What is going on in the Bishops’ comments on Civil Partnerships?

On Wednesday last week, the House of Bishops issued a ‘pastoral statement’ on the status of Civil Partnerships, and it caused something of a stir. What was it about? Why was it needed? And why did it cause a commotion?

The background to this discussion began in 2004. The Government passed the Civil Partnership Act, which created a form of relationship that looked very similar to marriage, but which the Labour Government of the time insisted was not marriage. It is worth asking why they did this; there is no really plausible answer other than that it was a way to introduce same-sex marriage without introducing something called same-sex marriage. This is confirmed by the inclusion of language of ‘prohibited relationships’ (consanguinity) based on marriage, so that (resisting specific campaigning on this question) the Government refused to allow siblings to enter CPs. At the time the Conservative party was split on the proposal, partly on the basis of personal convictions, and partly because, at the time, the notion of gay marriage was hardly a vote winner. How quickly times change!

The House of Bishops was now put in a difficult position. Would the Church’s teaching on marriage as the context for sexual relationships allow recognition of CPs? Since CPs were specifically designed, in two significant ways (lack of requirement of public vows, and no explicit reference to the relationship being conjugal) to not look like marriage, then there could be no identification of CPs with marriage, and this is highlighted in their 2005 statement on the matter. In particular, since CPs could, in theory, involve a platonic relationship, then there was no reason in principle that two people of the same sex should not form a CP, including clergy. The bishops were here making a call as to whether they believed what the Government said, against all the evidence, or called their bluff and highlighted the deception. Andrew Goddard, in his Grove booklet Friends, Partners or Spouses?, summed up the problem:

The government could have made UK marriage law ‘gender-blind’ so that two people of the same sex could marry. Not only did they not follow this course, they have created a very few—but not insignificant—differences between civil partnership and marriage. In particular, there is no requirement that civil partners be in a sexual relationship although the presumption that a sexual relationship would exist between civil partners is probably the basis for applying the principles of consanguinity. There can be little doubt that most civil partnerships will be sexual and that civil partners will be generally viewed as in such a relationship.

In short, the government claims that although it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is not really a duck. A few details in relation to the creature’s plumage give technical justification to those experts who make this distinction and deny it is a duck. This means that care must be taken in simply insisting that it is a duck. Nevertheless, to the untrained eye—which includes most of the media and popular opinion—it remains a duck.

But the duck was given a much louder quack with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013, since it retrospectively recognised CPs as same-sex marriages, and in fact couples were counted as having been married from the date of their CP. And the duck was given extra tail feathers when the Supreme Court ruled, in response to a case brought by a Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, that it was discriminatory not to allow opposite-sex couples to enter CPs. There is something very important to note here: the ruling was not on the basis of their sex, but on the basis of sexual orientation, that is, it was a ruling about being heterosexual, not about being a male and a female. In other words, the ruling assumed that most if not all CPs will involve a sexual conjugal relationship. But, as with same-sex marriage, there is no legal definition of a conjugal sex act for people of the same sex, so there is no legal reference to consummation or adultery. Legally, CPs have become desexualised, and marriage is soon to follow with the universal introduction of no-fault divorce, which will become the norm.


Now that opposite-sex couples can enter CPs, what should the position of the Church be? Legally, nothing has changed, and so the position of the House of Bishops should not change either. In fact, when you compare the pastoral statement from last week with the pastoral statement from 2005, they are almost identical, and a good number of paragraphs are copied over verbatim. I suspect that is one reason why no-one supposed that releasing this would cause much of a stir: there is nothing new here.

Marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society. It continues to provide the best context for the raising of children.

This is what you would hear if you attended any marriage service in the Church of England. And the statement last week does indeed have many virtues, as (slightly surprisingly) Jeremy Pemberton points out:

The latest pastoral guidance by the Bishops of the Church of England is designed to address the change in the law in England and Wales that has now opened up Civil Partnerships to opposite sex couples as well as same sex ones.

In the guidance they have provided, the bishops make one or two things clear:

  • Sex is for heterosexual marriage and nowhere else
  • That civil partnerships are a form of friendship
  • That they should be sexually abstinent, whoever is in the CP

Let’s look at the good things first. First of all, this is clear guidance. No one can be in any doubt about where the bishops stand over the question of sexual relationships. Secondly, at least it does not discriminate further against LGBT people – it takes precisely the same stance over the sexual lives of heterosexuals as well. Thirdly, there is a certain bravery about offering guidance that is so massively at variance with the mores of the time. According to a recent survey, only 4% of British people now think that sex should wait until marriage in all cases.

All three of these things are important, not least the fact that the statement treats people of different sexuality in precisely the same way. It is worth noting that, if the bishops had decided to call the Government’s bluff at this point, and said ‘Look this is a duck!’, in other words, that the legal differences between CPs and marriage were in fact negligible, then they would have needed to withdraw the previous statement, and ruled that same-sex clergy couples could not now be in CPs. No-one appears to have noticed this, and I wonder what the response to that would have been, especially at this stage in the Living in Love and Faith process?


This leads us into the question of the responses and criticism. The first common one was about the timing; why make this statement now, given all that is going on? The simple answer is that the Government changed the law, and this created a gap in the previous statement. Better say something now, before a clergy couple entered a CP and something had to be done retrospectively. Some complained about the closeness to the reporting of the Peter Ball affair—but that is completely spurious, as there is no real connection between establishment protection of a someone who abused young men, and the idea that marriage is the right place for sex. If anything, the latter is an appropriate response to the former.

But, secondly, there were loud howls of protest that a statement was being made whilst the Living in Love and Faith process was underway—howls based on a bizarre misapprehension. LLF has never involved suspending the current doctrine of the Church on marriage and sexuality—after all, weddings are continuing, and the liturgy continues to express that doctrine! In fact, LLF is not even designed to be a process that revises the doctrine of the Church on marriage. It is a process of review and discussion, producing teaching materials, which in principle could open up the possibility of discussion about revision of the doctrine of marriage. In other words, if there were ever to be a change, it would come after the discussion that comes after the discussion of LLF. If that sounds like it might take a long time, that is correct. One useful thing this episode has done is expose how little understanding there is of the process, even amongst those involved—and raises the question of whether such misunderstanding is wilful.

That is just one elements of the level of ignorance that is evidence not just amongst those outside the C of E, but those within it, including clergy and bishops. One retired bishop commented to me on Facebook:

I went to Harvard’s fascinating seminars on homosexuality/marriage etc by RC professors in 1998 when studying in USA. They were clear that the context in which Jesus was speaking was so at odds with how we understand marriage today that it throws little light on the institution (in UK the church’s understanding and practice is altogether different from how it was even just 300 years ago).

He then goes on to explain that the ‘scandal of the incarnation’ is that it is so particular, and thus Jesus offers us a model of how he wrestled with difficult issues in his day, as we wrestle with difficult issues in ours—but his solutions do not provide us with any answers to ours. I find it quite remarkable that a bishop in the Church of England believes that Jesus’ teaching on marriage and sexual ethics has little or nothing to teach us about the form of relationships. It seems to represent the hubris of the modern age—that we are unique, and history (including the historical Jesus) has little to teach us.

And Gavin Drake, Director of Communications at the Anglican Communion, comments:

What surprised me about all this is discovering the sheer number of C of E clergy who don’t know what core C of E doctrine is. What do they teach at theological colleges if clergy are so uninformed about a position the Church has taken for 2,000 years and for which they are called to expound on at every single wedding they preside at?

One member of the LLF team, an academic historian, expressed surprise on Twitter that the statement made reference to the BCP, when Common Worship appeared to alter the doctrine of marriage by changing the order of the ‘goods’ of marriage mentioned in the introduction—apparently oblivious of the status of the BCP in defining the doctrine of the Church, and that all subsequent liturgy is strictly alternative to it and should not be read as changing its teaching.

The third criticism is about the mode of communication and the associated process. Rachel Treweek, bishop of Gloucester, issued and tweeted an apology for the way the statement was communicated:

I cannot deny seeing the content of the statement at the meeting of the House of Bishops in December and in terms of factual content the statement is reiterating that in the light of the recent change in law allowing civil partnerships to be extended to opposite-sex couples, nothing has changed regarding the legal and doctrinal position of the Church of England. There should have been no surprises for anyone in that. However, I am complicit in making wrong assumptions in December and not asking  questions about how this statement was to be used. For me, the publication of the statement in cold isolation from anything else, on a seemingly random day and lacking any pastoral ‘surround’ or mention of the Living in Love and Faith’ process, has been perplexing and upsetting. This is even more so as it has been released just days before the College of Bishops convene once more to focus on ‘Living in Love and Faith’ as we stand in the present looking to both the past and the future.

Three things are worth noting here. First, she is mistaken about the lack of mention of LLF; it comes in paras 10 and 25 of the statement, and explicitly notes that there are different views in the Church. Secondly, she does not dissent from the content, noting there is nothing new here. But thirdly, she refers to process.

This sort of statement would normally arise in the following way. Someone in the legal department will have noted that, with a change in law, a new situation has been created. Then someone in the Mission and Public Affairs team will likely have drafted a statement for consideration by the House of Bishops. Since there is nothing new here, and it looks close to being an administrative detail, this will have come to the HoB Delegation Committee (who, by the way, are not in any way dominated by ‘conservatives’, so the ‘conservative plot’ theory can be ditched). Once the statement has been agreed by them, it will be passed to the House of Bishops as ‘deemed business’, that is, included in paperwork, and only discussed by the full House if someone asks for it to be. I understand that this did in fact happen: Chris Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry, asked for a minor change, which was included. So every diocesan bishop read this, knew about it, and in fact heard it discussed. Given the factors above, I am not sure anyone can be blamed for failing to anticipate the furious reaction—but if there was an omission in thinking about the way it was communicated, that omission sits with the bishops.


And fury there was. I was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live by a fairly hostile Nicky Campbell on Friday, and you can listen here at 2:55. I was also in discussion with Alan Wilson on BBC Radio 4 Sunday, and you can listen here (first item). What I aimed to do was communicate some key messages, and these included:

The Church’s view on sex is far from the strangest thing it believes. We think that a Jewish man 2,000 years ago was raised from the dead and is the saviour of the world! That is a lot stranger!

The Church is not out of touch—but it is out of step. It always has been when a minority in culture.

There is nothing new here; this is the position you will hear at any church wedding.

The problem here was not created by the bishops. They are responding to a problem created by a failure of the Government to distinguish marriage and CPs.

The Church’s teaching is good news by telling people that you don’t have to have sex to life a fulfilled life. It is a much better vision than that of Love Island.

Our bodies matter, and sex is about giving yourself in vulnerability to another. The right place for this is in the strong and secure container of a good, loving marriage.

The Church is not calling people in CPs to celibacy; it is calling them to marriage.

I think I managed to communicate some, but not all of these. A crucial element to note here is that the statement comes in a vacuum of positive comment about the biblical view of sex. I don’t think it is that hard to articulate in our present culture, when the promiscuous and abusive use of sex is so widespread, and I have done so on this blog—but anxiety about response has mostly silenced both national and local church leaders. The fury here is, in part, a reflection of that.

Much of the hostility in the wider media came from resentment at the idea that the Church of England should tell anyone anything about their sex lives. After all, everyone is having sex with everyone else, and if you are not, then you are just not normal. That appears to be the tenor of reactions captured in this piece in the Huffington Post. This was a timely reminder that many in the media and in wider culture are fiercely resentful of anyone appearing to suggest how they should live their lives, and particular in relation to sex.

But the other main area of hostility was from pro-gay campaigners within the Church. It was fascinating to hear Jayne Ozanne begin her earlier interview on Radio 5 Live with the appeal, ‘I, like many of your listeners, will be appalled…’ In other words, the main ally for those arguing for change are people who do not share faith. This article in the Independent was warmly welcomed by people on the ‘Christians for LGBT+ Equality’ FaceBook page—an article asserting (against any evidence) that the Church ‘was obsessed with sex’ written by an atheist who appears delighted at the demise of the Church and Christian belief, who thinks the main reason young people are not going to church is that ‘God does not exist’.

What is remarkable here is the extent to which those claiming to represent (a position in) the Church collude with the lies, misrepresentation, and ignorance. On Radio 4 on Sunday, Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham, repeated the tweet claim of Andrew Graystone that ‘the statement mentions sex 49 times and never mentions love once’. That is either a lie, or at best a gross misrepresentation; the reason the statement uses the word ‘sex’ is in reference to ‘same sex’ and ‘opposite sex’ couples. Yet this claim has been circulated widely by people who have not even read it. What have we come to when a bishop in the Church repeats such shallow deceits?

And the alternative accounts of sex and marriage, such as those by Jeremy Pemberton and Simon Butler, appear to have no connection at all with Christian thinking about sex, the body, desire, sin and salvation, or anything to do with biblical anthropology, but instead offer a humanist (and expressive individualist) account of sex where the role of the Church is simply to marshal existing practices and assumptions as a kind of paternal social guardian. This highlights quite clearly that those arguing for a change on the question of same-sex marriage are not merely asking for existing understandings to be slightly tweaked and extended, but are really concerned for a wholesale revision of Christian sexual ethics. The first casuality of this is celibacy, for which there is simply no space in these approaches. That is quite extraordinary, not merely given the long tradition of celibacy as a respected spiritual tradition in the Christian community, but in the light that Jesus and Paul were both single and celibate! How far we have come from our roots!


So what do we learn from all this? The most obvious thing is that, when it comes to meetings, papers and statements, the devil is in the detail. Any statement that relates to sexuality, however innocuous appearing, needs some very careful presentation. There is no doubt that this should either have been issued as an Ad Clerum rather than a public statement, or had a covering letter exploring the right kinds of pastoral responses to different situations, or both. If our faith communities are going to have porous boundaries, then we are going to need to ensure that families where the parents are cohabiting or in civil partnerships are made welcome, whilst also being encouraged to strengthen their relationship as marriage, for their sake and the sake of their children. But something like 40% of the population is not in a stable relationship, and many of those are celibate, by choice or otherwise. Singleness must be cherished and celebrated, and the idea of salvation by marriage repudiated.

Secondly, it is clear that the Church of England is as deeply divided on these issues as ever, and no amount of consultation or discussion is ever going to resolve that. We have been involved in the formal process including the Shared Conversations for many years now, and the net result is that campaigners for change are even more hostile to the current position of the Church than they ever were—and appear to be willing to do almost anything, including seeing the Church trashed in the media, and broken if necessary, to push this change through.

Thirdly, there are elements in our culture and media which feel a thinly-disguised visceral loathing for the Church. Some people claim that this is because of the Church’s position on sexuality. But that is just the main point at which, in this cultural moment, the counter-cultural challenge of Christian faith is felt most keenly. The same was true in the first century. People don’t hate the Church because they disagree on sex; they disagree on sex because they hate the Church.

I think the response to this statement is actually quite a good wake-up call for the bishops. The kind of hostility that I experienced on Radio 5 is the kind of hostility that ordinary Christian and local church leaders encounter quite often—whenever they dare to speak up. Our debates on sexuality are bringing to a head a widening gap between Christian faith and a post-Christian society. In a strange way, the LLF process is a test of who we see as Lord of the Church: Jesus and his teachings in the gospels; or ‘contemporary social mores’. This is a test which might, after all, lead to some form of disestablishment for the C of E. However it is communicated, the outcome of LLF will generate this same kind of hostility if it does anything like offer a rationale for the Church’s current doctrine.

For that reason, my prayer for the College of Bishops this week is that, whilst they undergo some serious heart-searching about communication, they will see these issues clearly, and hear it as a call to live faithfully and courageously in the often hostile culture in which we find ourselves.


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235 thoughts on “What is going on in the Bishops’ comments on Civil Partnerships?”

  1. That interview on Radio 5 was pretty brutal – thought you kept calm and stuck with it. I’d’ve been asking Nicky Campbell whether or not his wife would consider it OK for him to have a naked cuddle in bed with a female platonic friend…

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  2. ” People don’t hate the Church because they disagree on sex; they disagree on sex because they hate the Church.”

    I think this is a really crucial point. I think it is a mistake to think that if the church adopts the world’s values, that the world will love the church. I think it is also a mistake to think that if the church adopts the world’s values, that the world’s values won’t change. You call Ball a ‘Paedophile’, but his targets are above the Age of Consent (I believe; not necessary by the laws of that time, but after the Tatchell campaigns) and it was considered pretty normal for authority figures to have some sexual gratification or behavior from adolescent girls; after the big Saville claims that was what most of the Yewtree affairs were.

    I may be speaking out of ignorance here as I’m not part of it or researched it too clearly, but it seems as if in the church’s big conversation on this issue, there is an idea that because the Biblical position are so confident in the theology and view that as the most important issue, that there’s a willingness to concede the mental health issue. A willingness to concede that suicides are due to homophobia, rather than confused young people pressure into abominable acts. A lack of willingness to say that even if the Bible were silent on homosexuality it would still be as evil to encourage the sixteen year old boy with feeling of same-sex attraction into sexual relations, as it would the sixteen year-old girl with opposite-sex attraction. I don’t see, for example, a passionate case that the boy with SSA feeling who comes for help (perhaps to ‘pray the gay away’) should feel loved, and not feel as being shamed for being an ‘internalised homophobe’.

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  3. Yours is a much needed voice. Thank you for the context of Civil Partnerships of which I was unaware.

    Your observations about culture and church are clear and concise. Who is recruiting whom? What is the air we breathe?

    The facile philosophical facade of freedom of expressive individualism pervades the West with a subliminal hostility to Christianity, seen as rules and regulations, dos and don’ts, restraint to human flourishing and self reinvention.

    The parameters you seek to set in any discussion on this, bring a much needed ballast even granted that there is not always an opportunity to raise them all in any single, and edited discussion.

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  4. The total and absolute muddle is due to the government and not actually due to the Church. The Church is responding to a completely confused and discredited government position.

    If the government, exactly as it said when they introduced civil partnerships, was to give people rights in places like hospitals the downright obvious complaint that happened was completely predictable – If that was a significant reason for CPs then what about carers and people who completely abandoned by government and often thrown out of the homes purely because the person for whom they cared had died?

    We now have the Bishop of Newcastle in her video presentation linking statements like “prejudice” directly to attitudes and directly to LGBTQI etc making people rightly wonder how such hateful words can be connected by any Bishop of the CofE to faithful traditional Christians when there is nothing whatsoever homophobic about holding traditional faithful Christian views.

    We now have the Bishop of Gloucester thoughtlessly adding to the quagmire.

    Bishops of the CofE, all of them, ought to be pointing out that there is nothing homophobic at all about traditional Christianity – but it is the Bishops of the CofE that are now failing to even teach Christianity.

    In the Christian view we are all created equal and we care for others and welcome others including strangers and foreigners. Christians do, however, expect people to become better (to constantly change for the better).

    Right at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis chapter 1 at verse 27 we are told:
    So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God He created them;
    male and female He created them.

    That fundamental concept, that we are all created in God’s image, is then used throughout the Bible. If we are all created in God’s image then we are all equal and all equally valuable.

    “Strictly come dancing” was on the television before Christmas. In that TV show all the celebrity dancers are amateurs. None of them are dancers at all – They are all people learning to dance. Therefore, none of them expect to be called “dancers” just because they do nothing but dance on that TV show. In reality they are sportsmen and sportswomen, actors, presenters and so on – but not one of them is a dancer. What this shows us is that none of us is actually defined by our ACTS, we are actually defined as a person instead.

    So there is a big and clear difference between the ACTS in our lives and who we are as a person.

    In the Bible the acts are often against God’s wishes, but nowhere does the Bible condemn someone outright for simply being either lesbian or homosexual. Neither do Christians condemn anyone for being lesbian or gay. Instead Christians know that we all have something of the image of God in us and we are all equally important.

    So, NO, Christians are NOT homophobic at all, they should not, and do not, condemn anyone for simply being homosexual.

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    • For the person who asked the Bishop of Newcastle is the Rt Rvd Christine Hardman of Newcastle in England (i.e. not that of Australia)
      The link to LGBTQI is made by the Rt Revd Christine Hardman at 0:57 into the video and stating 6 “evils” is made at 1:11 into the same video.

      The video is at https://youtu.be/FIP0R44y6FI

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      • Clive,
        Ergo, and without a nod to any Biblical, Christian, pastoral principles relating to our Triune God, and human nature, I am categorised as prejudiced, powerfully malign, fearful, hypocrite, ignorant and complicit in silence -not welcome at all. And I like cats and dogs, but bacon sandwiches may put me beyond the pale.
        Can’t see that there is anything pastoral here from these (hypocritically passing-off as ordinary?) experts seeking to exert power and control, which, to me, comes across as patronising, as being spoken down to, with a type of anguished (fearful?) sincerity in the name of inclusion, with little awareness of the way(s) they may be seen as indulging in any of the evils they identify. Anyway, it’s not very progressive or liberal to embrace the language of “evil”. It’s so judgemental, exclusionary, so yesterday.

        Where would I go for pastoral, support, advice as they’ve already made known their position. Where would anyone go for Christian pastoral advice for a besetting sin?

        What all of this continues to do is destabilise the CoE and divest the Bishops (indeed the CoE as a whole) of any apparent authority they hold or seek to hold as they look to bring about trending, designer, graffiti-wall- christianity.

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    • >Nowhere does the Bible condemn someone outright for simply being either lesbian or homosexual. Neither do Christians condemn anyone for being lesbian or gay.<

      To be clear, Christians don't condemn anyone, full stop. It is God who judges, and he does so, in the person of Christ himself, at the resurrection (even if, in a sense, the gospel brings the judgement into the present – John 3:18-19). So our role as Christians is simply to maintain that there will be a judgement at the end of one's life, and every individual needs to inform himself as to the criteria that will be applied. Scripture tells us the criteria. It also tells us on what basis we may be saved from judgement. If anyone thinks that the Church should determine the rules, or at least be prepared to tell the world that God has relaxed them, should consider that any such revision would be a very shaky basis on which to live life. Would it be wise to stake one's all on the hope that the Church, in abandoning Scripture, still spoke with God's authority and approval?

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    • Clive

      Some Christians are undoubtedly homophobic.
      Those who wont recommend gay people for ordination.
      Those who won’t allow gay people any kind of service or leadership role in the church – organist, youth leader, churchwarden, worship leader, home group leader, coffee maker.
      Those who attempt to exorcise gay people from their demons.
      Those who believe in conversion therapy.
      Those who believe gay people are paedophiles.
      Those who enquire into gay people’s sex lives.

      We do not have ‘something’ of the image of God in us; we are made in God’s image.

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      • Penelope I am amazed that you miss the point so much.

        All you are managing to say is that human beings are not perfect – but NO Christianity is NOT homophobic. So Bishops and everyone else complains that there are some human beings in the Church and consequently will not defend Christians, call traditional Christians nasty names and simultaneously call for unity.

        And as for your last sentence you don’t seem to properly understand that being “made in God’s image” doesn’t mean that we are all gods – no we are not, and that is not what it means.

        Even St Paul tells us he constantly tries to do good and constantly does wrong so it is completely wrong to spend time simply slagging off Christians when there is nothing homophobic about traditional Christianity at all unless, of course, you want to do the Pharisaical thing, for which Jesus so frequently strongly condemns Pharisees, of failing to see the Bible as a whole and taking individual verses and making rules out of them and then claiming others follow the very rule that you invented when they don’t do anything of the sort.

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        • Some Christians, acting in the name of Christianity, are homophobic.

          I think you might find that St Athanasius disagrees with you about being divine.

          I would rather you didn’t use Pharisaical, especially as we commemorate the Shoah; it’s an anti-Semitic trope.

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          • I think you might find that St Athanasius disagrees with you about being divine.

            As we’ve established before, having the Romans call you a saint is no indication that you’re not a total whackadoo — indeed quite the reverse in some cases.

          • S
            I think you’ll find that Anglicans too revere Athanasius as the saviour of Nicene Trinitarian orthodoxy. Dissing him isn’t a good look.

      • This is the problem I have with such an attitude – if you think God does not approve of same-sex sexual relations, then obviously you must be homophobic. I do not believe He approves of such relations, and I am gay. I must be homophobic then.

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      • Penelope

        To address the heart of what is wrong:

        You have claimed actions from which you condemn all Christians regardless, yet those same actions are contrary to the holistic Christian view. It is you then being judgmental about all Christians based upon the alleged actions of the few. You don’t even name instances of the claims you make you just condemn Christians instead.

        Your claims about conversion therapy are an example of what is disturbing because the real truth is that anyone can ask for prayer about anything. It is instead judgmental to pronounce prayer at someone’s request as conversion therapy.

        In you there is no forgiveness ever. I rather prefer Christianity’s forgiveness of us in which we can constantly retry. Even St Paul in Romans at chapter 7 at verses 21 to 25 in which even St Paul concludes “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

        Clearly in this modern secularism there is no forgiveness ever but at least in Christianity we can all receive forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ and constantly try to become a better person.

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        • Clive

          I forgive you and all who comment unkindly on here. I’m all for the Church being an inn; it’s you who wants to make it a cottage.

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          • it’s you who wants to make it a cottage

            I thought cottaging was exactly the sort of thing the people you object to were trying to keep out.

      • Penelope, it looks like your system is binary (people are either A homosexual-affirming or B homophobic, a word whose meaning is unclear as has oft been analysed). But the real world is, as you agree, not binary. Your system will fail if it without cause omits option C: namely,not agreeing that there is a gay/homosexual inborn essence at all. C by and large goes with the science, so why don’t the other 2?

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        • Christopher

          Science has neither proved not disproved that homosexuality is innate. Indeed, as I have often observed before, to invoke science at all is to pathologise homosexuality. We do not pathologise heterosexuality.
          If science were to prove the aetiology of homosexuality, what then? Science cannot explain the morality of sexuality.
          Personally, I care little whether being gay, or bi is innate, due to nurture, or freely chosen. Morality lies in what we do with our natures and our choices.
          And you are quite right, sexuality is not binary.

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  5. Thank you for your continuing defence of our historic understandings in connection with last Thursday’s HoB document.

    Firstly, by concentrating on Andrew Graystone’s figures, I feel we miss the main concern – there is no mention of ‘love’ in this reiteration of CoE position on marriage and other committed relationships. It is certainly in the BCP vows, but even more in the scriptures, but love is apparently not important here.

    Secondly, this ‘Pastoral Letter’ contains not one expression of pastoral care. No communication of love, care, advice or where to go if this letter affects you. This letter is not pastoral but just an unfeeling repetition of what has been said before. That may need repeating, but if it isn’t pastoral, let alone loving, it is arguably not something we should be doing.

    Thirdly, I am confused by your comments about the primacy – my word – of the BCP in our historic creeds and formularies. Surely our primacy must be our Lord, his words and Word. We have plenty to do in understanding Jesus in his world, let alone letting the 16century and it’s relationship to now!

    Praying for all involved sand affected, especially the Bishops this week.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comments John. Because of the way it was just released into the public sphere without explanation, I think you, like many others, have misunderstood what it is.

      It is not a ‘pastoral letter’.

      It is a ‘pastoral statement’ from the bishops as chief pastors to clergy who pastor their flocks to set out the parameters in which that pastoral care takes places.

      And it aims to answer one single question: are CPs the same as marriage? It is a legal and doctrinal statement, not a ‘pastoral’ one in the sense that most people understand the term. In Synod we have Pastoral Measures—but the word ‘measure’ means it is a legal document.

      It does not aim to set out the Church’s understanding of marriage: that is done in the liturgy.

      Of course in theology the teaching of Jesus has primacy—and that is why the C of E believes marriage is between one man and one woman, since that is what Jesus teaches. But as an institution the C of E in its present form only goes back to the 16th C, and as an institution is defined by the formularies.

      I hope that all helps.

      Reply
  6. Since Welby has knowingly appointed two persons, a man and a woman, in same-sex relationships to become bishops; and since the Rev Cherry Vann from Manchester, in a same-sex partnership, has become the Bishop of Monmouth – then people can be forgiven for thinking that the C of E is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. The C of E should NEVER have permitted the strange new invention of civil partnerships for its clergy. The Bible is very clear that Christian leaders must live lives that are above reproach and suspicion; and allowing priests and now bishops to be in same-sex partnerships is entirely against the guidance and teaching of the Pastoral Epistles. This action is just a holding measure to try and get through Lambeth 2020 without all of Africa and Asia boycotting.

    Reply
    • Indeed. I just dont see how the church can on the one hand seem to disapprove of especially clergy in gay relationships, but then appoint such persons to high positions in the church! Confusion and hypocrisy.

      Reply
  7. It is very clear that not all of the Bishops agree with the statement put out in their name. That is what is so disturbing about all of this.
    The newest Bishop, Olivia Graham, has had the courage to make this clear :

    “As @cofe ‘s newest bishop (though not in HoB) I was deeply saddened by the unpastoral tone of the HoB statement on civil partnerships. Cold. Legalistic. Loveless. Astonishing timing – mid LLF discussions. Please know that Bishops are not of a mind on this #sorry ☹️“

    We know that bishops are not of a mind on this and so the statement is not ever going to be what it says it is.

    Reply
    • Andrew – she doesn’t say there that she doesn’t agree with it, but that she is saddened by its tone and astonished at its timing. Bishops are committed to upholding the teaching of the church so whether they ‘agree’ with it is immaterial. The tone could possibly have been improved but it was written in the same way all statements like this are written. The timing is in response to the introduction of opposite sex civil partnerships, which needed addressing; LLF is irrelevant to this, though it was of course mentioned. The statement is therefore exactly what it says it is. It is pastoral in the sense of addressing a new pastoral situation that has arisen, not in the sense of being warm and fluffy ie pastoral is a description of its subject matter not its tone or style.

      Reply
        • It’s not very clear, but yes that may well be her saying she doesn’t agree. But as I say, that is immaterial, as she and all CofE bishops are committed to uphold the church’s current teaching. So the statement is exactly what it says it is.

          Reply
          • It’s now entirely clear that not all of the bishops uphold this statement. It is dead in the water.

            Wait, you mean the Church of England can’t make any statement unless the bishops agree with it unanimously?

          • Oh I’m sure that is possible S. I am simply saying it is now absolutely clear that not all of the Bishops support this statement and that has been made public so it is not likely to be of much use to anyone.

          • I am simply saying it is now absolutely clear that not all of the Bishops support this statement and that has been made public so it is not likely to be of much use to anyone.

            Okay, so if the Church of England makes any statement and then it becomes clear that not all the bishops* support it, that statement is dead?

            So if the Church of England made a statement authorising same-sex marriages in churches, and then it became clear not all the bishops agreed, that statement would be dead?

            Statements only stand, in other words, you reckon, if they are unanimously agreed by the bishops?

            * I find the grammatically incorrect capital here amusing given your childish refusal to capitalise the Bible.

          • S: it depends on particular context. Several bishops have made it quite clear that they can not support this statement. Therefore as a universal statement it is dead in the water. It can’t be practically applied.

            You are quite correct. I used a capital b and should not have done so.
            As I’ve also said before, I don’t use a capital L for library.

          • Several bishops have made it quite clear that they can not support this statement. Therefore as a universal statement it is dead in the water. It can’t be practically applied.

            Right. So in the case of a statement authorising churches to hold same-sex marriage services, if several bishops made it clear they couldn’t support the statement then you think it would also be dead in the water? You require unanimity from the bishops before you will accept such a statement?

            Good to know, so we can hold you to that if it ever becomes relevant.

            As I’ve also said before, I don’t use a capital L for library.

            The Bible, though, is not merely a library but the Library — a proper noun, and so correctly written with a capital letter. Your refusal to write it that way is merely petulant and childish.

          • Oh no. The case you mention would always have a conscience clause, just as we do for the ordination of women. It will be the only practical way. We know that not all of the bishops would ever agree with such a statement.

          • The kind of thing you are talking about would Probably be a measure and would require 2/3 majority in each house in synod. Therefore not unanimous be definition.

            Okay, so we’ve established that the Church of England does not require unanimity to make a decision. Using a statement is clearly lower impact than making a decision, so if unanimity is not required to make a decision, logically using a statement cannot require unanimity.

            Therefore the fact that this statement was not agreed unanimously by the bishops means nothing. Unanimity was not required, so lack of unanimity does not render the statement invalid or ‘dead in the water’.

        • The case you mention would always have a conscience clause, just as we do for the ordination of women. It will be the only practical way. We know that not all of the bishops would ever agree with such a statement.

          I said a statement authorising churches to perform same-sex marriage services, not requiring them to do so in the way they are currently required to perform marriage services for anyone who qualifies, so I was implicitly assuming a conscience clause.

          Nevertheless. If such a statement is made, including the conscience clause, and it comes out that support among the bishops was not unanimous (even with the clause), you would agree that statement would be dead in the water?

          I mean you have to, to be consistent. I If not having unanimous support among the bishops makes this statement dead, then not having unanimous support by the bishops must make any statement dead, right? There can’t be different rules for statements you like and statements you don’t like. If unanimity is required for one statement to not be dead, then unanimity is required for all statements; and if any statements can be accepted despite not being unanimous, then the fact this statement is not unanimous can’t be used as an argument that it is dead in the water.

          Reply
          • The kind of thing you are talking about would Probably be a measure and would require 2/3 majority in each house in synod. Therefore not unanimous be definition.

      • I think the timing and the tone are the issue here.

        Time because it was issued – while the CofE is supposed to be examining the issues through a process that is still in preparation, the Bishops choose to restate something, that the process is to examine.

        Tone – well that was explained very well by the Bishop of Gloucester.

        The statement chose to extend the traditional teaching to mixed sex civil partnerships, without – as I see it – much theological explanation. The bible does not really define what constitutes a marriage – it says remarkably little on the subject. It accepts polygamy without condemnation. How is a mixed sex civil partnership theologically (rather than legally) different to a normal marriage?

        Reply
        • Time because it was issued – while the CofE is supposed to be examining the issues through a process that is still in preparation, the Bishops choose to restate something, that the process is to examine.

          I thought the article made it clear that the process was not set up to examine the traditional teaching. Is that incorrect?

          The statement chose to extend the traditional teaching to mixed sex civil partnerships, without – as I see it – much theological explanation.

          Surely nothing was ‘extended’— if anything quite the reverse. The exact boundaries of traditional teaching were precisely maintained. The whole problem is that some might have hoped that the definition of marriage would be extended to include civil partnerships, and that did not happen.

          How is a mixed sex civil partnership theologically (rather than legally) different to a normal marriage?

          Because logically if a mixed-sex civil partnership is equivalent to a mixed-sex marriage, then a same-sex civil partnership must be equivalent to a same-sex marriage, yes?

          Reply
        • It is a straightforward argument that a same sex civil partnership is not a marriage because it not between a man and a woman. I am not trying to argue this point here. It was the explicit statement about mixed sex civil partnerships that I was referring to.

          The Bible does not say much about what you have to say or do to become married. It does not require some legal ceremony or even a religious one. Indeed the church does not require a religious ceremony as it recognises a civil marriage.

          It seems to me that, although the secular law says a mixed-sex civil partnership is not a marriage, from an outside view it looks like a marriage and has all the hallmarks of a marriage – commitment between a man and a woman. How, from a theological point of view is it any different to a civil marriage?

          On that point alone I think the House of Bishops deserved to give the matter much more consideration that it did to the statement.

          Reply
          • It is a straightforward argument that a same sex civil partnership is not a marriage because it not between a man and a woman.

            Ah, so a same-sex marriage is not a marriage because it is not between a man and a woman, then?

          • I chose my words carefully. It is a cogent argument. Though I would point out that some will disagree and I do not think it is helpful for me to say one is right and the other is wrong.

            And yes of course the same argument would apply to a same sex marriage.

  8. How can either of the Archbishops call for UNITY when slagging off traditional Christians with hateful dishonest labels that include calling them prejudiced etc?

    Reply
  9. I think one of the reasons that the world is so antagonistic to the CofE is that it is the ‘state church’ and Christianity is the ‘state religion’ so there is a sense that they feel they have a stake in it not least as it is represented in Government in the House of Lords, in the parish system and so on.

    So when Christian doctrine coincides with social mores then there is little dissension. When it does not, then people react adversely as they feel something they have some degree of ownership of, should not be telling them what to do. The hypocrisy of this is plain to see of course, as Britain ceased being a Christian country in all but name a long time ago, and most people in Britain do not attend church and could not give a fig for what the C of E thinks.

    If in the future, the link between the church and state is broken (and this might come about after the death of Queen Elizabeth II), then I would imagine that CoE might feel more free to assert the truth of the faith since the world will no longer feel they have any legal obligation to recognize it or give it any validity.

    Reply
    • Thanks Chris. I think you make a very valid point about establishment. The only question I would have is whether some aspects of sexual relationships have really anything to do with the truth of the faith. I think that’s very debatable. The once held view that sex is only appropriate within marriage is not a universally held view within the Christian faith. Hence the debate.

      Reply
      • Well, you signed the letter of protest, so we know where you’re coming from. But the fact that some members of some churches hold sinful and mistaken views about Christian morality and purity proves nothing at all. In the fourth century a lot of bishops were Arians. Does that mean Arianism is a permitted belief for a faithful Christian leader?
        You’re not thinking straight, Andrew.

        Reply
        • Brian is right. All one has to do to claim to have a ‘view’ is to state an ideology or an ideal scenario (that allows us to indulge in the way we most want to), and voila. No supporting argument needed. Forgive us, therefore, for not being impressed.

          Your continuing use of the word ‘view’ below suggests to me you have not grasped this point. A ‘view’ can be anything from a wishlist to an extensively researched and ruthlessly logical position. The word ‘view’ is therefore meaningless (which is bad enough) and also (which is worse) highly convenient for the unscrupulous. Alas, it has been spotted being smuggled through customs, for we are not dupes that were born yesterday.

          Reply
          • I think the word view is used clearly enough. But for even greater clarity the Cambridge dictionary parses it like this:

            an opinion, belief, or idea, or a way of thinking about something:

          • A very helpful response from the Bishops in the Lichfield diocese:

            “We note that the statement recognises that there will be a range of views conscientiously held within the Church of England, and as bishops we commit ourselves to encouraging within the diocese honest, thoughtful and sensitive conversations as we respect and care for one another and seek together to discern God’s will.“

            As they note, the statement refers to a range of “views”

          • Of course a view is an opinion. An opinion is worth no more than a view per se. Both can be anything from fully researched to ideological. If you propose to take these 2 (and everything in between) as equal in worth, no-one will even begin to buy that. Yet that is your presupposition in referring so oftenh to the mere (and inevitable) fact that different ‘views’ and/or ‘opinions’ are held. You seem to think that this fact is both interesting (it is in fact inevitable) and has authority (why?).

          • Why doesn’t it have authority? There are two views permitted in the CofE about the ordination of women and the five principles indicate that both views have authority. The bishops are coming to realise that the same will be true in matters of human sexuality.

          • Is this Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley? I wasn’t aware that one’s integrity was undermined by being appointed a Bishop.
            The Society priests I know all seem to be flourishing too.

          • Philip North withdrew. He wasn’t blocked. And a review found that no one had bothered to ask the diocese where he had been nominated to whether they would accept a bishop who would not ordain a woman. Once it became clear they wouldn’t, he withdrew.
            No one had properly applied the five principles in the first place. Those principles ensure that both views are valid within the CofE.

          • no one had bothered to ask the diocese where he had been nominated to whether they would accept a bishop who would not ordain a woman. Once it became clear they wouldn’t, he withdrew.
            No one had properly applied the five principles in the first place. Those principles ensure that both views are valid within the CofE

            How can both views be valid if a diocese is allowed to refuse to accept a candidate based on which of the two views they hold?

          • They didn’t refuse. They expressed an opinion. Philip thought they had been consulted. Once he discovered they hadn’t been, Philip then withdrew.

          • So, Andrew, can you confirm that you think that someone merely claiming they hold a view, any view whatsoever, with no backing evidence whatsoever, has authority?

            Does it have the same authority as the position of a lifetime expert?

          • They didn’t refuse. They expressed an opinion.

            And that wasn’t a de facto rejection how? You’re saying that if the candidate had not withdrawn, he would still have been appointed?

          • Christopher: who has ever said that all views are of equal weight? The bishops in Lichfield talk about a range of views. That’s very clear. It’s also clear that not all views can be equal isn’t it?

          • “You’re saying that if the candidate had not withdrawn, he would still have been appointed?“ Of course he would. By what mechanism could he not have been?

          • Dear Clive
            Philip North withdrew honourably when he discovered that clergy in the diocese of Sheffield had not been consulted and realised that some female clergy in Sheffield were uncomfortable that he could not recognise their sacramental ministry.

        • Brian
          I signed the letter too, and could really do without your caling my views sinful and mistaken.
          If I respect your views, though I may disagree with them, please respect mine.
          My conscience is under God, as I presume yours is.

          Reply
    • Is that what we see in similar countries without an established church, such as Wales even? Nor do we see any lack of anger in ROI when the Roman church dares to express a view contrary to the mores. Same as in the USA. And in Britain, there was a lot of criticism from the usual suspects when it was discovered the Long-Bailey’s Roman faith.

      I don’t think when we look outside CoE and England we see much of a difference between establishment and not.

      Reply
      • See also the outrage that greeted the 2018 statement from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, which is not only not established but which most of those who went apoplectic about had probably never even heard of until that moment.

        The only difference the C of E being established makes is that it means people are more likely to notice these statements as they get picked up by the press more readily. It makes not a jot of difference to how the usual suspects react if they do happen to notice.

        Reply
          • It might, but if anyone is hoping that once disestablishment happens people who like to rage about these things will cut the C of E more slack, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.

          • Yes – if the CofE succeeds in resisting revision (a big assumption right now) it does seem likely it will hasten disestablishment, unless there is a turnaround in the progressive tide.

          • As for a turnaround, they could start by admitting their ongoing dishonesty in parading ‘progressive’ as a remotely coherent concept (together with their falsehood and rudeness in dubbing everyone else, professors included, as ‘regressive’ by implication).

          • Quite a number of Professors take a progressive view.
            All these terms, like orthodox, are relative and partial and provisional.

          • Quite a number of Professors take a progressive view.

            The problem with saying that is that it implies that those professors who do not take such a view are ‘regressive’, doesn’t it?

          • Proves my point. You treat all views as the same. A child’s view of the theory of relativity is of the same value as Einstein’s.

            That perspective is not only something that no-one agrees with, but it ranks towards the extreme end of the things that no-one could possibly agree with.

          • Christopher you are making a claim that “ ‘Progressive’ and ‘view’ are 2 of the most questionable words in existence.”. That claim is nowhere supported by evidence, by logic, or by wide experience. It is simply an unsupported claim. It is a subjective opinion. It will always be so.

          • Yes, but I analyse why it is so – especially in What Are You Teaching The Children?

            Once again, you view an analysed position as no better than an unanalysed one?

            Your position seems to boil down to ‘It is sufficient simply to have a ”view” [of any kind, and without any analysis of whether ‘view’ is a vague word]’. Can I have some takers for agreeing with you that this is an ok position to take?

          • That Daily Mail kind of analysis is hardly scientific I’m afraid. It’s your opinion. The idea that the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are questionable is just nonsense.

          • Oh and not just questionable you say but ‘ 2 of the most questionable words in existence.’ There are perhaps a quarter of a million words in the English language, and you single out ‘View’ and ‘progressive’ as ‘2 of the most questionable words in existence.’ As one of my teenage children used to say ‘he’s having a laugh!’

          • The idea that the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are questionable is just nonsense.

            That’s just one view. My view is that it’s not nonsense. Is my view on this just as valid as yours, or are some views entitled to respect and some not?

          • They are words. Provide any evidence that dictionary defined words are ‘questionable’. What does that even mean?
            And Who ever said all views were equal? Certainly not me.

          • Provide any evidence that dictionary defined words are ‘questionable’

            Oh, you’re playing stupid. Got it.

            Sorry, but this new device makes it too awkward to go all around the houses with your disingenuousness.

          • No, I’m playing accurate. What is the evidence that any dictionary defined word is questionable? And what does the statement even mean?

          • What is the evidence that any dictionary defined word is questionable? And what does the statement even mean?

            Like I said, you’re going to have to take your fake innocence and shove it. I can’t play along any more.

            Just know that you are not fooling anyone.

          • So, since all views are not equal, the mere claim to hold ‘a view’ carries no weight.

            Secondly, what do you think it is that makes some views more worth a hearing than others?

          • Christopher: let me put to you the question that needs clarifying first.
            What is the evidence that any dictionary defined word is questionable? And what does the statement even mean?

          • Andrew, the questions you leave unanswered are scattered as the sand of the sea.

            Coherent and incoherent concepts alike appear in the dictionary, since it is known that a dictionary is a record of *usage* only.

            Unless people never *use* incoherent concepts, ever, anyone, then incoherent concepts will appear in the dictionary.

            I analyse why certain concepts are incoherent in WATTTC (whose connection with the Daily Mail escapes me, but it cannot refer to quantity of references and footnotes), so to take the matter forward one would need to engage those arguments.

          • Christopher: interestingly, I find your inability to answer questions very noticeable as well. But let’s leave that just now. Maybe the better thing in future is simply not to engage with each other in this way.

            You made a claim that no one else here, apart from one anonymous poster who could be the same person as you for all we know, has agreed with. That person offers no support for the claim either.

            You claim that “‘Progressive’ and ‘view’ are 2 of the most questionable words in existence.“.

            Now I don’t understand at all what you mean by that grand claim and the only justification you can make for letting it stand is that you explain it in a book published by an organisation not known for its impartiality.

            I’ve asked others, and looked in reference books, and tried google but nowhere can I find any support for this claim of yours. Perhaps you could send me a link to the independent peer reviewed research that supports your extraordinary claim. Then we can begin to engage about it rather better than is possible at the moment. Maybe someone else here can explain both what ‘the most questionable words in existence’ actually means and why the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are the top two words in this peculiar characteristic. I look forward to reading it.

          • Do you understand that (1) it is obvious that not every word has to be coherent, and it is logically possible that at least some words may be incoherent; (2) dictionaries are merely records of usage? Yes/No.

          • Andrew – which of the following points do you agree with? You need only to say ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’, and if ‘disagree’, say why.

            Incoherencies of ‘progressive’:

            (1) It can simply (but clearly inaccurately) be used to mean ‘does not agree with me, or with my wants’
            [or with the principle that my wants are not conclusions but merely wants, or that I am lumping together conclusions and wants which are quite different from each other’];

            (2) What one person thinks is progress another person does not agree to be progress. There are many times where it is subjective whether something is progress or not.

            (3) Many intelligent people are not so-called progressive on a given issue. Are they regressive? Is that accurate? Is that rude?

            (4) Is it regressive or progressive to remain the same (in the EU), or is it more progressive to change and develop (come out of the EU)? Are the former group stick in the muds?

            (5) History does not go in straight lines (the teleological view that speaks of the right side of history). If ‘it’ has a grand narrative, that needs to be argued for rather than assumed. After all, history (all the events that have ever been, in toto) is a quite massively complex entity. Spengler and Toynbee who see a single shape to history have been criticised and are not mainstream.

            As for view,

            (A) do you agree or disagree that ‘view’ and ‘opinion’ are used or misused to cover everything from researched conclusion to wishlist?

            (B) if you agree with (A), do you also therefore agree that such a range of meaning leads to things being impossibly vague – so that the word ‘view’ could never be used without further clarification?

            thanks

            Chris.

          • Christopher: I don’t think words of themselves are necessarily coherent or incoherent. It is the way that they are used that makes the sentences they are contained within coherent or incoherent.
            Dictionaries vary a great deal in the information they give, so I think you are making something of a generalisation.

            But none of this really refers to my questions about your statement that “‘Progressive’ and ‘view’ are 2 of the most questionable words in existence.“. I am not surprised because you tend not to answer questions, as I have said before.

          • Christopher: asking me to agree or disagree with statements doesn’t work. It depends upon context and most of the statements you make aren’t open to binary answers.

            And of course you avoid answering my prior questions again. Let me restate for ease:

            I’ve asked others, and looked in reference books, and tried google but nowhere can I find any support for this claim of yours. Perhaps you could send me a link to the independent peer reviewed research that supports your extraordinary claim. Then we can begin to engage about it rather better than is possible at the moment. Maybe someone else here can explain both what ‘the most questionable words in existence’ actually means and why the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are the top two words in this peculiar characteristic. I look forward to reading it.

            Until you answer we aren’t really going to get anywhere with this subject.

          • Maybe someone else here can explain both what ‘the most questionable words in existence’ actually means and why the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are the top two words in this peculiar characteristic.

            Here is a good description of what it means for words to be ‘questionable’ (ie, to be duplicitously and disingenuously used to equivocate between two meanings, one of which is trivial and obvious and the other of which is highly contentious, to allow the user to claim the contentious meaning and then when challenged retreat back to defending the trivial meaning):

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/

            The article uses different terminology (‘motte and bailey’ words rather than ‘questionable’) but the idea is the same.

          • Those aren’t questionable words though are they? They are concepts – quite a different thing.

            Could you explain please exactly where words end and concepts begin?

            See, two can play these stupid dishonest games.

          • “Could you explain please exactly where words end and concepts begin?”

            Read the article. Then it’s obvious.
            It certainly does not say that view and progressive are two of the most questionable words in existence.

          • Read the article. Then it’s obvious

            It certainly is.

            Give it up. You’re fooling no one and you’re not half so clever as you think you are.

          • S: your anonymity makes it easier for you to make personal comments and I have no idea why you want to resort to that approach. I can only guess it’s because you have nothing else to contribute. But making hurtful comments about another is simply bullying. Please don’t do it?

          • I have no idea why you want to resort to that approach.

            If you don’t want it to be pointed out that you are arguing in bad faith (as usual), then don’t do it.

          • S: I think you will find that it was the bishops who spoke of a range of views. And it was Will who used the word progressive. So it might be better to aim your concern about those two words in the right places.

          • Oh yes I responded. Maybe you missed it, let me copy and paste:

            Christopher: asking me to agree or disagree with statements doesn’t work. It depends upon context and most of the statements you make aren’t open to binary answers.

            There.
            Now are you able to answer my questions?

          • asking me to agree or disagree with statements doesn’t work

            Yes, no one who reads your words can have failed to notice that you argue in bad faith, equivocate over terms, affect ignorance when it suits you, apply double standards, and most especially that you will never ever give a straight answer to a straight question.

          • I missed the slightest response to any one of 1,2,3,4,5,A,B.

            I missed it because it was not there.

            The debate is on the arguments; it is not waged by stepping outside the debate.

          • Christopher:

            I’m not stepping outside of the debate at all. It seems to be you who are doing that.

            You made a claim and I’ve asked you to provide evidence for it. I’ve asked others, and looked in reference books, and tried google but nowhere can I find any support for this claim of yours. Perhaps you could send me a link to the independent peer reviewed research that supports your extraordinary claim. Then we can begin to engage about it rather better than is possible at the moment.

            I have asked you about this category called ‘the most questionable words in existence’ and what that actually means. And why the words ‘view’ and ‘progressive’ are the top two words in this peculiar characteristic. I look forward to reading your answers. (But I’m not holding my breath )

          • You made a claim and I’ve asked you to provide evidence for it.

            When someone makes a claim you don’t agree with, you ask them to provide evidence for it.

            When you make a claim — invariably without evidence — and someone else questions it, you ask them to provide evidence for their questioning.

            Other people have to provide evidence. You never do.

            Your double standards are tiresome.

          • Yes, S, that is Andrew’s modus operandi in a nutshell. Whereas I listed my actual arguments for questioning the coherence of these 2 words/concepts in WATTTC, and repeated those points here.

          • Christopher: I’ve asked you to provide independent evidence to substantiate your extraordinary claim. Nowhere have you provided any. It is simply your opinion. As usual.

          • Christopher: I’ve asked you to provide independent evidence to substantiate your extraordinary claim. Nowhere have you provided any. It is simply your opinion. I would be delighted to read some independent verification that proved otherwise.

    • I thank God for Ian Paul and Bishop Olivia Graham and thank God that those who hold differing views on the ordination of women and those who hold differing views about human sexuality can co-exist in the Anglican Communion.

      Reply
      • Here we go again, the nonsense of the relative views, which becomes an absolute: heterodox is the new orthodox, but who decides, who’s view carries the most weight, prevails, that is when when words become substance, why and how when philosphy becomes applied.
        Lines are always drawn in the sand. And when a house is built on shape shifting sands, it will not stand against the tides of the (all at) sea of (lack of) faith.
        Only the house of God built on the Rock that is Christ Jesus will stand.
        The quotation from the BP of Gloucester, is a case in point.
        And as for discerning the will of God, clearly no credence is given to searching the scriptures.

        Reply
        • Correction,
          Should read, Bps of Lichfield diocese, cited by Andrew- full -Monty -Python- Life of Brian-Lumberjack theology- Godsall , not Bp of Gloucester.

          Reply
      • I thank God that this won’t be the case for much longer, Andrew. Fresh and salty water do not flow from the same source.

        The absence at the next Lambeth Conference of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda etc will be airbrushed by Canterbury as a minor misfortune but, in reality, it’s over for the Anglican Communion.

        Reply
  10. Hi Paul. Many thanks for the helpful blog.
    I’m an ordinand and keen to get college folk to hear the R5 interview – but unfortunately I can’t find it at 2.55….Is that the right time.?
    Many thanks
    Ed

    Reply
  11. I do not wish to sound pessimistic about this, but Anglicanism (and Roman Catholicism) to a very great extent is enmeshed in the history of Britain and its monarchy in a way that say non-conformist churches are not. There is still a common perception that Anglicanism has a moral voice that should be listened to however faintly, and still has a certain legitimacy in affairs of state and public life. If Baptists say, make similar kinds of comments then it does not seem to they afforded the same degree of public opprobrium or attention.

    If the church was to deestablish then no, there would not be a sudden decrease in critical and invective comment. However I think in time, it would lessen and fall to a level similar to that of any other counter-cultural organisation or individual that makes these kinds of criticisms (think secular critics of trangenderism), and would not seem particularly unique in that respect. It would be regarded I think by most, as simply irrelevant.

    In media parlance they wouldn’t get any ‘puff’.

    The real crisis for the Cof E is when the Queen who is in all respects of the word seems to have a devoted and genuine christian faith is succeeded by a heir with a somewhat heterodox approach and who may well seek to loosen the ties of the monarchy with Christianity and may well be supportive of diseestablishment. What would the Anglican landscape start to look like then?

    I do not know if the Bishops have given any real thought to this or have any kind of strategy. My guess is (and I may be wrong) is that Anglicanism will fragment ( I think it may already be starting to do this) and that which survives, are those churches that can support themselves with large congregations with an unequivocal message and they may be both liberal or conservative with different communions. But then I might be wrong..

    God does move in mysterious ways does he not?

    Reply
  12. Classy and courageous, Ian, thanks. Unlike politicians you don’t duck issues. I liked the point someone made that a positive unintended consequence of the statement was that it removed the charge of homophobia against the church in respect of its previous statements on Civil Partnerships.

    Reply
  13. Ian
    A general response to this blog.

    It is just a year since the Bishops issued some Pastoral Guidelines on the welcome of transgender people in church. At the time you co-authored an open letter to them raising strong concerns and urging them to ‘revise, postpone or withdraw’ what they had written. It was signed by several thousand people. You were in no doubt these signatories expressed informed protest and were important concerns that should be taken seriously – ‘‘because the detailed theological questions we raise merit close examination’. The bishops were urged to listen. You also expressed a concern to the Bishops that responses to the letter had been ‘highly emotive in tone, and had failed to engage with the points that had actually been made’. ‘Respectful public dialogue’ was urged.

    Another year, another pastoral statement. Another significant response. Another open letter is written, attracting over 3000 signatories in a matter of days – arguably from a wider constituency and alongside many other protesting voices including bishops themselves.

    But here in your analysis of the events of the last week and their background (with some helpful history, thank you) you make no mention of this letter or petition at all.
    You refer instead to the ‘loud howls of protest’ that followed the statement (is that it?). But these are ‘howls based on a bizarre misapprehension’. You write of ‘levels of ignorance’ … ‘not just amongst those outside the C of E, but those within it, including clergy and bishops’. You speak variously of ‘lies, misrepresentation, and ignorance’ and of ‘gross misrepresentation’. I find this tone highly emotive, extremely dismissive, failing to engage with the points actually made and falling short of respectful dialogue.

    So I’m afraid I do not find my concerns or theological convictions respectfully acknowledged or engaged with here at all.
    Those who wish to engage with the actual concerns could, as a starting place, try Mandy Ford’s and Simon Butler’s recent posts on the viamedia blog site. Simon Butler and Chris Newlands, as two of the most senior clergy in the Cof E, have also written a searching public letter to the Archbishops which is uncomfortable but important reading.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment David. I think you are right: it is worth comparing the two.

      First, let’s compare process. The Trans liturgy was smuggled through, in a short time-frame, using some odd tactics. At the LitComm, it was not circulated; the papers were immediately collected; and the chair ruled out the possibility of real change. At HoB it came as deemed business, and was not discussed.

      By contrast, the PS was first (I now understand) raised in May, when the HoB decided it should just be a revision of the 2005 statement. There was no dissent about the content at any stage; in HoB in December, though it was deemed business, it was in fact discussed and amended. So there is a rather large difference.

      Let’s consider the letter. The letter about the Trans guidance was measured and objective, and highlighted major issues of theological content. By contrast, this letter is highly emotive and expressed anger and disappointment. What is curious is that the tone of both statements were very similar, but when people disliked the content of the PS, they complained about the tone. Odd.

      Thirdly, let’s consider the status in relation to LLF. There is no doubt from anyone that the Trans guidance was an innovation at just the time when these things are being discussed. By contrast, the PS was a simple restatement of current teaching, and almost identical to the 2005 statement.

      Fourthly, let’s consider the tactics of support. The Trans letter sought support from those inside the Church concerned about the unwarranted adoption of an ideology quite at odds with orthodox Christian theology. The tactics of protest in relation to the PS have sought to garner energy from a wide range of voices, many of whom are deeply antagonistic to the Christian faith. You might have seen on the ‘Christians for LGBT Equality’ FB page, rejoicing in the publication of an article mocking the Church’s position here—by a rabid atheist, who loves to see the Church mocked, and young people not attending ‘because of course God does not exist’.

      So the comparison is really enlightening—thanks for drawing attention to this point.

      PS I have responded to Mandy’s article as below. Simon’s article appears to completely accept ‘contemporary mores’ at the right way to think about sex, and doesn’t even hint that Christian teaching might actually challenge any of that.

      ‘Mandy, thanks for this thoughtful response. There were clearly real problems with the presentation of this statement, which was in fact a legal and technical note, in exactly the same genre as the 2005 one on CPs (and from which it copies over whole paragraphs).

      I think, though, you are mistaken in saying that the statement ‘reduces’ marriage to procreative sex. It does no such thing, because it does not claim to be an exposition of marriage in any sense. It is answering one single question: are CPs the same as marriage? The bishops actually offer a clear and careful exposition of what the Government has done in creating CPs alongside civil marriage: they have differentiated it in two important aspects (compulsory vows, and assumption of conjugal relationship) and in fact I know someone who is taking advantage of that (we spoke at the weekend) to enter a CP with a platonic friend.

      If there is confusion, it is with the Government and not the bishops.

      And if the HoB had decided that CPs were, to all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from marriage, then the only thing they could have done to respect the LLF process is prohibit clergy like yourself from entering CPs. Would you have wanted that?’

      I might add: David, would *you* have wanted that?

      Reply
      • Ian. Thanks for a very prompt response. I don’t think this gets us any further. I continue to experience you framing the issues on your own terms. But it is a debate I continue to pursue in there contexts as I know you do.

        To claim that the voices of protest here are actively recruiting any and everyone without regard to faith or principle is simply dreadful. You think I am? So much for respectful dialogue.

        ‘So the comparison is really enlightening—thanks for drawing attention to this point.’

        Your comparison, not mine. And if you are not mocking me at this point, having reframed the debate once again – well I have misunderstood you. Let’s leave it. We come from different places but I always read you with care. But in this place and time I don’t feel heard.

        Reply
        • David, I am not mocking you. I am giving you an honest response. It was you who made the comparison, not me, and until you made your comment, I hadn’t thought of doing so.

          And I am not claiming that *all* the voices of protest and doing this recruiting; I didn’t say that. What I did point out is that the main spokespeople, with whom I interacted, had no hesitation in both recruiting and fuelling such voices. Where did the quotation ‘The church has becoming a laughing stock’ come from? Jayne Ozanne, no less. Where the quotation ‘The church is obsessed with sex’? Again, Jayne and Alan Wilson.

          It was also interesting to read Jeremy Pemberton’s comments. I couldn’t find a single reflecting on sexuality there from a biblical or theological viewpoint; he appears to take a completely humanist and utilitarian view.

          And how am I expected to respond to a bishop who, on live radio, actually lies about what the statement says in order to press his point home? Are you not in the least bit shocked at that? Why not?

          I am very happy for the debate to be framed in any way you choose–but here I was responding to things you had helpfully raised. I do hope you can recognise the stark different between the two sets of issues and the responses to them.

          Reply
    • I must have started typing my comment below before your comment appeared. In a strange way I agree with you, and echo the concern that attributing ignorance to people commenting from within the church is unhelpful.

      With that said, I have read both the articles you mention and while I valued Mandy Ford’s questions and contributions (even if I disagree with some of them), I found Simon Butler’s contribution laughable; it being essentially a lengthy justification of the idea that because people aren’t listening we should say something different, or that because people are ignoring standards we should lower them.

      It is quite one thing to observe that the gap between what people actually do and the position of the church grows ever wider, it is quite another to suggest that the appropriate Christian response should be to move the church’s position closer to the worlds….

      Reply
      • I have ‘attributed ignorance’ to people commenting within the church: I have offered evidence of it. Many of the comments were made in complete ignorance. Another example today: ‘I cannot see where the conclusion of this statement is coming from’. Er, it’s coming from a long tradition of Anglican exposition of dominical teaching. If someone is not aware of that, I can’t think of another term other than ‘ignorant’. Can you?

        Reply
        • Yes, I withdraw my comment. I think I was simply misreading you if I’m honest, and muddling the comments you were making about the atheistic source at Independent with the comments elsewhere….

          Ignorance is the right word for someone not knowing (or purporting not to know) something that it would be integral for their role position to know.

          Reply
  14. I am sure that Jayne Ozanne and other critics of the statement know all too well that this doesn’t change anything from a legal or doctrinal perspective, but this is beside the point. The precise content of the pastoral statement doesn’t mean a thing when what it’s release actually presents is the opportunity to give ‘air time’ to their case, and put the cart before the horse in the LLF process.

    That’s not ignorance, it’s a knowing and intelligent manipulation and I think you should be harsher in calling it out. Andrew Wilson in particular knew what he was doing when he said what he did; he is too clever to not have.

    Reply
      • Yes, I did. It may have been a pithy soundbite, but it conceals the truth and enables a misunderstanding. Normally he is a little more honourable than that, and the argument he makes in his book is a lot more compelling than the argument he presents when he speaks.

        It is a shame, because it makes me lose respect for him.

        Reply
          • I’ll give that some context.

            I came to this debate more recent than most, and as a non-Anglican evangelical I found myself lacking in detailed knowledge of the ‘revisionist’ material that frequently got discussed. I think I’d read Matthew Vines, Sex God, and a few other bits of op-ed on the internet, but that was about it, so one of the things engagement with this blog motivated me to do was to read a little more widely.

            Of the books I’ve read, nothing has yet convinced me to fundamentally rework my position, but it has been challenged and aspects of my response to the debate have changed. ‘More Perfect Union’ was one of those, so I feel it’s only fair.

            Was it convincing? No. But I though it was at least honest with itself about what it was trying to do.

  15. I do think one thing wrong with the statement was the assertion that civil partnerships are ‘friendships’. Regardless of whether you think they ought to become marriages, they are not friendships are they? They are for the most part commuted romantic and sexual attachments- that is not what friendship means (last time I checked!) This is refusing to call a spade a spade- which I think is legitimately perceived as unnecessarily insulting.

    Reply
    • James. Actually I know of several examples of cp’s that are precisely friendship contracts between people who wish to share their lives but without any romantic or sexual involvement. It is a gift to them that gives them both financial and legal security and fulfilment in all kinds of ways. I am glad for them.

      Reply
        • Indeed Ian,
          You beat me to it, now I’m home.
          I see nothing contentious in the way you have “framed” it. I don’t see your article as “framing”. It is clear and matter of fact.
          David Runcorn does indeed accept that matter of fact “framework” you describe, by implication in his rejoinder to James.
          Anything in addition is pressure group politics, disingenuous, either not understanding the differentiation (CP v marriage and its history), or ignorance, or deliberately mischief making, stirring the pot, no matter how it is “reframed”.

          Reply
          • It is no one thing actually is it. That much is self evident. Arguing it should be one thing won’t change the reality out there. So a Christian pastoral response need realism as well as wisdom. This will need time to work out ….

          • It is no one thing actually is it. That much is self evident.

            It is. What is less evident, but surely of paramount importance, is whether the confusion is the result of simple muddy thinking, out of deliberate and mendacious duplicity and disingenuousness.

        • Actually Ian, there’s the rub for me. I’ve been pondering why I feel so uncomfortable about this statement, and it’s not the antipathy to same-sex relationships because that’s entirely expected (though I do wish that you wouldn’t caricature affirmative views as capitulating to contemporary mores; same-sex marriage is deeply conservative institution).

          Anyway, back to the point. Since the Church (of England) accepts civil marriage I can see no reason for making a theological distinction between civil marriage and CPs. I am aware that there are differences, legal and otherwise, but no theological distinction. Both can include sexual intimacy, both can be asexual. The HoB can pretend that ss CPs are sexless; there is no evidence that mixed sex CPs are framed as continent. Rather the reverse. Since neither vows nor consummation makes a marriage, I really can see no theological distinction.

          Two changes I would like to see. All couples who wish to marry should first have a civil marriage, followed by a religious ceremony if desired.

          Consummation should be removed from marital legislation, especially since the Church allows the marriage of elderly, infertile and disabled couples.

          Reply
          • Since the Church (of England) accepts civil marriage I can see no reason for making a theological distinction between civil marriage and CPs

            A very good point: accepting civil marriages was clearly an error.

          • Thanks for the comments Penny—and I appreciate your recognition that the affirmation of marriage as other sex was no surprise.

            ‘I can see no reason for making a theological distinction between civil marriage and CPs.’. The only reason for making this theological distinction is because the Government have made a practical one—and quite deliberately it appears.

            No-one is pretending that anything is sexless. As the statement points out, CPs have no necessary expectation of being conjugal, and as David points out, some enter CPs as platonic friends. That is not the case either for civil or for church marriage. And theologically, marriages cannot be sexless—at least that is not the intention. When I did seminars on marriage, one person came up afterwards and said ‘we have never had sex’ and I responded ‘that is not marriage as God intended’.

            Consummation and procreation are primary purposes of marriage, alongside the other things mentioned in the liturgy. But they are not essential for individual marriages.

            My best analogy is this: a car needs to have wheels, else it isn’t a car. But some cars have wheels, but they don’t work and it doesn’t go anywhere. It is still a car…but it is not doing what cars are designed to do

          • Ian
            I agree. Though there are Josephite marriages, as you have found. And they are entirely valid theologically. I believe that both Church and State shoul keep out of people’s (consensual) sexual intimacies. It’s prurient and I believe we should leave sexual intimacy to people’s consciences under God.
            Nor do I think ‘consummation’ is a helpful requirement.
            I think extending CPs to mixed srx couples was a mistake, though I sympathise with the couples who campaigned for them because they appear less patriarchal. It does seem rather mad, though, to have an institution which offers fewer rights than marriage and odd that privileged mixed sex couples should opt for the second rate gays’ institution.
            I know some gay couples who gave CPs which they have not converted into marriage, but I might agree that it would have been more consistent for the HoB to ban clergy from entering CPs. At least that would have been consistent with their take on Issues. Now they have tied themselves in knots and this latest statement (even if it does reiterate church teaching) has made them look even more foolish. It also has a couple of incoherencies I have mentioned elsewhere.
            Far better to engage in a grown up debate about marriage and sexuality and to acknowledge those lobbying for changes in doctrine and the understanding of marriage.

          • I believe that both Church and State shoul keep out of people’s (consensual) sexual intimacies

            Why put ‘consensual’ in there? If you think that the church should keep out of people’s consensual sexual sins, why should it not keep out of non-consensual sexual sins too?

          • “(though I do wish that you wouldn’t caricature affirmative views as capitulating to contemporary mores; same-sex marriage is deeply conservative institution)”.

            Could you explain to us your reasons for thinking that SSM is a deeply conservative institution please, Penelope? Do you mean that a conservative government introduced it?

          • Chris

            I hope this answer arrives at the right place!
            I think that in the 21st century western, mainly white, context, marriage is a conservative institution. That is, conserving traditional mores and morals.
            I was young in the seventies. I don’t think anyone would have expected mixed sex marriage to survive, let alone foreseen a campaign for same-sex marriage. Slightly hyperbolic, but the future was not envisaged as a capitulation to heteropatriarchal norms!

          • Penelope, thans you for your reply. I see your point but I wouldn’t have thought that SSM would be regarded as a ‘traditional’ social more – rather a recent innovation introduced by a conservative government and at variance with traditional Christian understandings of marriage,

          • I think that in the 21st century western, mainly white, context, marriage is a conservative institution. That is, conserving traditional mores and morals.

            It’s not, though, is it? Because in the 21st century, western, context, the meaning of marriage has radically changed from what it was even a couple of generations ago. What was good and admirable about marriage — the sense of duty, the commitment, the constancy — has all been abandoned.

            In the 21st century marriage is seen as being about personal fulfilment, about being the route to happiness. And if it should stop making you happy, it is seen as perfectly okay to pack it in and try again with someone else.

            Marriage is no longer about duty. It’s entirely about what you get out of it. And if you don’t get anything out of it any more? Walk away. No-fault, quick-fire divorce on demand is just around the corner.

            So no, 21st century marriage is not a conservative institution. It’s a radically different institution, embodying a worldview of irresponsible hedonism that would have been unimaginable a just hundred and twenty years ago.

            It happens to share the same name as an institution that was conservative. But it is not the same thing, not at all.

            The free-lovers and the deadbeats of the seventies won after all. But they didn’t do it by demolishing marriage: they did it by corrupting marriage from the inside out, like a cancer, until the shell of the thing remains but what is inside is simply rot and disease.

          • Hello Chris

            yes SSM is an innovation and it does redefine the nature of marriage as various innovations have done over thousands of years. But it is a reframing of a conservative institution which gay people seem to desire, maybe because it is the best way of expressing commitment, fidelity, mutuality and generativity. For Christian gay couples, marriage is also sacramental. Old-fashioned virtues if you like, and I’m a little surprised that SSM has proved so popular.

          • S

            I think you have a very vivid imagination. My marriage, like most of those I know, is framed by constancy and duty.
            It is, however, an equal marriage. My husband is no longer allowed to rape me and we own everything in common.
            Perhaps you would prefer a more unequal union. Permit me to feel sorry for your wife.

          • My marriage, like most of those I know, is framed by constancy and duty

            You don’t know anyone who has divorced and remarried? How unusual the circles you move in must be for these times!

            More to the point, though, I don’t think anyone who claims that one-night stands can be moral has a led to stand on when it comes to ‘constancy and duty’; or how someone who excuses fornication can claim to respect marriage.

      • Which is EXACTLY WHY CPs should be open to siblings who share a home and the care of each other. If a CP has nothing to do with sex or “romantic involvement” and is about providing legal support for the practical care of another, there can be no good reason to ban siblings or other close relatives from entering one.
        Do you agree with this, David?

        Reply
    • James – It is the GOVERNMENT not the House of Bishops that created CP and view it as a form of friendship. It is the GOVERNMENT that is refusing to call “a spade, a spade” not the House of Bishops so your complaints do not belong with the CofE but with the UK Government.

      Reply
      • James – It is the GOVERNMENT not the House of Bishops that created CP and view it as a form of friendship

        Yeah but when they did it they doing an impression of Eric Idle, weren’t they? ‘Friendship, eh, nudge nudge, good friends, yeah, very good friends, know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge?’

        Reply
      • Civil partnerships were never intended as a form of friendship – although sexual relationships are also friendships of course. They were created as a separate water fountain for the gays, providing almost the same rights as civil marriage, and with consanguinity a bar.
        CPs would probably have died out once same-sex marriage became legal, had the straights not campaigned for entry to this second rate institution.

        Reply
        • They were and they weren’t. The Government at the time spoke with forked tongue.

          None of us can say ‘CPs are simply X’ because they are inconsistent. That’s the problem.

          They will only be abolished in a few years’ time once legislation changes marriage to look just like CPs.

          Reply
    • I have not heard anything here to make me think that Government’s definition of a civil partnership is of any relevance to how the church should regard them.

      Can I suggest that it might be better to ask “what are the characteristics that, from a Biblical view define a marriage?” Then see whether any civil partnerships hold those characteristics. I suspect at the very least you would find some mixed sex civil partnerships do.

      Reply
    • Do we know? Do they need to be? But I was simply pointing out they exist. The neglect of human friendship is one of the less helpful casualties of the debates.

      Reply
      • Friendship (one of God’s most precious gifts) has been so downgraded and rarefied that children are essentially being taught that if they have a friend of the same gender (like – they do) this could mean that they are gay. That is the direct implication of their set primary school texts.

        Reply
        • @ Christopher Shell

          “…children are essentially being taught that if they have a friend of the same gender (like – they do) this could mean that they are gay. That is the direct implication of their set primary school texts.”

          Really? An actual corroborative instance or two would be helpful.

          Reply
          • I too would like some evidence for your claim Christopher (that doesn’t simply tell us that you give evidence in the chapter of a book called etc etc)

          • I already gave it above. The incoherences of these 2 concepts which I listed in the book are also listed by me in a comment above.

          • Please tell us a documented instance – times and place – where children have been taught this directly. Please provide a link to the text book where this is directly and explicitly stated.

          • But they are not told such things in so many words. They will (having the minds of children) often infer them on the 1000s of occasions when they are told that same-sex ”relationships” are simply about something called ‘love’. After all, it is incontestable they love their best friend – they all do. And it is also incontestable that their best friend is same-sex. So what is the difference? Nothing – within the way that things are presented to them. They are not told of a single difference (though in fact differences exist.) But then – following the logic through – they themselves are gay: QED. How else could their best friend be same sex and how could they love them without being?

            This is the logic of books like ‘My Princess Boy’, ‘Mommy, Mama and Me’, ‘And Tango Makes Three’. There is on youtube a good page by page reading of these through the eyes of a child – which many have watched but I cannot at present locate it.

          • Thank you Penny. This happens over and over again. What are simply opinions are passed on as if they were facts without any evidence.

          • Every one of us has evidence. We just need to think whether our 6 year old selves, unfamiliar with sexual concepts, would or would not see a yawning chasm between ‘these 2 adult men love each other’ and ‘these 2 schoolchildren love each other’.

          • Christopher
            I don’t know. Is it your view that you would see a yawning chasm between adult relationships and childhood friendships?

        • @ Christopher Shell

          Well, let’s go along with that rather fanciful speculation. A child loves their best friend of the same sex, and there’s nothing wrong at all with that. If they think that being gay just means loving one’s best friend of the same sex, then there’s no harm done, is there? – unless, of course, they’ve been fed with pernicious trash about it being wrong to be gay.

          Reply
          • So a leap from 2% to 90% of the populace being ‘gay’ is in accord with nature? No it is not.

            A second point too. Given those figures, several of the class will be people whom it would have not occurred to to be ‘gay’ who are now being effectively asked to classify themselves as ‘gay’. Or else classify themselves as people who have best friends of the same gender, which is exactly what teacher has just said ‘gay’ is.

            A third point. That ‘several’ amounts to about 9 in 10 of the children.

            I thought you were not in favour of leading people away from whatever is their natural or inborn ‘orientation’. Or is there instead a one-way-traffic anti-equality situation?

          • Christopher

            Why is teaching children that being gay, or that some families have sames-sex parents leading them away from their natural orientation? is being gay so tempting? I must confess I have never found it so. But then, I have never believed that burning Protestants will institute true religion in this country.

          • If a child has been led to think that being gay means simply having a best friend of the same sex whom one loves, and therefore classifies himself/herself as gay IN THAT SENSE, then what of it? Even from your own point of view, there is nothing wrong with being “gay” in that sense. And if “about 9 in 10 of the children” in the class are in the same situation, and therefore also classify themselves as gay IN THAT SENSE, there is nothing wrong with that either. There will be a problem only if the children have been told that it’s “wrong” to be gay – something which, of course, they shouldn’t be told.

            And if, to take a figure at random for the sake of argument, 90% of the whole population are gay IN THAT SAME SENSE, there is nothing wrong with that either, is there? You can hardly be seriously suggesting that, if 90% of people have friends of the same sex whom they love, that is somehow not “in accord with nature”.

            No, I certainly am not in favour of trying to lead people away from their natural orientation (even if I believed it possible to do so), but I don’t see what relevance that has to the present discussion. It’s hardly likely to be a live issue when dealing with young children, in any case. By the way, I am not defending books like those which you have mentioned. I don’t think that they’re likely to serve any useful purpose.

      • I think you are pushing this point too far- Ok some CPs are friendships and other kinds of convenient arrangement. But they were envisaged to be used to allow gay partners to formalise their relationships.

        It cannot be right therefore for the HB statement to refer to them condescendingly as friendships. This serves no useful purpose to defenders of a traditional view of marriage, but it is untrue and does insult a load of people. I think it would be gracious of folk on here to accept that this aspect of the statement was a mistake.

        Reply
        • The HoB statement doesn’t say they *are* friendships. It says they *might* be. And that is true.

          And the fact that you think reference to ‘friendship’ is condescending illustrates the problem they highlight.

          Reply
          • Para 35 does, to me, can easily be read as suggesting that CPs are really friendships. This echoes previous comments from senior Bishops that gay relationships are friendships. It’s injudicious at best.

            Of course I don’t have a problem with affirming Christian friendship- let the record state I think Christin friendship is to be championed and celebrated. Just not in a way that unnecessarily demeans other peoples plartnerships.

  16. What a pity that inconvenient facts are dispensable for a large number of campaigners within the Church of England.

    But there is one very simple fact at the centre of this issue. The Church of England’s teaching on marriage has not been revised. And because it has not been revised it must remain exactly as it was before either Civil Partnerships were enacted (2004) and then homosexual “marriage” was enacted (2013). And because that is so, the House of Bishops’ pastoral statement (which was issued to clarify the position subsequent to the 2019 legislation allowing heterosexual couples to enter into Civil Partnerships) would always have to maintain that unrevised position.

    However, it also has to be pointed out that in 2004 the bishops decided on a policy of ‘constructive naivety’ when they gave their support to the creation of Civil Partnerships. Essentially they pretended not to notice that Civil Partnerships were understood in the public mind to be marriage for gay people. (If it were not that, why were the legal benefits of Civil Partnerships not made available to any 2 individuals of any situation?) And that pretence conveniently opened the door for hitherto closet homosexual clergy to live with their same sex partners on the ‘understanding’ that they were celibate. It was nod and a wink stuff; it was dishonest; and it was wrong.

    So one has to smile quietly at the present discomfort of the bishops, not because their 2020 statement is incorrect but because it draws the ire of the very people who will have cheered the 2004 dishonesty. Given that 2020 is to be LLF year, one might have expected those who are keen on revision at least to be patient for a few more months and then see what happens. But perhaps the strain of maintaining a phoney peace was too much to bear. At least we have been forewarned (as if that were necessary) of what lies ahead…

    Reply
    • ‘So one has to smile quietly at the present discomfort of the bishops, not because their 2020 statement is incorrect but because it draws the ire of the very people who will have cheered the 2004 dishonesty.’

      I think that is true. I am still amazed that no-one has noticed the only viable alternative: to prohibit retrospectively ‘celibate’ CPs for same-sex clergy couples.

      I just wonder what the reaction to that would have been…!

      Reply
  17. Civil partnerships were never intended as a form of friendship – although sexual relationships are also friendships of course. They were created as a separate water fountain for the gays, providing almost the same rights as civil marriage, and with consanguinity a bar.
    CPs would probably have died out once same-sex marriage became legal, had the straights not campaigned for entry to this second rate institution.

    Reply
    • They were and they weren’t. The Government at the time spoke with forked tongue.

      None of us can say ‘CPs are simply X’ because they are inconsistent. That’s the problem.

      They will only be abolished in a few years’ time once legislation changes marriage to look just like CPs.

      And of course if you were right that would mean a ban on CPs of any kind for clergy. Would you want that?

      Reply
      • As a matter of interest Ian, do you know if anyone is checking up on whether bishops are asking clergy in CPs whether they are celibate or not? Or do you think some are ignoring their own guidance?

        Reply
        • Yes: from what I can tell, most are, but some refuse to. Christopher Chessun in Southwark will ask ‘Do you understand the Church’s teaching?’ but refuses to ask ‘And will you commit to living by it?’

          Reply
          • The best answer to the Bishop’s ‘are you having sex with your partner?’ was, ‘no, Bishop, I’m having coffee with you.’

          • The best answer to the Bishop’s ‘are you having sex with your partner?’ was, ‘no, Bishop, I’m having coffee with you.’

            To which the response presumably was, ‘Ha ha, very funny, I hope the jokes in your sermons are as good. Now answer the question.’

          • So long as you are witty you can do what you like?

            I *thought* that that was becoming the hierarchy of priorities. But how to justify it?

  18. Christopher,
    Haven’t you realised that liberal witticisms are self congratulatory delicious, but are rancid to their delicate olfactory organs, sniffily donning “nose gays,” when they become the butt of reciprocal humour with feigned and huffy hurt. It’s so disrespectful. Two way humour is not allowed, not helpful.

    Reply
    • Well, the witticisms show they cannot step up to the debate anyway, but it is interesting that they coalesce among liberals in particular. Liberalism is of course intrinciscally a slippery position, and can sometimes be ”defined” by what it is not. The word has many quite different meanings, which does not help.

      The position seems to be a wishful one, that truth can take a back seat and be trumped by wit. I have many many times noted also that liberals seem to think that if something makes one a laughing stock, it is *therefore* to be avoided (Jesus wouldn’t have got very far, nor would any great reformers). They even warn one ‘If you do that, people will laugh at you’ (you don’t say), thus not only thinking you were born yesterday but also thinking that you care more about image than about truth (*they* certainly seem to). But this is just an offshoot of the main point that to be a liberal is to be a cultural conformist (conformism being a ‘conservative’ trait; but liberal conformism is to fashions of 5 minutes or so ago).

      Reply
  19. Tracing back to the CofE’s confused and misguided responses to the invention of CP’s reminds me of how this same church struggled when reliable and affordable contraception first become available in our society a hundred years ago. The Church Assembly and the then all powerful Mother’s Union fought tooth and nail against it. Having children was a sacred duty. Contraception was surely just a license for immorality. Successive Lambeth conferences from 1908 onwards condemned it. Not until the 1958 Lambeth conference do we find anything approaching acceptance when it decreed it was on the ‘conscience’ of parents to decide the number of children they would have (and ‘on your conscience’ is surely not the same as exercising your God given choice and responsibility). We search in vain for the pastoral and ethical imagination that could recognise birth control as something to welcome, even celebrate as a gift for human relating and families. In those largely male led debates there was a total inability to anticipate how dramatically birth control would increase the general health and life expectancy of women, or how the ability to manage family size would improve the welfare of children and financial pressures on poor families. It also gave women both the choice and opportunity, the first time, to enter the world of work and career beyond home and child raising. But all you find in the records of church debates at that time was an endless anxiety about sexual behaviour and promiscuity. And, of course, where does the Bible anywhere support family planning? It all sounds rather familiar.

    Reply
        • David,
          It would be helpful to your case if you could identify, understand, explain and deal with the fallacies in your comment in seeking familiarities with the present cp and marriage.
          You do not seek to discuss but to advocate and to do so it carries more persuasive weight to know and address the fallacies, dissimilarities, weaknesses in your own position, case. What are they?
          Look forward to reading a full response, (well, maybe) if you want to carry on until the cows come home or, more hopefully, the prodigal returns.

          Reply
          • Geoff. You have yet to tell me what you actually disagree with in what I have written. I may be completely misguided but I have not knowingly posted what you call fallacious arguments here. So it is for you to enlighten me and point out the flaws in what I am exploring. Until you do I have nothing to respond to. I do not even know if you have actually understood what I was trying to say. I may not have been clear. But I am seeking engagement. That is why I turn up here. Yes I advocate a certain view. So do you. That is the basis for discussion. I have no problem with that. It seems you do?

          • Geoff. You flatter and patronise me in equal measure. Well I don’t think there is anything lacking in your intelligence either. This was clear enough and inviting discussion. That’s what these threads are for. We don’t have to agree. You don’t have to engage at all. But I’m not playing games.

          • Yes please – I took would like to hear from Geoff what he believes the fallacies in David’s piece are?

          • Hi Andrew. Why don’t we meet for coffee and do this homework together? As I understand we can only come back here when we believe something Geoff agrees with. The good news is he says it’s easy if you try!

  20. Thanks for the posting Ian. I’d been puzzling about the reason for the HoB statement.

    It’s concerning (but not surprising) that the pressure is to accommodate the world in its alienation to God not to be God’s prophet to it. I’d not realised that the *real* Gospel is a popularity contest.

    Reply
    • Ian. Does God not ever speak to the church though the world? Might the church’s resistance to birth control be an example?

      Reply
      • Does God not ever speak to the church though the world?

        If you think that the world is closer to God than the Church, why even be part of the Church? What even is the point of the Church — which I thought was established to bring light to the world — if it the world has the light and the Church is in darkness?

        Surely the logical conclusion of your view that the Church needs to be educated in the ways of God by the world is that we should simply dissolve the Church, as the world would be better off without it.

        Reply
        • I didn’t state a view. I asked a question. What do you think? But if the world wasn’t close to its God – creator and sustainer – it would not exist of course.

          Reply
          • But if the world wasn’t close to its God – creator and sustainer – it would not exist of course.

            No, that doesn’t follow. The world exists for as long as God chooses to sustain it. That has nothing to do with how close it is to Him. God could choose to continue sustaining a world that had totally turned its back on Him and was very very far from the way He wants it to be — and indeed that is the exact situation we find ourselves in.

      • God might indeed speak to the church through the “world” though I’d never call it prophetic in a biblical sense. Christians surely have to listen and examine their beliefs in the light of it. I’ve done that personally over a couple of issues.

        But the emphasis I’m hearing is one which gives authority to the world on a “they all believe this so should the church”. On that basis the church might as well shut up entirely about Jesus. If we’re not prepared to be unpopular then how are we to speak truth to power or populist belief. I still hold a belief in revelation and the unique indwelling of the Church by God…. doesn’t that at least suggest a difference with the “world” might be a Godly presumption?

        At heart all I’m saying is that numbers people in agreement isn’t the same as them being correct.

        Reply
        • I agree Ian. Though we evangelicals can appeal to number when it suits us. So would you agree we should be wary of claiming a certain teaching must be right because the vast majority of the church through the majority of history has always taught it?

          Reply
          • So would you agree we should be wary of claiming a certain teaching must be right because the vast majority of the church through the majority of history has always taught it?

            Entirely different situation, that, isn’t it? The Church — being in the world but not of the world — is supposed to be dedicated to seeking God, albeit imperfectly, in order to represent Him to the world, so if most of the Church throughout history has come to a certain conclusion that’s definitely evidence, not conclusive but at least prima facie, that that has to be taken seriously.

            The world, on the other hand, is corrupted in every part and fundamentally anti-God. So the fact the majority of the world believes something is, far from being evidence that it might be correct, in fact quite a good clue that we should be highly suspicious of it.

          • Yes, I would agree David.

            My wariness would be about putting aside historic interpretations. After all “who am I in the Grand vista of biblical scholarship? And Isn’t it easy to (hidden underneath everything else) want to take the easy route or the popular one rather than to pay a personal cost?

          • Ian. Thank you for responding to my comments. A brief reply. I do not think that those questioning historic readings of the bible are always taking the ‘easy route’. It is a familiar accusation to be honest. Some may be. But in the evangelical world, for example, such questioning has often been costly and isolating. Another easy route is to stay with an unquestioning, traditional reading of the text rather than do the hard work of wrestling afresh with how it speaks into the questions and challenges of today’s world. One of the great conservative theologians of our modern era – I Howard Marshall – wrote a book some years ago called ‘Beyond the Bible – moving from scripture to theology’ (it is hard to believe an evangelical publisher would choose a title like that today!). He was exploring exactly this issue of how we relate the bible text and context to our own. He argued that living, obedient faith always requires the willingness to go beyond the Bible text. He admits there are risks involved in this. But he is clear which risk he thinks is the greater. It is that of being misled by only reading the Bible in a first century time warp (and earlier) and refusing to go beyond the letter of Scripture. ‘We must be aware of the danger of failing to understand what God is saying to his people today and muzzling his voice. Scripture itself constrains us to the task of on-going theological development’ (2004:78). Thank again.

    • How do you distinguish between ‘God speaking to the church through the world’ and ‘things happening in the world, some of which by the law of averages will sometimes be on God’s side’. This idea of God speaking through world events strikes me as running the danger of being simultaneously pompous and gnostic.

      Reply
      • This idea of God speaking through world events strikes me as running the danger of being simultaneously pompous and gnostic.

        Seems to be skirting panentheism to me.

        Did we ever get a definitive statement from that bishop explaining why his view expressed in that article aboutThe church finding God in the world wasn’t panentheism and therefore heretical?

        Reply
      • Whilst wary of taking too much note of the world-in-rebellion against God… Is it unhelpful to try to hear what’s said and be prompted to ask “As a Christian, have I got this right?”

        Reply
    • It is good to note that the Archbishops have now apologised about the publication of this statement and one diocesan has had the courage to say that others did not want to publish such a statement but were voted down. It demonstrates the clear differences of view about this matter within the House of Bishops, which was never really in doubt.

      Reply
      • I had this discussion in the comments on Archbishop Cranmer earlier today.

        To me at least it is unclear precisely what is being apologised for. I read it initially as an apology for the timing of the statement, and not (as others have) an apology for the content.

        It does not help that I think the statement itself is ambigious, and allows itself to be read either way, but I think the context and nature of the complaints coupled with the fact that this statement explicitly mentions the LLF process indicates the former.

        Mat

        Reply
    • Andrew (Godsall),
      In case you missed it, could I suggest you look up to find David (Runcorn’s) invitation to meet him to do this homework together. Apparently, I’ve misjudged the degree of difficulty. David seeks a joint effort collaboration.

      Reply

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