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Can Hereford change the Church on sexuality?

My favourite film last year was the magnificent Arrival, in which giant alien pods arrive in 12 random places around the world, and the challenge is to interpret their unusual language. (You can’t really go wrong when a film is about hermeneutics). At a critical point half-way through the film, the interpreter Dr Louise Banks is arguing that the aliens are friendly, against CIA agent Halpern, who believes that their intentions are hostile.

Halpern: We have to consider the idea that our visitors are prodding us to fight against ourselves until only one faction prevails.

Banks: There is no evidence of that.

Halpern: Sure there is. Just grab a history book. The British with India, the Germans with Rwanda. They even got a name for it in Hungary.

The name for it in Hungary is szalámitaktika, which we might translate as ‘salami slicing‘:

a series of many small actions, often performed by clandestine means, that as an accumulated whole produces a much larger action or result that would be difficult or unlawful to perform all at once.

If it was illegal to have a beard, and you wanted to undermine that law (which is actually a sensible regulation in, for example, food production), then the way to do it would not be to grow a full beard and protest, but to stop shaving for one day, and ask ‘Is this a beard?’ then stop shaving for two days and ask ‘Is this a beard?’ and so on. You would force the regulator to define a beard as something that had been growing for (e.g.) five days but not for four, or even five days and three hours but not five days and two hours, and by doing so you would make a reasonable regulation look ridiculous, and undermine the legislator’s position.


Last week’s motion passed by Hereford diocesan synod was a classic example of salami tactics. The motion read as follows:

That this Synod request the House of Bishops to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage for use by ministers in exercise of their discretion under Canon B4, being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, together with guidance that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service.

Richard Frith, the bishop of Hereford speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, claimed that all they were asking for was ‘clarification’ about what is permissible. But it is difficult not to see this as disingenuous, given that he must be very well aware of the extremely clear and detailed statement on what is permissible that was issued in February 2014, in (belated) response to the 2013 Equal Marriage act:

The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships. The House did not wish, however,  to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances.   The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.

So the House of Bishops (of which Richard Frith is a member) has made clear what is and what is not permissible, and in the statement also explicitly links the issue of pastoral practice to the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage. The statement goes further than this, and lists all the places where this doctrine is set out, and its importance, as rooted in Scripture, a gift in nature, set out in the canons, the Book of Common Prayer, and contemporary liturgy—and then emphasising the duty of clergy (including bishops!) to uphold the teaching of the Church. The Hereford motion is therefore either flatly contradicting the previous statement of the House of Bishops, or asking them to square a circle (change the Church’s doctrine without changing its doctrine)—or perhaps is just engaging in salami slicing. Not ‘When is a beard a beard?’ but ‘When is a service of blessing a service of blessing?’. On Radio 4, Richard Frith in fact uses the B-word, saying that the motion has come from those who would like to use a service of blessing—which was something of a giveaway.


The briefing paper that was circulated prior to the motion makes no mention of this. There is a link to a general page on sexuality, though oddly that does not contain a link to the 2014 statement. What is more striking is the omission of any reference to any substantive issues relating to the biblical texts or the theological debate, as if these are now secondary. There is no mention that the vast majority of scholars agree that Scripture prohibits same-sex sexual relations, nor that the most common arguments (‘The writers of the NT knew nothing of faithful same-sex relationships’) hold no water. (Exactly the same lack of theological reflection marked the last Synod debates.) Instead, what is presented is the fact that there are different views, and we all wish to continue together and hold the Church together despite the differences of opinion. There is no exploration of the relative value of those different opinions; whichever way the motion goes then someone will be upset and disappointed:

A decision either for or against the motion will be resisted by, and cause pain to, faithful members of our diocese on one side or the other.

The assumption made at every point is that this issue belongs to the adiaphora, one of those things ‘indifferent’ on which we can agree to disagree—when of course that is the heart of the debate in the Church. The fact that one of those groups of ‘faithful members’ is wishing to stay with current and historic Anglican teaching, and the consistent witness of Scripture, doesn’t appear to tip the scales in any way. Inevitably, the parallels are drawn with the debate about the ordination of women, without any recognition that these two issues are of quite a different nature. But what is omitted from the briefing paper is less disturbing than what is present in it. There is clear awareness that this kind of approach is not the right way to tackle the issue:

There is a debate of principle as to whether a motion of this sort is the right way to engage with the sexuality question. Although as noted above the present position of the Church of England is complex, at present the Canons recognise only marriage between a man and a woman (and this position was protected in the Same-Sex Marriage Act) and some would argue that any formal recognition of same-sex relationships, including same-sex marriage, as requested by the motion, would contradict that position (and so it would in fact be impossible to draw up a service that fits the request).

So the diocese are actually admitting they are asking for the impossible, or perhaps testing the teaching of the bishops to the point of destruction. And there is acknowledgement that this will damage relationships within the Anglican Communion (though there is not much note made of ecumenical relations):

If we choose to support the motion, it will be noted across the Church of England, the Anglican Communion, and wider Christian community and society at large. We should be mindful of the direct effects on our relationship with our partner dioceses in Tanzania, who are likely to be dismayed at such a resolution.

The recent decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church is mentioned, but not that this has led to ‘consequences’ or that it is straining the desire of the Communion to ‘walk together’ by adding more ‘distance’. So the motion is doing damage to the unity of the Church, is challenging episcopal leadership and the Church’s doctrine, and is setting aside the widespread view of Christians elsewhere. It is hard to think of a further way in which this could undermine the Church as ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’—but the motion was passed by 41 votes to 18, with 4 abstentions.


How have we ended up in such a position? In his Radio interview, Richard Frith confirmed some of these elements in the briefing paper; in response to Susie Leafe highlighting the teaching of Jesus about the nature of marriage (which the interviewer, Justin Webb, seemed impressed by), he response ‘Susie is entitled to her view’, as if the teaching of the Church was just a matter of conflicting opinions. But what was most striking was what appeared to be a loss of any confidence in episcopal leadership. Frith repeatedly went back to the point ‘that this motion has come up from the parishes’. If a question arises from parishes and from ordinary churchgoers, and the answer has been offered by the House of Bishops repeatedly and in detail, what is a bishop to do?

I was very struck by the comments of Andrew Lightbown (who takes a different view from me on this issue) in conversation on Twitter (yes, conversation can happen there!). In a series of comments, Andrew reflected on the impact of the Archbishops’ quick response letter, which included the problematic phrase ‘radical Christian inclusion’, on the authority of themselves and the House of Bishops as a whole:

Isn’t there a sense that the Bishop of Hereford has only done what the Archbishops encouraged at the last General Synod, indeed instructed in their open letter to diocesans? I also think, rightly or wrongly, that the bishops have been dis-empowered through the Archbishops’ letter post the last General Synod; intention or consequence – not sure. I think that the vote not to take note and the immediate ‘strategic’ response has and will lead to unpredictable responses. I am trying saying this without a value judgement. Thinking of my former career I would have urged the Archbishops to avoid responding immediately. What they didn’t do was buy themselves any time – which results in giving away control – which is what has happened.

I think Andrew is quite right here; in the radio interview Richard Frith mentions ‘radical Christian inclusion’ explicitly, even though this idea is quite incoherent and has no foundation in Scripture in the terms it has been expressed. What matters is ‘responding to local need’; you might have thought that a bishop would say that what matters is obedience to Christian truth as revealed in Jesus. But what was more worrying was the naive expression (again in response to questioning from Justin Webb) that ‘it will go no further’. Richard appears to imagine that the formal introduction of some sort of recognised prayer of welcome will be the end of the matter, and the debate will subside. Anthony Archer, who is now pressing for change in the Church’s teaching, commented on Facebook:

This is a significant development in synodical terms, and more importantly for LGBT Christians. The Business Committee of the General Synod will come under pressure not to schedule the Hereford motion for debate until the House of Bishops have produced their teaching document in 2020. There is now a real opportunity for other dioceses to debate the same motion, and if their diocesan synod standing committees will not schedule such, then there must be plenty of deanery synods willing to do so to force their hand and take it through the process. Kicking things into the long grass normally only ferments greater discussion and action.
 So this appears to be part of a coordinated campaign to undermine and bypass the House of Bishops’ teaching document and bring change on the ground without the proper theological, pastoral and doctrinal debate. (It is worth, in passing, noting the use of the language of power here.)

There is only one effective response to salami tactics, and that is agreement and coordination in response—though that rarely happens, which is why salami tactics are so often effective. In Arrival, the solution only comes by means of a sudden and unexpected act of collaboration between the nations. I think the same will be true for the House of Bishops; unless they start acting in a coordinated way, holding one another to account and rejecting salami tactics, they will see what authority they currently enjoy in teaching and leadership leach away. Some might see that as a good thing tactically as a way of bringing about the change that they would like to see—but it will do irreparable damage in the long term. A salami-sliced Church is impossible to lead, and cannot be effective in either ministry or mission.


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253 Responses to Can Hereford change the Church on sexuality?

  1. Ian H October 24, 2017 at 9:43 am #

    “Frith repeatedly went back to the point ‘that this motion has come up from the parishes’”. I can’t help but see this as hiding behind others when he’s clearly supportive of the motion. In what way is he acting either as a bishop in his diocese or as a responsible member of the H of B? Salami slicing and fifth communist?

    The background paper is ridiculously thin in any real content and thinly (poorly?) veiled in support of the motion.

    Over on TA there is clearly the desire for other dioceses to take this up as well as an unsavoury desire for ++Justin to be trumped.

    Putting this alongside Sam Wells evisceratiion of the churches purpose draws over us some dark clouds. I’m trusting God to prevail with his Bride but, currently, not the C of E….

    • Mat Sheffield October 24, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      “fifth communist” is an absolutely wonderful typo. Please don’t edit it.

      • Ian H October 24, 2017 at 11:55 am #

        …correct things…never! 🙂

      • Brian October 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

        So I’ve got Burgess. Philby, Maclean, Blunt…. who am I missing?

        • Brian October 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

          Of course – it’s in the papers – the Frith columnist.

  2. Will Jones October 24, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    Welby has left himself wide open to being undermined on this – practically invited it with his ‘radical Christian inclusion’ missive, his ‘I don’t know what the Bible teaches on gay sex’ and his handling of the Primates’ meeting (inconsequential ‘consequences’ for those in breach of church and biblical teaching, call for repentance from those addressing the problems this breach has caused to the faithful). It’s like he wants events to rise up and overwhelm him so that he has ‘no choice’ but to depart from biblical teaching – probably because he knows that honest biblical and theological reflection won’t be able to justify it. He has the posture of a man waiting for the flood and ready to embrace it.

  3. Philip Nott October 24, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    Reading this site I feel like a terribly wooly liberal as I agree with our Archbishops on “radical inclusion” and also with where ++Justin has got to on gay relationships. I believe that we have to learn that away from the conservative clique that many on here seem to come from, and also as I listened to Christians under 25 for the last ten years, people disagree about sexuality and those who disagree with the traditional view of marriage are not just to be dismissed as they often seem to be on here. Also LGBT people are not an issue, they are our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, best friends from school and need to be heard. I repeat here what I said in a lecture hall in Ridley nearly 20 years ago. A lifetime without sexual intimacy doesn’t sound like good news to me and is not something I could survive had I been gay instead of straight. However you try and argue it that for many people is the bottom line and we need to find a way to help people make responsible choices in their real lives, otherwise they will possibly either leave the church or be at risk of joining the number of LGBT People who have committed suicide whilst in our churches.
    In a world of mass refugees, possible nuclear war and people starving due to our own government, what would Jesus think are our priorities at this time?

    • Simon October 24, 2017 at 6:40 pm #

      Philip – “A lifetime without sexual intimacy doesn’t sound like good news to me and is not something I could survive had I been gay instead of straight” have we really come to this as an argument to change 2 millennia of Christian doctrine and practise?

      • Christine October 24, 2017 at 8:21 pm #

        A good question, Simon! A number of people have ‘a lifetime without sexual intimacy’. For instance, a friend of my mother lost her husband in military combat just two days after they married and she lived a life of faithful celibacy thereafter. She was disappointed that she had no children, but she was a devoted aunt and also a ‘courtesy aunt’ to me and my sisters. She even sent birthday cards and presents to my grandchildren! Sexual intimacy can be good, but it is not necessary for survival. My ‘aunt’ did more than survive – she thrived.

        • Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 6:43 am #

          Christine that’s great for your aunt and I’m pleased you can rejoice in it. But it’s not a calling for everyone and to assume it is would be to impose a vocation on countless people that is simply not their vocation,

          • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 7:48 am #

            As ministers in the CofE, we are ordained to teach the faith. That faith is revealed and recorded in Scripture and handed down through tradition. Have both not always presented the claim that it is everyone’s vocation (calling by God) to be celibate until and unless heterosexually married? All other sexual activity outside of this divinely ordained union the Bible, Christianity, has always categorised as ‘sexual immorality’. The Bible doesn’t ‘impose’ anything, but merely ‘informs’ us of God’s will. People are free to reject this. But the church is not free to. So much of the Anglican discussion these days is located at the level of Philip’s contribution which boils down to ‘what do people want/feel & how will they react if we don’t go along with them?’ but though we must listen to these questions, we as Christians must first ask ‘what does God want and ask of us?’ and the answer to what God’s wants is not found in what humans want. I do not expect non-christians to accept the authority of the alien world of Scripture, but shouldn’t we expect the Church and her ordained ministers to respect the Scriptures and Church Tradition? The world can think and act as it feels, but as Christians we are not free to rewrite God’s Word with the world’s pen and think.

          • Christine October 25, 2017 at 9:08 am #

            Hi Andrew, Thank you for your reply. You mentioned ‘calling’ and ‘vocation’ – the calling/ vocation of my ‘aunt’ was to take up her cross daily and follow Jesus, something we are all called to do.

          • Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 11:08 am #

            Hi Christine: yes of course. But it’s quite possible to pursue the calling to follow Jesus and not to be celibate. Married people do that all the time. So the two are not mutually exclusive.

            Hi Simon: you give the traditional and particular interpretation of Scripture. But it is becoming clear that a 21st century understanding of human sexuality might need to re-examine that. Plus I very much doubt that the traditional view has been observed much, just as the traditional view of artificial means of contraception is not observed by the majority of Western Roman Catholics.

            Dorothy L Sayers was a very good theologian and once put in the mouth of Peter Wimsey – “as to the gift of continence, I wouldn’t have it as a gift!” I suspect she spoke for herself and a great many.

        • William Fisher October 25, 2017 at 11:32 am #

          Hi, Christine. You apparently felt that your own calling/vocation to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus didn’t necessitate emulating your ‘aunt’. Plenty of other people very reasonably don’t feel that their calling/vocation necessitates their doing so either.

          • Christine October 25, 2017 at 11:45 am #

            Thank you for your comment, William. What I respected about my aunt was that she put self on the cross and Christ on the throne, and I believe that as Christians we are called to do that, and the ways in which we do that are manifested in different ways – I’m talking about the difference between being self-centred and being Christ-centred. Of course, deciding what is self-centred and what is Christ-centred is challenging, and , for me, daily prayers for guidance, discernment and wisdom are central to my life.

          • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

            In biblical terms, ‘calling’ is not what we feel, it is what God calls us to. Hence the word: ‘calling’.

            It baffles me when folk say ‘Oh, I don’t feel called to that’. Whether we feel it is not really the issue. What matters is can we hear…

          • Clive October 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

            Well said Christine, very well said.

          • Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

            Christine: being married or in a committed relationship is anything BUT self centred….what a really weird thing to say.
            Ian: of course calling is what you hear. That is to entirely miss the point of what William said.

          • William Fisher October 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

            Thank you, Christine. You have obviously been able yourself to enthrone Christ adequately without resorting to the same way of putting yourself on the cross. Many other people feel able to do likewise.

    • Will Jones October 24, 2017 at 7:44 pm #

      Hi Philip.

      I’m glad you know where Welby has got to on same-sex relationships because the rest of us are still in the dark!

      So is your view that the Bible has been misunderstood as ruling out same-sex sexual relationships or that it is wrong to do so?

      • Peter October 24, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

        I had thought that Welby was clear on the church’s position – that same sex relations are good but same sex sex is bad. Anything else is detail.

    • Clive October 25, 2017 at 10:46 am #

      Dear Philip

      If you analysed carefully what you have said then you might realise for yourself that your own arguments are incoherent.

      you wrote:
      “….In a world of mass refugees, possible nuclear war and people starving due to our own government, what would Jesus think are our priorities at this time?”

      So, please think about it, why exactly does the secular world want to tell Christians to stop believing in the words of Jesus Christ and force gay issues on to Christianity? The real question is NOT to Christians who believe in the words of Jesus Christ but actually to those who do not!

  4. Kate October 24, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    Pretty much exactly what happened here in Canada.

  5. Graham Naylor October 24, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Ian

    Brilliant distillation of the fundamental principles being ignored re debate about sexuality, etc., and potential outcomes that can only negatively impact on ability to lead church through other difficult debates.

  6. Brian October 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    It all happened in America without any doctrine being changed or any liturgy being devised, at least formally. It’s all about ‘facts on the ground’ and before you know it, someone will say – or have already said many times:

    ‘Look we have partnered gay clergy, we even have a partnered bishop, Frith’s successor as it happens. The sky hasn’t fallen – and the kids are saying how cruel we are.’

    Then someone will point out: ‘We’re a divided church with gay clergy in every diocese. Surely we can come up with a modus vivendi that accepts everybody and forces nobody to do anything against their conscience.’

    What does this lead to? The weird farrago being debated in the Anglican Church in New Zealand to allow unofficial same-sex blessings, all the while insisting that THERE IS NO CHANGE IN DOCTRINE (a bit like Welby’s rear guard letter on the Scottish Episcopal Church’s actions). So we have notable kiwi blogger Peter Carrell trying to square the circle there on the basis of the observation above – no matter how incoherent this makes doctrine or common worship.

    The fact that Welby was completely incapable (or perhaps politically unwilling) to give an answer to Alistair Campbell on the moral nature of homosexual acts in that infamous radio interview is what has created this state of affairs. I think Will Jones has correctly put his finger on the issue.

    And so the striptease of Protestantism goes.

    I have said for years what the answer should have been, and everything that has happened since has confirmed me in this judgment: No clergy should be allowed to enter a civil partnership. It was pure sophistry that allowed Anglicans to accept this innovation, which goes against the Gospel call to holiness and integrity of living. This was the Trojan Horse that is now burning what is left of Ilium.

    • Blair October 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

      Hello Brian,

      I may well have missed something but am curious why you think only clergy shouldn’t have been allowed to enter civil partnerships – why wouldn’t you debar lay people as well?

      In friendship, Blair

      • Ian Paul October 24, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

        The C of E position on this is that we expect clergy to, in some sense and at some level, to model mature discipleship.

        It is unreasonable to expect all laity (some of whom might be recent converts from a culture quite a long way from Christian ethics) to attain this immediately.

        • Brian October 24, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

          Ian has explained it well. At their ordination clergy are enjoined to be ‘wholesome examples to their flocks’ (cf. 1 Peter 5.2). This would be compromised by an association that was ambiguous, to say the least, in the public’s eye, e.g. membership of an extremist political party that advocated racism or violence.
          In some parts of Africa, polygamists may be baptised but they cannot become office holders in the church.

        • Blair October 24, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

          Thanks for your replies, Ian and Brian.

          This was partly why I asked the question I guess – to see what you felt about the position of 1991’s “issues…”. Ian I note that you say it would be unreasonable to expect lay people “to attain this immediately”, as though there were an expectation that laity would in time – but as far as I know “Issues….” allows lay people a conscientious discretion to enter a committed same-sex relationship without any such time limit or expectation…

          In friendship, Blair

          • Ian Paul October 24, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

            Well, as far as I am aware, clergy start out as laity. And if clergy embody in some sense Christian maturity, they are (in that respect) embodying a level of mature discipleship as a model for laity.

            How could that not be the case.

          • Richard Brown October 25, 2017 at 11:14 pm #

            In a neighbouring deanery, the C of E has recently hit the headlines in the local papers for the only reason the church ever gets publicity – something like ‘Randy Vicar gets the sack’. The church demands of its clergy either celibacy or sexual faithfulness, and a breach of either is rightly viewed as a significant pastoral problem.
            What, however, does the church demand of clergy who profess to be homosexual? Indeed, is there anywhere to be found a clear statement of what homosexual sexual ethics are, for either clergy or lay? Safer, perhaps for nobody to actually ask the question. One reason for asking these questions is the realisation that (at least in the US, because there are no equivalent UK statistics) 50% of all same-sex marriages have featured unfaithfulness within the first three years. So, one wonders what the point of it is, apart from the subversion caused, not only to thousands of years of marriage tradition in all cultures across time and space, but also to fundamental theologies.
            I don’t suppose anyone on Hereford synod has even asked themselves any difficult questions about this issue. Head in the sand appears to be the default position. Certainly the Bishop doesn’t appear to have done, being quite content to blame it all on somebody else (‘the parishes’).

    • Christopher Shell October 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

      Everything is wrong with civil partnerships:

      (1) People pretend they are nothing to do with quasi-sex, and then inconsistently debar cohabiting sisters and friends, thus showing (a) their true motive, (b) the fact that they were dishonest about their true motive.

      (2) Having departed from the model that actually produces all families, there is no reason to exalt number (2) over gender, yet there is a restriction to 2 which then looks like a parody. And anything that is a parody looks like the work of his infernal majesty who cannot create only mimic in a parasitic way.

      (3) They give the nod of approval to what on average is one of the greatest disease-producing conditions;

      (4) Those who give that nod in many if not all cases also approve the whole disastrous sexual revolution. Which cannot be approved except by ostrich-like refusal to acknowledge reality.

  7. Paul Sokes October 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    This is precisely the kind of process which slowly morphed the URC, to the point where what should have been a theological discussion and decision was instead pre-empted by relentless “small” decisions, creating a new status quo in which it became impossible to uphold Scriptural teaching without being tarred with the usual labels of ‘bigot’, ‘judgemental’. And so last year the URC passed resolutions which indicated that SSM has an acceptable place within the worship and teachings of the denomination. My heart aches for the CoE as it did for my own denomination.

  8. Blair October 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    This may be a foolish question….but am wondering if anybody’s reaction would change if the Hereford proposal only covered services after civil partnerships, but not same-sex marriages?
    In friendship, Blair

    • Ian Paul October 24, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

      It would be more complicated, because *in theory* CPs are not necessarily sexual relationships. In fact this is contradicted by the retrospective recognition of them as equivalent to marriage, but that is not univocally present in the actual wording of the CP legislation.

      • Brian October 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

        Actually, thanks to Cameron’s innovation of ‘same-sex marriage’, neither is marriage any longer necessarily a sexual relationship. Since it is impossible to consummate a ‘same-sex marriage’, that central component of marriage as historically understood (and grounds for annulment) no longer exists.
        The actual legal character of EVERY marriage in British law was thereby changed.

        • Will Jones October 24, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

          The 2013 Marriage Act actually didn’t change the terms of natural marriage, it created a new category of marriage for same-sex couples, also called marriage, but with some different features, such as grounds for divorce. So technically there are two different kinds of marriage in law, and male-female couples and same-sex couples participate in two slightly different forms of legal relationship, though both called marriage and with the same status.

          Here’s the Christian Institute’s explanation (see Appendix 2 here http://www.christian.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/ssm-legal-guide.pdf):

          The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act makes the marriage of same-sex couples lawful. It can therefore be said that the state has adopted a new ‘genderless’ definition of marriage.
          However, the provisions of the Act retain all the distinctive elements of heterosexual marriage where the union is between a man and a woman: a man-woman marriage can be annulled if it is not consummated; there is a clear common law presumption that any child born to the wife is the child of her husband; and the marriage can be dissolved on the fault basis that either party commits adultery. Those legal elements are consistent with a main strand of Christian teaching and point to the procreation of children and the requirement for sexual fidelity within marriage.
          Conversely, the new law relating to same-sex marriage does not contain any of these distinctive elements: consummation for a same-sex couple is not defined, let alone required; children born within a same-sex marriage are not presumed to be children of the marriage; and there is no realistic option of dissolution on the basis of adultery.

          The legal redefinition of the word marriage to describe a same-sex union is certainly a denial of real marriage. Yet Parliament has sought neither to apply the conventional understanding of marriage to homosexual couples nor to redefine heterosexual marriage within its own terms.

        • Blair October 24, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

          Hello Brian,

          If you can bear with my nit-picks….i would have thought a snag with your argument is that non-consummation is not part of marriage law in Scotland – so at the least it’s not the character of all *British* marriages.

          Moreover, to my knowledge (correct me) on English and Welsh law consummation remains a part of it for other-sex marriages but not for SS ones so am not sure that the Cameron govt’s law change has had the effect you say it has.

          In friendship, Blair

      • Blair October 24, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

        Evening Ian,

        Thanks for your response. I’m not sure your summary is entirely accurate though – the prohibited degrees of relationship for entering a CP are the same as for marriage which does rather imply the possibility of a sexual relationship. Also find your phrase “retrospective recognition” curious as if memory serves, at the time of the CP laws being passed it was fairly evident that they were essentially same sex civil marriage in all but name. (Although thinking about it I guess you could be referring to the fact that subsequently it’s become possible to convert a CP into a SS marriage…?).

        In friendship, Blair

  9. Gill Kimber October 24, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    Helpful as ever.

  10. James Byron October 25, 2017 at 12:42 am #

    The bishops can keep up a united front and reject salami tactics all they like, but until some solution’s found, it’ll keep arising, especially if social acceptance of LGBT people increases. What’s gonna happen in 20, 50, 100 years, when most everyone outside the church is as indifferent to same-sex couples as they currently are to, say, divorce?

    A church can only be so far out of step with society before consequences hit, and hit hard. True, Rome’s managed to shut down any debate on equal ordination, but only by employing the draconian tactics anathema to Anglicanism: but the result’s either cafeteria catholicism, where the church’s authority’s destroyed by millions of congregants simply ignoring her; or a drop in attendance.

    Now those holding the traditional position may well argue that this is a price worth paying, and I get that POV. But as a practical matter, in a broad church, that position’s not tenable. Either this is gonna lead to schism, or some compromise whereby the traditional position isn’t imposed on all Anglicans.

    • Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 6:47 am #

      James is absolutely right. It is also very unlikely that Bishop Richard would not have discussed this with Lambeth before making any public statement. The trajectory of the C of E is quite clear and has been for some time. There will be compromise with a few leaving to form some alternative as they have in North America.

    • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 7:27 am #

      James, it is difficult to see how any point could be more wrong. I work, as a non-Catholic, in as mainstream and as large a Catholic bookshop as one can get, with a big, unpredictable and diverse footfall. The level of interest in female ordination is effectively zero. We have well-stocked sections on most things, and thousands of books altogether. But we could not sell a single book on women’s ordination.

      • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 9:13 am #

        Christopher
        In a mainstream Catholic bookshop, most probably not. But in the wider Catholic world there is much published on the movement for the ordination of women and many campaigning groups and activity on social media. Catholicism is pretty broad!

        • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

          Yes, and I see the whole breadth every day.

      • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

        Of course a mainstream Catholic bookshop sees effectively zero interest in equal ordination, Christopher: as I said, the Church has ruthlessly suppressed any debate on the subject. Those who care passionately about it have either left, or are unlikely to be looking for material in a mainstream bookshop. Which titles do you stock on the matter?

        • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

          None any more. They would not sell, so we put them in the sale.

    • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 7:57 am #

      James it does rather look like ‘Either this is gonna lead to schism, or some compromise whereby the traditional position isn’t imposed on all Anglicans.’… however, I’m praying for a third way, good old fashioned ‘Revival’.

      • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 8:10 am #

        Exactly. James’s approach is that of the news and current affairs comment addicts that Paul encountered in Athens Acts 17.21.

        • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

          My approach is facing the political reality. If that makes me a comment junkie, same goes for anyone else advocating all those other innovations that we’re told not to compare with equality for LGB people.

    • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 8:19 am #

      Exactly. There is no ‘middle ground’ position, save for divine intervention. The longer people foolishly believe there can be a painless outcome which satisfies both ‘sides’, the more painful it will be when their naivete is revealed.

    • Brian October 25, 2017 at 9:21 am #

      “A church can only be so far out of step with society before consequences hit, and hit hard.”

      Yes, those political leaders Nero, Decius and Diocletian would agree with you there.

      • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

        I’m sure they would, and will make the bizarre clarification that I don’t support any kinda state persecution of religion. People freely choosing not to patronize churches is, as I’d hoped would be obvious, as far from state-sanctioned persecution as you can get.

    • Will Jones October 25, 2017 at 10:48 am #

      James – in 100 years on current demographic trends Europe will be Muslim, and culture will be quite different!

      Or maybe trends will change. But the point is your assumption of linear history is naïve and doesn’t allow for trends to change and culture to shift in different directions for unforeseen reasons. The church should be faithful to God’s word, not sign up to the spirit of the age.

      • Brian October 25, 2017 at 11:28 am #

        Yes, I think you are likely correct on this one, Will – unless the future surprises us yet again: as Chesterton wrote: ‘Five times over history they said Christianity has gone to the dogs – and the dog it was that died.’

        If I had James’ wonderful long-range powers of predictions, of course, I would be sending this from my private island in the South Pacific.

        But since we (like the stock market) we can only extrapolate from the trends of the past generation and use our common sense about human behaviour.

        After all, who would have predicted that Mr David Steel’s modest proposal in 1967 would lead to nine million abortions in the UK – and a growth in immigration that has profoundly changed the demography of our major cities (much of inner London is now foreign-born) and made Islamic terrorism the #1 security issue in our day.

        Anyone saying such things in 1967 would have been laughed to derision. Here is a different scenario that James and Andrew might not care for, but I would be glad to have their reasons why it won’t happen:

        Unless there is a major turn to Christianity among the indigenous white population in the next few years and / or Christian families start having 4 or 5 children on average, by 2050:
        1. half the current Anglican congregations will have closed;
        2. about a third or more of British youth will identify as Muslim;
        3. the main churches will be Roman Catholic, African Pentecostal and Romanian Orthodox;
        4. an independent evangelical Anglican-tradition denomination will exist.

        I hope not to be around to see all this, I’m just projecting trends.

        • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

          I said “if” social acceptance of LGBT people increases. It wasn’t a prediction that it certainly would, but an extrapolation of the consequences from one possible framework. As you’ve imaginatively detailed, there are others, ones so far outside our current situation in the West that speculation is best reserved for politically dubious French novels.

        • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

          David Steel said to me today ‘Better safe and legal than unsafe and illegal’.

          False dichotomy.

          There are more than 2 alternatives.

          No mention whatever about the little human lives and whether or not they might be precious.

          The omission of something so very central and crucial cannot be pulled off unless by a lack of honesty. The ‘no comment’ approach, which is very dishonest, and effectively concedes the argument, I encounter all the time.

          Mr Steel made fine promises of rarity in 1967; now (BBC2 16.10.17) he wants complete decriminalisation.

    • Clive October 25, 2017 at 11:00 am #

      No that is not right as it is actually an argument for Christians to stop being Christians, make the words of Jesus Christ vague and debatable, make the Bible vague and debatable …. and supporting instead the world secular view! The argument is one to kill-off Christianity.

      • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

        Alternatively — and this is certainly the POV of Christians who advocate equality — doing so is a gospel imperative, not a cultural sop. If they were merely dedicated followers of fashion, they’d endorse every secular trend from neoliberalism to rampant consumerism, and certainly wouldn’t have supported gay rights back when that was a despised minority position!

  11. Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    ‘Trajectory’ needs examining:

    (1) We all agree that history does not move in straight lines.

    (2) Politics, for example, is a matter of checks and balances – no party is enough admired to be permitted permanency, so they are allowed to govern turn and turn about.

    (3) If a ‘trajectory’ concerns a single issue, then it can easily be agreed that there is only so far one can move along that trajectory without becoming extreme. And if one then continues the same trajectory after that, things become more and more extreme.

    (4) Further, a social trajectory is something different from a trajectory of academic conclusions. If a legal trajectory follows the social and not the academic, then one does not think much of the IQs and/or character of the lawmakers.

  12. Clint Redwood October 25, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    Dear Ian,
    I find it really interesting that on almost every theological topic except sexuality, that you have a very considered, often quite radical, and always interesting things to say, whereas on sexuality, you seem so certain you are right, that your arguments feel to me like “I know the answer, now how to I justify it intellectually and theologically”.

    From being very conservative on this issue in my 20s, I have become much more open/liberal by my 40s, but what really concerns me is that this issue is wasting vast amounts of the church’s time, and making us look a laughing stock to the general public.

    If he exists (of which I’m not sure) then I think the devil rejoices every time either party in this debate makes a strong case, since it maintains the perception of the CofE as an irrelevant force in society. Whether this issue is adiaphora, or not, it is certainly a distraction from the church standing up against the true forces of oppression and division in this country and around the world.

    It is unlikely that you and I would every agree on this issue, but my contention is we just have bigger fish to fry!

    The ongoing “sexuality debate” somewhat feels like the church “fiddling while Rome burns”, when we should standing up to the very real evils perpetrated on people on a daily basis – human trafficking and modern slavery, scapegoating of minorities in the popular press, unreasonable employment practices, ecological destruction, misogyny and sexual abuse – currently very topical, racism, homophobia etc.

    • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 10:03 am #

      Clint, thanks for the observations.

      On your first point, I wonder if the key phrase is ‘you seem’, that is, it seems to you. If you could point to some specific examples of change in language or style of engagement, that would be interesting. I don’t think I write in a different register across different issues; I suspect the main difference is you are happy to agree with me elsewhere, but not on this, and that is why ‘it seems’ different.

      I agree that this is wasting time and energy, and so I would ask: which side of the debate is generated this waste? All I ever do is respond to things that ‘revisionists’ have initiated, and this is a good case in point.

      I agree with you that other issues are important. But is this one not? Does it not matter that sexual violence and promiscuity are on the rise? That there is an epidemic of STIs particularly amongst the young? Does the pornification of teen culture not matter? What about the growing anxiety about body image, the rise in mental health issues, and the uncertainty especially amongst young women about their sex identity?

      These are not unimportant issues, and we will be living with the consequences for a long time to come…alongside the other things you mention.

      • Brian October 25, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

        “Does it not matter that sexual violence and promiscuity are on the rise? That there is an epidemic of STIs particularly amongst the young? Does the pornification of teen culture not matter? What about the growing anxiety about body image, the rise in mental health issues, and the uncertainty especially amongst young women about their sex identity?”

        I am sure religious liberals are not happy about these things – but they are desperately worried about seeming ‘uncool’ with a post-Christian culture in which sexual freedom is asserted as a ‘right’ and even as the route to happiness. On ‘Thinking Anglicans’ they state they are not ‘bothered’ by sex outside of marriage – but have nothing to say about the 40%+ of children now born out of wedlock (over 70% in some ethnic groups) or the 200k abortions a year or the 170k divorces.

        It is a simple fact that the ‘Sexual Revolution’ is responsible for half the serious emotional and personal problems that British society faces – without even talking about the STIs, pornification of the young and the whole coarsening of public life, such that even programmes like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ which children watch is laden with sexual innuendo. But religious liberals have never been able to articulate an ethic of sexual purity. as in everything, they are simply acolytes of post-Christian social liberalism.

        And why not, if you discover your identity in sexual expression and there is no hell, as Dr Wells has proved?

        • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

          Against my own instincts, Brian, I’ve come to agree with many of the conservative criticisms of the sexual revolution (which appears to’ve, first and foremost, liberated lotharios). If it comes up on Thinking Anglicans, I’ll certainly say so.

          So it’s infuriating to see them undermined by fervent opposition to equal marriage. Such opposition allows cultural libertines to write off conservatives as blockheaded homophobes, instead of, as is so often the case, thoughtful people with well-founded concerns with the consequences of “if it feels good, do it.”

          • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

            But James, to all mature people nothing could ever have been more obvious than that the sexual revolution was against everything good and right.

            The fact that you have been able to come to that realisation of the obvious only lately (Joan Bakewell -like) only reinforces the idea that liberalism is just adolescence by another name.

          • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

            As it happens, Christopher, I reached that conclusion well over a decade back. And the New Left are the antithesis of liberalism, let alone the hippy movement and lazy metropolitan fashion.

          • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

            in saying that the New Left are the antithesis of liberalism, I think you are correct. But what that may demonstrate is that liberalism was only ever about getting what people selfishly wanted for themselves and their peer-group, regardless of whether those ends could or not be supported by argument or were or were not internally consistent.

        • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

          They don’t care about the children. There have been massive backwards steps in how many children do and don’t live in better family circumstances (mum and dad’s presence having much better results than their absence). Different kinds of family are, however, promoted by the liberals, who are highly unintelligent and/or devious in not seeming to realise that these can come about only through some unresolved fracture or a parent’s failure to get involved, or some other equally damaging root.

          The proportion of cohabiting families where the child does not live with mum and dad even at the age of 5 or 6 is colossal. The liberals promote such families as part of their diversity. Therefore liberals are actively committed to damaging children and/or denying them their mum, dad or both if need be.

          Whose side are they on? – as if we did not know.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

          Brian
          Religious liberals, as you call them, are articulating an ethic of sexual purity. It is the call for equal marriage to be celebrated in Church so that all may have access to a Holy, covenantal, self giving relationship. This is not an outcome of sexual liberation; it is counter cultural and rather conservative.

          • Simon Ponsonby October 26, 2017 at 7:47 am #

            Penelope – Even if SSM becomes equal marriage in church law and liturgy, it does not follow that it is ‘Holy and covenantal’ merely that it is lawful and liturgical. To be Holy and Covenantal it must be designed and decreed by God, as revealed in his Word. Which it isn’t. It is no surprise that the arguments and appeals being presented in favour of this change to our church law and liturgy seem to have left Scripture far behind.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 26, 2017 at 10:07 am #

            Simon
            On your reading of the texts, on your understanding of the tradition. Others have different readings and different understandings. They do not believe that they have departed from scripture and tradition.

          • Will Jones October 26, 2017 at 10:36 am #

            Hi Penelope.

            The mere existence of other readings doesn’t alter what the scripture says and means. The question is whether the alternative readings are plausible or likely. Given that a large number of scholars who are pro-same-sex relationships (including, I understand, Bernadette Brooten, Louis Crompton, Luke Timothy Johnson, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Martti Nissinen, Pim Pronk, William Schoedel, Dan O. Via and Walter Wink) agree with all those opposed to same-sex sexual relationships that the biblical texts do in fact condemn same-sex sex, the alternatives don’t really seem very likely, do they?

            There is in reality little doubt, and even less well-founded doubt, about the meaning of the scriptural texts relating to same-sex sex.

          • Clive October 26, 2017 at 11:32 am #

            Dear Penelope,

            You wrote to Brian:
            “Religious liberals, as you call them, are articulating an ethic of sexual purity.”

            That is a very clear load of shoe-makers.

            Practising sexual acts as advocated elsewhere is most certainly not “articulating an ethic of sexual purity.” That is a ridiculous claim.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 26, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

            Hi Will
            I agree that as far as we can tell, the few texts which mention same sex sex, proscribe it (for whatever reason). Where I would depart from the scholars you cited is their belief (I think most, if not all, of them argue this) that the church must in this instance jettison scripture.
            I believe that there is a gulf between the proscription of same-sex sex and mixed sex porneia and the desire to live with another of the same sex in a covenantal partnership, forsaking all others.
            I agree up to a point with the articles Ian has cited below about orientation and identity being innovations. That is partly why I think scripture has as little to say on this topic as it does on vacuum cleaners.
            However, in a heteronormative society and Church, we are, despite those caveats, all too willing to see heterosexuality as an orientation and identity – normal, natural, part of God’s good design.
            I think where we differ fundamentally is that I do not see same-sex desire as disordered by design. All sexuality, all human emotions, needs, desires are potentially disordered. We can all do great harm. It is when we try to act out of disinterested love that we are at our best.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

            Clive
            I don’t know what you mean by practising sexual acts as advocated elsewhere

          • Simon October 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

            Thanks Penelope. Here’s what I struggle with: It can be clearly shown from Scripture that marriage between a man and a woman is holy and covenantal and thus blessed God in Scripture. However it is also clearly seen – as you seem to partially acknowledge above – that every reference to SS acts is condemned by Scripture. How then can the Church, under the authority of Scripture, be expected to deem SSM as holy and covenantal and bless it?

      • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

        The things you mention are indeed serious issues, Ian: so why on earth isn’t the church focused on them, instead of battling an institution that affects, in England, a few thousand people, and promotes stability in same-sex relationships? That’s the paradox of equal marriage: it’s simultaneously radical and conservative, which is, I suspect, why it’s swept through the West at such speed.

        • Clive October 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

          James you’ve used the term “equal marriage” several times now even though the law itself, in writing, shows that they are not equal. This simply reveals “equal marriage” to be a political slogan and simply that. Instead what we are witnessing is the hurt being meted out towards family life and original marriage with the reduction of marriage to a trivial short-term status.

          • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

            If you’re referring to the nonsense about consummation and adultery in the English laws, I don’t agree with it, and most jurisdictions have long abandoned it.

          • David Shepherd October 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

            James,

            The laws relating to non-consummation and adultery provide the basis for the non-intrusive presumption of paternity, which is marriage’s built-in contingency for legally recognising spouses as joint parents.

            Hardly nonsense.

    • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      “It is unlikely that you and I would every agree on this issue, but my contention is we just have bigger fish to fry!”

      You have listened to Ian, but you have not understood.

      Yes, taken alone the sexuality debate is relatively small-scale (though I would not call it insignificant), distracting and time-consuming for synod, affects only a small minority of people and is clearly causing the church immense PR problems in society….

      But, as is repeatedly pointed out, the issue is merely the presenting form of a much deeper, much more serious and worrying set of issues; ones that are, far, far more integral to the CofE than any individual’s sexuality. That is what actually drives so much digital ‘ink’ to be spilled..

      Consider that even in this article, written fully in the context of the SSM debate, the principle complaint being made (both the article and the comments) is not about same sex attraction/marriage and the merits/threats thereof, but about a failure of episcopal oversight, the weakness of the bishops, the willingness of clergy to defy the bishops, the nature and manner of the debate being had, the double-mindedness of a synod facing immense external pressure and the risks this has in undermining Anglican identity, and of scripture.

      The SSM question is so deeply entwined in those fundamental questions that they are now inseparable. And there is the problem: SSM is no longer adiaphora from fundamental Anglican identity.

      • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 10:14 am #

        …….A pattern that is repeated in almost every post on this subject Ian has written.

        I would add to this that I do not disagree with your other points Clint; I am similarly worried by the public face of the church constantly being made/expected to talk about ‘this’ rather than the great many other dangers and concerns facing the world today, about which the CofE does a great deal, though shrouded in silence by the media.

        The CofE will survive the burning of Rome, the question is: what will lost to the fire?

    • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

      Explaining his refusal to get involved with the English campaign against same-sex marriage, the journalist Peter Hitchens said that it’s a Stalingrad for moral conservatives. It is. As he pointed out, fighting this battle after surrendering the pass on heterosexual marriage was, at best, terrible PR.

      If the church cares so much about marriage, why hasn’t it fought no-fault divorce and remarriage with anything like the vigor with which it’s fighting equal marriage? Yes, clever-clever exegesis can draw a hairline between them, but whatever the justifications, the optics suck.

      Maybe it’s just a coincidence that divorce affects a much larger proportion of people than gay rights, but if so, it’s a coincidence that does the perception of the church no favors.

      • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

        Well said, James. Except that perception is far less important than integrity here.

      • Mat Sheffield October 26, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

        I have quoted Mr Hitchen’s comments on this blog before, and myself used the Stalingrad analogy more than once.

        It is an entirely appropriate comparison. The battlefield itself is important, strategically, but not critical: it is what the battlefield comes to represent ideologically for the forces involved that matters, and the more that ideology is worth fighting for, the bigger the sacrifices/costs both sides will pay for it.

        The question is, will the Bishops, or Welby, have their own “Not one step back!”. I hope they do.

      • David Shepherd October 26, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

        ‘If the church cares so much about marriage, why hasn’t it fought no-fault divorce and remarriage with anything like the vigor with which it’s fighting equal marriage?’

        ‘Cos no-fault divorcees didn’t campaign with anything like your vigour for the church to recognise their new marriages.

  13. Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    Am I the only one who finds Ian’s central metaphor ripe for Freudian analysis?

    • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 10:35 am #

      Analyse away—if you are happy to work only with a hermeneutic of suspicion. But a hermeneutic of retrieval will note that the metaphor is three steps removed. The image of slicing salami was the vehicle of the first metaphor coined by Hungarians in 1942; it was picked up in a different form in the film Arrival; and I have deployed it once more in quite a different way, now the third step removed from the vehicle.

      I suspect you are misled by the picture; the visual always has the effect of literalising metaphors (which is why illustrations of the Book of Revelation, or any poetic text, are unhelpful). Perhaps it is no coincidence that the proliferation of the visual by means of the internet has led to a literalising culture, creating fundamentalists of every hue.

      If you choose to be a literalising Freudian, I guess that is your prerogative.

      (I perhaps should add the observation that the sexualisation of every aspect of life is a consistent feature of ‘revisionist’ discourse. You don’t need Freud to spot that…)

      • Brian October 25, 2017 at 11:38 am #

        A psychiatrist was giving a patient the Rorschach test. For every picture the patient described the grossest and most indecent object. This was too much for the shrink who forgot his professional ethics and remarked, ‘Wow, you’ve got a dirty mind!’
        ‘What do you mean ‘me’ ?’ said the patient. ‘You’re the one showing me the dirty pictures!’

      • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:38 am #

        I’m proud to be a revisionist. All Christians are: on slavery, usury, the equality of women, companionate marriage, contraception, divorce, veiling, heliocentricity, eating black pudding, to name but a few.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:41 am #

          Caveat. Not ‘all’ Christians believe in equality, the licitness of divorce and contraception and the curvature of the earth.

          • Brian October 25, 2017 at 11:47 am #

            Oh, I know some benighted souls who don’t like black pudding at our Men’s Prayer Breakfast. But that’s OK. More for me!

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

            Brian
            You do know that’s against the teaching of scripture?

        • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

          Once again, Penelope, simplification, caricature, and a slightly patronising air of superiority.

          To suggest that all these issues are equally central to scripture, have similar issues in their interpretation, and those who are not revisionist on them are equally stupid, adds nothing…

          …except perhaps to demonstrate that it is much harder to seek change on SSM in the church without such a simplistic and patronising narrative…?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

            Ian I didn’t say they were “equal”.
            I can’t think why you found it patronising since it’s the simple truth. You have described yourself as a revisionist.
            And some of our ‘revisions’, equality, usury and slavery, for example, are probably more central to scripture than SSM.
            Also, we’re all cultural revisionists. First-century Christians may have been as revolted by black pudding as we are by the institution of slavery

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

            And of course the first biblical revisionist was St Paul!

          • Penelope October 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

            Oops, another caveat. St Paul was the 1st NT revisionist.

          • David Shepherd October 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

            Hi Penelope,

            From St. Paul to the leaders of the Reformation deployed endorsements from across breadth of scripture to make the case for change.

            In contrast, the brand of revisionism promoting church affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships is characterised by a fundamental absence of positive scriptural endorsement…because there really is none.

            Therein lies the difference between reform and revision.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:07 pm #

            David
            Law-free gospel, Paul’s endorsement? Without some scriptural sleight of hand in a Romans’?

          • David Shepherd October 26, 2017 at 5:44 am #

            Hi Penelope,

            There is no scriptural legerdemain at work in Romans when the OT so clearly promises the New Covenant and Moses himself highlights the provisionality of the OT law by exhorting Israel to render obedience to future divine revelation of the Messiah (Deut. 8:18; Acts 3:22)

            In contrast, revisionists simply insist that sexual orientation should be understood as behavioural ethnicity, on the basis of which the Church should affirm modern-day same-sex sexual relationships as a variant of the principle by which Gentile Christians are co-heirs of eternal life.

            Yet, the notion of behavioural ethnicity is without scriptural warrant and inimical to the gospel’s call to repentance.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

            Hi David
            I’ve answered Will above on sexual orientation and scripture, so forgive me if I don’t reiterate that here.

        • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

          Penelope – the earth is flat in Norwich and Holland 😉 I was a butcher, we had a slaughter house, we made black pudding, I will never eat it – yuk 🙂

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

            I love it. But then, I do sit lightly to some scriptural precepts!

        • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

          Penelope – ‘all’ Christians is quite a claim, and an untrue one.

          Slavery – define. Also prescribe a way of living without something approximating to slavery at certain stages of economic development.

          Usury – quite untrue. When I lend, I would not even dream of lending at interest. A contemporary at Magdalene, Paul who worked for the Jubilee Centre, did his PhD on that. A case where following the OT way is better.

          Equality of women – Does the Bible speak against that? I thought it taught complementarity: equality and difference. No-one can possibly deny either equality or difference.

          Companionate marriage – I am probably being dense, but does the Bible forbid that?

          Contraception – Yukky and obviously unnatural.

          Divorce – the worst thing I can imagine apart from abortion. Desertion of a moral partner, and the way that the ‘law’ supports the immoral one and works against the moral one, actually *forcing* people to break their promises, that is unspeakable. With Casey I think the closest we get to Jesus’s view is found in Mark. Mark does not give exceptions.

          Veiling – The more signs of submission to true authority the better. A mature adult (like the Centurion) has authority and recognises and submits to authority – and there is a connection between the two.

          Heliocentricity – I’m with you there.

          Eating black pudding – never did anyone any good. Also, I think it is interesting that pig-meat is considered particularly bad both by the OT and by dieticians. There is a lot more to be said about OT food-laws however, and I’m not sure how competent I am there.

          How utterly disheartening that you should say that ‘all’ follow obediently the trends of their culture and age. Can no-one think for themselves? But in truth, many people can.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

            Christopher
            All Christians, as you yourself have recognised. No one is a biblical literalist.
            And as for the eating of black pudding, the taboo is not the pork, but the blood.

          • Christopher Shell October 26, 2017 at 7:27 am #

            Penelope, I was not connecting black pudding with pigmeat on this occasion. Hence my use of the word ‘also’ (new topic). The reason I mentioned pigmeat was a different one: that the food laws were not random but look to have a connection with awareness of which foods were and were not healthy.

            ‘Literalist’ is sometimes unthinkingly used as a smear-word. But the so-called literal reading is generally just the same thing as the default, natural and obvious meaning. We could profitably use ‘literalist’ as a description of those who interpret literally those words and genres that are not literal, but first it has to be established that the words and genre in question are in fact not literal ones.

      • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

        “(I perhaps should add the observation that the sexualisation of every aspect of life is a consistent feature of ‘revisionist’ discourse.)”

        To be fair, it’s pretty consistent of traditionalist discourse as well, at least in my perception. Almost everyone who writes on/around the subject laments it, and while I’ve read ‘progressive’ material talking of this in positive terms, that was explicitly secular, to the point of anti-religious; I cannot think of a single example of a christian source encouraging or affirming the sexualisation of the young.

        • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

          Ignore “the young”, read “everything”. An error on my part.

        • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

          Er, I am not sure I have read arguments for ‘traditional’ Christian ethics which include a sexualisation of anthropology?

          • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

            I’m not sure what you mean?

            Anthropology is, almost by definition, the study of things sexual. It is the study of human history, which must, by the simple fact there is a ‘human history’, include sex/sexuality and human reproduction and reproductive habits.

            Or doesn’t it?

          • Mat Sheffield October 25, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

            That is not to say I disagree entirely; there is definitely a tendency to labour/over-emphasise this apsect of humanity’s history, but it neither a problem exclusive to one side, nor an unwelcome and unneeded aspect to the discussion.

    • Brian October 25, 2017 at 11:33 am #

      ‘A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.’ – Simon & Garfunkel, ‘The Boxer’.

      • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 11:53 am #

        as an ex butcher, I saw some decent meat and felt hungry

      • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

        How true, Brian.

  14. Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Not my discourse, Ian. I am actually uninterested is sexualising everything and anything. I am as appalled as you are by the pornification of childhood and youth, i think the sexual predation of the powerful upon the powerless is abhorrent, straight or gay. I am not immersed in a hedonistic gay “lifestyle”, nor are most of the revisiobist LGBTI Christians I know. Marital fidelity in my understanding is not a form of words or an optional extra as it seems to be for many str8 and gay couples.

    Where is this revisionist discourse?

    • Brian October 25, 2017 at 11:43 am #

      “Where is this revisionist discourse?”

      In re-visioning marriage from what the Bible says it is to a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex. A pretty fundamental revisionism of the doctrine of creation (‘Male and female he created them’; ‘For this reason a man shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife and the the two shall become one flesh’) that cuts to the heart of human relations between the sexes, the nature of fatherhood and motherhood and the nature of the family.

      • Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

        Brian, the discourse that I am referring to is Ian’s claim that revisionist discourse involves the “sexualisation of every aspect of life”. It doesn’t take too much thought to realise that this is rather hysterical nonsense – not what we expect of Ian. I wonder if he would like to attempt to justify this bizarre claim.

        But as for marriage – I think what you fail to realise is that what the revisionists are doing is not the sexualising of marriage, but the coventantisation and socialisation of their relationships. We don’t have a particular problem about the sexual aspect of these relationships, and that aspect of things is not uppermost in our thinking when we affirm and fight for the goodness of same-sex marriage. It is you, and others like you who are hung up on what two people of the same sex do or don’t do in bed. We are more interested in love, fidelity and strengthening the bond between people.

        • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

          ‘We are more interested in love, fidelity and strengthening the bond between people’ – is this really the case Jeremy? If so, then why marry? Faithful, loving, covenanted friendship does not require a marriage certificate. Talk to any group of Christians living in community or a squad of soldiers who have lived together and fought together in combat for months on end – they will tell you about love, fidelity and strengthening of bonds. Sex may not be uppermost as you say in SSM, but it is fundamental to any marriage, defined and determined by God sexually as ‘two becoming one flesh’.

          • Simon Nicholls October 26, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

            SImon Ponsonby – “If so, then why marry? Faithful, loving, covenanted friendship does not require a marriage certificate.”
            One rather compelling reason is that the possession of a marriage certificate facilitates many legal aspects of the relationship. Our social institutions recognise marraige as a legal status to which certain rights accrue, for example, in who may be allowed access to a severely ill or injured person in hospital, to whom personal information may be divulged in certain circumstances, who has the ability to make decisions for someone who is currently incapable of making those decisions for themselves, who has a right to inherit, who has rights to a pension, All things being equal, the rights of a spouse tend legally to trump those of other related adults, but without that certificate even the most faithful, loving, even covenanted, friend is at a legal disadvantage against, say, a parent, sibling or other close family member if there is a dispute. It doesn’t always have to be about sex.

          • Clive October 26, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

            Dear Simon Nicholls,

            The points you make are entirely and totally a legal issue and not a religious (Christian in this case) at all.

            Every single one of your claims could be corrected by Parliament without affecting the Church and Marriage.

            Simon Ponsonby’s points is about the impact on religion.

          • Simon October 26, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

            Simon Nicholls – thank you – yes, I understand and accept that as an important factor in gay marriage. My earlier post was in reply to Jeremy who didn’t suggest the financial/legal recognition was a key factor in gay marriage, but stated it was NOT about sex but was about loving covenanted friendship.

          • David Shepherd October 26, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

            Simon,

            ‘One rather compelling reason is that the possession of a marriage certificate facilitates many legal aspects of the relationship.’

            If that were true, reforming the Civil Partnership Act would have sufficed.

            instead, SSM was sought by LGBT advocacy groups because marriage is the definitive societal emblem of relationship dignity.

        • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

          Jeremy, this is not ‘hysterical nonsense’; it is an observation about the shape of the debate from the side that wants to see change. If you have not noted this as a criticism, then I wonder if you have been listening at all to those you disagree with.

          The two elements of this are in turn general and specific. The general one is the move to define people by their sexual interests, making ‘orientation’ a fundamental and defining characteristic of the human person. This is a sexualising move; it has long been noted; and it is often been cited as a significant move away from a biblically grounded theological anthropology. A good place to start in engaging with this is Michael Hannon’s essay ‘Against Heterosexuality’.

          https://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/03/against-heterosexuality

          (He has followed it up with this: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/08/against-obsessive-sexuality )

          The second move of sexualisation is specific. I don’t think I have found an argument for revision of the Church’s teaching on marriage which has not included the assertion (often implicit) that sexual expression is the sine qua non of a fulfilled human life. The most obvious and explicit is in Dan Via’s debate with Robert Gagnon, where he cites John 10.10 and then says ‘You cannot have fulness of life that Jesus wishes to give without fulness of sexual life’ (my paraphrase). It is remarkable that he does not notice the irony of saying this about a teaching given by a single, celibate man. This assumption, that sexual expression is essential to life, is smuggled in to Robert Song’s argument too; having made the case for covenant friendships, he suddenly, without any explanation, assumes that these can and must be sexual.

          This specific move is evidence in gay and queer readings of biblical texts, so any account of friendship, from David and Jonathan, to Jesus and the centurion’s servant, must be sexual—against all the textual, historical and reception evidence.

          So, not hysterical, but evident at just about every turn of the discussion.

          • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

            And it is worth noting that all the research evidence shows that gay partnerships are not as uninterested in sex as you assert.

          • James Byron October 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

            “I don’t think I have found an argument for revision of the Church’s teaching on marriage which has not included the assertion (often implicit) that sexual expression is the sine qua non of a fulfilled human life.”

            OK, here’s one: freedom from unreasonable discrimination on the basis of a fundamental characteristic (regardless of its expression) is a basic right. I’m surprised you’ve not seen it before, given that it’s the basis for all anti-discrimination laws!

          • Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

            Ian –

            you said that we sexualise “every aspect of life”. This is nonsense. I don’t sexualise my participation in musical activity as a gay person. I don’t sexualise Choral Evensong. I just sing or play. I enjoy walking – I am still a gay person doing that, but I find no reason to sexualise that activity. What you have claimed is rubbish and I am surprised you haven’t the sense to admit it and rephrase your claim more narrowly.

            I had rather taken you to mean that LGBTI Christians were as oversexualised as those in metropolitan “gay culture” are assumed to be, where sexual activity of a promiscuous kind is assumed to be the core of their beings. But it isn’t that.

            By the way I never claimed that gay partnerships are not interested in sex – just not as obsessed about it as you and many conservatives are. Mostly we are relaxed about it. I think most gay people are about as interested in sex as most straight people are – sometimes very, sometimes not that..

          • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

            Whatever you ‘think’, the question is what is true.

            1.The Gay Pride parade is obsessed with it.

            2.The name homo*sexual* is a clue.

            3.There is a whole chapter in M Brown ‘A Queer Thing Happened’ giving the lie to such a claim.

            4. Promiscuity is way higher among self-styled gay males.

            5. The roots of the movement lie in the sexual revolution.

          • David Shepherd October 25, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

            James,

            It’s as plain as day that your argument for revision might sidestep the second element cited by Ian, but is thoroughly grounded in the first: ‘that ‘orientation’ is a fundamental and defining characteristic of the human person’.

            Yet, we both know that the rights-based legal campaign of LGBT advocacy groups is of fairly recent vintage, whereby they insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that sexual identity is fixed ‘a natural essence, a self with same-sex desires’.

            You’re right that anti-discrimination laws are based on freedom from discrimination on the basis of a fundamental characteristic.

            What we dispute is whether a politically imposed quasi-ethnicity, like LGBT identity, should be recognised as a fundamental characteristic, far less as behaviour that the Church should be obliged to affirm.

          • Will Jones October 25, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

            James – from a biblical point of view sexual orientation is not a fundamental characteristic of humanity. A biblical theological anthropology goes something like this. Human desires are corrupted and people experience disordered desires for all kinds of things. Among these disordered desires are sexual desires. Some people’s disordered desire includes sexual attraction to people of the same sex to some degree or other. Some people also suffer from an acute lack of natural sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex. Such people are in an unfortunate condition since they lack the attraction necessary to form legitimate sexual relationships.

            This combination of unfortunate manifestations of disordered desire does not amount to a distinct fundamental characteristic of a person, since the desires are disordered. Neither can disordered desire become the basis for a legitimate form of sexual relationship.

          • David Shepherd October 26, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

            Jeremy,

            ‘You said we ‘sexualise every aspect of life’

            No. Ian didn’t made this remark about LGBT people, but about revisionist discourse.

            So, be truthful before you insinuate homophobia.

        • Brian October 26, 2017 at 8:51 am #

          “But as for marriage – I think what you fail to realise is that what the revisionists are doing is not the sexualising of marriage, but the coventantisation and socialisation of their relationships.”

          What a strange statement. Marriage – as God ordained it – has an inherently sexual and physical dimension. That’s why non-consummation is grounds for annulment. Of course, the new, post-Christian invention of ‘same-sex marriage’ isn’t capable of consummation.
          Nor have I ever come across the word ‘covenantisation’ before but I presume you mean making a covenant between two (or more?) persons. Well, so what? I can have all kinds of covenantal relationships with other people without them being sexual in character. David had a covenant with Jonathan. Their relationship wasn’t sexual – despite what some obsessives have claimed, especially in the LGCM. Ruth, you could say, had a covenantal relationship with Naomi – but they weren’t lesbian lovers (and again LGCM people have made this claim). Here is where you err very seriously.

          “We don’t have a particular problem about the sexual aspect of these relationships, and that aspect of things is not uppermost in our thinking when we affirm and fight for the goodness of same-sex marriage.”

          ‘What do you mean ‘we’, white man?’ as Tonto might have said. My opinion counts for nothing. It is what Jesus Christ thinks that matters. Does Jesus Christ approve of homosexual relationships? Well, does he?

          “It is you, and others like you who are hung up on what two people of the same sex do or don’t do in bed. We are more interested in love, fidelity and strengthening the bond between people.”

          And yet you are well aware that many lesbians have left their marriages and brought up the children of those marriages with their new female partners (and also that many of these partnerships are now breaking up in Britain); and men also have left their marriages for same-sex relationships. Where is the love and fidelity there?

  15. Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    I think you would be well advised to drop the ‘revisionist’ brick. You are a ‘revisionist’ when it comes to the ordination of women (and no doubt other areas as well) and it just comes across as a cheap shot.

    • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

      Well, I am trying to find the right word. And of course these two debates are not parallel in their origin or form, so even if I were ‘revisionist’ on women’s ministry (though I don’t think that would be the right word) it says nothing about this issue.

      ‘Revisionism’ here wants the church to move away from the teaching of Scripture. In my thinking about ministry, I would like us to regain the teaching of Scripture. It is rather a different thing.

    • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

      lol – there are of course some who might say the revisionism happened in the C2nd when men, stopped women women, who formerly held leadership office in the church, from doing so

      • Andrew Godsall October 25, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        Exactly Simon. just shows what a useless word it is! Things are continually being revised.

        • Will Jones October 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

          Hi Andrew

          Revisionist isn’t meant to be an insult. It’s just a descriptive term – those who wish to revise the current teaching. It could be used in other contexts for other issues, and people might be on different sides of the debate. It’s better than heterodox or heretical! Or liberal, the meaning of which is already well-burdened. Or progressive, which is not neutral.

          To us, we are orthodox and you are revisionist (or heretical). To you, you are progressive and we are conservative (or fundamentalist).

          It’s a shame we can’t agree on terminology which both sides are willing to own (as with pro-life and pro-choice in another context) but then names are often contentious. For practical reasons we do need terms to describe the positions though, and from our point of view revisionist seems apt without being derogatory. Did you have something you’d prefer?

          • Penelope October 25, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

            Hi Will
            As I commented above, I’m happy to be a revisionist (much better term than ‘progressive’) and I stated that we are all revisionists; no one is a biblical fundamentalist (though some US Xians on Twitter come close). But Ian thought I was being patronising and simplistic. Which is a shame, because he’s admitted in the past that he’s a revisionist about some things.

          • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

            It would be great if you stopped repeating false claims. I am not ‘revisionist’ about anything, in the sense of wanting the Church to move away from the position of biblical theology.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:21 pm #

            Ian
            I can’t be bothered to find the ref, but somewhere on your blog – when you were being less defensive- you claimed/admitted that you were a revisionist. It was probably about women’s orders. As I said, it’s no big deal. We all are. And very few in the sense of wanting the Church to move away from theology grounded in the scriptures.

        • Simon Ponsonby October 25, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

          I’d certainly like to revise some of the decisions and directions recently taken by the CofE Synod!
          Always valued Karl Barth’s ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda est’ – but that reform is always a return to and realignment with Scripture, not a departure from it.

        • Christopher Shell October 29, 2017 at 11:13 am #

          Of course things are always being revised. But some things need to be, whereas in other cases the particular revision makes things worse. That is common sense.

          ‘Revisionist’ is a term used of the people who seeem to be swallowing the obvious untruth that new is always better. This leads to an exhausting life where no sooner has something been revised than it becomes old and ‘therefore’ has to be revised and so on ad infinitum.

    • Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      Andrew,

      Revisionist is this current century’s conservative term for reformer. In other contexts they would see that as a good word. I know it is meant as a slur – but I think it is probably an honourable badge.

      • Ian Paul October 25, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

        Two comments above yours, Penelope said she is happy to be called ‘revisionist’, so it can hardly be a slur. I used it in inverted commas above, because I am aware it is not necessarily the best term.

        But ‘reforming’ means bring the church back into line with Scripture, which I don’t think anyone really thinks you’re doing. So that linguistic power play won’t work I’m afraid.

        • Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 9:38 pm #

          I don’t take it as one any more – but I think it is intended as one. And I think our reformation, in precisely the way you mean it, is going ok at the moment. See you on the other side.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe October 25, 2017 at 11:23 pm #

          Well, I said I was happy. I can’t speak for others (who haven’t used the term).

      • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

        That is not what ‘revisionist’ means, Jeremy. It has a different dictionary definition from ‘reformer’, whereas you are giving the incorrect, inaccurate impression that it has the same definition.

        ‘Revsionist’ just means a person who urges a different take on things. That take may or may not be justified, and therefore there are cases where the adoption of a revisionist vision would be reform, and also other cases where it would be a step (or several steps) backwards.

        • Jeremy Pemberton October 25, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

          Dear Christopher,

          Am I really going to have to explain the etymological fallacy to you? Words mean what they are used to mean – not what dictionaries say they originally mean.

          • Christopher Shell October 25, 2017 at 10:11 pm #

            Jeremy, please name me even one dictionary that gives only the original etymological meaning and none of the later usage meanings? There are several different dictionary publishers, and I have never seen a dictionary that does this. Thanks.

          • Clive October 26, 2017 at 4:46 am #

            Dear Jeremy:

            “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
            “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
            “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

            (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

  16. Christine October 26, 2017 at 3:47 am #

    Ian – Another superb article, thank you.
    Yes, I think it is possible that other bishops might try to push the boundaries, too, and more’s the pity – I do tend to expect more backbone from bishops.
    Clive – thank you for your kind response earlier.

  17. jack nastyface October 26, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    I think Philip mentioned famine and the threat of nuclear war earlier in this discussion. Apart from that there is no mention anywhere about the real possibility that this world might be nearing its end and that Jesus might be returning to finally sort out the mess we humans have made.
    Today’s MP readings include King Hezekiah calling his people back to God and obeying his commands. This is God’s recipe and holds good in all matters of faith and morality in any age and any circumstances.
    Jack

  18. Simon Butler October 26, 2017 at 7:32 pm #

    Setting aside the unfortunate choice of visuals, I cannot imagine what you propose being at all likely Ian. I was invited to speak to a progressive Christian group in Clapham last night and, whether it’s called revision or reform, this group were determined to continue to graciously, but persistently, push for what they see as the renewal of the Church of England until full inclusion of lgbti people is achieved. The Hereford motion is an excellent template about how to press forward, with firm but generous intent, not seeking to impose what they want on anyone else, but asking for the freedom to act according to their conscience.

    What you seem to want from the bishops – acting as some form of magisterium, or shutting the door after the horse has bolted depending on your perspective – really doesn’t accord with the self-understanding of English Anglican bishops. Not only do they not feel comfortable in acting in the way bishops in some parts of the Communion do, but they recognise that they simply don’t have the sort of authority that you seem think they have. Any attempt to act in an authoritarian way would just not work: they learned that the hard way in February, after all, as well as 500 years ago, when they failed to read the mood of the German church to such an extent that the Reformation resulted. Reform came about not simply because Luther had a dazzling insight, but because the Church tried to shut down the energy that resulted.

    • Simon October 26, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

      ….. ‘this group were determined to continue to graciously, but persistently, push for what they see as the renewal of the Church of England until full inclusion of lgbti people is achieved.’….

      We clearly have a different understanding of Scripture and of Luther’s Reformation – but do you really think Evangelicals and Orthodox can be pushed around?

      • Simon Butler October 27, 2017 at 10:48 am #

        Simon, any historically informed reading of the Reformation – ironically apart from the true revisionism which sees it as some golden age of theological purity – has to acknowledge that there was no common understanding of Scripture then and there is none now. I note Simon that feeling pushed around is a feeling you articulate, but any movement for reform and renewal in the Church will result in those who favoured the status quo feeling as if they’ve lost. That was true in the 15th century certainly, but the outcome for those ‘pushed around’ was the renewal of Counter-Reformation. It’s for those like me who see change on this issue as a current work of the Spirit in the church to help you to be convinced that our gain does not have to be your loss.

    • Christine October 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

      Hi Simon Butler,
      But the Catholic Church continued, and continues, to be the Catholic Church when the Protestant church was born 500 years ago – the Catholic Church did not submit to the ‘dazzling insight’ of Luther! Wonderfully there is now, 500 years on, some reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church – and 500 years is a long time in human terms, but not in God’s timing.

    • Mat Sheffield October 26, 2017 at 9:46 pm #

      “What you seem to want from the bishops – acting as some form of magisterium, or shutting the door after the horse has bolted depending on your perspective – really doesn’t accord with the self-understanding of English Anglican bishops.”

      Quite right.

      But, if the bishops do indeed hold no, or extremely limited, authority over the church’s teaching and doctrine then what is the point in even having them at all? Your argument seems to imply that the role of Bishops is to ratify majority consensus from below. Why not just have a system of effectively independent churches and unionise them to standardise practice, as Methodist and Baptists (broadly speaking) do?

      • Simon Butler October 27, 2017 at 10:52 am #

        Mat, in some this is what we have in the Church of England. Its only recently in the modern era that Evangelicals have had any interest in episcopacy – and there remains an ambivalence. I’m sure that the reason why the bishops don’t act as a magisterium is a. Because they, like all of us, a creatures of our culture; and b. Because, like all of us, they also are divided as to whether changes in teaching on human sexuality are adiaphora.

        • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

          Regards ‘a’ you are probably right. Post-modern Britain is relentless anti-authoritarian and pro-individualism.

          Regards ‘b’ I am not sure they are quite so divided. Also, I’ve not come across much argument against SSPartnerships being adiaphora, most people seem to agree that it is; the problem is that a great many things that are categorically NOT adiaphora are entwined within the discussion. My objection to SSM is not so much about a threat it poses to society, or to individuals (though it might exist), but about the departure from scripture it would represent.

    • Will Jones October 26, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

      Simon – no amount of spin or bluster can alter the fact that you and your fellow revisionists (or whatever your preferred term is) have lost the theological and scriptural argument – or rather you saw the way it was headed so never really engaged it – and have substituted for it direct political action to try to force radical revisionism on the church without any of the usual theological reflection and seeking of consensus. Your actions are deeply divisive and pose a very real threat to the unity and health of the Church and Communion and the integrity of the faith.

      • David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 8:43 am #

        Will ‘no amount of spin or bluster can alter the fact that you and your fellow revisionists (or whatever your preferred term is) have lost the theological and scriptural argument’. Will where has this been decided and who is the judge of this? This debate clearly troubles you deeply but the best you can really continue to say to folk like Simon and me is that you strongly disagree – as I do with you. But I went to hold on to what actually unites us – a shared concern for the priority and faithful interpretation of scripture. And through history that shared faithfulness has never resulted in an evangelical world in which all are united around one meaning and understanding of what scripture teaches.

        • Clive October 27, 2017 at 9:28 am #

          Dear David,

          If you genuinely had “….a shared concern for the priority and faithful interpretation of scripture. ” then you’d acknowledge that neither Scripture nor even the words of Jesus Christ himself support Same Sex Marriage…… but you don’t.

          • David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 9:38 am #

            Clive And I don’t know how you come to such a judgement about without first seeking my own understanding of this issue. You might have begun by asking me to outline my approach to interpreting scripture in relation to same sex relationships. But you don’t. You also assume I support same-sex marriage – have you heard me state this somewhere? Evangelicals with an otherwise affirming view of same-sex relationship do vary on the issue of ss marriage.
            So I read this statement as your way of saying that you, like Will, disagree with me on this subject. That’s OK. But it is not clear to me how you presume to know what I actually believe on this – because you do not ask.

        • Simon Ponsonby October 27, 2017 at 9:35 am #

          David – we have missed your irenic contributions lately. But you speak of ‘shared concern for the priority and faithful interpretation of scripture’ and of ‘shared faithfulness’. If your novel interpretation of scripture is right, then the church for 2 millennia and God’s people Israel for over 1 millennia previously were wrong and unfaithful to Scripture and God! It is possible both sides in this debate are being unfaithful to the text, but it is not possible both are being faithful as two opposite readings cannot both be right. Faithfulness to the text which means faithfulness to God is the issue. And how can we be united when we think the other is unfaithful to Scripture, and thus to God’s will?

        • Will Jones October 27, 2017 at 10:44 am #

          Hi David

          You cut the quotation off too soon (mid-sentence) – my point was that the direct political action advocated (and taken) by Simon and others is a deliberate avoidance of a theological and scriptural argument (and seeking of consensus). As Ian says in the post: ‘This appears to be part of a coordinated campaign to undermine and bypass the House of Bishops’ teaching document and bring change on the ground without the proper theological, pastoral and doctrinal debate.’

          You say the best I can say is that I strongly disagree. But that makes it sound like it is all subjective interpretation in which there is no real way of being confident one way or another, so there are just equally likely and ‘valid’ views opposing one another with no means of resolution towards the truth. But that is not the situation we are in. The truth is that the claim that scripture supports same-sex sex (and thus same-sex sexual relationships) is very much a minority position amongst scholars. As I said to Penelope above, the mere existence of other readings doesn’t alter what the scripture says and means. The question is whether the alternative readings are plausible or likely. Given that a large number of scholars who are pro-same-sex relationships (including, I understand, Bernadette Brooten, Louis Crompton, Luke Timothy Johnson, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Martti Nissinen, Pim Pronk, William Schoedel, Dan O. Via and Walter Wink) agree with all those opposed to same-sex sexual relationships that the biblical texts do in fact condemn same-sex sex, the alternatives don’t really seem very likely, do they? There is in reality little doubt, and even less well-founded doubt, about the meaning of the scriptural texts relating to same-sex sex.

          If revisionists were actually confident about their interpretation of scripture and theological views achieving consensus why not wait for the teaching document, and go through the same painstaking process as we did for women’s ministry? Clearly the short-circuiting of the process shows a lack of confidence in the ability of their arguments to carry the day and win broad support. But it can only lead to division, bitterness, error, schism and decline.

          • Simon Butler October 27, 2017 at 11:04 am #

            Will, I think you are wrong. I think people – certainly the group in Clapham on Wednesday- think that they need to keep pushing because if they don’t the church will put this issue (and them as a consequence) into the ‘too difficult box’. Certainly if people – as you do in this thread – argue that the matter is settled theologically and biblically, I would say that such a fear is reasonable and that, as a result, it is wise to continue to press forward in every forum, including the campaigning ones. Of course if you were to simply allow us to create the space in the church to do our thing, then I’m sure division, bitterness, error, schism and decline can be avoided. But unlike you and Ian, I found not lay the blame for these dangers entirely at the feet of so-called ‘revisionists’.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am #

            Hi Will
            As you said above. And I answered. What scripture says and means is only perceptible through our minds.
            Yes, the scholars you cite do argue that scripture is hostile to same sex acts. It probably is. The difference, as I suggested, is that some of those scholars want to jettison those particular scriptural precepts. Others don’t. I hope I’m not misrepresenting him here, but David Runcorn is on of the latter, as his appendix to Pilling shows. He argues that this is not that, ironically, Ian’s links above to the articles on heterosexuality demonstrate this. If heterosexuality is a modern ‘invention’ then the ANE would not have understood orientation and identity as they are understood – at least in the West – today.
            Now orientation and identity may ne chimerical, but that affects the position of heterosexuality as much as that of homosexuality. Why should the former be privileged, be considered the norm?
            If sexual identity is an innovation, how can it be a creation ordinance?
            (BTW I’m not arguing that it is not, simply that there are questions of theological anthropology alongside questions of exegesis and questions of historical context.)

          • Will Jones October 27, 2017 at 11:35 am #

            Hi Simon

            You say: ‘I think people – certainly the group in Clapham on Wednesday- think that they need to keep pushing because if they don’t the church will put this issue (and them as a consequence) into the ‘too difficult box’. Certainly if people – as you do in this thread – argue that the matter is settled theologically and biblically, I would say that such a fear is reasonable and that, as a result, it is wise to continue to press forward in every forum, including the campaigning ones.’

            What you’ve said here is that if ‘revisionists’ don’t pursue direct action then (they suspect) the argument will not go their way and the church’s position will not change. But that is the same thing as I said: you/revisionists are replacing the usual careful process of theological and scriptural discernment and engagement with direct action and pressure because you fear/suspect your position will not prevail if you do things properly. But rather than accept that, you seem to think it is ‘wise’ (i.e. an effective means of pursuing an agenda regardless of due process and careful discernment of what is true and right) to take direct action. There is nothing wise about that. And there is nothing authentically Reformed about taking direct action to take the church away from the plain teaching of scripture.

            You say: ‘Of course if you were to simply allow us to create the space in the church to do our thing, then I’m sure division, bitterness, error, schism and decline can be avoided. But unlike you and Ian, I found not lay the blame for these dangers entirely at the feet of so-called ‘revisionists’.’

            This argument is egregiously disingenuous and has been debunked countless times. The point at issue is the church’s teaching on marriage and sex (and by implication its approach to the authority of scripture). The church cannot with integrity create space for something without changing its teaching to make it permissible – as you well know. Creating space to sanction same-sex sexual relationships in the church is not a compromise on the issue, it is the issue.

          • David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 11:58 am #

            Will ‘Given that a large number of scholars who are pro-same-sex relationships … agree with all those opposed to same-sex sexual relationships that the biblical texts do in fact condemn same-sex sex, the alternatives don’t really seem very likely, do they?’
            I have said before I agree that wherever same-sex sexual activity occurs in scripture it is condemned.
            But careful biblical interpretation and debate begins by asking:
            i. What precisely is being condemned here? (as far as we can be sure)
            ii. Do we know why it is condemned? (ditto)
            iii. How does what is condemned there relate to contemporary expressions of faithful, commitment, loving relationships between people of the same sex? In other words, is this that? The failure to follow this interpretative process can and does result in great hurt.

          • Will Jones October 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

            Hi Penelope

            It’s not that ‘heterosexual’ is the privileged norm. It’s that heterosexual is, as you put it, chimerical – a fictitious construct that misleads more than it informs. Attraction to the opposite sex is natural to humanity (it goes with sexual reproduction) and to lack that is misfortunate. A person who experiences attraction to the opposite sex is not ‘a heterosexual’, they are just a human being experiencing natural sexual attraction. Someone who lacks it is just a person who lacks something proper to their nature, an unfortunate condition (though I’m sure God will use it). Someone who experiences attraction to people of the same sex is just that – a person who experiences attraction to people of the same sex. They are not ‘a homosexual’. Neither are they if they also don’t experience attraction to people of the opposite sex (the classic distinction between being ‘homosexual’ and ‘bisexual’).

            None of this makes same-sex sexual acts (and especially sodomy) legitimate or permissible, because sexual activity is not made permissible or otherwise by whether or not we happen to desire it. We desire many things which are not morally permissible! Sexual activity is made permissible, like everything else, by a combination of its form, its purpose, and its consequences. Categories of homosexual and heterosexual tell us nothing useful about this.

          • Will Jones October 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

            David – If scripture condemns same-sex sex (as a form of sexual activity) then how can context alter that proscription?

            Do we revise our teaching on adultery to allow open marriages because the biblical authors didn’t consider that possibility? No of course not. You can’t get round general and clear prohibitions by claiming that we have come up with a form of relationship that had not occurred to them and we think is ok.

          • David Shepherd October 27, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

            Hi Will,

            This is a brilliant point.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

            Hi Will
            Heterosexuality is the privileged norm – at least in the West. The belief that attraction to the ‘opposite’ sex is natural to humanity is, for some, merely a cultural construct. And to lack that is not a misfortune. Many people are happily asexual as well as homosexual or bisexual.
            The church changed its teaching on contraception (the cofe anyway). This was, if you like, the Trojan horse. Once you accept that sex isn’t just for procreation, then all kinds of sexual activity become licit (even sodomy as you call it). And what is licit for mixed sex couples, may be licit for same sex couples.
            I agree that sexual activity is made ‘permissible’ by its form, purpose and consequences. That is why infidelity, lack of consent, cruelty etc. can never be moral. I find the fruits of faithful love and sex whether same sex or mixed sex potentially good in their form, purpose and consequences. I find that teaching in the scriptures (even though the NT is so lukewarm about marriage and kinship!).

          • Christopher Shell October 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

            ‘Context’ is often used as an excuse anyway, and I don’t find that honest.

            So is ‘interpretation’ used as an excuse.

            Context and interpretation will not, except in exceptional cases, make simple words mean anything significantly different from what they generally mean.

            Least of all will they make them mean the opposite of their natural meaning.

        • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 11:24 am #

          Hi David,

          While I agree -and largely share- the sentiments of Simon P and Will and am a ‘traditionalist’ in that sense, I thought you would like to know I do sympathise with your point here; not out of pity, but out of respect. More than many revisionists (and I do not mean that pejoratively), you have made a genuine and concerted effort to make a scriptural case in the comments of this blog, not for a definitive ‘position’ favouring SSM per se, but certainly against some of the readings being used in defense of the churches current teaching. It is not quite enough to say “the Bible is 100% clear” when it isn’t, and it is valuable to everyone to have the opposing case made.

          That being said, while I cannot simply assume the view you hold, we have conversed before on and around this subject (and with others) for mutual benefit, and so I feel confident to know roughly where we both stand in relation to the ‘yes/no’ fence: nearer to it that some, but clearly on different sides. I hope you think that fair, if deliberately vague?

          Put it this way; we disagree, but you are not my enemy.

          You responded to Clive with a rebuke, but I don’t think that is entirely fair; If I may quote you:

          “I believe some people are called to, and may choose celibacy. But because I believe that gay people should have the same freedom to enter committed covenant relationships as heterosexuals I think it mistaken and inhumane (like Andrew) to require celibacy of them simply because they are gay.”

          Clearly, you support some sort of ‘committed covenant relationships’, implicitly comparable to marriage, even if you have not explicitly called it thus?

          Mat

          • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 11:26 am #

            Replace enemy with opponent. ‘Enemy’ is entirely the wrong, even for those with whom I profoundly and vitriolically disagree.

        • Christopher Shell October 27, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

          David, do you think that any text is ever clear on anything?

          If condemnation of a practice in general (lying, murder, adultery, same-sex sex) is unremitting, absolute and without exception in the texts in question, then does not that come at the clearer end of the spectrum rather than at the more opaque?

        • Christopher Shell October 29, 2017 at 11:25 am #

          David, could you distinguish between 2 quite different things: (1) what scripture teaches, period, and (2) what scripture teaches on one given issue?

          (1) is quite impossibly complex though the main contours may be evident; whereas (2) will often allow of substantial agreement. Yet you are treating the 2 as the same.

          • David Runcorn October 29, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

            Christopher I am probably being hopelessly think but I do not understand the question.

          • David Runcorn October 29, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

            ‘thick’

          • Christopher Shell October 31, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

            You said a few comments back that there has never been an evangelical world united round a shared understanding of what scripture teaches.

            The issue is what you mean by the phrase ‘what scripture teaches’.

            If you mean by this phrase (A) ‘what scripture teaches on *every* topic under the sun’:
            well then, the reason that they are united is easy to find. The reason is that there are so many thousands of topics, it would be impossible to find unity on every one of them.

            If, however, you mean (B) ‘what scripture teaches on *one* given topic’:
            then firstly the assertion is untrue for many topics.
            Secondly the reason for lack of unity will, in the case of some topics, be a trivial one.
            For example: different levels of understanding among interpreters; people dressing up ideology as disinterested interpretation.

            There is the further consideration that (A) and (B) are not only different in scale but colossally different. (A) is vastly larger.

            Accordingly to be unclear about which of (A) and (B) is intended is for things to be thoroughly unclear.

          • Christopher Shell October 31, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

            For ‘are united’, read ‘aren’t united’.

      • Simon Butler October 27, 2017 at 10:57 am #

        I would entirely associate myself with David Runcorn’s points Will. Might it be the case that your claim that we have ‘lost’ the theological and biblical arguments (since when has theology been about win/lose?), is in fact your attempt to shut down the conversation? But my insistence – a good Protestant protest – that you have no right nor ability to decide this and that I will continue to protest, do theology and read scripture as an LGBT priest until my last breath. It’s you who seem to want to close down biblical and theological engagement, not me, and that doesn’t seem very faithful to Scripture.

        • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 11:33 am #

          I’d offer a middle ground position.

          One the one hand I recognise that there are legitimate counter-arguments to be made for revision, some of them quite compelling, and that exploring the SSM scriptural arguments has been incredibly beneficial to me. I cannot pretend they don’t exist, nor that they have ‘lost’ somehow. the only thing I know for certain is that (so far) I remain unconvinced by them.

          However, on the other hand I cannot ignore that which seems obvious: that the weight of biblical scholarship in this area is overwhelmingly in favour of the traditionalist position. What that position lacks right now is a well-articulated pastoral response, but that will come.

          It is incorrect to talk of this in terms of ‘won and lost’, but it is not stifling the debate to assert that the biblical case made by revisionists is the weaker of the two.

          • David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

            Thanks Mat It helps to step back from the right/wrong won/lost polarity. That goes nowhere. But as to which is the weaker case – well that is a matter of opinion is it not? I have held an including position for 30 years now. I started trying to work this out before it was acceptable to ask even the most tentative questions of the traditional reading of the texts on this subject. The Bible College world I was studying in was on lockdown with this topic. To try to start discussions on it was to see friends sharing ‘pastoral concerned’ looks across the room.
            Mat I know we do not agree but I am genuinely grateful you feel I am making a positive contribution to a debate that often generates more heat than light. Thank you in Christ.

          • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

            “Thanks Mat It helps to step back from the right/wrong won/lost polarity.”

            I was very careful. 😉 I want to avoid ‘won/lost’ language for the dual reasons of avoiding triumphalism on one hand and sparing people excess pain on the other. Won/Lost is generally not constructive language unless you are engaged in competition, or debate, and blog commentary is not really either.

            I am not so concerned about using ‘right/wrong’ though, as that is what we are trying to determine. I don’t care who win, I care who is right. This is Christopher Shell’s refrain.

            “But as to which is the weaker case – well that is a matter of opinion is it not?”

            Of course.

            But at some point, an earthly authority within the church will have to make a judgement on this and justify one interpretation over the other(s) -which may indeed be a reassertion of the existing one- but I don’t think we can maintain an ‘agree-to-disagree’ arrangement…

            A pleasure as always

          • David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

            Mat and others

            We already allow clergy and churches a freedom conscience with regard to remarriage of divorcees in church and the ordination/consecration of women.
            Can you help me understand why you think we could not offer the same on this issue?
            (of course it is possible you not agree with the first two developments)

          • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

            “Can you help me understand why you think we could not offer the same on this issue?”

            For me the answer is simple; it’s because the church didn’t have to throw away it’s scriptural integrity to achieve compromise on those issues; there was consensus that the differing interpretations were not mutually exclusive.

          • Will Jones October 27, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

            Hi David. I agree with Mat – and would add that it is a key ethical issue that links to important principles of natural law and God’s purposes in creation. Divorce of course is still regarded as morally dubious, and female ordination is a matter of church ordering (it was also permitted in the first century and was a matter of some dispute in the second century).

          • Christopher Shell October 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

            Thanks Mat. I would want to add that ‘which is the weaker case’ is definitely not a matter of opinion but a matter of evidence.

            At times it will not be clear which is the weaker case. But the criterion remains evidence rather than opinion.

          • Simon October 27, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

            David – I’ll offer my take on this: I understand divorce to be adiaphora /disputable and Scripture does not commend it nor condemn it ‘outright’ but Jesus himself offers pragmatic grounds for permitting it. I also believe the role of women in leadership and thus ordination can be argued both ways from Scripture and so is adiaphora/disputable. However, I simply cannot see any good argument from scripture to challenge, far less to change the traditionally received reading of scripture on the matter of homosexuality. This is not adiaphora. Every relevant text that speaks of homosexual acts directly or indirectly condemns them. I understand Scripture to be very clear in describing homosexual sex in the way it is understood now, this is that. And the texts proscribe this as being sinful, and a violation of God’s laws in nature and scripture. If I believe an act is sinful and against God’s desire and design, how can I as a priest bless this, or even be pragmatic and see such as adiaphora? Now, I know this is not theory or abstract theology debated in a seminary classroom but its about real people with real desires and the Church’s traditional teaching based on a traditional reading of Scripture causes great pain to those who desire homosexual intimacy and love yet feel rejected, indeed worse, condemned by the church. Two of my beloved siblings are gay and I know my own conservative view has caused them deep pain and perceived rejection. Kyrie Eleison. But for me it is an issue of fidelity to Jesus as Lord: If I love him, I must obey his commandments. And if I believe he commands sexual purity and declares that anything outside of heterosexual marriage is sexual immorality then I cannot bless this. Over 25 years ago I changed my theology on divorce (from being against to accepting) and at a similar time I changed my theology on women in leadership (from being totally against ordination to a strong advocate) – but in both cases arguments from Scripture convinced me. I remain open to be convinced from Scripture if I am wrong. God’s word is infallible, my understanding of it is not. But as yet, 20 years of studying, reflecting, listening and weeping with LGBQT friends and family, I have yet to hear an argument that challenges my traditional reading of the Bible.

            So, a long winded reply – I believe that the theological questions of Ordination of Women and Divorce are disputable and so the church must be flexible and allow individual churches and ministers to exercise personal conscience; but the Bible’s treatment of Homosexual acts & SSM is not disputable and so cannot be left to the conscience of individual pastors. Only if compelling and convincing arguments from Scripture can be marshalled should the Church change its long held doctrine and practise.

          • Mat Sheffield October 27, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

            “Thanks Mat. I would want to add that ‘which is the weaker case’ is definitely not a matter of opinion but a matter of evidence.”

            We all agree, the important question now (which we have all lost sight of a little, the article is 150 comments above us now) is who get’s to arbitrate this for us; who is the judge, the one who will weigh the evidence and make a judgement, justifying one position over the other.

            This is significant.

            Obviously it will not be a singular person, but can we not see that this is the unique problem to SSM that was not the case for divorce/women? The undermining of due process (such as this Hereford letter) and the apparent lack of faith in the HoB/ArchB, means that neither side will recognise a judgement against them and in any case said judgement would be unenforceable.

        • Clive October 27, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

          Dear Simon Butler,

          Ah yes! “The Clapham omnibus!”

          You talk about engaging in theology but it is you that talk about “I think people – certainly the group in Clapham on Wednesday- think that they need to keep pushing” which is not engaging in theology at all but trying to get the ordinary person in the street to support you when they haven’t even been asked either what they actually feel about the issue or if they feel they should comment on Christianity at all.

          There is a classic case which I know all about as a Professional safety engineer (who happens to have an MA in Theology as well as all the science and engineering qualifications) of a Judge passing judgement on a health & safety case describing the ordinary person as “the man on the Clapham omnibus”.
          So the group in Clapham on Wednesday is, in the Court’s own words”, a group of ordinary people.

          So if you wish to actually engage in Theology, the words of Jesus Christ and Scripture, then do so but at the moment I don’t see much evidence of that. As you do so kindly avoid Penelope’s mistake of assuming without good evidence that same sex relationships are significantly different now because the onus of proof for that is entirely on people like you and Penelope because many, many scholars have already examined that claim and found it to be disingenuous.

          I say engage in “the words of Jesus Christ” our Lord, because that is what being a Christian means. If you wish to claim that Jesus’ words were only “of their time” and therefore can be changed – then a) that is a denial of Jesus being God (which is said in the creed every Sunday) and b) that introduces the idea of God being changeable which Christians do not believe and c) that brings us to the very first sin in the Bible when the devil said to Eve “Did God really say ….?”

          I say engage with Scripture, particularly the Bible, because every Sunday Christians have a reading from the Bible and they all say “This is the word of God”.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 27, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

            Dear Clive
            I don’t know how Simon Butler will react to being told to avoid my ‘mistake’, but it is one which David Runcorn has also articulated above, and rather more ably than I. (Although I might suggest that you are not the only one on here who has an MA in Theology, except that mine is in Biblical Studies.)
            Another able argument that ‘homosexual’ relationships were alien to the NT world is given by Helen King in her article on Pausanias and Agathon. There is a link in an earlier blog of Ian’s and you can of course google it. So, many scholars do not find this claim disingenuous.
            Indeed there is very little evidence in the few (and not always clear) proscriptions of same-sex sex that what are being condemned have any correspondence with faithful, lifelong same-sex relationships (just as there is probably very little correspondence between biblical marriages and the egalitarian, companionate marriages which represent the best of that institution today.
            I am often surprised when people claim that scripture is so evidently clear in its attitude to same-sex relationships; it is nothing of the sort. There

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 27, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

            Sorry, Clive a dangling ‘there’ appeared!

          • Simon October 27, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

            Penelope – ‘ there is very little evidence in the few (and not always clear) proscriptions of same-sex sex that what are being condemned have any correspondence with faithful, lifelong same-sex relationships ‘ – I cant agree – Romans 1 seems very clear indeed about the mechanics and motives – it proscribes being mutually inflamed with desire for someone of the same sex and entering into sexually intimate acts that are created and blessed by God when married to someone of the opposite sex. It couldn’t be clearer to me. If you remove from ‘faithful lifelong same sex relations’ (which mounting evidence suggests is rarely faithful & lifelong) the prohibited sexual aspect and the passion and lust that drive it, what is left? Earlier Jeremy said it wasn’t all about sex. No, but it is significantly about sex. I believe if the SS community in the church committed to celibacy, seeking to live covenantally together in purity and not trying to make the Church recognise this as God ordained marriage made in heaven – then it could be something traditionalists like myself could accept and bless. But it is the mutually inflamed homo-erotic activity which we believe is condemned.

          • Clive October 27, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

            Dear Penelope,

            You know very well that Scripture proscriptions are not “few” at all.

            Nor did I even say or pretend that I am the only person with an MA. My first degree and the bulk of my qualifications are science and engineering and so the reference to my having studied Christianity and Theology makes a lot of sense to say that I am not just a scientist. In relaity I am certainly not the only scientist and engineer to take theology seriously.

            You claim “So, many scholars do not find this claim disingenuous.” but obviously “many” is a small number.

          • Penelope October 27, 2017 at 10:07 pm #

            Clive
            6 proscriptions, 7?
            There are lots of ‘revisionist’ scholars, as I am sure you know, but is this a numbers game?

          • Penelope October 27, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

            Simon
            Thank you. Two observations. If the men in Romans who were inflamed with desire were married, what evidence is there that they were homosexual?
            Mounting evidence suggests that mixed sex marriages aren’t very stable.
            Why do gay men have ‘inflamed homo erotic desire’? Do straight men in mixed sex relationships have inflamed hetero erotic desire?
            Sorry, that’s 3 observations.

          • Simon October 27, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

            Penelope – Luther conference tomorrow so in haste:
            1. ‘what evidence is there that they were homosexual?’ – have you ever met a heterosexual who was inflamed with lust for a person of the same sex?- heterosexual by definition – hetero = other/different party
            2.’why do gay men have inflamed homo erotic desire’? Complex and unknown – scientific advances yet to prove biology – Paul in Rom1 starkly suggests the actions are rooted in a refusal to glorify God, honour God’s truth, and in human sinful desire …but we all know numerous life factors nurture sexuality to become second nature
            3. ‘Do straight men in mixed sex relationships have inflamed hetero-erotic desire’ -sure – if its for their spouse its a beautiful thing and divinely sanctioned…. if its for someone who isn’t, they should marry or stop it (1Cor7v9) and if ur married and its for someone not ur spouse its lust and adultery and you need to turn down the flame 🙂

          • Christopher Shell October 28, 2017 at 8:28 am #

            Penelope, you write ‘mounting evidence suggests that mixed sex marriages aren’t very stable’.

            (1) I have never heard of mixed-sex marriages. Are they what I think they are?

            (2) What do you mean by ‘mounting evidence’? Marriages have been around for thousands of years. Why would the ‘evidence’ concerning them suddenly accelerate? Their properties and track record has long been known.

            (3) Your statement applies to marriages in sexual-revolution-influenced countries (not surprisingly). It does not apply to marriages in general or intrinsically. Therefore it is a statement about the sexual revolution itself. Nothing to do with marriage intrinsically. The instrinsic stability of marriage varies vastly from culture to culture and era to era. Do you dispute that?

            (4) Far from being linked to instability, marriage together with religious involvement is the chief predictor of health and of happiness. (The links are between marriage and health, marriage and happiness, religious involvement and happiness – but less so religious involvement and health.) Nothing produces more stability, in other words.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 28, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

            Christopher
            1) mixed-sex marriages are between couple of different sexes/genders; same-sex marriages are between couples of the same sex/gender. I would prefer just marriage, but sometimes it is necessary to distinguish.
            2) I think mounting evidence was my quotation from another’s comment, but the point is that the divorce rate in the UK is increasing for mixed-sex marriages.
            3) I think that there are many and complex reasons why marriages break down, but I agree that the sexual revolution, as you call it, is a contributory factor. Of course, at other times and in other cultures, marriages broke down without the relief of divorce, which could be very cruel.
            4) since marriage together with religious involvement is the chief predictor of health and happiness we should be celebrating same-sex weddings in churches. Since this is a very recent innovation and since not all churches permit the celebration of equal marriage, as yet, we await the evidence.

          • Clive October 29, 2017 at 8:51 am #

            Dear Penelope,

            Since the modernist version of gender can be either sex none of you response to Christopher actually makes any sense. Your definition of marriage is therefore any marriage and so the real question for you is what do you actually mean by marriage? This is just how completely absurd the whole thing is becoming.

            If there are two people and, as all Christians believe, they are both made in the image of God then we come back to the belief that we “…..give to God what belongs to God”. So to Christians what God says about Marriage matters totally. The human person bears an image of God. God created mankind in His own image, male and female he created them.

            So “….give to God what belongs to God”. We cannot put ourselves in the place of God. When we do it is an ultimate disaster. Us choosing our own identity and denying our God-given identity ism disaster leading to self-harm an suicide for some. Nobody with any sense would wish that on anyone.

            Dear Penelope,

            Since the modernist version of gender can be either sex none of you response to Christopher actually makes any sense. Your definition of marriage is therefore any marriage and so the real question for you is what do you actually mean by marriage? This is just how completely absurd the whole thing is becoming.

            If there are two people and, as all Christians believe, they are both made in the image of God then we come back to the belief that we “…..give to God what belongs to God”. So to Christians what God says about Marriage matters totally. The human person bears an image of God. God created mankind in His own image, male and female he created them.

            So “….give to God what belongs to God”. We cannot put ourselves in the place of God. When we do it is an ultimate disaster. Us choosing our own identity and denying our God-given identity ism disaster leading to self-harm an suicide for some. Nobody with any sense would wish that on anyone.

            I am not a Roman Catholic but this homily goes straight to the whole point:
            https://youtu.be/xcxvbAqo9dk

          • Christopher Shell October 29, 2017 at 11:02 am #

            Penelope, please do grasp the netttle.

            The problem certainly does not lie with marriage, since if it did, then the fallout would be seen in all the ages and all the cultures that practise marriage (i.e., most of them). Quite the reverse: marriage is the no.1 thing associated with stability. (You don’t deny that – but it is a truth that works strongly against the rest of your stance.)

            This means that the problem lies not with marriage but with particular cultures. Which is what the Christians have said all along.

            You surely contradict yourself when you hold the following 2 incompatible positions: (1) mounting evidence suggests marital instability; (2) marriage is a good, and should therefore be extended to same-sex couples.

            Divorce rate going up? It depends whether you are talking aggregate or average. The aggregate rate is going down in the long-term graph (though within the last year it went up) because the fewer people marry, the fewer can divorce. These are quite horrible realities and we ought not to be speaking in a clinical way about them. But the worst of the horror is that these realities are unnecessary. Very many societies do not have and have not had this high divorce rate, so there is no need to have it. And today it can be seen that the healthier and happier subcultures still don’t.

            3 independent studies (Greeley, Wiederman, Laumann) as recently as the 1990s showed that the culture most affected by the sexual revolution (USA) even 30 years after that revolution still was able to achieve figures of 80 percent married people never having been unfaithful to their present spouse. This shows the point we always make: that Pandora’s box can alter everything in no time at all (i.e. between the mid-1990s and very shortly after) by astonishing percentages. Yet the changes that helped bring this about (obscene satellite TV and internet, sites encouraging infidelity) were either unremarked, or seen as insignificant, or seen as positive. It as blindingly obvious to me and a few others at the time that these moves were catastrophic. The churches scarcely spoke out. Are there so few people with even the basic insight as to see *likely* consequences, leaving aside the law of unintended consequences which always also comes into play?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 29, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

            Dear Clive
            I don’t quite understand your first sentence. Perhaps you were typing in haste. But I believe it’s postmodernism which claims that gender is performative. I am not an essentialist and would make a distinction between birth/biological sex and gender which can be more fluid.
            I am not sure what this has to with marriage, since, if you accept equal marriage, as I do, then the gender of the spouses is moot.
            Marriage is, I believe, a covenantal, loving, generative relationship, one flesh both in the sense of creating a new kinship group, and in the unitive experience of sexual intimacy. This is provisional, both testaments relativise marriage: Ruth, Naomi and Boaz in the Hebrew Bible; the men and women who left their spouses (temporarily) to accompany Jesus, and Jesus’ own hostility to family. Paul too saw marriage as a remedy for lust and never mentions procreation as a marital good.
            None of my gay friends has ‘chosen’ their identity, any more than you have chosen your straight identity. If we could all choose our identities then there would be no need for reparative therapy and all the abstinent people on Living Out would be married.
            As Christians, our ‘identity’ is in Christ: cis or trans, gay or straight, binary or non binary, intersex or male or female, we are made in God’s image and we try to live according to His purposes.

          • Will Jones October 29, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

            Hi Penelope. Why in your model is the number of spouses not moot too? Nothing in your definition seems to require a limit of two in the marriage. Or did I miss something?

          • David Shepherd October 30, 2017 at 8:03 am #

            Once again, we can observe the ‘equal marriage’ mantra being chanted in the hope that the slogan will stick and become the rallying cry of revisionism. On this comment thread, the litany has been interminable:

            ‘Alternatively — and this is certainly the POV of Christians who advocate equal marriage — doing so is a gospel imperative, not a cultural sop.’

            Of conservative criticisms of the sexual revolution: ‘So it’s infuriating to see them undermined by fervent opposition to equal marriage

            Of liberals articulating their own ethic of sexual purity: ’ It is the call for equal marriage to be celebrated in Church so that all may have access to a Holy, covenantal, self giving relationship.

            ‘That’s the paradox of equal marriage: it’s simultaneously radical and conservative, which is, I suspect, why it’s swept through the West at such speed.

            ’ If the church cares so much about marriage, why hasn’t it fought no-fault divorce and remarriage with anything like the vigor with which it’s fighting equal marriage?’

            ’ I am not sure what this has to with marriage, since, if you accept equal marriage, as I do, then the gender of the spouses is moot.

            James Byron articulated this equality in terms of ‘freedom from unreasonable discrimination on the basis of a fundamental characteristic (regardless of its expression) is a basic right.

            Fair enough. And this was the basis upon which a same-sex couple, Schalke and Kopf took the Austrian government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

            The couple argued (as revisionists do): ‘that in today’s society civil marriage was a union of two persons which encompassed all aspects of their lives, while the procreation and education of children was no longer a decisive element. As the institution of marriage had undergone considerable changes there was no longer any reason to refuse same-sex couples access to marriage.’

            This is probably the most succinct and sincere argument put forth in favour of same-sex marriage. Yet, it was contradicted by Europe’s highest court (which has been ever at the vanguard of LGBT equality) in delivering its judgement in favour of the Austria government and in line with the ruling of its Constitutional Court:

            ‘Neither the principle of equality set forth in the Austrian Federal Constitution nor the European Convention on Human Rights (as evidenced by “men and women” in Article 12) require that the concept of marriage as being geared to the fundamental possibility of parenthood should be extended to relationships of a different kind.

            The European Court of Human Rights found, in its decision of 27 September 1990, No 10843/84, Cossey (concerning the special situation of transgender persons), the restriction on this “traditional” marriage as factually justified and carried out [German translation in ÖJZ 1991, 173 ff. (175)],

            “… that the link to the traditional concept of marriage is a sufficient reason to continue to use biological criteria for determining the sex of a person for the purpose of marriage.”

            [The amendment to the specific issue of transsexuals, which has since been carried out in the meantime, does not make any conclusion to a change in the assessment of the general question at issue here.]

            The fact that same-sex relationships fall within the concept of private life and as such enjoy the protection of Article 8 of the ECHR – which also prohibits discrimination on non-objective grounds (Article 14 of the ECHR) – does not give rise to an obligation to change the law of marriage.

            If revisionists were so concerned about equality, they would realise that the eventual consequence of SSM has been so-called ‘intentional parenthood’ routinely erasing the child’s natural identity from birth certificates, unnecessarily introducing legal recognition of three-parent (or more) ‘families’ and providing legal grounds for lesbian couples to separate children from any involvement with their known, willing and capable biological fathers. (In re: M.C. California; Matter of Q.M. vs. B.C., New York)

            That kind of ‘marriage’ is anything, but equal, so, why don’t revisionists here just drop that inane ‘equal marriage’ slogan once and for all!

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 8:42 am #

            Hi Will
            You missed faithful, forsaking all others. True I didn’t explicitly say the latter, but I hoped it was implicit.

          • Simon Ponsonby October 30, 2017 at 9:19 am #

            Penelope – have you written anything substantial anywhere on how you get to your views re- SSM?
            Rather than read comments here I would really welcome reading ‘your’ fuller thinking.

            In my own understanding of the Christian life, the words you just used are central: Faithful & Forsaking all. To be a Christian is to be Faithful to Christ as revealed in his word, and Forsaking all other claims, desires and allegiances for him. If I am honest, my take on the Liberal push for Christian SSM is a desire to secure God’s blessing without faithfulness to God or forsaking the flesh for him. How can the Lord, or we his priests, bless what he has not created or ordained, and what his Word (and how else do we know his will?) actually condemns. That is something which you of course dont believe, but please explain how you come to such a diametrically opposed position on it.

          • David Runcorn October 30, 2017 at 9:56 am #

            Simon P I would like to be able to respond in more detail but will struggle to find the time. Which is true for all of us. I note you make the same request to Penelope for the basis of her own biblical and theological thinking.I would love to read more from her on this too.
            But please, in passing, why do you have to call the ‘Including’ contributions here a ‘Liberal push’ and claim it is based on faithlessness and forsaking of God? I am careful not to label conservative linking here in any derogatory way. I just don’t feel that genuine attempts at thoughtful biblical engagement here are honoured by that kind of labelling – even where we believe they are profoundly misguided. We may disagree – but we are united in wanting what scripture teaches. Nothing less.

          • Will Jones October 30, 2017 at 11:04 am #

            David S – I share your dislike of the tendentious term equal marriage, and was dismayed to see Ian use it in the post itself, referring to the 2013 Equal Marriage Act!

            David R – I’m glad to hear that you are committed to discerning what scripture says and submitting to it. However, it would be naive to think that all those in the revisionist/including camp are similarly committed to the authority of scripture. As we have seen, the large majority of ‘including’ biblical scholars regard the Bible as against same-sex sex and, as such, in error. ‘Liberal push’ also seems a fair (and in the circumstances polite) description of the recent antics of revisionists to short circuit the theological discernment process and force the issue.

          • David Runcorn October 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

            Will
            You write – ‘As we have seen, the large majority of ‘including’ biblical scholars regard the Bible as against same-sex sex and, as such, in error.’ The first part is true – the second part ‘as such, in error’ is a very wide generalisation. Among evangelical biblical scholars holding an including view it is not the case at all. I think using a phrase like ‘liberal push’ when you are writing to someone on this thread who is an evangelical is what I am struggling with.
            As to naive – well OK – but I think it also be naive to claim that all conservative approaches on this subject are an accurate, theologically interpretations of scripture.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

            Hi Christopher
            Empirical evidence tells me that I would be very foolish to grasp the nettle.
            We both agree that marriage, particularly, in a religious context, is the chief predictor of health and happiness. I, and others, would like to extend that to same-sex couples, so that they may share the same goods.

          • Will Jones October 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

            Penelope – the problem with your definition is that it fails to engage with the natural phenomena of man and woman and how those natural categories of creation relate to sexuality, procreation and parenthood. It fails to do justice to the sexed nature of humankind as God has created it and the place of marriage in that. For the same reason its interpretations of scripture are stretched beyond breaking point.

            Another point to be aware of is that I know from your point of view marriage is not the only legitimate form of sexual relationship, and this is common to many in the revisionist/including camp. This means that when you talk about the features of marriage you’re not talking about the features of all legitimate sexual relationships but only a subgroup of them. The rest you will presumably have other ideas about what makes them morally acceptable. The point though is that we’re really not talking about the same thing, since we’re talking about marriage as the legitimate form of sexual relationship, whereas for you it is just one form of legitimate sexual relationship. This further indicates how far your position is from biblical teaching and the biblical ideal of chastity.

          • Simon Ponsonby October 30, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

            David R- thank you- as always you attempt to be irenic. My use of liberal is not an insult but a description – liberal suggests to me the opposite of conservative, it suggests new, revised, progressive and permissive. In that sense I use it. As I said earlier – if we end up with two opposing interpretations of a text, they cannot both be faithful. Given that the SSM argument tends to be driven fiest and foremost by what SSA people want rather than out of scripture and the principle “what does God want”? It makes me suspect they are not being faithful to the text but firstly to themselves. I have asked you and Penelope if anywhere you have written any more on this because I am still listening and reading. But for me the argument must be at the level of scripture and thus far I see no argument to even nudge the traditional one let alone make it volce-face. David, either you and Penelope we al are right or Christopher, Will moi et al are – both diametrically opposite views cannot both be faithful to scripture – too great a gulf between us.

          • Christopher Shell October 30, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

            Penelope, SSM is a quite different reality from natural biological marriage. Therefore the former is not an extension of the latter, because phenomenologically there are too many differences. Any goods in the latter will therefore not automatically be transferred to the former, though of course there are some that may be.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

            Dear Simon (and David)
            I have not written anything substantial and am a bit busy for anything more than a brief reply at the moment. But I will try to gather some thoughts.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

            Christopher
            I don’t know what you mean by natural, biological marriage. Is there such a thing?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

            Hi Will
            I am not sure that being Bacall chastity exists any means re than biblical marriage. But I am interested in your inference that I believe marriage is not the only legitimate form of sexual relationship. I am not claiming that this might not be so, but have we had this conversation?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

            Sorry, Will biblical, not Bacall! Peculiar autocorrect.

          • Will Jones October 30, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

            Hi Penelope. This was something we had an exchange about on a previous occasion if memory serves, though do correct any misrepresentation.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

            Hi Will
            Yes, I had a vague memory that we had. I do not know if being liberal about sexual ethics is common in the ‘revisionist camp’. It may be.
            I do believe in chastity and fidelity. I do not believe pre marital sex is (always) sinful, and I know of several mature couples – two of them Christians – who live together but are not (officially) married. I do not know why any of them have chosen this, but I regard none of them as unchaste. I have probably also given my view before that since marriage is a ‘sacrament’ of which the couple are themselves ministers, then couples who live together may be married.
            The reason I don’t think my rather moderate views are relevant is that the more permissive you are, the less likely you are to support marriage. In a way I am surprised by the strength of move for SSM in Church, or at least blessings. It is rather conservative and counter cultural. It may save marriage rather than destroy it

          • Clive October 30, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

            Dear Penelope

            It was you who connected sex and gender together, nobody else, when you said:
            “Christopher
            1) mixed-sex marriages are between couple of different sexes/genders; same-sex marriages are between couples of the same sex/gender.”

            You wrote “sexes/gender” and again “sex/gender” in the same sentence.

            You have then said:
            “Dear Clive
            I don’t quite understand your first sentence. Perhaps you were typing in haste. But I believe it’s postmodernism which claims that gender is performative. I am not an essentialist and would make a distinction between birth/biological sex and gender which can be more fluid.”

            So it is now you who is trying to backtrack and say that sex and gender are not the same.

            The essence of transgenderism is the idea that a male person can choose to be female and a femal person can choose to be male. Which makes everything absurd. Therefore I am not going to answer your seeming question as it is reduced to a means of dismissing the response.

          • Christopher Shell October 31, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

            Penelope – good question. ‘Natural biological marriage’ is to all intents and purposes the same thing as sex. So I was, on reflection, being very mealy-mouthed – a thing I don’t usually like.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 31, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

            Dear Clive
            I do not believe that gender is wholly performative, but nor do I believe that sex/gender completely map onto each other.
            I used sex/gender in my reply to Christopher in order to be inclusive and also to be generous.
            I think you are wrong about the ‘essence’ of transgender. It is not about choice. Nor do I believe that it makes ‘everything’ absurd. How could it?

          • Clive October 31, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

            Sadly Penelope, you clearly haven’t thought through the logic required by transgenderism so you haven’t even noticed the essential misogyny that comes with it and I suspect you don’t wish to.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe October 31, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

            Misogyny Clive? Are you a TERF?

        • David Runcorn October 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

          Simon P Thanks for you response. I do try hard to be eirenic so I am grateful you feel I am … but …
          ‘Given that the SSM argument tends to be driven first and foremost by what SSA people want rather than out of scripture and the principle “what does God want”? ‘
          I wonder if you can see how this kind of statement makes me feel like not bothering to engage here? I have suggested before you seem to suggest that being faithful is only possible if you are also ‘right’. Which leaves us both stuffed actually.
          I very strongly reject your statement as a summary of SSM approaches to scripture. I struggling not to feel very offended by it as a summary of my own position having tried very carefully over these threads to share how I approach scripture on this issue. Please.

          • Simon Ponsonby October 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

            David – You take offence where none was intended. I am sad I made you struggle not to be ‘very offended’. I lack your grace and tone. I can now see how my hasty and clumsy phrasing could offend – however, do you not also see that we who hold the traditional view, might feel offended too – on the end of a constant intimidation on many fronts – relentless attrition to compromise what we believe and accommodate to the prevailing view; we feel pushed into a corner, silenced, insinuated that we are not loving, that we are bigoted, dogmatic, ungracious, when all we are trying to do is be faithful to Scripture and the long and widest christian tradition of Interpretation. Now, my point above that offended you was based on my experience (and others have told me the same) that I know of no-one who has changed their mind and come to affirm SS relations FROM simply reading the Bible and discovering such themes clearly taught. I know several who have changed their mind from traditional reading to revisionist, but in every case they or a friend of family member came out, and they then re-read Scripture with different spectacles, indeed they went searching trying to find a basis to affirm. I simply think they read an affirmation that isn’t there because they are already inclined to. I asked you specifically if you had elsewhere written on this, or could send me a link/paper, because I respect you and what you say and how you say it and want to understand where ur coming from. sincerely –

          • David Runcorn October 30, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

            Dear Simon P,

            Thank you for your generous reply and for hearing my response. There are deep feelings on all sides. I always read you with care and respect. I hope you do not find me intimidating. And that is who this discussion is with, no one on this thread from an including perspective is trying to intimidate. I know some very aggressive conservative voices on other web sites (and sometimes here) that are actually quite frightening in their anger and views. Bear in mind the gay community itself still endures a great deal of hostility and actual violence.
            Have you read my piece in the Pilling report? – a few years old now and thinking develops. It also pre-dates the equal marriage debate. Let me know. I could email you some stuff. Grace and peace my brother in Christ.

          • simon October 30, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

            Thank you David – No, you are not intimidating, which is why I am keen to hear your voice.
            I have now located your piece in Pilling and will read carefully this evening. Earlier you questioned my use of the term “Liberal Push” – I was in fact echoing the earlier post by Simon Butler in the thread who spoke of his ‘progressive christian group’ ( that’s Liberal to me) and ‘persistent push’ = thus my term ‘Liberal Push’. Yes, I accept that there is aggression on all sides – whether up-front or passive. These are not trifling matters to any of us.

          • David Shepherd October 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

            Simon P,

            David R’s appendix to the Pilling Report is definitely worth a read, as is the Bishop Keith Sinclair’s eloquent dissenting statement.

            You may also want to read this comment thread afterwards: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/how-do-we-journey-in-grace-and-truth/#comment-340213

          • David Runcorn October 31, 2017 at 6:26 am #

            Just to clarify that +Keith’s appendix statement in Pilling (one of two from him that the Pilling included in the report incidentally) was not a response to mine. We were simply printed side by side in the appendix and I was specifically asked not to respond to his statement although I had seen a draft of it. I’m not sure if I am still bound by that agreement but have never publicly engaged with what he wrote there – though the points he argues are familiar to this debate here and elsewhere.

          • Simon Ponsonby October 31, 2017 at 7:08 am #

            Thanks David S & David R – I read David’s Pilling Appendix last night and the thread linked by DavidS. Will read +Keith’s this morning. I can see now why you, David R, were offended at the suggestion of mine that folk bring an apriori commitment to finding pro-gay theology to the text – I think many do – but I think you come with love and respect to it. I found your appendix David ‘care-full’ – full of care and crafted with respect for people and the text and the Lord and the debate. I think you are of ‘a different spirit’ than most. It felt compassionate but not compelling in terms of persuasive argument. Sorry. But I want to read it again before replying more. Thank you

          • David Runcorn October 31, 2017 at 11:50 am #

            Simon P. Thank you for the warmth of your response to my attempts to explore this in Pilling. I really appreciate it. But I really do not believe my own approach is that exceptional among evo ‘includers’.
            My web page is playing up at them moment but I wrote a related piece that the CEN printed a while back – ‘And how do I know when I am wrong – Evangelical faith and the bible’ – which is obviously a key question when being challenged to revisit long held convictions. It should come up here:
            http://www.davidruncorn.com/Davd_Runcorn/And_how_do_I_know_when_I_am_wrong.html
            Would value your thoughts on that. Thank you again.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe November 1, 2017 at 11:50 am #

            Dear Simon P and David R

            At last, some thoughts. I hope they clarify.

            I suppose there are two questions: what do I think marriage is? and what do I think the Bible says about same-sex relationships?

            These are still rather sketchy thoughts, but to give you an idea of where I am. Firstly marriage. I do not know whether marriage is a creation ordinance, not if it is a sacrament. Jesus (at least according to Mark and Matthew) seems to believe that it is the former though these passages are about the licitness of divorce and are not, I think, meant to be a ‘theology of Christian marriage’; a weight they are often forced to bear. I think part of the problem of seeing marriage as a creation ordinance is that we may then fall prey to the progressive myth that we have (only recently) achieved what God intended all along. There are many models of biblical and traditional marriage and few bear any resemblance to modern, equal, companionate western marriage. Indeed, we forget how recently achieved some of these equalities are, or how white and western they are. Biblical marriage was a secular institution and it was to be so for another 1000 years or so before it was deemed a sacrament. And (a bit of a generalisation, but) marriage and family were not seen as the Christian vocation until the Reformation in western Europe. The one flesh imagery of Genesis denotes both sexual intimacy and the creation of a new kinship bond (though it is odd that the man is told he must leave his mother and father when, conventionally, it was the woman who did so). This bond is relativised in both testaments, however. Ruth and Naomi’s relationship is more significant than Ruth and Boaz’s. I am not suggesting that it is a lesbian relationship, but that their bond is more profound than the marriage to Boaz which serves to ensure Ruth’s place and Ruth and Naomi’s inheritance.

            In the NT, the marriage/family bonds are often queried. In Matthew 19, Jesus moves on from talk of divorce to the alternative kinship and vocational roles of eunuchs. He tells his followers that they must hate their blood family, asks whom his own mother and siblings are, and is followed and supported by a group who have (at least temporarily) left their spouses – Joanna, Peter; or who may be divorced or widowed – Mary of Magdala? Paul sees celibacy as the greatest gift, but commends marriage as a remedy for lust. There is no theology on its procreative purposes. The Pastorals and catholic epistles have more ‘conventionally Christian’ teaching on marriage, since they are from a second generation and they may, in part, be responding to Christian asceticism of the sort portrayed in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. True, Ephesians and Revelation give a more positive picture of marriage, but it is a metaphor for Christ and the Church, and a rather queer one at that. I can see no reason why the unitive and generative nature of marriage cannot accommodate same-sex couples as well as it does mixed-sex couples. but, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

            Secondly, biblical references to same-sex relationships. Arguably, there are none. The sin of Sodom, if it is not inhospitality, is the desire for gang rape. Male on male rape was, and is, intended to humiliate and to unman the victims. Lot offering his virgin daughters instead further muddies the morality of the narrative. The fear of males being penetrated, being unmanned, may also lie behind the Levitical prohibitions. They are described as an abomination, but so are other things which we should not regard as abominable. Are they a reference to, perceived, Canaanite practices and therefore a boundary marker? Are they a prohibition of mixing kinds (cf. Daniel Boyarin). It seems that whatever their referent, they do not describe faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships. The two references in the NT (if we exclude 1 Tim as reliant on Paul and Jude as obscure) are in 1 Cor and Romans. So many litres of ink have been spilt on these that I will be brief. I think it is likely that the neologism arsenokoites is probably coined from mishkav zakur (lying with a male) and that this therefore refers to the Levitical prohibitions. Malakos would probably then refer to the passive partner. But this tells us nothing about relationships and only denotes (probably) one particular sexual activity. Amidst all the wealth of scholarship on Romans 1, are two readings which I find interesting. The Catholic scholar, James Alison http://jamesalison.co.uk/texts/but-the-bible-says/#more-537, and Professor Douglas Campbell’s reading in The Deliverance of God. In his rhetorical reading, Campbell reads Romans 1 as a diatribe by the false teacher (in Rome) whom Paul is then combatting in Rom 2. It is not a reading which has convinced many scholars (I am not sure I am fully convinced), but it is worth considering, particularly since, as a revisionist reading, it is not at all concerned with sexuality per se, but about how we should read Paul’s gospel apocalyptically and rhetorically.

            Overall, I believe that we read the Bible as a heteronormative text because we have come to believe that heteronormativity is normal, natural and God-given. I think the Bible is a much queerer text than that, and this does not mean that every same-sex relationship in the text has to be read homoerotically.

            Further, I agree with David R., that this is not that. See also Helen King on same-sex relationships in antiquity https://sharedconversations.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/pausanias-and-agathon-a-same-sex-relationship/. Which is why I get antsy when some conservative commentators try to shut down argument by saying things like: “we all know what the texts mean”; “we all know that Paul and the NT world knew about same-sex relationships”. No we don’t. I think we have reached something of an impasse on biblical scholarship, however, and may have to look elsewhere for light.

            Finally, I don’t believe that two faithful, but different interpretations of the texts are impossible. We have interpreted these texts in various ways for two millennia and we have even questioned the authority of certain texts (as Luther did!). I do not believe this is a salvation issue, to me that is to make a ‘works’ of correct belief. For now we see through a glass darkly, we may all be surprised at the eschaton.

          • Simon November 2, 2017 at 10:14 am #

            Thanks so much Penelope – just found these now so will enjoy reading carefully later – I appreciate you taking the time to flesh this out for me – sincerely – simon

          • David Runcorn November 2, 2017 at 10:30 am #

            My thanks too Penelope.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe November 2, 2017 at 11:27 am #

            Hello Simon and David
            It’s all a bit cursory and I’ve left stuff out. But woul welcome comments if you have the time.

          • Will Jones November 3, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

            Hi Penelope

            ‘There are many models of biblical and traditional marriage and few bear any resemblance to modern, equal, companionate western marriage.’

            This is clearly overstated. Any resemblance? Some surely! Being mixed sex, for instance.

            ‘True, Ephesians and Revelation give a more positive picture of marriage, but it is a metaphor for Christ and the Church, and a rather queer one at that.’

            Yet this surely undermines your argument from scripture against the spiritual significance of marriage.

            ‘I can see no reason why the unitive and generative nature of marriage cannot accommodate same-sex couples as well as it does mixed-sex couples.’

            This is obviously a wrongheaded statement – only man and woman can become one flesh through the union of their generative organs and thereby produce offspring.

            You appear to agree that scripture condemns same-sex sex but argue that this doesn’t mean it condemns forms of same-sex sexual relationships of which they were unaware. I’m sorry but this argument just doesn’t cut it – it’s the form of sexual behaviour they are condemning, not its context. Do you think they would have approved of Naomi and Ruth being sexual, or David and Jonathan, within their covenant relationships? We have to apply biblical principles to ‘new’ situations in sensible and coherent ways. And that means that a blanket ban on same-sex sex remains just that, including among people who commit to one another in a kind of friendship imitation of marriage.

          • David Runcorn November 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

            Will. ‘it’s the form of sexual behaviour they are condemning, not its context’.
            It’s must be both in my view? ‘A text without context is a pretext’ is the old evo saying. This is crucial for faithful exegesis. Let’s take the Leviticus prohibition text as a background. The first question is always (and everywhere) – ‘what behaviour is the text actually describing here’ (so far as we can certain through translation). The next question is – ‘why was it being prohibited’? In the light of our answers to q1&2 we then ask (as we do of other texts in Leviticus) – ‘is this prohibition relevant and binding today’?
            Finally – once those three are explored, we need to ask – ‘in what way is this text and its teaching relevant and applicable to contemporary expressions of faithful, loving, mutually -committed same-sex relationships today?

          • Will Jones November 3, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

            Hi David.

            But even after following that process through you still have the problem that (if you’ll pardon the expression) you can’t sanctify sodomy. It’s still unnatural, high risk sexual behaviour that is contrary to God’s moral law.

            You also do great violence to biblical depictions of marriage to try to make them gender neutral.

          • David Shepherd November 3, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

            ‘(if you’ll pardon the expression) you can’t sanctify sodomy.’

            Unless, of course, you side-step deontological arguments to cast ‘faithful, loving, mutually-committed same-sex couples’ as exemplars of virtue ethics.

            However, as various scholars explain below, virtue ethics is a flawed moral framework:

            1. ‘Due to the very nature of the moral virtues, there is thus a very limited amount of advice on moral quandaries that one can reasonably expect from the virtue-oriented approach. Robert Louden, “Some Vices of Virtue Ethics”

            2. ‘another reason for making sure that our ethical theory allows us to talk about features of acts and their results in abstraction from the agent, in his conception of what he is doing, is that sometimes even the best person can make the wrong choices. There are cases in which a man’s choice is grounded in the best possible information, his motives honorable, and his action not at all out of character. And yet his best laid plans may go sour. ut supra

            3. ‘A third reason for insisting that our moral theory enable us to assess acts in abstraction from agents is that we need to be able to identify certain types of action which produce harms of such magnitude that they destroy the bonds of community and render (at least temporarily) the achievement of moral goods impossible. ut supra

            4. ‘the focus on good and bad agents rather than on right and wrong actions may lead to a peculiar sort of moral backsliding. Because the emphasis in agent ethics is on long-term, characteristic patterns of behavior, its advocates run the risk of overlooking occasional lies or acts of selfishness on the ground that such performances are mere temporary aberrations—acts out of character.’ ut supra

            5. ‘.although one’s attitudes, emotions, reactive capacities, and skills are or can to some extent be developed by will, no effort of will, however sustained, is sufficient for their development. Character is the product not only of voluntary action but also of the activity of temperament, along with upbringing, childhood experiences, social environment, peer expectations, and pure happenstance. And not only temperament but all of these things are not themselves the product of some exercise of agency, whether voluntary or nonvoluntary. Hence, no Aristotelian account of responsibility for character can succeed.’ Gregory Trianosky, Natural Affection and Responsibility for Character.

          • David Runcorn November 3, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

            Will I think if you ‘follow that process’ you do not end up with that ‘problem’ at all.
            But no I don’t think I can pardon the expression actually. Quite apart from unnecessarily coarsening this debate, Sodom has nothing at all to do with homosexual relationships. The attaching of that name and story of attempted gang rape to homosexual communities is not only dreadful exegesis – and from the very corner of the church claiming to be the most biblical – it has been the cause of appalling, violent treatment of gay folk ever since. I can’t believe you are not aware of this. So I’m out.

          • Will Jones November 3, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

            Hi David

            I apologise for any offence, but the point of using the traditional term was to show the massive difficulty your approach has for anyone who regards that activity as intrinsically morally problematic. That’s how what you’re proposing often feels to conservatives – sanctifying something morally obscene.

            Given that Penelope describes the marriage of Christ and the church as queer I would have thought we all need to be able to handle a little unwelcome terminology among our opponents if it is used to make a point.

          • David Shepherd November 3, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

            Your response is a perfect example of virtue ethics rhetoric: bypassing, as it does, any ‘talk about features of acts and their results in abstraction from the agent’ for fear of what you call ‘coarsening this debate’.

            Will did not attach the name and story of Sodom to ‘homosexual communities’, but to the same-sex sexual act itself.

            Yet to top it all off, you finally insinuate that his argument is complicit with homophobia, which is a lazy, thoughtless and unjustified ‘ad hominen’.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe November 5, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

            Hi Will
            Just picked this up, so a few points. I think maybe the only semblance between ‘biblical’ marriage and contemporary marriage is the mixed sex framework! And not simply biblical marriage but traditional marriage until very recently.
            I do think marriage (and it is again asymmetric) is used as a metaphor in Ephesians and Revelation. I do think it is a queer metaphor since half the brides are male. I am sorry if you find queering these texts offensive. Perhaps queer is offensive only if you find being queer intrinsically immoral. I find reading them as heteronormative fairly offensive and morally problematic.
            I do not believe that unitive and generative sex must be procreative. I have no children, but my union with my husband is still one flesh. Gay friends assure me that their unions are, indeed, one flesh.
            I do not find what you call ‘sodomy’ (and I’m afraid I share David R’s objections to this term, not least because it is a misnomer) morally problematic. It is enjoyed by heterosexual couples; it is not enjoyed by all gay couples and never by lesbians. So no one here is trying to sanctify something which is morally obscene. Unpalatable maybe, but not immoral.

  19. Christine October 26, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

    Correction – ( I should have put ‘and continues ‘ in brackets.

  20. David Runcorn October 27, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    Simon Greetings and thank you for engaging. Some brief responses. Aren’t you in danger of saying we are only being faithful when we are totally right/ inerrant? One example – I would never deny South African evangelicals in the apartheid era sought nothing more than to be utterly faithful to the Word as they read it – but have since come to repent of their understanding of what it taught about racism and how it led them to support a godless ideology as ‘Christian’. They were faithful to what they understood the text to teach. So are we aren’t we? – and our understanding needs constantly revisiting and testing. We see through the glass darkly.
    There is nothing new in evangelicals believing different things of scripture. Our unity is in Christ not in thinking the same things.
    I have two sayings that I treasure.
    ‘My confidence is not in the certainty of being right, but rather on the grace and mercy of God, before whom I have sought truth as best I can.’ (anon) and
    ‘I believe the desire to please you, does in fact please you – and I hope I have that desire in all I do …’ (Thomas Merton praying in a context of considerable bewilderment).

    • Simon October 27, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

      David – true – so this brings us back to the Bible and prayer and asking God to reveal his will from his word to us.
      We need humility in ourselves but a recognition of the authority in God’s word. For me, the arguments marshalled to dismiss the traditional reading of the Texts used to proscribe homosexual acts are not compelling. The arguments from scripture elsewhere to support homosexual acts are not compelling, indeed they do severe violence to the text. No argument has ever in any way challenged my traditional reading of the text. I am open to being wrong, truly I am. I would really appreciate reading your fully fleshed out Biblical justification of homosexual acts. I wonder if Ian might host this as a blog post? Or if you have written at length somewhere I will read it.

  21. David Runcorn November 4, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Will Thank you for your apology and for clarifying your intention behind your choice of words. I assure you I always read you with care and respect here. I also live in hope that we both recognise that David Shepherd’s response to me on your behalf seems to be based on a near total misunderstanding of our exchange. Thank you again.

    • David Shepherd November 4, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      I misunderstood nothing. Your resort to being vicariously offended here on behalf of LGBT persons is nothing new.

      • Penelope Cowell Doe November 5, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

        I cannot speak for David R., but I continue to be shocked by your traducing our gay brothers and sisters in a Christ and by your contempt of our concern for them.

        • David Shepherd November 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

          Penelope,

          I have equal contempt for the debating tactic of insinuating homophobia at every turn. Nevertheless, here are my response to excerpts from your comment posted here on 1st November at 11:50am:

          ‘Jesus (at least according to Mark and Matthew) seems to believe that it is the former though these passages are about the licitness of divorce and are not, I think, meant to be a ‘theology of Christian marriage’; a weight they are often forced to bear.’

          Given that, in St. Paul’s instructions to Christian spouses, St. Paul (Eph. 5:22-32) quotes the self-same scripture to which Jesus referred, there are good grounds for the Genesis narrative to be understood as central to the ‘theology of Christian marriage’.

          ’ I think part of the problem of seeing marriage as a creation ordinance is that we may then fall prey to the progressive myth that we have (only recently) achieved what God intended all along. There are many models of biblical and traditional marriage and few bear any resemblance to modern, equal, companionate western marriage.

          Without positive affirmation, the biblical accounts of divinely tolerated family arrangements do not add up models. If there is an OT model, it is the Genesis narrative, which is exemplified by God’s enduring covenant of exclusive mutual devotion to Israel.

          As an aside, the other progressive myth to which revisionists fall prey is that the equality of modern, companionate western marriage should also preclude differentiation based on essential biology.

          The 2014 New York case, Q.M. v. B.C. and J.S., P-13761-13, is a perfect modern-day example of how such wrong-headedness can be pursued in the name of equality.

          And (a bit of a generalisation, but) marriage and family were not seen as the Christian vocation until the Reformation in western Europe.

          This generalisation is false. Consider that in 412 AD, long before the Reformation, St. Augustine wrote his Anti-Manichaen treatise, On Continence, in which he cited the same Ephesian passage (Eph. 5:22-32) in defence of marriage and family. Of course, there were the ascetic debates between Jerome and Justinian, but among his other treatises, Augustine’s The Good of Marriage was embraced as the orthodox position of the Church, in which marriage and family are very much a part of the Christian vocation.

          The one flesh imagery of Genesis denotes both sexual intimacy and the creation of a new kinship bond (though it is odd that the man is told he must leave his mother and father when, conventionally, it was the woman who did so). This bond is relativised in both testaments, however Ruth and Naomi’s relationship is more significant than Ruth and Boaz’s. I am not suggesting that it is a lesbian relationship, but that their bond is more profound than the marriage to Boaz which serves to ensure Ruth’s place and Ruth and Naomi’s inheritance.

          Given that God constantly portrays Himself as Israel’s husband and idolatrous practices as a type of adultery, a prominent strand in story of Ruth is not sufficiently strong evidence that the bond of marriage is relativized.

          ’ In the NT, the marriage/family bonds are often queried. In Matthew 19, Jesus moves on from talk of divorce to the alternative kinship and vocational roles of eunuchs.’
          Here, a single verse in which Christ addresses the vocation to celibacy as an alternative to marriage (Matt. 19:12) should not be extrapolated into divine permission for any modern-day ‘alternative kinship’ arrangements.

          He tells his followers that they must hate their blood family, asks whom his own mother and siblings are, and is followed and supported by a group who have (at least temporarily) left their spouses – Joanna, Peter; or who may be divorced or widowed – Mary of Magdala? Paul sees celibacy as the greatest gift, but commends marriage as a remedy for lust.

          While Christ emphasises that loyalty to His radical message had the potential to incur hostility among family, He still presents this as inadvertent, rather than intentional. He also rejected the undermining of the marriage through desertion and divorce for trivial reasons.
          In opposition to ascetic practices, we read in Hebrews that: ‘Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.’ (Heb. 13:4)

          Jesus also rejected the use of Corban as an exemption from the explicit fifth commandment to care for one’s parents (Mark 7:9-13) In fact, St. Paul went as far as to condemn such dereliction of kinship responsibility (1 Tim. 5:8)

          There is no theology on its procreative purposes.

          Contrary to this notion, St. Paul insists that marriage is a spiritual conduit for imparting sanctification to both unbelieving spouses and offspring ‘For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.’

          The Pastorals and catholic epistles have more ‘conventionally Christian’ teaching on marriage, since they are from a second generation and they may, in part, be responding to Christian asceticism of the sort portrayed in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. True, Ephesians and Revelation give a more positive picture of marriage, but it is a metaphor for Christ and the Church, and a rather queer one at that. I can see no reason why the unitive and generative nature of marriage cannot accommodate same-sex couples as well as it does mixed-sex couples. but, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

          This is sheer ‘question-begging’ when the very question under debate is whether same-sex couples are capable of participating in the unitive and generative nature of marriage.

          Secondly, biblical references to same-sex relationships. Arguably, there are none. The sin of Sodom, if it is not inhospitality, is the desire for gang rape. Male on male rape was, and is, intended to humiliate and to unman the victims. Lot offering his virgin daughters instead further muddies the morality of the narrative. The fear of males being penetrated, being unmanned, may also lie behind the Levitical prohibitions. They are described as an abomination, but so are other things which we should not regard as abominable. Are they a reference to, perceived, Canaanite practices and therefore a boundary marker? Are they a prohibition of mixing kinds (cf. Daniel Boyarin). It seems that whatever their referent, they do not describe faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships.

          Jude declared that not only Sodom and Gomorrah, but also the surrounding cities were condemned for ‘going after strange flesh’ (Jude 1:7) This must therefore refer to same-sex sex, rather than angelic sex, since the similarly condemned surrounding cities did not receive the angelic visitation.

          Faithful mutuality and the word ‘relationship’ don’t magically impart goodness and holiness to the very same-sex sexual acts that the Bible condemns. Certainly, Christ saw no virtue in mutuality when He explained: ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.’ (Luke 6:32)

          The two references in the NT (if we exclude 1 Tim as reliant on Paul and Jude as obscure) are in 1 Cor and Romans. So many litres of ink have been spilt on these that I will be brief. I think it is likely that the neologism arsenokoites is probably coined from mishkav zakur (lying with a male) and that this therefore refers to the Levitical prohibitions. Malakos would probably then refer to the passive partner. But this tells us nothing about relationships and only denotes (probably) one particular sexual activity.

          Amidst all the wealth of scholarship on Romans 1, are two readings which I find interesting. The Catholic scholar, James Alison…, and Professor Douglas Campbell’s reading in The Deliverance of God. In his rhetorical reading, Campbell reads Romans 1 as a diatribe by the false teacher (in Rome) whom Paul is then combatting in Rom 2. It is not a reading which has convinced many scholars (I am not sure I am fully convinced), but it is worth considering, particularly since, as a revisionist reading, it is not at all concerned with sexuality per se, but about how we should read Paul’s gospel apocalyptically and rhetorically.

          We can accept that the arsenokoites neologism is a shorthand of the LXX Levitical prohibition (Lev. 18:20) arsenos ou…koite). If so, St. Paul’s condemnation extends beyond its original scope of free Israelites to encompass Gentiles.
          Additionally, in Romans, Paul uses the phrase: ‘para phusin’ to describe joining which is contrary to intrinsic physical characterisitcs: both same-sex sexual joining and the joining of a wild olive bud into a cultivated olive tree (Rom. 11:24)

          Further, I agree with David R., that this is not that. See also Helen King on same-sex relationships in antiquity https://sharedconversations.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/pausanias-and-agathon-a-same-sex-relationship/. Which is why I get antsy when some conservative commentators try to shut down argument by saying things like: “we all know what the texts mean”; “we all know that Paul and the NT world knew about same-sex relationships”. No we don’t. I think we have reached something of an impasse on biblical scholarship, however, and may have to look elsewhere for light.

          As I wrote earlier, ‘Faithful mutuality and the word ‘relationship’ don’t magically impart goodness and holiness to the very same-sex sexual acts that the Bible does condemn’.

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