Are the Prayers of Love and Faith legal?

Andrew Goddard writes: Yesterday’s debate at Synod on LLF/PLF raises some important and potential serious issues. These include:

  • The bishops’ refusal to give Synod advice from the Legal Office breaks with precedents
  • The Bishop of London’s statement suggested members had the foundation of the theological and legal basis in GS 2328 but there is a 22 page Annex on the former, “legal advice” is a phrase which appears only twice in the whole document (para 10 of Annex A)
  • Although “nothing is being hidden” we know there exists legal advice which “sets out both sides of the argument” (Annex A para 10) as to the prayers’ legality but we don’t know what those contrasting legal arguments said or if the lawyers’ evaluated them
  • “Legal advice” was made an amorphous category by the Bishop of London – it “comes in many forms” including “conversations” which are “not recorded” and so “impossible” to show Synod
  • The bishops by commending PLF are pinning the legal target on the backs of clergy using the prayers despite previously acknowledging the need to provide them with more legal protection
  • The legal advice they are not issuing now appears to be much less certain than that issued in January and to have a totally different legal basis 
  • This may also be creating problems for what is in the unreleased part of the draft Guidance concerning clergy entering into same-sex marriages
  • The Pastoral Principles point to publishing the legal advice and the only apparent reason not to do so seems to be some degree of political embarrassment.

I explore these in detail in the article that follows. But I should say at the outset: considering questions about legality is not about legalism. The Church of England is a church ‘established by law’, and that means that our canon law is the place where our doctrine is expressed. And the rigour needed to formulate, discuss, and possibly revise these laws provides the needed disciplines for thinking carefully about doctrine without causing unnecessary division.

For the last two days I have been serving as an additional chaplain offering pastoral support at General Synod. Having spent quite a lot of time in recent months immersed in papers and arguments it has been good but also challenging and painful to be present with those who have been called to represent us all as they seek to understand what is being said and done and what God is saying to us all through this process.

Understanding what is being said and done is far from easy. This is likely to be the case today in relation to the Bishop of Oxford’s amendment concerning standalone services (is this looking to use B5A even though it is not mentioned and is the House of Bishops now reversing its vote on October 9th? Why is reference made to the timetable in the February motion and how does that and its reference to five years impact the B2 process?). Yesterday the focus of a fair degree of confusion and frustration was the question of legal advice and an amendment from Clive Scowen which called on the House of Bishops

To take no further steps towards implementing that motion until this Synod has considered the full legal advice received by the House prior to agreeing the proposals in GS 2328.

His speech received prolonged applause but was lost in all three Houses (10-22-2 among bishops, 88-99-0 among clergy, and 93-98-6 among laity) but the comments from the Bishop of London resisting the amendment raise a number of questions about what is being said and done and whether Synod members and others watching may be confused or even feel misled by what has happened. Before turning to those it is important to give a few points of background.

What has happened? (See Appendix for more details and links).

Historically the bishops have shared legal advice in various ways but unprecedentedly this time a number of bishops have publicly dissented and warned that legal advice suggests the House’s decisions in the Synod papers may fall short. Those papers also fail to repeat the argument concerning civil marriage in previous legal advice published and suggest that there may now be legal problems with the planned Guidance. 

What was Synod told by the Bishop of London?

Clive Scowen’s amendment was resisted by the Bishop of London on two main grounds. One was that it was simply trying to delay what needs to proceed which would be hurtful. This ignored the fact that, as he had pointed out, there would only be delay if the House decided to delay as it could release the legal advice immediately so Synod could consider it during this session. The more substantial argument, however, was that it was unnecessary as Synod already had what was required in GS 2328. What exactly is being claimed here is, however, far from clear both in terms of its substance and its accuracy.

Looking for Legal Advice in GS 2328

The Bishop of London, in her brief response to the amendment being moved (which would have been a prepared statement not an off-the-cuff reply as she had to offer in Monday’s Question Time), made a number of claims about GS 2328:

  1. That GS 2328 is “the foundation of the House of Bishop’s theological and legal basis for how we are going [through] forward” and contains “our theological workings…along with the legal foundation of the proposals for us moving forward”.
  2. “The proposals GS 2328 reflect the legal advice that we have received. It is clear and it is transparent”.
  3. Clive Scowen (and by implication any minded to support him) simply need to “go back and reread GS 2328 and you will see the legal…the foundation of the legal advice that we have been given”.
  4. “What you have in GS 2328 is the legal foundation upon which we have given you the decisions. It is there clear and transparent in that document”.
  5. “You have the legal foundation upon which our discussions have occurred”
  6. “The paper that you have in GS 2328 is the formation of the legal advice that we have been given”

Earlier in her opening of the debate she had said “You may not agree with our legal advice” again implying that Synod had been supplied with that advice in some sense so as to be able to make such a judgment.

If one looks in GS 2328 then “the foundation of the House of Bishops’ theological basis” and “our theological working” is easily found – this is given in Annex H which is a 22-page paper “shared with the House and College of Bishops ahead of the meeting of the House of Bishops on 9 October 2023”. There is nothing anywhere near like this in relation to “the foundation of the House of Bishops’ legal basis” or “the legal foundation of the proposals”. 

So what were Synod members to re-read last night in GS 2328 and what would they find if/when they did? The central theme in the quotations above is that of “legal foundation” (It is unclear what is meant by “formation” in (6) and whether that should be “foundation”). I think the answer can only be found in Annex A which comes from the Bishop of London and her Co-Chair.

Para 10 (the only place “legal advice” appears as a phrase in the whole document) and Para 11 tell us that the bishops “received” and “considered” legal advice concerning the prayers’ compliance with Canon B5. 

Here it is noteworthy that it “set out both sides of the argument” unlike the legal advice released in January. In other words it would appear that the legal advice is now less certain than it was then: there are significant legal arguments for and against PLF being legal. It was left to the bishops “to exercise our legally- and theologically-informed judgement in coming to a view on whether proposed prayers and other material met the requirements as to doctrine” (para 10). 

Para 11 sets out what were seen as significant points “in the light of the legal and theological advice we have received” but these mainly highlight the prayers do not treat a same-sex couple in a marriage differently from any other same-sex couple. It gives few details on matters of law and is shorter than para 14 even though that is a summary of the fully published theological advice set out in Annex H. 

Para 12 discusses whether being in a sexual relationship is relevant (as previous legal advice suggested it would be if sexual intimacy was meant to be only for marriage which the bishops have reaffirmed as set out in para 13) and says the bishops “have considered relevant theological and canonical issues”.

Paras 16-21 also seem to “reflect the legal advice that we have received” (quote 2 above) as they note “we have been advised…we have also been advised…”.  Here there is the significant statement that this advice included that “it would be difficult to say that making the PLF available for same-sex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships was not indicative of any departure from the Church’s doctrine” (para 17). In other words, part of the legal advice appears to be that the proposal found in GS 2328 does not implement the February motion as amended.  

On the looser canonical requirement that anything indicative of a departure must not be “in any essential matter” there is a clear drawing on legal advice (paras 19 and 20) but ultimately only a very brief sketch of questions asked (para 21) in the light of Annex H (para 22) with nothing obviously drawing on legal advice in relation to the judgment (“we consider….”) the canon is being upheld (paras 23-26). It would appear here that this is an episcopal judgment (“we have therefore come to the view that….”, para 26) based on Annex H (which I have argued is itself not a strong foundation on which to build) rather than a summary of the legal advice.  This presumably is because the legal advice was inconclusive which is why it set out two views.

If this is “the legal foundation upon which we have given you the decisions” (quote 4 above) then (in marked contrast to Annex H’s theological rationale) it is not particularly “clear and transparent” (2 and 4 above). The “legal foundation of the proposals” (1 above) looks incredibly weak if “the foundation of the legal advice that we have been given” (3 above) simply “set out both sides of the argument”.

What counts as legal advice?

One part of the Bishop’s response to the amendment elicited a strong negative reaction from the floor.  After telling Clive Scowen to “go back and reread GS 2328” she continued:

It is fair to say that the legal advice that we have given comes in many forms. You can imagine the College and the House talk quite a bit and therefore there are conversations where theology and the law have spoken and worked together. It is impossible to show you the detail of that because that is not recorded. But what you have in GS 2328 is the legal foundation upon which we have given you the decisions. It is there clear and transparent in that document.

This appears to argue (with some similarities to the argument then used to critique the next amendment by arguing ‘the complete Pastoral Guidance’ cannot be considered as it will be a constantly evolving document) that “the full legal advice received by the House” requested in the amendment is something “impossible to show you” because “legal advice that we have [was “been” omitted here?] given comes in many forms”.

The most generous reading of this in the light of Annex A as summarised above is that during the House’s discussion legal officers contributed by answering questions or by offering comments on what bishops said as they discussed the legal advice. Given the bishops had to “exercise our legally- and theologically-informed judgment in coming to a view” and consider “both sides of the argument” what we therefore have in those paragraphs of Annex A in GS 2328 is where they ended up in the light of that discussion.

The difficulty of course is that how papers are brought together and signed off after a meeting is not always simple.

Is something being hidden and why is this important?

The comment that “legal advice comes in many forms” some of which “are impossible to show you the detail of” could give the impression that there was in fact no clear “full legal advice received by the House prior to agreeing the proposals in GS 2328” (amendment) that could now be considered by the Synod. But it is clear from para 10 of Annex A that there was a written piece of legal advice shared with bishops presumably similar in form but clearly not in content to that summarised for Synod members in January in GS Misc 1339. This would likely be similar in length and depth to the theological foundation which has been fully released in Annex H.

Given that this is the case (and the only other option is that the bishops received no prior papers from the Legal Office before their meeting but simply had a verbal presentation) then a twice-stated assurance to Synod is intriguing:

I want to assure you there is nothing that is being hidden…..I want to reassure you that we are not hiding anything….

It appears clear that this legal advice now sets out two views on the legality of the prayers rather than affirming their current form to be legal. The Bishop of London continued by saying “We have been transparent to you about our differences and disagreements in the House of Bishops”. The serious problem is that there has however been no transparency about the nature of the different views and the disagreement concerning the legality of the prayers which was seemingly expressed by the Legal Office in their legal advice.

This is crucially important especially for clergy because if prayers are commended by the bishops they are commended for use under Canon B5 and at the discretion of the minister having the cure of souls. It is the minister who has to determine that the prayers “shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter” and who could face “proceedings under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963”.

In July the bishops reported to Synod (in GS 2303) that alternatives to Canon B5 commendation were being seriously considered not least as they “may provide more legal protection for those ministers who choose to use the Prayers” (para 13).

The situation if the motion passes and the bishops commend is that they have not given clergy more legal protection which they said in July they were considering but they have signalled that their legal advice is now less certain. Despite this they are not willing to publish that advice in any form or to “set out both sides of the argument” as the lawyers did for them so that clergy can make their own legally informed judgments. Instead, they are simply saying “trust us and our legally and theologically informed judgments”.

This is also potentially important for the amendment which followed that relating to the Legal Advice and is still being debated. This asks for Synod to be able to consider “the complete Pastoral Guidance replacing Issues in Human Sexuality” which will pronounce concerning clergy and same-sex marriage.

This matter is therefore most likely also part of the legal advice that the House has received. If the legal advice is no longer appealing to the distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony then as noted above it appears much more difficult to permit clergy to enter a civil same-sex marriage. This may be why “more work still needs to be completed in this area” and this crucial part of the Guidance is also being held back from Synod. It may be that, as with the prayers, the legal advice is creating episcopal headaches (particularly in the light of past legal advice which has been shared in GS 2055 and the reaffirmation of the doctrine of marriage including in relation to sexual intimacy). It could, as with the prayers, now be offering “both sides of the argument” rather than supporting what has been reported as being written into the draft guidance or even advising that what has been drafted, and is sought by the 44 bishops who felt compelled to go public, is simply not legally possible given the theological rationale set out in Annex H.

What are the options for the bishops now?

The failure of the amendment means that, assuming the final motion passes, the bishops are free to continue to commend the prayers without releasing the legal advice. It is, however, not impossible that the advice will leak or be released by someone who believes confidentiality is being misused in the refusal to share its contents or become public if there is a legal challenge to a priest using the prayers.

The history of past practice suggests two other possible options. Following the precedent of GS 2055 and GS Misc 1339, there could be a new document which faithfully reproduces the advice and in particular sets out the two arguments the bishops considered so that Synod members and clergy in parishes deciding whether to use PLF under Canon B5 can make their own judgments as to their legality. Alternatively, following the precedent set with the Implementation Groups, the full advice could be shared in confidence with, for example, the Chairs of the Houses of Clergy and Laity for them to advise the bishops whether they believe more legal information needs to be made available to Synod members in the light of seeing the full legal advice.

If the legal advice’s release would 

  • reveal the bishops to be “hiding” important material 
  • demonstrate that GS 2328 is less than “clear and transparent” in relation to legal matters
  • undermine the bishops’ case in some way 
  • raise serious doubts as to the wisdom of their “legally and theologically-informed judgments” 
  • or question the veracity of some of their public statements 

then their resistance to its publication makes political if not moral sense. 

But if none of these are the case then there would appear they have nothing to lose—and potentially quite a lot to gain in terms of rebuilding trust and showing they are paying attention to power—by taking one of these two steps or, better still, simply releasing the advice in full as quickly as possible and so help cast out fear by paying attention to power, speaking into silence, and addressing ignorance.

Appendix: What has happened?

Firstly, back in January 2017 when bringing proposals to General Synod after the Shared Conversations, the bishops’ paper (GS 2055) had an annex dated November 2016 which was “an extract from a note from the Legal Office which was provided for the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality & the House of Bishops; and is made available as a background resource for the General Synod” (p.16).

Secondly, the original papers from the House of Bishops before the February Synod also failed to provide the legal advice they had received. When this led to protests, GS Misc 1339 appeared as “a note from the Legal Office”. This stated that what it contained “sets out legal advice for the General Synod which is to the same effect as the advice which was given to the College and House of Bishops”.

Thirdly, those of us involved in the PLF Implementation Groups (many of whom were Synod members) were given in May an analysis of Legal Issues from the Legal Office to help resource our conversations.

Fourthly, after the House of Bishops met on October 9th to finalise papers for General Synod, 12 of them issued a dissenting statement which expressed concern that Synod would not be able to “determine whether the bishops have fulfilled their intention (supported in February) that the final form of the prayers should not be “indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”” and noted that “legal and theological advice the House has received suggest clearly to us that the decisions of the House may fall short of this commitment”. 

Fifthly, the arguments found in GS Misc 1339 shared with Synod in January focussed on a new legal position concerning the distinction between civil marriage and holy matrimony. This significantly altered some of the earlier lines of argument that had been set out in GS 2055 in 2017 (and which had been repeated in subsequent legal advice offered on at least two occasions including during the LLF process). This distinction was essential to arguments relating to the legality of the prayers in February and appeared also to undermine the prohibition on clergy from entering civil same-sex marriages as those entering a same-sex civil marriage now “do not need be treated as doing more than obtaining a civil status, and in particular they do not need to be considered simply by obtaining that civil status as rejecting or challenging the definition of Holy Matrimony in Canon B30” (para 7). This argument was subject to significant legal critique (most fully here) and significantly is missing from the argument in the paperwork given to this November Synod (GS 2328) but with no explanation for its disappearance. It is also clear from answers to questions yesterday that FAOC has offered some (also unpublished) theological assessment of this proposed legal distinction which appears to have at least weakened the stronger versions of it and perhaps made it unusable.

Sixthly, the bishops have decided not to release the part of the Pastoral Guidance that effectively replaces Issues and which will clarify whether or not clergy can now enter same-sex civil marriages. It has explained this on the basis that “given the complexity of these topics, more work still needs to be completed in this area”. It also noted that, rather than appealing to the argument quoted above from the January legal advice as providing a clear basis for allowing clergy to be in same-sex marriages, “The House of Bishops’ intention is that this further work will consider whether the rationale of pastoral provision might provide a basis for allowing clergy to be in same-sex marriages”.

Seventhly, it has nevertheless been reported that “Pastoral guidance that would allow priests to enter into same-sex marriages was drafted before the College of Bishops meeting at the end of September” and that votes in the College show “a large majority of CofE bishops support a move towards allowing priests to enter into same-sex marriage” with the House also voting in favour of this on October 9th by 18 votes to 15. This course of action has also been publicly supported by 44 bishops.

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

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176 thoughts on “Are the Prayers of Love and Faith legal?”

    • Further, some of it was apparently oral, and conveniently irrecoverable.

      There is one way you can tell dishonest people, and that is that they arrive at the conclusion they wanted anyway, by hook or by crook; the end ‘justifies’ the means.

        • Yes! Decisions are being made and guidance presented via concepts that come from culture, from the spirit of the age, and from other things none of which has godly authority, or even the authority of historic Christian orthodoxy.

  1. If this is what is going on here on earth, what is going on in the heavenly places – i.e. the spiritual realms, in relation to it all?

    I suggest Screwtape is having a ball.

  2. Me too.

    The bishops (with just a few exceptions) seem not to care tuppence about the lawfulness of what they are doing.

    Bishops used to prize their role as figures of unity – now they have become schismatics and stumbling blocks among us. Instead of canons and liturgy, scripture and synodical decision making, they have grounded the church on their own disunity. It’s just a device for welcoming heterodoxy by the back door.

  3. Benjamin John summed up LLF this morning in 4 words, “Did God really say?” By quoting Genesis 3:1, he highlighted the origin of these proposals.

    I suspect that there may have been many who failed to spot the allusion to the one who spoke those words. From other things being said at synod, there appear to be many in synod who know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29), the very allegation made against a group of religious leaders by a well-known rabbi. Have we learned nothing in 2,000 years?

    How can we trust leaders who so readily throw away the Scriptures and set up instead their own feelings?

    • There’s a difference between throwing away scripture and disagreeing with your interpretation of it. Back in the 90s there were plenty of people who believed the Bible opposed women in leadership. I’m sure there were similar divisions over contraception, slavery,etc

      • …because there are texts on women’s leadership which appear at first reading to point in difference directions.

        On marriage being between a man and a woman there are not. So it is not really analogous.

        On slavery, the arguments from silence deployed by slave-owners parallel the arguments from silence by those wanting gay marriage.

          • @ Peter Jermey

            This is akin to comparing “apples” to “oranges”.

            An answer to your question rather depends on the emphasis one places on sola scriptura, the weight given to the Church Fathers and Tradition, and on one’s belief about the role of the ordained ministry. Don’t Anglicans hold different views on all these elements?

            So, it’s not simply about scripture.

            The Catholic Church, for example, cites doctrinal, theological, and Tradition as reasons for excluding women from the ordained priesthood. It’s settled – forever. Reasons given are the Church remaining faithful to Sacred Tradition; fidelity to Christ’s manifest will in only calling men as apostles; the apostles “laying hands” on men for ministry; and, significantly, the ‘iconic’ value of male representation due the sacerodotal nature of the priesthood (masculinity was integral to the personhood of Jesus and the men he called as apostles).

            Significantly, the Catholic Church holds once an issue like women ordination is definitively settled, then it cannot be changed. It can develop – it doesn’t “evolve” according to the culture, “life experiences”, or different readings of Scripture.

          • HJ

            I see it as much simpler than that – people with a certain interpretation of scripture refusing to accept that anyone could read it any differently than them

    • How, indeed, can we trust people who read scripture so carelessly? John was, as so many others are, simply wrong. The serpent is telling the truth. Read the text.

      • Reading the words isn’t the same as understanding the whole text….

        God was clearly “unhappy” with the serpent. Not exactly a clean bill of health. The couple believed his lie, acted on it and death was the result.

        “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

        • Except it wasn’t a lie. Adam and Eve didn’t have immortality because they hadn’t eaten of the tree of life. And they didn’t die for several hundred years.

          • Wait. Are we really recasting the serpent as the misunderstood hero fighting for righteousness and truth in this passage?

            I love a good plot twist as much as the next person but this is too far.

          • How is it possible to argue – in a reasoned way – with someone who takes Adam and Eve as historical personages?

            I give up talking with some christian people – I praise my mental health.

          • Well, I think it is possible. But there is no need to read these stories as literal history in order to think they tell the truth about what it means to be human.

        • Yea but God had (apparently) already given them the answer and it was incorrect. (Note the word apparently). The serpent understood.

          • God had told Adam: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” This is correct, because God knew that if man did eat from that tree then He would deny man access to the tree of life. But He did not want to state the penalty for transgression at that time.

          • Penelope, we could debate forever about this because it’s something within the mind of God that he has not directly revealed. But there’s good reason for saying that God’s existence outside of human time would enable him to know, at the point of creation, exactly how things must turn out if he were to create human beings in his own image. Free will was an essential ingredient of that image but resisting temptation to sin was something only God himself could do.

            If the whole saga of Adam’s inability to resist temptation, and the consequent need for salvation through Christ’s sacrifice, must have been fully known to God right from the start, why did he offer the tree of life and immediately forbid eating its fruit? Presumably its existence was necessary so that the ultimate choice could be presented to Adam: it was always going to be a gift for the serpent to use in his temptation of Adam? Fortunately we all now face a choice where is no deception and from which there can be a happy ending.

            However you view the story, I think for those who are genuinely seeking the truth it tells us what we need to understand.

          • Presumably if I said love for gay people was something in the mind of God which They haven’t revealed as yet, you would all be horrified. Quite rightly.

          • Love for gay people?
            Love for all people, more like.
            But which of the four loves do you have in mind, and why are you persisting in this practice of fudging them all together?

  4. So, Happy Jack has just read Sarah Mullally’s and Philip Mounstephen’s paper and ploughed through 100+ pages of supporting documents (well, skimmed through is more accurate). He will never recover this time!

    His overall impression? Double-speak and evasion of the central issue, i.e., Christian teaching on sexual morality. Hidden behind the presentations, particularly those concerning “Living with Reality” and “Grace”, with their talk of cultural context, pastoral provision, accompaniment and discernment, lies a carefully crafted avoidance of the central issue – is same sex genital activity in accordance with God’s revealed plan for man or not? Then, that’s their whole purpose, so one shouldn’t complain. This is presently “uncertain” and is to be dealt with at a later date.

    There’s talk about “covenanted friendship” and the claim “prayers are not linked to questions of sexuality in any way. They are intended for “same-sex couples,” for “two people who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God,” as an “occasion for rejoicing.” They simply “affirm what is good, and pray for growth towards God,” and, given “there is currently uncertainty about the outcome of the church’s discernment in relation to same-sex relationships,” these prayers provisionally “err on the side of grace rather than judgement.”

    Hmmm …. who’s trying to kid who?

    In Happy Jack’s opinion, these prayers serve as an intentional bridgehead leading to changing God’s revelation about human sexual relationships. The clue is here:

    In short, the theological basis for pastoral provision is that it is a pastoral outworking for a time of uncertainty that respects the Church of England’s unchanged doctrine of marriage, including the aspects of that doctrine that are concerned with sexual intimacy. On that basis, we have concluded that making the PLF available for samesex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships would not be contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England. (emphasis added)

    If this was truthfully the case, instead of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, there would be clear statements about the current doctrine on sexual intimacy as this, as a matter of fact, still directly underpins the existing doctrine on marriage.

    • “avoidance of the central issue – is same sex genital activity in accordance with God’s revealed plan for man or not?”

      That’s not the central issue, although I would agree the Synod debates have been a masterclass in avoidance.

      The central issue is: what is the teaching for gay people in the Church? What are they to do?

      Discussion about friendships, marriage, and sex flow from that, but aren’t actually the true focus. And that true focus is what we don’t really talk about. The liberal side in Synod sometimes get close, when making the case for why this is an urgent debate (and talking about how destructive a teaching that suggests being gay is incompatible with Christian faith is, or the burden of an imposed celibacy rule with all that implies from a young age), but they don’t really get into exactly what the proposed ethic is. It’s hinted that it’s Jeffrey John’s ideas about sex is only within marriage, but marriage can be opposite sex or same sex.

      This though is nothing compared to the avoidance from the conservative side of Synod. At least people like the Bishop of Oxford put forward amendments to advance how they wanted the future teaching to look (pushing for standalone services). The conservative amendments proposed were procedural – wanting to delay until the legal advice was published, delay until the pastoral guidance is published etc.. What was conspicuous by its absence was any attempt to push for a conservative teaching or even define one. They stuck instead to attempting to defend a teaching by inference – marriage is between one man and one woman, so gay people just have to do things that don’t interfere with that. Do they want the Church to say gay people should all embrace lifelong celibacy and be open about that? Do they want the Church to say celibacy is a calling for Christians gay and straight, but if you’re not called to that you are right to enter an opposite-sex marriage (and encouraged to do so) whatever your sexual orientation? Do they want the Church to say that being born again necessarily means a death to sinful desires and so if you’re really born again God will change your sexual orientation? We don’t really know, because they won’t really say, let alone bring motions or amendments to test the mind of Synod and move towards a true conservative teaching.

      • @ A J Bell

        You’ve just confirmed it is about same sex genital activity being in accordance with God’s revealed plan for man or not! It’s clear as day that God intends sexual activity to be exercised exclusively within a marriage between a man and woman.

        How one responds in a pastorally sensitive way to same sex attracted people, u>given this clear Scriptural proscription against any sex outside of marriage, is a different debate and this proposal just muddies the water and seeks a compromise where one is not possible.

        • Not quite Jack.

          Firstly, the PLFs don’t allow for marriage or sex. But they still seem to be pretty controversial. This would confirm my understanding that strict celibacy rules out covenanted friendships (where there is no sex).

          Secondly, thinking this is a straightforward question about “same sex genital activity” (why aren’t we calling this sex – Scripture would seem to be clear that it is sex) leads you to a mistaken view that if the PLF were to be rejected that would end the matter there and then. That’s not true. You would be left with the questions about what the teaching to gay people are (specifically the LGB, there’s nothing here for T and beyond) – is it a command to strict celibacy, is it opposite-sex marriage, is it change in sexual orientation, is it something else? The conservative school in Synod have done their level best to ignore this. I suspect because they’re actually quite divided on the question, and don’t dare expose their congregations to what they really think. Instead it’s easier to kick us all into a sort of teaching vacuum where the Church has nothing relevant to say to gay people within the body of Christ.

          • @ A j Bell

            ” … is it a command to strict celibacy, is it opposite-sex marriage, is it change in sexual orientation, is it something else?”

            Now they are pastoral questions and the answers will vary.

            It’s highly doubtful one’s sexual inclinations will change – though not impossible depending on their origin. Unless one can genuinely fully express conjugal love with a person of the opposite sex, it would be dishonest to marry that person. So, logically, to be consistent with Scripture, it is celibacy and through prayer, grace and developing the virtues, the sacrifice that this entails.

            Are you saying no member of Synod has ever voiced this?

      • @AJ Bel

        You say that conservatives aren’t clear about what homosexuals should do. Could you give a prescription for what all people who don’t identify as homosexual should do as a comparison?

        • Those who are not called to celibacy are right to marry (a faithful, lifelong union). It is good to stay unmarried, but it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

          • @ A J Bell

            Lead moral lives, whether married or not.

            After teaching and warning us about the results of following specific immoral inclinations and desires, including sexual immorality, St Paul writes:

            And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
            (1 Corinthians 6:11)

            Men and women, single or married, are called to lead chaste and fulfilling lives.

            How? Later he writes:

            Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18

          • Now that one can obtain a certificate of marriage to a same-sex partner from the authorities in Britain, do you consider homosexual sex acts to be sinful in Britain if you don’t share a certificate and acceptable to God if you do? And why?

          • Marriage implies sex (the act of marriage, one flesh), therefore there is no such thing as ‘opposite-sex marriage’, only marriage. It is an oxymoron.

          • Thanks HJ,

            I will confess to being slightly surprised by your reply. I essentially paraphrased 1 Corinthians 7 to give a pretty direct answer to Kyle’s question. I’m not sure whether you agreed with it, but you’re quoting of 1 Corinthians 6 is more abstract – what makes a life chaste and fulfilling? Where is the line drawn on sexual immorality?

            The Catholic Catechism has some interesting things to say about all this:
            “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.”

            “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”

            “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”

            “The covenant which spouses have freely entered into entails faithful love. It imposes on them the obligation to keep their marriage indissoluble.”

            There’s also an interesting discussion in the Catechism about chastity as self-mastery (which can never be acquired once and for all) and a cultural effort.

          • Saying its simply impossible for two men (or two women) to have sex is a rather extreme view Christopher, and well outside usual conservative evangelical views (who argue very clearly that gay sex counts as sex, which is why they oppose same-sex marriage).

            But if it isn’t sex – what is it?

          • That is splitting hairs. You have no awe at the intricacy of the reproductive process evolved over millions of years. And secondly, ‘sex’ is the delight in coupling with that to which you are biologically attracted. People can scarcely be attracted to what they already have.

          • Which point provides the reason why ‘sex’ as in gender and ‘sex’ as in coupling are the same word. The biology finds its function.

          • Christopher, that would suggest that gay people aren’t really gay, because they aren’t actually sexually attracted to people of the same sex. Is that what you think? What’s going with them then?

          • They are attracted to them and want intimacy or alternatively release (or both). I don’t see how you can call this sexual, since that would imply a delight in the differentiation of the sexes.

          • Christopher

            I see you are straightsplaining sex now.
            Might I suggest that, if you haven’t experienced same-sex sex, you don’t pontificate on what it is and what it isn’t. I’m sure a nice gay person could explain it to you.

          • So which of the theoretical things I said is not true? Rather, they are basic biology. List even one of them that you deny. It will be interesting to see your answer.

          • Having used ‘straightsplaining’, do you also sometimes use ‘gaysplaining’? Or is your inegalitarian discrimination even greater than before?

          • Christopher

            As has been pointed out to you before, sex (that is sexual intimacy) is sex whoever it’s practised with, whether it is the act that can produce babies, or if it’s with oneself. All sex. Doesn’t need a partner of the ‘opposite’ sex, doesn’t need to be PIV, doesn’t need to be procreative.
            And all couples in nature are by no means ‘heterosexual’ 🙂

          • Christopher, this is getting silly. First you said, “People can scarcely be attracted to what they already have”, then you followed up with, “They are attracted to them”. You’re desperate to claim it isn’t sexual, and two men can’t have sex. But you haven’t said what it is.

            The standard conservative argument (and it was heard in Synod last week) is that sex is reserved for marriage, and separately marriage is for one man and one woman, so sex between two men (or two women) must always be wrong. If instead you argue that two men (or two women) can’t by definition have sex, then you have to have a completely different argument against gay relationships. If it’s really not sex, you don’t even require faithfulness.

          • Christopher you asked for things you said about sex which aren’t true. I’d say that it’s untrue that the only biological reason for sex is reproduction (and as I’ve said endlessly it’s unfair to level this standard at gay marriage, but not at straight marriages, a large proportion of which are infertile, but sexually active). Companionship and love are other biological factors.

            I’d also argue that it’s untrue to suggest that all men are biologically capable of having sex with women (and vice versa). I doubt my biological functions would perform for a woman.

            In short you are arguing against reality

          • I never said either of those things, Peter.
            Are you putting words in my mouth?
            Or stereotyping?
            Either of these would be inaccurate.

          • AJ Bell, it is a parody of sex, considered as sex by the participants. Marring the image.
            People clearly are attracted to unattractive things all the time, but that is to be explained by their compromised state. For example, people hate the first cigarette they smoke, and same applies to certain drinks. Many things they do they would not have done when they were a sensible child, and consequently can only have (a) regressed, (b) gone from natural to unnatural.

          • Which means, Penelope, that there is – in your presentation of things – no core word for what you call ‘the act that can produce babies’. Which is a highly fundamental reality. And the Greater Oxford Dictionary has 20 volumes.

      • Hi AJ,

        you have asked a critical question about the conservative solution to the gay dilemma and it cannot be avoided. I am only giving my opinion. It seems to me that if God demands something, that a gay person embrace life long celibacy, then the gay person has a choice. They can say it is unreasonable and unfair and they have a point. But God is in the habit of asking the impossible. He offers no guarantees of happiness to the gay person. Read Ed Shaw’s book to see what this means. A gay person is offered nothing but a life of misery. How could God demand such a thing? In the 21st century we assume that God wants us all to be happy. Ultimately, of course, He does. But in this life, His priority is establishing union with us. He expects total commitment, even martyrdom and it all sounds pretty unreasonable. He is trying to get us to a place where we love Him above everything else. Again, it seems like too big an ask. It’s a cross that we carry. It is death to our ‘old man’. We cannot do its alone or in our own strength.
        Now, it’s all very well for a comfortable, happily married heterosexual to suggest to others that they embrace this Christian lifestyle, but gay people have to avoid falling into the trap of shooting the messenger. We will be judged as we judge. If I expect others to walk this road, I too must walk it. That is the challenge.
        My point is that in submitting our most valuable treasures to God, we liberate ourselves into the freedom and joy of God. Celibate priests have committed terrible atrocities because there was no biblical mandate for celibate priests. But since God is condemning homosexual sex, He has an obligation to the gay person. I am convinced He will not let them down. The conservative position is that blessing follows such obedience.
        Clearly the Archbishops think this is impractical. Since when has God been practical? He responds to our faith and obedience and He responds with Himself. Gay people can achieve a profound relationship with God because He will genuinely appreciate the scale of what they have given up for His sake.
        So the conservative position is to encourage gay Christians to embrace a bigger picture of God’s purpose for their lives. Sex is not the most important thing.

  5. Thank you again Andrew for you near exhaustive appraisals of the current situation.
    I am not aware of any other such appraisals of the process or any rebuttals of yours,
    Maybe someone might enlighten me
    .Ian raises various questions, as would a professor, to determine if there are indeed thinking Anglicans. That there are many one trick pony riders seems quite evident and quite rightly informed that they are not addressing the set question, are not quite on the same track. There seems a great emphasis on feelings, sometimes quite febrile, more heat than light. This with scant regard to God’s *feelings*which He makes quite plain through His Apostles and Prophets through His revealed word[s]
    For example, 2Peter Ch.2 [Not that I think many will read or even believe] looks very much like current behaviours amongst us. People of The Way [a recurrent theme in Paul and Peter speeches] though grieving are at least rested and comforted [strengthened] to endure and not to faint.

  6. Thank you Andrew.. I found it hard to follow on YouTube…. I’m not sure it s easy or really coherent outside the chamber.. There’s an immense complexity in the way this is being done so your summary on this part is helpful.

    I did stumble over the Bishop of London saying :

    “It is fair to say that the legal advice that we have given comes in many forms. You can imagine the College and the House talk quite a bit and therefore there are conversations where theology and the law have spoken and worked together. It is impossible to show you the detail of that because that is not recorded. ”

    … and couldn’t quite believe my ears. Apparently the law is clear and enough for moving forward but it’s ” impossible” to share.

    It’s a mess and I grieve for it after 63 years of membership and 46 years of ordination.

  7. I had no idea that prayers were meant to be legal. I need to be more careful in future, or perhaps stop altogether in case they’re illegal.

    Jesus wasn’t very complimentary about lawyers.

    • “But I should say at the outset: considering questions about legality is not about legalism.”
      I’m very much afraid that is exactly how it reads.
      I am absolutely with Richard Hobbs.

      • Oh so it’s ok to ride roughshod over canon law? Why not just ignore it altogether then? Do whatever you like and be done with it. Stop any pretence of unity under anything other than pensions and stipend and become congregational.

        If there is a process there has to be ways to stop people abusing the process. The bishops can’t mark their own homework, I just don’t trust them.

        I’d much rather some sort of way to challenge this synod directly legally, but I fear that As it is some poor sod will be hauled up in lieu of the bishops and subjected to a court case as a test case.

        • Oh I’m sure CEEC will come up with some legal challenge, even though a lawyer wad present all through GS.
          The question is clear: were we made for the law, or was the law made for us?
          Canon law is not infallible. It’s a guide, and not a strait-jacket.

          • It is law. We swear to follow it. So do the Bishops. They should be held to it.

            The advice of the lawyer hasn’t been fully released. It’s clear it’s not positive: why would the house of bishops not proceed directly otherwise? That’s literally the point of this article.

          • Following Christ is the thing Thomas. I only swear to follow law as a secondary thing, and it’s a provisional swearing as far as I’m concerned. There might be reasons why it’s better to be flexible with the law – just as evangelicals are with things like clerical dress and informal services.

          • Let your yes be yes and your no, no. If you can’t follow Christ within the agreed structure of the Church of England, why not follow him elsewhere?

          • Also two wrongs don’t make a right, and actually it’s quite possible to have informal services and dress within canon law.

            Commonly worship provides for it, and the cofe has agreed to allow less formal dress.

          • The difference being that they have done so illegally rather than through the legal routes used for those changes, which were not indicative of a change of doctrine in any matter.

            Therefore it’s an abuse of power and process and will I hope deservedly be challenged in court.

          • It is, as I said on Twitter, Schrodinger’s motion. It changes nothing and at the same time is such an egregious change that schism must be the result (or we’ll send the lawyers round).

          • What it changes is that it calls for sin to be blessed.
            This was already happening in the remarriage of divorcees who might have simply got bored and abandoned their spouse and could have reconciled but didn’t – but that was so long ago that people got acclimatised to it and are dead to its spiritual toxicity.

          • How could they be a ‘couple’, otherwise?
            The only place 2 appears in nature is reproduction, and there it is without exception male-female.
            When civil partnerships came in, they were not allowed to just any 2 people. Only to those parodying marriage.

          • Christopher

            True (I didn’t see you as a Conrad fan!).
            So, if you have read them , you will know that they also bless celibate (i.e. abstinent) couples and friendships.

          • That is astonishing? Wow…they bless the abstinent, and do not curse?

            You say they ‘also’ bless the abstinent. What does ‘also’ mean: as well as whom else?

    • Jesus was not very complimentary about the Pharisees because they did not follow their own teaching. Jesus commended what they said but not what they did.

  8. As members of the body of the church of the C of E, how do we handle the perception that the church treats people in same-sex relationships who want to marry as second class citizens?

    • Today’s vote by Synod in all 3 Houses to begin experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil law in C of E churches which wish to do so at least goes some way to address that. It will also be welcomed by Parliament and almost certainly the King too, as supreme governor of the established church

    • @ dave

      Ask who’s pushing this narrative and ask them kindly to hold their tongues.

      In Ephesians, Paul set forth the first principle of authentic human culture and how the body of Christ should respond:

      Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
      (Eph 4:17-24)

      Our culture is hostile to the Christian faith.

  9. So Synod has voted in favour of “commending” the introduction of LLF prayers to be used “experimentally.”

    The vote:
    Bishops: 23 for, 10 against, 4 abstained;
    Clergy: 100 for, 93 against, 1 abstained; and
    Laity: 104 for, 100 against, 0 abstained.

  10. Just who designs this *experimental* model?
    And what is the independent model of evaluation, analysis?
    And how is it to be linked to pastoral advice?
    Bearing in mind the determination to push this through, the sense of rigging dominates.
    The momentem increases on slippery slope slump into apostasy.
    Will there be a Biblical believing remnant?
    More particularly the Triune God as self revealed in the whole Bible canon? Who is Truth and not a deceiving, serpent/devil liar from the beginning.

    • There seem to have been so many breaking points for the Anglican Communion over the last 20 years that they have become like the boy who cried wolf.

    • Jesus Christ never mention homosexual blessings (reserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples), which Synod approved yesterday, as something he opposed. He did mention he opposed remarriage of divorcees except for spousal adultery but Synod already approved that years ago, as well as women priests and women bishops which St Paul opposed

  11. Bishops: 23 for, 10 against, 4 abstained;
    Clergy: 100 for, 93 against, 1 abstained; and
    Laity: 104 for, 100 against, 0 abstained.
    It is blindingly obvious that the bishops are wanting to push through their agenda onto a clearly polarized Clergy and Laity.
    John 10:12 – 13 Beware Isa 16:14 and Isa 21:16 Time is short.

    • On those numbers a majority of the clergy and the laity in Synod voted for the blessings for homosexual couples too, not just the bishops

        • And if what is proposed and effected amounts to a defacto change in doctrine it will be ultra vires the Archbishops and Bishops and anyone who puts it into practice, even if it is classed as, *experimental*.
          And that may force the hand to reveal the legal advice, (in the form of defence) if legal proceedings are commenced

          • Further thoughts.
            And the proceedings, seeking a prohibitory injunction, would have to conclude that what is to be trialed is not a breach of doctrine, which would remain as solely, m+f (as well as the question the of ultra vires as it would only not be ultra vires if the court decided that there is no change in doctrine).
            And there would still be no true marriage in church.
            Ministers could then not be compelled to provide a service in breach church doctrine.

            Is this being overly litigious. It is suggested not, as it is a matter of substantial and historic Church Governance, a questiion of setting and establishing a legal precedent, which would affect any future doctrinal matters/changes ( though I’m not an historian).

          • Legal proceedings would have the benefits of being;
            1 open and transparent
            2 the natural law of justice not only being done but being seen to be done (with the eqivalence of parliamentay executive – the ArchBishops and Bishops being collective called to account).
            2 Each position could be fully set out theologically as well as procedurally in court pleadings
            3 there would be no political shenanigans, of interference as on display at synods

          • Anything supported by the Bishops and a majority of all 3 Houses of Synod is by definition legal and not contrary to doctrine as that is the Church of England’s legislative body.

          • Simon that’s fiction I’m afraid. It’s at best delusional and at worst a lie. That would be the case only if they had gone through canon b2. Doctrinal changes require super majorities in all houses.

            The route they have gone through requires the changes to not be changes of doctrine in any essential matter. That is the question and it has to be answered.

          • “there would be no political shenanigans, of interference as on display at synods”

            This made me laugh out loud. A legal challenge would be the biggest political shenanigans, abd interference in the work of synod.
            But do please bring it on.
            Do you think it would be biblical? 1 Cor 6 seems clear.

          • There hasn’t been a change of doctrine, holy matrimony remains reserved for heterosexual couples. What a majority of Synod voted for in all 3 Houses was experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples married on English civil law.

            Synod would also have the full support of Parliament and therefore the King too for that and in UK law whatever Parliament and the King decide is the law. Parliament has left Synod to decide C of E law for the established church but can affirm these blessings are legal if needed

          • 1 Cor 6 is indeed clear: do not drag other Christians through the courts of the authorities, who in Paul’s time were pagans. An Established church, however, can claim that it is a Christian country (which I doubt, but that’s not the issue here) and therefore has a share in the courts. And I question whether Welby et al who seek to rewrite the biblical definition of sin are Christians. They speak Christian words when nothing is at stake but when you push them they consistently come down on the side of secularism rather than biblical Christianity. Certainly they are not welcome at my table, whereas my secular gay friends are.

          • What an intriguing comment from Andrew Godsall with more than a hint of concern that what will be trialed will indeed flout, be a defacto change in doctrine of marriage.
            Surely, AG, doesn’t scripture only apply to the extant culture at the time of writing and we live in todays culture, litigious as it is through which to interpret scripture.

            What is also remarkable that 1 Corinthians 6 includes 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which no doubt, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 will be dismissed ab intitio by AG.
            And indeed the sexual precepts of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
            It is also notable that Paul asserted his legal right to be heard at a Civil jurisdiction.

          • “more than a hint of concern that what will be trialed will indeed flout, be a defacto change in doctrine of marriage.”

            Be assured I have zero concern about that Geoff.
            But it is fascinating to see how some conservative evangelicals want to ignore the bits of scripture that are inconvenient to them.
            As with all of Paul’s writings Geoff, some was written for very specific circumstances and others have wider application.

          • AG,
            I Corinthians 6 is clear, but the whole of it isn’t clear an applicable to you today. That much is transparent.
            So to you the first part applies today, the second doesn’t.
            “Bring it on”. (And yet you argue against doing so, quoting scripture!) What sort of give away from you is that… as well as the effontry to suggest that legal proceedings is the equivalent of the synod politicking.
            If it were not so legal advice would have been published.

          • Geoff
            I think you aren’t quite getting the irony in my comments. Not to worry.
            Then you write “to suggest that legal proceedings is the equivalent of the synod politicking.”
            I’m not merely suggesting it Geoff. It most definitely is the equivalent.
            And I say ‘bring it on’ because the sooner that hurdle is got over, the better. It ultimately won’t go anywhere, in the same way that the legal objections to the ordination of women as Priests didn’t ever go anywhere. The chief perpetrator of those challenges in the Diocese of London was ultimately dismissed as a vexatious litigant.

          • So, how incoherent. Bring it on but don’t bring it on.
            Scripture is cited but not all and then evidence is supplied of a precedent of proceedings notwithstanding the outcome
            Neither is s precedent for determining all proceedings to be vexatious. Each is determine on its merits.
            Further as is your want you continue to respond to the points selectively, therebye conceding points unaddressed.
            Synod may have a self selecting and scattergun approach to, processes, and putting a case, advocacy which you have long adopted in pursuit of post – post-modern revision and its advocacy.
            The legal system subscribes to neither in its argumentation, and procedures, methodologies and judgements, decisions.

          • Under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 Parliament gave the Church Assembly (now the General Synod) power to approve changes to C of E worship, governance and doctrine. Prior to that Act Parliament alone had to approve any changes to the worship, governance or doctrine of the Established Church.

            Synod has voted by majority in all 3 Houses for experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples married in English law. Therefore no court in England would hear a case challenging a vote and decision of Synod on C of E doctrine or worship due to the 1919 Act. Even if they did, which is highly unlikely, Parliament would simply update the Act to confirm the decision was entirely within the powers of Synod

  12. What is a simple definition of polarization?
    polarization noun (DIVIDING)

    the act of dividing something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, into two completely opposing groups.

  13. Dear Andrew Goddard (or anyone else who genuinely understands canon law)

    If a legal challenge is mounted to this decision on the grounds that Church of England procedure has been abused/ignored, in what court would it be held, please, and who (in general terms) would be the judges?

    • Also, Anton the question of who has the locus standi to bring proceedings would need to be decided:
      1 any church member?
      2 those ordained?
      3 any one else?
      Surely, it is not beyond the wits and pockets of vested interested parties ( including the possibility of a group action) at least to seek specialist legal advice, as have the bishops. It was an important enough matter, procedurally and doctrinally, for them to have done so and base their tactics.

        • The Christian Institute and Christian Concern might well involve themselves, and might do so anonymously. I’ve no interest in what the other side (in terms of the case) has to say.

          Hypocrisy resides with those who seek to redefine sin while denying that they are doing so.

  14. The question boils down to, if the bishops and synod are acting beyond their legal powers by bringing in change to doctrine through inappropriate routes, what recourse is there?

    I am not sure that Paul’s prohibition of court cases between believers is easily applied, not least because the courts in this country are at least nominally Christian courts.

    Simon can assert as much as he likes that doctrine hasn’t been changed: he is wrong, the bishops report confirms that there is a change in doctrine with the standalone services . Where is this tested? Who marks the bishops homework? Canon b5a is designed for use with liturgy that isn’t controversial.

    I am close to leaving if I am honest. I cannot trust that synod won’t bring more disunity and disrepute. I cannot trust that next synod won’t start pushing for experimental marriage. Part of me thinks better off out now than later after years more distraction and stress. It’s only that my bishops are faithful and true that keeps me going.

    • I agree.
      It should be common ground among evangelicals that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages. The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

      Nobody is presently trying to change the doctrines of Original Sin, the Wrath of God, the Atonement Doctrines of Penal Substitution and Eternal Retribution on the unsaved to which the 39 Articles and Homilies point. But are these doctrines, together with the terrible warnings and the wonderful invitations and promises believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?
      The clear answer to that is “No”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, important though that is!

      That being the case the time has come to stay in the Church of England and follow the remarkable example set out in Galatians 2:11-14:

      “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”’
      where one Apostle who met Christ on the Damascus Road openly rebuked another Apostle on whom Christ said he would build his Church.

      What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the whole Church about this failure. I suggest this should happen before the further steps outlined in the November 17 2023 CEEC statement are acted upon.

      A serious effort by the CEEC and Church Society to do everything possible to organise this would involve mobilising all the Diocesan Evangelical Groups to support such a letter
      together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.

      Philip Almond

    • They won’t leave because houses, congregations, stipends, pensions. Many are already in schism, but they’ll hang on to the bits of the structures that they want, while demanding that everyone else confirms to their narrow ecclesiology.
      Best ignored really as a distraction in the church catholic.

  15. Phil,
    I’m really unsure whether you get it.
    The doctrines you mention may not be in the process of being formally changed, but they are formatively ignored, set aside, and not believed and in reality are being mocked, laughed at in superiority of an admixture of modern and postmodern and plurality of universalist unbelief. It is underlying and foundational apostasy in action.

  16. Thankyou Chris Bishop
    November 18, 2023 at 10:40 am for the link to Nigel Atkinson’s Asleep in the cavern of enchantment: The Church of England in 2023
    What a masterful piece of preaching; I pray that the sound of it may reverberate throughout the Church.
    Kings, Governments, Courts, Judges, Lawyers, Bishops and Synods;
    A GLORIOUS High Throne is the place of our Sanctuary.(our rest and security) The King of kings is our champion.
    EPHESIANS 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
    1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
    1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
    1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
    1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
    1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
    1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

    To those not guarding the flock over whom God has given you charge.
    You are not shepherds; you are Goatherds,
    beware the wrath of The Lamb;( Revelation 6:16)
    the people on earth at that time will begin to realize that the great judgments are from God and the Lamb.
    God’s witnesses will have been proclaiming this fact, and this may even have been “the testimony” of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9) which led to their being put to death.
    It may well be that God says “Come out from among them and do not touch the unclean thing”.
    Or perhaps the weapons of our warfare will pull down strongholds.

    • Well there are already flying bishops and alternative episcopal oversight for Parishes who disagreed with Synod’s decisions to endorse women priests and women bishops, so why not also flying bishops for Parishes who disagree with Synod’s decisions to approve experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples? Even the decision of Synod to allow remarriage of divorcees is left up to the conscience of each Vicar to decide whether to perform such services or not.

      The C of E has thus been a broad church via the above routes and still able to contain conservative Anglo Catholics, liberal Catholics, liberal evangelicals and conservative evangelicals in the same Church

    • In the Lords, from a LD and without government support, so has zero chance of getting anywhere.

      Even Ben Bradshaw MP has given the Synod vote for experimental blessings of homosexual couples a guarded welcome @BenPBradshaw
      ‘In another vote happening today, the @churchofengland
      just avoided, for the time being, a major church-state clash by voting narrowly to continue its snail’s pace journey towards inclusion for LGBT people, rather than parking or abandoning it. Grateful for small mercies.’

      While also taking aim at those conservative evangelical churches withholding parish share ‘My question to the Church of England on why the small number of homophobic parishes which have stopped paying their parish share in protest against gay blessings still enjoy the status & privileges of @ChurchofEngland parishes.’

      • It wouldn’t, given a majority of Synod has now voted to bless homosexual couples on a trial basis. Disestablishment has no chance of getting through anyway, the bill has no government support and is only being proposed in the Lords by a LD

        • T1

          What I mean is that then same sex marriage will merely become an argument for the church. Part of the issue is for the last almost decade the state has been discriminating against gay people since the state requires the CofE to marry any (first marriage) straight couple, but it’s actually illegal for them to marry a gay couple.

          If the CofE were fully disestablished then the discrimination would be only “in house” and a free choice for the church, as with other denominations and other religions

          • And still will be as holy matrimony is reserved for heterosexual couples. Synod has correctly however decided to support blessings of homosexual couples married in English law.

            If the C of E were disestablished the decision on homosexual blessings and marriages would remain for Synod as much as it is now it is established. Just there would be no chance of Parliament voting to try and impose marriage on the established church as Bradshaw threatened to try and do had the blessings not been approved (which he has given a guarded welcome to)

          • He is the sort of person we should all be kowtowing to. He has the sketchiest understanding of the teaching of Christ and the New Testament, appears unaware of any kind of culture other than the one he happens to inhabit, and shows a superior attitude to, of all people, those who do understand and have taken trouble to understand these things.

          • T1

            But then the cofe would be like every other religious institution, not one deferrence facto providing government services in a discriminatory way

          • Christopher

            If you are talking about me, I have no interest in you now towing to me. I am continually frustrated that you,and several other commentators, prefer personal insults and abuse to actually discussing the issues involved. Is this because the actual arguments against same sex marriage in church are wafer thin and the argument against addressing abuse of young people in church non existent?

          • The Church of England doesn’t provided any government services, it is not part of the public sector and nor does it receive taxpayer funding. It is however the established church, offering weddings and burials to every resident of its Parishes who wants one. Synod (not Parliament) has now correctly accepted that must also include homosexual Parishioners by voting by majority for experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples.

            The C of E is distinctive as the established church as above, evangelicals who have no interest in that are welcome to leave it for their nearest Baptist, Pentecostal or Independent evangelical church where they can be as biblically pure as they like without having the obligations to all local residents being the established church brings!!

          • Clearly being ‘biblically pure’ is something to sneer at.

            Why be a Christian then, if you do not like your roots and foundations and primary sources?

          • T1

            CofE priests could bless gay people before LLF existed. This is nothing being dressed up as “radical inclusion”. Its not radical and its not inclusive.

            The CofE doesn’t receive much funding from parliament, but it is still controlled by parliament and accountable to the crown. There is an issue of discrimination that is particular to the CofE. Baptist churches make up their own mind who to marry, but cofe churches must marry all straight couples and cannot marry any gay couples. If the cofe were disestablished then they could decide for themselves who they will marry on a case by case basis, rather than being under laws put in place to deliberately discriminate against gay people

          • CofE priests couldn’t bless homosexual couples married in English law however, which they will now be able to do on an experimental basis after the Synod vote.

            The CofE is controlled by Synod not Parliament and that has been the case since The Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. The King is just its Supreme Governor.

            Of course not all straight couples are married in the C of E either, for example divorced heterosexual couples may be denied a full church remarriage if the Vicar objects on a conscience basis. If the C of E were disestablished the Church’s position on blessings or marriage for same sex couples would still ultimately be decided by Synod as now. They would also still have an opt out on marrying homosexuals if Synod did not support that under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) 2013 as much as every other non established Christian denomination and non Christian religion in the UK has under the Act.

          • Christopher

            He used to be my MP. I often saw him in church services. We did not attend the same church and I cannot look into his soul to tell for sure if its genuine faith, but certainly he at least attends Church (of England) regularly and is gay so he has the most of almost anyone riding on these discussions. He’s also an MP and therefore is constitutionally required to oversee the Church in that sense too.

  17. A broad, ill-defined and vague, sprawling church.
    None of them biblical virtues or even neutral.
    It is clear to everyone that T1 is exalting most of all the values that come nowhere near Jesus or the New Testament. See evidence above.

    • If you are obsessed with biblical purity on everything, including I presume opposing ordination of women and remarriage of divorcees, maybe even not eating shellfish too, what are you doing in the Anglican Church of England? Surely you would have left for a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal or Independent evangelical church which tend to take a purer Biblical line on all those issues long ago

      • Er…Simon, can I have a direct answer from you whether you realise that shellfish is in Leviticus (OT) whereas the homosexuality ban is in the New Testament (Romans and 1 Corinthians)?

        • Either you are biblically pure, Old Testament and New or you aren’t. So if you eat shellfish you are breaching one of the rules of the Bible (though Jesus of course never mentioned a ban on homosexual unions or forbade eating shellfish!)

          • Biblically pure is a concept that has never entered my head. You have dishonestly imposed it in order to get the answer you want. The reason the BIble is not uniform is that the coming of Jesus made a difference. OT speaks of a world of animal sacrifice, NT of a world where Jesus’s once for all sacrifice looms large. If you are saying the two are uniform then Christ died for nothing.
            You know very well that the homosexuality ban relates to one of the first sins Paul characteristically mentions, i.e. in the NT not the OT.

          • It is also called Christianity not Paulianity.

            Though if you are a biblical purist I accept you would have to accept the teachings of Paul against women priests and homosexuality as much as the Old Testament teachings against eating shellfish

          • Mark 7:19 suggests that Jesus did imply that eating shellfish was OK, as does Peter’s experience in Acts 10.

            In contrast, the Levitical injunction not to “lie with a man as with a woman” is described as an “abomination”, twice. There are not many specific offences given this word. This offence is one of the few which attracts the death penalty.

          • Simon, this really is nonsense.
            Can I confirm that you regard OT injunctions as equally important for Christians, even after the Acts 15 council which had few requirements – note that these included sexual morality standards.

            Then there is Peter’s vision of Acts 10[-11]; similarly Jesus in Mark 7.

            So what did Jesus change, then?

            You seem to be imposing a stereotype of biblical faithfulness and purity and saying that Christians ought, according to the stereotype, to hold to your version of this. What if they don’t and never did?

          • Jesus of course never condemned blessings for homosexuality either.

            You on the other hand seem to be supporting the death penalty for homosexuals in order to comply with Leviticus?

          • You cannot be so unintelligent as to have over 50% of your assertions be inaccurate.
            You know I never mentioned the death penalty – other than (below) to disagree with it.

            Jesus never condemned blessings for homosexuals?? You will be telling me he never condemned PlayStation next.

            Do you know how laughable your points would be to any scholarly audience? Do you think this is a free for all, and everyone however much or little they have researched is on a level?

          • Shellfish prohibition?

            You’ve turned on its head 2000 years of Christian biblical understanding… and the teaching of Jesus, Acts, the Holy Spirit…. No wonder answering your posts is a pointless cult de sac.

          • As David Wilson notes above homosexuality attracts the death penalty in Leviticus. You can claim to be as ‘scholarly’ as you like and as you well know interpretation of the bible varies widely depending on how liberal or conservative a view you take of it.

            If you claim to be a conservative literalist on the Bible then yes that includes not eating shellfish as well as the Leviticus view of homosexuality. I am also a member of the Church of England and as entitled to give my view on this as you are, tough

        • Christopher

          Nowhere in the Bible is homosexuality banned. The most extreme you can get from a reasonable translation of the text is that same sex sex is banned.

          This is part of why conservative teaching is seen as so damaging for young gay people because they are taught even beyond a small c conservative reading of scripture – not just taught “no sex”, but that even their desire for a relationship is evil or just admitting to being gay is sinful and to be acceptable they must become straight. I acknowledge that some conservatives have moved past the bad old days of homophobia and conversion therapy, but plenty have not and I just do not understand why there is no desire to fix these problems. Its the same that I do not understand why the Episcopal Church becomes persona non grata, denounced as apostates, for marrying gay people, but the church of Uganda get barely a thought for murdering gay people

          • Wow – where to start?
            (1) When did they murder?
            (2) They most certainly do not murder ‘gay people’ i.e. if someone is gay they murder them – which is the impression you are falsely giving. If they commit extremely heinous crimes then they have the death penalty, which I oppose, since it’s never too late to repent.
            (3) Your first para is hair splitting.
            (4) ‘The most extreme you can get from the text’ – more like ‘the most obvious thing you can get from the text’. Honestly! If something is called an abomination and is selected above all others as a paradigmatic gentile sin/rebellion, then you think it is an extreme interpretation to say it is banned. What dishonesty.
            (5) ‘Relationship’ is a vague word. What on earth do you mean by it. Intelligent discourse is never vague. Do you mean sexual or non sexual? And if you are one of the people who say sex is not a big deal, I give up.
            (6) ‘Being gay’ is sinful? I thought that referred to desires. Since we all have wrong desires, we are all sinful. As indeed we are.
            (7) ‘Homophobia’ – an unintelligent coinage, comprising a suffix and a prefix in common parlance.
            (8) ‘Conversion therapy’ – an Trojan-horse baby-and-bathwater amalgam of extremely harmful things already banned (any of these that happen at all are banned) and intentional consensual conversations. You reproduce the phrase completely uncritically.
            (9) Why does the Episcopal Church get denounced. Ignoring natural law is ignoring the awe due to the creation design. And the one thing that present revisionists seem to have in common is lack of awe.

          • Christopher

            There’s a young man awaiting execution for having gay sex in Uganda. The Church of Uganda pressured their parliament to increase the penalty for homosexuality to the death sentence

            Relationship means when you are romantically partnered with someone. In the case here I was meaning without sex.

            Homophobia means irrational fear or hatred of gay people

            Conversion therapy is not banned in the UK, rarely could it be considered consensual. It’s abusive because it is encouraging a person to hate themselves (or sometimes family members) instead of accepting themselves.

            Natural law is “some people are gay”

      • She knows
        1. Which God she believes and worships
        2 The Evangel
        Unlike any evidence that I can see that has been forthcoming from you, other than the idolatry of sex and self.
        Not sure that I have seen or heard anything from Coles that would answer points 1 and 2.. Maybe his marriage of the atheist, permissive- pop- sexual-morality- culture with the CoE institutional outer form is his only or dominant self – purpose
        -of – his own hermeneutic.
        Other than that, I have no idea what you or he believe, under the garbs, uniform of public office. It is therfore not reducible to private belief.
        It is clear that for many in ordained office do not consider that they have made vows and are unaccountable, and, to me, can not be trusted not knowing who or what they believe. The high handed dismissal of Ben John’s questions in that regard is shameful and dishonours the CoE as an institution, it seems to me.


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