An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage

Dear John

Thank you for your open letter explaining the reasons for your change of mind on the status of monogamous, faithful same-sex relationships. I believe that you changed your view some time ago, but this is the first time that you have set out all your reasons. This must surely be a good thing in terms of transparency and accountability. I am guessing that you have done this both for the sake of those who agree with you, to encourage them, but also to give an account to those who think you are mistaken. For this reason, I hope you will feel it reasonable that I offer, in turn, a response to your arguments. I look forward to discussing them with you in person in due course.

Science, scripture, and sexuality

You begin with the question of science and scripture; I can see why you mention your predecessor, Charles Gore, but in the context of this discussion it strikes me as an odd choice for several reasons. First, it perpetuates the myth that the clash between science and scripture was a Victorian crisis. Michael Roberts traces the way this myth has been created retrospectively here. It also suggests that those who hold most strongly to the authority of scripture are those who are most opposed to engagement with scientific reality; on this question, it was almost the opposite.

Reports of warfare between geology and Genesis are greatly exaggerated. In fact the converse is true, as from 1790 to 1860 the majority of educated Christians, including most Evangelicals, positively embraced geology and rejected biblical literalism. During the first half of the nineteenth century geology could be deemed the evangelical science.

Roberts traces the beginnings of this engagement back to the 1600s.

In 1550 few questioned the ‘biblical’ age of the earth, but by the mid-nineteenth century no educated person accepted it. The change is considered to have been a period of conflict between Christianity and science over the age of the earth. In fact, the conflict was small because from the Reformation era most considered the bible to be accommodated to its culture… The conflict between geology and Genesis is one of retrospective perception rather than historical reality. Only a minority of Christians, as with the anti- or scriptural geologists of the early nineteenth century, considered there to be a conflict.

In any case, I don’t think that there is a real correspondence between this debate and the one on sexuality. Although there are important questions of biblical interpretation, no-one upholding the historic teaching of the church catholic is arguing for literalism, just as I don’t think you are arguing for a theological or poetic rather than literal reading of the pertinent texts. Besides, science can tell us what is; it cannot tell us what should be or what ought to be. Julian Huxley’s use of Darwinian evolution to argue for eugenics is a case in point. And ‘scientific’ biblical criticism, with its assumption of anti-supernaturalism, still haunts academic biblical studies.

I find it odd that you suggest that majority view was that ‘the expression of homosexuality was simply a perverse lifestyle choice’. To my knowledge, almost all cultures have recognised that a small minority of their number had a settled attraction to the same sex. And even ancient cultures sought to explain this; the classic example is the discussion in Plato’s Symposium.

In Plato’s Symposium, the subject of homoeroticism and the relationships between ‘boyfriends’ and ‘lovers’ are discussed in detail. In the speeches of Phaedrus, Pausanias, and Aristophanes, this type of relationship is seen not only as natural, but also superior to heterosexual relationships.

In the speech of Aristophanes, speculating that humans were created from dividing primordial creatures of different kinds, we even find a kind of biological explanation of the givenness of same-sex attraction.

So the question then arises: if a desire is experienced as ‘given’, how does that shape our moral evaluation of acting on that desire? I cannot think of another example where Christian moral reasoning takes the existence of desire as a moral validation for acting on it. This would appear to set aside all biblical theology of human fallenness, of the disjunction between desire and action, and the primary Christian moral virtue of discipline and self-control.

What does science say about causation? That factors including parental age difference, parental divorce in childhood, sibling group size, birth order—and even the rural or urban context of upbringing—all have a bearing. Genetic factors are reckoned to contribute between 8% and 25% to what we might call our psycho-sexual development.

Based on the evidence from twin studies, we believe that we can already provide a qualified answer to the question “Is sexual orientation genetic?” That answer is: “Probably somewhat genetic, but not mostly so.” … There can be little doubt that sexual orientation is environmentally influenced.

But none of this should be a surprise. When babies are born they don’t even know that there are two sexes; it is something they have to learn, and have to work out which they are, and something as complex as our sexual self-understanding is bound to include environmental factors. Some prominent campaigners for gay rights note that sexuality can be fluid, especially for women, so rights should not be based on identity arguments.

We can make claims for civil rights protection that don’t rely on the immutability and distinctiveness and uniqueness of these [gay, queer, bi-] groups…I feel like, as a community, the queers have got to stop saying ‘Please help us. We were born this way and we can’t change’.

That is why those who consensually and freely seek help to redirect themselves away from unwanted desires can actually find this help effective and beneficial—for research evidence of this see here, here, and here—though nowhere does the gospel suggest that you need to be ‘straight’ to be saved. As we will see, Scripture focuses on our actions, not our ‘orientation’ (which is a modern invention).

The Interpretation of Scripture

You open your discussion of hermeneutics by quoting Dick France: ‘A truly biblical hermeneutic must not confine itself to the overt pronouncements …. but must be open to the biblical evidence as a whole…’ What you omit to say is that, for France, this approach leads him to accept the ordination of women, against his previous conviction, but confirms his rejection of same-sex sexual relationships as equivalent to marriage—precisely because the nature of the biblical texts on these two subjects are quite different.

Likewise, you cite Walter Brueggemann: ‘All interpretation filters the text through life experience of the interpreter’. But again, you fail to then note that this leads Brueggemann to reject all the texts in Scripture that refer negatively to same-sex sexual relationships, not least because he thinks they are crystal clear:

Paul’s intention here is not fully clear, but he wants to name the most extreme affront of the Gentiles before the creator God, and Paul takes disordered sexual relations as the ultimate affront. This indictment is not as clear as those in the tradition of Leviticus, but it does serve as an echo of those texts. It is impossible to explain away these texts.

So both of the people you cite in support of your approach actually disagree with your position—France in one direction (Scripture rejects same-sex sexual relationships, and we should also do so) and Brueggemann in the other (Scripture rejects same-sex sexual relationships, and we should reject its approach on this issue). Would it be unfair of me to call your citation of these authorities disingenuous?

You cite the classic texts in Paul (1 Cor 11.1–13, 1 Cor 14.34–35; you could of course have added 1 Tim 2) and claim ‘It is very difficult to reconcile these passages with women taking an equal part in church worship, let alone being ordained’. Yet this is precisely what Dick France did in the booklet you cite; I have explored this, as have many others; and the Church of England itself has done the theological work here. There are objective reasons why these texts are ‘difficult’, unrelated to the specific subject matter. On the first, we need to think carefully about the metaphorical meaning of ‘head’; there is no term ‘sign’ in 1 Cor 11.10; the practice of head covering in worship is disputed; and Paul’s conclusion is actually that women do not need their heads covered (‘Long hair is given to her in place of a covering’ 1 Cor 11.15). On the second, there are unique text critical difficulties; and on the third (which you do not cite) the central term authentein is not only unique in the NT, but rarely used in the ancient world.

(On divorce, reading the statements of Jesus in the context of Jewish first-century debates resolves the apparent contradiction.)

By contrast, the texts on same-sex sexual relationship are clear, consistent, and of a piece with the more general claims scripture makes about humanity, sex, and marriage. Your claims about obscurity of these texts are all mistaken, and the vast majority of mainstream scholars, regardless of their view on sexuality, disagree with you.

‘The Bible never explains why same-sex sexual activity is condemned.’ This is not true. The Levitical texts (as Robert Gagnon has shown) use language of ‘male’ which point back to the creation narratives. The implied reason for the prohibition is that is contravenes God’s creation of humanity as male and female, which is the basis of sexual union; we are not to unite in sex that which God has not divided in creation. Paul’s argument in Romans 1 makes that even clearer; the reason why same-sex sex is the acme of pagan rejection of God (in Jewish eyes) is that it is a rejection of the created bodily form of humanity as male and female, and therefore a rejection of God as creator. As Bill Loader, a leading (liberal) authority on these texts, notes:

It is very possible that Paul knew of views which claimed some people had what we would call a homosexual orientation, though we cannot know for sure and certainly should not read our modern theories back into his world.  If he did, it is more likely that, like other Jews, he would have rejected them out of hand….He would have stood more strongly under the influence of Jewish creation tradition which declares human beings male and female, to which may well even be alluding in 1.26-27, and so seen same-sex sexual acts by people (all of whom he deemed heterosexual in our terms) as flouting divine order. (William Loader, The New Testament and Sexuality, p 323-4)

It is not true that 1 Cor 6.9 is ‘difficult to translate with any certainty’. David Wright demonstrated as far back as 1984 that the term arsenoikoites was coined by Paul as an allusion to Lev 20.13, which even non-Greek readers can see by comparing texts:

Lev 20.13: καὶ ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην γυναικός, βδέλυγμα ἐποίησαν ἀμφότεροι

1 Cor 6.9: …οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται οὔτε κλέπται…

I agree with you that Paul is expressing no interest in ‘orientation’ here, so that translating this term by the modern ‘homosexual’ is a category error. But you are mistaken in thinking that Paul is using the terms of active and passive partners in pederasty; these would be erastes and eramenos, and it is striking that Paul does not use these, but instead focuses on acts alone using biblical language. Nor are the elements of Paul’s vice list here ‘all examples of abusive, domineering, self-seeking, exploitative and even criminal behaviour’ as you claim; this is an idea promoted by gay scholar Dale Martin. The fact that Paul lists ten items appears designed to remind us of something! As renowned NT scholar E P Sanders (another liberal on this issue) comments:

Paul’s vice lists are generally ignored in church polity and administration. Christian churches contain people who drink too much, who are greedy, who are deceitful, who quarrel, who gossip, who boast, who once rebelled against their parents, and who are foolish. Yet Paul’s vice lists condemn them all, just as much as they condemn people who engage in homosexual acts (Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought, 2016, p 372).

Diaspora Jews had made sexual immorality and especially homosexual activity a major distinction between themselves and gentiles, and Paul repeated Diaspora Jewish vice lists. I see no reason to focus on homosexual acts as the one point of Paul’s vice lists that must be maintained today.

As we read the conclusion of the chapter, I should remind readers of Paul’s own view of homosexual activities in Romans 1, where both males and females who have homosexual intercourse are condemned: ‘those who practice such things’ (the long list of vices, but the emphasis is on idolatry and homosexual conduct) ‘deserve to die’ (1.31). This passage does not depend on the term ‘soft’, but is completely in agreement with Philo and other Diaspora Jews. (p 373)

Contrary to what you say, Paul is indeed concerned with what we do with our bodies. ‘Honour God with your bodies’ he tells the Corinthians just a few verses on (1 Cor 6.20). We are to have our minds renewed by ‘presenting our bodies as living sacrifices’ (Rom 12.1). The fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5 is seen in its contrast with bodily acts which represent the ‘works of the flesh’. Your suggestion that ‘Paul had discovered a dif­­ferent kind of freedom. It was based not on bodies but on wills’ seems like an extraordinary kind of Platonism, quite at odds with the biblical vision of humanity as a body-soul unity.  Your use of Augustine’s list of the goods of marriage, and Jeffrey John’s argument about ‘permanent, faithful, and stable’ all extract the qualities that scripture sets out from the form which scripture insists is essential for marriage, as if structures of relationships were incidental. We might well see these goods expressed in adulterous, extra-marital or polyamorous relationships—so why wouldn’t the same argument validate these forms? And if it is possible to extract these qualities and make them distinct from bodily sex difference in marriage, why didn’t Jesus or Paul (or, for that matter, Augustine) do this, if it was the qualities alone that were their real concern?

You claim that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. But why should we expect him to? Jesus never explicitly prohibits incest, polygamy, or pre-marital sex either. So should we infer that we are at liberty to practice these? Same-sex relations were rejected out of hand by Jews, and this formed one of the four key distinctive ethical practices of Jewish identity, along with observance of food laws, Sabbath, and circumcision. If there had been any hint that Jesus approved of such relations, there would have been a scandal. As Sanders also comments:

Homosexual activity was a subject on which there was a severe clash between Greco-Roman and Jewish views. Christianity, which accepted many aspects of Greco-Roman culture, in the case accepted the Jewish view so completely that the ways in which most of the people in the Roman Empire regarded homosexuality were obliterated, though now have been recovered by ancient historians. (Sanders, op cit, p 344)

Jesus’ response to the question of divorce offers us a model; instead of addressing the issue directly, and debating the texts in Deuteronomy, he first goes to Gen 2 and its rationale for sex in marriage—but then makes a second move, right back to the creation of humanity as male and female. Together with the texts in Paul, this means that the biblical texts on sex and marriage offer a connected, consistent, clear and unified picture, in contrast to the other examples of women in ministry and divorce. That is why the vast majority of scholars are clear on the question.

Professor Gagnon and I are in substantial agreement that the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexual practice condemn it unconditionally.  However, on the question of what the church might or should make of this we diverge sharply (Dan O Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views p 93).

Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct (Walter Wink, “Homosexuality and the Bible”).

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity. (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, p 705).

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says?  I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good (Luke Timothy Johnson).

The problem with your dependence on the ‘pastoral theologian’ David Runcorn’s work is that he simply has not engaged properly with this wide range of agreement, not countered the arguments, and in many cases not even acknowledged that there is a whole body of literature here at all. All those I cite believe the Church’s doctrine is wrong, because Scripture, though clear and consistent, is in their view also wrong. If you disagree here, then you are going to need to show your working as to why you believe all these significant authorities are mistaken in their reading.

The idea that Scripture does not have a clear and consistent theology of marriage depends on simplistic proof-texting; the Church has long believed that it has a coherent theological vision, and it is this which shapes our liturgy.

Our eschatological hope is not that our sexes will be obliterated—after all, the man Jesus was still a man when resurrected—but that sexual union will no longer be needed in the light of our intimate union with God, to which male-female marriage was always pointing. That is why the Fathers saw single, celibate virginity, and not same-sex sexual relationships, as anticipating the life of the world to come.

Sexuality, culture, and context

There should be no surprise that our culture sees the Church’s doctrine of marriage as ‘homophobic’; we are, as Steven Croft has noted, living in a different moral universe, and (contrary to what he claims) rightly so. Our culture is operating from a completely different anthropology from that of Christian theology, in which the relationship between the body, desires, and social relationships has radically shifted in the last 50 years. If our culture agreed with us, that would be extremely worrying!

The early church’s sexual ethic was seen as scandalous and offensive, but it was instrumental in its consistent and rapid growth, as Rodney Stark highlights in The Rise of Christianity and Alan Kreider explores in The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. If believing the Church’s current doctrine is an impediment to mission, particularly amongst young people, as you claim, how is it that the majority of church growth, particularly amongst young people, is happening in churches which hold to that doctrine? In July 2019 Synod, a list was offered of the Anglican churches with the largest work amongst young people; 19 of the top 20 were evangelical. And the denominations which have changed their doctrine of marriage, as you are advocating, are accelerating in their decline everywhere in the Western world.

You commend the comments made by Justin Welby at the Lambeth Conference (which I attended for one day), but many feel that his apparent acceptance of opposing views has effectively signalled the end of the Communion.

The implication was left that the Anglican scene is more like a federation of independent churches; while they have been indeed autonomous canonically, now they would be so theologically too. The Anglican train has pulled into an adiaphora station. Nor was there a sense of how the new teaching was to be tested by, or contend with, the received teaching- “to each his (or her) own” seemed to be the order of the day.

I know of no Church addressing this question and following your approach which has not ended up in irresolvable disagreement and structural division. Do you? If not, then your case will lead to neither truth nor unity.

You began your piece by claiming that you are continuing to exercise your episcopal ministry in the Church by upholding the Church’s teaching to the extent that you would not marry a same-sex couple in the Church. But that is not the charge you were given—grudging acceptance of a discipline you disagree with. At your ordination you were asked:

Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?

but, on the doctrine of marriage, you do not accept it and you are not wanting to hand it on. You were asked:

Will you promote peace and reconciliation in the Church and in the world; and will you strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church?

but arguing for this change is bringing disunity and division. Darrin Snyder Belousek notes the ecumenical significance of this debate:

The creational-covenant pattern of marriage…is a consensus doctrine of the church catholic. Until the present generation, all Christians everywhere have believed, and every branch of the Christian tradition has taught, that marriage is man-woman monogamy (Marriage, Scripture and the Church p 52).

Changing our doctrine of marriage will seriously impair our relationship with the wider church.

And the timing of your letter seems extraordinary; you have had five years in which to make your case, either contributing to LLF, or making a separate public statement. Yet you choose to wait until one week—a single week—before the agreed House of Bishops’ statement in preparation for Synod in February. Can you understand why this looks to many of us like an attempt at last-minute sabotage?

My greatest sadness in all this is that your approach is in real danger of robbing the world of good news that it needs to hear from us about our bodies, sex, marriage, and sexuality.

Our culture currently says that our bodies don’t matter, that what matters is our inner life, that desires are there to be acted on, and this way lies the path to fulfilment. Advocacy of same-sex sexual relationship is not a cause of this inward turn, but is a symptom of it. But this inward turn, in making our bodily life secondary to our patterns of inner desires, opens the weak up to the power of the strong, and harms the vulnerable. It has already done irreversible harm to many teenage girlsEven radical feminists are recognising the harm that the sexual revolution, as part of this move, has done.

By contrast, the good news we have is that God created us, male and female in his image, and that our bodies matter—more than that, that our sexed bodies are a good gift to us in creation, to be cherished, cared for, honoured, and used to to the glory of God. Fulfilment is to be found not in satisfying our desires, but exercising them with discipline in the contexts that God has designed for them.

The world needs a church that has the confidence and courage to offer this counter-cultural good news—and that is precisely what God calls us to be and to do.



Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.

Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

302 thoughts on “An open letter to John Inge, bishop of Worcester, on sexuality and marriage”

  1. Thank you for that excellent response Ian.

    I’m a Pentecostal pastor and not part of he C of E but I care deeply about the progress of the gospel in this country. Every third church in Britain is C of E and if (as seems likely) the C of E does abandon the doctrine of marriage in some way in 2023 it will be a severe blow to the cause of Christ in this country. Anglican decline will accelerate significantly, and will not be offset by gains in other churches. You are right to point out the baffling claim that revision is needed for the sake of mission – it’s the complete opposite.

      • we are not very good at thinking about the implications for other churches

        Certain people in the Church of England give every impression that they actively resent the fact that other denominations (or ‘sects’ in their language) exist.

  2. I have heard very similar arguments that Bishop of Worcester has made within the Baptist Union of GB who will be watching what the CoF E does. This is a very welcome corrective.

    Whether it is heeded…

  3. There has certainly been a track record of arguments simply not being addressed.
    And secondly of arguments that have oft-noticed holes in being still current at the end of a long process.
    Certainly if decisions are made and arguments are never addressed, then anyone not addressing them should likely be prepared for many years of being reminded about the fact.
    To fail to address an argument is worse than addressing it and losing the argument.

  4. Thanks Ian for both your clarity and generous nature of response. Would you be able to recommend any single article or book/booklet that gives detail such as you have here in a fair way that could be absorbed by an average Churchgoer as opposed to your response the BP Inge? (Maybe you could write one we could share?)
    I am sure we all know how hard it is to get this level of information into any normal types of church teaching. Being able to affirm an article or book with a view point that has been fairly achieved with an academically balanced mannered argument, yet easily understood in our current situation, could be so helpful.
    Any recommendations greatly received!
    Thanks again

    • The most obvious one to recommend is People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle. He also has extensive resources on his blog and YouTube channel.

      But there are plenty of other helpful ones too.

    • From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity by Kyle Harper. It is academic but it provides an insight on how radical the Christian perspective on sexual morality is (or was in the first few centuries).

      Another good one is Homosexuality and the Church by Richard Lovelace. Published in 1979 but is far better (and sympathetic to same-sex attracted individuals) than anything that has been written since.

        • Perhaps selective reading of Harper’s book? The emphasis on Rome being a slave economy (true) ties in with the modern belief that Paul would never have encountered anything like modern committed monogamous relationships. As I remember Harper undermines that argument by reference to popular fiction and plays of the era.

          The chapters on prostitution weave a similar path – a radical transformation in sexual ethics occurred in the 2nd and 3rd centuries when the lowest of the low (prostitutes) were proclaimed equals in the new Christian communities. That acceptance however was based on the understanding that there could never be any kind of holy sex work (to use a modern phrase).

          Christian marriage was always understood to be the union of one man and one woman. The right of a free individual (autonomy) to pursue other loving and consensual arrangements is a new thing.

  5. To argue from what Jesus did not say is bizarre. Jesus did not speak about rape, or even clarify the fact that a father should not have sexual intercourse with his daughter, a strange omission in the forbidden affinity relationships of the Old Testament. Some things were simply taken as a given.

    • Jesus did talk about porneia – fornication – (Mark 7.21) the same word Jude expressly uses of Sodom and Gomorrah. And when Jesus reached for the very worst he could think of to compare to those who rejected the gospel he came up with Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10.15) – just as Isaiah did when rebuking the leaders of Israel (Isaiah 1.10). So the common assertion that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality ignores his obvious condemnation of sexual immorality in general and Sodom and Gomorrah in particular.

  6. Ian, thank you for putting up your excellent response to +John’s letter. I can only describe his letter as a political tract, but I am at least grateful for one thing. The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), when it agreed in 2017 to conduct same-sex marriages in its churches, did not produce any formal document to explain the actions of its synod (at which 80% of the bishops approved).

    By contrast, +John has put his views down on paper and issued them publicly. Flawed though they are, and with a rather suspect timing in terms of the CoE/LLF processes, he has nevertheless supplied more information than anything produced in SEC.

    One would never guess from +John’s letter that the formal statement of belief in the CoE is as follows (canon A5):

    “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”

    +John’s letter contains absolutely no discussion of what “the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church” said on this topic, nor any reference to what The Book of Common Prayer (or any other CoE liturgy) says on it, nor any reference to the wider church catholic outside the Anglican world. These are major omissions.

    I will comment briefly on two particular points:

    The letter says: “Paul had discovered a different kind of freedom. It was based not on bodies but on wills. Freedom in Christ was about transformation of the mind.”

    This references (by implication) Romans 12:2, but ignores the immediately preceding verse 12:1, which explicitly talks about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. For St Paul (and the whole of the Bible) both body and mind are to be consecrated to God’s service – it is not a case of either one or the other.

    Also, the letter says: “Neither sex nor gender have eternal significance.”

    It is unclear to me in what sense “sex [and] gender” are being used here, but in this present life, as the secular feminists winning UK court cases are showing, “woman” as a biological understanding – i.e. an adult human female – is not going away any time soon. This belief is grounded in the reality of physical science and is fully supported in present UK law.

    To cite Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”) in relation to “sex [and] gender” (and the currently raging culture wars), and then claim the conviction of the Spirit, strikes me as quite deeply mistaken, not to mention grossly irresponsible.

  7. “The world needs a church that has the confidence and courage to offer this counter-cultural good news—and that is precisely what God calls us to be and to do.”

    I think this is what concerns me (the most?). One can put this issue aside and still ask where the church’s mission agenda finds it’s authority? We seem to be leaving the (admittedly difficult) ground of being prepared to be the “outcasts and strangers ” and the “outside the camp” of Hebrews.

    I’ve heard it said episcopally (and I agree I think) that we have lost the cultural argument… but isn’t the Gospel intrinsically contrary to the world’s cultural values. Sin and repentance are not popular and never have been… outside the convicting power the Holy Spirit.

    If we think we can put this issue aside (as much as I’m attracted to doing so) we are still left with the issues of repentance, holiness that face new converts.. as with all Christians.

    “In the world but not of it” seriously exercises me. I wonder if we should stop talking about “church growth” and proclaim the Gospel as we believe it to be. The outcome would be what it would be… leaving “results” to God.

    Fir comfort I’d love to see a compromise solution… but it’s not on the horizon currently. And the likes of Jane Ozanne clearly don’t want one. (Church Times today). LLF seems to have been no more than a means to her desired end, the opposition eliminated

  8. Can anyone say with any credibility, that the LLF process was carried out with a transparent, rigorous historical, theological, pastoral scriptural, Lambeth and post Lambeth and Bishops divulgences, evidence and argue the opposite; that it was lop sided and heavily weighted in one direction.
    This open letter from Ian is yet more evidence of a power play at the heart of the revisionists long, medium, and short term strategy and tactics. This is but the fruit of self rule, not the Lordship of Jesus over every sphere of Christian life, mind, will, emotions, body. Freedom is but freedom over the power of sin.
    Unmentionable and expunged as it has been in its cultural affirmation and embrace: if it is allowed, condoned it can become a virtue.
    Perhaps some of this would come within the purview and parameters of all manner of unrighteousness and dishonourable desires, in heart and body, ( in contrast and contrary to nature and natural relations) and those who give approval, that God in his judgement, (not a lisenced acquiescence, or active or silent approval) gives us over to in Romans 1.
    While the Bishop says he has changed his mind, that is not what is to be sought.
    Rather, it is presenting our ” bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship the renewal of the mind. Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    Romans 12:1-2 ESV
    They are scriptural, extant, *therefore* imperatives, following on from 11 chapters of indicatives.

      • Is the appointment of Philip North a pointer to the managed way forward of functional
        separation in regard to this matter? The timing is significant, it seems.

        • Philip North is an Anglo-Catholic, the tradition from which many excellent gay clergy have come. He is much more likely to be sympathetic to this excellent letter from John Inge.

          • What is excellent about it?
            First, it repeats many canards that have long been debunked. That is clearly dishonest – not to interact with the previous long-standing debunkings. Ian’s treatment above gives details of said debunkings.
            Second, why do liberals never give links to science and stats themselves (as opposed to cliches du jour and platitudes), forcing others to confront them with them?
            Third, yet again we see the elevation of semipopular works like David Runcorn’s above scholarly works. Everyone knows there is no logic in that.

          • This was not put forward as an example of theology, but managed methodology of separation, hiving-off, isolationism.
            That is such an interesting assertion about Anglo Catholics!

          • Geoff, Philip is already a bishop. His appointment as diocesan is no surprise and nothing to do with any timing around LLF. Philip is opposed to the ordination of women, as was his predecessor and as is the bishop of Chichester. The appointment is about honouring the agreement that those who can not accept the change of doctrine the CofE has made with regard to ordination must still have a place within the CofE.

            The fact about Anglo Catholics is not new. Read for example A N Wilson on his time as an ordinand at St Stephens House.

          • AN Wilson, it is suggested is not a reliable source for a consistent understanding.
            And maybe there is a need to trace further back to the pool of recruitment for ordinands in Wilson’s era, which may point to the culture of single sex public schools as a breeding ground for the embrace of same sex. (Though I’m not making any exclusive claims here as far as today’s secular and educational, arts and entertainment and social science exclusively intransigently heterodox, authodoxy culture is concerned.)

          • A N Wilson is entirely reliable in his experience at St Stephen’s House. Who is suggesting otherwise? Ask Philip North. It’s where he trained for ordination.
            Your point about public schools is a vast generalisation but it may explain why some from such institutions find anything to do with homosexuality repulsive. It is not difficult to spot bias in their so called evidence.

            Whatever the case with either of those things, the appointment of Philip North to Blackburn has absolutely nothing to do with managing any kind of separation.

          • Andrew, I don’t have a problem with ‘excellent gay clergy’. I number them amongst my friends.

            What does that have to do with the doctrine of marriage?

          • I don’t follow your question Ian.
            I was replying to the question Geoff raised and indicating it was not at all connected with LLF etc

          • Given that Bishop North’s main objection to the ordination of women is that it deepens the rift with Rome and thereby imperils Church unity I’d be surprised if he supported a shift a same-sex marriage.

          • ‘Philip is opposed to the ordination of women, as was his predecessor’.
            Just to clarify: you are referring to his predecessor as Bishop of Burnley (John Goddard) NOT to his predecessor as Bishop of Blackburn (Julian Henderson).

        • But the opposition is constant… and has not accepted any “settlement”. An overlapping slice of them is highly unlikely to put up with anything other than complete domination of this change in doctrine.

          “Why are female clergy cheering for a bishop who doesn’t believe in female priests? –
          Martine Osborne” Today’s Guardian (14th Jan)

  9. I am disappointed by the way the issue of science and Scripture has been handled here, though it does, inadvertently, go to the root of the problem: namely, the Church’s abandonment (since the 19th century) of Genesis and its testimony – consistent with the testimony of creation itself which declares the handiwork of God wherever one looks – that God created the heavens and the earth. ‘Created’ of course means ‘brought supernaturally into existence’.

    Once Genesis 1-11 is abandoned, then the foundation of Christian doctrine is sapped and the edifice crumbles. There ceases to be a basis for belief in Israel’s God (Ex 20:2, 20:11) who was the father of Jesus Christ, a basis for believing that Jesus was the son of God also on his mother’s side (Luke 3:23, 38), a basis for believing that male and female are fixed binary realities of the created order (Gen 1:22, 1:27, 6:19), a basis for believing in the sanctity of marriage (Yahweh God brought the woman to the man, Gen 2:22), or a basis for believing in the supernatural origin of sin (Gen 3:1). Jesus’s authority is itself undermined, seeing that he confirmed Israel’s understanding that man was created male and female at the beginning of time (Matt 19:4). That is how low a view of Scripture is tacitly being advocated here.

    The disdain expressed for ‘biblical literalism’ (‘no-one upholding the historic teaching of the church catholic is arguing for literalism’) touches on essentially the same issue. What is implied is that no one upholding orthodox teaching need take Genesis 1-11 literally (i.e. believe what the words actually say). This gets to the heart of the disease infecting modern theology, including ‘evangelical’ theology. Orthodoxy is turned on its head. For Jesus (Matt 19:4) was a ‘literalist’ par excellence. “Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law.” “Let man live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Scripture was the word of God and it could not be broken (John 10:35) because every word was God-breathed and pregnant with truth (John 17:17). Those who did not read the Word in his ‘literalist’ way knew neither the Scriptures (in detail, the Spirit interpreting what the Spirit authored) nor the power of them (Matt 22:29).

    Wesley and his fellow-workers did know the power of the Scriptures. The ‘majority of educated Christians, including most Evangelicals, [who in the 19th century] positively embraced geology and rejected biblical literalism’ did not. To imply, as here, that truth is a matter of majority voting is foreign to biblical thinking. ‘Let God be true though every one be a liar; as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” ’ (Rom 3:4). Unfortunately, today hardly anyone stands up for God’s word in Genesis, where it matters most, for fear of being perceived uneducated.

    The age of the Earth in this context is a non-issue. It should be apparent to any biblically instructed reader that the genealogies in Genesis are abridged, as long genealogies in the Bible nearly always are (including Matt 1 and Luke 3). Readers who struggle with this are referred to Ussher and the genealogy problem. There never was a conflict with a ‘literalist’ reading of Scripture and the evident fact that the Earth is older than 6000 years. How old it is, no one knew in the 19th century (‘geology’ was not a monolithic body of incontestable truth) and opinions differed. How the succession of rocks and fossils fitted into the biblical narrative was a bigger challenge, and geologists who were also clergymen (such as William Buckland) failed to reconcile the two because they were looking for geological evidence of the biblical Cataclysm at the top of the geological column rather than at the bottom.

    Theologically, the crucial issue was this: whether God had created diverse kinds of life in the beginning or organisms had evolved from a common ancestor by natural processes, so that God was not necessary to explain how life came into existence. ‘Educated’ Christians believed then and believe now that Darwin was right and Scripture therefore wrong. They paid for their not wishing to seem fools and out of line with human wisdom (I Cor 3:18) by undermining the biblical understanding of life at its very foundations and implying (though of course it was not admitted) that God is a liar.

    There was, certainly, a different question of time at issue: either life was fully created in the beginning, whenever that was (but not millions of years ago), as per Gen 1:1 and 2:1, or ‘Nature’ was the Creator and did her work incrementally over many ages, as per the neo-pagan wisdom of the present age.

    The bishop holds to the neo-pagan view. So does Ian Paul (as I know from previous exchanges). So does Andrea Williams. That is why there is no mileage in treating the issues of same-sex marriage, sexual identity and all the rest in isolation and arguing solely from I Cor 6:9. Paul’s teaching (including what he teaches about marriage) is rooted in Genesis. It is misguided to cut Scripture up and argue that this part of Corinthians speaks clearly on the issue, whereas Genesis can be kept in theological purdah.

    A kingdom that is divided against itself cannot stand. The Church of England is divided fundamentally because it believes the word of man in some matters and the word of God in others. It is like the Israelites who wanted to worship both Yahweh and Baal (I Ki 18:21). Consequently the house is now collapsing, and theologically incoherent efforts to defend what Scripture says about personal morality are doomed to fail. At root, those standing up for purity and holiness in sexual matters have the same world-view as their adversaries: if there is a clash between what God says and what man says, both sides believe man.

    The same website that discusses Ussher also instructs the Christian reader in how to understand the geological record in a way consistent with what Genesis says (not to mention the other 27 books of the Old and New Testament which affirm what it says), so there is no excuse.

    God tells this generation (Rev 14:7): “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made the heaven and the earth, and sea and springs of water.”

    “Come out of her my people, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

  10. “You were asked:

    Will you promote peace and reconciliation in the Church and in the world; and will you strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church?

    but arguing for this change is bringing disunity and division. ”

    If no one could argue for change because of bringing disunity we would never have had the ordination of women. There has to be room for debate surely.

    • I am not suggesting that no-one could argue for change. But this particular change is universally divisive and destructive. No church has survived it. And it would demand not only change to canon B30 on marriage, but also canon A5 on the nature of the Church of England.

      This really is the case of a Ford car salesman arguing that VWs are better. The only way to do that with integrity is to resign your position.

      • “This really is the case of a Ford car salesman arguing that VWs are better. The only way to do that with integrity is to resign your position.”

        Which of course is exactly what people said about the ordination of women to both the Priesthood and Episcopate. And probably the abolition of the ban on artificial means of contraception.

        • Which of course is exactly what people said about the ordination of women to both the Priesthood and Episcopate. And probably the abolition of the ban on artificial means of contraception.

          Neither of those required abandoning the idea of the Bible the absolute final authority in all matters of faith and morals. This does. That’s the difference. That’s what makes it not just a disagreement over some aspect of Christian doctrine or life, but a turning-away from Christianity entirely.

        • Yes—and because of that, the Church took its time, and did some good theology, including careful Engagement with scripture.

          By contrast, this argument is a rather shoddy collection of ad hoc claims, many of which are demonstrably false. The idea that Paul has discovered a new freedom not limited by our bodies is just heresy I am afraid. It theologically denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

      • This really is the case of a Ford car salesman arguing that VWs are better. The only way to do that with integrity is to resign your position.

        More like a Ford salesman arguing that everyone should give up driving for good. It’s not just a different of opinion on some aspect of the religion; it’s a different religion entirely.

    • Room for debate in this special interest conclave? …zzzzz.
      There is no room in any of this protracted, overstretched, overheated, and warmed-over, self-absorbed idolatrous, adoration, for * saving (ordinary) Eutychus*.
      He dropped- off at the outset, disengaged from the inception of the opening theological moves.
      Even Eutycus’s unexpected suddend fall didn’t bring about a conscious causal root. It took an outside input from God, from God’s responder, to revive him.

  11. Myself I am not sure about the cars! (Of course, it is not cars specifically that are in question, but products in general – but I will continue with the cars for simplicity’s sake.)
    There are about 50 well known car brands. The range that each provide under their own banner has become ever less distinct (and in the case of a given manufacturer more diverse), so that one can no longer simply identify ‘an Audi’ or ‘a Mercedes’ at a glance.
    It is not necessary that workers working for each of these 50 actually believes that their own products are actually superior to all of the other 49.
    A hair splitting point, no doubt.

  12. Thank you Ian for a clear and concise letter. I wrote to my Bishop laying out issues when the LLF course was launched and received platitudes in response. God created them male and female – he created them. We are in great danger when we become so disobedient that we can no longer accept biology. Fulfilling oneself is the exact opposite of Christ’s teaching. “Pick up your cross and follow me” is difficult but necessary to helping us grow in love and faith. A few days ago an MP stated that the church should stop being homophobic or legislation would be required – so now they are placing themselves above God! And Bishops are not defending the faith!

    • If people cannot address points but can get no further than platitudes, what greater proof can there be that they have already been bested in the argument? Hence, their platitudes must be brought forward as proof of this.

      • Sorry Ian my reply seems to have gone further down. I am in the Diocese of Leicester and have just retired from Readership.
        I have also worked in Lincoln and York Diocese and have been feeling the noose tightening on this issue since 2014. It will come and those of us who refuse to become apostate will have to leave like me – after 35 years.
        No one wants to engage on the issues of children and their right to parentage and heritage. No one wants to engage on the use of women as breeders in poorer countries. It’s all about “love is love”.

        • Yes, that is the argument. But unlike you I don’t think it will win the day. There is no middle ground: the C of E will either need to retain or change its doctrine of marriage.

          If it were to change, it would not only need to change Canon B30, as well as its liturgy, it would also need to change Canon A5 and redefine the whole nature of that Church. That is never going to happen.

          • Canon A5 would not need changing. It is vague and imprecise.
            I suspect that there is a middle way and that will allow for greater pastoral accommodation. For example, I suspect the need for clergy/ordinands to say that they subscribe to Issues in Human Sexuality will be removed. I also suspect that clergy in same sex relationships will not be subject to questioning as they are in some dioceses but not in others. I also suspect that prayers and blessings for couples in same sex partnerships will become more mainstream.

          • Canon A5 would not need changing. It is vague and imprecise.

            It’s not vague, it’s ignored. Different thing.

            I also suspect that prayers and blessings for couples in same sex partnerships will become more mainstream.

            That won’t satisfy the pro-same-sex marriage side. They won’t be happy until the Church of England conducts same-sex marriages on exactly the same basis as it does opposite-sex marriages — which means changing the definition of marriage, which means abandoning the idea of the Bible as the final authority in matters of faith and morals.

            (I know Andrew Godsall claims that the Church of England has already abandoned that idea, but I’ve asked him to cite the resolution of General Synod which did that and he has never been able to.)

          • (The things Andrew Godsall usually cites in support of his claim that the Church of England has already abandoned the idea of the Bible as final authority at various publications of the Church of England (or its website!) but this is like citing a government website in support of a view on the law, even when its contradicted by the actual legislation).

          • I hope you are right. The Church of Scotland, the Church of Wales, have changed over the marriage issue. An MP has now stood up and threatened the C of E with legislation. The demonic powers are hard at work to supplant God in all areas of human life.

  13. ‘That is why those who consensually and freely seek help to reorient themselves away from unwanted desires can actually find this help effective and beneficial’

    I would take issue with that as the data doesnt seem to back it up. From what I have read the vast majority of people who have had some sort of ‘therapy’ for gay sexual attraction do not go on to experience opposite sex attraction instead of same sex. I also speak as someone who has been involved with TFT over the years. So I would not view it as ‘effective’ ‘to reorient’. I would have thought the resignations of many of the leaders of organisations that previously promoted such reorientation therapies and the subsequent closing of said organisations speaks to how ‘effective’ they were.

    • Thanks Peter. I am not myself a particular advocate of SOCE—primarily because of my following comment, that God does not require us to be ‘straight’.

      But note that my phrase is very qualified: some ‘can’ find this helpful. I have added three sets of research evidence for this.

      I would also note the major point—that even strong advocates for gay rights believe that the immutability of our orientation is not supported, and is not a good argument for gay relationships.

    • The American Psychological Association’s definitive study ‘Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation’ states:
      “Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.”

      “Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence). however, telic congruence based on stigma and shame is unlikely to result in psychological well-being.”

      I’d agree that ‘help to re-orient’ is not the right phrase (and, yesterday, I DM’ed Ian to suggest a better alternative). Nevertheless, the point that Ian makes is related to evidence of telic congruence (as the APA describes it). So, ‘help to live out the identity that is congruent with their values, rather than their unwanted desires’ is entirely consistent with peer-reviewed psychological research.

      The paper goes on to state:
      “The available evidence, from both early and recent studies, suggests that although sexual orientation is unlikely to change, some individuals modified their sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) and other aspects of sexuality (i.e., values and behavior). They did so in a variety of ways and with varied and unpredictable outcomes, some of which were temporary.”

      “Sexual orientation identity exploration can help clients create a valued personal and social identity that provides self-esteem, belonging, meaning, direction, and future purpose, including the redefining of religious beliefs, identity, and motivations and the redefining of sexual values, norms, and behaviors (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008).”

      Furthermore, the APA paper does not endorse the notion that therapeutic approaches require the blanket affirmation and encouragement of specified LGBT identities (i.e. embodying of one’s sexual orientation through a specific type of overt behaviour and social persona that is typically associated with ‘coming out’).

      Instead, it states:
      “We define an affirmative approach as supportive of clients’ identity development without a priori treatment goals for how clients identify or express their sexual orientations. Thus, a multiculturally competent affirmative approach aspires to understand the diverse personal and cultural influences on clients and enables clients to determine (a) the ultimate goals for their identity process; (b) the behavioral expression of their sexual orientation; (c) their public and private social roles; (d) their gender roles, identities, and expression8; (e) the sex and gender of their partner; and (f) the forms of their relationships..

      • Hello David,
        Having worked in the secondary mental health service in England and benefitted from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and drug therapy (though less so through a series of trial and error prescribing) there seems to be an almost exclusive focus on the subjective, whereas, for instance in CBT thought processes were accepted as the source of feelings. The challenge might be to identify the source of the thought and then probe, look for evidence for the source and test its truth, reliability.
        While all of that took place in my pre-Christian adult life, and (my mother had received in-patient ECT for dual-diagnosis) I’d suggest that for a Christian, the main source for testing those thought processes is scripture.
        Eg Is it permitted to be attracted to someone made in the (good) image of God, of either sex? No. But are there limits, boundaries? Yes. According to whose good standards, purposes, desires and why?

      • ‘Be it further resolved that the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation;’ (2022)

        which was my main point.

        • Thanks. My main point is that, given that the APA distinguishes sexual orientation identity from sexual orientation per se, that quoted resolution does not apply to sexual orientation identity, which the APA describes as “individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling” and “other aspects of sexuality (i.e., values and behavior)”

  14. I think that saying that what your troubled family (growing out of a troubled societal philosophy) has made you is the same as ‘who you are inside’ is abusive. It is a bit like saying that someone who have been seduced, even forcibly, is now part of the seducing community.

    These are things to be rejected and healed.

  15. Dear Dr Paul,
    Perhaps rightly there seem few comments from women.
    Thank you for a scholarly criticism.
    Of course the Scriptures are consistent, coherent and definite.
    You mention Charles Gore, my own guide in such problems. He actually stated the ‘tests of legitimate development’ to be, as you say, coherence in the texts etc, and if no agreement, there must be an ecumenical consent before change not authorised by Scripture. I pray for a compromise, nonetheless. H.F. ( Miss)

    • Sadly, women comment much less online. I wish it were others.

      Thanks for those insights from Gore. I don’t suppose he was unique in proposing them; I would put it differently since I don’t think the tradition of the Church has authority over scripture.

  16. I can’t help wondering if ‘universalism’ has a part to play in the conclusions to all these sorts of discussions…perhaps also Matt 19.12 on ‘ eunuchs ‘ but perhaps someone has made those points in all the any responses already….

    • Hello David W,
      Universalism has reared it head before, in regard to this topic, on this blog, I recall, just not in this article nor comments.
      I certainly recall S raising the point.

    • (We do have a common name, don’t we, so I will add my middle initial.)

      One reason for the effective universalism of some is the lack of a good theological anthropology – as Ian has often emphasised. In particular, the notion that we all we do and think is tainted by sin seems to have been lost.

      For instance, it is what comes out of a person that makes them ‘unclean’ (Mark 7:20). Also 1 John 1:8-10 is clear, and this states that we deceive ourselves. The result of this is that the nature of an individual can be based on their own assessment is fundamentally flawed. But the modern world requires us to affirm what people say about themselves. ‘Love’ in these terms means “I affirm your self-derived identity”. So, “God loves you” becomes “God thinks everything about you is great.” So, I’m OK and you’re OK. No change is needed. No sanctification is required. No repentance and turning from sin. No saviour is needed.

  17. David Wilson asks about ‘universalism’. I think the reality is that most liberals, like John Inge, are universalists and don’t think anyone is (finally) excluded from eternal life.
    This is really the underlying issue why liberals in the Church of England don’t treat sin as having eternal consequences.
    Also note that Inge ends his letter with the pious assurance that the orthodox have an ‘honoured place’ in the Church of England and he doesn’t want them to go.
    Or their money, I wager. So orthodoxy has become optional in the C of E now.
    Ian, I am grateful for your critique of David Runcorn’s work, on which Inge seems to rely.
    You are quite correct that Runcorn – not a New Testament scholar or ancient historian – simply has not engaged correctly with the biblical texts or the ancient sources. In his advocacy he consistently makes exegetical errors or slides over the texts instead of engaging with them, as Via, Johnson, Brueggeman and others do. This is exactly how liberalism works, yet David cannot bring himself to say he is no longer an evangelical but follows the post-evangelicalism of Roy Clements, Jayne Ozanne and Dave Tomlinson.

    • Do liberals’ preferences ever go against their theories? Are they even distinct from them? If not, they are of course not theories at all, merely preferences.
      After all there are millions of things that people have theories about. Surely this disjunction must happen once or twice?

  18. Apologies for a long post but I want to try and shape the discussion in a rather different way, hoping it might lead to (fruitful) conversations.
    Would a Christian from 1662 recognise and accept our understanding of marriage? Would a Victorian find our understanding of child-development acceptable? How might either react in a world where contraception and women’s equality are the norm, and divorce is broadly acceptable?
    Marriage may point us to some deep truths about God, and about Christ and the Church, but it is not a Christian prerogative; it exists in all societies in some form or other. It is also a practical way to organise relationships in a society. Today, in our British society, many couples are not married and many children are not brought up by married parents.
    Our Scriptures speak of polygyny as fairly normal , concubines helping generate an heir or heirs (Old Testament), and it is difficult to claim there is a doctrine of marriage promoted unproblematically, though the New Testament is more consistent. The great leaders of the Old Testament all have either multiple wives / concubines: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David. Judah has sex with Tamar, not knowing she is his daughter-in-law and makes her pregnant. In the New Testament Mary was almost certainly still a “child” in our terms when she was betrothed to Joseph, something we would not agree with today.
    Patriarchal societies have much invested in marriage, not least inheritance and descendants. They tend also to want to define roles for men and women. In the ancient world, sex was more about the active partner and the recipient; lower-status men, slaves and women were in this second category – they were penetrated, they did not penetrate those of higher status.
    With regards inheritance and descendants women were the means by which these two happen rather than active equal partners. While most today celebrate the greater equalities, it is not easy to find them in our Scriptures; 1 Cor 14: 34-36 is a notorious passage but its most damaging element is the suggestion that the Word of God emanated from a man not from women (and so women should be listen to men), not the issue of chatting or talking in churches. Similarly 1 Tim 2:13-14 makes claims from Genesis to justify why women must learn in silence; in both cases a plain reading says women must not teach or speak in public because the Old Testament says so.

    I think Ian is right to show up weaknesses in the open letters from both the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of Worcester, but I also think the evangelical argument needs to look again at its claims for authority and for Scripture, and to realise both are weaker than made out. This could then become a place for honest discussion, but I fear many have entrenched views.

    The authority of Scripture can easily become an ideological weapon. We interpret some passages where there is ‘clarity’ to deflect or to minimise the impact, and we home in on others to claim certainty; church teachers shape the minds of their congregations, and some churches are more set up in this way than others. Over the last 80 years the church has loosened its grip on many issues of private morality, or had its grip loosened: – divorce, the use of contraception, organ donation, co-habitation (by default), smacking, women in leadership in home and church etc. A cynic might suggest that same-sex marriage is the last sand-castle, if it goes does the church have anything to say about private morality? Meanwhile over the last 80 years and more, many evangelicals have resisted the plain meaning of Scripture regarding poverty and wealth – a subject on which Jesus has much to say and prefer a quietist approach to politics in general, despite gross and systemic injustices; we are good at charity but not at seeking justice! Much effort is spent deflecting the plain meaning of Scripture, rather than working out how we should respond (and I am guilty too)!

    Over history the Church has changed its teaching and tune on so many issues; over some, breakaway denominations have started (Baptists and their theology of baptism and their ecclesiology); on some the church has learnt to live with difference (even commending ecumenism); on some the plain meaning of Scripture was overridden without much protest – usury; on others it took a concerted push, and biblical argument and theological principles – slavery, better working conditions for children etc. It should be noted that those who supported slavery could make a good Biblical case for it and it took a deeper theological argument on the value of every and each human being to shift opinion.
    More recently the church has shifted on matters like capital punishment, Archbishop Fisher in favour, but his successor, Michael Ramsey against.
    Whatever we may argue, we cannot claim that the mind of the church is unchanging, and a humble enquirer will probably acknowledge we are more shaped by our surroundings than we care to think.
    This is not just about cultural and societal views and practices but it is to recognise changing world-views, a changing understanding of what we think it means to be human, a man, a woman, and what human and societal development looks like. Our visitor from 1662 would find this difficult – their world was very different. And the world-view that is more prevalent in the African Provinces that have broken away in all but name, is different again. I think Welby summarised the situation well in his address at Lambeth, but it does not lead to a solution.
    And the world-views and deeper understandings from the First Century were probably closer to 1662 but I do not think we have to hold them (all aspects of them) as divinely given, and in some areas they were wrongly informed. The dominant view was that generally men live a more public life, women have a role in the more private sphere; men had seed to be planted in (hopefully) a fertile woman – we see this language of seed, fertile / barren frequently. Women in Jewish culture were treated differently from men – and the key sign and seal of membership – circumcision – did not apply to women! What Paul might call natural or unnatural, we might choose, with good reason to differ – most of us do when it comes to women’s hair (1 Cor 11), but some insist that Romans 1 has to be taken literally. There is a much more careful discussion to be had here, and while it may not lead to agreement, it may help us decide if this is a first order issue (I struggle to see it – no one is denying the Creeds) or a salvation issue (and if it is a salvation issue, then I do not see the greedy or the revilers being pushed out (1 Cor 6), nor the gossips and others who make it onto other lists of bad people). It feels more like a scapegoat issue to strengthen the bonds of the inner group.
    Giving real authority to the Scriptures, requires us to see our ideological preferences, the battles we seem to want to fight (for whatever reason), or cannot afford to lose, the groups we want to remain with. To recognise the changing worlds of the Scriptural period, and the dominant surrounding cultures and views is not to denigrate the authority of Scripture but to value it.
    There is a view that needs to maintain that same-sex relations are an abomination to God and an insult to the Created Order and Nature – this is the language of the Scriptural passages. There is a view that a same-sex attracted couple can model the values and positives of a committed human relationship in the same way that a man and woman can – commitment, love, faithfulness, tenderness, mutual joy and outward concern for others, the making of a home and even the bringing up of children. This was not an option in Biblical times, and it must be noted that a first-reading of the ‘key’ texts does challenge this view. Some would say that a careful theological exploration of the issues might lead to an answer in a similar way to the confrontations over slavery or women in leadership. [And I know that an answer will be that the texts around women and slavery are not uniformly negative, as they are around same-sex relations. However that is to assume a consistency of world-view and a selectiveness of prioritising texts which is certainly questionable.]

    • Thanks, Peter. Just to pick up one of your comments: ‘This was not an option in Biblical times’. Why not? Faithful same-sex relationships were known in the ancient world.

      If the concern of Paul and other Jews was only abuse in such relationships, why did he not simply advocate the equivalent of same-sex marriage?

      • Hi Ian,
        Thank you
        I have not suggested that the concern of Paul was abuse in such relationships.
        A very very few faithful same-sex relationships are known, but I am not aware of any evidence that suggests this was an option for whoever; Hadrian and Antinoos were not normal people!
        I accept – like you – that Paul and the Jewish Law are of the view that same-sex relations are unnatural and against the Law. Where I differ is that I think there needs to be greater interrogation of their world-views and their understanding of what it meant to be a man /a woman, what the differences were understood to be between what men are and do and what women are and do, what sexual relationships implied and signified, recognising that we do not hold the same world-view around much of this. Similarly I do not believe our earth rests on water, but that does not make me doubt the Creator, just that the people then had a different (and we would say wrong) understanding of our planet.
        I think there may be a helpful parallel with the slavery debates, and the need to include probing theological questioning with the biblical criticism, as was needed to help Christians see slavery in a new light; and I do accept that the two issues are also different.
        Ideology so often pollutes our theological thinking. We are all at risk if not all corrupted! We each need to ask what is at stake for us as individuals, or as a denomination, in our holding to the views we do, whatever they might be.

    • Dear Peter,

      Thanks for your thoughtful and well-argued comment. I’d mostly agree with the overall sentiment behind your statement: “Over the last 80 years the church has loosened its grip on many issues of private morality, or had its grip loosened: – divorce, the use of contraception, organ donation, co-habitation (by default), smacking, women in leadership in home and church etc.”

      In his study, ‘Religion, Conscience, and Belief in the European Court of Human Rights’, legal scholar, Aaron Petty endorses this position by highlighting that the dichotomy of belief and practice that is so prevalent in the Western understanding of religious freedom (which is exemplified by the privatization of morality) has, in fact, developed from Christian theology that’s distinctly Western.

      Across Europe, it first found major political significance in the Peace of Westphalia:
      Petty writes: “Parlaying sixteenth-century theology into legal jargon, the forum internum/forum externum divide artificially splits religion into constituent components, privileging belief over other modes of religiosity.”

      “The problem is that giving primacy to individual conscience and belief affects the scope of the freedom itself.”

      “This norm “appears to be a Protestant, belief-centered conception of religion” that favors “internal and disembodied forms of religion over external and embodied ones.”

      “The Treaty of Munster (one of the constituent treaties of the Peace of Westphalia) guaranteed individuals “the free Exercise of their Religion, as well in publick Churches, at the appointed Hours, as in private in their own Houses, or in others chosen for this purpose by their Ministers, or by those of their Neighbours.”

      This development, derived from Christian theology in the West, became the model not only for Western Church-State relations, but also for the West’s privatization of faith and belief.

      The privatization thesis in Bryan Wilson’s seminal 1966 study, ‘Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment’ was taken forward by Steve Bruce in ‘Post-Secularity and Religion in Britain: An Empirical Assessment’.

      We read: “Steve Bruce also maintains that privatization is one of the key processes responsible for religious decline in modern societies. As it becomes harder for religions to influence the public domain, bounded as they are to follow the secular rules of engagement, it becomes more difficult to socialize the next generations in their religion (Bruce 2011; 2013). Hence, in time, non-religiosity will grow.” (Ribberink, Achterberg, Houtman, 2017).

      Nevertheless, I strenuously disagree with the notion that marriage is an issue of private morality. In his book, Political Liberalism, John Rawls explained the necessity for those who engage in political debate to: “give properly public reasons to support the principle and policies [the] comprehensive doctrine is said to support.”

      Even if the private reasons for marriage have evolved over time, the essential public reason for marriage has endured. Noted jurist, Sir William Blackstone, explained that public reason in his ‘Commentaries on the Laws of England’:
      “And the reason of our English law is surely much superior to that of the Roman, if we consider the principal end and design of establishing the contract of marriage, taken in a civil light; abstractedly from any religious view, which has nothing to do with the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the children. The main end and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong; this end is undoubtedly better answered by legitimating all issue born after wedlock, than by legitimating all issue of the same parties, even born before wedlock, so as wedlock afterwards ensues…because of the very great uncertainty there will generally be, in the proof that the issue was really begotten by the same man; whereas, by confining the proof to the birth, and not to the begetting, our law has rendered it perfectly certain, what child is legitimate, and who is to take care of the child.

      To this day, marriage fixes spouses with automatic joint (parental) responsibility for the care, the protection, the maintenance of children produced by their union; but without undue intrusion upon family privacy.

      This enduring contingency, known as the presumption of legitimacy through marriage, is a fundamental building-block of intergenerational kinship. Without this, lines of family descent and affinity could only be determined by constant legal interventions and intrusions upon privacy (e.g. DNA testing by default).

      So, in relation to this contingency for natural offspring, I’d answer your question, “Would a Christian from 1662 recognise and accept our understanding of marriage?” with an emphatic “Yes”.

      Even in Tudor times, Henry VIII’s Vicar-General, Thomas Cromwell, instituted mandatory parish registers to record all birth and marriages to fulfil the purpose that Sir William Blackstone described above.

      Marriage’s presumption of legitimacy is a contingency for those who, at first sight, might lawfully appropriate it to themselves in respect of the children produced by their sexual union.

      Of course, there have always been alternative subsidiary routes to parenthood, such as adoption, for those who cannot have children of their own. Yet, despite the availability of these alternatives, we have seen, in the US especially, that same-sex married couples are arguing that marriage equality should mean that the law should bestow automatic parental recognition upon a spouse who is not naturally related to the child.

      In the matter of Q.M. vs. B.C. (2014), we see a modern-day example of a same-sex married couple insisting that marriage equality means that the a spouse who is unrelated to the child should, nevertheless, be automatically recognised as its lawful parent. This understanding of marriage equality threatens the child’s inalienable right to its identity and ancestry.

      The court said: “Here, the respondents seek to rely on the presumption of legitimacy to establish Ms. S. as J.C.’s second mother, effectively extinguishing J.C.’s right to have a father.
      Ms. C.’s credible and uncontradicted testimony at the hearing was that she did not have sexual relations with any man other than Mr. M. during the period of J.C.’s conception, and that Mr. M. is J.C.’s father. Thus, there is no dispute that Ms. S. is not, and could not possibly be, the second parent of this child. Moreover, Ms. S. reconciled with Ms. C. after Ms. C. discovered she was pregnant, and presumably after she had been told that the child was fathered by Mr. M.”

      This is, by no means, an isolated example. In fact, the International Lesbian and Gay Association provided the following as an amendment to the Proposed European Convention on Family Status 13.
      Parental affiliation:
      Article 12 – Spouses and registered partners:
      ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.’

      In California, it is the advent of the same-sex marriage and parenting arrangements that has resulted in triple-parenthood laws. In turn, these laws have opened the door to greater state intrusion in far more splintered three-party (and more) child care arrangements and child custody arrangements than when biology, marriage, and adoption were the “bright-line indicators of who counts as a parent”.

      It’s no wonder that, recently, a polyamorist and his two same-sex partners have now become legally recognised as triple-parents of a surrogate child. As his article explains:
      “But progressive courts have begun to recognize already existing realities (that three consenting adults are in a relationship and parenting) by making poly families legal parents. I, and my two partners, seem to be the first. In 2017, we were awarded triple parentage on the birth certificate of a child yet to be born by surrogacy (contrast: a kid testifying in court they want their third parent recognized). And in 2018, two women involved with a man achieved a similar result in a Canadian court. “This must be recognized as a reality and not as a detriment to the best interests of the child,” said the judge in that case.”

      I disagree strenuously with that judgement. On average, polyamorous relationships last five to eight years. After that, any child of poly parents will face years of splintered custody, as the courts seek to divide access between three (or more) legally recognised parents.

      Nevertheless, that Pandora’s Box was opened with the advent of same-sex marriage, when marriage equality was interpreted to mean that the presumption of legitimacy/parenthood should be automatically conferred without regard to genetic connection, despite the availability of adoption.

      As you say, ” a same-sex attracted couple can model the values and positives of a committed human relationship in the same way that a man and woman can – commitment, love, faithfulness, tenderness, mutual joy and outward concern for others, the making of a home.”

      Nevertheless, I would contend that this clear evidence of routinely misappropriating the marital presumption of legitimacy and usurping natural parenthood reveals that same-sex marriage undermines the enduring public reason for marriage.

      • Dear David,
        I would agree that the Treaty of Westphalia may well be a key point in the privatisation of religion in the West, and the prioritising of belief in a way that might not be helpful; it also separated out state and church, and confirmed politically the split in the Church. I am in agreement that our friend from 1662 might hold a fairly similar theological understanding of marriage but I suspect they would be puzzled even horrified by how married couples court, get engaged, and the role that the wider family may or may not play. Our friend probably would not approve of children already born having the role of bridesmaids and page-boys etc. Our friend would not approve of how the children are brought up either. In that regard the outworking of what marriage is, is very different now. Lawrence Stone “The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800” provides granular evidence of the way things were then, and how our friend in 1662 would have viewed the outworking of marriage, not simply its theological basis.
        Your comments on polyamorous relations and the true parents of a child, where there may be a surrogate parent, or a sperm donor, whether official or friendly, open up another huge area, but I don’t think the blame or the cause rests with same-sex marriage. Designer babies, the use of donors and surrogates is not confined to gay couples; adoption at times has become almost commercial, with mothers in poor countries providing babies for couples in the west. The Church has expressed unease with many of the artificial developments that have made getting a baby possible, as well as the artificial developments around contraception; over recent decades the challenges are becoming greater, not least with the issue you raise of biological parents versus those who nurture you, and with “designer babies”. The Church may be out of its depth!!
        Adoption has brought great joy, but it is not without its ethical challenges. In a world where almost everything is commodified, it is not surprising that getting a child is also now commodified. Long gone are the days where a couple waited to see if they could have children “naturally”, and a child was seen as gift.
        Both the parenting issues you raise, legitimacy of parents and usurping natural parenthood, are wider issues than same-sex couples, but they certainly come into focus where a same-sex couple wish to have a child.
        Whether this is a Pandora’s box with woes to come, or whether society and the human psyche will adapt only time will tell.
        I suggest the deeper issue is one of commodification and also the “right” of a person to have a child if that is what they want, whether they are single, in a same-sex relationship, in a relationship with someone of the other sex, or even some sort of polyamorous relationship. Whatever, commodification and the claim it is a right to have a child are far from Hannah weeping before God.
        I think you have raised yet more ways in which the current world-view is so different from the past. I do not have your legal knowledge and expertise; if it was the advent of same-sex marriage that changed the presumption of legitimacy and who is a parent, then that may be a problem with the way the law was framed; family law may or may not, in your or my opinion, be in accordance with the will of God in all issues.
        The issues around the right to have children, and individual rights “trumping” the place of marriage as the proper setting for children predate same-sex marriage and are not unique to same-sex couples.
        Of course there are many happy families, many happy children, where the family set up and the means of conception would not be “traditional”. My focus here is on how much has changed, not to make judgements. I can however see difficulties and challenges in every historical period and culture, not least because humans are not robots and children are not sausages.

        • “The issues around the right to have children, and individual rights “trumping” the place of marriage as the proper setting for children predate same-sex marriage and are not unique to same-sex couples.”

          That statement over-generalises the issue.

          You wrote: “ if it was the advent of same-sex marriage that changed the presumption of legitimacy and who is a parent, then that may be a problem with the way the law was framed.”

          By definition, same-sex marriage requires a gender-neutral reading of the marital presumption of legitimacy, which hitherto simply conferred automatic parental recognition on those whose sexual union was presumed to have produce the child.

          Consequently, for spouses to be denied automatic joint parental recognition because their sexual union could not possibly be presumed to have produced the child is considered to contradict ‘marriage equality’, even if that ‘equality’ flies in the face of the (cis-)gendered facts of reproduction.

          The fact that “there are many happy families, many happy children, where the family set up and the means of conception would not be “traditional” still does not justify this wrongful gender-neutralisation of marriage that is required to make same-sex marriage ‘equal’ to opposite-sex marriage.

          In summary, the Church’s position on same-sex marriage is not merely another issue of private morality. Same-sex marriage violates the enduring public purpose of marriage. Parental responsibility should never be conferred presumptively on those whose union cannot be presumed to have produced the cold.

          Therefore, it is wrong for the Church to capitulate to the zeitgeist on the public purpose of marriage.

          • Correction:
            In summary, the Church’s position on same-sex marriage is not merely another issue of private morality. Same-sex marriage violates the enduring public purpose of marriage. Parental responsibility should never be conferred presumptively on those whose union cannot be presumed to have produced the child.

            Therefore, it is wrong for the Church to capitulate to the zeitgeist on the public purpose of marriage.

    • Your thought experiment could be pushed a bit further out chronologically!

      Going back before even the BCP (!!), what would Jesus from the first century make of our current global Anglican situation and its manifestations in individual Anglican provinces?

      If we were of a mind that Jesus would look at all the changes made since the first century, since the 16th century and since the Victorian era, and determine that, all things being considered through the changing times, evangelicals were generally correct in the changes they had accepted as (at least) consistent with the authority of Scripture (if not required by the authority of Scripture), why would we think that Jesus would then say, “But, whatever you do in the 21st century, do not under any circumstances make any change at all in how you understand lifelong, loving commitment between two men or between two women?”

      If we split over homosexuality rather than find a way to permit some change, have we been fair to homosexuals in comparison to other groups (women, slaves, children, divorced persons (as you innumerate in your comment)) in the history and present time of the church?

      If perchance we have been unfair, is that an unfairness that Jesus would, nevertheless, endorse?

      What decisions lie before us which we should make with an eye on being consistent with th authority of Scripture when it requires of us that we do justly and love mercy?

      • Fairness? Justice?
        Are you suggesting that this is reducible only to the subjective and relative?
        Or is there any objectivity and parameters?
        Who’s justice? For Christians, does it included justice saccording to the law of God, the indicatives and imperatives, the whole canon of scripture, including prohibitions, salvation and sanctification? These are big questions engaged by Jurisprudence and Biblical theology including Jesus himself who did not condone nor affirm sin, which at root is a divergence and negation of God’s law/instructions even as they emanated from the lips and actions of Jesus in his birth, incarnate, life of devotion and obedience, his merciful redemptive substitutional, atoning death, bodily resurrection and ascension, sovereign enthronement, and his return in executing his dividing and righteous judgement and covenantal consummation of his beloved and betrothed people.

        • Peter C,
          You write, * consistent with the authority of scripture*. That is certainly the root cause here:
          1 the authority of scripture is not recognised, has been reduced as a faint irrelevant factor, subsumed by the sovereignty of self determining humanity and demandingness of conformity to the sexual culture of what amounts to the last few minutes or seconds in the whole span of time in human history. (And if you don’t recognise that you’ve not lived long enough, nor through the turbulence of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, those decade following WW2, where finally the shackles restraint were were smashed by the addiction to self-expression and limitless self- determination and sexual satisfaction.and gratification. Champagne socialism was drunk deep. (Irony alert)
          2 Consistency of scripture, across the whole canon is denied, ignored, not taught, is relitivised.
          3 Scripture in fact carries no weight, is weightless drifting through time and untethered to its author -God.

          From the published, reported musing of Bishops I see no grasp of much of this, as they focus on their muse – draped in a sub-par, knock-off copy of the rainbow, a human divergence from the fragmentation of light, of the Light of the world. Blinded by kaleidescope culture, not the true uncreated Light of the World.

      • Peter, given that almost everyone agrees that Jesus, as a first century Jew, unequivocally taught that marriage was between one man and one woman, so we can be quite confident about that, in what way does it reflect the ‘justice and mercy’ of God to reject his clear teaching here?

        This was not an incidental ethic; it is clearly a reflection of distinctive Jewish and biblical understanding of how God has created humanity, bodily in his image male and female. It was, in the ancient world, a clear distinctive marker of Jewish belief against both other ANE cultures and Greece and Rome. As E P Sanders highlights (and others have repeatedly noted) both distinctive and essential to early Christian sexual and social ethics.

        So you appear to be claiming that the teaching of Jesus is inherently unjust. That seems rather odd.

        If we can extract the principles of ‘permanent, faithful, stable’ from the biblical ethic, why didn’t Jesus? Why didn’t Paul?

        • Because Paul was of a particular culture and time.
          The case has not been made that Jesus said anything at all about the matter.

          • Yes he did. He affirmed and approved and obeyed all the scriptures.
            I’m any event you do not believe that the case has been made that he said anything reported in scripture. And even if he did, so what, it is irrelevant today?
            The birth narratives relating to Mary and Joseph provide the model of marriage. It certainly ain’t same sex.
            There is no scriptural reference to Christ’s approval of same sex relationships, marriage.
            All references in scripture to marriage are to male and female. None at all to m+m or f+f.
            And Romans 1 is set against unrighteous desires.

          • But Paul has, as does the Old Testament. But you still dont accept it. One wonders if He had said something about it would you have ‘reinterpreted’ that too? And as had been said many times, there was no need for Jesus to refer to gay sexual relationships as it was clear what the Jewish scriptures said. Indeed the only reason He gave his view on marriage was because He was specifically asked about it in the context of divorce. There was no such interest in homosexual relations.

          • That is just silly. Why wd he need 2? It is at the upper end 0f
            a) Jew-vs-Gentile distinctives – i.e., as per Sanders, exactly what Jews emphasise;
            b) shameful things that shdn’t be uttered;
            c) things undisputed in that culture.

            Ian already lists many key 2ndary subjects re which Jesus didn’t specifically teach. His general perspective means there’s little need 4 teaching here.

            NT specialists regard Jesus’s teaching re div*rce & sacred marital unity as pretty much his best attested, in general if n0t in detail.

          • I think Peter is right. If u ”reinterpret” Hebrew Bible and Paul u wd ”reinterpret” Jesus as well.

          • The case has not been made that Jesus said anything at all about the matter.

            But as the only sources we have for the words of Jesus are the gospels, and as you think the gospels are not reliable historical sources, they is no way to make any case that Jesus said anything that could possibly satisfy you, is there?

            Including, I might point out, the sayings of Jesus that you like and keep quoting. By your own standards you should doubt that Jesus ever said, for example, ‘blessed are those who believe without seeing’. Yet you quote that over and over again as if there can be no doubt that Jesus actually said it.

            (Of course we all know your real hermeneutic: if you agree with it you believe Jesus said it, if you don’t agree with it the fallible gospel writers made it up. Right?)

        • Almost everyone agrees that Jesus, as a first century Jew, unequivocally taught that marriage was between one man and one woman, so we can be quite confident about that.
          In the same breath Jesus unequivocally said that man and woman were created ‘in the beginning’, exactly as stated in Genesis, yet you reject Genesis as a factual account. You think you know better than Jesus, the Lord of Creation! That is why, as per my comment above, your position (along with that of pretty well everyone else here – you certainly have majority opinion on your side) is theologically incoherent.

        • At its simplest, Ian, neither Paul nor Jesus were (as far as we have records) asked about life in the modern Western world where the infrastructure of family life, of society’s organisation around notions of “home”/”domesticity” is very different to the ancient world. Nor were they asked by believing same sex couples whether there might be any change in approach to their “status” in the life of the congregation, given many other changes (which neither Jesus nor Paul envisaged), notably in our modern response to divorce and remarriage which is often hard to square with what each of Jesus and Paul said. The question of fairness I am raising is not about whether Jesus or Paul were fair in what they said in the 1st century but about how we the church understand what Jesus would say to the changed church in our day. In my view, but clearly not in yours, it is conceivable that Jesus (and Paul, who was quite realistic about the desires of our bodies in 1 Cor 7), taking a “fair” account of what has historically developed for the modern church and society, would both uphold that marriage is between a man and a woman, and allow that some change of approach by the church to faithful, stable, loving permanently partnered homosexuals is permissible. (Contrary to some views in this thread, we are not talking about paying lip service to the authority of Scripture. We are talking about how we reasonably and fairly adapt our understanding and application of Scripture. Was Paul disregarding the authority of Jesus when, in 1 Cor 7, he provided a new exception re divorce and remarriage to that given in Matthew (and, as you know, that not given in Mark or Luke)? Of course not. Was Paul adapting to the circumstances of his day? Yes.)

          • Peter, on what grounds do you suppose that Jesus and Paul would make a fair allowance when:

            a. both root their teaching in creation, in particular the bodily sex difference of men and women?
            b. both lived in a culture where the prevailing norms were very different, and where same-sex sex in one form or another was completely acceptable?
            c. both lived in a world where faithful, stable, permanent relationships were known, even if they were not the norm?
            d. both could quite easily have trotted out the ‘permanent, faithful, stable’ argument if that is what they believed?
            e. both believed that celibate singleness was an anticipation of the life to come where there would be ‘no marrying or giving in marriage’?

            In other words, given that people have always wanted to have sex with people they are sexually attracted to, what has so radically changed in our world that we need to completely rethink what it means to be human and have sexual desires?

            No, I don’t think Paul was disregarding the authority of Jesus in 1 Cor 7. But the question of divorce has no bearing on the nature of humanity created male and female; marriage does. So I am unclear why they are comparable.

            Sexual union is the joining of difference that God intended in the creation of humanity. It is inherently designed to be fruitful in procreation, and it points to the union of difference in God and his people. Same-sex sex does none of these.

            How does ‘adaptation’ get past these fundamentals?

            What you appear to be claiming is that the teaching of Scripture no longer applies to us, since our situation is so completely different from the ancient world. I don’t think that claim has any plausibility.

          • Are you for real, dear Bishop? What you propose is baseline revisionism, re-writing scripture to make it say what you want it to. Thanks for eventually making it clear that is the goal, in furtherance of pressure group activism. Scriptural doctrine dissolved.
            Why don’t you rewrite it, scripture that is? Fantastical? With your * blue sky thinking*, fiction. Cultic. The fiction of the outworking of Open/Process theology?
            Maybe you should start with thinking sbout who Jesus is? And the attributes of God, including, omniscience, his existence in Triunity, in eternity, outside of time, even while you completely ignore questions of sin and unrighteousness and the whole sweep of the canon, to suit your own ideology.
            What is more it centres on the horizontal level of humanity and excludes the vertical, transcendent and and imminent.
            And all the while you what you write evidence that you think scripture has no authority today, even while abstracting a quotation and applying it an
            authoritative consistent hermeneutic to support your ideology. With something of a selective scattergun approach to you argumentation it seems that you are unaware that it shoots holes in your theological mannequin dressed in robes of office..

          • The question of fairness I am raising is not about whether Jesus or Paul were fair in what they said in the 1st century but about how we the church understand what Jesus would say to the changed church in our day.

            So if I’ve got this right, you’re saying that what we should do is not look at what Jesus actually said, but instead we should try to imagine what Jesus would have said if presented with early 21st century sexual mores?

            And that when you try to perform this completely counterfactual feat of imagination, you find that what Jesus would have said just happens to be totally in agreement with you own view of how you think the church should respond?

            Quelle surprise, is I think the phrase.

          • Peter, u say ‘0ur m0dern appr0ach 2 div*rce and remarriage’ – but wh0 is ‘0ur’? Christians’? Citizens’? Maybe the idea is that the 2 are elided 2gether?? Yikes.
            It isn’t hard 2 square with Jesus & Paul but imp0ssible. It is like an Arthurian d0l0r0us bl0w that intr0duces a curse that can be
            healed 0nly by rev0cati0n.

        • Peter, there are many things that change between different eras and places, but I can’t at all see what is era-specific / place-specific re either Paul’s new teaching 0r c1970 changes in attitudes 2 div*rce.

          Anyway, the latter was blatant cultural acc0mm0dati0n. N0thing changed bi0l0gically n0r anthr0p0l0gically. Merely the irrelevant Zeitgeist changed.

      • I think it needs to be stressed (again?) that the nature of the same-sex sexuality issue is different from that, say, concerning slavery or the status of women. One reason for the growth of the Christian Church in the early centuries was precisely the value it gave to women, in contrast with the surrounding culture. That this has taken time to take effect is the result of accommodation to the dominant culture of patriarchy.

        Similarly, I believe slavery was opposed in the early church, and it is certainly true that the slavery permitted in the OT law was of a very, very different character than that practiced by Europeans from the 17th century. The latter gained authority no from Christian teaching, but from Enlightenment developments which gave the excuse that the African was a different and ‘lower’ species.

        In contrast, the acceptance of sexual activity between people of the same sex has no support in the either the OT or NT. Rather, it is a reversion to accepting the cultural norms of the pagan world, in the same way that patriarchy and slavery crept in, or were not shunned.

        By the way, I don’t think anyone objects to loving, faithful relationships between two people of the same sex. It is the sexual activity which is the issue. Love and faithfulness do not require sexual activity.

  19. Dear Bishop John

    Thank you for your letter. I am glad of your concern to search the scriptures for what God has to say about homosexual relations. You write extensively of analogies with verses about the age of the earth and evolution. Let us begin by studying the verses about homosexual relations and then seeing whether verses about other subjects shed light on them.

    In Leviticus 18:22, the practice of ‘man lying with man as with woman’ as described as toevah. I leave you to look up the meaning of this word but it is unambiguously and strongly negative.

    Some criticisms of the relevance of this verse to the present day have been made. Please allow me to address these criticisms as follows:

    1. This verse is part of the Law of Moses, which does not apply in the church. Indeed, but God does not change his opinions simply because His Son was crucified. What God viewed as ‘toevah’ in ancient Israel He views as toevah today. The difference is in how He offers to deal with it.
    2. This verse is about religious practice, and pagan religion in the Ancient Near East was soaked in sexual activity both heterosexual and homosexual. Indeed it was, but the verse is preceded by a detailed list of sexual relations prohibited among close relatives and followed by a prohibition on sexual relations with animals. None of those things had anything to do with pagan worship, and neither Israelite nor pagan religious practice is mentioned in this extended passage. The context is general.
    3. The Hebrew words for the two men are different, implying that one is passive and one is active and that this is consequently about coercive rather than consensual sex. Why then are both to be put to death for it in ancient Israel, as demanded in Leviticus 20:13? God is just and would not command the death of an innocent victim of homosexual rape.
    4. This verse reflects merely the opinions of men in ancient Israel some 3000 years ago, not God. Jesus believed otherwise of the written Laws of Moses. If you discount these verses you have to excise not only a large portion of the Old Testament from your Bible but also much of the New, and you have no guide of authority comparable to scripture for doing that.
    5. How can we tell society what to do when it is taking an increasingly divergent line from the Bible? We have no authority to tell non-believers how to behave. The task of believers is to call people to believe in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. How do you determine what is part of God’s original design plan and what is a sinful consequence of the events described in Genesis 3?

    If (Bishop John) you will genuinely engage with these comments then I would gladly discuss the other relevant verses, the wider context in the Ancient Near East, and the pastoral implications. Regarding the last of these, I have great respect for my brothers in Christ Rev’d Sam Allberry and Rev’d Vaughan Roberts, who openly state that they are sexually attracted to other men but believe on the basis of Holy Scripture that they are called not to act on their desires, just as a man attracted to another man’s wife is called not to act. They have been justified and are being sanctified by the shed blood of their Lord Jesus Christ. What will you say to them?

    Yours in Him,

  20. Thank you Ian for the above.

    If only one of our chief shepherds had written or subscribed to it.

    You say:
    My greatest sadness in all this is that your approach is in real danger of robbing the world of good news that it needs to hear from us about our bodies, sex, marriage, and sexuality.

    What do you think of Glynn Harrison’s attempt to retell that Good News in his “A Better Story: God, Sex and human flourishing.” ?

    For me it demonstrates a positive strategy – pretty much uniquely as far as I have read. And it puts forward a comprehensive picture, rather than a corner of it.

    God bless you

    Nigel Feilden

  21. As I’ve said here before, I agree with Ian’s interpretation of the texts while disagreeing with its application (I affirm loving same-sex relationships regardless of what scripture says about them). I’ve long accepted that we’ll never agree on this.

    Setting that aside, I’d truly like to see those who hold to the traditional position take the lead and broker a compromise, because, regardless of intent, dragging this out can only see ill-will increase, and that helps no-one. The last thing I want is for this to become a zero-sum game where only total victory will do.

    • !
      A view can’t attain merit by being a view. Views arise in 2 main ways – wishful thinking and evidence. That is regularly why there are precisely 2 main views. Wishful thinking can never have any merit.

    • I’d truly like to see those who hold to the traditional position take the lead and broker a compromise

      What possible compromise can there be? You can’t have a church where some people think the Bible is the final authority and some don’t. That would be like asking for a compromise between one set of lawyers who accept the Supreme Court as the final court of appeal and another set who don’t. No compromise is possible. If something isn’t recognised as the final authority for everyone, then it isn’t any kind of final authority at all.

      • Since most debate on this is framed in terms of scriptural interpretation, merely accepting biblical authority as a principle doesn’t solve anything. (Likewise, until very, very recently, although all justices swear to uphold the same Constitution, SCOTUS was split between judges who accepted a “living condition” and originalists, with a swing vote to decide cases.)

        Ultimately, like SCOTUS, it comes down to votes. If no compromise in synods is possible then fragmentation’s inevitable. If it’s so, it’s so, but I’d like to at least hear alternatives before surrendering to further schism.

        • James I value your contribution and call for traditionalists to work for compromise. As I note above, I suspect that there is a middle way and that will allow for greater pastoral accommodation. For example, I suspect the need for clergy/ordinands to say that they subscribe to Issues in Human Sexuality will be removed. I also suspect that clergy in same sex relationships will not be subject to questioning as they are in some dioceses but not in others. I also suspect that prayers and blessings for couples in same sex partnerships will become more mainstream.

          Conservative dioceses are not exhibiting growth as noted in the recent statistics for mission. Southwell and Nottingham is one example. Southwark, with a much more liberal tradition and bishop is growing.

          I don’t happen to think this issue is a panacea for church growth or shrinkage, but it is one factor that prevents us addressing other issues that could impinge on growth, or shrinkage. No change at all will simply hasten the death of the CofE.

          • At this late stage we still have the misunderstanding that there is a respectable stance called ‘traditi0nalism’?

            The evidence based stance is the 1 respectable stance.

          • As I note above, I suspect that there is a middle way and that will allow for greater pastoral accommodation. For example, I suspect the need for clergy/ordinands to say that they subscribe to Issues in Human Sexuality will be removed. I also suspect that clergy in same sex relationships will not be subject to questioning as they are in some dioceses but not in others. I also suspect that prayers and blessings for couples in same sex partnerships will become more mainstream.

            And as I wrote above, that is not a workable compromise because it won’t satisfy the pro-same-sex-marriage side of the debate.

        • Since most debate on this is framed in terms of scriptural interpretation,

          It isn’t, though. Most of those on the pro-same-sex-marriage side argue some variety of ‘the Bible is wrong, we know better now’.

          Andrew Godsall for example is explicitly of the view that the Bible was written by fallible human beings and therefore when our reason leads us to a different conclusion to that of the Bible, we should give our reason the final say.

          Lots of others put forward the argument that ‘Paul didn’t know about faithful non-abusive same-sex relationships, we do, therefore we know better than the Bible’, which, again, gives our historical ideas (which are wrong, as articles on this site demonstrate, but that’s beside this point) the final say — again, not the Bible.

          Some few do try to argue that it’s possible to interpret the Bible in a way that allows for same-sex marriage, but their arguments are weak and unconvincing. Far more, realising that, instead argue that the Bible is, on this matter, wrong, or at least incomplete.

          And that view, that the Bible can be wrong or incomplete in these matters, is simply incompatible with the Bible being the final authority on all matters of faith and morals.

        • James B.
          1 Thank you for your refreshing clarity, openess and honesty.
          2 SCOTUS is inhabited by Judges who subscribe to known and different sschools of Jurisprudence, of statutory interpretation and they are political appointments.
          3 in that political scheme, at the point of judgement, pressure groups play no part nor do the voters.
          4. Perish the thought that AB’s and B play the role of SCOTUS judges. There’d be a long way to go to weedle out from them any sense of in depth expert understanding of scripture and interpretation and whatever else forms the CoE constitution.
          There may have already been some significant political appointment Bishops, not all I suspect based on their Christian theological, scriptural expertise.

        • And the changes I mention can be made without reference to Synod. The bishops introduced them and will therefore most likely remove/modify them. Issues in Human Sexuality is now a dead and old report.

  22. Peter Carrell, the Anglican bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, opines above that if Jesus was around today (isn’t he?) , he would look at modern culture and conclude “we must have some change of approach to ‘faithful, permanent same-sex relationships”.
    This means either that human beings as a species have evolved into something different in the past 2000 years (if so, I would like to know what the biological evidence is);
    or that Jesus got it wrong back then and the passage of time has falsified his teaching qbout marriage and porneia.
    I would be grateful if Peter could tell us which it is. If it is thd second, I am reminded of chapter 5 of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, where the Anglican bishop in the afterlife (but not in heaven) informs his visitor of the theological paper he is writing:
    “Remember, Dick, our Lord was a very young man when he died and if he had lived longer, he would have revised his naive beliefs.”

    • Great apt quote and succinct from Lewis.
      I suppose it is also covered by his umbrella term, * chronological snobbery*.

      In today’s sophisticated, (as in sophistry) upper echelon church circles, one way to change the CoE would be to inhabit the parallel universe of the Scottish Government and at a stroke unravel the knots it has masochistically tied itself in: uncontested self gender certification. Then it could, unquestionably, and without any fear of probing into the validity, marry same-sex people, if one self-certifies as male, one as female, without any need to change doctrine. After all, hasn’t the terminology of husband and wife been misappropriated by many in those relationships. I do wonder why.

  23. HI Paul, good article.

    Happy Jack notices the absence of a discussion about “natural law” in all this debate, i.e., the law of God inscribed on our hearts which, despite the Fall, still exists within us.

    People have a basic, ethical intuition that certain behaviours are wrong because they are unnatural (in the theological sense) – they go against the design of God for us as people. We perceive intuitively that the natural sex partner of a human is another human, and the natural sex partner for a man is a woman, and the natural sex partner for a woman is a man.

    Natural law reasoning is the basis for almost all standard moral intuitions.

    Happy Jack would trace the origin of attempts to ‘normalise’ homosexuality to the acceptance of artificial contraception by the Lambeth Conference of 1930. Contraception is intrinsically wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race – his “natural law” for us. The natural-law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children.

    But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural and morally disordered, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes by artificial means the basic purpose of sex – procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end by unnatural methods.

    Pope Paul VI predicted grave consequences would arise from the widespread and unrestrained use of contraception. He warned, “Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificially limiting the increase of children. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men – especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point – have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” (HV 17)

    Having separated the conjugal act from procreation and with sex becoming an increasing recreational pursuit, abortion soon followed. Is it really any wonder bishops are folding in the face of demands to bless monogamous and faithful same sex relationships?

    “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2357)

    One could also argue that the separation of sex from procreation also lies behind the gender confusion we are witnessing. What does it means to be a man or a woman, to be a human being? Our identity as individual humans is inextricably linked to our individual identity as male or female, and when that foundation of the personality becomes shaky, the entire edifice of identity as human beings starts to tremble.

    The Genesis story tells us that God created male and female and that his first command to them was “be fruitful and multiply.” God established the identity of the human person as complementary male and female. In his first commandment, he was also teaching the man and the woman what it means to be a man and a woman – a man is a father and a woman is a mother. These truths are written so deeply in our biology, our humanity, and our culture that virtually every human being in every society everywhere and in every age has understood that to be a man is to be a father and to be a woman is to be a mother. They were created to procreate, To be a man was to be a father, and to be a woman was to be a mother, and if because of a biological abnormality, same-sex attraction, or some psychological disposition they were not able to be a mother or a father, we considered that person to be wounded in some way.

    • Jack,

      What an insult you close with to those who marry or remarry where the woman is past childbearing age! Yet God smiles on such marriages.

      NB ‘Paul’ is the blog owner and essayist’s surname. He’s Ian Paul.

      The trouble with arguments from Natural Law is the Fall. What seems to be common sense and the norm in one culture is very far from accepted and acceptable in another. Close-relative incest and murder of adults appear to be the only universals.

      God did not explain his reasons for prohibiting homosexual relations in the Law of Moses. You make the usual suggestion about male/female complementarity, which can be taken to mean that homosexuality is spitting in the face of God who had gone to the trouble to make Eve to be an intimate companion for Adam. Without disagreeing, I believe there is a stronger reason at the level of society. The ancient pagan world was soaked in sex; it was part of public life – in brothels, with your host’s slaves, in pagan temples – and the main sexual distinction was between penetrator and penetrated, not man and woman. Mosaic Law privatised sex and legislated it into the marital bedroom, making Judaism – and subsequently Christianity – very different. Why should we be surprised that, as institutional Christianity has declined in the West, a sexual revolution has taken place? Since the 1960s we are beginning to see what pagan societies were really like – although we are still, worryingly, in the fairly early days of this sexual revolution. And why should we be surprised that homosexuals are not grateful for being regarded, since decriminalisation, as tolerated sinners, but quickly demanded full equality? Nobody likes being patronised.

      What goes on in society is one thing but what goes on in the church is another, in which the question is ultimately what the Bible says and how it is regarded. I have offered an exegesis above. In his own time, God will remove the lampstands of churches that are unfaithful to his word.

      Notice please that the sexual revolution began in the 1960s, not the 1930s. It correlates with the availability of the contraceptive pill for women, who were thereby enabled to behave as disgracefully as men had traditionally done. It has nothing to do with the 1930 Lambeth Conference that okayed marital contraception for the first time. Not without reason did Paul wish for church leaders to be family men (1 Timothy 3). Small wonder that about half of Roman Catholic married couples discreetly ignore Rome’s ban on contraception, issued by men who literally had no idea of what they were talking about. Can you tie contraception to the scriptures?

      • Notice please that the sexual revolution began in the 1960s, not the 1930s. It correlates with the availability of the contraceptive pill for women, who were thereby enabled to behave as disgracefully as men had traditionally done.

        Both wrong. The beginning of the sexual revolution was in the 1920s.

        The contraceptive pill may have enabled the expression of the attitudes of the sexual revolution, but it did not create those attitudes.

    • I agree with your point that the fundamental purpose of sex is procreation, which is why same-sex activity is, as the Roman Catholic Church states, is disordered. Also, it is clear that the ease of contraception, really from the 1960’s, has enabled the shift from sex as primarily for procreation to sex as primarily for pleasure.

      However, I do think that to cite Gen 1:28 as requiring the lack of use of any contraception within marriage does lead to issues. It is clear that in a finite world there are finite resources, and therefore there cannot be unlimited growth of the human population. The problem has been that we have actually been getting better at procreating over the last two or three hundred years.

      Estimating the population of the world in ancient times is not an accurate science, but reasonable estimates can be made. If one makes the assumption that a consistent methodology gives the same ratio of the estimate to the actual population, we can derive the rate of growth of the population. Actually, in some centuries it fell e.g. from 1200 to 1400. The Black Death did not help! Overall it seems that for the 1st millenium AD, the average growth percentage per year was perhaps 0.04% to 0.05%. In the last 100 years, the annual growth percentage (when the data are more reliable) has varied from perhaps 0.7% at the start to a peak of about 2% in the 70’s falling to perhaps 1.1% in recent years. The population of the world 100 years ago was about 2 billion. It is now about 8 billion. We are not so much multiplying as exponentiating.

      It is true that it is estimated that within the next 100 years the population will start to fall, as it is already doing in rich countries which have greater use of contraception. However, the damage is being done now, particular in the descruction of the habitats of non-domesticated animals. When the animals left the ark, “birds and animals and every creeping thing” was sent out so that they also might “be fruitful and multiply.” Humankind is now preventing this.

      The graphic here: is a salutary illustration of the effect of humankind on the planet.

      The instruction in Genesis is “to be fruitful and increase and fill the earth…”. We seem to have reached the point when the Earth is full, if not overfull.

      • War and famine due to crop failures have always been far greater cullers of the human race than competition for food due to overpopulation. I see no reason for that to change.

      • David, yes, some helpful points there. But also some qualifications:

        a. Hans Rosling demonstrated that the world population will plateau at 12 billion.

        b. The entire population of the world today could fit into the State of Texas with 400 sq m per family. (Yes, I did the math!)

        The real worry now is that untrammelled habitat destruction is eliminating biodiversity. But it need not happen, even with a larger population, if we make wise decisions.

    • Jesus and St Paul were wounded in some way because they didn’t marry and have children? I think not.

      Natural law reasoning would hold that celibacy is unnatural. Scripture would disagree with that. Nor I suggest would Scripture tell us that procreation is the basic purpose of sex. The instruction to “be fruitful and multiply” is part of the general creation story in Genesis 1, not the explanation of sex and human relations in Genesis 2. There, Eve is created and sex ensues because God sees that it is not good for man to be alone. Jesus echoes this in Matthew 19. Interestingly when challenged about why anyone should bother marrying if they can’t easily divorce, Jesus does not venture that you need to marry to have kids, and how important it is to have children. Jesus’s focus is sexual desire, intimacy, and fidelity.

  24. Let us pray for the bishops as they meet today (Tuesday) to decide what to present to General Synod on the issue of sexuality.

  25. Thank you for comments above – I’m finding it hard to join that particular part of the thread, so a response a long way down.

    Divorce and remarriage questions are related to questions about the church’s approach to same sex partnerships because all such questions relate to what it means for it not to be good for a human being to be alone.

    The difference between our day and the first century AD appears to be minimised if not obliterated in this thread. If that is so, if there is nothing to discuss on the differences between eras, then it is indeed difficult to have a reasonable discussion. Interestingly, even the Bible knows of differences in eras of human history: polygamy was a response to certain social, political, and economic challenges in some eras, and not condemned; yet also not acceptable in other eras.

    • Peter – on your point about polygamy – the author of Genesis, while not explicitly pronouncing a condemnation, did show (by a series of examples) that it was morally reprehensible and led to bad consequences. e.g. Ishmael at enmity with Isaac, the shenanigans connected with the rivalry between Leah and Rachael and their various offspring. Genesis 2 states the principle of one mand and one woman – and goes on to give clear illustration that things go wrong when this principle is no adhered to and when polygamy is admitted. Also, later in Scripture – David had offspring by several women, which did not have good consequences – it played a part in the horrible story of Tamar, also the disputes when Solomon became king indicated that it wasn’t exactly a happy family (and I believe that the authors of the books of Scripture wanted us to .note that when people went down the route of polygamy – which violates Genesis 2 – there were serious negative consequences).

      • Jock, even more important, the Greek translation of the OT rendered ‘and they shall become one flesh’ as ‘the two shall become one flesh’, an explicit rejection of polygamy in the creation order which Jesus quotes in Mark 10.8 and Matt 19.5.

        • Polygamy was not what the creation account intended but it did happen. It had consequences, not always successful, agreed, though it did lead to the twelve patriarchs!, but it did not have the consequence that it was forbidden in the Law of Moses.

          My argument is not “for” polygamy but for acknowledgement that in some eras of biblical times what was not intended in the creation account was tolerated.

          • … which is a very good point, but there is a world of difference between society tolerating something and the church actually giving its blessing to it.

            My suggestion would be that the church should not get involved in marriage and should stop marrying people, since whenever ‘the church’ tries to make rules, it invariably gets it wrong – and I am referring to normal heterosexual marriage here.

            In Genesis, there is absolutely no mention of a church marriage service or involvement of a church person (or priest) when (for example) Isaac marries Rebekah or when Jacob marries Leah and subsequently Rachael – I don’t see any marriage ceremony involving the church instituted in Scripture. Sure, Paul gives guidelines for marriage, but he does not institute a church gestapo to police this and make sure that the guidelines are being adhered to.

            In the UK, if we take church marriage seriously, then it was clearly an outrage that a fornicating Prince and a divorcee (who never claimed that the previous husband had been unfaithful or anything like that) should have been permitted a church wedding – and any rules or guidelines suggesting that this was OK are clearly an outrage.

            At the same time, it is difficult to see how to set rules that are going to be fair, sensitive to the situation and which do not require quite a lot of nosey-parkerism by the church people who are making the decision as to whether it is all right for the church to marry a couple or not.

            The church is supposed to be for forgiven sinners, people who are convicted of their sins, etc ….. and church involving itself in marriage can put obstacles and barriers in the way of this.

          • My argument is not “for” polygamy but for acknowledgement that in some eras of biblical times what was not intended in the creation account was tolerated.

            No one doesn’t acknowledge that!

            Will you acknowledge that it ought not to have been tolerated?

          • S – well, polygamy was tolerated – and not only that, the priesthood actually aided and abetted it. 2 Chronicles 24:3 ‘Jehoiada chose two wives for him…’

            (So it seems that the OT priests were performing a similar role as the management of Porto Football Club – who are rumoured to procure the services, rather discretely, of ladies of questionable morality, for the football players).

            I’d say that pretty much the whole of the OT is testament to the fact that it should not have been tolerated – much of the bad stuff quite pointedly happens as a result of polygamy – and we’re intended to understand this.

          • Jock,

            In England the authorities required marriage to take place in the Established church only from 1753, when Lord Hardwicke’s Bill to prevent ‘clandestine marriages’ was passed. Marital pledges made outside church were being taken less seriously in the event of breakdown than pledges made before a minister. See the works of Rebecca Probert for detail.

    • Peter Carrell, are you advocating a return to polygamy (properly, polygyny)?
      Do you think that Jesus prohibited polygyny? Or did he have nothing to say about it?
      I am not sure of the point of your reference to it, although I know polygyny is still widespread in parts of Africa, is approved of in some parts of the Islamic world, and the practice of concubinage was also part of China’s history.

    • If that is so, if there is nothing to discuss on the differences between eras, then it is indeed difficult to have a reasonable discussion.

      Of course there is something to discuss. This whole discussion is about what things differ between eras, and what things are objectively, universally true.

      What you actually mean here is ‘unless someone agrees with me about which things differ between eras then I’m not going to discuss with them.’ Which, well, if you will only talk to people who agree with you then that will tend to make discussion difficult, but that’s entirely your own fault, isn’t it? Perhaps you should consider growing up.

  26. Peter Carrell, the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch New Zealand, comments above:

    “Interestingly, even the Bible knows of differences in eras of human history: polygamy was a response to certain social, political, and economic challenges in some eras, and not condemned; yet also not acceptable in other eras.”

    To follow Peter’s reasoning above (“In my view … it is conceivable that Jesus … taking a “fair” account of what has historically developed for the modern church and society, would both uphold that marriage is between a man and a woman, and allow that some change of approach by the church to faithful, stable, loving permanently partnered homosexuals is permissible”), we can also “conceive” that this Jesus, visiting this modern world, would allow “some change of approach by the church” toward polygyny (all the more since the patriarchs and good kings of Israel were polygynists themselves).
    Peter Carrell’s bold advocacy of revising the Church’s longstanding hostility toward polygyny would go a long way toward restoring ecumenical understanding between Christians and Muslims, and Christians and unreconstructed Mormons.
    If celebrating polygynous marriages seems a step too far for some traditionalists, we should at least consider services of blessing of concubinages and affairs. Following Peter Carrell’s example in New Zealand, no priests should be forced to offer such blessings if they have personal reservations about them.
    As Bishop John Inge points out in his letter, the Church’s opposition to polygamy, affairs and prostitution has been a serious barrier to its mission in the modern world.

    • It would certainly increase the number of priests for which there was a need, if some people had five affairs per day (or night).

  27. It is interesting though – reading Bishop Inge’s letter, and Ian’s reply – how central the question of whether gay people can just stop being gay is. Realising that they can’t seems to be pretty important to Bishop Inge changing his mind (putting to one side that the CofE has recognised this for decades). But I am surprised to see Ian countering with all that stuff about environmental causes and sexuality being fluid etc.. And both have an unspoken important point: how comfortable they are (or aren’t) with instructions for celibacy. Bishop Inge doesn’t seem to like the idea, but won’t make an explicit argument against it. Ian possibly is ok, but doesn’t want to talk about it either.

    For my money that’s all very strange. It leaves us in the unsatisfactory position of a scribe or Pharisee in the Gospel poring over the texts to argue whether something is permitted or not. It puts me in mind of Luke 14 where a Pharisee asks Jesus whether healing is permitted on the Sabbath or not. There are plenty of examples of these sort of questions. Jesus turns the questions around. He doesn’t try to argue cleverly about loopholes in what may be permitted. He tells us that’s the wrong question. The question is what should I do? If the ox has fallen in the well, what should I do? (Lift it out) If I am hungry walking through a field, what should I do? (Pick some grain). Hence, Jesus and Paul are able to summarise the law as love God and love your neighbour, and tell us that love is the fulfilment of the law. Paul goes so far as to say everything is permitted, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10).

    This, I would venture, is where we should be having our conversation. What are gay people to do? Not, is this or that sexual practice permitted? It would be a more serious conversation. It would be a conversation that had some relevance to the lives of people inside and outside the Church. If folks really want to argue that there is a Scriptural instruction to celibacy, let’s hear it. And let’s hear how we deal with Jesus’s and Paul’s (not to mention the Old Testament) warnings about embracing celibacy too eagerly. If enforced, life-long, celibacy is making a return to the Church we probably need to think about what we do about that and whether it has implications or instructions beyond gay people. If instead, we’re returning to the teaching of early Church figures like St John Chrysostom who was insistent that everyone could enter a heterosexual marriage and that took away any need for homosexual relations, that’s quite a big argument to have. And yet, we just don’t hear it.

    Or just maybe, if we read Genesis 2, Ecclesiastes 4, Matthew 19, Matthew 23, 1 Corinthians 7 and the rest, we see that Lambeth 1.10 is the wrong way around. We ought not to see an instruction to celibacy to those who aren’t called to marriage, but instead a recommendation to marriage to those who are not called to celibacy. God said it is not good for man to be alone. The author of Ecclesiastes asks how can one keep warm alone. Jesus secures marriage on sexual desire, intimacy, and fidelity. He warns us against tying up heavy burdens on each other. St Paul warns against trying to enforce celibacy on those who burn with passion.

    • Then why did nothing like this issue arise in the last 2000 years? People today claim it is a glaring issue. So why did no-one particularly even notice it in all that time? There is some reason for this, for sure.

      If people can (sc. follow their short term desires without social stigma) they will. Prosperity means that the amount that they can increases. So that is one reason.

      Frisch and Hviid Archives of Sexual Behavior 2006 (very large scale Danish study) also shows the correlation with the new family types that are a unique feature only of the most recent period in history.

      It was for many years the experts’ idea that homosexuality was primarily to be explained by the relationship with and characters of one’s mother and father.

      Certainly this up to date survey foregrounds family relationships. That will never be overturned because family relationships are at the very core of our identity and wellbeing or otherwise.

      If mother is not playing mother role properly or is absent, and likewise father, how can that fail to have a massive effect and one that is felt to be unhealable? A lingering wound.

      How can we fail to *compensate* for this estrangement-producing, dislocating wound?

      We should affirm the *complex* causative picture intimated by Ian above, within which some factors loom far larger than others. We should have no more facile binary chosen/not-chosen. Some things are semi chosen. Because on the one hand they are imposed on us (rather aggressively and unhelpfully) by our origins *and also on the other hand* we stick with them because we cannot estrange ourselves from our origins.

      • I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. What do you see as the implication of things being “semi-chosen” as you put it?

        • The implication is that people should immediately stop saying ‘Do people choose their sexual orientation? No? QED.’.

          People who have been molested do not choose to have that new and lingering element in their identity either. It has been imposed on them.

          The way we are from our conscious beginnings is not always as one would wish it to be. But it is always ‘us’.

          If a young man is seduced by an older man and is told ‘You are one of us now’, then that is not true – healing and cancellation should take place instead. The same applies to people who have had dysfunctional parenting or families at home level or at societal level. It is not their fault but they are psychologically very likely to wish to compensate in some way.

          So in eras where more families are dysfunctional or broken, more individuals who are the product of that will start acting against their biology as an expression of (reaction to, compensation for) their imposed estrangement. And the data from Denmark conclusively demonstrates that in fact that (which one would have predicted) is indeed the case.

          • Sorry Christopher, I still don’t think I understand what you’re trying to argue here about what gay people should do. Are you suggesting that gay people could alter their orientation if only they got the right psychological help (because it’s down to being seduced by an older man, dysfunctional parenting, societal breakdown etc.)? Or is your argument something else?

            PS: As an aside I’d beware of over-interpreting Frisch and Hviid just because you think it helps your side of the debate. Frisch himself said one cannot interpret findings about the correlates of heterosexual and homosexual marriage as if they were findings about the correlates of heterosexual and homosexual orientation.

          • I fully agree re the final thing u say. I certainly disagree that there are ”sides” as u put it. There’s 1 side which is truth seekers; any1 else is irrelevant and shdn’t be listened 2. E.g. wishful thinking merchants, ppl allergic 2 debate, evidence, research.

            My argument is:
            Since the sexual rev, families have diversified away frm nature. That has created an ache in any that have been affected. Actn & reactn r equal. If ur r00ts are dysfunc gender-wise, u r ripe 2b dysfunc gender-wise urself. This is scarcely a ch0ice, u r a victim. We affirm the dysfunc r00ts? Rather we rebuke and heal them. Else it’d be as bad as a seducer claiming a seducee was gay because a gay had seduced him at a f0rmative time. And that is evil. We just accept that f0rmative things can be evil/unhelpful at times. Yes they can be.

            It is human nature 2b tied 2 r00ts. Many seek 2 marry a pers that is like their parent.

            Anyway ‘0rientati0n’ language begs questns. Babies rnt gay. Grubby idea. Hence ‘0rientati0n’ is attained rather than innate/essential.

    • Thanks for the comment AJ. But I don’t think I agree with your opening premise:

      ‘how central the question of whether gay people can just stop being gay is’

      It is not central to my thinking—indeed, I comment explicitly that Jesus nowhere calls us to be ‘straight’. My response was set entirely by John’s agenda. In claiming that sexuality is (biologically?) given and that what is given must be holy, John makes two extraordinary, unwarranted, and easily disproved claims. Yet they form the foundation of his argument.

      ‘we see that Lambeth 1.10 is the wrong way around’ Hmmm…yes and no.

      As I have commented elsewhere, in this creation God’s command to us is to be fruitful and multiply, by marrying and having children. In the new creation, God’s command to us is to be fruitful and multiply, by joining the family of God and testifying to others so they are brought to new birth and also join the family.

      The balance between these two is about the tension between the ‘now and the not yet’; I agree with those who say that the first will still be the norm for most (and actually has been an important part of intergenerational church growth) but the latter has an honoured place as a vocation amongst God’s people.

      • Thanks for replying Ian,

        Is celibacy an honoured place of vocation in today’s Church?

        The Roman Catholics and Orthodox could plausibly make the claim with their monks and nuns (and priests). At the Protestant end of the spectrum I’d venture that it’s very dubious. Indeed, amongst gay Christians who agree with you about this question one of the most oft-repeated themes is that the Church simply doesn’t take this position and its implications seriously – people are left to a lonely silence, those that are supported can still find it a terrible experience (see Ed Shaw’s book on this), and there are lots of questions about what relationships are possible and how could they be built (see Wesley Hill and Eve Tushnet). Nor do I hear preachers or scholars suggesting life-long celibacy to anyone other than their gay brethren.

        I was shocked to see a couple of weeks ago that even Christopher Yuan hasn’t reconciled himself to celibacy, and holds out hope that he’ll marry a woman someday.

        I think we deceive ourselves if we think what is being talked about here – an instruction of celibacy for gay Christians – is a vocation. Vocation speaks of a strong feeling of suitability. Whilst some gay Christians will feel that, just like some straight Christians (e.g. the new Bishop of Blackburn), once you make it a general instruction you’re removing the vocational aspect.

        • Are you sure of that? The Bible is full of examples of people accepting the calling of God on their lives with reluctance, from Moses onwards – and even including Jesus in Gethsemene. The respected Bible teacher David Pawson wanted to be a farmer, not a Bible teacher.

          • God does tend to help people with their callings though. He’s remarkably and consistently unhelpful with this one, as so many gay Christian can attest to (despite their many prayers). It’s almost as if being gay isn’t a calling to celibacy.

          • It’s almost as if being gay isn’t a calling to celibacy.

            Don’t think anyone has ever suggested it is?

            There are lots of unmarried heterosexuals who aren’t ‘called to celibacy’, you know. But they are celibate (perhaps unwillingly so) nonetheless.

        • Vocation speaks of a strong feeling of suitability

          “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

          • “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them”
            Matthew 23:4

          • ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.’

  28. A J Bell:
    You make some wrong assumptions about celibacy and “call”. It isn’t the simple binary thing you make it out to be, as if people could just get married if they wanted to.
    It simply isn’t like that (if it ever was) and it’s more difficult now than it was in the past, as society’s understanding and expectations of marriage have changed (not always for the better). Why are so many people in their 30s still not married or ‘hitched’?
    I know a number of single Christians (presumably heterosexual but I’ve never asked) who are not likely to be married.
    Some simply can’t find a suitable Christian who is interested in them. Some are not physically attractive.
    Some have significant health problems, physical or psychological, that would make being married to them very challenging. Others have difficult personality issues that would make intimately sharing their lives with another person very stressful.
    None of these persons “chose” these conditions, but marriage may not be a realistic option for them.
    But here’s the good news! Marriage is not essential to salvation. My standing in Christ does not depend on the existence (and acceptance) of another person.
    God’s “call” may not come (and rarely does) from a clear prophetic voice, as it did to Moses and Paul. Usually it comes from thinking soberly about ourselves and our circumstances.

    • In our generation, unbelievably, it was the most attractive women Christians that often remained unmarried. There were not enough men Christians of the requisite quality to go round, and that is a result of (a) the sexual revolution removing the erstwhile carrot, (b) the number and sometimes quality of female Christians then being higher than male. The best would set their sights highest of course. I warned all and sundry from the age of 20 that they should maximise their chances by attending churches and Christian events with extremely large numbers of people that age. Some were less statistically and probabilistically minded than I.

  29. The argument that ‘no church has survived it’ is not, within itself, a valid argument for why our church shouldn’t be pushing forward and being compassionate and loving in every area of the church. There is no grounds for that: Jesus was an innovator, not someone that followed everyone else – shouldn’t we be doing the same?

    Furthermore, removing the ability to marry homosexual couples WILL make tolerance lower. Do you really want to be advocating for more hatred? However you may try and phrase it, this will always be an issue. Hatred and a lack of acceptance is at the core, and WILL worsen the issue.

    You also seem to suggest that ‘desire’ is not apparent in straight marriages and relationships, with them simply being a ‘choice’. What? I don’t know that I have ever heard that people don’t desire their partner, at least in a stable marriage, there is an element of desire. This being a reason not to act upon it does not make sense or equate with the argument that because homosexual relationships are based on desire, they should not be brought into marriage.

    I don’t think that a God as compassionate as ours would require people who are attracted to the same sex (not gender) would require them to live their life without experiencing a romantic love.

    Any arguments of ‘biology’ suggest that simply because someone with a uterus is able to carry a foetus, then they should. This suggests that even if the woman does not want a child, and there is no one to care for them or give them love, and the child will grow up unloved and unwanted with the ‘mother’ not being a good parent, then she should have one. This is absolutely ridiculous. Arguments of biology just fall short of any logic regarding desire and choice.

    • ‘Jesus was an innovator’. Was he? In what way? About what?

      Jesus clearly rejected same-sex sexual relationships. Do you therefore think he was an advocate of hatred?

      I have no idea where you get the idea that I think ‘desire’ plays no part. Perhaps you are referring to someone else?

      You don’t think that a God of compassion would ask us to live with a discipline of denying the fulfilment of a desire. Where do you get your understanding of God’s compassion from? What does that source say about discipline? Did Jesus live without expressing romantic love in a sexual relationship?

      Do you believe that it is a woman’s choice to kill the baby she carries?

      • “Jesus clearly rejected same-sex sexual relationships”

        This is just nonsense. Jesus said nothing about it one way or another.

        • It is not just true but obviously true. Jesus was strikingly ”rigorist” on marital ethics even for his day. There is not a sinner that he did not see as in need of forgiveness.

    • “… not someone that followed everyone else – shouldn’t we be doing the same?”

      Saying “no” to SSM is very arguably this in the current secular climate. But it’s not a great method of Christian decision making.

    • Innovation can be in a helpful or a harmful direction. That is obvious. You speak as though innovation per se was the thing! It would be an innovation to tear up all the Green Belt. But a good one?

      You speak of pushing forward as though you were speaking a public language. It is obvious that what one person calls backwards another will call forwards. But only the revisionists imagine that everyone else must see things the same way as they do. Which is controlling.

      Two obvious things, therefore.

  30. From the BBC news it’s rather looking like what I said would be proposed is being proposed. Blessings of same sex couples and scrapping Issues.

    • Are vicars presently *required* to bless heterosexual marriages civilly contracted, on request? If so then evangelical vicars will be hammered by equality legislation if they refuse to bless homosexual ones. If not, they can simply cease to bless civilly contracted marriages.

    • Except that
      a. it is not and
      b. nothing is yet clear.

      What is clear is that
      1. The doctrine of marriage is not changing, and this is the end of any formal discussion that might do that.
      2. There is to be no liturgy or service, only prayers
      3. There is simply no indication that these prayers ‘bless’ the form of relationship.
      4. Issues was always only a sticking plaster in the light of the possibility of change. That possibility has now gone; Clergy and ordinands are, as ever, required to uphold the doctrine of the Church on marriage, and conform their lives to the example of Christ, including on marriage.

      • Not quite right Ian.

        The bishops have explicitly indicated that what they propose is not the end of the road. Debate will be ongoing.

        The bishops have said we must welcome same sex couples who wish their marriage to be blessed joyfully and without reservation. You may have reservations about SSM but our prayers and blessings will not.

        Issues is being scrapped and new guidance for ordinands and clergy will be agreed later. I am certain that the intrusive questioning about private lives of ordinands will be dropped. Many DDOs have already found workarounds for such questions anyway. Many bishops refuse to make windows into souls. A new approach is formally on the way.

        • ‘The bishops’ haven’t actually said anything yet! The statement comes on Friday.

          You are building castles in the air at the moment. Are you suggesting that it is possible for clergy to live in denial of the doctrine of the Church…?

          • Sadly, Ian, just 51% of some 1800 respondents to a questionnaire sent to 4000 Anglican parish clergy “believed without question” that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, 56% his uniqueness, 66% his resurrection, 77% the Trinity and 77% his atoning death. These are some statistics from the Mind of Anglicans survey made by the organisation Christian Research in 2002.

          • The bishops have issued a press release Ian. Surely you can read what it says?

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

            “And they will urge all congregations in their care to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully” as they reaffirm their commitment to a “radical new Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it – based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual”.

            “There will be a commitment to produce new pastoral guidance in relation to the discernment of vocation, replacing the 1991 statement “Issues in Human Sexuality”, to which all clergy currently are asked to assent.”

            “We are deeply sorry and ashamed and want to take this opportunity to begin again in the spirit of repentance which our faith teaches us.

            “This is not the end of that journey but we have reached a milestone and I hope that these prayers of love and faith can provide a way for us all to celebrate and affirm same-sex relationships.”

            It can hardly be more explicit can it?

        • The bishops have explicitly indicated that what they propose is not the end of the road. Debate will be ongoing.

          The only possible good point of a fudged compromise that gives nobody what they want would be if it could at least put the issue to bed so everyone can move on.

          If it won’t even do that, because ‘debate will be ongoing’, then what is even the point of such a ridiculous fudge? What reason is there for anyone on either side to accept it?

      • This is a victory against honey-tongued forces of evil. Give thanks, but don’t think they will give up. It is now time to show bishops who are calling right wrong what unity means: they have to put up with admonishment from persons within the same system. Otherwise they will win next time.

      • If the mere possibility of future change is now gone, then it’s not well reflected in Archbishop of York’s words in the press release that “This is not the end of that journey.”

        As a member of the Archbishops’ Council you’re of course best placed to know, but given the profound implications such a move would have for many in the church, this is something that needs to be clarified urgently. Could you please ask the bishops to do so?

  31. Yes, we’ll just have to wait and see, instead of trying to be the first of out of the trap.
    Bless – S has made excellent points in previous comments. Only God blesses. Ministers do not stand in the place of Jesus; He has hung, stood and now sits in their stead.
    If I understand it correctly, it seems that all that is being proposed is that the CoE formally approves, accepts, civil law legislation.

        • I suppose Andrew, that puts FICE and
          some Presbyterians, Pentecostals and New Frontiers beyond your pale. O how insular is your BBC/CoE Anglo/Catholic centric understanding, it seems.

          • If the report set out in Anglican Ink correctly set out the nub of the Bishops deliberations, what an a profound inchorence at the heart of the CoE.
            1 No SSM
            2 Civil law Partnership, blessing, approval
            3 celibacy not required ( even by those not in a civil law partnership? Heterosexuals in what is frequently
            but erroneously known as common law?)
            4 Point 3 corroborates and emphasise point 2.
            5 Any idea of world Anglican communion is a fallacy, its brokeness reinforced.
            6 Fur flying fury will be released. And finger pointing blame game will intensify. (Stoked, perhaps, by the ABoC’s seeming forthcoming apology for what is described as exclusion.)

          • Incoherent and lacking durability and robustness.
            And pleasing nobody.
            That is what you get when you try to please people rather than pursuing truth, which is by its nature coherent.

          • Direct quote from the liturgy of ordination of Priests.

            “They are to bless the people in God’s name”

            I don’t know how you think this is not explicit.

  32. The only way anything will happen is when evangelical Anglicans stop giving money to central funds.
    I am told by friends down in Kent that the Diocese of Canterbury is practically broke and they can hardly maintain their current diocesan office staff.
    If that is correct, it is probably happening in other dioceses.
    Clearly the idea of closing churches wasn’t a very clever one.

  33. I am a bit too late to join in the debate here, and can only assume that a longer post will come when details of the Bishop’s recommendations are formally revealed.

    Until that comes, I just wanted to say that I thought the BBC article and reporting of this was rather unhelpful, as while undoubtedly the main thrust of the reporting is that official teaching wont change (or more accurately, isn’t being proposed as a change) some of the quotations sound like a major change in practice if not a major change in the underpinning theology.

    If there is no connection between formative/espoused and operant theology, then you don’t really have a theology at all. Just a mess of people doing what they want, and that’s extremely dangerous.

    • Actually what you have is a variety of theologies. And that has been a consistent feature of the CofE for all of its existence. We have a variety of theologies of Priesthood for example. Ian can barely bring himself to use the word Priest or recognise that they are called to bless things in God’s name. But both of those things are in the CofE liturgy for the ordination of Priests. And of course Ian is by no means alone.
      We now have a variety of theologies of personal relationships. What happened is simply that the CofE has found some middle way of both/and, as it did for remarriage after divorce. For years all that was possible was a service of blessing and thanksgiving. Now it is possible to be remarried in Church.
      Whilst I can see your frustration with this arrangement Mat, it’s part of the DNA of the CofE. It is what was simply bound to happen.

      • I don’t agree, though I do see what you’re saying.

        One of the great strengths of the CofE is that despite, yes, having a broad range of theologies, it does nevertheless have a core set of doctrinal presuppositions that inform the degree to which one can reasonably move from those. I doubt you would want it to be a theological free-for-all.

        That is why I think these proposals risks going too far, and seem to be providing a range of practice quite demonstrably at odds with the core doctrine. Not merely divergence or acceptable difference, but outright opposition. I say this reluctantly, but I would actually prefer the CofE changed the core doctrines on marriage to allow SSM, than to *not* change them but create so many alternatives and provisions so as to make the distinction meaningless.

        At least revising the teaching on marriage is theologically consistent!


        • Mat you are making a special pleading for one particular area of theology. You are ignoring the existing fact that the CofE holds a great variety of theologies in a number of different areas. The theology of ministry is a classic one. So is the theology of the sacraments. And then there is biblical theology. Read any report that the CofE has issued over the last 50 years and more and you will see quite clearly that the Cof E has had to both accommodate and provide for those of different theological approaches and persuasion. As I have said, this is in the DNA of the CofE. The theology of human sexuality is not a special case.

          It’s all very well you saying that you would rather the CofE went down the route of Same Sex Marriage so that its theology was coherent. You aren’t a member of the CofE so you have the luxury of saying that.

          Two things have got us into the mess over sexuality. One was the Higton motion that lead to Issues in Human Sexuality. Thank goodness that wretched document can now be consigned to the bonfire. The second was Conservative Evangelicals campaigning to get Jeffrey John removed from his nomination as bishop of Reading. Change will come. If it doesn’t come by negotiated settlement, it will come by revolt. From one side or the other. You can’t have bishops issuing heartfelt apologies and then carrying on acting exactly as they have been before.

          And all the talk of legal challenge is nonsense. Do you think the House of Bishops doesn’t have legal representation at any meeting of this sort that will issue proposals of this magnitude? If it comes to the law, the liberal wing will win because it has Parliament on its side. They don’t care about doctrine but they do care about inclusion and equality.

          • You are ignoring the existing fact that the CofE holds a great variety of theologies in a number of different areas. The theology of ministry is a classic one. So is the theology of the sacraments. And then there is biblical theology.

            The virgin birth, the uniqueness of Jesus, the physical resurrection… really is there any heresy that can’t find a home in the Church of England?

            (Serious question, that is. Andrew Godsall, is there any heterodox doctrine that you would say is out of bounds for the Church of England? Anything at all? Or does literally anything go?)

          • That is a fair question and not the usual trolling so I will respond. The limits of orthodoxy are established by the Nicene Creed. We believe…….The CofE adheres to that.
            Neither sacraments, nor Priestly ministry, nor a sola scriptura approach to the bible, and certainly not sexuality appear in the Creed.

          • The limits of orthodoxy are established by the Nicene Creed.

            Why? What’s so special about the Nicene Creed? It was, after all, written by fallible human beings, wasn’t it?

            And, where in the Canons of the Church of England does it say that the Nicene Creed is the highest authority? And why don’t you think that is subject to revision and equivocation in the same way you think that the Canon (A5, is it?) is?

            Plus, you appear to be being hypocritical because doesn’t the Nicene Creed require belief in the Virgin Birth, which you deny, calling it a ‘conjuring trick with chromosomes’?

          • Just to be clear here and then I will cease responding to your trolling.
            The Nicene Creed is an agreed ecumenical statement of Christian belief. Not a CofE document. Of course it was written by fallible humans.

            I said the virgin birth is *MUCH MORE* than a conjuring trick with chromosomes.

          • Equality will become meaningful in this debate, rather than a cudgel, when two men conceive a child that is genetically their own.

          • The Nicene Creed is an agreed ecumenical statement of Christian belief. Not a CofE document. Of course it was written by fallible humans.

            The Bible isn’t a Church of England document either, but you don’t regard that as autoritative. Yet you regard the Nicene Creed as authoritative. So again I must ask, why do you consider the Nicene Creed to be more important than the Bible?

            I said the virgin birth is *MUCH MORE* than a conjuring trick with chromosomes.

            You’ve also heavily implied, if not outright stated, that you think the genetic material in Jesus’s Y-chromosomes came from a human father. Which is denying the Virgin Birth. Which the Nicene Creed requires you to believe. So you don’t actually follow the Nicene Creed, do you?

            Even though you don’t actually follow it, I’d still be interested too know why you consider it superior to the Bible,

          • I don’t consider the Nicene Creed superior to or more important than the bible. You can’t even make any comparison between the two. The bible is not one single thing to be considered authoritative or otherwise. It is a collection of very different sorts of writing across many centuries. The New Testament is a record of what the earliest Christians understood about the significance of the life and death of Jesus Christ. It has an authority about that. Which doesn’t mean it is infallible. An author like Paul was writing for a particular time and place and people and might write quite different things 2000 years later.

            The Nicene Creed is an agreed statement, fought over and wrestled with over a considerable period of time, of the *primary* tenets of Christian belief. A course in early Christian Doctrine would give all of the background to that episode. It is authoritative in the sense that it was agreed by councils of the early Church. Sexuality and ministry and sacraments and views about the bible are *secondary* things about which the Nicene Creed says precisely nothing. These secondary things are matters about which Christians may legitimately hold different views.

            I have not at all denied the Virgin birth. Quite the opposite. On this matter you return to your usual trolling, sadly.

          • I don’t consider the Nicene Creed superior to or more important than the bible.

            You clearly do, because you’ve been quite clear that you see no problem with people in the Church of England holding views in contradiction to the Bible; but when I asked if there were any views you would think incompatible with being in the Church of England, your answer was anything that contradicts the Nicene Creed. So in your view — by your own words — you think that holding views contrary to the Bible does not disqualify someone from being in the Church of England, but holding views contrary to the Nicene Creed does so disqualify them.

            So you clearly regard the Nicene Creed as superior to the Bible.

            The Nicene Creed is an agreed statement, fought over and wrestled with over a considerable period of time, of the *primary* tenets of Christian belief.

            But it was written by fallible human beings. So they might have got it wrong, mightn’t they? They might have been mistaken about what the primary tenets of Christian belief are, mightn’t they? They left out sexuality; but that might have been an error on their part, fallible human beings that they were, mightn’t it?

            And yet, you claim for the Nicene Creed — which was written by fallible human beings, and therefore might be erroneous — an authority that you would not give to the Bible.

            So again I must ask the question: why do you consider the Nicene Creed superior to the Bible? Why are you only too happy to suggest that the writers of the gospel got things wrong, but not to accept that the writers of the Nicene Creed might have got things wrong and, for example, left out an import part about the nature of human sexual union?

            I have not at all denied the Virgin birth.

            You have, I’m afraid. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth says that Jesus had no human father. You clearly think that the genetic material in Jesus’s chromosomes came from a human father. To think that is therefore to deny the Virgin Birth. So you deny the Virgin Birth.

      • ‘What happened is simply that the CofE has found some middle way’

        No, it hasn’t. It has sought to go down the Methodist route of having two contradictory theologies. But that cannot survive legal scrutiny, so one of these will have to be jettisoned.

        • This is what is bewildering me somewhat: If we havn’t changed the marriage doctrine of the church, Canon B4 is quite clear that we cannot have services which change it – which would include blessing of a non-celibate same sex relationship. Any attempt to provide such a service would be shot down in court, it’s a total non starter.

          So they’ll end up presenting a service/prayers of such theological blandness and opacity that literally no-one will be happy to use it.

          It sounds like they intend to bypass GS this time, so as to avoid it being torpedoed again by a con/lib alliance, which it almost certainly would be. So they’ll irritate the whole of GS.

          Add to this the absurdly cheerful press release (tone deaf anyone? – it’s like it was sent in a parallel universe where everyone was delighted in a muddy compromise, but slipped through a chink in reality onto the desk of lambath palace’s press officer).

          • There is a great discussion on Paul Roberts’ blog:

            Pertinent para: ‘The legal authority of any new services drafted to ‘ask for God’s blessing’ which the bishops seem to be proposing would fall under Canon B4. However, in this circumstance (and in the absence of specific instructions from the House of Bishops forbidding priests to bless same-sex marriages) it would still be possible for a priest to use a form of blessing in the case of a same-sex couple under the terms of Canon B5, which allows priests to use a form of service which is neither authorised by Canons B1, B2 or B4. There is one problem for such a clergyperson adopting this approach: the Canon indicates that All variations in forms of service and all forms of service used under this Canon shall be reverent and seemly and shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter. Would such a blessing be such a ‘departure’? Given what the House of Bishops have said, that would seem to be the case, but how would such a matter be judged?’

          • If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we should expect even basic common sense to depart the minds of those who conspire to rebel against him. Presumably there will have been bishops who were vexed by having to be a part of this nonsense. Their duty now is to speak up or they will forever be associated with it. There’s no honour in the silence of collegiality when it comes at the expense of truth.

          • Any attempt to provide such a service would be shot down in court, it’s a total non starter.

            How would it get to court? Would someone have to challenge it? Are the bishops hoping that no one would do so, because they would be monstered in the press?

          • There’s no honour in the silence of collegiality when it comes at the expense of truth.

            The ‘silence of collegiality’ has presumably already been broken by those who leaked the decision.

  34. I think they thought they had to show movement in one specific direction only, after so many years of turgid Spirit-sapping vastly expensive RAtkinson-parodiable ‘wrestling’.

    What has transpired is terminal. Same sex partners having intercourse is adjudged to be something positive, not even neutral (and of course neutral is something that it could never be).

  35. All very interesting but ignores the fact the Church of England is the Established church in England headed by the King. It therefore has an obligation to follow the law in England, which includes legal homosexual marriage now.

    There is no reason Parishes in Church of England churches cannot perform homosexual marriages if they wish and the Vicar agrees. However Parishes and Vicars who do not wish to do so due to their interpretation of scripture, ie primarily evangelical ones, would not be forced to.

    Just as now Anglo Catholic Parishes and priests who do not want to have women priests or come under women Bishops due to their reading of scripture do not have to and can even have their own flying Bishops. Just as too vicars who do not want to marry divorcees through their reading of scripture are not forced to either.

    • I agree with Thomas. You don’t seem to understand the basics of the law. Because the Church is established, Canon Law is law of the land.

      So the Church already follows the law of the land in its prohibition of same-sex marriage.

      • The law of the land is the Marriage Same Sex Couples Act 2013. Canon Law is just the law over the Church of England.

        MPs like Ben Bradshaw have already said they will seek to pass legislation to disestablish the Church of England unless it follows the law of the land and allows homosexual marriage. Indeed if Labour win the next election and the C of E has not allowed homosexual marriage in its churches by then disestablishment is almost certain to be passed through Parliament

        • The law of the land is the Marriage Same Sex Couples Act 2013.

          Which forbids the Church of England from carry out same-sex marriages.

          MPs like Ben Bradshaw have already said they will seek to pass legislation to disestablish the Church of England unless it follows the law of the land and allows homosexual marriage. Indeed if Labour win the next election and the C of E has not allowed homosexual marriage in its churches by then disestablishment is almost certain to be passed through Parliament

          Is there at this point anyone who thinks that disestablishment would not be good for the Church of England? So that’s not much of a threat.

          • Not if Synod decides to allow it, then it would allow it too. The law in England overall allows homosexual marriage.

            I am staunchly opposed to disestablishment, the Church of England was founded to be the Church headed by the King. If evangelicals refuse to compromise they can leave and become Baptist and Pentecostal, homosexual marriage in the C of E is inevitable and we supporters of it in the C of E will never stop until we get it allowed. Just we won’t force it on evangelicals either

          • Not if Synod decides to allow it, then it would allow it too.

            The Act would have to be amended to do so. So at the moment it is correct to say, ‘ the Church already follows the law of the land in its prohibition of same-sex marriage’.

            Of course the law could be amended — no Parliament can bind its successors. But with the law as it is at the moment, Ian Paul it correct and you are wrong.

            I am staunchly opposed to disestablishment

            Sorry should have been more specific. Is there at this point any Christian who thinks that disestablishment would not be good for the Church of England?

            the Church of England was founded to be the Church headed by the King.

            And it’s become clear that that is a contradiction: it can’t be both headed by the king, and a church. So as being a church is obviously more important than being headed by the king, disestablishment is imperative. Let the state make up its own National Ceremonial Service if it wants one; that is no business of a church.

            homosexual marriage in the C of E is inevitable

            It quite obviously isn’t. Disestablishment is at least as likely an outcome (and a much more desirable one, plainly).

            and we supporters of it in the C of E will never stop until we get it allowed.

            Will you stop when the Church of England is disestablished? Given that’s mainly what you seem to like about it.

            Will you even stay a member of the Church of England when it’s disestablished? Or will your commitment turn out to be conditional, like someone who promises ‘for richer, for poorer’ when they marry their wealthy spouse but then sues for divorce the moment the money is gone?

    • However Parishes and Vicars who do not wish to do so due to their interpretation of scripture, ie primarily evangelical ones, would not be forced to.

      As I have repeatedly pointed out, a ‘conscience clause’ which says ‘you don’t have to conduct a same-sex marriage yourself if you don’t want to, but you must allow another minister to conduct them in your church, you must recognise them as valid marriages, and you may not ever preach that they aren’t real marriages’ doesn’t actually allow any freedom of conscience worth the name at all.

      It certainly wouldn’t make me, in that position, feel like I was valued or welcomed. It would make me feel like I was being resentfully and barely tolerated in the hope that I would either shut up, leave or die already.

      • Yes it does. It allows both liberal AND evangelical Parishes and Vicars to decide whether they want to have homosexual marriages in their churches or not. Whereas now evangelicals are acting are denying the at least half of Parishes in the C of E the opportunity to do so, when most Anglicans under 65 and 55% of Anglicans overall now back allowing gay marriage

        • It allows both liberal AND evangelical Parishes and Vicars to decide whether they want to have homosexual marriages in their churches or not.

          No it doesn’t. A clause which says ‘you don’t have to conduct a same-sex marriage yourself, but if a same-sex couple want to get married in your church you must put them in touch with a minister who will conduct the service and allow them to use your church’ (which is what it would be) quite specifically does not allow anyone to ‘decide whether they want to have homosexual marriages in their churches or not’. It forces everyone to have same-sex marriages in their church whether they want them or not.

  36. The law of the land expressively forbids gay marriage in the Church of England . I’m not sure what obligation you refer to but the church has a doctrine which is derived from scripture not from the law of the land.

    What you suggest is abandoning any doctrine of marriage in the church. It is not sufficient to have opt outs: the bible is clear that unrepentant sexual sin requires separation.

    • Yes indeed, but each side is saying “We are being faithful and the others are not. Why should we leave?”

      The split wojuld have happened long ago but for one thing: both sides covet the historic buildings and the extensive lands owned by the Church of England and the right to call itself Established.

      Are these things of this world?

      • Christians can never afford to be captivated by agreeable arrangements. We’re travelling through and cannot expect ever to be comfortably settled. I guess that brings freedom and pain in equal measure?

    • The Church of England’s historic doctrine is the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP. It is not an evangelical Church, it is an Apostolic, Catholic Church but headed by the King with some evangelicals in it.

      Jesus never forbade homosexual marriae

      • How, taking context into account, could Jesus have issued instructions to have homosexual marriage when it would not even begin to cross the minds of faithful Jewish people that such an absurd thing might exist.

        Of course he knew about homosexuality. Nazareth was a garrison town, and all kinds of things went on. If he had wanted he could have said something about it, but all he did on this was go with his own culture. It seems bizarre that although Jesus extended the adultery commandment to tell us not even to begin to look with lust in our hearts, the lustful culture of the 21st Century, not least evident in substantial areas of gay culture, seems to be something the church is all too keen to celebrate, because it doesn’t wish to be prudish/pure.

      • What a crazy thing 2 say. It wasn’t a thing where/when he lived, and what we can’t see will be unlikely 2 enter the mind.

    • And most Puritans who believed that so adamantly left the Church of England after the Restoration, they are Calvinists or Baptists or Pentecostals more than Anglican

  37. No it doesn’t, homosexual marriage is the law in England and the Church of England as the established church must follow it. Which it can do by simple Synod endorsement. Evangelicals who refuse to follow the law in England should not be in the Church of England and the established church.

    Yes it can. If the Church of England is not headed by the King it is by definition not the Church of England, just another Christian church. Being the established church is more important than being an evangelical anti homosexual marriage church. Those evangelicals who refuse to accept that even with an opt out for them must leave the Church of England.

    Even if it was disestablished and no longer the Church of England it would still be Anglican NOT primarily evangelical. Given Anglican churches from Wales to Scotland to the USA also allow homosexual marriage and most Anglicans in England back it it will still happen anyway and again evangelicals who refuse to compromise will have to leave it

    • No it doesn’t, homosexual marriage is the law in England and the Church of England as the established church must follow it.

      It is the law in England that the Church of England is forbidden to carry out same-sex marriages, and the Church of England does follow it.

      Which it can do by simple Synod endorsement.

      No, it can’t. It would require Parliament to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

      If the Church of England is not headed by the King it is by definition not the Church of England, just another Christian church.

      And what’s wrong with being a Christian church?

      Being the established church is more important than being an evangelical anti homosexual marriage church.

      Ah. So the worldly prestige of being an ‘established’ church is more important to you than being a Christian church. Well, we know where your treasure is.

        • There are multiple Christian churches, there is only 1 established Church

          That doesn’t answer the question:

          And what’s wrong with being a Christian church?

          Do you think the other denominations are somehow inferior to the established church?

    • ‘T1’: being the Church established by law does not mean that the Church has its doctrine dictated by the secular state. What an odd situation that would be! It means precisely the opposite: that Church doctrine is given an honoured place within the law of the land.

      I am a bit mystified as to why so many people find this hard to grasp.

      • Only in so far as it aligns with the law of the land. Hence the established Lutheran Church of Denmark also allows homosexual marriages now in its churches as homosexual marriage is allowed in Denmark

      • At present, this is certainly the case, since the Westminster Parliament devolved its CoE legislative powers to synods in the ’70s.

        But Parliament used to set doctrine, a power used to full effect in the ’20s Prayer Book controversy, perhaps the last stand of the Protestant confessional state.

        And as the Scottish government’s recently been reminded, power devolved is power retained (although I doubt it’d be used to reaffirm Protestant hegemony this time around!).

  38. I hope and pray, whatever the outcome of LLF, that Evangelicals will recognise that the Church of England needs to reaffirm and recommit herself to believe and preach the terrible doctrine of the wrath to come which the unsaved face now and will face in eternity unless they heed the warning and repent and turn to Christ, because this is more important than the marriage/sexuality disagreement; and that the Church of England Evangelical Council will set about mobilising all Evangelicals to formally challenge the Church about this at all levels of the Synodical set-up.

    Phil Almond

    • this is more important than the marriage/sexuality disagreement

      I’d be interested to know how many on the pro-same-sex marriage side do not subscribe to the heresy of universalism. There’s no necessary connection between the two; so if it did turn out that 100% of those who are pro-same-sex marriage were also universalists, it would tell us something interesting, wouldn’t it?

      • S
        I’d also be interested to know how many on the anti-same-sex-marriage side do not subscribe to the doctrine of God’s eternal retribution on the unsaved but rather believe in God’s annihilation for the unsaved e.g. Rev. Dr. Ian Paul.

        Phil Almond

          • Ian
            Many thanks for your honest reply. I do wonder whether the view of ‘lots of us’ explains what I perceive to be the failure of ‘lots if us’ to prioritise the need to preach and teach the terrible warnings to flee from the wrath to come.

            Phil Almond

          • Because it is not biblical, as far as we can see.

            I don’t think annihilationism is Biblical either? It’s one of those things the Bible is silent on. The Bible contains everything that is necessary for us to know we have to be saved, and for us to be saved; we don’t need to know the exact fate of those who refuse the offer of salvation, only that it’s bad and we don’t want to be in that number when the time comes!

            (I find the picture in The Great Divorce compelling, but of course the author himself is careful to point out in the preface that it is a fiction, and that God has His reasons for not spelling out the exact fate of the lost: presumably at least partly to stop us morbidly dwelling on that fate and instead galvanise us to save as many as possible!)

        • S
          You posted:
          “…we don’t need to know the exact fate of those who refuse the offer of salvation, only that it’s bad and we don’t want to be in that number when the time comes!”
          But it isn’t bad if annihilation is true. Also, the Bible sets before us both the terrible warnings and the wonderful promises. To be faithful the Church must proclaim both, preferably using the same language as the Bible uses, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to convict the audience of what the warnings mean.
          Phil Almond

          • But it isn’t bad if annihilation is true.

            Yes it is. Annihilation is bad.

            Also, the Bible sets before us both the terrible warnings and the wonderful promises. To be faithful the Church must proclaim both, preferably using the same language as the Bible uses, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to convict the audience of what the warnings mean.

            Yes, I think that’s what I wrote, isn’t it?

  39. T1.
    There is a distinction between law civil and criminal, and morals: in this instance, Biblical sexual morals and
    a distinction between legal, permissive legislation and compulsion, mandated action. (e.g. abortion anyone?)

  40. The so-called ‘rev’ writes: “we are not to unite in sex that which God has not divided in creation.”

    The problem with this and arguments against women is that they all hang on Adam and Eve which even most reich whingers don’t believe in.

    As I have mentioned several times on this hate blog, I would do what the aforementioned whingers do: cherry pick the best bits of the Bible and ignore the rest. I’ve never seen any of these people feed the hungry or clothe the naked or even volunteer in their local food bank. They’re too busy constructing arguments on how to avoid doing charity!

    • ‘I’ve never seen any of these people feed the hungry or clothe the naked or even volunteer in their local food bank.’

      I which case you are flaunting your own ignorance and prejudice. Evangelicals lead on all these things.

      • Really? You have statistics to prove that Evangelicals lead on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping in food banks? Quite a claim. No doubt they founded more schools in England as well?

    • The problem with this and arguments against women is that they all hang on Adam and Eve

      They don’t. Jesus’ argument against same-sex marriage has nothing to do with Adam and Eve; He argues from Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve don’t show up until chapter 2. So the argument from creation precedes Adam and Eve, and would be valid even if Adam and Eve never appeared.

  41. Just a comment from Canada where all the “mainline” liberal dominated denominations have abandoned Scripture to become “relevant” to the secular culture. They are all declining. Rapidly. Thank you for your faithful summary of Scripture.

  42. Can’t believe I’ve even tried to read most of the comments on this open letter. What a load of nit-picking, mainly from the Old Testament. I’m a simple Christian – I try to follow Jesus’ command for us to love one another. This trumps everything. God blessed us with a brain. He blessed us with the freedom of choice. We live in the present – and have developed dramatically over time. We need to interpret the New Testament (as Christians) in the light of our constant newly discovered knowledge. It’s a given we should now treat men and women as equal. It’s a given we oppose slavery. To me, it’s a given we allow same-sex marriages. Deep down, I know it’s right. You can argue until you are blue in the face, but from the point of view of love, tolerance, forgiveness and simple logic, and the true meaning of Christianity – yes. Bring it on!

    • Well, I might agree with you on the comments.

      But how can you claim that ‘Jesus’ command to love one another trumps everything else’. You seem to want to use one command of Jesus to set aside all the other ones.

      Are you claiming that Jesus didn’t understand his own teaching?

      • Well, He certainly spoke about it enough times! It must be the clearest message He ever gave. ‘A New Commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ Now that’s pretty straight forward. Difficult to argue against that. Little ambiguity on His views of love, tolerance, forgiveness. What a shame many folk (often religious folk) conveniently choose to ignore it. Yes, it does trump everything. If there’s only one thing we learn from Jesus – this will save us all. (I don’t understand your question about Jesus not understanding his own teaching.)

        Incidentally, your quote from MacCulloch…

        ‘it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity… (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490-1700, p 705).’

        You rather shot yourself in the foot with this. Had you continued with the quote you would have added…

        ‘… let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity. The only alternatives are to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong.’ (MacCulloch. ibid)

        And doesn’t this tie up nicely with the teachings of Jesus. How many times does He say something like ‘ You have read that….. but I tell you this….’ He himself does not view the Old Testament as ‘gospel.’ And as Christians, nor should we. Quoting bits of texts from Leviticus is not the way to promote to Good News. Stick to the New Testament (and even then we have a fair bit of contradictions, especially with St Paul.)

        It’s all to do with interpretation, based on ….Love.

          • So I’m not the first person to come to this conclusion. Marcion of Sinope certainly had a point – up to a point.
            As for the message – Loving one another hits the nail on the head. I find the evangelical obsession with sin rather creepy. Is this the ‘Good News’?

          • Is this the ‘Good News’?

            Yes. Because only to those who can accept that they are sick is the coming of the doctor good news.

            Mark 2:17

          • Why — what on Earth do you think the good news is, if not that God has, at immense cost to Himself, provided a way for us to be saved from the consequences of our sin?

        • It’s all to do with interpretation, based on ….Love.

          ‘ St. John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougement) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.’


Leave a comment