PLF: Prayers of Love and Faith? Or Persistent Leadership Failure?


Summary

Reviewing the development of Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) reveals that it demonstrates an even more serious ‘PLF’ problem, one that is evident in other areas of church life as well: Persistent Leadership Failure. It first traces this failure back to the rushed origins of PLF in late 2022 and early 2023.

These resulted in further failures leading to an instability and incoherence which is traced from early 2023 to the present in relation to repeated changes in:

  • For whom the prayers are being proposed;
  • The theological and legal basis of the prayers;
  • The relationship to the church’s supposedly unchanged doctrine where, contrary to the February 2023 Synod motion and the bishops’ original plan, PLF are now acknowledged to be “indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine”; and
  • The canonical route by which the original proposed PLF are to be introduced. Here nine different stages favouring multiple different paths are summarised culminating in the latest reported “emerging proposal” to introduce standalone services by commending them for use for an experimental period under Canon B5.

This latest proposal has a certain logic as the prohibition on standalone services was an abuse of the House’s power and did not make canonical sense once the substance of the prayers were commended by the bishops for use under Canon B5.

However, there are ten problems with this route, some new but some previously recognised and given as reasons to reject commendation. These include:

  • the lack of credibility in the claim that such services have been legal for fifty years;
  • the high legal risk this places on parish clergy which has increased since the original proposal to commend PLF, given they are now indicative of a departure from doctrine;
  • the need to rewrite the Pastoral Guidance which was premised on the plan to authorise by Canon B2 rather than commend standalone services;
  • the abandonment of the promise to bring standalone services to Synod under Canon B2;
  • the lack of legal basis for any proposed “experimental structure” given the terms of canon B5; and
  • the abuse of canon B5 to make it function more like canon B5A and going beyond the House of Bishops’ authority as a body in relation to liturgy.

I conclude by arguing that it is this PLF, Persistent Leadership Failure (a phenomenon also seen in wider society) which should cause deep concern and needs to somehow be addressed by the General Synod and wider church.


Andrew Goddard writes: It is now over 16 months since the House of Bishops first announced the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF). They had to do so hurriedly because almost immediately after the meeting of the House of Bishops which made the decision it was leaked to the BBC. After the most recent meeting of the House, the press release came out first but the leak came quickly afterwards with a copy of the confidential document setting out an “emerging proposal” in relation to PLF, Pastoral Guidance and Pastoral Reassurance (this time to the Church Times). These have not been the only leaks from the House related to the process but are simply one of many signs that there are significant problems. In fact, a central feature of the whole PLF process can be summed up by means of another “PLF”: Persistent Leadership Failure. 

Although there are many positive elements to the recent “reset”, not least its attempt to find a settlement across all the contested areas, the most recent leak suggests that in relation to Prayers of Love and Faith the latest favoured way forward also faces major problems, in large part due to the past leadership failures. What follows briefly highlights five areas of the persistent leadership failure over PLF before offering some evaluation of the latest PLF proposal. A more detailed account with sources is offered as a PDF here.

Introducing PLF

The seeds of the problem lie in the rush to be able to announce that

For the first time, under historic plans outlined today, same-sex couples will be able to come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing.

This has still not been delivered and in fact cannot now be delivered given current legal advice and the commitment not to change doctrine. 

After six years of producing and using resources (none of which addressed the specific question as to whether—and if so what—prayers might be introduced) the College of Bishops meeting in December 2022 gathered with seven different options still before them. The most radical of these, short of a formal marriage service for same-sex couples, was “blessing of a same-sex civil marriage”. It was made clear that authorisation of this would require two-thirds majority in all three Houses of General Synod and could only happen “in a very limited way” within current law and doctrine. It was also stated that “a blessing of existing same-sex civil partnerships or marriage” would “require changes to the canons” and “a change in the doctrine of the Church with regard to sexual intimacy outside the context of Holy Matrimony”. The initial proposal approaching the December meeting was:

These possible ways forward are presented to enable bishops at the December College to decide on a small number of options to include in the document for Synod and the wider Church. They will be used to test the mind of Synod in February 2023. This will hopefully avoid a ‘binary vote’ and an impasse. Instead, they will offer Synod an opportunity to engage meaningfully with decision-making and ensure that a direction of travel is reached by means of a transparent process involving both bishops and Synod.

Somehow, in the following six weeks over Christmas and New Year, this morphed into the press release quoted above and the proposal including draft PLF to the General Synod (GS 2289) along with a commitment not to change the canons or doctrine. Throughout this process neither The Liturgical Commission (whose constitutional functions include “To prepare forms of service at the request of the House of Bishops for submission to that House in the first instance” and “To advise on the experimental use of forms of service and the development of liturgy”) nor the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) (which “advises the House of Bishops….on theology”) were involved.

As Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, who chaired the original LLF process, wrote in February after General Synod,

We…allowed ourselves to hurry the last and vital stage. We did not give the time and attention to hone the response and scrutinize the prayers with the great care that was needed for documents put into the synodical process and, in so doing, to check whether there was a sufficiently common mind among us to find secure expression in common texts.

The lack of any clear, consistent and coherent common mind among the bishops has become clear in at least the following four areas.

Who are the prayers for? From committed relationships to only people in same-sex relationships

It is now easily forgotten that the original proposal was not simply for same-sex couples but for “stable and committed relationships between two people—including same-sex relationships”.  The narrowing of the focus solely to same-sex couples only occurred much later in the process and was never explained or justified. For some time there was also serious consideration given to any relationship having a legal status signifying permanent, faithful commitment being a condition, but by November and in the final commended prayers and Pastoral Guidance there was no such condition. This was related to the changing basis for the prayers and the changing understanding of the constraints of the church’s doctrine that meant they could no longer be prayers “to give thanks for their civil marriage”.

What is the theological and legal basis for the prayers? From distinguishing civil marriage and holy matrimony to “pastoral provision”

In line with previous longstanding legal advice (most clearly set out in the Annex to GS 2055), the initial constraints on any prayers were significant. But this was bypassed by drawing a sharp and novel distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony. The lack of transparency, and hence accountability, surrounding legal advice and how the bishops have handled it makes it difficult to be certain on what has happened here but the following would appear to be key developments:

  • The Legal Office originally said that “In reaching a final view on the legal position the Legal Office will need to see both the final draft of the Prayers and the replacement pastoral guidance” (GS Misc 1339, para 10). There is still no pastoral guidance to replace Issues but PLF have been commended for use under Canon B5 though lacking any legal note which appeared in earlier drafts.
  • By the meeting of the House on 9th October 2023 it would appear that the lawyers, supported by initial advice from FAOC (the Faith and Order Commission) which had only just been permitted to begin work (currently still ongoing) on this question, had abandoned this rationale. Although only revealed in a correction to an initial answer to the February 2024 General Synod that suggested nothing on this matter was presented to that meeting, it is now clear that there was “a joint paper from the Chief Legal Adviser and the Theological Adviser” entitled “Living in Love and Faith: Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony”. Despite this presumably explaining the difficulties with the CM/HM argument previously used, the House nevertheless voted (20-15-2) for an amendment only introduced at the meeting and lacking any supporting paperwork which stated that “this House agree that same-sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony such that same-sex marriage is not seen as impinging on Holy Matrimony in a way that contradicts the Church’s doctrine”.
  • Despite that vote (only announced in February 2024) the papers to the November General Synod and the final Pastoral Guidance published in relation to PLF did not advance such an argument but rather one based on “pastoral provision in a time of uncertainty”.
  • There is now the possibility that the bishops might “take the view that such a civil marriage is something which, whilst being separate from Holy Matrimony, can properly be the subject of a form of service which at least implicitly approves the decision of the couple to enter into it” (GS 2346, p. 16).

How do the prayers relate to the church’s doctrine? The shift to being “indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine”

The bishops have consistently claimed they are not changing the church’s doctrine and the February 2023 General Synod supported this with the Cornes amendment which stated that Synod

endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England.

However, that motion as amended then had to be ignored as it became clear through 2023 that part of the doctrine of marriage concerns it being the proper place for sexual intimacy as set out at the start of the Pastoral Guidance published in December 2023 for use of PLF. 

As a result, and presumably summarising unpublished legal advice, the bishops had to acknowledge in papers for the November 2023 Synod that “it would be difficult to say that making the PLF available for same-sex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships was not indicative of any departure from the Church’s doctrine” (Annex A, para 17, p. 8 of PDF of GS 2328). This shift makes the PLF’s legal basis much less secure than when originally introduced and reliant on the bishops’ asserting that

in so far as making the PLF available for couples in an active sexual relationship does involve any departure from doctrine, it nevertheless does not involve a departure from doctrine ‘in any essential matter’, and that doing so is compatible with the relevant canonical requirements (para 26).

By what canonical route should the prayers be introduced? From “B5 for all” to “maybe B4.2” to “B5 for some and B2 (with B5A, then without B5A, then perhaps with B5A) for others”, back now to “B5 for all”.

This is where the process has been most like a shopping trolley. Between January 2023 and the currently “emerging proposal” for PLF there have been the following nine different key stages covering multiple different proposals concerning which of the relevant liturgical canons (Canons B2 to B5A) to use (for more details see my discussions of these canons in summary here, in full here and on Canon B5A here):

  1. In January and at the February 2023 General Synod, the original proposal was that both a suite of prayers and service structures with accompanying notes to the service would be commended by the House of Bishops for clergy to use under Canon B5.
  2. By July, following concerns about this, and particularly the legal risk it placed on clergy, the update to Synod left the route unclear but noted that the bishops “are particularly weighing up the option of approval by the Archbishops (under Canon B4.2), as an approach that may provide more legal protection for those ministers who choose to use the Prayers” (GS 2303, para 13).
  3. At some point between then and September 2023 it was decided to separate the components of PLF and introduce the suite of prayers as commended prayers for use under Canon B5 as originally intended but to introduce the service structures (now being described as “standalone services”) by Canon B2.
  4. At a meeting of the College on 20-21 September (reportedly by 75 votes to 22) the bishops indicated support for the use of Canon B5A allowing experimental services before the use of Canon B2. In February 2024 it became clear that they did so unaware of “Prayers of Love and Faith: Authorisation for Experimental Use and Approval by the General Synod”. This was “prepared by the Legal Office September 2023. Shared with members of the staff team and lead bishop September 2023”. Its title shows it concerns the major debate during these months but it was only “circulated to the House of Bishops in December 2023” and has never been published (quotations here from answers to Qs 52-54, p. 23, Feb 2024 GS). It appears to have set out at least some of the serious problems such as legal risks with various approaches including use of Canon B5A that were summarised in the February 2024 paper to General Synod (GS 2346, especially pp. 12-13).
  5. On 9th October, although stakeholder groups had been formally briefed just a week before that the House would be voting on this proposal from the College, it instead voted (19-16-1) on a motion proposed by the Bishop of London to “agree that the PLF [part 2] should be subject to approval by the General Synod under Canon B2, without any prior experimental period of authorisation under Canon B5A” which was strongly supported at the meeting by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This path (reportedly one rejected by 68 to 28 at the September College) was then proposed by the House to the November General Synod on the basis that “following the Canon B2 process for these services will provide the firmest footing for those using them within the shortest possible timeframe. It will provide reassurance concerning legal challenges” (GS 2328, Introduction, para 10, p. 2) with the stated intention of starting the B2 process in February 2024 (Annex A, para 30, p. 10).
  6. In November 2023, by the narrowest possible margin in the House of Laity (99-98-2) but with the support of the two Archbishops, the Bishop of London and a clear majority in the House of Bishops (25-16-0), an amendment was passed to the House of Bishop’s proposal to “ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis, on the timescale envisaged by the motion passed by the Synod in February 2023”. This was widely understood as a call to consider reinstating use of Canon B5A.
  7. In December 2023, the House agreed to commend the suite of PLF prayers and the pastoral guidance stated that “it is currently envisaged that the PLF forms of standalone service will be subject to a full synodical process for authorization under Canon B2” (Cover Note, iii).
  8. In February 2024, rather than beginning the B2 process, a paper (GS 2346, especially pp. 12-13) presented by the Bishop of Leicester (not the whole House) surveyed options and set out serious challenges in using Canon B5A. But the proposed commitments (which were not approved as Synod moved to next business) included “we are committed to the experimental use of standalone services of PLF, with legal protection and support for those who opt-in to using them as well as those who don’t”.
  9. The Church Times now reports (and conversations since then have confirmed) that the current emerging proposal is to abandon any attempt at using Canon B5A, leave open the question as to whether or not to ever use Canon B2 at some point in the future but certainly not for another three years or more, and instead return to commending “standalone services” for use under Canon B5.

What are we to make of the current proposal to return to commending standalone services for use under Canon B5?

Standalone services have been described by the House of Bishops as “a discrete structure for a particular and distinctive liturgical act—a rite for marking a significant stage in a committed and faithful same-sex relationship” (Pastoral Guidance, p.4 of PDF, italics added). Given the pathway taken and the decisions already made, to commend “standalone services” for use under Canon B5 is, in one sense, logical and proper. I wrote back in October of six problems, once the prayers themselves were commended, with the policy to ban standalone services until they were authorised. The new proposal seems to be a recognition of this fact. It amounts to acknowledging that the restrictions on “standalone services” imposed by the bishops and written into the Pastoral Guidance were an abuse of their power – once one accepts the bishops’ argument that PLF as commended are “reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter” (as required for any use of Canon B5 in Canon B5.3). It was seeking to take a right away from the parish clergy granted to them under Canon B5.2.

However, particularly in the light of the previous leadership failures outlined above, there are major problems with the proposal which need to be considered. These include:

  1. It has always been the case that, under the commendation route, “nothing has changed” legally (as was made clear in the paper to the February General Synod (GS 2346, p. 11)). This means (ironically and counter intuitively) that “standalone services” for same-sex couples (whether married, civil partnered or without legal status and whether sexual or celibate) using a prayer of blessing have therefore been legal within the Church of England since the 1974 Worship & Doctrine Measure despite all the past reports and Pastoral Statements to the contrary. If this is really the case, the logical consequence would seem to be that the House of Bishops make good and concrete their apology to LGBTQI+ people and specifically apologise for this decades-long failure (reinforced in recent months by their ban on standalone services) to be as generous as the church’s law and doctrine apparently have always permitted.
  2. This approach places all the legal risk on any “minister having cure of souls” who uses the prayers. In their paper to the February 2024 Synod the Bishops highlighted this and stated “The bishops have listened and take very seriously the concerns around ministers bearing the legal risk of using the PLF. This is why they have been considering alternative routes for authorising the standalone services that enable the greatest legal protection for those clergy who wish to use them. (GS 2346, p. 11, bold original).
  3. Those legal risks are now even greater than when commendation was originally proposed in February 2023, given that “it would be difficult to say that making the PLF available for same-sex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships was not indicative of any departure from the Church’s doctrine”. The February 2023 paper to Synod noted as the disadvantage of using Canon B5 that there was “High likelihood of legal challenge being brought against individual ministers”(GS 2346, p. 13). It would therefore seem irresponsible of bishops now to encourage clergy to use their right under Canon B5 rather than secure an authorised service by means of Canon B2 (or B4 or B5A), particularly while they are withholding any of the legal advice that the House has received relating to PLF.
  4. Recall that a standalone service is, “a discrete structure for a particular and distinctive liturgical act—a rite for marking a significant stage in a committed and faithful same-sex relationship” (Pastoral Guidance, p.4 of PDF, italics added). This means that for the bishops to encourage “standalone services” under B5 would be to encourage clergy to create such a rite themselves rather than offer them an authorised one, a rite where the focus is recognised to be indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine.
  5. If the argument is that the “standalone” service is already authorised (as a Service of the Word or Holy Communion) this sits uneasily with the definition above but also means that (as in December) the commendation would be for use under B5.1 which requires that the change to these authorised services is “not of substantial importance”. This would be hard to defend (and likely rather insulting to the couple and those gathering for the service) where, for example, the focus is on a couple who have just come from entering a same-sex civil marriage. Recalling the bishops’ past attempt to avoid producing a service to mark transition and their proposal to use renewal of baptism vows instead, many would also find such a service being presented as simply an authorised service of Holy Communion particularly controversial.
  6. To stay within the law, the parish priest would need to ensure the service was doing what the bishops claim PLF are doing, not what most of those wanting a service actually want from the church (see here). The paper to the November 2023 Synod was clear that PLF “are not being offered to be used as a thanksgiving for marriage” (para 9 Appendix A of GS 2328) and current Guidance says such services must “not look like” and “cannot be mistaken for” Holy Matrimony. However, no details are given on this and no reference is made to similarity to the Service for Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage which presumably must also have to be avoided given the rejection of a sharp distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony.
  7. The published Pastoral Guidance includes guidance for standalone services but this was on the basis of these being fully authorised (and being authorised by General Synod and so beyond legal challenge). More guidance will now be needed to protect clergy if these are simply commended and the constraints due to law and doctrine mean that these are likely to result in what the Legal Office previously described as “pastorally unusable in respect of the occasion for which it was intended”.
  8. This proposal reneges on the commitment (made in part in response to the constitutional case presented by the Alliance and a number of bishops) to use Canon B2. The Church Times reports that it is explicitly stated that this approach “allows for the option of a B2 vote at the end of the discernment process but does not require it”.
  9. The proposal is described as for a “period of discernment of three years”. But if standalone PLF services are already legal under Canon B5 then it is not clear how this—or any system policing it—can be required and enforced. In particular it is not clear how PCCs can be involved in any decision given that they are not mentioned in Canon B5 as was acknowledged in February’s account of using Canon B5: “There would be no obligation for ministers to discuss the use of the standalone services with their PCC” (GS 2346, p. 11). This “experimental period” would, in short, appear to be trying to make commendation under B5 become the sort of experimental process which was introduced in Canon B5A but without the requirement the prayers be authorised or a commitment ever to bring the experiment back to Synod (and, as for any use of B5A, it raises the pastoral problems if it was brought back and failed to gain the necessary 2/3 majorities). It also represents an extension of the liturgical role of the House of Bishops beyond the extra-canonical innovation of commendation to clergy in relation to B5, a development which would significantly alter the current ecological balance and the principle of subsidiarity given that the House on its own (unlike General Synod led by the House, the Archbishops, Convocations, a diocesan bishop, and a parish priest) is granted no formal canonical role in relation to liturgy.
  10. The current Pastoral Guidance stresses the importance of “Notes to the standalone services”, but if there is no authorised service it is not clear what authority these crucial elements (the previous draft included here references to rings) would have. The evaluation of using Canon B5 presented to Synod in February 2023 was clear that “There would be…save for that already provided for in the Canons, no restrictions on ministers adapting the forms of service, or creating their own material in preference to using the commended PLF Resource Section or outline orders of service”.

In summary, in large part because of the chaotic pathway the bishops have led the church on, this latest emerging PLF proposal faces major challenges. What is more, even if implemented, it will yield, if securely within the canons, a form of “standalone service” which will fall far short not only of “same-sex marriage in church” but even a form of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage. It will also fall short of the originally promised “same-sex couples will be able to come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing”.

Conclusion

The account above has not addressed the history and continued complexities surrounding Pastoral Guidance and Pastoral Reassurance/Provision (discussed briefly in the longer article here) but has sought to show that Prayers of Love and Faith are an example of Persistent Leadership Failure by the House of Bishops headed by the Archbishops.

One underlying problem has been the attempt to address specific questions of liturgy (and the connected replacement of Issues) without addressing our theological and doctrinal disagreements, but instead simply claiming that doctrine remains unchanged. There also appears to have been either changes in legal advice due to decisions by the House and/or disregard for legal advice by the House. 

Now, however, these doctrinal and legal challenges are combined with a widespread lack of confidence in the leadership of the church due to its repeated failures which have eroded trust and respect across the divergent perspectives on sexuality. It may even be the case that across the board a new consensus is emerging that the bishops and their failings are a, perhaps the, fundamental problem. The agreement to “move to next business” in the last Synod in February may have been the first clear sign of this reality. This has arisen because we have seen a lack of proper preparation and foresight concerning the challenges, broken promises as to what is to be delivered, apparent forgetfulness about past statements, a confusing and incoherent way of making constantly changing and incompatible decisions, and an apparent lack of adequate regard for due process and legal and theological expertise.

It remains unclear what exactly will be brought to Synod and whether there will be any vote on a proposal. Whatever comes to it, Synod—across its divisions on sexuality—needs to find some way of calling the bishops to account and constructively addressing the reality that (as in other areas, most notably and tragically the handling of safeguarding), the fundamental PLF problem we are facing as a church is not Prayers of Love and Faith but Persistent Leadership Failure.


Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF and the subgroup looking at Pastoral Guidance.



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110 thoughts on “PLF: Prayers of Love and Faith? Or Persistent Leadership Failure?”

  1. The biggest failure of leadership here is clearly that way too many people in the CofE – not just the leaders – have fallen for the gay propaganda idea that ‘gayness’ is the same kind of ‘being’ as ethnic differences or things like blue eyes and ginger hair; ie truly and simply something people ‘just are’ and can’t help being.

    However that is simply not so, and for a very simple reason – ‘gay sex’, like other sex acts, is, well, very much an act, a deed, something people DO, and therefore pretty much by definition CHOOSE to do. And that puts it in a rather different category, certainly in any theistic worldview (Things would be different in an atheist worldview, which indeed is where the gay view on this originated – but that would have problems of its own. Christians are decidedly not atheists and last time I checked theism is a legitimate view in our plural and tolerant society)

    Any underlying ‘being’ that can be claimed for the sex acts, and indeed for pretty much any chosen behaviour, is not in a simple and neutral category like hair colour etc., but is a complex and ambivalent matter of urges and desires to do things. And it should not take a genius to realise that ‘urges and desires’ can in fact come anywhere in the scale from angelic to diabolical. Ipso facto it is not possible, as the gay case here tries to do, to just say “Oh, I ‘naturally’ have such and such urges and desires so it must be OK for me to live out those urges and desires”. Because urges and desires come right across the moral spectrum a good deal more than that has to be discussed.

    One implication of this is in the law of the land; at the moment it tends to be assumed that gay is a ‘just being so’ thing, and therefore it is kind of upon a pedestal where it can’t be challenged and indeed to challenge it is ‘hate speech’ in the same way as racism. But if ‘gayness’ is rather in this “Doing because urges and desires” category, then yes it can and should be open to challenge and the challenge should not be simply assumed to be badly motivated. With some background in law (though health problems meant I didn’t in the end follow it as a career), I think it is only a matter of time before this point is convincingly presented in the UK or US Supreme Court in a way that will force a change in the current legal status of ‘gayness’. As in, they will have to accept real equality in law rather than what is currently an improperly privileged position.

    Churches rather than kowtowing to the gay position should be leading in asserting the moral reality here.

    Reply
    • The trouble with so-called hate speech laws is that they apply when the person complaining is distressed or alarmed. I believe that in most cases the person is merely angry and is exploiting the law to deny peacable free speech. I also believe that the persons who drafted these laws and put them into statute knowingly intended the laws to be exploitable in this way. Civil servants and MPs are intelligent people, and ample warning was given in Committee and in parliamentary debates that the laws were capable of being exploited in this way. Those people are more culpable even than our police who prioritise free speech denial over offences that actually matter, such as burglaries.

      The genuine church – that follows the Bible – has lost this battle in the nation. That is a tragedy for our nation but predictable, for the whole world is under the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19, written after Pentecost and applicable until the Second Coming), and the genuine church is opposed to the world, i.e. to the culture. Any coincidence of what the culture believes with what the Bible and genuine church holds is provisional; the church’s victory is not such that it will march to hold influence over all of the rulers and culture of the whole world. The Bible tells us the opposite, in fact: the world will get worse, not better, until the bodily return in open power of the living Lord Jesus Christ. Mediaeval Catholics and modern protestants holding to ‘dominion theology’ are completely wrong about the trajectory of the world prior to that event.

      We cannot lose this battle in the church, because by definition the church upholds biblical truth. It does, however, contain increasing numbers of people who wish to rewrite the Bible, including our Archbishops and most other bishops. They are in the church, but not of the church that is the bride of Christ. Unless they are expelled then God will soon remove the lampstand that they currently hold. As we see.

      Reply
    • Stephen Langton

      It’s official Anglican communion teaching that being gay is either a natural part of human diversity or a disorder, but not a choice.

      There needs to be a distinction between orientation, sexual activity and relationships. These are not all the same thing, although for most people they all usually coincide

      Reply
  2. Wonderful phrase Ian. “Persistent Leadership Failure”. I totally agree. Who has decided that the Anglican Church has to follow the world and abandon Canon Law and Scripture? Who are the grey figures in the background prodding our weak Bishops?

    Reply
  3. If this continued and dishonest twisting and turning were all about Welby’s desire to push the Church of England closer to holding wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples in the face of continuing objections and difficulties that contined to arise, would the path look different from that actually taken? (On 3rd November 2023 Walby finally admitted to a group of LGBT Christians, in a meeting chaired by David Porter, that he was “totally and unequivocally committed to the goal of a radical new Christian inclusion that embraced LBTQIA+ people”.) This raises the question of whether it really is about leadership but rather a drive to overturn what holy scripture says about sexual relations between persons of the same sex.

    Reply
    • Jesus never said anything against it, he did though forbid divorce except for spousal adultery but the C of E already remarries divorced couples as established church. Paul opposed women priests but the C of E has women priests and bishops too. There are opt outs for churches that disagree on both as for same sex prayers but the established Church of England is not one for those who wish to take every word of scripture literally now

      Reply
      • T1… Please… Why do you keep posting (repetitive is an understatement!) this thin understanding of the issue and it’s complexity. It’s been demolished countless times before. Yes, you are entitled to your opinions but you don’t have to keep posting them, especially as an inappropriate contribution to the particular posting on Psephiso.

        And as for your (repeated absurdity) “Paul opposed women priests”. Do you actually think this is in the bible? No one needs NT Greek to put this in the bin!

        Reply
        • “as for your (repeated absurdity) “Paul opposed women priests”. Do you actually think this is in the bible? No one needs NT Greek to put this in the bin!”

          Indeed….it could be very plausibly argued that the apostle Paul did not envisage any Christian (male/female, slave/free, jew/gentile) acting as a “priest”!

          Reply
          • I don’t believe the NT supports a priesthood approach (ie any individual) other than the “priesthood of all believers”. Christ is the perfect High Priest and the perfect sacrifice was made once and for all time. I was just answering T1 using his terms.. . which he can’t find in the NT.

            I notice he’s still using false terminology below. He does like to persist with his nonsense.

          • Yes indeed! So why may only a few ‘consecrate’ the elements in Holy Communion in the CoE, whatever that means?

      • T1
        “Jesus never said anything against it” – presumably homosexuality, Actually the moment he started an answer about marriage with “God made them male and female” he effectively totally rejected homosexuality; trying to make out otherwise is not interpretation but very dubious twisting.
        The Bible as a whole say little against homosexuality – but given that it says abslutely NOTHING in favour of it, the impression is that it is given so little precisely because it is a wrong thing not meant to happen.

        Reply
      • Jesus affirmed the written laws of Moses as totally authoritative and they state an opinion of sexual relations between males.

        Reply
        • He also told us to love one another without ever saying a word against same sex relationships, the fact he created males and females doesn’t say anything contrary to that. As Paul said in Corinthians “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” As Paul said in Timothy “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Now Jesus did not say a word against women priests and used Mary Magdalene to spread his word but Paul did, so if you take every word of scripture literally you would oppose women priests and Bishops too

          Reply
          • You deflect from what I said by raising a different issue about which you suppose we disagree. That is a deceitful rhetorical tactic. So, for benefit of anybody reading, I sshall repeat: Jesus affirmed the written laws of Moses as totally authoritative and they state an opinion of sexual relations between males. Then, here is my opinion on Paul on women, which is not necessarily what you assume:

            https://church14-26.org/the-role-of-women/

          • Actually nowhere in the Ten Commandments is there a prohibition on same sex relations, either, only adultery. You can interpret Paul’s statement on women priests as you wish but clearly you are therefore not taking scripture literally if you do so

          • As I said, T1, Jesus took the laws of Moses as totally authoritative. Not just the ten commandments. There are another estimated 603 of them.

            As for women: the Pauline position is that they participate fully in all aspects of meetings, except that they do not teach scripture in mixed gatherings. The two passages about women in the church are 1 Corinthians 14:31-39 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Look first at 1 Corinthians 14:

            31 You can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 34 Women should remain silent in the congregations. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a gathering. 36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy…

            If women must be totally silent in church assemblies, verse 34 contradicts an earlier one (1 Corinthians 11:5) about women praying and prophesying in gatherings that are obviously mixed. God does not contradict himself, so the dilemma must be resolved. Verse 34 goes on to state that women must not speak but “must be in submission, as the law says”. What law is that? It is not the Law of Moses written in the Pentateuch, which nowhere states that women may not speak in mixed gatherings. This prohibition seems to have existed in synagogues, for Jewish tradition or ‘oral law’, written down later in the Talmud, contains multiple statements against a woman’s voice. The key to Paul’s passage is that he immediately becomes sarcastic with the Corinthians (in verse 36): “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?… What I am writing to YOU is the Lord’s command.” This makes sense if verses 34 and 35 are words that the Corinthians have asserted – probably from Jewish converts – which Paul is quoting back at them in order to refute them. Verses 34 and 35 are not Paul’s directives, and they should be written inside quotation marks. Paul is refuting them in order to explain that women are free to speak.

            The second passage, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, reads:

            11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

            Verse 11, when read with verse 12, means that a woman should not challenge the authority of the teacher. The Greek word for ‘quiet’ in these verses does not mean totally silent. A woman who disagrees with a teaching is free to say so provided that she maintains an attitude of respect to the (male) teacher. Next, verse 12 states that Paul, who was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, does not permit a woman to teach, at least in mixed gatherings. In the apostolic church, ‘teach’ meant ‘teach scripture’. The reason Paul gives shows that this is a general prohibition, for Paul cites the situation between the first couple: in Genesis 3, Satan had gone after Eve, not Adam, to deceive, and Satan would have chosen the easier to deceive. Eve promptly distorts – and leads Adam on to break – one of only two commands then received, not to eat from a particular tree. Peter recognises the same principle when he says that a woman who comes to faith is not to win her husband to it by instruction but by showing him greater love, of which she becomes capable (1 Peter 3:1). Women are free, of course, to take part in the discussions of scripture that follow a teaching. But they should also not give topical Bible teaching to a mixed adult audience.

            The question of women speaking has nothing to do with whether a service is going on, or has ended or not yet started. Holy Communion was taken in home meetings according to Acts 2:46; imagine a meal at which half the people around the table may not give their testimonies or say a word even with their husbands present! The boundary is clear, in contrast, between Bible teaching and other Christian speaking, such as prophecy.

            If you disagree, where and why?

          • T1, you say we can interpret as we wish.
            That is the worst statement I have ever seen on here.
            You cannot simply impose your wishes and then untruthfully call that interpretation. If it is not according to the evidence, the people who say it is interpretation are not telling the truth, so we disregard what they say.

          • So you say Paul forbade women from teaching scripture, ie forbade them from being priests effectively even if they could still discuss scripture as part of the congregation

          • Christopher Shell On that basis then no women priests, no same sex blessings, no remarriage of divorcees and no eating shellfish either as if you want to take every word of the Bible literally there are passages forbidding all those

          • On your first point, it is uncontroversial to say that imposing your wishes cannot remotely be called ‘interpretation’. It sounds grand, but it is not remotely what the word means. So the word will have to stop being used in that wrong usage.

            Secondly, you used the ‘literally’ cliche, which does not add up. I spent 2 and a half pages dealing with that in the section ‘literal/metaphorical’ in What Are They Teaching The Children?

            Third, I did not say the biblical writings were correct on any of that. I said that the job of interpretation is to see first accurately what the biblical writings are saying (not whether what they are saying is correct). You are, therefore, clearly confusing two things.

    • Anton

      As I’ve said before Welby says a lot of things that aren’t true.

      Welby also said that the cofe has a zero tolerance approach to homophobia, yet as far as I can tell, no action has ever been taken to combat homophobia in the church.

      His MO is to tell different groups different things in the hopes they both will think they have got what they wanted.

      Reply
  4. Church of England doctrine is determined by the Bishops and confirmed by Synod, so by definition PLF cannot be “indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine” given a majority of the Bishops and all 3 Houses of Synod voted for PLF (and also a majority of the Bishops and Synod voted for standalone same sex prayers of blessing services too).

    Now such prayers for same sex couples within services may not be taking place in conservative evangelical churches but they are certainly taking place and well under way in liberal Catholic C of E churches across England.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-67743298#:~:text=Prayers%20for%20Catherine%20Bond%20and,by%20the%20House%20of%20Bishops.

    Of course conservative evangelical churches are not obliged to perform such prayers but they cannot prevent liberal Catholic churches from doing so given a majority of Synod voted for them while reserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples

    Reply
    • Gosh Simon, this is getting quite tiresome. Doctrine can only be changed by a change to the Canons, and that has not happened. Canon A5 also says that the doctrine is actually determined by the Formularies, and that is not going to be changed any time soon.

      It would be great if you could actually engage with the issues, rather than this kind of trolling repetition of things that just are not true.

      Reply
      • Arguably changing the definition of marriage can only be determined only by Canon B5 but there has been no change to the definition of marriage, holy matrimony is reserved to heterosexual couples only. Canon A6 also makes clear that The government of the Church of England under the His Majesty, by archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, and the rest of the clergy and of the laity that bear office in the same, is not repugnant to the Word of God.’ So whatever the Bishops, clergy and laity decide by majority of all houses in Synod then becomes the doctrine of the Church of England, including prayers for same sex couples as Synod has now voted for

        Reply
  5. T1
    “Church of England doctrine is determined by the Bishops and confirmed by Synod, so by definition PLF cannot be “indicative of a departure from the Church’s doctrine” ”

    If that means that the Bishops can just make up doctrine any old how, then the whole Church venture is built on sand rather than rock, and putting faith in it is rather pointless. What the bishops are supposed to do is determine what the Church ought to be teaching according to scripture which is still the CofE’s theoretical standard. And right now they do indeed seem to be doing the ‘making it up’ thing, which realistically has no authority at all

    Reply
    • Yes the Bishops determine what they interpret scripture to be and ask the majority of Synod to affirm it as they have. If you don’t agree with that process, even with the opt out for conservative evangelical churches, then you shouldn’t be in the established Church of England church. There are plenty of Pentecostal, Baptist or independent evangelical churches you can go to instead which don’t allow even prayers of blessing for same sex couples.

      Reply
      • You pretend to an authority you don’t have with that ‘shouldn’t’. Perhaps you shouldn’t be in a church at all without accepting biblical definitions of righteousness.

        Reply
      • And there is Methodism if you want same-sex wedding ceremonies. (Isn’t Methodism flourishing since that vote?) Go there.

        Reply
        • I don’t particularly, I am happy with the prayers of blessing for same sex marriage compromise Synod voted for, I don’t think you specifically need same sex marriages in church too (even if now allowed in civil law the church can just bless such civilly married couples). I am also more on the high church Catholic wing of the church not an evangelical and not low church so Methodism doesn’t really suit my worship style preference

          Reply
          • Why on earth do you consider 51% of something called a ‘Synod’ more important than the founder Jesus himself?

          • There are 2 billion Christians worldwide, belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah and in the Trinity is something Roman Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Orthodox, Methodists, Lutherans, Independent evangelicals all share. There is nothing particularly C of E about that, it could apply to any Christian church of whatever denomination.

            However having its doctrine determined by its Bishops and Synod is a key part of what does make the C of E distinctive from other denominations

          • Simon T1 can you point me to anywhere in the formularies of the Church or Canon Law which says ‘Bishops and Synod determine the doctrine of the Church’?

          • That does not mention doctrine. ‘Governing’ is about leadership and organisation.

            For doctrine, you need to look one canon earlier:

            A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England

            The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.

            In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

            It is fitting that canon A6 sits under canon A5, just as those who govern need to sit under the doctrine so defined!

          • You are very free about telling evangelicals to leave the CoE, but you give reasons why you should not leave. We have our reasons too.

          • It does mention doctrine. The Holy Scriptures are religious texts for any Christian church, there is nothing distinctively Anglican about them. How they are interpreted is down to the Bishops and Synod as A6 makes clear.

            The Book of Common Prayer also affirms the English and UK Monarch as head of the Church of England as its Supreme Governor, again a position unique to the Church of England which distinguishes it from other Christian churches in the UK and globally

          • I have no problem evangelicals staying in the C of E as long as they accept the verdicts of the majority of Synod and the decisions of the Bishops, including on PLF.

            After all it is not as if liberal Catholics are forcing conservative evangelicals to hold prayers for same sex couples in their churches, you have an opt out. However nor can conservative evangelicals prevent liberal Catholics from holding prayers for same sex couples in their C of E church services

          • Simon T1, I have no problem with you staying in the Church of England, provided you accept the doctrine of the Church as set out in the Articles and BCP, and the doctrine of marriage as expressed in Canon B30.

            Do you?

          • I accept the doctrine of the Church which is that its governance is decided by its Bishops, clergy and laity in Synod. The doctrine of marriage was not changed by Synod anyway, holy matrimony was reserved for heterosexual couples, prayers for same couples were approved but not same sex marriage

          • T1, you ‘have no problem evangelicals staying in the C of E’?

            Your magnanimity is breathtaking. (As they say: ‘That’s big of you.’). And secondly the idea that your personal permission is so important as to be of relevance here is…odd.

        • Yes I do, I accept governance of the Church of England by its Bishops, Clergy and Laity and the King as its Supreme Governor.

          Synod has also kept holy matrimony reserved to heterosexual couples, only voting to allow prayers for same sex couples within services and experimental stand alone services for same sex couples

          Reply
  6. There are glaring problems with current COFE teaching/theology on gay people that are not going to be resolved with a vote by synod any more than parliament can vote Rwanda into being a “safe” country. The last ten years should have been devoted to resolving these problems or accepting diversity of theology and instead they’ve been spent having meetings about meetings.

    It seems to me a fundamental question is to resolve if gay people exist by nature or is a delusion, disease, choice or addiction. The standard Biblical verses seem to assume homosexuality as a choice or consequence of idolatry and so it’s been quite natural for people with little real world experience of gay people to assume that it is unnatural. However this position has been increasingly difficult to marry with increasing scientific knowledge and testimony (even testimony of “sound” conservative Christians).

    Official COFE teaching (and indeed of the entire Anglican communion!) rejects any cause except natural human diversity or mental disease (“disorder”) [Lambeth 1.10].

    In the second half of the 20th century, particularly in the late 80s/early 90s, the secular belief that homosexuality was a (dangerous) disease became popular and seemed to be validated by the AIDS crisis and with this came various ‘cures’ including electrocution, water boarding, counseling and prayer. All of these methods demonstrably failed. Indeed there are far more testimonies from people who claim that conversion therapy has harmed them than there are people who claim conversion therapy actually made them heterosexual (as far as I can tell the number for this second category is exactly zero). Eventually these cures have been comprehensively rejected by the medical establishment as ineffective and potentially harmful and the CofE has also officially rejected them (at least at the national level).

    So this leaves the current teaching being either that homosexuality is natural OR a disease for which there is no known cure, which are both contrary to the surface reading of scripture. Because both or these descriptions are lifelong and unchosen they require further teaching about how people in these circumstances should live. This leads to lots of secondary questions. The ones of interest to people who aren’t themselves gay are roughly

    Can gay people be open and public about their orientation
    Can gay people serve in ministry
    Can gay people be in pseudo ministry roles (e.g. lead a bible study)
    Can gay people have non sexual romantic relationships (with the same sex)
    Can gay people have sexual relationships (with the same sex)/Can gay people marry (the same sex)
    What counts as sex for gay people (dating, hugging, holding hands, kissing, touching, genital rubbing, penetration)

    The current teaching for the first four seems to be yes because there is no Biblical prohibition, but no to marriage/sex, but then confusingly no guidance on what counts as sex. It’s unreasonable for gay people to have to play a guessing game about what is and is not permissible under current church teaching – this is really the first glaring problem

    1. Theres no teaching on where the line is between what is permitted and what is prohibited. It reminds me of Michael Howards election slogan “are you thinking what we’re thinking?”

    The ban on sex/marriage is defended with a hyper literal reading of scripture, where, because gay people are not explicitly mentioned in the verses on marriage, there’s an assumption of a ban, backed up with the clobber verses, but these are the exact same clobber verses whose literal reading about the nature of gay people has been rejected by the Anglican communion (choice or a consequence of idolatry). So this is another glaring problem

    2. The current teaching relies on a contradictory use of the same verses of scripture – requiring an acceptance of a surface reading to ban sex/marriage and requiring a rejection of a surface reading to bring in the teaching that gay people are either naturally gay or disordered.

    Applying these teachings to real congregations is a widely acknowledged nightmare. Outside of the religious leadership bubbles most people now accept gay people as normal human beings who lead normal lives and most usually want to marry someone they love. How can church leaders tell their flock that their gay family members, who have perhaps been happily married for ten years, must split up, put their kids into care and pretend to have some horrible disease, when actually things work perfectly well with them being allowed to marry? The church of England has not come up with any real argument why God would want gay people to remain single – this is another huge huge problem that the church has not bothered to address, despite ten years supposedly devoted to the topic.

    3. Church leaders, even Bishops, cannot give a explanation (at least one that sells outside of the vestry) why God wants gay people to remain single and church leaders seem embarrassed of the church’s teaching – to the extent that most churches will not publicly promote it, but instead have secret coffees with those who it directly impacts. How can gay people be expected to sacrifice so much to a teaching that even the archbishops have zero confidence in?

    The final glaring problem is the complete failure to produce a model of gay Christian life that leads to good fruit – I would have thought this was a key aim of the decade of talks, because it is actually something that conservatives and liberals can, in theory, agree on. Yet this hasn’t been done, there’s still very little support for gay imposed singleness, which is far harder than living as part of a supporting family.

    4. Most gay people who try to follow the church’s teaching get forced out due to lack of support for the church’s own teaching amongst church leaders (conservative and liberal alike)

    I think these talks have failed because they have not even attempted to address the very real problems around church teaching on gay people

    Reply
    • And of course not addressing the problems around church teaching on gay people has been the point.

      The Bishops have been angling to get back to the Pilling Report. They appear to have interpreted the vote in Synod against that as being a Church unity question, rather than an ethical teaching question. Hence, when asked to produce their theological reasoning behind PLF the Bishops produced arguments Church unity where there were disagreements, not anything particularly about sexuality. As you point out Peter, there’s a huge question now with us, that if we really don’t think gay couples should be together are we telling them to get divorced?

      What we really needed to do was to revisit Issues in Human Sexuality, and consider what we wanted to say now. It gets a lot of stick, some of it rightly, but in many ways Issues was remarkable for its time. In 1991, at a time when people were hoping to find a gay gene so that you could test foetuses for it and then abort them if the doctor said they carried it, the Bishops were dismissive of conversion therapy. Worrying that the discussion was dominated by sex when it was really about who you loved, they tried to coin the term “homophile”. They had some choice words about celibacy, which they were adamant was distinct from mere singleness and could not be prescribed for anyone. Sadly much of this has been forgotten by the conservatives and traditionalists.

      The Bishops however are not the only ones at fault here, and I find the attempt by Andrew Goddard and others to heap all the blame onto them nauseating. The conservatives and traditionalists, with CEEC leading the charge, have spent a decade carefully avoiding the question. When CEEC produced their “Beautiful Story” video in response to LLF, it wasn’t about teaching and theology for gay people. It was a parroting of marriage is between a man and a woman, with a ban on same-sex sex mentioned before getting to the main speculative point about whether to get a third province or not.

      Twenty years ago Andrew Goddard wrote a Grove booklet: “Homosexuality and the Church of England”. He concluded:
      “Will we really seek to understand gay people? Will we create Christian communities in which our vision becomes reality and so is not a harsh law but embodied as the gospel of grace? Will we establish a Church where recognition and support to single people and chaste loving friendships and it is demonstrably no longer the case that gay Christians can legitimately say ‘you have offered me in my life no viable strategy for ordering my life’?”
      PLF has seen the conservatives in the Church say “No” in answer to those questions.

      Reply
      • In the Pilling Report, Keith Sinclair’s Appendix is a crystal clear exegesis of the relevant scriptures. After that it is a matter of the authority of scripture. Or are you one of those fundamentalists who take the Virgin Birth and Resurrection scdriptures literally?

        Reply
        • It’s a crystal clear exegesis which many (including David Runcorn who wrote the response) argue is mistaken and simplistic.

          Reply
          • Oh, do post a link. The idea that scripture blesses man lying with man as with woman is hilarious. Persons who make this claim normally adopt the tactic of questioning the authority of the verses they don’t like.

        • Bishop Sinclair’s dissenting statement in Pilling is a good example of the strenuous lengths some people go to to avoid the questions and problems raised by folk like Peter and myself.

          Not quite sure why you’re bringing up the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. I’m another Christian under the Nicene Creed, like Penny. But you know that.

          Reply
          • I trust Ian’s readers to know why.

            You have been told the answers to those questions here often enough, despite your untrue insistence that you have not. I remind you also that it is harder to give those replies in a way that does not trigger falsely-named hate speech legislation which many peoplle in your camp campaigned for. You can hardly complain.

          • Anton

            I don’t care for wrenching texts out of context in order to support an extra biblical ideology about sexuality.

          • I’ve been given the answer, but also you can’t give me the answer because you’ll be done under hate speech legislation if you do. That sounds like a lot of self-contradictory, self-righteous nonsense.

            The argument that homosexual orientation is not a sin, but is a bar to holy orders, but also isn’t a bar to holy orders, but can and should be changed, except we accept that it can’t be changed, and a loving relationship between two people of the same sex is fruitful and good, but a temptation to sin that can’t be permitted, so you’re really called to celibacy, although it’s not a calling, and you can marry, except I won’t say you can marry nor encourage you to marry, but you should marry, and I don’t want to idolise marriage, but it is the centrepiece of the Christian faith as a metaphor for Christ and the Church, although you shouldn’t marry, but if you do that’s good, any maybe your orientation will change, but don’t forget we don’t think it can change, and wouldn’t want to promise it can change, although orientation isn’t actually real… is a confused jumble of excuses masquerading as an answer.

            The alternative we get to the question of how gay Christians should order their lives is a version of the trite “when you marry your wife, it’s for life”. That is at best tangential, and at worst wholly misleading.

            And I haven’t even got onto the question of gay couples who are already in same-sex marriages and civil partnerships, and whether the Church is telling them to divorce. We think Living Out experimented with encouraging divorce once, and it went pretty badly. Now no-one wants to go near the question if they think they can bury their head in the sand.

            Personally, I’ve had enough of the game-playing, debate-scoring, and gaslighting.

          • I’ve been given the answer, but also you can’t give me the answer because you’ll be done under hate speech legislation if you do. That sounds like a lot of self-contradictory, self-righteous nonsense.

            I know how to do it without transgressing those iniquitous laws which you support, but (i) they’ve had a chilling effect on people giving you the answers and (ii) you’ve been given it multiple times by both me and others here. I’m not going to repeat myself.

          • It’s not at all clear that the NT thinks in terms of ‘holy orders’ in the first place.

            Whereas if people exalt their smaller traditions over the NT, not only is that the wrong way round (the big and original precede the smaller and derivative) but it means that all bets are now off, since anyone can invent a tradition and give that precedence.

          • Anton

            No, as far as I can remember from over a decade ago, I have not read it, that’s why I’m asking you.

          • Anton

            It may be logical. But does it answer the problems and questions I have asked or does it merely regurgitate the current contradictory church teaching?

          • The Pilling report is certainly contradictory, becaue it was issued by a bunch of liberal hypocrites who take a salary from the collection plates of the faithful while undermining biblical truth. Keith Sinclair’s exegesis was the exception. If the church returned to its scriptural teaching on the subject, there would be no contradiction.

      • AJ

        Yes I agree with all of that. It’s really quite shocking when you look at documents from 20, 30, 60 years ago and discover there’s actually been no progress made at all even on things which both liberals and conservatives agree they want to do better on.

        Reply
        • Yes, that’s exactly right. Because the two positions are so completely different from each other. As has been repeatedly said. If they are clearly irreconcilable, as many knew they were all along, it is impossible that they are both Christian. One or neither may be, but not both.

          The easiest explanation is that one is Christian and the other is a reflection of transient contemporary culture.

          Reply
          • Back to believing there are two sides in a debate I see. How interesting for you to change your tune when it suits you.

          • Then you need to read what I said:

            (1) A debate can have any number of sides.

            (2) There is no law against a debate having 2 sides. Among the numbers covered by ‘any number’ is the number 2.

            (3) In this specific case, there are more than 2 sides. For example, my view that people need to read up more before entering (or being listened to in) the debate corresponds to neither of the main positions.

            (4) In this specific case, there is also massive clustering in precisely 2 places. I believe I said on the previous occasion that this sort of clustering in a polarised way is highly suspicious. Evidence is never remotely polarised, after all. But wishes/desires on the one hand and attention to evidence on the other are liable to be polarised, yes.

            All clear?

    • It seems to me a fundamental question is to resolve if gay people exist by nature or is a delusion, disease, choice or addiction.

      Is that pre-fallen nature or poast-fallen nature?

      Reply
        • Why isn’t post-birth development to be counted as part of nature? After all, it appears in nature. I didn’t yet know or like Mozart when I was born. It may not be nature on the same level as the innate, so that is why terms need defining.

          Reply
          • Peter JERMEY – my son doesn’t like Mozart. I use a digital piano (Yamaha Gran Touch 2) and when he was 8 months old (and had learned how to crawl), I was hacking my way through the K 333 sonata, when he crawled underneath the piano and pulled out the plug so that it went silent …. a reasonably clear statement that he didn’t like Mozart (or at least he didn’t like the mess that I was making of it).

          • It’s a hypothetical random example. As it happens, babies love Haydn, Mozart and Vivaldi best pre birth, but the point I made was that many characteristics we have are developed *post* birth, and there has been a dishonest and tactical move (whether or not you are aware that this was originally tactical) to group ‘sexual orientation’ with innate things like race and gender as though babies were ‘gay’ etc.. People have fallen for this because it has been ‘jammed’ so relentlessly. It is rather unpleasant to think of babies in that way, as well as being knowingly inaccurate; as well as this point always being sidestepped – proof of even further dishonesty.

    • It seems to me a fundamental question is to resolve if gay people exist by nature or is a delusion, disease, choice or addiction.

      Do violent people exist by nature, or is it a delusion, disease, choice or addiction?

      A tendency to violence seems definitely to have a genetic component. So, should we celebrate violence? (Some do, of course.)

      Reply
      • David Wilson

        I live in a country (US) where the majority of Christians celebrate violence and encourage it(!) But that’s a different issue.

        Violence causes harm to others so we have to have restrictions to protect the public from people who have lifelong violent conditions. Lots of people learn anger management.

        Despite certain politicians claims there’s no need to protect the public from gay people. There’s no course you can go on to learn how to be straight. And arguably straight people cause far more societal damage than gay people

        Reply
        • I don’t think the USA Christians are typical in this respect! They are certainly not in accord with the New Testament. USA books and statistics tend to behave as though USA were all that there is.

          Reply
        • Peter
          Almost from square one there has been ambivalence in the former colonies/now USA about the “celebrate violence and encourage it” thing. As I read it this goes back to the idea in the churches since Constantine of having a ‘Christian state’. With multiple European migrants from different countries there was religious diversity, and also a large group of atheists/agnostics/freethinkers opposed to any religion. This made it impractical to ‘establish’ one form of Christianity in the USA though there were briefly some states in New England with effective establishments.

          In setting up the constitution there were conflicting views. The assorted freethinkers and some Christian groups particularly Baptists and Quakers believed in freedom of religion. Others from various groups accepted the impossibility of a single establishment but still wanted the nation to be broadly Christian – this is sometimes phrased as ‘godly government’.

          The Mayflower ‘Pilgrims’ are an interesting case – they fled England to avoid persecution of their brand of the faith by established Anglicanism, but effectively once in America set up a community in which their brand of the faith was established.

          One could also note the rhetoric in the Cold War of defending America from ‘godless’ Communism.

          The liberalising 1960s saw a major shift against the religious state idea and towards religious freedom; this was then countered by the ‘Moral Majority/Religious Right coalition with much of the impetus coming from the Presbyterian apologist Francis Schaeffer. Which leads to where we are now with a conflict between those who see the constitution as about total freedom of religion and those who see it as banning a particular establishment but nevertheless expecting a broadly Christian state. Those on the ‘godly government’ side have inherited the idea that it is legitimate to fight for the religion and defend it with arms.

          Where I come from (these days, though it’s not where I started as a child) the ‘Christian state’ idea is actually unbiblical. What the NT teaches is that it is the Church itself which is the new covenant ‘Christian nation’ and far from trying to take over and ‘Christianise’ the various nations, it is meant to remain inter/supra-national operating somewhat like the Jewish ‘Diaspora’, in effect as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven living as ‘resident aliens’ (‘parepidemoi’ in I Peter) even paradoxically in what is humanly speaking their native land. Anglicanism in England being an established church is major heresy….

          As such Christians are supposed to be pacifists, and we also have no mandate to legally impose distinctively Christian beliefs and moral standards on non-Christians. Not only was it wrong to persecute heresy – eg in the Spanish Inquisition – it was also wrong to criminalise the LGBT community.

          On another issue raised earlier the basic Christian deal is that people are meant to love people but that God has emphatically designed sex itself to be heterosexual between male and female only, and even then not promiscuously but in marriage. Post-fall not only sexual but other human urges and desires are ‘out of kilter’ and in ‘falling short of the glory of God’ humans/sinners do and wish to do all kinds of inappropriate things. ‘Gay sex’ is one of those inappropriate things and Christians should trust God about this and not engage in the practice.

          Reply
  7. In practical terms (I agree with IP and AG on the theology), the problem as I see it is this. There are not in fact two “tribes” in the Church of England on this question but three; (A) those who want the Church’s position to stay as it is, (B) those who want same-sex sexual relationships accepted and blessed but don’t want to force those who disagree out of the Church, and (C) those who want same-sex sexual relationships accepted and blessed with no no-go areas for sexually active same-sex couples. It’s unlikely that groups B and C could ever agree on how to change the canon law of the Church, and it’s also unlikely that (even if they did) they could achieve a two-thirds majority in each House of General Synod over group A. So if you want the Church to change its position, what do you do?

    Reply
    • Who is supposed to be Group C? Who do you consider as adopting that position or speaking for them?

      And I think you’re combining a lot of different views to make an A Group that doesn’t really exist. There’s people who want to see gay clergy currently in civil partnerships thrown out. There’s people who want current Church guidance on civil partnerships to be overturned. There’s people who disagree with Church teaching in Issues that homosexuality cannot be changed, and you shouldn’t try. There’s people who disagree with the Church saying that homosexual sex shouldn’t be criminalised. And there are those who want to say gay people should be celibate, but also want others in the Church to be able to embrace same-sex relationships, who nonetheless find themselves lumped in with Group A.

      Reply
    • You end up with the prayers for same sex couples compromise while reserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples that Synod voted for

      Reply
    • Steve

      I don’t agree there are a significant number of people who want to force local churches to marry same sex couples. None of the other denominations that have introduced SSM have made it a nationally agreed issue either.

      I think in fact the third group is the largest group that wants to continue on as is without resolving anything

      Reply
  8. The Duty of Pastors, John Owen.
    https://www.cprf.co.uk/quotes/dutypastors.htm

    (Including Bishops: “Bishops, presbyters, public teachers, have been the ringleaders in heresies. Wherefore this duty, especially at this time, when the fundamental truths of the gospel are on all sides impugned, from all sorts of adversaries, is in an especial manner to be attended unto.”)

    Nothing new under the sun.

    Reply
    • It’s a bit rich for proponents of limited atonement to criticise others for impugning a fundamental truth of the gospel.

      Reply
      • Touch a nerve?
        A bit rich? Maybe you should take it up with Owen in the context of all he wrote, including the Trinity, the Glory of Christ, Comunion with God.

        Anything else to say?
        What about his emphasis on the gospel?
        What do you mean by limited atonement,?
        So everyone is saved; universalism? False teaching.
        Maybe according to your theological, scriptural lights, Owen will be reaping the results of false teaching, for example, 2 Peter 2.

        Other passages relating to false teaching are available, such as doctrine of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 :
        https://www.gotquestions.org/doctrines-of-demons.html

        Reply
        • Clearly I’ve touched a nerve.

          I mean what CPRF mean: limited atonement, which they state as their clear belief, and endorse by assenting to the Canons of Dordt, claims that Christ died on the cross only for an elect already chosen by God (“Jesus laid down His life on the cross for His elect, suffering for all of the sins of all of His sheep”).

          It is a straightforward contradiction with the gospel as preached by Jesus himself in John 3 that God loved the world, and gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.

          Whilst the universalists obviously disagree with limited atonement, so does just about everyone else: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, Lutherans, Arminian protestants, Four-Point Calvinists, etc. etc..

          Reply
          • Not with me. Not playing your games as you fail to deal with the nub of Owens piece and false teaching of todays current crop of revisionist Bishops who renounce the tenets of the the CoE.
            In comparison with Owen they are theologically a scripturally puny.
            The whole of Owen’s article on the duty of pastors, shines a light on the collective machevelian manoeuvres of the collective crop of current Bishops that Andrew Goddard has repeatedly drawn attention to on this his most recent article as well as previous ones.
            They are in breach of their duty.
            And, as has been pointed out, again more that once, their ordination vows.
            As trust is integral to leadership,
            that represents substantial evidence of Persistent Leadership Failure.

          • I have several interlinked convictions on the Atonement:

            1 We all face the condemnation of God from birth onwards and are all born with a nature inclined to evil.

            2 God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they turn from their ways and live.

            3 God has predestined only some to everlasting life and those only will be saved.

            4 Items 2 and 3 seem contradictory to human reason but both are true – it is one of God’s secrets how they can both be true.

            5 At the day of Judgement God will sentence the unsaved to eternal retribution.

            6 In his atoning death Jesus Christ suffered that retribution in his human nature, inflicted by the Triune God, on behalf of all the saved, i.e. all the elect, including all who die in infancy, as well as those so mentally incapacitated that they are incapable of making an informed choice.

            7 Speaking personally I am convinced that I deserve that eternal retribution and am assured that Christ has borne it on my behalf.

            I am waiting for Ian Paul to open a thread on this to debate these convictions, several of which he disagrees with. I hope that debate will include a discussion of the Anglican Articles and Homilies.

            I agree that there are other results of the Atonement including Christ’s victory over Satan

            Phil Almond

          • The thing is Geoff, you’ve made a habit of insisting other people answer your high-level questions about the gospel, what it means etc.. Now the boot is on the other foot, you’re trying to brush it under the carpet. If we’re going to talk about fundamental truths of the Bible, then whether Christ died for all, and his saving grace is available to all, or just a predetermined slither, seems pretty fundamental.

          • “Items 2 and 3 seem contradictory to human reason but both are true – it is one of God’s secrets how they can both be true.”

            Bit of a cop out don’t you think Phil? Calvinism is usually so logically tight

          • AJB,
            You were determined to detour which I’m not pointing too.
            The question of TULIP was not the point I was making.
            The Bishops follow culture employing a primary cultural postmodernist hermeneutic. Bishop Croft’s essay from a while ago, commented at length on this blog, admits that.
            The starting point for the difference between Owen and the Bishops are Owen’s adherence to the doctrine of scripture and his profound work on the doctrine of God, sovereignity.
            He was not of the Process/Open schools to theology that dominate in the CoE today.

            As for Phil’s points 2 and 3, they are not contradictory.
            But that has been discussed and argued over at length in theological circles elsewhere.

          • Sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander, Geoff. You’ve insisted on your own detours plenty of times.

            Owen (and CPRF for that matter) quite plainly do not adhere to the doctrine of scripture though. They advocate for limited atonement which runs counter to scripture, and the words of Jesus Christ himself.

            As for Phil’s points being contradictory – Phil himself says they look contradictory, and are only held to not be so because of some secret divine mystery.

          • AJB,
            See the title of Andrew Goddard’s piece for relevance of your diversionary tactic. ploy.
            Clue: it is not relevant, that is, it is not logically probative of the fact in issue.

            It is a ploy of argument that seems to be replete, rife, in revisionist circles
            Bye, Bye.
            Geoff

  9. I’m about to have a read of Voddie Baucham’s book “It’s Not Like Being Black….” whichI am pretty sure will be saying many of the things on this issue that I’ve been saying. And if an actual black person is saying this perhaps even CofE bishops, or even archbishops, should be listening….

    And the thing is if it’s NOT like being black (or similar) then much current gay propaganda is misplaced to the point of dishonesty and should not be allowed to dictate Christian attitudes and approaches; indeed also should not be allowed to dictate secular law at the expense of those who disagree with the gays’ positions.

    Reply
    • But no-one (till comparatively recently) ever said it was remotely like being black or white or any other colour.

      Instead, that was a recent idea, a tactic, that came in only a few decades ago in the bid to get the desired scenario on the back of a false human-rights equality narrative. Surely everyone has not forgotten.

      Reply
      • We both know it’s a recent tactic aimed at a false human-rights equality narrative. I suspect that far too many bishops, archbishops, and other Anglicans have not simply forgotten this but have never properly thought about it in the first place. They have just thoughtlessly accepted it….

        Having said that it is an idea that just about makes sense in atheistic materialism, which is where it originated more than just a few decades ago. Of course such atheism (a) is completely unChristian, and (b) has major problems including that as no less than Richard Dawkins has pointed out (in his book “River Out Of Eden”) consistent atheism means that there is neither good and evil nor right and wrong anyway – a case of DNA doesn’t care and we, if atheism is true, dance to its tune.

        Reply
    • Just out of interest, does you objection to anti-discrimination law in this country extend to other protected characteristics such as being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, or religion or belief?

      Reply
      • I’m not objecting to ‘anti-discrimination law in this country’ in general. But I would point out that apart from race and disability issues, most such laws are not absolute; they are about equality and do not allow people to impose their beliefs on others, or only wthin limits – Jews are not allowed to impose their dietary rules on all, only within their community and when people go to eat at a Jewish restaurant or similar circumstances.

        I have no problem with laws securing actual equality for ‘gay’ people – as people of a different religious or philosophical view. The objection is that the current ideas comparing ‘being gay’ to ‘being black’ or being of say a different hair colour is a badly founded comparison, and is having the effect of giving ‘gay’ people not equality but an improperly privileged position, effectively beyond criticism or challenge. What ‘gay’ people ‘are’ is not comparable to things like a different ethnic appearance and does not entitle them to that kind of protection.

        Reply
          • Really just the obvious challenge – that a claim of ‘being’ things like fair-haired or blue-eyed is not the same as a claim of ‘being’ that involves doing things and the urges and desires to do whatever it is. Urges and desires to do can be anything but morally neutral and are therefore open to challenge. I assume you would want to challenge the urges and desires felt by the late Ian Brady? The ‘gay’ claim that ‘being gay’ is like ‘being black’ or similar tries to equate an ‘urges and desires’ situation with the simpler ‘different appearance’ situation.

          • So your argument is what though? That sexual orientation is a choice, or in any case an illusion? Or that sexual orientation should play no role in working out sexual behaviour – that is to say, it doesn’t matter if you have a gay sexual orientation, you should still be encouraged into a straight marriage? Or is this just dressing up that you want to rail against anal sex and you think this is the best way to do that?

  10. The short version – but clearly I’m going to have to do a longer version for my blog soon – is basically what Paul says in Romans 1 and other places, about ‘sin’ in general and not just sexual issues. There is ‘how God designed and intended things’ and then there is ‘how things are in a fallen world’ where things are out of joint/off kilter. In the ‘out of joint’ world humans have bad as well as good urges and desires, and in many ways the bad urges are ‘part of’ the people concerned, a situation which Paul describes in terms of being captive to the sin. But the weakness which allows that captivity is not an innocent weakness, it is because of being a sinner. It is somewhat comparable to the wider disabilities suffered by a man who has crippled himself by shooting himself in the foot to avoid military service. The right behaviour is what the Bible says do; wrong behaviour is the stuff the Bible says not to do. The urges and desires to do the wrong behaviour are temptations to be resisted.

    Reply
    • That’s a bit of a non-answer.

      If gay people (what you would call exclusively same-sex attracted) did it to themselves, how? What do you think the 16 year old desperately praying for God to make him or her straight, did to find themselves in that predicament? Can it be undone? Can they be changed? Should the Church tell them or promise them that they can be changed?

      Again, are you recommending that gay people (what you would call exclusively same-sex attracted) enter into straight marriages? St Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says it is better to marry than burn with passion, as he argues marriage is a remedy for sexual sin. Is that the lesson you’re arguing we should draw? Do you see any problems?

      Reply
  11. Like I said, looks like this will need a long blog piece, and there are several other topics in the queue there at the moment, so that won’t be happening this week!

    Start with some simple stuff, though.
    God is consistent. Despite some very strained and stretched attempts to prove otherwise, God (or at least the Christian God) has clearly forbidden same-sex sex. So in turn, however it has come about, God has not in any simple sense made anyone so they have to do gay sex. The explanation is elsewhere and is in the complex of human rebellion against God.
    Same-sex LOVE is permissible, indeed positively OK!! See for example David and Jonathan. And because we are physical beings interacting in a physical world, it can be very physical and very intense – just not sexual as such. It is perhaps worth saying that in parts of the west at least there was a significant shift in the mid-late Victorian period where a bit of a moral panic including the Oscar Wilde scandal had the effect of making suspect many previously fully acceptable expressions of male affection. The late Victorians and the Edwardians might well have arrested Jesus and John, never mind David and Jonathan….

    Reply
    • “God has not in any simple sense made anyone so they have to do gay sex”

      Well no one has to have any sex. But that doesn’t mean imposing a rule of celibacy is a good idea. For a start Scripture consistently cautions against suggesting such a rule – Jesus is adamantly against it when asked in Matthew 19, and St Paul is at pains to point out in 1 Corinthians 7 that he doesn’t want us to think there’s such a rule, and goes further encouraging young widows to remarry in 1 Timothy 5 and avoid criticism from outside the Church.

      Or is your point a different one – that no one has “do gay sex” because no one is really homosexual, and their sexual orientation is a false or changeable thing?

      I’m not sure the late Victorians would have arrested Jesus and John, given that they left Cardinal Newman and Ambrose St John alone. But it rather begs the question of exactly what you’re saying is the permissible same-sex love. Is it simply a friendship – Jesus and John weren’t in any sense an exclusive relationship (to pick up on your example). Is it more committed and faithful, like marriage? What do you mean by very physical and very intense but not sexual?

      Reply
      • 1) All the texts that can be quoted about ceibacy are about heterosexual relations where there is no doubt the sex is permitted. If, as with same-sex sex, the sex is unlawful to begin with then those arguments are simply irrelevant, inapplicable.

        2) My point there was less about the ‘having to do’ and more about the simple logic that since God has forbidden gay sex he certainly isn’t behind people wanting to do it. People wanting to do gay sex has to be part of the ‘fallen world’ thing, a consequence of humans going against God. ‘Sexual orientation’ is not somehing God has created.

        Reply
      • Coming back with a further consideration

        The questions you are throwing out there are not ‘first line’ questions. The need is to answer some more foundational questions from which your questions can be worked out as ‘second line’ issues.

        So very basically
        There is the world as God created it, as he intended it ideally to be. That original situation no longer exists. We live in a world in which “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” as Paul says (quoting the OT). In a sin-affected world, humans are out of joint with God, and so also out of joint with His creation in all kinds of ways; out of joint with the physical world we live in, out of joint with our fellow humans, and even more than a bit out of joint with and even within ourselves.
        As a resultof this our ‘urges and desires’ are out of joint, and not only in sexual matters but in many other things we have motives and urges and desires which are one way or another sinful.
        One of the ways Paul describes this is a kind of deliberate ambiguity about the concept ‘nature/natural’, with context usually resolving the ambiguity. Things can be ‘natural’ in the fundamental ‘as God intended’ sense – but they can also be ‘natural’ in the sense of being the nature of the ‘natural man’, ie the sinners.
        Living according to our sinful natures causes all kinds of problems even at an ‘earthly’ level, and even more importantly, even if unrealised, it affects our relationship to God and can amount to a ‘choosing of the darkness’ and casting ourselves out of the light of God. And one of the consequences is also that as sinners we are not fully free any more, we have lost a lot of our ‘self control’ so that we are kind of enslaved to our urges and desires rather than ourselves governing them. This is the mess out of which
        we need to be ‘saved’, which humanly speaking starts by recognising that we are in that kind of mess and turning from our wrong conduct.

        Reply

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