What will the new General Synod look like?


Peter Ould writes: The General Synod Elections 2021 are over and the results are in. Sadly we didn’t get David Dimbleby or Huw Edwards bringing us an exit poll and wall to wall coverage, but there are still plenty of things for psephologists to get their teeth into.

I have spent the last week analysing the election results as they have come in for the Houses of Clergy and Laity. As new members of Synod have been announced, I’ve been able to categorise them on the basis of their stance on same-sex blessings, not least because many of the candidates were on one of two official slates from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and Inclusive Church (IC). By looking at these lists, by reading election addresses, watching hustings videos or looking at voting records, it is possible very accurately to assess who sits in which camp and what the balance of power is in the new Synod (at least in the House of Clergy and Laity).

So here it is—Peter’s preliminary analysis of the elections, broken down into a number of categories.

Turnout

Almost uniformly, turnout is up in both Houses, particularly amongst the Clergy. This is obviously good news for the democratic process, but it’s worth reflecting why it happened. The primary reason was that two large campaigning organisations did their best to run an effective “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) campaign, motivated by the one major issue that divided them. Yes, other campaigning groups also tried to stand on particular platforms, not least the “Save the Parish” movement, but they were on the whole swept aside by the two main groups.

For over half a century the Church of England has tried to present Synod elections as being devoid of party politics, but with the 2021 election that pretence must be consigned to the dustbin. The majority of elected members are going to associate with the two largest groupings in Synod (Evangelical Group on General Synod, ‘EGGS’, and the Human Sexuality Group) which mirror pretty much the two pressure groups, CEEC and IC, who recommended slates of candidates. Turnout was up simply because electors knew exactly where their candidates stood on the key issue of the day, knew who they agreed with and didn’t, and were advised by the “party” they agreed with how to cast their vote.

Like it or not, Synod is now dominated by two main parties, much in the same way our Westminster politics is. One of the things that General Synod should consider is whether in 2026, candidates should be able to provide an official allegiance or party loyalty in order to further educate the electorate where they stand. They can still have a personal address, but knowing that particular candidates officially belong to a certain grouping would make it even clearer what they were (and weren’t voting for). And wouldn’t it be fun if next time round I could even provide you with a swingometer to show you how voting patterns have changed since 2021?

Results

And so to the results. As I wrote above, I was able to analyse the loyalties of elected members, which gives us the following results. Others have estimated the numbers slightly differently, but I have tried to be as cautious as possible in ascribing members to particular views. The labels Orthodox and Revisionist refer to the member’s position on blessing same-sex unions.

House of Clergy

Orthodox – 79    (40%)
Revisionist – 83  (42%)
Unknown – 34    (17%)

House of Laity

Orthodox – 73    (37%)
Revisionist – 69  (35%)
Unknown – 55    (28%)

There are some obvious observations to be made. First, party loyalty is stronger in the House of Clergy than the House of Laity. This is probably due to a much stronger whipping operation amongst the clergy than the laity (which I will discuss below).

Secondly, orthodox laity actually form a larger group than revisionist laity, and given that the electorate knew quite explicity what they were voting for, this puts to bed finally the misconception constantly spun by those wanting a change in the church’s teaching that the average person in the pews supports their position. In reality, the representatives of those in the pews were more likely to back someone who took a traditional stance than someone who wanted to revise the church’s teaching.

Third, and probably most importantly, both revisionists and the orthodox have enough votes to form a blocking minority, a third or more of seats that prevents a super-majority being reached which is necessary for any doctrinal or liturgical change. What this means in practice is that official liturgies for same-sex blessings, or changes to the Canons to alter the understanding of marriage, simply aren’t going to get through (and equally, a hardening of liturgy or doctrine isn’t going to succeed either). It has been pointed out by a number of people that the House of Bishops could get around this by offering liturgies for experimentation, but whilst technically they can do this, would they really think that was appropriate where almost half the Synod was opposed?

The results mean that the chances of any substantial liberal drift are very much reduced, and that the outcome of the current Living in Love and Faith process is not a foregone conclusion. In particular orthodox bishops should look at the level of conservative presence in the rest of Synod and realise that the narrative of inevitable compromise is not a necessary outcome. We can stand firm.

Get Out the Vote

One thing that psephologists are fascinated by is not just the headline results but the fine detail of voting patterns. The General Synod uses a form of Single Transferable Vote where electors can rank candidates in preference order so that the full value of their vote is used until the end of the count. Candidates who don’t have enough votes are eliminated and those who voted for them have their next votes considered, whilst at the other end candidates who meet the quota to be elected have their surplus redistributed. This means that the preferences of individual voters can have enormous impact, especially at later stages of the count.

And it’s here where there is evidence that some of the lobby groups have managed to guide the voting in some dioceses in a really impressive way. The reason for the high number of orthodox clergy seats is chiefly down to the fact that their candidates succeeded in keeping the vote within their theological constituency, so that when a candidate was eliminated or had their surplus redistributed, the votes stayed within other orthodox candidates. The result was that time and time again the orthodox picked up the last seat in a diocese when arguably, based on first preference votes, it should have gone the other way.

Conversely there are also some examples of very poor vote managament. In one diocese, candidates for one particular lobby group scored 50% of first preference votes, but only got 25% of the seats (1 in 4), mainly because they put up far too many candidates (so the vote was spread out too narrowly and lots of candidates were eliminated far too early on) and then had massive vote leakage (so time and time again in this constituency electors voted 1 for a candidate from Side A and then 2 for one from Side B).

The lesson of this is clear: where the lobby groups understand how the STV system works, put up the right number of candidates (for example, there really is no point in having 5 candidates for 4 seats when you can reasonably only hope to win 2 or 3 of them) and can help their electors understand that voting a certain way really does make a difference, they can boost their chances of success dramatically. We know from places in the UK where STV has been common practice for decades that electors who are told by their party (and listen to them) exactly how to vote can really swing a vote. Part of the massive rise in Sinn Fein’s support in Northern Ireland where STV has been used in local elections for many years, was their brilliant voter education. Sinn Fein would famously print different leaflets for almost every street, telling voters exactly how to use all of their preferences in order to maximise transfers and gain extra seats.

The evidence from the returns I’ve examined so far show that clergy were more likely to vote tactically in this way, and orthodox clergy were more likely to do so than revisionist clergy. When push came to shove, orthodox clergy (and laity to a lesser extent) understood exactly how serious this election was and that every vote and every transfer counted.

Conclusion

As I continue my analysis, more useful insights are emerging which I’ll share in due course. One thought has already crossed my mind though. There has been a small but significant stream of orthodox clergy who have left the Church of England over the past few years, bemoaning the liberal drift and arguing that innovations like same-sex blessings are a foregone conclusion. The election results prove such a position to be incorrect.

Rather, the results show us that there is still a substantial orthodox presence in the Church of England that has to be taken into account by the bishops, not just as a small minority (like in Wales or Scotland) but as a significant and influential group—and a group that arguably keeps the church afloat financially in many dioceses. The Living in Love and Faith process is not a shoe-in for the revisionists and we are as likely to see no change whatsoever this Synod Quinquenium as we are a move towards accommodating liturgy for same-sex unions.


Peter Ould is a Church of England priest, a consultant statistician and an amateur psephologist contributing to electoral analysis on TV and Radio. His Forecast UK project has been predicting UK and Global elections for over a decade, and at the UK General Election in 2019 he was one of the leading predictors amongst a wide range of models and exit polls.


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214 thoughts on “What will the new General Synod look like?”

  1. I am not a statistician, but I wonder at the significance of a 2% difference between ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ stance in the House of Laity, alongside 28% with no clear expression of preference on the issue being explored, being used to argue that the assumption about the view of the laity being in favour of change ‘has been put to bed’. I would say it is too close to call. (Also too many ‘being’s in that comment!

    Reply
    • The claim has been made that ‘all the laity are happy with change’. That is clearly not true. And I would note that the electoral college for laity (deanery synods) does not well represent evangelical/orthodox views, since evangelicals continue to be more interested in ministry and mission in the local church than endless meetings.

      Reply
        • I don’t think it is an unfair one. Some deanery synods I have attended here have been quite good and helpful. But I think we are the exception not the rule. I have yet to hear a young person say ‘Hey, now I am a follower of Jesus, can I join the deanery synod?!’ nor have I heard anyone say ‘If you are really interested in mission and church growth, the place to be is Deanery Synod!’

          Reply
          • I would back Ian’s comments on deanery Synods, whose only real value to the C of E now is as its ‘electoral college’, and it always surprises me how few of those in this group actually exercise the only privilege they have – only 47% turnout in this diocese. There was a time when our deaneries had some financial function in allocating quotas fairly and helping the diocese to get it paid, but since the diocese decided it knew better how to do that, our deanery synods are mostly talking shops.

      • I am surprised that you have heard the claim that ‘all the laity are happy with change’. I have only heard talk of a majority of laity. And this election provides limited evidence either way, given the small electoral college, and differences in effectiveness of voting strategy.

        I also note that, on my experience, it is not just evangelicals who prefer mission and ministry to endless meetings.

        Reply
        • If there is no group favouring meetings over ministry and mission then one would presume such meetings would not be held.

          Reply
          • If only bishops did not see deanery synods as something useful. In every parish in which I have ever worshipped, there was never a contested election to the deanery synod.
            In all /almost all those parishes over a period of over 40 years (it’s tough to remember 40 years ago sometimes) we have struggled even to find as many representatives for the deanery synod as the parish was entitled to. Therefore in my experience, deanery synods are a largely self-appointed minority who enjoy meetings rather than truly representative of parishes as a whole.

  2. Having been a Synod Election watcher since 1985, when I scraped in thanks to STV, I have spent hours trying to persuade people that putting up more candidates cannot “split the vote”, provided (and its a bit proviso) voters are consistent in their choices. In other words if, say, evangelicals put up 6 candidates for four places they won’t lose out if their voters keep choosing from those six. It’s the inconsistency of voters that can harm a “party’s” success, not the number of candidates. Back in my early days there were essentially Evangelicals, Catholic’s and Central groups. The Catholics were far better at ensuring voters knew exactly who their candidates were. (By the way I topped the poll the next three times!)

    Reply
  3. Hmmm! Peter writes, “I’ve been able to categorise them on the basis of their stance on same-sex blessings, not least because many of the candidates were on one of two official slates from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and Inclusive Church (IC). By looking at these lists, by reading election addresses, watching hustings videos or looking at voting records, it is possible very accurately to assess who sits in which camp and what the balance of power is in the new Synod (at least in the House of Clergy and Laity).”

    If the ‘official slate’ of IC being referred to here is the list of people who have signed the ‘Inclusive Synod’ statement (https://www.inclusive-synod.org), this says nothing at all about ‘same-sex blessings’, and is actually concerned with the inclusion of all people in the Church. It may well be that some (or even most) of those who signed that statement would support a change in the Church’s doctrine of marriage, but to claim to be able to “very accurately to assess” voting intentions on this basis is a stretch!

    I’m afraid that this article does very little for church unity or trust in the Body of Christ, and a whole lot more for stoking further division and distrust.

    Reply
    • Yes, indeed, the IC website statement says nothing about sexuality—which stokes division and mistrust, since they are not being honest about an issue which the vast majority of members are concerned about.

      In fact, the use of ‘inclusive’ language itself is rather dishonest. I would want to be completely ‘inclusive’ (if that term was not riddled with ambiguity) and practice that. I could happily sign up to the ‘inclusive church’ statement. But I don’t think I would be welcome. On an FB discussion group this morning, I was labelled ‘exclusive’ because I want to follow the teaching of Jesus on sexuality.

      The problem is not with this analysis, but with the years of double-speak and dishonesty (‘don’t ask, don’t tell’) that the Church has been mired in.

      Reply
      • Their ‘guidance to voters’ statement does mention ‘same sex relationships’. Interestingly, right next to ordained women’s ministry. (I don’t think I saw a single candidate statement that was clear on ‘ordained women’s ministry’.) Which seems like the old trick of attaching your unpopular reform to a popular reform for a mood affiliation

        (I noticed on Twitter a while ago, that our host was victim to the same trick.)

        But apparently the problem isn’t the schemes and dishonesty of the revisionists, nor their calls for police investigation of their theological opponents, but only that the faithful are daring to say ‘no’.

        Reply
    • And do you think the IC guidance for voters was honest and not divisive?

      And is it honest for this organisation to have as Secretary someone who doesn’t actually believe that God exists?

      Have you raised these concerns anywhere Malcolm?

      Reply
      • I’ve delete this comment as it breaches my comment rules. If you cannot comment without insulting and lying about the person who hosts the blog, you really need to take your views elsewhere. Ian Paul

        Reply
        • Are you calling it divisive because of it’s advice to focus on the stuff that unites us (as practicing Anglicans) rather than that which divides (like human sexuality)? That seems like an odd definition of divisive.

          If there is any serious criticism of the document, it is in encouraging people to play down the very strong divisions that do exist.

          Reply
          • This is the link to the document that Ian you are clearly not keen for people to see. It was issued by the Evangelical Group on Synod and The Evangelical Council to advise candidates how to write their election addresses.

            https://cofe-equal-marriage.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/GS21Guidanceforcandidates3Sept21.pdf

            “As much as possible, sound as if you are a practising member of the Church of England, that you are an Anglican!”

            “The issue of human sexuality is obviously important –but you need to take a view as to whether it’s helpful to reference this in your statementor not. It might be that it is wiser not referred to. As an alternative –it might be helpful to talk about listening positively to and respecting the views of others, even when we find ourselves disagreeing.”

            It encourages dishonesty and being opaque about ones views.

          • But being ‘opaque about one’s views’ and being less strident than one feels (the only thing that I can think you are calling ‘dishonest’) aren’t divisive. Quite the opposite, they are necessary for peace and unity (and are values stressed in the New Testament) .

            If writing comments to a select group that you do not expects others to see is so wrong, then when should we expect to see a full release of communications from IS?

          • Focusing on the issues that unite us and not divide us is not a full description of how those seeking to obey God wholeheartedly should act at a time like this. Christians are seeking to unite people IN JESUS. Please see my main comment elsewhere here for a fuller explanation (search for Philip Benjamin).

    • In what sense are these partisan? Some want to retain the orthodox teaching of the church catholic, through history and around the world; others would like to see that revised.

      Is that an inaccurate description of the two positions?

      Reply
      • Off the top of my head, a list of people who would have been called revisionists:
        St Peter
        St Paul
        St Barnabas
        The entire Western Church
        Thomas Cranmer
        Martin Luther
        Jean Calvin
        The abolitionists
        Anyone who has argued for or agrees with the ordination of women
        Anyone who believes that divorce after remarriage is possible in some circumstances
        Anyone who believes that contraception is OK.
        Anyone who argues for vegetarianism

        Reply
        • I don’t think that is the case with the abolitionists. Abhorrence to slavery had been the received teaching in the church for a thousand years* before it’s reintroduction to Christendom by the southern Papist states. That argument was less one of dogma and more one of sociology, ‘freedom from religion’ and Mammon versus Yahweh.

          * That’s how we get the Mansfield rulings etc.

          Reply
          • Hi Kyle,
            As a matter of historic record, those on the pro-slavery side said this type of thing about abolitionists:
            Quote: ‘The parties in the conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders. They are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity at stake.’ (Thornwell, 1850, 14)
            Slavery was seen as biblical, and opposing the legality of slavery was seen as opposing the word of God. For example, Charles Hodge:
            ‘to declare it [slavery] to be a heinous crime, is a direct impeachment of the word of God.’
            (Hodge, 1836, 297-8)

            It was very much seen as being a doctrinal battle, and abolitionists were cast as the revisionists of the day by much of the American evangelical establishment.

          • I really have no idea how you get that the term is therefore not partisan? Are you happy to label yourself a revisionist and not orthodox? Do you consider that a fair description of your position?

          • As I understand it you are in favour of women priests. So you are revisionist and not orthodox. You are part of the western church, which changed the Niceness creed. So you are revisionist not orthodox. You… etc etc etc.
            Using ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ over issues just tells me which side you are on, and is otherwise devoid of content.

          • Using ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ over issues just tells me which side you are on

            What do you mean ‘just’? That’s the whole point in the context of the results, to identify which side people are on!

          • So you are revisionist and not orthodox.

            I don’t think you could find a single person in the whole world who is orthodox, in these terms, on every single issue, nor one who is revisionist on every single issue. Everyone is revisionist on some issues and orthodox on others. Clearly when dividing people into ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ camps there is an implied ‘on the issue in question’, as no one is entirely orthodox and no one is entirely revisionist.

          • No, S, the terms are not ‘just’ to identify which side people are in. The terms should do so in a way which are recognisable to each side, don’t beg the question, and aren’t effectively used as insults. Continued use of such terms comes across as petty point scoring.

            Elsewhere in the thread, Ian has said he doesn’t like the term ‘inclusive’ – I’m tempted to say what’s sauce for the goose…

            I try to use the terms ‘affirming’ and ‘non-affirming’ as being relatively neutral, where it is clear that affirming refers to the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people.

          • @Jonathan Tallon

            If what’s good for the goose, then presumably you’re going to stop using the term ‘inclusive’ then?

            And ‘OurValues/Framing’ vs ‘Non-OurValues/Framing’ is not a neutral term. You would presumably object to ‘obedient’ vs ‘Non-obedient’.

            (And, of course, both sides are ‘affirming’. The orthodox affirm the belief in the supremacy and goodness of God and support people in their walk with Him as they wrestle against the world. The revisionists affirm the supremacy and goodness of the world and support people in their worldly walk as they wrestle against their consciences.)

            The natural term is ‘traditionalist’, but of course, the inclusive side is in a rush to declare how there view of marriage is super traditional (sort of like how many Romans call the ‘latin rite’, the ‘roman rite’ simply so that they can object to the term ‘Roman Catholic’). If you leave us with no good options then we might as well stick with ‘orthodox’.

          • Affirm is not even an instransitive verb anyway, and when used intransitively means nothing.

            That is how we can assess the honesty levels of those who use it intransitively. They are leaving out the necessary object, expecting people to belong to an in-group that understands this kind of in-talk, and not facing the implications of their not being honest about what the object really is.

    • Thank you for making this point Simon, and others. I seek to be completely orthodox in scripture and doctrine and I hold an including view on same-sex relationships. ‘Traditionalist’ would be a more helpful terms alongside ‘Revisionist’. I too find it baffling that some here cannot imagine that claiming the word ‘orthodox’ for one side of this debate is less than sensitive.

      Reply
      • I think this comes from the belief that Christianity derives its truth from God, from revelation, from the ‘faith delivered to the saints once for all’ (Jude 3). Adherence to this scripturally defined faith is what defines orthodoxy. Jesus had no respect for ‘the tradition of men’, so you might see why ‘Traditionalist’ would not be a good antonym. There are many today who ‘defile the flesh and set [the concept of] lordship aside’ today (Jude 8), and they’re not on the orthodox side of the dividing line.

        For many, seeking to be completely orthodox in scripture and doctrine and holding an including view on same-sex relationships will seem a contradiction in terms.

        Reply
        • I think this comes from the belief that Christianity derives its truth from God, from revelation, from the ‘faith delivered to the saints once for all’ (Jude 3). Adherence to this scripturally defined faith is what defines orthodoxy

          Yes, but you can see how this begs the question, right? The revisionists think the Bible is wrong. To define ‘orthodoxy’ in the sense of ‘correct belief’ in terms of the scripturally delivered faith is to presume as a premise that the Bible is not wrong, when in fact that is the very point of disagreement.

          Reply
          • Hi S,

            Please do not assume that all those who are affirming think the Bible is wrong. Many of us just think that the non-affirming interpretation of the Bible is wrong. I’m very happy with a scripturally delivered faith; I just disagree with you about what that means.

          • No question is begged. The only question is whether the revisionists are orthodox Christians. It is part of Christian belief – of knowing Jesus the Word living and written – that the Bible is not wrong. Scripture judges us, we don’t judge Scripture; God judges us, we don’t judge God. That there are many who believe the Bible is wrong is of course obvious, but then they are outside the household of faith. When they creep into the Church and seek to adulterate the faith once delivered, they make themselves enemies of God. Again, that is not me speaking, it is what Scripture says, which repeatedly warns us about enemies within. “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” The avowed purpose of Scripture is to convict, rebuke and exhort. As has been remarked, we are to be sanctified in the truth, not in delusions of our own making.

      • However, on one side of this, are those who are happy to identify as heterodox, and yet now find the term orthodox with sniffy sensitivity, odious and divisive while continuing to wag their tail’s at heterodoxy.
        So now, self/group identification is fine as long it complies with the new ortho-heterodoxy.
        Meet the new orthodoxy, same as the old heterodoxy.(With apologies to those well known theologians of old, The Who – Won’t get fooled again.)

        Reply
      • Traditionalist is a quite wrong term and shows misunderstanding, since it suggests that people’s best ‘argument’ is that something is good and right ”because” it has been around for a long time. But that would not be *any* sort of valid argument. It’s no good being around for a long time if there is no evidence supporting you.

        All their arguments would, instead, be of the nature: X is good and right because of the following reasons and evidence.

        Reply
        • Traditionalist is a quite wrong term and shows misunderstanding, since it suggests that people’s best ‘argument’ is that something is good and right ”because” it has been around for a long time.

          No, it doesn’t; it suggests that they told the view that has been around for a long time, but it leaves open why they hold that view.

          But that would not be *any* sort of valid argument.

          This is wrong too. Simply that something has been around a long time is a point in its favour, as it suggests strongly that it is working and the onus is on those who want to get rid of it to prove that such destruction is necessary.

          See Mr Chesterton’s tale of the fence.

          Reply
  4. I am not a statitician, but two things leap out at me from this analysis. Firstly, how close the voting was between ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Revisionist’ groups for both houses. Only 2% difference, which to a lay person, seems almost insignificant. ‘About equal’ would be my estimation of the balance of opinions, although I know that tiny % differences can swing the result, as we saw with the Brexit referendum. Secondly, the ‘Unknown’ groups in both houses could have a significant impact on any future voting on these issues within both houses, once those elected representatives come to a considered decision on these matters. It is really too soon to be making a prediction about the future outcome of a vote when approximately a quarter of each house is still undecided.
    I have recently taken part in the Living in Love and Faith course in my local church, and apart from the glaring lack of diversity within the group (all white, over 50 and heterosexual), the range of views on matters of sexuality was quite varied, and for some people, the opportunity to listen to a wide range of opinions and to have a fairly open discussion may well have affected their previous thoughts on the issues.
    Let’s hope that our elected representatives at Synod allow themselves the time and opportunity to prayerfully consider all sides of the discussion, and are not whipped into making politically expedient decisions.

    Reply
    • How do you interpret that in the light of the widespread and historically well established understanding of marriage arising from reading the teaching of Jesus in the gospels?

      Is the truth about what God calls us to something we just make up from one generation to the next based on a vote in Synod…?

      Reply
  5. I just wonder what Jesus would be thinking if He was sat at the back of all this watching and listening? Is this how Jesus would have envisaged His church family to be after His ministry 2,000 years ago. Searching the New Testament I am not sure if our process of churching has grown away from the ideas and plans left to us to follow. Chris Benson

    Reply
        • The epitome of revisionism laid bare, Andrew.

          Andrew Godsall might tell us that Jesus didn’t actually ever say such words…

          Here is the division in a nutshell. It really isn’t about interpretation!

          Reply
          • Reputable NT scholars might tell us that Jesus never actually said such words – and Ian himself knows this. Which is why, of course, the LLF document points to several different ways of approaching scripture and notes that some of them are not Anglican.

          • Does that include the Jesus Seminar scholars? Did they have transferable votes?
            Repeat: it’s not really about interpretation.

            And does this progressivism, and revisionism include progress and revision by someone of leading influence not believing in God. (Ian Paul refers, above).
            Is *that* Anglican(ism)?
            And *that * unbelief is profoundly not reducible to interpretation.

      • “Without interpretation there is no scripture.”

        Actually, first and foremost, it’s the other way round, isn’t it?

        If there is a book on the coffee table, I might see it (or not), read it (or not); interpret it (rightly, wrongly, or not at all). But the book really is there, and anything in it that is true remains true, no matter what I think or do about it, or however I choose or happen to interpret it (or choose not to interpret it at all).

        Without Scripture, the question of its interpretation wouldn’t – logically just couldn’t – arise.

        But if it does exist, then (and only then) lots of options open up to me.

        I can be aware of it or unaware of it, engage with it or ignore it, interpret it well or interpret it badly. But it still exists.

        I can pretend it doesn’t exist, or sincerely believe it doesn’t exist, or choose to live as if it doesn’t exist. But it still exists.

        My actions or inactions, my beliefs and feelings, my interpretations or the lack of them, don’t determine its existence. If it exists, then it exists, and if it’s true then it’s true, no matter what I do or how I interpret.

        What we think and feel doesn’t create or determine reality or truth, (though it may help us come to understand better); rather our unavoidable task is to get to grips with reality and truth, and to live and create well accordingly, rather than painfully crashing in to reality over and over again and expecting different results just because of how we feel about it. Or interpret it.

        Please forgive the ham philosophy, but I think this – the “reality of reality” and the pre-existence of truth as such – is a pretty big point (though not always a very fashionable one).

        It all makes me think of CS Lewis’ mind-altering (mind-correcting) little book “The Abolition of Man”.

        If I’ve missed something, somebody wise please put me right.

        Reply
        • That’s right. Not only does Scripture precede interpretation (the other way round from what Penelope said) but also more importantly, the word ‘interpretation’ can so often be misused as a clever-sounding excuse for twisting texts to our own desires, which is an activity that has no connection to interpretation at all.

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          • I thought that ‘without interpretation there is no scripture’ implied it, but of course the two could also be coeval.

        • It’s not how science works – in quantum mechanics, what is true is highly observer dependent among often seemingly incompatible states. The observer resolves the matter. Just to point out I am not a Christian. You are entitled to your opinions but I do not share them and your institution should be stripped of social privilege.

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          • Well, I’m no quantum mechanic, or even a DIY scientist, but in the example you give, I think it’s still a case of interpretation (or resolution) following from there first being something to interpret (or resolve).

            Yes, a number of seemingly incompatible explanations are possible, and yes, even trying to observe and measure things at all seems to affect perception and outcome. This makes interpretation and resolution more challenging and difficult, perhaps, but that understanding is still an attempt to establish a truthful representation of reality as best we can manage right now.

            The more I think, the more I sense that pre-existing truth is unavoidable. Even saying “there is no truth” or “truth doesn’t matter” is a truth claim, isn’t it?

  6. Many thanks Peter for your fascinating analysis. As a fellow poll watcher, tallies with my day job as a teacher of politics, and one of those standing for election as a newbie, permit me a few comments. I am not entirely sure your binary division is entirely convincing. I think there remains, thankfully, a fair amount of the personal vote certainly in the smaller dioceses such as where I worship. I think you also underestimate the importance of Save the Parish as a bit of a disrupter too. Here, we had 5 candidates ‘running’ on that ticket. Four were very focused on that as an issue, and the fifth, myself, less so. The first preference votes were dominated by that grouping partly out of the local situation, poorly managed pastoral reorganisation. A high turnout, c 70%, there was also an anti incumbency vote, in both houses with a couple of IC candidates not getting re-elected but not I suspect because of their views on human sexuality. We had 16 candidates for three laity places and there certainly wasn’t any collaboration between groupings re candidacy at least that I was aware of. But then maybe I wouldn’t…It all went to the wire and no one got elected till the final stage so no surplus votes redistributed. There is certainly an unpredictability about voting patterns. Only two candidates’ redistributed votes went overwhelmingly to another single candidate otherwise geography and deanery played a part I suspect.

    You are right though to comment how often the orthodox candidate picked up the final seat. That happened here and resulted in probably the most conservative lay candidate getting elected. I came fourth, far better than I expected, but bizarrely secured more first preference votes where I thought I might struggle, but fewer redistributed votes. I naively(?) assumed that running as a largely centrist candidate but with a conservative tilt would play well for the later rounds. It is also where I would genuinely position myself too I should add. It wasn’t pure politics! Personally I would hate to see formal identification of candidates with party labels. Much better we have the local government equivalents of independents. It only entrenches faction and divisions when folk are often more complex and eclectic than that.

    Let’s see how it all plays out…..

    Reply
  7. Peter has been telling his readers for many years that the Episcopal Church in the USA would be out of the communion a long time ago because of their stance on human sexuality. He was telling us a few years ago that the Primates of the Anglican Communion were about to announce a split – based on the way some of them were kneeling at Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral. It has become clearer and clearer during the time Justin Welby has been ABC that he is not minded to break up the Anglican Communion over the matter of human sexuality. It was clear in Feb 2017 that he is not minded to preside over a split in the C of E over the matter either.

    Peter’s analysis is interesting and makes a good story. But I would doubt very much that General Synod would be offering anything in this group of sessions that required a 2/3 majority vote. We simply aren’t there yet. What is much more likely is some greater pastoral accommodation, especially for those who are in ministry of some kind. Such votes as there will be in the next group of sessions will be simple majorities and small movements that allow such greater pastoral accommodation. It is clear that is where both Archbishops will be leading.

    Reply
    • But I would doubt very much that General Synod would be offering anything in this group of sessions that required a 2/3 majority vote

      Not my circus, not my monkeys, but what sort of things require and don’t require a supermajority?

      Will ‘small movements’ satisfy those pushing for change? I rather got the impression here that most of those pushing for change were rather impatient, and quite strongly of the view that ‘big movements’ were well overdue. Will they really be happy to wait for five years for another vote, with no guarantee they will do any better then?

      One thing the inconclusive results do seem to me to suggest is that neither side will do what seems to me to be the only sensible thing, and break off to form a new denomination. Had one side of the other proved definitively dominant, then the smaller side could quite easily have cut its losses and gone. But with a hung synod, the incentive is for both to hang in there while the rancour and the hatred festers and grows, in hopes of doing better next time.

      If next time does go better for one side or the other then — after five years of simmering resentment boils over — there probably will be a split. But if — as seems far more likely — the next election returns a stalemate barely distinguishable from this one, the agony will be drawn out without end.

      I suppose the Church of England is at least doing everyone the favour of settling one theological question, once and for all: eternal conscious torment really does exist.

      Reply
  8. Does Peter really think the results ‘prove’ that the average person in the pew doesn’t want change? Deanery Synods are not representative of ‘the average person in the pew’.
    The electorate should be all on the electoral roll in order to be more representative.

    Reply
          • He actually says:
            ‘…this puts to bed finally the misconception constantly spun by those wanting a change in the church’s teaching that the average person in the pews supports their position.’
            That is a much stronger statement than ‘the results do not support the claim that the average person in the pews does want change’ (I would agree with this statement as factually correct).
            And I think Penelope is right. It is too strong for the evidence we have. Given the small electorate, vagaries of voting patterns, and some people presumably voting on other issues or for other reasons, this result tells us little about the average person in the pew, and certainly does not ‘put to bed’ any conceptions, whether mis- or otherwise.

      • He may have seen no better alternative among those on offer. Those who work with Christian-activist and anti-secularist organisations tend to find themselves within an alliance of mere Christians and Christians aware of the spiritual battle, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal. The only suitably large and globally representative organisation on offer here is the Catholics. Ecumenism tries to unite all professing Christians (and has been somewhat hijacked) and does not always represent full blooded historic Christianity. The other option is the one I take which is to work within The Church as a whole, but no-one cares about my denominational allegiance or lack of it whereas his is an unavoidable fact and if he cannot ally with Anglicans he has therefore to choose something else in particular.

        Reply
        • It’s still an odd choice. Many of us would voice considerable unhappiness at the current state and likely direction of our own church denomination, but to jump from one which continues to hold a doctrinal position for which evangelicals can be mightily grateful to one which is fundamentally at odds with it is more than strange. And then of course there’s the hierarchical corruption and recent history of shocking abuse…

          Reply
          • What should he have done? Few denominations would know how to accommodate and use a leading Bishop adequately.

          • Also the Ordinariate is the main or only available way of retaining Anglican heritage while putting oneself under a different nonAnglican aegis, something he would have wished to do.

          • Anyway he gave his own answer to the Telegraph, so this is the authoritative answer:
            (a) denominational labels are relatively meaningless (which is true, because denominations are package deals, and it exceptionally unlikely that thinking individuals will prefer any particular precise detailed package rather than more of an eclectic mixture);
            (b) he just tries to be a rounded Christian.

            I.e. someone who sees the obvious truth that being a Christian is, in the grand scheme of things, the bee’s knees; but which regiment you belong to (and regiments are wonderful) is in the grand scheme of things neither here nor there.

          • “Which regiment you belong to (and regiments are wonderful) is in the grand scheme of things neither here nor there.”
            Nonetheless, he has just changed regiments – he must have thought it more important than you are making out. And, given the superiority, or unimportance, of a theological system that includes indulgences and Mass sacrifices and Hail Marys, surely the time to do it is when one is active as a bishop, not after one has been pensioned, and when a Benedict, not a Francis, is on the papal throne.

      • I remember calling him to speak on a number of occasions in General Synod debates, wanting to give the ‘theological bit’ and angling for more than 10 minutes. Though verbose, he seemed a conventional Reformed theologian to me. Quite what Rome will do for him I don’t know. Might improve his understanding of the laity.

        Reply
        • He was always verbose in my experience and not a gifted communicator. And it was often said that he continued to interfere in Rochester Diocesan matters long after his retirement. Let’s hope he finds happiness in his new spiritual home.

          Reply
    • From what I’ve read there seem to be elements of the long influence of feminism, or headship, huge cultural drift within Anglicanism and even evangelicalism and GAFCOM and there being no sense of the magisterium especially with the outright rejection or withering away of the 39 Articles, and N-A seeking a return to the ballast of Catholic Magisterium and the Patristics.
      Gavin Ashenden has an interesting article, 14 Oct in the comments section of the Christiantoday site. He writes as someone who has also crossed over.

      Reply
  9. I will state what you have already heard, but which cannot really be denied: there are no such things as “orthodox” or “revisionist” stances on blessing same-sex unions. That’s not how “orthodoxy” works, and it debases the term to suggest it does. *All* Christian interpretations of -same-sex unions are novel, necessarily so.

    Reply
    • *All* Christian interpretations of -same-sex unions are novel, necessarily so.

      That seems wrong. I mean, clearly every interpretation was novel at the point it was first formulated. But some Christian interpretations of same-sex unions were formulated centuries ago, and some were formulated in the last few decades, so some are clearly more recently novel than others.

      Reply
    • I confess I find your comment odd.

      The OT texts portray the marriage relationship as between those of the opposite sex. Though polygamy occurs amongst the powerful, mostly marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the focus of the creation narratives.

      These texts also include strict prohibition on equivalent sexual relationships between those of the same sex.

      Jesus confirms this in his context by referring to the creation accounts, and Paul translates that into a gentile context by at several points echoing the widespread Jewish rejection of same-sex relations of any form, which were found in different ways in Greco-Roman culture.

      From this, the history of Christian understanding of marriage has uniformly been that it is between one man and one woman. The possibility of a different understanding being accepted in Christian thinking is a very, very recent innovation, and only in some contexts.

      I think the terms ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ capture these two positions accurately.

      Reply
      • I think the terms ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ capture these two positions accurately

        I can actually see the issue that ‘orthodox’ has two meanings:

        A. In accordance with the established view

        B. Objectivity correct.

        Clearly you mean A but the you can’t really totally escape the connotation of B, which presumably is what the other side are complaining about because it implies you are prejudging the issue.

        Perhaps ‘traditionalist’ and ‘revisionist’ would not have that issue?

        Reply
        • Thanks S.

          Indeed. “Orthodox” means “according to right belief”.

          My contention is that that honour is bestowed at the end of the conversation, when a consensus emerges, and not at the beginning, when it cannot in fairness stand for “what we have done or not done until now”.

          Orthodoxy has been innovation from the beginning. Arius called the Orthodox Bible-disdaining revisionists.

          Reply
          • I don’t think you have stated the orthodox position on Christian orthodoxy. Christianity derives its truth from God, from revelation, from the ‘faith delivered to the saints once for all’ (Jude 3). Adherence to this scripturally defined faith is what defines orthodoxy.

            In other words, it is the Bible itself that defines orthodoxy. Consensus on what the Bible was, so far as the New Testament, was reached fairly early on, and after that the core of the Bible was fixed and authoritative. Sure, some of the New Testament ‘was innovation from the beginning’, vis-a-vis the Old, but in the present context that is not the issue.

      • You are orthodox and revisionist.
        I am orthodox and revisionist.
        So I don’t see how these terms can be at all accurate for the positions Peter describes.

        Reply
      • IP: I confess I find your comment odd.
        PM: I didn’t doubt that you would. Thank you for engaging with it.

        IP: The OT texts portray the marriage relationship as between those of the opposite sex.
        PM: “Opposite sex” is not biblical language; the “oppositional” element is coming from a place other than the Bible.
        IP: Though polygamy occurs amongst the powerful, mostly marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the focus of the creation narratives.
        PM: Again, thank you for your admission that polygamy has a place in the Bible’s (and not the Church of England’s) view of these matters. Never condemned in the Bible. It follows that it is impossible to argue, on purely *biblical* lines, that only normative sexual unions are permitted. (You can of course argue that polygamous marriages are part of what is normative. But your language here, and your loyalty to the Church of England, make that very hard.)

        IP: These texts also include strict prohibition on equivalent sexual relationships between those of the same sex.
        PM: Indeed, but if we are thinking about such prohibitions, they come in a context which also sets out the conditions by which a raped woman becomes the wife of her rapist. So… there’s more work to be done than reading the texts alone can do.

        IP: Jesus confirms this in his context by referring to the creation accounts, and Paul translates that into a gentile context by at several points echoing the widespread Jewish rejection of same-sex relations of any form, which were found in different ways in Greco-Roman culture.
        PM: “rejection of same-sex relations of any form”? I cannot believe you mean that. But it is interesting that you say that.

        IP: From this, the history of Christian understanding of marriage has uniformly been that it is between one man and one woman. The possibility of a different understanding being accepted in Christian thinking is a very, very recent innovation, and only in some contexts.
        PM: It has been that only from the time the Church rejected the Bible’s permissiveness regarding polygamy. So post-biblical innovations are themselves not new.

        The binary divide between what is “orthodox” and what is “revisionist” does not hold.

        Thank you again for your engagement. May this be a dispute for the sake of heaven!

        I think the terms ‘orthodox’ and ‘revisionist’ capture these two positions accurately.

        Reply
  10. Good article. It will be interesting to see what the Crown Nominations Commission looks like going forward. At the moment 4 of the 6 central members are revisionists so it is difficult for orthodox candidates to get selected for diocesan bishoprics unless the diocesan reps are overwhelmingly orthodox.

    Reply
  11. David Ould’s commentary on the outcome of Synod clearly reflects his own abiding interest – that of the debate in the Church of England on Sexuality. I note that he terms the proponents of change on matters of institutional homophobia and misogyny as ‘Revisionist’, and that those who approve of the status quo in the Church of England on such matters he chooses to refer to as ‘Orthodox’ (meaning ‘right belief’). Thus he has made a judgement on the propriety of the newly elected Members of Synod on an important matter on which he , personally, feels he is something of an expert, but which is not borne out by the majority of survivors of the therapy – whether offered by psycho-therapy or co-erced spiritual mentoring.

    I say this because David himself is a self-proclaimed ‘beneficiary’ of what has become known as ‘Conversion Therapy’- a process where homo-sexual people are submitted to a process of de-sensitization from their attraction towards someone of the same gender; so that they may become either; ‘a-sexual’, or what is commonly known as ‘hetero-sexual’. What, in the more conservative Christian view, is NOT usually looked for as an outcome – from the therapy involved – is that the ‘patient’ might become what is commonly known in psycho-sexual terms as ‘bi-sexual’ – which, for conservative Christians (‘Orthodox’, according to David, here), would be considered to be objectively ‘disordered’ or even ‘satanic’!

    In describing himself as ‘ex-gay’ (and the same goes for any such ‘ex-homosexual’ who goes through any form of ‘Conversion Therapy’ – whether voluntarily or enforced – goes on to marry and have children, while not necessarily being free from S/S attraction), Mr. Oulds may be, basically, in the category known to clinicians as ‘bi-sexual’ – having the capacity for both same and opposite sexual attraction.

    This, ironically, is a category of (indulged) sexual attraction that people like David and his ‘ex-Gay’ Christian colleagues might want us to believe is equally ‘un-natural’ and outside of Christian morality for people he self-describes as ‘Orthodox Anglicans’.

    The Church of England, in General Synod, has informed the U.K. Government of their opinion that enforced ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ is morally and spiritually bankrupt, and the cause of much human suffering, often because of the mental and spiritual damage inflicted when the therapy fails to achieve its intended objective; leaving the subject feeling guilty because of that failure – which is the almost inevitable outcome. In view of this fact; how can Mr. Ould now proclaim that the supporters of the status quo which embraces ‘Conversion Therapy’ are ‘Orthodox’, and those opposing it as ‘Revisionist’? What most reputable psychotherapist will tell you is that, because of the intrinsic nature of our sexual orientation, there are very few – if any – instances of what may be termed ‘ex-Gay’ individuals. Conversion from ‘gay to ;straight’, in other words, is virtually impossible, and certainly a questionable theory at best. A point here to consider is this: How many intrinsically heterosexual people do you know have been changed to become homosexuals?

    Reply
    • I note that he terms the proponents of change on matters of institutional homophobia and misogyny as ‘Revisionist’

      Whence this idea that ‘revisionist’ is a derogatory, rather than a neutral, label?

      I mean, it’s not too far from ‘reformer’ and the reformation was an unambiguously good thing, right?

      So just being a revisionist is not in itself good or bad — it depends in whether the thing you want to revise actually needs revised.

      Reply
    • My apologies for confusing David Ould (Sydney, anti-Gay) with his twin brother Peter (ex-Gay?) – whose article was the one being discussed on this thread. Apart from their natal co-incidence, it seems difficult for me to distinguish their homophobic coherence. Forgive me this lack of attention to detail.

      Reply
      • Father Ron, I have never met Peter Ould, and I don’t know whether you have (I guess not as you would have got his name right), but I have read much of his writings both here, on a blog he used to host , and on the Living out website and in other places.

        Peter Ould will have to answer for himself and correct me if I am wrong, but nowhere to I get the impression that he has undergone a ‘conversion therapy’ of the kind that you describe. If he has had any kind of conversion experience then it is one that has been facilitated by and convicted by the Holy Spirit where he has come to see his identity as being in Christ and not as being gay. Furthermore, he sees himself as same- sex attracted as opposed to the view that he has an unchangeable gay nature. That he has gone on to have a happy marriage with children is testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit in his life as well as a ministry within the Church of England. Are you not glad for him?

        I do not of course, expect you to agree with his stance. Your comments above are full of contempt, scorn and derision and do not do justice to his position. But then reading your comments I would have thought that your default position is to label anyone ‘homophobic’ who by their life presents a challenge to your own strongly held convictions.

        Reply
        • Ron Smith:

          I believe that Peter Ould describes himself as post-gay – whatever that means.

          Chris Bishop:

          Gay people who come to see their identity in Christ will still be gay, even if they prefer to describe themselves as “same-sex attracted”, just as straight people who come to see their identity in Christ will still be straight, even if they prefer to describe themselves as “opposite-sex attracted”. I can’t deny the possibility of exceptions in either case, but they will be just that: exceptions.

          Reply
          • will still be gay, even if they prefer to describe themselves as “same-sex attracted”

            Are you saying ‘gay’ and ‘same-sex attracted’ are not synonymous? If so then what do you think is the difference?

          • I think it would be instructive to know how Peter Ould would answer this -assuming he is reading these comments and chooses to do so.

          • To all who have speculated/commented on the author’s personal life.
            This conversation belongs in the gutter, is irrelevant to what he wrote, and is unworthy of anyone who claims to be a follower of the Lord. Please refrain from further talk of this nature.

          • Steven

            I have found Peter quite open about his personal life.
            Your believing such discussion belongs in the gutter says more about you than it does about Peter or those commenting.

          • S:

            If ‘gay’ is being used as a colloquialism for ‘homosexual’, as it commonly is nowadays, then ‘gay’ and ‘same-sex attracted’ are synonymous, the latter being simply a definition of the former. My point is that describing someone as ‘same-sex attracted’ instead of ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ won’t alter anything, any more than describing someone as ‘opposite-sex attracted’ instead of ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual’ will.

    • Well said Geoff ! Much of the discussion thus far seems to operate on the principle that a particular voting system is a divine given. Questions of truth and the doctrinal foundation of that truth have virtually become a sub -section of head counting. The Church, created by God the Father through the mediation of his Son and the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, is manifested in the world as the fountainhead of a “kingdom that cannot be shaken”. Democracy may help to assist in the exercise of practical matters. It cannot and must not detract from the Church’S roots in authoratative Scripture as the primary source, not only of issues of faith and morality but crucially in this context, of leadership and government.

      Reply
  12. It is interesting to read the analysis, which helps to stoke divisions and label people rather than draw us together. Like all popularity polls assumptions are made and no room is left for the power of the Holy Spirit to move people. It has been present in Synod most notably during the safeguarding issues, the demand for living wages and the actions called for on climate change and during the debates on women in ministry.
    Personally I hope the people will arrive with open hearts, a willingness to listen and a desire for fellowship.

    Reply
    • I am not sure why you think it ‘stokes division’. That has been done in large measure already by those campaigning for change, who insist that this is the most important thing, and communicate to the wider world that the church is ‘obsessed with sex’. I put five other things ahead of sexuality on my own election address.

      There is plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to move us and speak to us, and my hope is that the Spirit will do that.

      But what is odd is the assumption that people have not been thinking or debating for some time already.

      And a key question is: what kind of fellowship is there between those who accept that Anglican belief that Scripture is the final authority for all matters of faith and doctrine, and those who think the Bible is simply wrong on this question. Not all those wanting to see the teaching of the church change believe that—but many do.

      Reply
      • There are quite a number of nuances to the question of Anglican views of scripture. LLF identifies 7 possible approaches – and notes that both 1 and 7 fall outside of Anglican tradition. Which of those 7 accords most clearly with your own Ian?

        Reply
  13. I believe the three most important questions lying below this ongoing issue are these:
    – Is God a divider?
    – Are the issues being disagreed on primary or secondary?
    – How is one supposed to act towards those committed to teaching inconsistent with biblical orthodoxy?

    So to the first question – is God a divider? Absolutely not. And absolutely so.

    The message of scripture is that union with God and with each other can only happen in Jesus. God therefore divides those in Jesus from those not in Jesus – even dividing people in the same household. He is quite open about it:

    Matt 10:34-39 ESV

    Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

    This does not mean that God enjoys dividing – his heart is to unify – he only divides in order to unify people with himself and each other in Jesus.

    So now to the second question – are the issues being disagreed on primary or secondary?

    Here is what those who are liberal on issues of homosexuality and even some who call themselves orthodox refuse to admit – the issue of homosexuality is an issue about sex differences. It isn’t enough to simply know that the Bible condemns homosexuality – we must seek to understand the heart of God behind these things. We know that it is not sinful for a man to marry a woman (if the two seek to do so committed to God above their own relationship). Yet we know that it is sinful for two people of the same sex to marry. The only difference between the two situations relates to the sexes of those seeking to marry – this shows that within sex differences is something fundamental to representing the heart of God – and our interpretation of scripture must seek to get to what it is. Whenever scripture addresses men and women differently – and does so providing non-contextual reasons for doing so (as is the case for example in 1 Corinthians 11 or 1 Timothy 2 or Ephesians 5 etc) we must interpret such passages incorporating what scripture as a whole is saying about men and women and their differences.

    Paul leaves us in no doubt that sex differences are primary – he baldly says that behaviour which fails to honour them is a sign that those so behaving are not born again:

    1 Cor 6:9-10 ESV
    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    It should therefore be absolutely clear that all issues that relate to sex differences – and that includes women’s ordination – are related. It isn’t a coincidence that twenty-five years ago the C of E chose to ordain women and is now being coerced into allowing homosexuals to marry. For these reasons there is no way in which those seeking to fight against current moves should be unifying themselves with people who are willing to compromise on the question of women’s ordination. I read of issues in the ACNA in respect of these things – mark my words – if there is compromise on women’s ordination it will be an open door that will lead to where the C of E now finds itself.

    And now to the final question – how is one supposed to act towards those committed to teaching inconsistent with biblical orthodoxy?

    It is absolutely true that God’s default position towards human beings is to be the One who reaches out – even as we sin. His grace draws us to himself BEFORE we have committed ourselves to him. The question we must answer though is whether the Bible presents God as offering that grace to all people and in all circumstances. And the answer is no – he does not. The Bible shows that it is one thing to be a sinner – whether our sins be considered mild by each other or scandalous – and another to have committed contempt for God’s mercy and grace. In the latter case God does not continue to reach out – he does not present himself to those committed to doing evil as just one prayer away – he doesn’t because he knows that people always respond to his mercy and grace the same way – in this matter they do not change – whether that response be positive or negative. We see this played out in Acts 15 when Paul and Barnabas are disagreeing over whether John Mark should be given a chance to again accompany Paul on a second missionary trip. Paul knows that John Mark has both heard about and experienced God’s mercy and grace and is convinced that given further exposure John Mark will not behave any differently.

    Consistent with the picture that I have presented about how God’s holiness, mercy and grace interrelate those who having been exposed to the truth are committed to teaching and advocating for what is both primary and false should no longer be treated as family – no longer welcomed by those who are committed to being followers of Jesus.

    2 John vv10-11 ESV
    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

    Rom 16:17-18 ESV
    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

    Notice that word “naive”. God is not naive about evil doing – and neither should Christians act as those naive. Even on this forum people who are orthodox should not be responding to those who are committed to teaching falsely. The only context in which I would engage with people holding liberal views would be if they were attempting to establish their views using scripture – and not one verse of scripture – with a willingness to draw from and account for all of it – and good luck with that! But that isn’t what those who refuse to obey God do on this forum. Instead they white ant discussion – they do because as long as people continue to engage with them they are given oxygen.

    Reply
    • Hi Philip,
      Why are you engaging on the forum run by someone who is, according to you, ‘committed to teaching inconsistent with biblical orthodoxy’? As I understand it, Ian Paul is in favour of the ordination of women, which according to you is a primary issue.

      I also find your comments on those of us who disagree with you deeply insulting. On this thread alone are:
      David Runcorn – has written whole book on Bible and sexuality: ‘Love means Love’
      Penelope Cowell Doe – is completing PhD in this area including varying hermeneutics
      Me – I run a website and YouTube channel on Bible and sexuality.
      All of us (and others) have many times in many different posts responded on scriptural issues, sometimes in depth, using a range of scholarship. But you think we just want to whip up discussion. The opposite is actually the case. I worry that my engagement here helps popularise conservative views.

      I am very happy with scripture – I find your interpretation of it wrong.

      Reply
      • But if you call ‘Scripture’ an ‘it’, then you cannot easily be trusted as a Scriptural interpreter, since you think it is possible to generalise about writings diverse in date, author and genre.

        Secondly, it has been the understanding of all the many leading scripture scholars (until more or less yesterday when cultural forces had an impact on one or two, as is bound to happen), and all commentators known to me, that the various biblical texts’ view of homosexual sexual practice is absolutely negative, strongly negative and without exception negative.
        Now, whereas in theory they could *all* be wrong in the case of one text, how could they possibly be wrong in the case of several texts diverse in date and author? Can you please not skirt around this point.

        Reply
      • As for Love Means Love, that is exactly what it does not do, since NT scholarship 101 knows that there are 4 words for our English word ‘love’. And we have laboriously to repeat this point so often.

        Love Means Love is therefore a slogan without supporting apparatus, akin to Trans Men are Men etc..

        This is a debate forum not one for exchange of slogans (something I was doing when at elementary school).

        Reply
        • Yes, politics has really not moved much beyond the primary school playground when, having run out of argument, it resorts to calling people names. And you know that politics has descended on the church when the same tactics are used. Of course, the words are longer that the ones you used when you were ten and, quite deliberately, they carry more baggage with them. But they are excuses for argument, debate and honest disagreement – things the C of E used to be famous for.

          Reply
        • The ‘exchange’ you refer to was by Jonathan Tallon, pointing out some of the theological contributors and resources on these threads. I am grateful to him for mentioning me. ‘Love means Love’ is a book title not a slogan. From your reaction I am guessing you have not read it? Fair enough. But that is the difference between debating and sloganising. Until then the only one using slogans around here is you.

          Reply
          • “Love means love” is a slogan. That is simply objective fact. You named your book after a slogan.

            And the slogan of the world and zeitgeist at that.

          • And how do you claim to know how this title came to be chosen and why, Kyle? You plainly have no idea. So you can hardly claim to be ‘objective’. But one intention in the title was to provoke, actually. Well I seem to have achieved that quite well here! (But probably not added to either of your Christmas wish lists).

          • Are you going to claim that the book was not named after the slogan?

            But, since you admit that you’re taking an action* – even naming your book – in order to provoke can we have less of the revisionist’s ‘poor me’ acts and accusations that it is Peter Ould who is dividing.

            (* An action raised by Johnathan as an endorsement of you.)

          • Kyle. Yes. I don’t even know what ‘slogan’ you are taking about actually. Nothing wrong with choosing a title that grabs attention a bit. It makes sense actually. Find me anywhere I have been doing ‘poor me’. Better still – let’s just leave it. Your tone does not invite discussion.

          • It is a book title, and I have read the book, but why choose a book title that (a) repeats the Zeitgeist rather than taking a critical view of it, (b) is simplistic and vague to the point of meaninglessness (also, tautological), (c) is undeniably a slogan that is much used, when debate has long ago outstripped slogans, (d) ignores the fact that there are 4 Greek words for the English word love, which fact makes the book title untrue?

          • ”’Love Means Love’ is a book title not a slogan.”

            Non sequitur. There is nothing preventing its being both.

          • Can we agree – I wrote a book. I did not design a button hole. Folk here do not like the title. OK. I can live with that. So can we leave it now? It is the content that matters here.

          • It is nothing to do with not ”liking” the title (which would be an emotional matter or a matter of preference) but rather with seeing incoherence in the title (i.e. a rational matter).

          • Yet another misunderstanding. No-one spoke against emotions. No-one spoke against preferences. I merely said that my beef with the title had on this occasion been a rational one (I claimed it was incoherent and pandering, possibly unthinkingly, to the Zeitgeist) and that since it was represented as having been an emotional one this showed that the interpreter did not rise to the level of being able to understand the point made. Or possibly also secondly was so used to inhabiting a world where everything was primarily emotion-based that they assumed others also were primarily emotion-based, even without evidence.

      • Thank you Jonathan. I infer from Philip’s use of the ESV that he holds to a particular interpretation of scripture which neither of us would share. I would not care to use a version which has such an ideological attitude towards translation.

        Reply
  14. I find this a generally helpful analysis but limited by having a predictably narrow focus. In discussing on what the new synod will look it ignores the wider discussion of its composition and assumes a wholly issue-centred focus. It is also an entirely male centred analysis and discussion. To make one simple point – ‘Orthodox’ in this sexuality concerned evangelical world will also mean, for a significant corner of this world, not supporting ordained women. And at this point the transferable vote system arguably accentuates single issue voting tactics. Actually the balance of m/f lay members of synod remains roughly half and half. The proportion of ordained women to men is approx. 62 women to 192 men – more or less the same as in 2015. At the beginning of the 2015 synod there were two (very new) diocesan women bishops. At the beginning of this synod, six years on there are still only six out of 42. In 2015 there were 2 women suffragan bishops elected out of 9 places. In 2021, despite the significant increase in the number of women suffragans overall there are just 3. There are issues here that need discussing. A much wider debate needed about more inclusive patterns of gender, leadership and partnership in Synod.

    Reply
  15. I remember calling him to speak on a number of occasions in General Synod debates, wanting to give the ‘theological bit’ and angling for more than 10 minutes. Though verbose, he seemed a conventional Reformed theologian to me. Quite what Rome will do for him I don’t know. Might improve his understanding of the laity.

    Reply
  16. When do the beliefs of others become in one’s view so opposed to Scripture that separating from those that hold them in some way becomes necessary?

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      I think the question you are asking is absolutely fundamental – we should feel inadequately equipped until we have an answer to it.
      I have written a long article (9700 words – hence my not posting it here) which seeks to answer two questions:
      – if I am a Christian should I act as if I’m in unity with everyone who also says they are a believer – no matter what the other person believes, says or does?
      – if I’m not supposed to how do I decide when to do so and when not?

      If you would like to be sent it via email send an email to phil benjamin at mac dot com. Hopefully you can work out the address with that information as a guide!
      Anyone else who would like to receive it is welcome to email me. I welcome feedback but don’t expect it. I hope what I have written can lead people closer to choosing a coherent set of principles that can help to bring light to what may otherwise seem like complex issues. We are after all not talking about a set of ideas but about the character of God – who is consistent – knowable.

      Reply
  17. Hi John
    When the beliefs of others contradict doctrines that one judges to be vital and beyond dispute. We all draw that line in different places. “Separating in some way” raises the issue of how. I think it is no longer feasible to have a statement of faith which everyone in a large group agrees with in every respect. We need a different model where each sub-group, even congregation, states its doctrinal position. For instance I agree with Ian Paul on many things but disagree with him on penal substitution, eternal punishment and ordination of women. To me a major issue is whether the terrible warnings to flee from the wrath to come should be taught and preached alongside the wonderful invitations and promises. I consider the failure (as I see it) for the whole church to do this to be the major failure of the CofE at the present time. The CofE is not taking God’s warning to Ezekiel to be a watchman seriously.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Phil,

      “We need a different model where each sub-group, even congregation, states its doctrinal position. ”

      How do you understand this would work out in the Cof E for the ordinary parishioner ? My understanding is the the Cof E affirms a common doctrine set out in the Creeds and Articles and other documents etc. which people understand to be the received doctrine of the Church of England.

      So if you entered an Anglican church, would you envisage individual churches publicly stating their position on what believe about such and such and where it deviates from the official position? Would such an approach require a change in Canon law?

      Or does what you suggest already takes place anyway- but unofficially?

      Reply
      • I have noticed that on the website of some C of E parishes under “What we believe” you find the Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith.

        Reply
      • Hi Chris
        Yes, what I suggest does “already take(s) place anyway- but unofficially”. I think we need to move to a situation where we are being honest and open about doctrines believed/denied and abandon the view that it is sensible to carry on as the Church of England has been doing for a long, long time.
        It would be very difficult to change to my suggestion, not least because the Church of England is a pillar of the Establishment and the Government will be kept pretty busy when there is a change in the Monarchy, without wrestling with another major change.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • I think we need to move to a situation where we are being honest and open about doctrines believed/denied and abandon the view that it is sensible to carry on as the Church of England has been doing for a long, long time.

          I like this idea. If churches were honest about their doctrine, then people could choose to go to a church which aligned with their own convictions. Then it could easily be seen which churches are sustainable and which go bust.

          It would also make the inevitable split easier when it happens, as congregations will have got used to the idea of being separate from each other, and you won’t have cases of half a congregation wanting to go with whichever side leaves and half wanting to stay: people will already have self-sorted themselves so that the lines of who leaves and who stats can be drawn neatly at a congregation level.

          Reply
        • Hello Phil,
          It seems to me that some of the main difficulties, perhaps, are exemplified by Nazir – Ali and maybe others who comment on this site and who may fit into some main categories, and I restrict this to those in leadership positions who have shepherding, guarding, teaching, preaching, training roles. The flock may carry be a mixture of beliefs.
          1 Those who vow belief in the 39 Articles, yet lie
          2 Those who vow belief, yet through a process of what I’d term homeopathy hermeneutics, dilute the Articles to a point of no effect, or even contradiction, but, nevertheless continue to hold onto their position.
          3 Integrity is absent and not prized. Misrepresentation is practised.
          4 Authenticity, though placarded and lauded with lip service and liturgy is absent. Virtue vanishes, covered in robes of office.
          5 There seems to be no method to test, reaffirm, continued belief in the articles, say every year, a swearing on oath perhaps, carrying the weight of perjury (yes, that may be excessive, but emphasises the seriousness and severity). My understanding is that while not carrying the sanction of perjury, to be part of FIEC, the eldership of each independent church has to confirm, each year, continued accedence to the common beliefs.

          BTW Phil, there is little therapeutic risk of any evaluation nor scholarly critique of Carson’s, small book, you mention, it seems to me. Nor, I’d suggest, of the theology of the Holiness of God, and the scripture basis for the proposition that God’s love, is only ever Holy-Love.
          And that there is little to no evaluation of the reality of God is Love, is founded on, is an outflow from the Oneness- Person of the Tri-unity of God, (thrice Holy God), which is renounced and denounced (it’s so unequal, gender exclusive!) by many of the Love camp, or who are throwbacks or inheritors to the 1960/70’s sexual incontinence, as we move from post-modern, to post, post-modern absolutism,
          But we’ve been here before, and the issues remain unaddressed, easily ignored by the CoE Elite, it seems to me. They fly well under the radar, of some elite modern-day transition into a liberal cultural dogmatic scholasticism, absolutism.
          Even as the issues remain embarrassments and antagonists to new scholarly perspectives and freshwater, Tiber, swimmers.
          And yet, and yet, the battle is not against flesh and blood. It was ever, post-lapse, thus.

          Reply
          • Best for you to be aware what the Archbishops Council has declared about the 39 Articles first Geoff:

            “In 1968, a report on Subscription and Assent to the 39 Articles was produced by the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine. Focusing in particular on the approach to Scripture set out in the Articles, it called for the then current Declaration of Assent to
            be changed, so that it would ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’

            “In response, in 1975, a new form of Declaration of Assent came into force in the Church of England.317 The preface states of the Church of England that:

            It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

            In response, the person being ordained or licensed affirms their loyalty to ‘this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care, and declares their belief in, this inheritance of faith.’
            Opinions around the Church of England differ about the implications of this form of the Declaration for appeal to the Articles in disagreements like ours.”

            It has always been clear that people mean different things when they make the declaration of Assent.

          • Best for you to be aware what the Archbishops Council has declared about the 39 Articles first Geoff

            You keep quoting this as if admitting that you’re doing constructive ambiguity is a good thing but… it’s not.

          • Question to Andrew Godsall:
            What is the source of the quote you gave from the Archbishop’s Council please Andrew?

            Phil Almond

          • Phil: it’s a direct quote from LLF which, as you know, is published by and copyright of the AC.
            It isn’t, of course, ambiguous. It’s very clear that the 39 articles are open to considerable interpretation and that not everyone believes all of the articles – something I have always been totally honest about.

          • it’s a direct quote from LLF which, as you know, is published by and copyright of the AC

            Did we ever settle the degree to which that means its contents are endorsed by the Archibishops’ Council, either corporately or individually by the members of the Council?

            Because it is a bit disingenuous to describe something as ‘what the Archbishops Council has declared’ just because it appears in something published under the auspices of the Council.

            Lots of documents are published as Crown Copyright. Would you describe everything in those documents as ‘what Her Majesty has declared’? Obviously not; they may be published under the authority of Her Majesty, but they are written by Her Majesty’s Government.

            What is the situation with this document? Have the Archbishops’ Council, either corporately or individually, said anywhere that they stand by it as their own opinion? Or are you just presuming?

  18. There are a large number of unknowns in the Houses of Clergy and Laity in this rather complacent analysis – enough if they all supported a new same-sex blessing service (assuming the Bishops don’t introduce it without a vote) to get a majority. If Peter Ould’s percentages for the absolutely inflexible orthodox in both Houses are correct and that is surely highly debatable given the current culture of the Church of England, then there would not be a two-thirds majority for the change. But the momentum would be very strong for it to get through eventually, particularly if the Bishops were pushing hard for the new liturgy.

    Furthermore, the front-runner for new Archbishop of Canterbury after Justin Welby is clearly the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin. She and the current Archbishop of York would be very much in favour of such a service and, with the momentum for it gaining force in the Synod, surely it would be difficult to see how they would not get their way in 2026-2031, if not in the current term?

    Reply
  19. I have noticed that on the website of some C of E parishes under “What we believe” you find the Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith.

    Reply
  20. Hi Phil

    I understand what you are saying. In a sense you’re looking for independency within Anglicanism. In one sense I don’t find those with clearly apostate views difficult. To my mind they show all the signs of being unbelievers. It is someone like Ian’s views I find difficult. The three you mention are difficult for me to place. Are they primary or secondary? Is Ian misguided and to be borne with on these areas? Is he allowed to teach them in my church? Sorry Ian, but these are big issues to many of us. I find Penal substitution and Eternal judgement near to the heart of the faith.

    Reply
  21. Peter mentions the two “official” slates from CEEC and Inclusive Church. I have seen a listing of the Inclusive Church candidates online but can’t fine one for the CEEC. Could some one point me in the direction of where I could find it?

    Reply
      • The article says that Peter compared the lists, so there must have been a list of candidates that CEEC were supporting. He also writes:

        “the two pressure groups, CEEC and IC, who recommended slates of candidates”

        So there is a list of CEEC supported candidates, it would be nice to now who they are. Is this not public?

        Reply
        • That very clear guidelines on what to write and, more particularly, to not write in election statements circulated within the CEEC fold is a matter of public knowledge. It would be quite extraordinary if there was not a known list of people they were intended to brief.

          Reply
          • I could imagine that lists were circulated within local diocesan networks rather than one centralised national list, otherwise how would evangelicals at the grassroots know who was on the official slate? But Peter’s article strongly suggests that there was a national compilation of these lists and candidates, and that his research drew on that list. He refers to an official CEEC slate, but looks like it’s private information, not something transparently in the public domain.

            So could that list be made known publicly? It’s not as if the CEEC has anything to hide – this article is promoting the fact that they have had many candidates elected. But who are they? If the names of the candidates and members that CEEC/EGGS were supporting are being deliberately kept out of the public domain it begs the question of what CEEC/EGGS are wanting to achieve by such secrecy.

  22. Hi John
    “independency within Anglicanism”?
    Let me reply as follows:
    As I said in my post my top priority is to bring about a situation where “the terrible warnings to flee from the wrath to come should be taught and preached alongside the wonderful invitations and promises”. If that preaching and teaching was just quoting what Jesus and the Apostles said and wrote about Salvation, Hell and the death of Christ I would leave it to the conscience of the hearers and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to decide on Eternal Judgment and Penal Substitution.
    Somebody once said that the Church of England has Calvinistic Articles, Arminian Clergy and a Popish Liturgy. That is quite a distorted caricature but has a grain of truth. If only the Book of Common Prayer contained the careful statement about infant baptism found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the BCP statements about Absolution were reworded then both the Articles and the Liturgy would be close to Calvinistic. Not that Calvin got everything right of course, I use the adjective for brevity. That would leave the Arminian Clergy. Is that an unjustified slur?

    Taking the Articles alone, including the Homilies pointed to by Article 35, Penal Substitution and probably Eternal Judgment are asserted.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • That would leave the Arminian Clergy. Is that an unjustified slur?

      On Arminius, yes. The clergy (hashtag not all clergy) are closer to Pelagian.

      Reply
  23. Some of the embedded threads-within-threads here get very long because of the software used in this site.
    May I ask contributors, if you are responding to a particular comment, that you specify who you are responding to.
    Otherwise it can be difficult to follow the thread of a thread.

    Reply
  24. Andrew G,
    re your comment of 22 Oct 7:15 am in response to my comment of 21st. 5:23 pm
    “…Declaration of Assent, to Articles; affirmation of loyalty, declares belief in…”
    This is nothing less than a vow of integrity, which according to you can immediately be silently and self countermanded, by mindful mendacity of meaning, by opinion, that admits of disloyalty, intellectual dissembling, and dishonour.
    In any other sphere of life there would be an outcry of dishonest misappropriation, of gaining office falsely; sacking, or resignation. A person may declare publicly assent and belief, yet falsely.
    And the problem?: it is denied that there is a problem. Therein lies the problem: the father of lies – Screwtape rules.

    Reply
    • Geoff: your facts are just simply wrong in this case. It is very clear from what I have quoted that is it is official and well known that not everyone subscribes to all of the 39 Articles. Nowhere are they taught and nowhere are ordained people examined in them or asked about them in any detail. They are part of our historic formularies. They are of interest for that reason. There is no lack of integrity or act of perjury in making the declaration of assent. That is specifically why the wording of it was changed in 1975.

      Reply
      • It is very clear from what I have quoted that is it is official and well known that not everyone subscribes to all of the 39 Articles

        That a policy of constructive ambiguity is officially endorsed doesn’t make it better! If anything it makes it worse! What you have there is institutionalised dishonesty.

        Reply
      • Andrew G,
        * nowhere are they taught, nowhere are they examined on them*.
        It’s getting worse!
        Just imagine lawyers are not taught and examined on the law and matters of professional morality and ethics; conduct? Likewise medics and other professions.
        It almost beggars belief that those admitted into leadership positions in Christianity don’t know what are the irreducible tenets of of belief, or any professional organisation admitting to their rolls.

        Reply
        • Oh Geoff that’s quite a distortion of what I said. The 39 Articles are by no means the irreducible beliefs of the Christian faith. If my lawyer operated by reference to the law of the 16th century I shouldn’t expect to receive very reliable good advice would I?

          Meanwhile you are welcome to produce any exams or courses for CofE leaders that focus on the 39 Articles. I can’t find any…..

          Reply
          • The 39 Articles are by no means the irreducible beliefs of the Christian faith

            No, but they are what defines what the Church of England believes to be the Christian faith, aren’t they?

            Or if they’re not any more, shouldn’t the Church of England do the honest thing and vote to junk them, rather than requiring people to say the words but not requiring them to actually mean them.

          • No. What the C of E believes is set out here:
            “The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.”

          • It is the Biblical theological underpinnings and beliefs, principles, from which the Articles are derived that are important, which are not anchored, not bound to place or time.
            I think your understanding of law, statutes and legal precedents is coloured by your theology, just like your faulty understanding of title deeds to which you have likened scripture.
            What this is reduced, deconstructed to is that, there is affirmation to something that is not taught, that protestants outside the CoE would support today. So to add to what I ‘ve said already there is institutional pretense and incompetence, or deliberate exclusion in theological teaching/training.
            I find it all distinctly unworthy of Christianity and Christ witness.

          • What the C of E believes is set out here:

            No it isn’t, for two reasons. First, any Christian could sign up to that. The question is what distinguishes the Church of England from, say, the Roman church, Presbyterians, Methodists, the various Orthdox chruches, etc. Why are Anglicans not interchangeable with, say, Pentecostals? Or Baptists?

            And secondly, if you’re correct that the Articles are of merely historical interest, then why does the Church of England still require people to say (but not necessarily to mean) that they believe them? Would it not be more honest, in that case, to drop the requirement altogether, rather than try to keep up the mendacious practice of constructive ambiguity?

          • Geoff: my understanding of law is that laws are made, repealed, modified, etc constantly. Lawyers can’t make a ruling on a case according to to laws that were current 400 years ago can they?
            In what way have I understood that wrong?

          • “why does the Church of England still require people to say (but not necessarily to mean) that they believe them? “

            For clarity here, it doesn’t. The Declaration is very carefully worded to avoid saying that. Belief is “in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds “. Nothing more and nothing less.

          • The Declaration is very carefully worded to avoid saying that. Belief is “in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds “.

            Deliberate constructive ambiguity, in other words. So why does the Church of England require people to say something very carefully, and dishonestly, worded in order to sound like it means one thing while actually meaning something else? Wouldn’t the honest thing to do, if it was decided belief in the articles was no longer required, have been simply to drop this ‘declaration’ altogether, rather that carefully rewording it to keep the form but gut the substance?

          • The CofE doesn’t *require* people to declare their belief in very much beyond the catholic creeds and the scriptures. But it doesn’t stop people believing other things – like the Articles – either.

          • The CofE doesn’t *require* people to declare their belief in very much beyond the catholic creeds and the scriptures. But it doesn’t stop people believing other things – like the Articles – either.

            So why does it require them to make a declaration that is ‘carefully worded’ (your words) to make it sound as if they assent to these articles, while not actually saying that?

            That’s constructive ambiguity, isn’t it? Which is dishonest mendacity.

          • The whole of the CofE is founded on constructive ambiguity. The Elizabethan Settlement was a good example – though it probably ended up more Prot than Elizabeth would have liked.

          • The whole of the CofE is founded on constructive ambiguity

            Hardly surprising it’s about to fall apart, then is it? And the sooner it dies the better, if it was founded on the principle of ‘noble lying’.

    • Reply to Geoff: Perhaps the key sentence in Andrew G’s contribution is the final one:
      ” It has always been clear that people mean different things when they make the declaration of assent.” You are right to raise the issues of integrity and loyalty. But equally the phrase “people mean different things” can be applied to the interpretation of Holy Scripture.” Article 20 affirms (albeit indirectly) the primary authority of Scripture (“God’s Word written”). That in itself will raise difficulties within sections of the C of E, including some, I would suggest, who contribute to this blog.
      However, the issue of biblical interpretation can in itself highlight the spectre of an assault on its authority. The present philosophical , psychological and political climate has seen the emergence a debased form of Descartes’ rational “self “, together with a high degree of subjectivity centred on a rejection on reason and empericism. Kierkegaard’s maxim “truth is subjectivity” has come home to roost – but not I am sure in a way he would have endorsed. And what we are witnessing in the C of E at present is a powerful desire to eisegete Scripture in conformity with the “needs of the age” rather than absorbing ourselves in God’s creative and redemptive purposes in world history as well as His passionate love and concern for the lost individual. In numerical terms, the Church is a declining minority, specifically in relation to the communities of worldwide Anglican believers; and in particular to those who face persecution on a daily basis. Yet through all of this and coupled with faithfulness to the Word of God they have no need to “make the Church relevant.”
      By their very existence, the simply are relevant!
      However the historic development of terms throughout my lifetime: conservative evangelical, liberal evangelical, charismatic evangelical and – yes – open evangelical (has that now been superceded?) ; not to mention current epithets such as orthodox, revisionist – all of these I regret to say now serve to point in one direction: a house that is divided against itself cannot stand.

      Reply
      • You might object to the world affecting the belief of the Church, but many of us now object to the Church trying to affect the narratives of the world, especially via institutional privilege, here, because they have become unethical. On a more general point, whether specifically mentioned or not, institutions carry their own memories, a collective identity that individuals pick up through membership. There are also ‘invented traditions’ or how something is reinterpreted from the past to give a sense of legitimacy today. I identified both within the Unitarians, where I was once active, in an otherwise creedless and no-boundaries Church. It also had its shape, inheritances, colours, and reinterpretations.

        Reply
  25. Well, this was an exceptionally disheartening read (the comments primarily). For two reasons.

    1. The old orthodox-revisionist paradigm debate. I don’t like these labels either, I’ve said as much before, and I’m inclined to agree with Andrew, Penelope, David et al that the former implies a consistency that is slippery at best and the latter is often used pejoratively. The difficulty for me remains that if we were to change our terms, what would we use? Suggestions on a postcard! These may be loaded and unhelpful descriptions, but all the other options seem worse….

    2. I think we are looking for hope in the wrong place. It is a damning indictment of Synod that amid the storm surrounding ‘save the parish’, an abject failure to come to terms with the safeguarding processes and the ongoing (and ever-harder-to-reverse) decline in numbers, money and human resources *this* is the principle line of battle.

    It is important, it does reflect much deeper and more integral issues, but unless the other issues are addressed properly and the church rallies behind addressing them, well, it’s all rather moot isn’t it.

    Mat

    (yes, I am aware of the hypocritical irony that comes from ranting about how we’re repeating the same comments we do every time, while doing exactly that himself)

    Reply
    • Which is exactly why I read (some of) the comments here with (some) interest but am not minded to add to their substance…

      Reply
    • Thanks Mat. I agree with you in the sense that I certainly did not make this *the* issue on my election address, and nor did any evangelical I know.

      But *if* changing our doctrine of marriage, as many want to do, would mean decisively moving the C of E away from its roots in Scripture, away from its historic roots, and lead to accelerating decline (which it has done in every other denomination I know of that has made this change), how should we talk about its importance?

      Reply
      • It is, you are quite right, a chicken and egg situation….

        I was careful not throw out the accusation that all the elected members are standing on these issues, but I do agree with Peter’s analysis that a significant enough proportion are doing so, sufficient to give the impression that the entire Synod revolves around said issue (even if, in reality, it doesn’t).

        Reply
          • That’s an interesting article Andrew and thank you for drawing attention to it.

            But do you really think that those lobbying for SSM would stop there and be satisfied with it? Their aim is nothing less than total equivalence and recognition. So after blessings had been going for a few years then the whole issue would come round again would it not?

          • Chris I think those lobbying for the elimination of, for example, clergy in same sex relationships won’t stop at that either. They will then lobby for the elimination of lay people in same sex relationships. They will then lobby for things like the introduction of conversion therapy.
            I don’t think there will be any cease of lobbying from either ‘side’ until we come to some kind of settlement as we have in the case of the ordination of women.

          • Thank you, that’s an interesting article.

            I think it’s probably fair to say that even if a compromise position is found, and I am skeptical, both sides would still lobby for change. It’s not as if one ‘side’ has more at stake than the other..

    • Mat – I think the above is addressed to me; describing my contribution as “an exceptionally dishearting read” and then following it with “two reasons “.Then all I can say is that virtually all of what you proceed to say is of no relevance to my argument. However, when you refer to “much deeper and more integral issues” in the final sentence then you are closer to the mark! For me, the debate is not primarily related to theological infighting but rather I am (among other things) attempting to highlight the powerful destructive forces that a paucity of integrity can unleash! This may not fit in with the general pattern of this post, but it something that cannot be ignored.

      Reply
      • I am sorry Colin, but I was not responding to you specifically, or indeed anyone specifically. I was generalising about the comments section as a whole, and my ‘points’ were more ‘observations’ than a detailed response to any individual’s argument.

        However, for clarity’s sake, know that fundamentally I do not disagree with you. I would agree that the SSM debate is the presenting issue of a much more serious problem relating to the doctrinal strength (or lackthereof) of the CofE. Our differences I suspect come out of what the appropriate response to this problem is….

        Sincerely,
        Mat

        Reply
        • Thanks Mat for this contribution (Oct.24th ;1-56pm). I concur with all you say in it. My own observations are based not merely upon individual reflection but on many years spent in full time ministry;during which time I have personally witnessed and experienced the corrosive and even destructive effects of departures from biblical truth and the application of that truth.
          Every blessing to you!

          Reply
  26. Andrew,
    My interpretation is as Ian Paul’s above.
    As so often, I find your circularity and avoidance of underlying crucial points disengaging.
    What is more I find your explanation of affirmations, beliefs etc would give little to no cause to trust any clergy in the CoE, or the institution itself, without a personal aquaintance. It is so very far from WYSIWYG. And if that occurs at the very outset of appointment with underlying permission, to be dissembling in ministry, the ship of the State Church, will break up on the Rock.

    Reply
    • Geoff: we are both in luck aren’t we because the Archbishops Council, of which Ian is a member, has reminded us that “In 1968, a report on Subscription and Assent to the 39 Articles was produced by the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine. Focusing in particular on the approach to Scripture set out in the Articles, it called for the then current Declaration of Assent to be changed, so that it would ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’

      Reply
      • we are both in luck aren’t we because the Archbishops Council, of which Ian is a member, has reminded us

        Again: has the relationships between the Archbishops Council (seriously, shouldn’t there be an apostrophe somewhere in there?) and this document you keep quoting been explicitly set out anywhere? Just because something is produced under the auspices of a certain body doesn’t necessarily mean that either the body corporate, or the individual members of it, stand behind every view expressed in it. They may do, of course, but it’s not a given; the BBC board wouldn’t necessarily be expected to agree with every view expressed in every programme made by the BBC.

        So has this been set out anywhere?

        Focusing in particular on the approach to Scripture set out in the Articles, it called for the then current Declaration of Assent to be changed, so that it would ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology

        Constructive ambiguity, in other words, or to put it more precisely, lying.

        Reply
        • Correction: LLF is actually published by Church House Publishing. The copyright – which is the more important fact – is held by the Archbishops Council.

          Reply
          • The copyright – which is the more important fact – is held by the Archbishops Council.

            Why is that the more important fact? You keep claiming that this implies that the opinions in the document can be ascribed to the Archbishops Council (where should that apostrophe go?), but the simple fact that the Council holds the copyright does not imply that at all, any more than Her Majesty can be assumed to hold the opinions contained in any document published under Crown Copyright.

      • Round and round and round…declaration and assent to theology that hasn’t been, isn’t taught.
        Keep it up Andrew, even more reason, evidence, in support of my understanding. Keep digging. A house built on sand.
        And believe it or not, it is with a heavy heart I draw those conclusions, as there are many faithful gospel ministers, and some of my best memories were were a couple of weeks with Anglican led, Through Faith Missions.
        Apart from the huge practical upheaval, disestablishment, could be a boon for Christianity even as it may bring even greater ridicule and hostility.
        As it is, kicking the can, has a cut-off point. Or there is a constant withering away, drift, a slow entropy.
        Biblical history and theology, bears witness.

        Reply
  27. As a newcomer to General Synod-some may say a late starter at 67-I want to say Im very grateful for the analysis. It at least helps someone in my position to start to see the lay of the land. Im not sure if I am one of the 28% unknown laity but as I stood as an open evangelical perhaps I have already been pigeon holed! My main hope for the next 5 years is, that unlike much of the campaigning that has gone on, Synod will address the wide range of issues before us not least falling church attendance and the ongoing failure to effectively reach young people in so many of our churches. I do pray that the emphasis on the debate on human sexuality will not squeeze out the important at the expense of the popularist.

    Reply
    • Greetings Simon. I agree too. But I do not think it is either/or and hope you don’t mean to imply the sexuality debate is a distraction from ‘more important’ issues that we ‘really’ should be focused on. It is part of the whole story of the church at this time And we are at a key stage in trying to find a way forward through LLF and that is why it has a high profile at this point in the life of the church. Thank you for being willing to be part of all this. It is costly for all.

      Reply
    • Simon
      “Synod will address the wide range of issues”

      As I see it the paramount issue is what the Church believes are the vital truths of Christianity, especially about the terrible condition before God of the human race, what steps God has taken and is taking to address that condition, what must happen for each of us to embrace the wonderful salvation offered to all, and what is the judgment that awaits those who do not embrace that salvation. On this thread we have the view that the Articles truly summarise these vital truths, which should be believed and preached by all her ministers and also the view that the Articles summarise what the Church believed at the Reformation but some of them need not now be believed and preached by her ministers. These two views are fundamentally different. Surely the Synod must take the long overdue step to face up to this dishonesty and not be content to kick the tin can further down the road by whatever means.

      Phil Almond

      Reply
      • As I see it the paramount issue is what the Church believes are the vital truths of Christianity

        You could do a lot worse than try to get the Church of England to set out clearly and unambiguously its position on universal salvation, because that seems to me to be at the heart of a lot of these disagreements.

        Reply
  28. Synod is certainly more polarised. Traditional Catholics are much reduced and what might be called the independent middle is,perhaps 12% Inclusive Church has increased from 80 to 131 and with those who are broadly sympathetic represent about 47%. But of course the Synod will be discussing many other issues, not least governance, pastoral reform measures, theological education and mission. On these topics we, as yet, have little idea what the mind of the Synod will be esp as 60% are new to it.

    Reply
  29. I have just read the Including Church reflections on Synod voting figures. One thing impresses me – that is noticeably absent here – is a wider understanding and honouring of what diversity and inclusion means in the church. Rather than focusing on a single issue they observe – ‘We also did well in electing women – the new Synod comprises just under 40% women, but 60% of elected candidates that we supported were women. Our set of supported members includes younger members, members with disabilities, LGBTQI+ members and UKME members. I hope that this contributes to a more diverse Synod and one which is more representative of the ministry and membership of the broader Church of England.’ It is well known that inclusion on one area encourages inclusion in others. The reverse also tends to be true. Think this remains a challenge to those evangelical churches holding ‘traditional’ (my preferred word here) views.

    Reply
  30. So far, over the time I’ve visited this blog, I’m not sure that I’ve seen any ariculation of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, by any of the contributors in the affirming cohort.
    If that is correct and there is that inability, there is little wonder that spreading and sharing that life transforming Good News is so far down the agenda, and the emphasis is on the centrality of humanity, in effect, making an idol of the pride of life, of sexuality, gender, no matter which banner it may fly under.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure that I’ve seen any ariculation of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, by any of the contributors in the affirming cohort.

      I think ‘the affirming cohort’ would deny that, and claim that they articulate the Good News all the time.

      The issue is that the two sides disagree fundamentally on what the Good News is, to the extent that what each side calls the Good News, the other sees as Very Bad News Indeed.

      For one side, the Good News is that, though we are vile sinners, God has nonetheless, at great cost, offered us a way to atone for our faults and, if ee accept His offer, to be saved.

      For the other, the Good News is that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, the ‘apple of God’s eye’; that though we may focus on our (real) faults, at heart we are beautiful creations of a perfect God, and — thanks to Christ’s sacrifice — we are saved to dwell with Him in eternity.

      As you can see these two views sind superficially similar (I’ve deliberately left out some of the egregious heresies one hears from the affirming side, such as that we are our will become deified). However they rest on totally different views of human nature: are we fundamentally flawed creatures corrupted by sin? Or are we fundamentally beautiful creatures, forced into sin by a corrupt world and society? In other words, does the corruption of sin go right to the heart of us, or are we by nature perfect, and corrupted by the world?

      And that then flows into the difference of what it means to be saved: do we need to be purified by the refiner’s fire, our fundamentally ugly natures melted didn’t so they can be transformed into something beautiful? Or do we need to realise that we are already beautiful, because that’s how we were made?

      These two ideas, though superficially similar, are really so different that —as I say — they are opposed to the extent that what sounds like good news must be spread to each side sounds to the other like a dangerous idea that must be suppressed.

      Which is why it’s so vital that the Church of England officially decides which side it’s on, because the two cannot coexist in the same organisation: a house divided against itself on such a fundamental matter cannot long stand.

      Reply
      • Hi S,
        I agree that the two groups have contrasting positions on the fallenness of human beings however it’s important that in pointing out this contrast we do not give the impression that evangelicals believe the gospel is ONLY confronting – never affirming. It might not have been your intention to say that but to ensure that no-one continue in that understanding if they do I think it does no harm to make this point – and because I am passionate about the subject I am seeking to lay out some principles here.
        There are I believe two parts to the love of God outlined in scripture:
        – God FEELS love for us because we are his. When I say we are his I don’t mean because we have repented – we are his because God made us. We see that God feels love for human beings in Mark 10 where Jesus looked upon the rich man and “loved” him. And it also may exist in John 3:16 – for God so felt love for human beings that he showed love (obviously my paraphrase…)
        – God SHOWED love to us despite our behaviour
        These two dimensions point to our being both fearfully and wonderfully made AND fallen. No presentation of the gospel which omits either of them is a right proclamation of it.
        There are as I look at scripture four foundational planks to God’s love – his holiness, justice, mercy and grace. I have come to this conclusion because none of these four things is reducible – each finds definition only in looking across to each other for definition – and down to God’s love – not up to anything else. It is in failing to see these four primary attributes of God rightly that we end up communicating the nature of God’s love wrongly – and living wrongly. I can prove that all four are part of God’s love instead of just God’s mercy and grace. We know they are because believers are called to live out ALL of God’s character – not a part of it – and we are told in scripture that the law of Christ can be summed up in two great commandments – each relating to love – to love God and to love our neighbour. When we are being holy and just we are therefore also being loving. There is instead a tendency to see and to preach as if God’s holiness and justice are either not love – or at the least only confronting – and to see his mercy and grace as only affirming – and as the totality of God’s love. As if the gospel could be summarised as:
        God is holy and just BUT merciful and gracious.
        But since each of the four is love and each is both affirming and confronting the gospel should instead be summarised as:
        God is holy and just AND merciful and gracious.
        Let me briefly show then specifically in what way the first two are also affirming and the last two are also confronting:
        – God’s holiness is affirming because it isn’t only God’s intolerance of all that is inconsistent with his nature – it’s also his love and want for all that is consistent with his nature
        – God’s justice is affirming because God’s justice is not just his commitment to punishing unrighteousness but also his commitment to rewarding righteousness. God’s justice also shows just how meaningful our choices are and therefore how valuable we are.
        – God’s mercy is confronting because the person who accepts mercy must recognise that in receiving mercy they are forever in debt – there is no means of repaying God. The tit for tat approach to living no longer becomes possible – there is no limit to the mercy we will be called to show others.
        – God’s grace is confronting because it shows that to love like God we must go beyond loving those who love us – to loving those who hate us and are outsiders – different to us. Again without limit.
        The evangelical position would be significantly distorted by not proclaiming the first of the two loves of God – his feeling love for us. If God does not feel love for us then his actions in saving us could be seen as similar to those of an older brother who looks after his little sister for the day when he would rather be with his friends. The first of the two loves reveals crucially that God’s actions towards us are all an expression of his WANT for us – not of his doing what he would rather not have done.
        I need not dwell for long on the danger of the converse – of preaching and living the first of the two loves without the second – it’s being played out writ large in the C of E right now – it’s not possible for anyone to be saved.
        Have a good week.

        Reply
        • I should have pointed out why those who respond to a gospel which is only the first of the two loves without responding to the second are not saved. We know they are not because God feels love for ALL people – Christian and non-Christian – or at least he allows himself to feel love for all except for those who show committed contempt for his sacrificial love. Those who show contempt for God’s love demonstrated in the cross cannot be loved by God. It’s not a question of God choosing or not to love them. God doesn’t SHOW love as if it is something separate to himself – he IS love. Therefore turning away from God is definitionally turning away from love.
          Of those who are quick to agree with the idea that we can only approach God because of Jesus’ death there are few who speak and act as if the converse is true – that God approaches us only in the cross – and therefore to show contempt for the cross is to live outside of the love of God. Instead we act as if people who show committed contempt for a gospel which calls us to change are never outside of God’s love – we therefore persist in believing that one more word or deed from us will cause such people to change – as if it is something other than our love which has been rejected.

          Reply
          • I just explained that because God IS love turning away from God is turning away from love. It is the same between believers and those who are liberals (liberals being those who refuse to accept the need to be judged by God instead of judging him – and refuse to believe God’s love requires our repentance). It isn’t that we should or should not love liberals – it is that we must recognise that they have already chosen not to be in relationship – WE ARE NOT IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM no matter what it may seem. On this forum people are furiously exchanging sides of an argument but in reality – and surely the nature of the exchange proves this to us eventually! – there is no relationship between the two groups at all. Believers are rendered invisible and are an object of contempt by those who refuse to accept the Bible’s presentation of God’s love.
            We must come to accept this and obey scripture instead of interacting because in interacting we give the impression that the truth is otherwise. If we do not it’s a sign that we still haven’t ourselves grasped the full nature of what is required to submit to God’s saving love. We still think there is something we can do to save or sanctify ourselves.

        • God FEELS love for us because we are his.

          Is the love of God something that God ‘feels’? Really? Is it not something that God does?

          And it also may exist in John 3:16 – for God so felt love for human beings that he showed love (obviously my paraphrase…)

          An incorrect paraphrase! The ‘so’ in that verse is in the sense of ‘thus’: it most emphatically does not mean ‘for God lived the world so much that he sent His Son’ (etc)!

          It means, ‘For this is the way in which God loved the world: He sent His Son’ (etc).

          VERY important to get that right!

          Reply
          • I should not have included John 3:16 – I should have made a final decision about it. And your criticism could just as easily be applied to Mark 10 – it may mean that Jesus loved the rich man in what he said to him – not in what he felt for him.

            However I have a question which I cannot overcome. What is the obvious grief and anger that God has when his people are away from him in scripture if not his feeling love for us – his wanting us?

            I await more from you S. The main thrust of what I wrote in my previous reply was that the love of God is both affirming and confronting. Whether or not God feels love for us doesn’t remove the need to grapple with these two co-existent dimensions of God’s love. It is no less wrong to hold beliefs about God’s love in order to exclude – to allow us not to have to feel for people – than to say that God’s love is only affirming. Do you agree that God’s love comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable?

          • The main thrust of what I wrote in my previous reply was that the love of God is both affirming and confronting.

            I was attempting to illuminate the fundamental difference between the two positions as concisely as possible, so of course I focused on that, not on the places (and there are some) where the two reach similar conclusions, albeit starting from different premises.

            Neither was I attempting to argue for one over the other, but to present as charitable a description as I could of both. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know which view is closer to my own, but before arguing for one or the other it is more important to be clear about where the differences are.

            Do you agree that God’s love comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable?

            I love as good chiasmus as much as anyone else when it comes to rhetoric, but no, I don’t think one is a substitute for logical argument.

          • To Philip Benjamin
            Philip
            Have you read Carson’s ‘The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God’?
            What did you think of it?

            Phil Almond

          • Sorry for the slow reply Philip. I only saw your message now.

            No I haven’t read the book. Do you think from what I have written that I might enjoy/get benefit from it?

          • To Philip Benjamin
            Hi Philip I think Carson’s book/essay has a bearing on what you have written. I don’t know whether you will agree with it or not.

            Phil Almond

          • Well thank you for the referral. Of course I don’t have to agree with all the book to get benefit from it.

    • Geoff. If this discussion topic was ‘What is the gospel?’ you might possibly have a point. But it isn’t is it. For what is worth Peter Owen doesn’t mention Jesus or the gospel once in his piece. So we are in good company. But this is just silly. You have engaged often enough with the folk on this thread to know better – even when we are disagreeing.

      Reply
      • Hello David R,
        I presume you mean Peter Ould’s article? Unless have missed Peter Owen’s comment.
        If I’ve understood correctly, I am seeking to draw -out the main point Ian Paul makes – this is far, far more than sex, gender. And it is clear that I agree.
        As for me knowing better, I am but a dullard and no-one has admirably encapsulated, succinctly the affirming position’s view of good news as S has above, today, 12:49 pm.
        I have found on this site that clarity is something to be deliberately avoided, rather than expressed openly in some quarters.
        And you must forgive me if I have missed your short exposition of the Good News, such as set out by S, or even your confirmation that what he has written, sums-up the affirming position with regard to the Good News of Jesus which is at the root of the division and, as you know, it is a theological division that precedes the reformation.
        David, while criticising my comment, you make no effort to address the main points I made, unlike S.
        Maybe, you are, after all, seeking to confine this whole thing to sex and gender and if so I’d suggest it is an unbiblical, ungodly inversion of worship, human idolatry.

        Reply

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