, i.e. the cells which combine to form a new entity. The sex of a gamete, in relation to gametes of different types, is dependent on which type passes its mitcondira to the result of the combination.

            3) There are some funghi and slime moulds which have multiple sexes (defined by the ordering of which ‘wins’ in the passing of mitochondria). However, the vast majority of sexually reproducing species have just two. Let’s call these, for obvious reasons, ‘female’ (pass on mitochondria) and ‘male’ (don’t).

            4) Some individual organisms produce gametes of both kinds, either at the same time or at different times in their life cycle. However, I don’t think there are any cases of this in mammals, including humans.

            5) In mammals, the male gamtes are delivered to the female gamtes within the uterus/fallopian organ. The resulting zygote/foetus/infant develops initially within the uterus. After birth, the infant is fed by milk, which is produced by the mammery glands. This possibility is stimulated by hormones released during the pregnancy.

            6) A given individual mammal can be defined by its role in this reproductive process. Either it can inject male gamtes into a female, or is the carrier of female gamtes and has the necessary uterus and mammary glands for the initial development of the result of the reproductive process. It is therefore not unreasonable to call the first type ‘male’ and the second type ‘female’.

            7) Therefore we can identify the primary sexual characteristics of an indivual by:
            a) the nature of the gametes the body produces
            b) the presence or otherwise of a uterus for the initial nurture of offspring
            c) the form of the external genitalia: are they for the delivery or reception of male gametes

            8) There are also secondary sexual characteristics. This is an area where there is very significant variation between species. Some have significant differences in size, for example, whereas others there is little difference. It can be that these differences are the result of the means by which males get to mate with females, particularly if this involves significant competition.

            9) These differences in humans are less pronounced. Although males are on average taller than females, that does not mean that there are no tall women or short men. At the extremes of the distribution, however, the difference is more marked. The strongest 0.01% of men are significantly stronger that the strongest 0.01% of women. (This is where lies the issue of trans women in elite sport).

            10) If one takes a evolutionary biological view of this, then different ‘normal’ aspects of the physical nature of both male and female result from features that provide some benefit for the survival of offspring to maturity.

            11) It is clear that the human infant for the first year or two from birth is too weak and vulnerable to care for itself. Since it is the mother which feeds the child, she become the principal carer. Pleasure to the mother in feeding aids this. This also makes the mother vulnerable, and less able to provide for the pair. Therefore, anything which keeps the father around to help provide for the mother and child, is of benefit to the father’s offspring.

            12) I think it was Desmond Morris in “The Naked Ape” who first developed this thesis. The idea is that this need for long term care of the infant resulted the human behaviour we see:
            a) clearly the male having pleasure in coitus will tend to be selected for. If you are a male who does not like it, then that is strongly selected against!
            b) a female can keep her male with her by being open to sexual activity other than when she is in oestrus, thereby giving him pleasure.
            c) if the female also finds coitus pleasurable, this will encourage her to do so.
            d) thus the clitoris has a function in overall reproductive success, in that it helps offspring to survive the initial stages of life.

            13) Different individuals will have different degrees of appetite for this sexual behaviour. But this is simply normal variation. I cannot see that this creates different ‘sexes’.

            Basically if an adult produces sperm, he is make, and if an adult has ova, she is female.

            Intersex is where this is broken. That’s another comment.

          • The doctrine of the CoE is that procreation is not the only end of marital sexual intimacy.

            The ‘doctrine of the CoE’ is that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. You think that bit of doctrine is wrong, so you clearly don’t think that something being the ‘doctrine fo the CoE’ necessarily means it is true.

            Pleasure is not a by product of the clitoris. It is its function.

            You keep saying this but you have no idea whether we will discover in the future what the actual function of that organ is. For a long time people thought the appendix had no function in humans, remember. Perhaps that organ is just the new appendix.

            Intersex is a variation of the human sex/gender spectrum.

            You keep repeating that but it is still not true.

            It is not about something going ‘wrong’, in the same way that left handedness is not ‘wrong’; though it was once believed to be and corrected.

            It is about something going wrong: it is about the normal and proper development of the embryo being prevented by some problem with the process.

            Your argument about doctrine and liturgy is specious. Doctrine and liturgy have accommodated female priests and trans priests. Doctrine and liturgy could accommodate same sex marriage.

            So you agree you think that doctrine should be changed to accommodate same-sex marriage. And it has been changed to allow female priests (though frankly I object to the idea that a Christian church has or needs any priests other than Jesus).

            So you accept doctrine can be changed. So the doctrine that allows trans priests could be changed to not allow them. So the fact that doctrine of the CoE says such-and-such is clearly not the final word on the matter, because the doctrine could be changed.

            (Not to mention, of course, that the Anglican church is not the only protestant denomination, so its doctrine could hardly be regarded as infallible anyway in any universal sense; but even from within the Anglican church, current doctrine is not, according to you, the final word, so the fact that Anglican doctrine does accept such-and-such a thing is no prof that it should, or you would be compelled to accept that same-sex marriages are wrong because that is current Anglican doctrine.)

          • Yep, S, all of those things. Doctrine changes, shifts, accommodates. Scientific understanding changes, shifts, accommodates. Some day you will read an article explaining why variant sex characteristics aren’t a disorder, and you will understand.
            Some day you might realise that the difference between the appendix and the clitoris is that the appendix was thought to have no function. The clitoris has a clear function, though it may not be its only function. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good one.
            And of course doctrine can change again. That’s tradition.
            However, your understanding of priesthood seems to be neither catholic nor reformed.
            Are you orthodox?

          • Yep, S, all of those things. Doctrine changes, shifts, accommodates.

            Ah. So as doctrine changes and shifts, the doctrine at any one time cannot be used as evidence that something is true?

            So you should stop writing ‘but that is the doctrine of the CoE!’ as if that proved anything at all?

            Good to know you’ll stop doing that.

            Scientific understanding changes, shifts, accommodates.

            The truth doesn’t, though. The truth stays the same.

            Some day you will read an article explaining why variant sex characteristics aren’t a disorder, and you will understand.

            Are you sure? It seems unlikely. I mean, I have read fairly widely in the subject, including things which claim what you are claiming, and nothing to that opinion has been remotely convincing. So unless I’ve missed something…

            Some day you might realise that the difference between the appendix and the clitoris is that the appendix was thought to have no function. The clitoris has a clear function, though it may not be its only function. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good one.

            Pleasure cannot be a function, though, as it is not an end in itself, only ever a by-product.

            There are many other bits of the body which produce pleasure as a by-product, such as the taste buds or, if you want to get poetic, the eyes. But it is never a function, because it is not ever something to be desired for its own sake (to do so would be the mortal sin of gluttony).

            And of course doctrine can change again. That’s tradition.

            So if doctrine can change, doctrine can be wrong (because if it changes, either it was wrong before or it is wrong now). So you won’t be writing in future, ‘You can’t say that, it’s against doctrine!’ as the doctrine in question might be wrong and might change in future.

            However, your understanding of priesthood seems to be neither catholic nor reformed.

            It’s not Roman, if that’s what you mismean by ‘catholic’. It is what I believe to be a standard protestant understanding, in that I do not think ordination is a sacrament that makes someone a ‘priest’, different from what they were before or from anyone else sitting in the pews.

            Are you orthodox?

            I certainly hope so. Who would want to be heterodox?

          • Some day you will read an article explaining why variant sex characteristics aren’t a disorder, and you will understand.

            Are you sure? It seems unlikely.

            Ooop. Sorry, I was reading too quickly. I missed what you wrote.

            Yup, I agree, variant sex characteristics aren’t a disorder.

            Intersex conditions, however, are.

            In my skim-reading I missed that you had changed the subject from intersex conditions to the totally unrelated one of variant sex characteristics. The rest of my response is therefore irrelevant as it applies only to intersex conditions, not variant sex characteristics.

          • S
            So, you believe that doctrine is immutable? That the CoE was wrong to ordain women?
            And that ordination is nor sacramental?
            Well, wow! That’s quite a long way from CoE ecclesiology.
            You believe the function of something can’t be pleasure? Why? There is no scientific or biblical evidence to suggest that pleasure cannot be the function (i.e. end or role) of the clitoris.
            Variation of sexual characteristics is intersex. I did not change the subject. Which suggests that, yes, your reading does need to be more extensive.

    • Then he speaking against CoE policy.
      We have trans priests and trans married couples.
      Brian’s prejudices aren’t privileged.
      He, and others, would be better reflecting on them in silence.

      • Where’s the prejudice in calling someone by the correct pronoun according to their sex? After all, prejudice is defined as a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation. Since it is impossible to change one’s sex, whether by surgery or hormones, Brian is being totally objective. So why is he receiving such an angry reaction for doing so? I find that kind of anger pretty sinister: it betrays a dangerously coercive intent which, considering the ill-conceived notions from which it arises, strikes at the heart of rational discourse.

        This kind of offence taking is akin to the screaming of a toddler tantrum. We show love for our toddlers by not giving in to their immature demands. So it must be for adults who shout and scream and fuss when anybody ‘says the wrong thing’ or ‘speaks inappropriately’. We cannot live like that in a rational and civilised society. We really do have to grow up about this pretty sharpish. One would have hoped that Christians would be leading the way with calm and rational discourse rather than jumping on the latest secular bandwagon.

        • This has nothing to do with secularism. I suggest that you might reflect on why you believe that people cannot change gender and on why you cannot follow the guidelines and beliefs of the Church of England.
          And if you believe misgendering is calm and rational discourse then I would suggest that you need to grow up pretty sharpish.

          • The beliefs of the C of E are either

            (a) the same as the beliefs of Christ, which never go anywhere near the culture-bound topics you emphasise;

            (b) or, if they are not, why are they not?

            (c) And if they are always changing (unlike the beliefs of Christ) what confidence can anyone have in them?

            (d) All the less if the manner in which they change looks suspiciously like cultural accommodation.

            As mentioned, it is beyond me why people think the fourth largest denomination is somehow more important than the founder on whom it is bound to be basing its beliefs anyway.

          • Penelope, you have to be specific about what you mean by ‘gender’. I used the word ‘sex’ because that is real, scientifically beyond doubt, whereas ‘gender’ either means ‘sex’ (in which case say ‘sex’) or it is a woolly term which describes all manner of ill-defined behaviours. So we have here an attempt to push a particular agenda (raising doubts over the binary difference between male and female) by deliberately employing a vague, non scientific word which means different things to different people. As is now so common, it is in the crafty use of language that an honest debate is bypassed, people are confused and rational people are worn down and walk away. Perhaps it’s when that tactic is seen to fail that campaigners vent such fury? It is very much a secular driven tactic and I find it pretty depressing when Christians start to use it.

            As for the ‘guidelines and beliefs’ of the Church of England, we all know they are in a complete mess at present. You cannot come up with guidelines without first sorting out exactly what your doctrine says. Assuming the church actually intends to remain faithful to scripture, before its Synod or its bishops jumped into offering new guidelines they should have first spent the necessary time and effort consulting what scripture might have to say (on all the sexual identity, marriage, and behaviour issues, including ‘sex change’).

            The Gospels give clear evidence that the work of salvation offers a new life for all who receive Jesus. And a word which might sum up that new life for us humans as we inhabit both the physical and spiritual realm is ‘wholeness’. That’s when body, mind and spirit are all singing from the same hymn sheet. The totality of Jesus’ ministry was a living demonstration of his desire and activity in helping people to become whole.

            The problem with affirming ‘transgender’ transformation is that it denies that wholeness. Because no interventions can ever change the body’s true sex, it follows that when mind and body which are in conflict it is the mind that has to be restored to be in tune with the body – that’s the only genuine solution. I’m sure it’s not easy; the mind (already at odds with the body – perhaps for years) is going to rebel against that; it’s not easily going to back down; it may be a long hard road; it will need to want to change before it can happen. And it’s going to get no help from the Church of England as things currently stand is it?

            So, no, I can’t follow the Church of England’s guidelines on this issue (along with very many other people). As for ‘growing up’, it may well still be a work in progress right up till that great day…

          • You can’t have a belief on a category that is not agreed to be real. People can call themselves something without it being an accurate description.

  16. Hello Geoff,

    1. Scripture is not to a *large* extent myth. Some parts of it are myth. I have never read Bultman. I am a nurse, not a theologian.

    It is not a “mere” human construct. That is your term not mine. It is narratives written within cultural contexts. My view does not rule out encounters with God which I believe happened, so God is definitely involved in all this, but I don’t believe *all* the human communication should be taken as the voice of God. It is humans describing in the best words they can find, what they are trying to understand about God. It is not easy.

    2. Yes, I believe that Jesus – let us be clear, God – is an enigma in so many ways to us. I think he was an enigma even to his disciples there and then, let alone when his followers tried to handle the transmission of what it all meant: his life, his amazing presence, his love, his death, his resurrection. So much of God is enigma. I’m not ashamed to say that.

    3. No, God does not put conscience “above” scripture – not as a generality. God puts conscience alongside scripture, alongside people, alongside personal relationship we have with God. And no, conscience may not always be reliable. Same with scripture.

    No – most certainly – God has not “revealed personally to Susannah that Hitler is in heaven.” I never said that, and I feel distressed that you should misrepresent what I wrote. I said it was possible. I did not say God revealed anything to me about Hitler being in heaven. I said elsewhere that I have no idea who will be saved. It is not our place to know that.

    4. I believe in the supernatural. I believe that the encounters that biblical authors had with the living God involved supernatural opening of their hearts and awareness, and some of that gets transmitted through their narratives, but that is not the same as saying that all scripture is supernaturally transmitted, word by word, by God as eternal truth and edict for all time.

    5. There must be spiritual discernment indeed. What should we do. Pray? God is not ‘proved’. God is trusted. And that arises through relationship. Relationship through many years of living with God. I also draw on the spiritual discernment of others. Conscience certainly plays its part. The fidelity of God we find in the bible is also profoundly helpful, not because every verse is reliable as fact, but because of the ways through history and especially in Jesus that we see expressions of fidelity. But I’d say mostly prayer, day by day, week by week, year by year, is a huge part of discernment. Your own encounters with God. Your relationship. Your personal experience of God’s love and faithfulness and grace. I think that – along with the person of Jesus, and your relationship with people of faith you meet – helps your path of discernment.

    6. That final picture is just you own hotch-potch you’ve put together of things you think I believe. I don’t even know what postmodernism is. Never got my head round it. Could never be bothered to. Yes we know some things – a lot of things – better now than, say, the authors of Genesis did. But that doesn’t = superiority. Spirituality can be profound in any age. Teresa de Avila lived before the Enlightenment, but she had as much spirituality as most people in the Church of England today, I would suggest. And I don’t really accept that mysticism should be branded some kind of new age thing. Again, Teresa de Avila repudiates that suggestion. Mysticism in Christian experience is about encounter with the living and supernatural God, however God chooses in sovereign will to do that.

    I’m not entering a debate with you, Geoff. You will believe what you want, and God bless you. But please be careful to represent me precisely! The remarks about God revealing personally to me that Hitler was saved was concocted. As Christians we are truth-seekers. Attributing that claim to me was simply untrue. I never said that. I have no idea whether Hitler is saved. I sincerely hope he is. But I don’t even know if my own father is saved, or anyone else. Only God knows that.

    This is not about me. I am part of an inclusive Anglican church. We are part of the whole Church of England, half of whom accept gay sexuality.

    We need to get back on topic.

    Should all spouses be invited to the Lambeth Conference? And should single bishops and widow/widower bishops’ companions or supports be invited too?

  17. “This is not about me. I am part of an inclusive Anglican church. We are part of the whole Church of England, half of whom accept gay sexuality.”

    Interested to know where you get this 50% figure from Susannah and how certain you are of it. Could you give us the evidence for this please?

  18. Back in 2016, and things have moved on since then, 45% of Anglicans in the Church of England were found to be in favour of same-sex marriage. When you consider that there will be even more people who accept gay sex but still say marriage should be kept as it is, that makes it pretty obvious that it’s fair to say half the Church of England accepts gay sexuality.

    Interestingly, only 37% thought that gay marriage was wrong.

    Perhaps I would have been correct to point out that more people accept gay sexuality in the Church of England than oppose it.

    There have been other studies, but it is late, and I need to get to bed! Sleep well! God bless.

    • Hi Susannah,

      Your figure of 45% is derived from infamous and erroneous extrapolation from the 2016 YouGov poll which included 1676 ‘Anglicans’.

      As Peter Ould explained in his critique of Jayme Ozanne’s conclusions: ”A staggering 95% of her “Anglicans” don’t actually attend church regularly, if at all. The opinion poll is just a puff piece to support a political agenda and it specifically avoids asking the one key question which might tell us something about what Church attenders actually think on the subject of same-sex marriage.

      Your conclusion from such surveys that half of the Church of England accepts gay sexuality is perspicaciously untrue.

      • For anyone interested, it is indeed worth reading the thread on the YouGov poll. Ould’s interpretations are not as unassailable as he assumes!

  19. S and Susannah,
    1 Susannah said this, “Good morning Brian, I don’t believe your statement because I am catholic, not because I am liberal.” on March 2, 2019 at 9:54 am in the comments section on Ian’s article, “How do we relate to God’s humility..”
    2 In the same comment section Susannah said this in response to a comment from Simon: “I will be honest, Simon, and I say this tremulously because this is such a desperately wounded and heart-breakingly terrible backdrop… but I believe I may meet Adolf in the household of God.”
    3 And again said this: “But in terms of Adolf’s soul, I will pray for peace and ultimate confrontation and responsibility, and the possibility… even at this point in the narratives of our world and God’s eternity… that God may somehow redeem him.”
    4 The context was the conversation with Simon and Hitler’s Catholic baptism and implied infant baptismal regeneration, and Susannah’s comment that” But the baptism of a child is itself efficacious. Deeply so.”
    5 My comment was set in that context
    5.1 Self -identified Catholicism by Susannah
    5.2 infant baptism (of Hilter)
    5.3 baptism of a child is deeply efficacious
    5.4 a “maybe” meeting by Susannah of Hitler in the “household of god”. If that is not heaven, where is it? Is/was it a special personal revelation by God, to Susannah and no one else?
    5.5 Susannah’s prayer for Hitler’s post death redemption
    5.6 Is all of that a concoction to misrepresent you Susannah?
    6. S, I entirely agree with you that no one may know about Hitler’s “death bed” salvation. But by his fruits he shall be known.
    7 The final paragraph of my comment above is a general one in the context of the ,opening of my comment, not personal to Susannah, an inclusio, if you like, bookends.
    8 For someone who says they are not a theologian, you have a huge amount to say about, God,(esses) the Trinity, scripture, baptism, Paul, Jesus- the- enigma, Susannah. And your sexual (ised) encounter with god and maybe meeting Hitler, your experience, seems to trump and inform and much else, in your theology.
    9 God speaking to our consciences. God is moral, is Holy. Our consciences may be seared, by besetting sin, sexual or otherwise. Christianity is not all subjective, nor truth. Jesus the Truth is objective
    9 Yes, back to the article. I’ll end by repeating the beginning of my comment which drew the responses of S and Susannah : “There is far more a stake, than personal slights or antagonism, either in respect of personal invitations to Lambeth or Susannah and it’s been covered seemingly countless time in Ian’s blog, and it is the nature of scripture and of the unique Triune God of Christianity, sin, holiness, the fall, Christian theology, more particularly as far as the CoE is concerned, protestant Christian theology”.

    • I see what you are saying, and I agree that there is an interpretation of those comments which is deeply deeply wrong.

      For example, ‘I believe I may meet Adolf in the household of God’ could be interpreted as meaning ‘I believe Adolf definitely is in Heaven and I may meet him there’. Obviously that would be wrong because we cannot know for sure whether anyone is in Heaven (not being members of the Roman church, we don’t believe in their intepretation of ‘saints’ as members of the Church Triumphant who have demonstrated their place in Heaven by interceding with God, on request, to produce miracles).

      And I agree that ‘I will pray for peace and ultimate confrontation and responsibility, and the possibility… even at this point in the narratives of our world and God’s eternity… that God may somehow redeem him’ could be interpreted as meaning that salvation is available post-death — something so heretical I don’t think even the Romans believe it (their prayers for the dead can, they think, shorten a saved soul’s experience in purgatory; I don’t think even they think that it is possible for a damned soul, after death, to be rescued).

      However. Neither of those are the only possible interpretations, and the principle of charity demands that we assume our opponents are making the strongest possible versions of their arguments, not the ones which are obviously wrong.

      And indeed your argument seems to contradict itself, in you are claiming both that (a) it was claimed that Hitler’s baptism was efficacious for salvation and (b) there was a prayer for Hitler’s post-death redemption. Surely if the baptism was efficacious there would be no need for post-death redemption? So on your interpetations the claimed position would be totally incoherent, indeed self-contradictory. Again, the principle of charity demands we assume our opponents are not blatantly contradicting themselves unless there is no other possibility.

      At the very most I think you should give the person in question the opportunity to confirm specifically that they were not meaning the obviously wrong and heretical interpretations, and that they were not contradicting themselves.

  20. S, it is not my comment that is contradictory. What I have set out , in point 5 is a summary of Susannah’s comments in context. They are not mine. To me, is the lack of coherence, consistency, cogency in what Susannah has written – the contradictions are not mine. Yet Susannah claims that my comments are a “concoction”, writing this:
    “I’m not entering a debate with you, Geoff. You will believe what you want, and God bless you. But please be careful to represent me precisely! The remarks about God revealing personally to me that Hitler was saved was concocted. As Christians we are truth-seekers. Attributing that claim to me was simply untrue. I never said that.”

    • it is not my comment that is contradictory

      Yes, sorry, I was unclear. My point is that you were attributing a position that was self-contradictory.

      But I was pointing out the the self-contradictory position is not the only possible interpretation ofwhat was written, and the principle of charity dictates that when our opponent has written something that could be interpreted in such a way as to give rise to a contradiction, we first assume that that was not the internded interpretation and look for another interpretation.

      It’s fair enough to ask for clarification, and to try to trap one’s opponent into making a clear and unambiguous contradiction, at which point their position has been disproved.

      But where there is ambiguity, we must give the benefit of the doubt, until the ambiguity is removed entirely.

      In this situation it would also behoove the opponent to respond with a restatement of their position that clears up the ambiguity and explains how their beliefs do not in fact entail a contradiction.

      We await.

      • Guys,

        I will only repeat what I have already written above:

        “No – most certainly – God has not “revealed personally to Susannah that Hitler is in heaven.” I never said that, and I feel distressed that you should misrepresent what I wrote. I said it was possible. I did not say God revealed anything to me about Hitler being in heaven. I said elsewhere that I have no idea who will be saved. It is not our place to know that.

        …I have no idea whether Hitler is saved. I sincerely hope he is. But I don’t even know if my own father is saved, or anyone else. Only God knows that.”

        Geoff, the false (or mistaken) claim I didn’t really like was this:

        “God revealing personally to Susannah, that Hitler is in heaven!”

        I never said that. That was concocted by you. No-one else made that claim.

        Now you have rowed back to what I consider a completely acceptable expression (because it’s an open-ended question):

        “Is/was it a special personal revelation by God, to Susannah and no one else?”

        And the answer to that is: no.

        Peace of God be with you.

      • And with this remark of Geoff’s I agree:

        “There is far more a stake, than personal slights or antagonism, either in respect of personal invitations to Lambeth or Susannah and it’s been covered seemingly countless time in Ian’s blog, and it is the nature of scripture and of the unique Triune God of Christianity, sin, holiness, the fall, Christian theology, more particularly as far as the CoE is concerned, protestant Christian theology.”

        In the context of this article, there are profound challenges for Justin, in trying to draw together Christians with different approaches to scripture. “If I invite your spouse, there will be no Lambeth Conference” etc.

        And yet, all the time, there is the option of looking for the good in people, and sharing journey, and that is what I believe we should try to do.

        I don’t think ‘personal slights or antagonism’ really help much. I’ve already said that the gendering issue should be seen as a person’s right to their conscience and sincere belief, so I am happy not to take offence. That respect for diverse conscience is what I believe in. That said, it does not advance issues far far more concerning than the identity of one obscure nurse.

        I could get all petulant and uppity, but to be honest, I actually *do* understand and respect the theology and sincere belief from scripture that says “I think gay sex is wrong, and I think gender transition usurps God’s creation order.” I may hold a contrary view, but I think those views can be held in sincere faith and good conscience by Christians who love God and don’t want to be forced to conform to what they see as contemporary cultural pressure to use terms that conflict with their genuine consciences.

        Now of course, there’s a second level to that. As a Church, in the Church of England, I believe that where people think that others are sinning, that does not absolve them from the imperative – Jesus’s imperative – to love. To get alongside. So I think it’s very important not to create ‘hostile environments’ for LGBT people, not least because they are people loved by God, who can be harmed and damaged, if the one place they ought to encounter love – in the Christian Church – becomes toxic and unkind. So if someone calls me ‘he’ out of sincere good conscience, faith, and love of God… I get that. On the other hand, if a person acts like a ‘dick’, and is deliberately being unkind, hostile, cruel, then sadly that reflects badly on them, and is exactly the kind of ‘hostile environment’ that brings shame on the gospel, and alienates people from the gospel message. I’m not going to attribute that to the commentator above.

        I am just saying, and I think S – with whom I sometimes disagree – is right about this: that there are huge issues for our Church and national life, and I think we need to get past ad hominems or personalising arguments, and actually focus on that key issue of how scripture is understood.

        It is that issue which leads to the rather weird face off over Lambeth, where actively gay bishops are welcome, but their spouses are not. Whichever side you look at that from, that doesn’t seem to make logical sense – not even as a political move, because some parties are going to be mortally offended whatever happens.

        But what I am saying, am pleading, is please let’s pray for grace, for love towards one another. And let’s be kind to each other, with the gentleness that comes from strength. Whatever your views on LGBT, if we as a Church allow deliberately hateful and hostile environments, that causes real harm that can contribute to destroying a person or putting them off God for life. That becomes a travesty of what Christianity is about. I can personally cope with being called ‘he’ and believing that’s said in good faith. I am confident, emotionally secure, and happy, loved. But imagine if that was a young person – or someone whose isolated and socially rejected. It doesn’t bear thinking what your exercise of privilege may do to that individual. I’ve affirmed the right to conscience, but it needs to be handled very very carefully and responsibly. What was said to me last night, right here, I am relaxed about: but it could genuinely destroy some people.

        It would be a deep shame if LGBT people found more safety and security in school, at work, in shops, than in the Church. And, for example, if a teacher genuinely (even in sincere conscience) deliberately used pronouns that conflicted with how the pupil understood themselves, and was presenting themselves – say if she was wearing a dress – then they would receive a formal warning and in the end would lose their jobs.

        You may not agree with that, but the counter argument is that it’s just a self-indulgent and ‘dickish’ thing to do, when even the teenagers at school ‘get’ that it’s better to afford that person some kindness and space to live according to their conscience and understanding of themselves. There are issues of kindness involved, and the best ways of doing things. I really admire so many of our young people today: they are so protective of their peers, and outraged if anyone is unkind to a friend for being gay, or for being trans. A lot of that is nurtured by schools, building awareness of respect, and inclusion, and acceptance of difference.

        That doesn’t mean someone here should *have* to call me ‘she’ or ‘her’ (what am I going to do? cry?). But it’s kind of generous if they do. Each person’s call. All I’m saying is that our environments – and the way we treat one another – should be better than schools and shops and workplaces, and not hostile or unkind or unfriendly.

        We can all be friends.

        Let’s try to be. I think I’m quite open, and you know who I am, and my life is honestly quite open and very happy. But matters of this theological import should not be reduced to personal stuff about me, surely. I find that kind of embarrassing, because who am I? Nobody really. It should be about how we co-exist as a church, or don’t.

        I believe we should recognise there are different ways that people read the bible, and that we should respect there are conscience issues for people with different views to our own. But I don’t think we should split on human sexuality. That is just one issue among scores of issues that demand our response as Christians. The biggest issue of all is whether each of us, individually and in local community, can open our hearts to the love of God, and share that love, to our best understanding and conscience, and trust and love God – our triune God – enough to be given, to be buried, to be poured out.

        Such things are far harder than words.

  21. I raised the question of whether Susannah thought Hitler & the other leading Nazis were in heaven on the basis that she claimed that God watched over the baptised and many of the most vile leading Nazis were baptised RCs. So it rather begged the question. My understanding was that she hoped that grace would extend even to Hitler.

    • I hadn’t actually even thought about the infant baptism of babies who would later become hateful Nazi leaders.

      And I repeat – that I don’t think God has given me the right to know who will be in heaven (is it heaven or new earth, I never know… anyway, be with God in eternity).

      However, I am happy to tell you what I believe about infant baptism. I believe, as it says in the Prayer Book:

      “We call upon thee for this infant, that he coming to they holy baptism may receive remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration.” and

      “Give thy Holy Spirit to this infant, that he being born again, and being made an heir of everlasting salvation, through our Lord Jesus Christ, may continue thy servant” and

      “Concerning the baptising of this child, who being born in original sin, and in the wrath of God, is now by the laver of regeneration in Baptism, received into the number of the children of God and heirs of everlasting life.” and

      “Sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin…” and after the baptism:

      “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is by Baptism regenerate, and grafted into the Body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks to Almighty God for these benefits”

      “We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own child by adoption…”

      My view is that – just as whole families including children were reported to be baptised into God’s household in scripture – and in accordance with catholic faith and the Book of common Prayer: the sacrament of baptism itself involves grace and regeneration.

      Just as babies were rescued from Egypt, through the Red Sea, by the initiative and fidelity of God (not their own fidelity)… so God draws the infant in baptism out of water and into the household of God. To me my membership of the Church, and my emergence from water as a child of God, was an act of grace on the part of God, not deserved, not earned, not even believed (because I was too young to believe). But from that day on, I was a Christian, and God’s child.

      And my understanding and view is that, yes, we can subsequently reject God and choose to walk other paths, but God will always see us as God’s children all the days of our lives, and long to call us back.

      And I also believe – through my own life experience – that although we are regenerate and born again through baptism and the water… yet it is possible to experience that more deeply, through repentance, through the spiritual experience of new birth, and through a more personal relationship with God.

      In that sense, infant baptism is the start of a journey through all the wildernesses of life, but from the moment we are drawn from water, we are born again, by grace and God’s sole primary initiative. And as God’s people, as God’s household, we are accompanied by our God all the days of our life.

      And one day, unless we consciously repudiate everything we’ve been given, we will enter the land.

      I suspect my views on infant baptism are orthodox Christian beliefs in the Catholic tradition, and the Church of England is part of the Catholic Church.

      However, I was not speculating as to whether Hitler might be ‘in heaven’ on the basis of his infant baptism. Being honest, that thought hadn’t crossed my mind. As just explained, I believe it is perfectly possible for a person to repudiate the inheritance given to them by God, though the whole business of judgment and salvation is outside my remit.

      It is natural, as a Christian, that I should hope that somehow, at the ultimate ending, Adolf somehow confronted the ultimate Fuhrer (but not in human sense), and grace worked a miracle, and Adolf was saved.

      I hope I’m making things clear. The weekend is coming! I hope for some respite from all these discussions!

      • Susannah,
        1 My intention in writing the above was for the whole passage to be considered as a totality, not for one aspect, to be separated from another: to employ the eusjem generis rule of construction, a system.
        2 It starts with which god do you/we believe, not simply (if that were possible) believe “in.” The indivisible nature of the unique Triune God of Christianity.
        3 It doesn’t start with imperatives, ( as an aside ,where are you finding theses theological imperative -no, please, I don’t want to go there) but with indicatives. In scripture imperatives, flow from from indicatives about God and humanity and creation.
        4 What gives me a heavy heart in all of this is that, to me, there is a pervading sense that we are not all worshipping the same God, there being no unity in Christ Jesus (and all that he is and has done and does within the thrice holy Trinity), no unity in the HOLY Spirit.
        4.1 There are so many adversarial theological lawyers/advocates on this site, in the comments section, who opine, on all things sexual/ gender, yet seem to passover, with a total and sine die lenten fast on all things scriptural that is at the core of Ian Paul’s blog.
        4.2 There are core creedal beliefs, that from the comments section, some in senior positions in the CoE do not hold with any integrity of belief, who do not conform or comply with their Declaration of Assent made at Ordination. In some reformed churches, the elders have to subscribe to Confessions of faith, such as Westminster. That is what will be taught/preached. But the church membership may have a spread of belief under a core belief in the LORDship of Jesus Christ.
        5 In all of this there seems to be is a tipping point of separation notwithstanding or because of the reformed distinction between the “visible church” and the “invisible church” (based on scripture). A refrain from the book of Judges, comes to mind, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes/as he saw fit.” Or “Go your own way” – Fleetwood Mac.

        • Hi Geoff,
          Please excuse me chipping in. I was going to abstain from this conversation, but then I saw this from you: ” everyone did what was right in his own eyes/as he saw fit”. Yes. I had a simiar thought the other day in our town centre when I agreed to take part verbally in a questionnaire about leisure facilities in our area. When I was asked this question:”Do you identify as male, female or trans?” , I replied ,’Female’. But the truth is that I don’t *identify* as female – I *am* female. Our Creator God made me female. I found it strange to be asked what sex I *identify* as – it seemed to suggest that human beings are some sort of lovely collection of ‘Liquorice Allsorts’ , and I was being asked which ‘Allsort’ I had decided to be! Our bodies were given to us by God and the implication in that question that we can somehow re-design and re-define ourselves seems to me to be a turning away from God. Like many others who post on this page I feel compassion for our brothers and sisters who suffer from gender dysphoria and/or have same-sex orientation, but God is God, and we are His creations… I’d better stop there.
          I’ll just add that I am praying for the bishops. Lord have mercy.

  22. Sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

    I’m making a decision to stop posting on Ian’s website here at Psephizo, for the simple reason that my comments and presence here are becoming too much of a distraction to Ian’s own calling and work here. Ian hasn’t asked me to leave, and thank you Ian, for your hospitality and accommodation of diverse views like my own. My decision is unilateral, because there are principles to hospitality, and one of those is to respect the person who invites you. I have tried in all my exchanges to show respect and courtesy, and I’m grateful to various people who have shown the same to me. However, community is not all about ‘me, me, me’ as I have discovered for myself in the exploration of vocation. And at this point, my presence, my comments, have become a distraction to the foundational purposes of Ian’s work and the community that I hope flourishes here, drawing on Ian’s undoubted learning and love of God, his scholarship and the space he has created here for people to explore their faith.

    Obviously you may see me in other places on the internet or offline as we, as a Church, strive to work out how to handle very significant differences of views.

    I hope I have made it clear, that in holding sincere but diverse views to some of you, my greatest concern is our nation: all the communities up and down England who need a functioning national church, who we try to serve, who we live alongside. To me, schism would be incredibly sad. I urge us all to seek grace to walk together, even with our differences, because in truth I believe we have so much in common – recipients of grace, hosts ourselves of God the Holy Spirit, called to open our hearts to love, encouraged to share with God, and share with the people we meet, share the flowing love, the kindness, the compassion, the grace.

    These are things we can share.

    I believe in growing community. The Holy Trinity is the model of an eternal community, and we, by grace, are invited to share in that community, to become part of God’s household, and in turn, to try to extend grace and love to the communities around us in our nation that we seek to help grow in sharing, solidarity, and friendship.

    These things are worth staying together for.

    So thank you for your discourse and company, and may the Grace of God be with you.

    with love,

  23. Oh dear, the comments have been going over the same old ground. May I try to take the discussion in a different direction. I think there have been comments like “why is the AC obessessed by sex?” “why cannot we live in good disagreement”. More pertinently, On Monday I heard a notable thelogian (whom I will not name unless pressed) talk about the importance of not splitting the Church, and wondering if issues should be church-splitting.

    This led me to consider why it is that it is the issue of same-sex relations which does seem to be causing this split. The AC has survived for many decades with more fundamental divergences between its bishops on matters of creedal belief. I cite Bishop Spong as an example of one who seems very far from traditional Anglican belief.

    I think those profound divisions are there, and even more so. Yesterday (on a train reading some Michael Green in memory of the man), into my mind came that great creedal declaration in the eucharistic liturgy:
    Christ has died,
    Christ is risen,
    Christ will come again.
    The divergence, I think, is seen in each of these declarations, and the Christology which they embody. I could develop this thesis, but I hope that most can see the huge differences which have opened up in our views of salvation, judgement and eschatology.

    I think the reason that same-sex (sexual) relationships have become the focus is that the underlying issues become evident in bodily form. A gay bishop in a same-sex relationship embodies the profound differences. The presence of same-sex episcopal spouses make this even more evident.

    Why does the presence of female bishops not also produce the same effect? I suggest that, although there are significant differences between the ‘parties’, these are not rooted in fundamental, creedal differences, and this is recognised by the majority of bishops.

    • I think the reason that same-sex (sexual) relationships have become the focus is that the underlying issues become evident in bodily form

      Actually I don’t think it’s that: I think it’s because this is an issue which forces people to act in ways in which there is no compromise.

      If you disagree with the standard interpretation of any of the creeds, then you can come up with your own personal twisted interpretation (or you can use weasel-words like ‘let us repeat what our forefathers believed:’ which allows you to keep your conscience clear when you yourself don’t believe it). So differences can remain hidden because everybody acts the same while thinking differently.

      (It helps, as well, if areas where there might be differences are Not Talked About. If the minister never preaches a sermon about sexual ethics, then nobody ever has to reveal which side of the fence they are on, and so everybody can keep on believing that everybody else thinks the same as them.)

      This is what has allowed those differences of thought to take deep root. You have in the Church of England now groups of people who believe totally incompatible, mutually contradictory things. This has been the case for decades, hidden by the fact that they all acted the same while thinking totally differently. Indeed this has been so successful that many people it turned out were shocked to discover that their neighbour in the pew actually believed that Jesus was a real person who died and physically rose again. Surely everybody was just going through the motions for the sake of community cohesion and tradition and helping the needy?

      But on this issue, the two world-views force different actions, and moreover in such a way that no compromise is possible because the choices are stark and binary. Either you accept that two people of the same sex can be married, or you don’t. You can’t half-accept it. You can’t pretend to accept it out of politeness and really, in your heart, not, like you could say the creeds out of a sense of tradition and not really believe them.

      And part of the bitterness I think is that is the sense of betrayal as people — on both sides — realise that the people they have been standing beside, the people they thought where their people, have in fact been thinking totally differently from them this whole time.

      It’s like waking up to discover that half your town are aliens, have been aliens for decades, and suddenly their mask has slipped.

      No other denomination has managed to stay together once these divisions are out in the open. Some have gone the liberal way, and the conservatives have been driven out or left; some have gone the conservative way, and the liberals have been driven out or left. But none has managed to chart a middle course because there simply is no middle course. You can’t both recognise and not recognise same-sex marriages, that simply won’t work. You can’t have local churches deciding on an individual basis whose marriages they will recognise, who they will marry. It would be chaos. It would be unsustainable.

  24. Folks, that has been some useful interchange here, but I have become increasingly frustrated by the direction of comments on this article, for three reasons.

    First, many of the conversations have moved a long way from the actual subject of the piece. I understand that might be inevitable, but there comes a point where the conversation has drifted free.

    Secondly, as people have noted from time to time, some of the responses here border on the unacceptable in their sharpness. Please remember to engage with the issues, and not use comments as a way of venting frustration.

    Thirdly, most on the other side, there seems to be an entrenched repetition of views which are certainly outwith any reasonable understanding of Anglican theology, and probably quite a long way outside anything that is recognisable as orthodox, historic Christian belief. As a result there is a yawning chasm between different viewpoints, and not that much attempt by those taking a radical view to recognise that this is problematic, let alone offer a justification for such a position in relation to historic understandings.

    I think that the discussion here has done as much useful work as it can, so I plan to close further comments on this post. Do engage with what I find a moving and positive article from Andrew Atherstone posted this morning.

Comments are closed.