Can we find a way forward for LLF together?

Andrew Goddard writes: In this article, I offer a summary of what happened at General Synod in February and its procedural consequences.

I then look at the recently announced structures for taking LLF/PLF forward and set them out in the context of the past structures and a review of the past motions of General Synod.

This review shows that taking these motions as the basis going forward is not particularly helpful since:

  • they have either been implemented or in part already been ignored;
  • there is no Synodical decision as to what the Guidance should say concerning the pattern of life of clergy; and
  • it is recognised that both law and doctrine severely constrain possible further changes in relation to standalone services and presenting different guidance for clergy.

Faced with this, I then offer a set of statements which might begin to help us find a way forward together, arising in part out of conversations with various people holding a range of views. These seek to set out (in a way that people of different perspectives might be able to agree with or disagree with and propose changes to) an account that

a. acknowledges honestly our differences and where we now find ourselves in the LLF/PLF process and

b. finds some degree of agreement in relation to principles which might guide how we now address the central divisive questions we currently face in terms of standalone services, pastoral guidance, and structural provision.  

What happened at General Synod?

The decision of General Synod to vote to move to next business rather than vote on the motion (as amended) on Living in Love and Faith (LLF) has seemingly confirmed that the Church of England is now well and truly “stuck”, even more so than it was after the July 2023 Synod, and stuck where really nobody wants to be.

Under Standing Order 33 of General Synod, it is now not in order

to reconsider the original question in the same form or in a form which is, in the opinion of the Business Committee, substantially similar within the remainder of the lifetime of the Synod, except with the permission of the Business Committee and the general consent of the Synod.

For LLF to return to the floor of Synod, the Business Committee needs to have been provided with a new proposal and then “make a report in writing to the Synod setting out a summary of the case for reconsideration and its reasons for giving permission”.

The motion on LLF proposed by the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, based on his paper (GS 2346, about which I wrote here), read

That this Synod welcome the further work carried out on Living in Love and Faith and the focus on reconciliation and bridge building; and ask that the proposal for a set of commitments through which the whole Church can continue to pursue the implementation of the motions previously passed by Synod on Living in Love and Faith, be brought back to Synod as soon as possible.

Two amendments were carried on a show of hands – to replace “welcome” with “note” and to insert “and welcome the greater emphasis on openness and transparency” after “bridge-building”. Two amendments were defeated in all 3 Houses:

  • To insert “and acknowledge that for many in the Church of England, including members of General Synod, some of the issues raised are not matters on which they can simply agree to disagree” after “bridge-building”.  The vote here was 8-20-2 among bishops, 83-92-2 among clergy, and 86-98-1 among laity (totalling 177-210-5).
  • To leave out “the proposal for a set of commitments through which the whole Church can continue to pursue the implementation of the motions previously passed by Synod on Living in Love” and insert “proposals for a set of commitments together with a settlement based on legally secure pastoral provision”. The vote here was even more strongly against: 8-24-2 (B), 78-98-8 (C), 81-100-7 (L) totalling 167-222-17).

The final vote to move to next business was very clear and united people across the divides concerning how to proceed: 27-4-3 (B), 150-29-9 (C), 145-36-8 (L) totalling 322-69-20.

What are the new LLF/PLF structures?

Two weeks ago on 8th March it was announced how the LLF/PLF work would be taken forward. There will be a new Programme Board comprising the Bishop of Leicester as lead bishop (it is unclear whether attempts to find a replacement to co-lead have been abandoned), bishops convening working groups, and senior staff (presumably including the two interim theological advisers and members of the Legal Office). This is, in effect, the fifth oversight group of the LLF process since 2017 following:

  • the LLF Co-Ordinating Group (November 2017 to November 2020, originally described as working on an Episcopal Teaching Document and working alongside the Pastoral Advisory Group) chaired by the then Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth. This comprised bishops and consultants and oversaw four episcopally-led working groups and produced the LLF resources (see more details here)
  • The Next Steps Group (Nov 2020 to March 2023) chaired by the Bishop of London and comprised only of bishops with Eeva John continuing as a full-time staff member until March 2023.
  • The Steering Group (March 2023-Nov 2023) co-chaired by the Bishops of London and Truro (now Winchester) and involving the two episcopal co-chairs of each of the three implementation groups (with both episcopal and clergy and a few lay members and ToR) that were originally appointed to work until October 2023 and met in April, May and June when they were summarily disbanded before the July General Synod.
  • The Bishops of Newcastle and Leicester became the Two Co-Leads (Nov 2023-Feb 2024) until the resignation of the Bishop of Newcastle. Nick Shepherd was appointed Programme Director and in January 2024 began “Secondment to Archbishops’ Council Central Secretariat responsible for coordinating, integrating and facilitating implementation of work across the Church on the next phase of Living in Love and Faith”.

This new group will oversee what appears to be in effect the resurrection of the Implementation Groups created a year ago. These will now be chaired by just one bishop each and comprised only of members of General Synod who have been invited to apply to be part of them.  The aim is, as in 2023, for these groups to meet three times (or more) before the July meeting but with a residential in early May to produce materials for the May meeting of the House of Bishops and then the July General Synod. As last year, this is an astonishingly tight time-scale to try to involve a large number of busy people in a complex and highly contested process. There will also be more meetings with stakeholder groups as happened prior to the November 2023 and February 2024 General Synod.

Alongside this, the letter to Synod members has also announced that

We will also be putting in place the two ‘formal’ groups that have already been outlined as required following the commendation of the PLF:

Pastoral Consultative Group – to aid bishops, diocesan staff and others with answers to the broad questions that arise from the implementation of PLF and other LLF work. This group will comprise a small number of bishops, supported by consultants.

Independent Review Panel – to hear concerns about the implementation of the PLF and application of the Pastoral Guidance, and to hold bishops and diocesan staff to account. This is likely to have an initial interim stage and be made up of a panel of people with a range of theological positions and professional experience.

Can’t we just get on and implement Synod’s decisions?

February’s proposed motion referred to “the implementation of the motions previously passed by Synod on Living in Love and Faith” and this perhaps gives a signal as to what might set the agenda for this next phase. It is therefore worth recalling what these address as it shows the problems with setting this as a goal. The February 2023 motion stated:

  • “lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church; recommit to our shared witness to God’s love for and acceptance of every person” All agree on this but have different understandings as to what represents failure or causes harm which in part is related to different understandings as to the pattern of life the church must commend and different understandings of inclusion (as discussed in the LLF book, especially at pp. 223-30 on inclusion and Chpt 12)
  • “by continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally”
    Many believe that in the last year neither the bishops nor General Synod has excelled at accomplishing this aim particularly in relation to paying attention to power.
  • “commend the continued learning together enabled by the Living in Love and Faith process and resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage”
    The bishops have consistently failed to draw on the LLF resources or to make theological learning and explanation a significant part of the discernment process. Although the amendment referring to the reality that for many “some of the issues raised are not matters on which they can simply agree to disagree” was defeated, the fact that 177 people (over 45%) voted for it shows that this area of the nature of our disagreements needs to be addressed and not, as it has been, avoided. Again the LLF materials are helpful (pp. 230-234 of the book, the final conversation in the book, the final session of the course) as is the work it draws upon from the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) on “Communion and Disagreement” (with supporting papers) back in 2016.
  • “welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance”.
    This gives no Synodical guidance as to what the content of the replacement must be.  The fact that the new pastoral guidance already issued includes the clear statement that “The Church of England teaches that Holy Matrimony is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, blessed by God in creation and pointing to the love between Christ and the Church; a way of life which Christ makes holy. It is within marriage that sexual intimacy finds its proper place” (p. 1) has, as is now being acknowledged (in Annex B of GS 2346), made it very difficult to see how the current requirements can be relaxed (as I discuss in more detail here). Any way forward here will need to be guided by work that is being done by FAOC but is only in its early stages.
  • “welcome the response from the College of Bishops and look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes; invite the House of Bishops to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time”
    The House has now refined, commended and issued the prayers but they have only done so for use in regular services and without therefore commending the outline of services (now understood as “standalone” services) that were offered to Synod in February last year. There is no clear process monitoring their use despite them being commended and published.
  • “endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”
    The House has already failed to implement this because the prayers they have commended were judged to be “indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”. Any plans to change the discipline expected of clergy within the new Pastoral Guidance to allow them to enter same-sex marriages or sexual relationships other than holy matrimony also appear to be incompatible with the decision “not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage”.

The November 2023 motion stated that Synod was

  • conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by Living in Love and Faith, 
  • that we are in a period of uncertainty, and 
  • that many in the Church on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328
  • encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, 
  • and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis, on the timescale envisaged by the motion passed by the Synod in February 2023 (Bishop of Oxford amendment).

The only new substantive content here (there is no acknowledgment that GS 2328 was not implementing the February motion as amended) relates to standalone services which, contrary to the February motion, the bishops were proposing in November to introduce not by commendation but for authorisation only after approval by General Synod under Canon B2 (a process which would take time and likely fail given the need for 2/3 majorities in every House). This amendment from the Bishop of Oxford (and supported by the Archbishops and the Bishop of London) was in effect a request to use Canon B5A as well as Canon B2, something debated over several months (see explanation of the canon here) with the bishops moving between different options. It is, however, important to note that Synod simply asked the House to consider whether these could be used and the House has done so and reported back to Synod in Annex A of GS 2346. The conclusions there about experimental use under B5A are stark. There is a need to consider:

  • “the pastoral implications of enabling standalone services for a period of time but then removing that permission as the B 2 process starts, and for the duration of the B 2 approval process (which might be up to two years)” (p. 7)
  • “that Canon B 5A has not before been used to introduce new rites to the worship of the Church in the manner that is proposed by the PLF standalone services. As this would be a new (and, for some, controversial) use of the Canon there remains a considerable risk of legal challenge in the courts” (p. 7)
  • “it would not be lawful to start both a B 5A and a B 2 process at the same time” (p. 7)
  • “Overlapping the B 5A and B 2 processes would allow for a period of  experimentation…There is a medium to high risk that conducting an overlapping Canon B 5A and a Canon B 2 process would be successfully challenged in the courts” (p.8, emphasis original) and it is a “Contestable use of the Canons” (p. 13)
  • The advice from the Legal Office is that, reading Canon B 5A and Canon B 2 together, the better interpretation of the text is that the experimental period under Canon B 5A must come to an end before the form of service is submitted for approval under Canon B 2” and “the legal risk would be lower because this would be a much more conventional experimental period” (p.8, emphasis original) although  “Still considerable risk of successful legal challenge” (p. 13). Also, “this process would take longer than others” and “there would remain the significant pastoral consequences as outlined above” (p. 8, emphasis original)

In summary, taking these motions as the basis going forward is not particularly helpful. The February motion has already been rejected (in proceeding to commend PLF despite them being judged as indicative of a departure from doctrine, and in deciding to commend PLF only for use in regular services not as standalone services) and its desire for new guidance says nothing about what that guidance should state and the commitment not to change doctrine gives little or no room for substantively different content to the guidance. The November motion has been implemented in that consideration has been given to standalone services experimentally but no decision has been taken because the legal obstacles are significant.

Is there an alternative? Seeking agreement on where we are and elements of a way forward

So, if the Synod motions are of limited value, what then might help guide us forward? 

It may be that the new groups composed of Synod members will simply bring into the process the conflictual, polarised stances from the floor of Synod over the last year and we have to prepare ourselves for the struggle of a long drawn out process of further heated debates and close votes. This is what was almost inevitably generated by the decision of the House of Bishops last January to offer to General Synod not a range of options or principles for finding a way forward but (optimistically claiming they would “strengthen the mission of the Church and uphold its unity”, GS 2289, p.3) their own, at best half-baked, proposals to be debated and voted upon but lacking any serious theological or legal rationale. The question is whether there is a better way possible and elements of the recent Synod debate suggest there may be a desire to find one.

What follows is an initial attempt to try to describe the current situation in the Church of England in relation to LLF/PLF in a way that might provide at least a “starter for ten” in seeking (a) to acknowledge honestly our differences but also (b) find some degree of agreement in relation to principles which might guide how we now address the central divisive questions we currently face.  

It has been shaped by the sort of work and approach that I believe was used as we developed the original LLF resources and it has been helpfully guided by some recent conversations with people, of varying views, as to what needs to be done. It is, however, very much my personal attempt to articulate where I see the possibility of at least more fruitful conversations. Producing it has given me some hope that such an approach may enable greater, perhaps even sufficient, consensus to emerge in relation to defining some shared goals and then perhaps some possible practical steps forward, though I am very realistic that across the spectrum of views there will be those wishing to reject, reword or add to them. 

Where we now are

1. The House of Bishops has sought to hold people together by affirming doctrine and not changing law. 

2. However, the changes in practice being sought have now apparently reached, and some believe have already exceeded, the boundaries set by these constraints. 

3. The current PLF/LLF process is proving destructive to the peace, unity and wellbeing of the church and harmful to individuals and has now reached an impasse/breakdown both procedurally/institutionally and often personally and relationally for people across different perspectives.

4. We need as a church to act in ways which are seen to be consistent with our law and stated doctrine, developing or changing those as necessary, or we will be guilty of hypocrisy and institutional and intellectual incoherence.

5. While exact figures are hard to pin down we are deeply divided (somewhere in the range of 55-45 depending on the specific question?) on both the correct doctrine and the consequent proper practice of the CofE in relation to marriage.

6. On matters touching doctrine and liturgy (which should conform to doctrine) the CofE legally requires a super-majority of ⅔ in all 3 Houses of Synod to approve developments and this is currently lacking re changes to marriage doctrine.

7. Any decisions on any specific doctrinal or practical questions (some level of change or no change) will therefore create a significantly sized minority many of whom, because of their deep and sincerely held convictions, will find it difficult to accept such a decision (certainly as a new settled position) and some/many may feel unable in good conscience to stay within the CofE. 

8. We therefore face (a) departures of Anglican worshippers and leaders (often experienced as ejections) from among both those wishing change and those resisting it (as is already occurring on both sides) and/or (b) ongoing unresolved conflict, akin to trench warfare. This is particularly the case with any proposals leaving the doctrine of marriage unchanged (as currently proposed) as other changes, though still strongly objected to by many, fall short of what many ultimately seek.

9. The fundamental disagreement, although often focussed on practical questions, ultimately concerns the doctrine of marriage both in relation to (a) its male/female nature and (b) whether it is right (and what it means in practice) to teach that marriage (however defined) is the proper place for sexual intimacy.

PLF liturgy and “standalone services”

10. Clergy have freedom, within canonical restraints related to doctrine, to make judgments concerning liturgy under Canon B5 and this has for decades been used by some to hold some form of “standalone services” for same-sex couples. 

11. The new situation of the bishops forbidding any such “standalone” services until there is an authorised service for them by some means (currently Canon B2 perhaps with use of Canon B5A) is therefore a greater restriction than has been in place previously when such services, so long as not “services of blessing”, were taking place under Canon B5. 

12. Such standalone services have not in the past resulted in rebukes or disciplinary actions (unless they have been too similar to a marriage liturgy) and conservatives have generally turned a blind eye to them or protested and distanced themselves in some ways but ways falling short of initiating disciplinary/legal action against individual parish clergy offering such services or declaring impaired fellowship with their bishop. 

13. The new situation of commendation of PLF by the bishops has approved prayers acknowledged to be indicative of a departure from current doctrine (but not, it is argued, in an essential matter) in a way which has already to some degree impaired the relationship of many opposed to this development with their own bishop(s) and/or the House of Bishops collectively.

14. The introduction of commended prayers, that it is recognised cannot be an expression of “common worship” in the context of deep disagreements, raises the likelihood of these questions becoming divisive in many parishes (particularly at times of vacancy and within multi-parish benefices) which have not previously felt the need to address them. This reality, that most congregations are to some degree “mixed ground” encompassing a range of perspectives, risks creating some level of division within, and possibly departures from, current worshipping communities and/or de facto differentiation on a parish by parish basis.

Conscience & respect for conscientious beliefs

15. Respect for an individual’s conscience –  including the conscience of bishops – which leads them to refuse to act in ways which become permitted (or even expected and encouraged) is a necessary condition for introducing developments but is not sufficient to resolve all the challenges presented by our differences over developments. 

16. We are not isolated individuals but a body, and conscience is formed and exercised within communities and their shared convictions and cultures. A sense of (a) belonging to a community and (b) future security within that community of those holding the community’s historic position are both altered when the community formally changes its convictions and permits what has previously been prohibited. Requiring people – especially leaders – to have to appeal to individual conscientious objection in order to abide by the community’s previous norms against new communal convictions and cultures (ecclesial and/or social) without adapting community structures to recognise this fact is a significant demand.

17. For a community to prevent individuals from acting in ways their conscience demands out of respect for the historic and received community consensus is also a significant demand and the more so when the degree of that consensus is diminishing and the proportion of the community being prevented from following their conscientious convictions is significant and growing, perhaps becoming a majority.

18. A significant proportion of the church believes that (a) the church barring those in faithful same-sex relationships, including marriage, from authorised ministry and/or (b) the church prohibiting services celebrating such relationships (including, for many, celebrating them as holy matrimony) is an injustice and represents an affront to their consciences and their deep, carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully considered, convictions as to what God is calling them to say and do.

19. A significant proportion of the church believes that (a) the church ordaining those in any sexual relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman or in a same-sex marriage is to commend a way of life incompatible with the call to holiness and they would not be able to receive the ministry of such people or of bishops who enable such ministry by commending for training, ordaining or licensing those living in such a relationship and/or (b) the church should not authorise public services celebrating or affirming such relationships (even if the church does not treat them as holy matrimony) and that their communion is impaired with those who hold or commend such services.  These developments represent, for them, an affront to their consciences and deep, carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully considered, convictions as to what God is calling them to say and do.

20. For many of these latter Christians (para 19) this principle of the pattern of life expected of leaders extends to other forms of non-ordained public ministry in the ordering of the local congregation. This principle, especially when not clearly signalled, can cause distress to, and be experienced as harmful by, some LGBTQ+ Christians seeking to serve in those congregations which hold such beliefs.

21. LGBTQ+ Christians themselves hold a range of different theological perspectives that embraces all those described above in paras 18-20.

22. Across this spectrum of views, all LGBTQ+ Christians wish to be able to worship and serve in congregations where they can, among other things, (a) if they so wish be open about their convictions and life situation, (b) know what the teaching is in their local church and the practical outworking of that teaching, (c) be supported in their desire to lead a holy life, (d) use their gifts to build up the church and to serve the wider community in Christ’s name alongside their fellow Christians, and (e) not be challenged as to their convictions or life situation in ways they experience as harmful.

Pattern of life of authorised ministers and Pastoral Guidance

23. If the church were to change its discipline concerning the pattern of life required for those in authorised ministry then this development should not prevent serving or future bishops within the Church of England (including diocesans) who conscientiously dissent from it being able to require the current pattern in the lives of all those they recommend, ordain and licence.

24. If the church were to change its discipline concerning the pattern of life required for those in authorised ministry then those who are thereby rendered eligible should not be deprived of the opportunity to explore and enter such ministry within the Church of England because of the different conscientious convictions of their diocesan bishop.

Unity, structural provision and Pastoral Reassurance

25. We are called to the highest degree of communion possible with all who confess Jesus as Lord and with whom we share our common baptismal communion.

26. However, due to (a) sin and/or (b) deep theological differences concerning the truth which we are called to teach and to embody within our common life, there sometimes cannot be full ecclesial communion. 

27. In such situations we need ecclesial structures which recognise this reality but enable the closest possible walking together with integrity in our relationships so as to enable and encourage (a) whatever repentance from sin is discerned to be necessary and/or (b) greater agreement in the truth that will in turn lead to fuller communion in Christ.

28. Any such reconfiguration of ecclesial structures to express a lesser degree of communion than is currently expressed can only ever be a tragic necessity to prevent even greater disunity developing. It must always seek to be proportionate to the seriousness of the sin and/or error to which it is a response and be such as to enable as high a degree of communion as possible with integrity, never losing sight of the goal of restoring greater unity in the truth.

29. Although primarily structured as a church in which episcopal ministry with ordinary jurisdiction is exercised by one bishop over a contiguous geographical area (the diocese) this is not essential and has not always been the only model of episcopal ministry either in the CofE (eg peculiars) or in other episcopally ordered church structures.

30. We need creatively to adapt ecclesial structures and to sit light to inherited but non-essential features of them whenever this proves to be required in order to better facilitate the highest degree of communion possible with integrity given the current realities of our ecclesial life.

31. Although as a national church the CofE’s two provinces and the dioceses within them (both units geographically defined) have usually worked with an agreed and shared framework in ordering their common life there have been occasions in which provincial or diocesan autonomy has been recognised, leading to different arrangements within the different constituent (archi-)episcopally-led ecclesial communities within the single CofE. 

32. Anglicans who remain committed to the church’s received teaching both expect and desire to continue to be provided with the episcopal ministry of a bishop as ordinary who has promised to uphold that teaching and who is committed to ordering their ministry, and those of the churches in their episcopal care, in conformity with it. To prevent such an arrangement is a significant act of deprivation which requires justification.

33. Anglicans who wish to develop received teaching and practice and so lead the wider church into a period of reception concerning it both expect and desire to be permitted to do so under the episcopal ministry of a bishop as ordinary who is already supportive of such teaching and/or willing to facilitate its testing during a period of reception. To prevent such an arrangement is a significant act of limitation which requires justification.

34. Any new arrangements will require trust and respect across our differences if they are to work but the current low level of these means they will also need some clear legal framework to enable security and sustainability and the best functioning of the arrangements.

35. Any new legal framework and the practical outworking of the arrangements it establishes will require flexibility, regular monitoring, and review in order to maintain as high a degree of communion as possible.

36. An Independent Reviewer(s) will also be required to examine and help seek resolution of particular cases where there is dispute and conflict.

37. In determining its response to its internal differences, the CofE must also take into consideration its relationships with, and call to greater communion with, (a) the wider church catholic and (b) in particular the wider Anglican Communion where it must recognise its significant positon and the impact of its own internal decisions on this wider fellowship of churches.

38. In both of these contexts there are now various churches whose official teaching and practice in relation to marriage and same-sex unions represent the range of different views found within the CofE (as set out in 18 and 19 above). This means that, whatever our views, and whatever the outcome in the CofE, we cannot escape the reality that there are other Christian churches and other Anglican churches who will be teaching and acting in ways with which we find ourselves in deep, perhaps fundamental, disagreement.

39. We may be helped in our intra-provincial discussions in the CofE by the recent and ongoing work of IASCUFO addressing similar matters at the inter-provincial level of the Communion in the light of its recent history and by past theological, including ecumenical, work on communion and disagreement.

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

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270 thoughts on “Can we find a way forward for LLF together?”

  1. “While exact figures are hard to pin down we are deeply divided (somewhere in the range of 55-45 depending on the specific question?) on both the correct doctrine and the consequent proper practice of the CofE in relation to marriage.”

    It is my conviction that the 39 Articles and the Anglican Homilies teach the truth of the following Doctrines

    The Atonement Doctrine of Penal Substitution

    Final Judgement Doctrine of God’s Eternal Retribution on the unsaved

    The Doctrine of Original Sin i.e. the doctrine that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards

    The doctrine that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

    The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

    I believe that some (many?) of those who reject the liberal view of same-sex marriage would also reject some or all of these doctrines

    Phil Almond

      • Hi Ian
        Assuming that your
        “Yes, I think you are right. There is a clear correlation” is a reponse to my March 22 9.28 am post I think that I have expressed my meaning badly and possibly been misunderstood.
        What I was trying to say was that, in my view, some, maybe many, who reject the liberal view of same-sex marriage, like your good self, do not believe, like your good self (unless you have changed your view)

        “The Atonement Doctrine of Penal Substitution

        Final Judgement Doctrine of God’s Eternal Retribution on the unsaved

        The Doctrine of Original Sin i.e. the doctrine that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards

        The doctrine that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

        The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.”

        which doctrines I think are just as important as the true mariage doctrine.
        And so any attempt to have a grouping, like an ‘orthodox province’ would include those who are in agreement about marriage doctrine but disagree about doctrines which, in my view, are taught in the Anglican formularies 39 Articles and Homilies and essential to the Biblical Gospel.

        Phil Almond

        • Helllo Phil,
          Our church is folwing the Australian Two Ways to Live, which basically follows what yu set out, pictorally, in 6 six sketches. There are series of questions , but it divided into living under God’s rule or under our own.
          Ths week were looking at conversational scenarios and the appication of. scripture to it. One was, a conversation led to a point of person wanting to live God’s way, but that in turn begged qustions that what living God’s way looked like, where to find out, and how to do it and keep it up. Perfectly in obedience? Are we to remain in Romans 7?
          In short it also brought in by the back door the Doctrine of scripture and what is exactly is included in Atonment? Here I’m with Anton as glorious as foregivenss it is not the full multifacetted Glory of full Redemption, of and by and through the, FATHER, SON, SPIRIT. Do we KNOW HIM? In union?

          • BTW, Phil,
            If I may put it ths way this way, what you set out is a pill to be swallowed whole (or not at all.)

          • “BTW, Phil,
            If I may put it ths way this way, what you set out is a pill to be swallowed whole (or not at all.)”

            Yes. That is right.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil @9.02 pm.
            The two ways are 1 an old humanity in Adam 2 a new humanity in Christ, the last Adam the first Adam (disobedient rebel created son) pointed to Jesus the true begotten/eternal/incarnate Son of God, fully man fully human, perfect in sinless righteousness who took God’s curse of death. For all. have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All we like sheep have gone astray. Jesus did it all in our stead, both in active and passive obedience, for the Joy set before him in full satisfaction, in redemption to return us, in belonging in union with him to God our Father, adopted in new birth from above.

        • I’ve not been totally happy about ‘PSA’ for some time. I explored it in this blog-post some years back

          I also worry a bit about ‘original sin’, I think under the influence of Augustine it’s been perhaps too exactly defined. I am still sure of the clear biblical statement that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, and I accept the implications in many places inScripture that humanity is im important ways a unity as well as individuals.

          • Hi Stephen
            I think the right exegesis of Romans 5 and other passages proves that we all face the condemnation of God from birth onwards because of Adam’s sin. I am waiting for Ian Paul to agree to debate this.
            I am also convinced that PSA is right.

            Phil Almond

        • Good morning, Philip. Why do we all we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards? Is it because of sins which we have committed in a previous life?

          • What are the other passages, or is it more a matter of overall coherence with the overall teaching?

          • Christopher
            “What are the other passages, or is it more a matter of overall coherence with the overall teaching?”
            This is such a vital far-reaching subject that I am not willing to debate it piece-meal. Please allow me to wait until Ian Paul or CEEC are prepared to host a full discussion.

            Phil Almond

        • Phil,

          Deuteronomy 24:16 ?

          I think there has been a confusion between the concept that the consequences of sinful actions can be passed through the generations – and the concept, never taught in scripture, that the guilt of the sin of another sin is passed to you.

          • Hi Colin
            Romans 5:12-21 and other passages. it is surprisisng to me that Ian Paul and CEEC members like John Dunnett have not debated this truth (see Article 9) here.

            Philip Almond

          • Colin
            I will give my view on Schreiners view and my view on the passages from Deuteronomy etc when we have a full debate
            Phil Almond

        • Is penal substitution actually in the 39 articles though? Are the other approaches to understanding atonement (ransom theory, vicarious satisfaction, Christus Victor etc.) actually rejected?

          • To AJ Bell
            PSA is not in the 39 Articles but it is in the Homily on the Nativity:
            “And because death, according to S. Paul, is the iust stipende and reward of sinne, therefore to appease the wrath of GOD, and to satisfie his Iustice, it was expedient that our Mediatour should be such a one, as might take vpon him the sins of mankinde and sustaine the due punishment thereof, namely death. ”

            Phil Almond

    • Without dissenting from penal substitution, I don’t think it captures the whole of the Atonement, which is multi-faceted.

      Also the scriptures are silent on the ultimate fate of babies who die very young (whether they have been through a baptism rite or not). When I am asked about this Iprefer to reply: “I don’t know, but God is just and nobody gets worse than they deserve while some persons – believers in Jesus at the least – get better than they deserve.”

      • Hi Anton
        I agree that the atonement is multi-faceted but penal substitution is essential.

        The scriptures do teach
        “The Doctrine of Original Sin i.e. the doctrine that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards (because of Adam’s Sin”)

        I agree that the Bible is not explicit on the issue of infants who die before committing actual sin. See Sam Storms in The Gospel Coalition for a view that I am inclined to agree with.
        His summary is:

        “The view I embrace is that all those who die in infancy, as well as those so mentally incapacitated they’re incapable of making an informed choice, are among the elect of God, chosen for salvation before the world began. The evidence for this view is scant, but significant….”.

        Phil Almond

        • I said only that penal substitution was part of the truth about the Atonement, so I think we agree.

          But isn’t it like a judge saying “There’s been a crime, I need to show a body to take the rap or else I’m in trouble with my boss. Anyone will do!” God is this judge, so there is no boss above him; and why should anyone do, since God is not blind as to who did the crime?

          • Anton – you pretty much express my reservation on penal substitution, that there is something of a ‘disconnect’ between the penalty and the sin. In a ‘debt-based’ view of atonement we are looking at an issue of real damage (in many varied forms) which needs to be dealt with by forgiveness. As an example I’ve sometimes used, if some local ASBO-aspirant yob throws a brick through my window, then he has done damage which needs to be made good. Ideally the person who broke the window will pay for the damage. IF I want to forgive the window-breaker, then I pay for the window myself. I have done damage to God and creation, inter alia I have kind of stolen myself from God and need to repay that debt; but in essence I can’t afford the repayment, so God in Christ foots the bill for me.

            A ‘penal’ view, to me, implies a somewhat different situation. A law is made forbidding something, and to deter people from doing that thing, a penalty is set which must be paid by the person who breaks the law. This is a rather different situation to a payment of a debt. For instance in a traffic offence the offender may do no actual damage, yet still face a large cost for his breach of the rules.

            In human legal situations it can happen that whether it be a ‘debt’ or a ‘penalty’ the payment to the offended party may actually be made by, in effect, a third party. As between offender and offended this is not really forgiveness; the offended party is still insisting on the penalty being paid, but in effect so long as he is paid he doesn’t care where or who the payment comes from. I at least don’t feel happy suggesting God might do that, ‘forgive’ at the expense of an innocent third party. You may recall a few years back Steve Chalke’s suggestion that the atonement at the expense of Jesus was ‘cosmic child abuse’; he had somehow failed to remember that because Jesus is the incarnation of God, he is not a separate third party. ‘Unitarian’ churches tend to considerably downgrade the atonement because they have realised the injustice involved if Jesus is an ‘innocent third party’ rather than himself, as divine, the offended person forgiving.

            I have come across an exposition in a Jehovah’s Witnesses source which almost becomes caricature. In effect it looks as if God declares a death penalty on the eating of the forbidden fruit, and then when the fruit is eaten decides he doesn’t want to kill Adam and Eve, but for his honour he must kill somebody, so he seeks out an archangel, MIchael/Jesus who can suffer on humanity’s behalf. The justice of inflicting such a penalty on the innocent is very questionable…..

            Yes, the way things sometimes work out in human legal systems mean that some kind of PSA may be a useful example of one person paying another’s debt or penalty. But it isn’t a very satisfactory expression of God’s forgiveness at his own expense.

          • Hi Anton
            I don’t think we agree. Because of Adam’s sin we all face God’s condemnation from birth onwards. This condemnation is confirmed by our own sins. God will inflict that condemnation on the unsaved on the Day of Judgment. In his human nature assumed in the incarnation by the second person of the Trinity God sufferred that condemnation instead of us so that all who have believed and will ever believe in Christ are delivered from the condemnation we all deserve.

            That is how original sin, our own sins, penal substitution, eternal retribution are linked together.

            Phil Almond

          • This is the problem with leaning too heavily on penal substitution. It may have been a helpful analogy in the 16th century, but it’s pretty hard to make sense of if you’re bringing an understanding of our criminal justice system to the conversation, and worse has a tendency to be pretty badly taught and so it does go wrong. But most importantly, this debate gets obscured if we make the mistake of thinking that penal substitution is the only way to understand atonement (ransom theory, vicarious satisfaction, and Christus Victor are also available, have their own advantages and their own shortcomings).

            My problem is that penal substitution is that it truncates the description in ways that are potentially very damaging to our understanding. If your telling of the Gospel starts with God’s wrath, you’ve missed the point. Jesus, preaching in John 3, starts the Gospel with God’s love for the world. God so loved the world He sent His only Son, not God so hated the world He killed His only Son. Some tellings of penal substitution become worryingly confused about the Trinity, treating the Father and the Son as wholly separate and almost in conflict. And penal substitution ends on the cross – the sacrifice has been made. But of course that’s absolutely not the end of the story. The resurrection is the true climax, and the foundation of the faith. The point is life eternal, and the resurrection of Christ is what achieves that: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15)

          • To AJBell 4.13 post on March 25
            If you read the whole of John 3 you find both the love of God (John 3:16), the wrath of God (John 3:36) the condemnation of God (John 3:18) and what we all face because of our sins (perish – John 3:15-16).

            Phil Almond

        • Phil,

          Where is this that you have in quote marks found in the Bible?
          The scriptures do teach
          “The Doctrine of Original Sin i.e. the doctrine that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards (because of Adam’s Sin”)

          • Hi Colin
            Sorry to keep repeating myself but I am willing to defend my view from Romans 5:12-21 and from other passages. I challenge Ian Paul and CEEC members to have that debate.

            Phil Almond

          • Fathers/Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16)

            Yet he did not put the children of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the LORD commanded: Fathers/Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin. (2 Kings 14:6)

            The soul/one who sins is the one who will die. The son/child will not share the guilt of the father/parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the son/child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to him/them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him/them. (Ezekiel 18:20)

        • What happened to your concept of original sin? Either we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth or we don’t. If it’s “all” except those who are going to die in infancy or are incapable of making an informed choice, it’s not “all” is it?

          • To AJBell
            Obviously those who repent and trust in Christ are delivered from the wrath and condemnation that we all face from birth onwards because, as I quoted above,
            but it is in the Homily on the Nativity:
            “…and because death, according to S. Paul, is the iust stipende and reward of sinne, therefore to appease the wrath of GOD, and to satisfie his Iustice, it was expedient that our Mediatour should be such a one, as might take vpon him the sins of mankinde and sustaine the due punishment thereof, namely death. ”

            Phil Almond

          • Aren’t you rejecting the Homily on the Salvation of Mankind?

            That has a pretty clear answer on infants, and it depends on whether they’ve been baptised:
            “In so much that infants, being baptized and dying in their infancy, are by this sacrifice washed from their sins, brought to GODS favor, and made his children, and inheritors of his kingdom of heaven.”

          • Reply to AJBell on Salvation of Mankind Homily
            The full quote from that Homily is
            “The efficacy of Christ’s passion & oblation. In so much that infants, being baptized and dying in their infancy, are by this sacrifice washed from their sins, brought to GODS favor, and made his children, and inheritors of his kingdom of heaven.
            It is “The efficacy of Christ’s passion & oblation” which saves infants.

            Phil Almond

    • Philip

      Are you saying that there are many who are liberal on same sex marriage who reject other parts of Anglican theology (if that’s the case I think you need to swap the word liberal with conservative in your final paragraph)?

      Or are you saying that there are people who have attached themselves to conservative cofe churches who only like the part about condemning gay people?

      I agree with both! I think there’s been a general failure to give a practical reason why gay people shouldn’t marry or have relationships. This means both that conservative Christianity (and other faiths) become attractive to people looking to have a reason to justify their opposition (almost all anti gay social media influencers claim to be a Christian or Jew etc) and also that Christians who lean liberal have no reason not to reject these claims, just as they might reject gender roles or a literal six day creation

      • Saying you are ‘liberal on ssm’ is not a position. Any position has to be founded on arguments and evidence.
        You seem to be skipping straight to the conclusion. And (worse) it seems that the conclusion is nothing apart from what is congenial.
        The debate is between those who found what they say on arguments and evidence.

        • Christopher

          It was a shorthand for anyone who believes that the church of England should allow same sex marriage. There’s a myriad of different reasons for this position and I am not going to be able to list them all for you. Surely you at least agree that there are people in the church of England who believe the church should marry gay couples or do you mean you want evidence for that?

          • There are people in a culture who go along with the cultural mainstream? How could there not be? And how could that give any reason for thinking that the cultural mainstream was a good thing per se? The majority always believes coherent things? Or do they just repeat what they are told? You are just repeating the same error of judging by positions and votes rather than by whether or not they have undergirding in the form of coherent argument and evidence.
            You must also know when talking with me that if the word ‘gay’ without qualification is accepted as common ground then you have already lost me. This is all to do with how much thinking people have or have not done.

          • But if I had wanted you to make a point, I would have been biased. had I been biased I would have been dishonest. I (as opposed to anyone else) know what is in my own head.

            Anyway, I don’t get what you are saying. *Which* of your points did I supposedly not want you to make, and what point did I supposedly want you to make instead?

          • It is actually the very concept of ‘gay’ which is in question here. For a long time now ‘gay’ people have been making out that they ‘just are’ gay with no choice in the same sense as, say, Africans are black. This is not so. it is very much of the essence of ‘gay’ that there will also be deeds/behaviour/doing. And in turn if there are deeds, there is choice, a choosing to do whatever it is, in this case a sexual action. And any underlying ‘being’ is not simple stuff like skin colour, but quite complex issues about urges and desires. People can’t “DO” being black – that verb is totally inappropriate – nor can people meaningfully have ‘urges and desires’ about their ethnicity. Things about which people have ‘urges and desires’ are a whole different moral category. And it is really not possible to just glibly say “I have these ‘natural’ urges and desires to do such-and-such, so it must atmatically be OK to live out, to act out, those urges and desires. Humans can have all sorts of urges and desires which are very questionable, and gay ‘urges and desires to do…’ are also questionable.

            Note that in Christian terms it is not same-sex love or attraction per se that is problematic; the sin is precisely the doing of ‘sex’ between a same-sex couple. And in turn the issue is whether God ‘makes people gay’, intended as part of the original creation design to make them do those sexual acts, or whether those sexual acts and the accompanying/underlying urges and desires are part of the disorder of human life resulting from ‘sin’.

          • Which is exactly the sort of thing that Peter needs to be responding to. It is soo obvious that gender and pigmentation are innate, observable, fixed, objective, unable to be caused by social contagion, unable to be lied about. On these ‘gayness’ scores 0 out of 6. It was a tactical move to group ‘sexuality’ with these others, which is a red light to us causing us to classify those who so group it with the dishonest.

          • Stephen

            See its easy for me to understand gay people exist, that its natural and that they didn’t choose it because I am one. Either being gay is a real phenomenon or pretty well all gay people are liars/delusional. What’s the evidence that being gay is a choice? Why would there need to be quack cures if you could merely choose to be heterosexual?

            One thing I experience over and over, even sometimes from people who are relatively supportive of gay rights, is this assumption that gay people are inherently more sexual than straight people. I doubt my “urges” are very different from yours!

            The stereotypical gay man is promiscuous, but gay men are also far more likely to have never had sex than straight men.

          • Who is denying that gay people exist? Mozart lovers exist. But neither is that way innately. Nor, secondly, were they born that way. These are things that people *become* not *are*, contingent on circumstances. And people can become bad things just as easily as become good things.

            The fact that I repeat this point so many times says little for your powers of understanding.

          • Oh Christopher,

            “The fact that I repeat this point so many times says little for your powers of understanding.”

            Physician, heal thyself!

          • “But if I had wanted you to make a point, I would have been biased. had I been biased I would have been dishonest. I (as opposed to anyone else) know what is in my own head.”

            Christopher the very idea that you are not biased made me laugh out loud. You are one of the most biased contributors here. And the fact that you have zero insight into your own bias has confirmed that there is little point in engaging with any of your comments. Your very real homophobia – you are literally terrified of anything to do with same sex relationships – is indicative of the reasons the CofE has become so paralysed. Conservatives are not capable of discussing this matter in good faith. Article after article by Andrew Goddard makes this clearer and clearer.

          • That’s right. Saying it makes it true.
            Any flaw in argument can be identified by pinpointing the precise fallacy – so do that.

          • Perhaps it suits you, Andrew Godsall, to suppose that Christopher Shell is “literally terrified of anything to do with same sex relationships”. You have no evidence for that; perhaps he simply dislikes them, while accepting that he must tolerate them in the world and show practical love to all persons. The question is whether sexual practices normally associated with such relationships are to be tolerated without call for repentance in the church.

            You say that attitudes such as his are “indicative of the reasons the CofE has become so paralysed.” This is nonsense. The paralysis is because the senior leadership of the Church of England is seeking to go against the Bible in this matter, and there are still enough biblical Christians in the CoE to protest.

          • Christopher. The precise fallacy is thinking that you have no bias. A scholarly researcher will obviously always try to minimise bias but it is also obvious to any good acedmic that it is impossible to eradicate bias completely. Explicit and unconscious bias can be found in the sampling of data, the way that data is collected, how it is analysed and how the results are shared. Any good academic will be aware of these biases and will interrogate them in various ways. To claim that you are not biased is to show a naivety that is very concerning for someone who claims to be a scholar. The very fact that you received your education at some of the most privileged establishments in the world is one source of such bias. Especially as one of those establishments was a single sex one where attitudes towards homosexuality was notorious – read Charles Donovan’s account of his time there just for a simple taste of evidence.

            You have a preference for a particular conclusion about same sex relationships. That preference is informed by your conscious and unconscious dislike of same sex relationships and practices.

            Anton, you are free to believe that the only piece of evidence that counts in the discussion of LLF is the bible – or more accurately your own conservative interpretation of those texts. We have been over this before and I am not going to repeat arguments that have already been rehearsed.

      • Christopher

        I think that we use the same dictionary, but have a totally different language. I find your comments increasingly Byzantine.

        As we seem to be completely incoherent to one another, maybe its best we stop attempting to communicate

        • The more you back out of communication, the more your thinking will fail to develop.
          But the worrying thing is that you are presenting this cessation of development as a good thing, and the possibility of growth in understanding as a bad thing!

          • Peter, if you can pick out even one non English term from what I write, then do so. But you cannot, which means you are not telling the truth.
            You are objecting because people are not thinking along the same channels as you, but are showing themselves capable of thinking multi dimensionally and independently.
            You are also somehow thinking that someone whose thoughts are not independent but culture bound is somehow doing better thinking than someone who can think independently. Yet all the best thinkers are the independent ones. So how does that work?
            What are the non English words I used?

        • Peter – responding to you from 23 Mar 1118am
          “What’s the evidence that being gay is a choice?” Simples – gay sex is a deed and barring insanity deeds are basically chosen. same-sex love short of the sex acts is not sinful. I would expect an equivalent of David and Jonathan’s “love greater than the love of women” even without what we call ‘the Fall’.

          Like most discussing these issues you consider too narrowly only the sexual. For better understanding it is necessary to put the discussion in a much wider context of how sin in general works. For example you use the word ‘natural’ – biblically this can seem ambiguous though context usually keeps things straight. Paul certainly uses ‘natural’ both to mean what is natural in the sense of ‘as God created’ but also what is natural in the sense of what ‘comes naturally’ to sinful men.

          I would note also that ‘choice’ isn’t always straightforward. Again context usually clarifies but both Luther and Calvin, and later evangelicals, recognise a kind of ‘captivity to sin’ – it is part of the consequences of sin that we are damaged in this area, slaves to our more dubious urges and desires.

          • Stephen

            I agree same sex sex is (usually) a choice.

            I disagree that being gay (meaning exclusive attraction to the same sex) is a choice. With respect it is you who is associating gay people with sexual activity, not me

          • Peter (‘replying to myself’ because your post doesn’t seem to have a reply tag)
            My point is simple – it can’t be said strongly enough that people are meant to love people, including men loving men and women loving women, and that is totally appropriate and not sinful. But I think it also can’t be said strongly enough that sex itself is God’s gift to heterosexual married couples, and doing sex otherwise is deeply inappropriate – not mention rather absurd between couples who are not mutually equipped to do sex as designed. That people are willing to perform the absurdities is part of the disruption of human life by sin which is Paul’s subject in Romans 1, which is about far wider matters than sex.

            In general I believe that for those who don’t profess Christianity, their consensual sex acts are likely to be among the least of the problems between them and God. But for Christians to reject the clear teaching in the Bible is on the face of it a pretty comprehensive rejection of God and so a danger to their salvation. (And yes, right now there’s a lot of confusion around the topic and God is presumably being as generous as possible to all concerned, and I want be generous too, but not compromise the basic teaching….)

          • Stephen

            1 Tim 4
            4 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

          • Stephen

            Re “hypocritical liars” it does seem to me that an awful lot of Big Names pushing the anti gay marriage narrative have been caught in extra marital sex, sexual abuse or covering up sexual abuse.

            You don’t have to believe me, but so far, my marriage has produced excellent fruit (not least providing a stable loving home for our kids) – what fruit is produced by telling gay people they must remain alone their whole lives?

          • Peter

            replying to your posts on 24/03 around midday
            If I understood you right you are quoting from I Tim to suggest that it is somehow ‘hypocritical’ and even ‘demonic’ to “forbid (gay) people to marry”.
            Now OK some people forbidding that may well be hypocritical etc, but for most of us the deal is simply that GOD himself has clearly forbidden same-sex sex and by necessary implication same-sex marriage. We are reasonably, I think, concerned both to ‘trust and obey’ God ourselves and to warn others of the possible problems if they do not trust and obey God about this matter.

            Everything created by God is indeed good – but not all the uses we make of it are good, and when God has clearly said a particular use is not good, surely we are supposed to accept that. Also in this case Paul, whose writing to Timothy you quote, has rather explicitly said in Romans 1 that same-sex sex is not good but rather is decidedly among the distortions and disruptions human life suffers from the underlying fact that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”; so it is almost certain that in I Tim Paul’s mention of ‘forbidding to marry’ means only heterosexual marriage – his clear rejection of same-sex sex means he would not accept a same-sex marriage as legitimate in the first place.

            As for “….what fruit is produced by telling gay people they must remain alone their whole lives?” I’m not doing that.
            In broad terms because as an ‘Anabaptist’ I disagree with the notion of state churches and/or state religions in general, I think that ideally rather than any particular group’s idea of marriage the state – any state – should not do ‘marriage’ but rather do wider and more flexible civil partnerships which can be used as the legal underpinnings of ‘marriages’ in various religions and philosophies but also used in other contexts. In a plural society we should all accept each others’ variations in such matters as far as possible (but not totally uncritically) while reasonably retaining our own rules within our own community. Within the Christian community I would actually see no objection to a non-sexual civil partnership which could offer many of the legal/practical effects of a marriage. It is also practical to be not ‘alone’ in society without actually needing formal marriage.

          • Stephen

            Sorry but you are telling gay people that any kind of relationship is sin.

            Im not saying that everyone who believes this is a hypocrite, but certainly many (most) of the people, both in the church and secular, seem to themselves be involved in adultery or sexual abuse, often involving same sex partners. Brian Houston – caught sexting a woman who works for his church and doing something in a bedroom with a woman (but claims he was too drunk to remember), Mike Pilavachi – forcing attractive male interns to wrestle with him, we have an anti gay rights organization here in the US called “Moms for Liberty”. The founder is facing rape charges from a woman that he and his wife regularly had three ways with.

            I don’t agree that the Bible says gay people cannot marry. This has come from conservative culture, not Scripture

          • Please withdraw the ‘sexting’ idea. It is sensationalist and tabloidesque and could lead to others viewing you through that lens. Kissing, cuddling, hugging (the topic of said message) are things Christians and families (and normal healthy people) do pretty frequently.

          • You are quite happy for the children of the sexual revolution to indulge in all kinds of perverted behaviour, but the moment a Christian mentions cuddling and other innocent matters you are up in arms.

          • And the ‘doing something in a bedroom with a woman’ is just as inaccurately expressed. The something was a nonsexual something, as is agreed by all. So in the league of how remarkable things are, that one scores pretty low – apart from among the would-be vultures?

          • Christopher

            No I will not. The leaders of anti LGBT thought are massive hypocrites, Brian Houston among them. I’m sorry that you don’t like the truth about him. I don’t like that he’s encouraged millions of young Christians worldwide to oppose LGBT equality

  2. Can we find a way forward for LLF together?

    Best to answer a question with a question:

    What fellowship can light have with darkness? (from 2 Corinthians 6:14).

  3. From a lay person, thank you Andrew for all your work, and for this helpful summary and analysis, all of it, but especially paras 18-22.

  4. As churchwarden, I seem to be the only member of our PCC to be against LLF and now face the prospect of deciding whether staying put as member would be a form of tacit collusion or if resigning a might be a stimulus for others to question their own position more thoroughly. Deciding between maintaining unity or acting on conviction at the micro scale of parish life, is going to be a really painful process me and many others across the country, given there is little prospect of clarity coming from a clear CoE position any time soon. PCCS are seldom sites of goodwill and harmony but they somehow muddle along. My guess is that PCCs in unanimous agreement on LLF will be rare, and that this protracted issue is likely to undermine the foundations of many of them, to the extent that even muddling is no longer possible. And all this at a time when there are so many other issues around the survival of the church to contend with.

    • Thanks Donald. An experience I think shared by many of us, particularly in churches outside the conservative evangelical heartlands; and where the ratio feels more like 70/30 or worse rather than 55/45. Many faithful in the church feel ‘instinctively’ that the current direction of travel is wrong but where for a generation or more the teaching has been weak are unable to rationalise or articulate this in terms of their faith . And particularly when met constantly by the two straplines ‘we must love each other’ and ‘we must seek unity at all costs’ and awed by the thought that the church leadership must know what they are doing. In fact what amazes me is that given the pressure from within the church and the overwhelming ‘worldview’ from the media we experience daily, there is still that significant minority that refuses to deny its traditional doctrinal approach. And strangely the narrowness of the votes in the various Synod votes seemed a testament to something supernatural……..?

      • That significant minority probably reads the Bible and understands that God outranks bishops and (whisper it) archbishops.

  5. The only conclusion to be drawn from trying to provide a coherent summary about an ever increasing period of incoherent activity is that the nonsense has to stop. Unfortunately the Church of England’s current position perfectly demonstrates the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ which describes our human tendency to follow through on an endeavour if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.

    Whether or not we now accept that the endeavour was ill-conceived in the first place, the costs are mounting uncontrollably in terms of time, energy, money, embarrassment, division, and people leaving the church. But the most serious cost is the loss of spiritual health which inevitably results from the embrace of heresy. And that cost is beyond calculation for individuals both within the church and those outside who are deprived of the church’s clear and urgent witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. That sombre thought alone should be enough for everyone to play safe when it comes to taking risks with God’s boundaries; there are much better risks to take on his behalf but which continue to keep us firmly within his love and protection.

      • Every Anglican church that has gone down this road has WITHOUT EXCEPTION splintered and declined.

        Anglican church attendance in Canada, for example, is down to about 65,000 in a country of c. 38 millions. They try to avoid collecting statistics.

        SEC, Church in Wales, New Zealand – identical patterns of failure and splits.
        American Methodism is splitting over this as well.

        The Uniting Church in Australia is dying as the orthodox congregations flee.

        Are the English Bishops incapable of seeing this?

        Why do they persist in this death wish?

        • James

          Most denominations in the English speaking world are in decline. I think failure to address LGBT people in a way that’s satisfactory to all is part of that, but I don’t think its the major part of that, more there’s a root cause that churches are struggling to be relevant.

          Splitting to have a more refined church net loses people and makes the resulting factions less grounded.

          I think there’s also a danger of certain branches of the church wholesale being taken over by political activists, which is driving the central message of Christianity away from Christ and towards political positions.

          We are already in a place where many senior leaders in churches (not just the cofe) have lifestyles that simply would not be acceptable from a grassroots member. That’s hugely corrupt and, because we live in the information age, everyone can see it and thinks “well I’m definitely not taking my kids there”

          • Peter – responding to your post March 25 @ 200pm (Ian – how do I reply to a post without a ‘reply’ tag under it?)
            “Sorry but you are telling gay people that any kind of relationship is sin.”
            No, I’m telling ‘gay people’ that sex between a same-sex couple is sinful – pretty much anything else is OK. I thought I’d said that very clearly.

            As for “I don’t agree that the Bible says gay people cannot marry. This has come from conservative culture, not Scripture”
            Marriage is a sexual relationship between a man and woman who have the God-designed complementary anatomy for it. The Bible rejects same-sex sex (which in any case is not real sex but a parody); therefore by necessity the Bible rejects same-sex marriage, though it does not reject a potential non-sexual civil partnership – what might be described as a mutual adoption between adults for companionship and various civil legal conveniences. Thus a same-sex marriage is inappropriate in the Christian community. Since being in the said Christian community is voluntary, non-Christians should be able to contract such a relationship – but their doing so will be sinful in Christian terms. In a plural society Christians should accept non-Christians doing things differently; but will not be uncritical….

          • Stephen

            See you say we can have some sort of civil not-marriage, but elsewhere on this blog I’ve been told that even holding hands is likely sexual sin. If the Bible is so clear on this topic then how come none of you agree on what it says?!

            I don’t agree that the Bible says that sex is for heterosexual marriage either or that gay couples are specifically banned from marriage. That’s just more of the “what Jesus forgot to say” stuff. There are a few verses that prohibit same sex sex, but its very very unlikely that these were intentionally written to include gay people.

          • Peter
            (now replying to your Mar 26 1100 comment)
            1) I’m not accepting responsibility for what others say – though I did comment earlier on exaggerated views adopted in the late 1800s/early 1900s which it seems to me portrayed as ‘sin’ deeds which would previously have been acceptable.

            2) In Jesus’own main comment on this in Mark 10 he is very emphatic in stating that marriage is based on God having made humanity ‘male and female’ with that ability to ‘become one flesh’ through the very purposely designed anatomy. I get no feeling that he ‘forgets’ to mention same-sex sex and marriage – just that as far as he is concerned marriage is simply heterosexual, designed as such with the obvious complementary anatomy which same-sex couples simply don’t have and therefore can’t do real sex or have real marriage.

            3) “There are a few verses that prohibit same sex sex, but its very very unlikely that these were intentionally written to include gay people”.
            Come on Peter, who else could they be intended to include?

            4) Reality here is that IF God intended same-sex sex as a legitimate thing, the subject would have to have considerable very explicit coverage with obvious approval. That there are so few texts, and all decidedly disapproving, is really all the evidence we need that God does not intend nor does he approve such relationships.

          • Stephen

            1 A huge part of the problem with churches in general and the cofe in particular is the rules around gay people are not public and are unclear in some scenarios having a non sexual same sex relationship is tolerable and the next it leads to you being carted off for exorcism! The Bible can’t be clear on same sex relationships else all of the people who oppose same sex relationships would agree on the details

            2 Jesus was quoting heteronormative imagery speaking against divorce in a society that didn’t have same sex marriage

            3 I’d say most of the clobber verses are about male rape by straight men, especially soldiers, since that would have been the most welll known same sex sex at the time and the Romans passage is about the Roman elite

            4 that’s because we are told that we aren’t allowed to consider all of scripture on this subject. If the establishment decided that the only relevant verses to same sex relationships were Genesis 2, Mark 12, Matt 22, David and Jonathan and 1 Tim 4 then you come out with completely the opposite answer

          • Peter

            1. Quite the opposite. The C of E has been accused of being too clear!

            2. Jesus is society didn’t have same-sex marriage, because every due of the time rejected, same-sex, relationships of every kind – including Jesus!

            3. Your claim about the “clobber verses” is completely without foundation, and is an option rejected by all the major critical, liberal scholars. Do you need me to list them *again*??!

            4. Who on earth says that we aren’t allowed to consider all of scripture? Not me!

          • Ian

            1. They can’t even say what specifically is prohibited.

            2. There’s zero evidence Jesus rejected same sex relationships.

            3. It’s my opinion. It seems so obvious to me! I’ve fund scholars who disagree with you and you dismissed their work.

            4. I don’t accept this point. There are lots of important moral issues that aren’t directly covered by scripture and this would only impact 1-2% of people who were not widely known about at the time.

          • “an option rejected by all the major critical, liberal scholars. Do you need me to list them *again*??!”

            And as Peter has noted it simply isn’t true. You need to read more carefully. He writes this:

            “It is impossible to harmonize the mandates to exclusion in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Deuteronomy 23:1 with the welcome stance of Isaiah 56, Matthew 11:28-30, Galatians 3:28 and Acts 10.
            Other texts might be cited as well, but these are typical and representative. As often happens in Scripture, we are left with texts in deep tension, if not in contradiction, with each other. The work of reading the Bible responsibly is the process of adjudicating these texts that will not be fit together.
            The reason the Bible seems to speak “in one voice” concerning matters that pertain to LGBTQ persons is that the loud voices most often cite only one set of texts, to the determined disregard of the texts that offer a counter-position. But our serious reading does not allow such a disregard, so that we must have all of the texts in our purview.
            The process of the adjudication of biblical texts that do not readily fit together is the work of interpretation. I have termed it “emancipatory work,” and I will hope to show why this is so. Every reading of the Bible—no exceptions—is an act of interpretation. There are no “innocent” or “objective” readings, no matter how sure and absolute they may sound.
            Everyone is engaged in interpretation, so that one must pay attention to how we do interpretation“

  6. Friends of mine in Canterbury diocese heard Andrew Goddard speak on these issues a few weeks ago to a gathering organised by the CEEC and they said Andrew did a superb job of summarising the long and wearying road the C of E has taken on this matter since 1998. Three takeaways in particular were noted:

    1. The CEEC is enabling parishes to channel their parish share giving through something called the Ephesians Trust (?) to ensure that money is given only to parishes that share the same moral and doctrinal beliefs about marriage.

    2. ‘Alternative Spiritual Oversight’ is being set up for clergy and parishes with revisionist bishops – not the same legally as AEO but seeking to give something of the spiritual care that episcopacy is meant to give (but rarely does). That may be significant in Canterbury diocese where suffragan ‘Maxine Waters’ has been actively trying to exclude evangelicals from diocesan positions and canonries, and is universally perceived as an underqualified and over-promoted bully. ‘Maxine’ has tried four times to get a diocesan post and has been rebuffed each time.

    3. Andrew described the legal and theological confusion of the bishops who claimed there was a distinction between ‘holy matrimony’ and ‘marriage’ in Anglican doctrine – something that didn’t fly with the lawyers (and if lawyers said no, you know it was a bad idea). The bishops still refuse to publish the legal advice, and have been served notice by Nicky Gumbel and friends that they will be sure if they try to change doctrine unilaterally.

    • James,
      I am baffled as to whom this ‘Maxine Waters’ individual is you keep referring to. Is it a real person or a construct parody akin to Titania McGrath?

    • In Anglican law, what the Bishops and a majority of Synod decide is the law. The Church of England has holy matrimony between a man and woman, ideally for life, whereas in English civil law marriage can now include same sex couples. The Church of England after the Synod vote still excludes same sex couples from marriage in its churches, all it has offered them is prayers of blessing within services

  7. I think its too late to make progress by implementing things that are generally agreed on.

    As I understand it there’s general voiced agreement on preventing abuse, not covering up abuse, preventing attempts to force change individuals orientation (especially if they are minors or otherwise have not fully consented) and zero tolerance to homophobia.

    If this whole process had started off doing those things and worked on a real theology that could be practically applied to gay peoples lives, then of course there would still be a campaign for same sex marriage, but there would be less division.

    Instead the leadership keep making grand sounding statements of repentance and new inclusion that don’t mean anything and get everyone’s backs up. And instead both gay people and conservatives are in a worse position than when the process started.

    Ultimately now I think there will continue to be blather and obstruction on all of these issues and there will continue to be a slow drain away both of conservatives and those who are seeking better treatment of LGBT people

  8. So what would you say is different about the English speaking world? It clearly is backward compared to the other parts of the world which are growing.
    You state that but do not analyse the reasons for it, putting you behind those who do analyse it.
    It must be something to do with whatever is the case in the English speaking world that is not the case elsewhere.
    The main thing that springs to mind would be the English speaking world’s embrace of secularism, especially in sexual ethics.
    Remarkably, that turns out to be the very topic of which we are speaking.
    And even more remarkably, this cultural difference seems precisely relevant, since churches always contract the more they go along with secular sexual ethics.
    Not surprisingly since secularism is by definition the main enemy of the divine and of the holy.

    • Christopher

      “there’s a root cause that churches are struggling to be relevant.”

      I don’t know much about churches outside the English speaking world so I can’t give reasons why they might be the same or different. I have a vague understanding that churches are mostly in decline in Scandinavia, Germany and Spain, but that’s all I can tell you

      • Relevant to culture?
        Well, of course not, since every graph shows clearly that churches that worry about departing too far from a prevailing culture do not grow. Secondly, the graphs also show that they shrink.
        And you portray this cause of shrinkage as a cause of growth??

        • Christopher

          By “relevance”, I mean that most people in the west no longer see the church as helpful to their lives.

          As just one example when I was a child, the only way to really get any Bible teaching was to go to a church and hope they had a preacher who knew a thing or two. Now most people can access better teaching online than they can in church.

          I didn’t mention culture. Please stop complaining about things I haven’t even written!

          • What on earth is so special about the west? It leads the way in decadent family-breaking culture.
            If you are analysing whether the church is growing (the 20th century was by far the greatest time of growth since Christ) then you analyse that. You don’t take a little random part of the world and analyse that part only, and ignore the rest. How would you know which little random part to pick, and how would your conclusions be anything but far less useful and truthful than if you had had the whole world in view?

            Least of all do you pick the only little random part that you are aware of yourself, and refuse to learn anything about any part that is not yours, or that is successful.

          • Culture is a broad reality and category. Just because you didn’t use the actual word does not mean you did not assume or say things about it.

          • Christopher

            What’s special about the west is I live here! That’s all.

            I don’t know much about churches in Africa or Asia so I can’t speak about them. Sorry but I’m English and we are on a blog post about the church of england, not the church of tibet.

          • So do you think that the place where by chance you happen to live is more representative or normal than anywhere else?
            Second, there are plenty of people that are educated about other parts of the world. Which of the two is better, being educated about them or being ignorant about them?
            Third, which is better, to spend time pleading ignorance or to use the same time gaining knowledge?

          • So then if you make wide conclusions based only on the west – particularly when it is so backward and low achieving in family breakdown, pornography availability and other things, those conclusions are unlikely to be accurate or worth much.

          • Christopher

            I haven’t made any conclusions about the whole world. You have repeatedly told me I have said things that I haven’t said.

            Either discuss in good faith or leave me be

          • Then you have treated the west with more significance than it deserves. Any place I misunderstand you, just bring the misunderstanding and it will be addressed.

          • Christopher

            No. I’m only talking about the west because that’s where I live and what this blog is about, actually the west is much wider than what this blog is about

  9. Given Synod rejected Ozanne’s proposals for same sex marriage in church but also rejected conservative evangelicals opposition to prayers of blessing for same sex couples in church, the prayers are clearly what the majority of the CofE via the elected Synod agree on

  10. Why not have a “blessing” imploring God for the actual graces needed for a couple to live in accord with His will? A blessing where the vicar says:

    “May God bless and help N and N, to be freed from the chains of immoral sexual behaviour and move toward upright living. May they mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel and be freed from their imperfections and frailties. May they be enabled to understand and realise God’s will fully in their lives.”

    • The cofe cant even define what counts as sex for gay people. How can you say that something is immoral when you don’t even know what it is?

      This is a big bone of contention with LLF. Its just more ducking the question about what the CofE actually has to say to gay people.

      • You are quite wrong, Peter.

        First of all, the C of E is not the expert body that would be needed to make such a definition. What is expert about it? Why do you listen to its opinion when there are people more qualified?

        Next, you can easily say things that are undefined are immoral. Sometimes you can. When? When *all* the possible definitions would be of something immoral. You may not know which of the possible definitions applies (and they doubtless overlap greatly anyway) but that doesn’t matter when it comes to immorality, since all of them would define immoral realities.

        And if you are saying that anything that has not been defined (definition is not easy) is thereby something that people can continue doing – then that says little good about your character, and your logical ability too.

          • Holding hands is a cultural thing. In some societies, two men holding hands simply shows friendship and affection. In the West it typically signifies romantic involvement, ie more than friendship.

            Given you live in the West, it is inappropriate.

          • What a silly question. You know very well that I do not accept your use of the term husband nor of the term gay. Why would I? You use these words as though they were commonly accepted and you were allowed to force people to recognise them as accurate when they don’t. This may not be tactical on your part, but it is a well known lobbyist tactic and has been for decades. Presupposing the disputed territory and presenting it as universal.

          • Christopher

            I chose the question deliberately. This may seem obviously sinful to an evangelical, but it wouldn’t be thought of as serial activity by most gay people.

            Its not up to you to decide if I’m married or not. I have a marriage certificate which proves it

          • All you are saying is that people think the things in their own culture are normal. Who ever doubted it? Being normal does not make things good anyway.

            To go through a ceremony just means certain people said certain words in certain contexts. If you believe in magic words, then you think magic happened at that point. However, when two people become one, which they can do for better or for worse (as the saying goes), that is physical reality not opinion.

          • Peter, in God’s eyes that man is not your husband, whatever the law of the land says. God’s Word is the Law for Christians. We must all heed it to gain eternal life.

          • James

            You are free to believe whatever you like about God. I don’t agree.

            I’m married in the eyes of the state, my church, my doctor and my dentist

          • Peter: the next time I need theological instruction, I shall be sure to consult your doctor and dentist. I will be happy to provide thfm with medical advice.

          • Peter
            you wrote “Is it immoral sexual activity for me to hold my husbands hand?”
            On the face of it no, that is not immoral sexual activity. It is perhaps worth saying that through to mid-to-late Victorian times it seems that there was great freedom in the expression of same-sex affection. However by 1900 lots of such expressions came to be seen as suspect and same-sex friendships could become rather stiff and reticent. This was rather compounded in the first half of the 20thC when books, dramas, films and eventually TV wanted to portray people as ‘homosexual’ but of course could not explicitly show things like anal sex, so they used other displays of affection which as I say, became suspect though in fact legitimate. As a result of this many people who felt desires to show affection were led to believe that they were homosexual but in fact weren’t.
            It is noteworthy that although he was in fact fully homosexual, Oscar Wilde was actually prosecuted for acts which potentially were legitimate.

          • AJ Bell I never avoid any question. Only dishonesty people do that. Ask me questions, number them if you like, and I answer every one.

            You are talking of words that have different definitions. That is why we are at cross purposes. You mean one thing by ‘marriage’, in which you are in the international and crosstemporal minority, and I mean another. So which of the two is really ‘marriage’? That is an impossible question because words are what they are in usage. But if people use them as though no other meaning were possible, that is dictatorial. Especially when they are using the minority meaning.

          • There is reality, and then there is law. Anything at all can be voted into law. Laws are voted for by people who
            -are not experts (i.e., MPs)
            -have their own seats and popularity to consider
            -are bound by their own cultural presuppositions
            -are under pressure from lobbyists as well as (see above) constituents
            -may see the discourse of their own day and culture as a norm
            -know very well that law is not reality: red can be voted green (as has been confirmed to me) by epoch making feat of walking a few steps into one or other lobby.

          • Christopher

            But nobody has elected you. You’re not God or a legislator. Who are you to tell me my marriage isn’t a marriage?! How would you feel if people acted like that towards your marriage?

          • You are compelling people to use language the same minority way that you use it. I am compelling nothing.
            But all the time you know that marriage only arose at all to formalise and sanctify reproduction and the formation of families. Why else would there be such a thing as marriage?
            Certainly not (to make a further point) to sanctify and formalise any pairing in a situation where 2 is no better than any other number. The only place 2 comes in nature is in reproduction and thence in childbirth; but that is opposite-sex which indeed is the whole purpose and trajectory of 100s of millions of years of evolution.

      • @ Peter Jermey

        I would have thought it straight forward what constitutes immoral sexual behaviour, i.e., any genital stimulation/release outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. (A Catholic would add: any act that results in orgasm outside of full sexual intercourse that does not fulfil the twofold purpose of union and procreation.)

        • Happy Jack

          But in my practical experience, many evangelicals would probably at least include kissing as within same sex sexual activity, possibly any form of romantic expression

          • @ Peter Jermey

            Well. I can understand that.

            I think kissing and physical expressions of romantic love are best avoided between same sex couples because these are potentially sinful if they tempt someone into lust, or if they are done purposely to experience sexual pleasure. We can still sin against chastity internally by indulging lustful thoughts and desires.

            Thomas Aquinas explores this question in the Summa Theologiae, asking “whether there can be sin in touches and kisses.” He referring to men and women. He concludes that kisses, caresses, etc. are not sinful in themselves if they are done without lustful pleasure, but they can be seriously sinful if they lead someone to consent to lustful pleasure, or if they are done for the sake of this pleasure.

            What is lustful pleasure? Our appetite for complimentary sex is a good thing, created by God. An appetite for same sex genital acts is not a good thing. Arousal – the awakening of that appetite in preparation for sex – is a natural response to stimuli. So it can be a temptation to sin if it happens outside the context of marriage. And between same sex people “making out” would be to feed an appetite best resisted.

          • Healthy kissing, hugging and handholding are just healthy. What you call romantic is often actually needy, and a negative thing. Mouth to mouth kissing, no, not between same sex.

          • Happy Jack/Christopher

            This is why the CofE should have spent the last decade deciding on teaching about LGB people. Just saying “don’t have sex” is not clear enough on the issues of kissing and hand holding.

          • The last decade?

            So the teaching of 2000 years that sex is for marriage, shared with all the main international cultures in different countries, passes you by? All you see is one decade?

          • Christopher

            A gay person does not know that holding hands is sex. The church has not been teaching this

    • Excellent, Jack! I’ve copied this to Francis who seems a bit puzzled by these things – but made sure to credit you. No, don’t thank me.

  11. HJ,
    That reminds me of a chorus from a few years back. “Come just as you are to worship……your god”
    It omitted the Gospel message which includes not remaining the same. It omits the Gospel of transformative change.

    • Nobody is perfect when they first turn to God for His grace and help!

      And the actual lyrics:

      Come, now is the time to worship
      Come, now is the time to give your heart
      Come, just as you are to worship
      Come, just as you are before your God
      Come ….

      Willingly we choose to surrender our lives
      Willingly our knees will bow
      With all our heart, soul, mind and strength
      We gladly choose you now

    • Geoff

      In a nutshell that’s one of the questions for the cofe – do they want to be a church that’s opening and welcoming to everyone or do they want to be a church where everyone knows the right things to believe about God and the Bible? They can’t be both and that tension is the same tension in LLF

      • No, the question is whether or not the church tells people who are doing what the Bible calls sin, and who are not repentant of it, that they may play a full role in church life.

        • Anton

          The reality is that there’s almost no repentance in church. Many church leaders behave in appalling ways and only say sorry if they get caught. Congregations are largely made up of people whose lives happen to already be acceptable to the particular church.

          We see hundreds of church scandals every year. We never hear of anyone repenting

          • “The reality is that there’s almost no repentance in church.”

            That maybe your experience but it’s not mine. And any lack of it doesn’t negate its importance… though it might be a witness against some preaching

          • Anton

            No its not a diversion. Its called being beyond frustrated at being constantly told I’m an evil sinner -either for getting married or sometimes just for existing(!) – by people who have their hand in the till, are having three ways with the organist, are lying to cover up abuse and preserve the churchs reputation etc etc.

            The religious establishment is horrendously corrupt and they demonize people like me to draw attention away from their corruption.

          • There are plenty of Bible-based Christians who don’t behave like that, if you care to listen to them.

          • Peter Jermey, I am prepared to bet that you have never once been told you should not exist. Let alone that you DO not exist!

            There is a confusion here often – among those who know better really – about denying existence and denying self description.

          • Peter,

            I’m afraid I do not trust your definition of ‘attacking’. Sometimes it is necessary to tell people courteously things that they do not like to hear.

      • @ Peter Jermey

        In the case of same sex attracted folk, the “tension” is between Christian doctrine and pastoral care. How can the Church lead those caught-up in sinful lifestyles back to the truths of the Gospel about how to order their lives in accord with God’s designs? Just how can the Church facilitate responsiveness to God’s grace without approving sin or abandoning the “lost sheep”?

        • Well, it’s going to have to be clear about how they ought to be ordering their lives as a practical matter. As is repeatedly shown on here, and in the wider Church dialogue, “conservatives” are desperate to avoid that conversation. Attempts to have that conversation in the US have seen “conservatives” denouncing each other – see Rosaria Butterfield tearing into Preston Sprinkle for example because she thinks he says Christians who experience same-sex attraction (that is, are gay) ought to embrace lifelong celibacy rather than pursue opposite-sex marriage.

          • @ AJ Bell

            I have to agree that same sex attracted people, aided by the grace of God and with the support of the Church, most certainly should be aiming for sexual chastity in their lives.

          • It has been repeatedly told to you here that you should not expect frankness on a public blog under British so-called hate speech laws which the LGBT lobby was in the vanguard of getting enacted.

          • Anton,

            That says more about your views than anything else. It can’t be covenanted partnerships (that’s in PLF). It can’t be a calling to lifelong celibacy (there are books published pushing that line). It can’t be, just enter into an opposite-sex marriage despite your sexual orientation (others can and do recommend that). So what is so vile that you’re scared you couldn’t defend it in court? Are you clinging to conversion therapy despite the mountains of terrible experience over the decades (and despite others advocating it without running foul of the hate speech laws). Or is it more serious, and you find yourself lining up with the Church of Uganda and hankering for a death penalty?

          • AJB,

            So-called hate speech laws which the LGBT lobby fought to put in place mean that they can lie to the police and courts that they are distressed or alarmed when the truth is that they are merely angry and wish to silence opposing points of view. So I will continue to advocate in private conversations and to lawmakers for what I believe. I am prepared to face the law for Christ when called upon, but you do not deserve to hear my views.

          • @ AJ Bell

            “Chasity” means to refrain from sexual pleasure or sexual intercourse outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Sexual acts are reserved for two opposite sex people who are married to each other.

            Same sex people should live in a state of chaste friendship.

          • You see the problem though HJ – if asked whether Christians who are gay ought to be encouraged to embrace lifelong celibacy or pursue opposite-sex marriage, saying that sex is reserved for opposite-sex marriage isn’t actually an answer.

          • ‘saying that sex is reserved for opposite-sex marriage isn’t actually an answer’

            Why not? It was the answer for Paul; it is the answer given to all single women. It is the answer for straight men who never marry.

          • It wasn’t the answer for St Paul though.

            St Paul’s answer to the question of whether you should be encouraged to pursue lifelong celibacy or be encouraged into marriage, answered that it is good to be unmarried as he was, but that it was better to marry than burn with passion. It’s good for virgins to remain unmarried, but marrying is no sin. If their passions are too strong however, and they feel they ought to marry, they should marry. He’s also quite adamant that the virtues of singleness are not a reason to divorce. Widows are absolutely free to marry. Furthermore, young widows are counselled by St Paul to seek to be married again to avoid attracting slander to them and the Church. (1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 5).

            As Catholic writer Eve Tushnet is often quoted: “[Y]ou can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No.” To which evangelical Wesley Hill adds: “To which forms of love and friendship and service are we called to say yes?” In the UK David Bennett, though himself embracing celibacy, has been sharply critical of the failure of both sides in the debate to really consider how gay people are supposed to flourish in the Church.

          • Because he is another person who demands that everyone accept the problematic term ‘gay people’. While knowing perfectly well that there are 6 or 7 ways in which this is clearly less of an essence than your pigmentation or gender.

          • @ AJ Bell

            By that Eve Tushnet means the vocation needs to be a positive “Yes” to living according to the Gospel. Her first sentence proclaimed her article was about “orthodox gay people, seeking to live in obedience to the Church.” She is herself an advocate of chaste same sex friendship for those who are same sex attracted.

          • @ AJ Bell

            By that Eve Tushnet means the vocation needs to be a positive “Yes” to living according to the Gospel. Her first sentence proclaimed her article was about “orthodox gay people, seeking to live in obedience to the Church.” She is herself an advocate of chaste same sex friendship for those who are same sex attracted.

          • Specifically Eve Tushnet is one half of a lesbian couple who are exclusively committed to each other but do not have sex.

          • AJ Bell

            Her concerns are pastoral approaches and attitudes to same sex attracted people.

            Here’s a moving and revealing essay by Eve Tushnet aimed at priests.

            It opens with:

            As a lesbian seeking to live obediently to the Church, who writes frequently on gay people’s spiritual lives, I have had hundreds of formal interviews and informal conversations with LGBT+ and same-sex-attracted Catholics across the full spectrum of relationships to the Church. I have noticed patterns in what nourishes faith—and what damages someone’s trust in God. As Fiducia Supplicans itself reiterates, every soul’s journey and needs are unique. But there are questions that you as a priest can ask and possibilities you can look out for.

            Her main ‘beef’:

            One of the biggest barriers to trust in the Catholic Church is an unwillingness to see goodness, truth, and beauty in gay couples’ love …

            Many gay people have heard self-appointed defenders of orthodoxy argue that homosexual relationships are inherently narcissistic. When they discover, through their own experience or someone else’s, that gay love can be a site of selflessness and care, they also confront the fact that virtually no public voices in the Church suggest that this love is both real and capable of chaste expression.
            (emphasus added)

          • Its epic theological gymnastics to go from Paul’s “its better to marry than be consumed with lust” to “Paul said marriage was only for straight people”

          • Sorry HJ, are you saying you think Eve is right, and the sort of “life partner but no sex” relationship she has is perfectly ok for the rest of us as well? Because that’s really not the impression I got when you earlier said that physical expressions of romantic love were off limits.

        • Happy Jack

          A problem is that most church leaders either don’t actually know much about LGBT people or pretend not to.

          I happened to see a YouTube clip of a famous Californian preacher asked by someone how they should treat a trans family member. He started off by saying “XX and XY that’s all there is” – but that’s a lie.

          My point is you can’t bring people to the truth by lying to them. The ends don’t justify the means

          • @ Peter Jermey

            Biological sex is not the same thing as gender. For the overwhelming majority of people the fact is that male and female are determined by our chromosomes and not by an identity we might want to assign to ourselves. How is this a lie?

          • OK, transgender is real, like physical intersex is real, just that it is in the mind/brain rather than the body. But where does it stand in relation to God’s original creative purpose? By which I mean, can we seriously imagine God intending the transgender state as a normality in a world unaffected by sin?
            Would/could a loving (or even a sane) God devise the idea that He would ‘make a woman’ by a route involving making a perfectly good male and giving that person such mental dissonance with with that body that they will end up undergoingsome of the most drastic voluntary/cosmetic surgery and other medical procedures known to humanity – yet still in so many ways not really become an actual woman?
            It seems to me that like the case of the man born blind in the gospel story, neither transgender and physical intersex are any part of God’s original intention; both are in the category of ‘consequences of sin’, the disruption of human life from the underlying rebellion against God and thus many aspects of life being ‘out of kilter’. But also like that case of the man born blind, they do not represent any special sinfulness onthe part of those with the problem in their lives. Transgender is therefore to be dealt with sympathetically; but also with an understanding that radical surgery is a non-ideal last resort rather than the first thing we go to. And certainly some current attitudes on the transgender side seem to be undesirably extreme…..

          • Happy Jack

            Because some people are not XX or XY. Its a deliberate lie to say that people are all one or the other

          • Happy Jack

            You could argue that white ethnicity wasn’t in God’s original plan. It’s not an excuse to take white people’s freedom away, make up all sorts of nasty stories about white people or claim they are only pretending to be white to upset God. And regardless of what you teach about white people, there are real white people who have to live in a society impacted by your teaching

            I’m not sure what “undesirably extreme” refers to

          • Peter Jermey
            Response to yours of 28 March 1041am
            Again it seems the gay confusion that ethnicity is the same kind of thing as ‘being gay’ or ‘being transgender’. No, totally different moral and practical category…. Pretending otherwise causes not only misunderstanding but a threat by gay people to the civil liberties of the rest of us.

            I don’t think I’m taking any of the questionable attitudes you complain of. Bear in mind I’m coming at this from a broadly ‘Anabaptist’ stance in which Christian belief and full following of distinctive Christian ethics is very much voluntary.

            I think one would have to argue that white ethnicity would be part of the original plan, in that it seems to be an adaptation for comfortable living in northern regions like the UK. Point is, however, that the arguments (distinct arguments!) about ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ in God’s original plan are on a completely different foundation.

            Are you seriously thinking that a loving – or even a half-way sane – God would make it ‘business as usual’ in his creation that He would ‘make a woman’ by the transgender route of creating a perfectly good male body and making the man in question so out of tune with said body that he will seek some of the most drastic medical interventions known to man to ‘become’ a woman? Especially when objectively, though the changes are slightly more than ‘skin deep’ there are so many rather important ways in which the result is NOT really a woman at all….

            Assuming that you give the obvious commonsense answer to that, then it is rather clear that ‘transgender’ has to be one of those things which are ‘post-fall’ – consequences of living in a sin-affected world. Now clearly many of those consequences are not sinful in themselves, nor necessarily indicate special sinfulness of those affected. Will need to be treated sympathetically – but NOT as a simple ‘normality’. These things are a disruption of normal life and should not be casually ‘affirmed’ especially when dealing with adolescents.

            As for extremism, have you seen these….

      • You are right that the Church cannot be welcoming for all and demand that everyone knows the right things.

        But, it can be welcome to all and be teaching the right things. Otherwise, to be welcoming to those from a Muslim background we would have to deny the crucifixion.

        • Kyle – absolutely right. Anybody prepared to listen to the doctrines of life (i.e. the crucifixion, the resurrection, what Jesus did for us in the crucifixion and resurrection) is (or at least should be) most welcome to attend.

          The apostle Paul was careful to frame the message appropriately to help it get through to those he was preaching to, the basic message remained the same.

  12. When things look bad, we are too apt to aggravate them, and make the worst of them.
    At times like this I recall the sublime poetic prayer of the prophet Habakkuk;
    I think that it cannot be excelled.
    Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
    Habakukk trembled at the prospect of the decimation
    of the faithful [church]
    He had observed and recalled what great things God had done for them in the past, and so he recovered himself out of his fright, and not only retrieved his temper, but fell into a transport of holy joy, with an express non obstante–notwithstanding to the calamities he foresaw coming, and this not for himself only, but in the name of every faithful Israelite. [M. Henry]
    Which reminds me of a quote I once read
    Don’t tell God that you have a big problem
    Tell your problem that you have a Big God.
    What’s wrong will the Church?
    Don’t worry chaps,
    I am with the AA [ALMIGHTY Almighty!]

  13. I do also love C.H.Spurgeon’s comments on Habakkuk 3.
    The prayer of Habakkuk shows us that revival is a work of God, not the achievement of man. There is something man can and must do for revival – simply cry out to God and plead for His reviving work.
    Notice the prayer: revive Your work.
    Often, my prayer is really “revive my work,” but I must have a heart and mind for God’s work, far bigger than my portion of it.
    “Shake off all the bitterness of everything that has to do with self, or with party, and now pray, ‘Lord, revive thy work, and if thy work happens to be more in one branch of the church than in another, Lord, give that the most reviving. Give us all the blessing, but do let thine own purposes be accomplished, and thine own glory come of it, and we shall be well content, though we should be forgotten and unknown.’” (Spurgeon)
    iii. At the same time, this must be a personal prayer: “LORD, revive me.” We too often blame the church for sin, corruption, laziness, prayerlessness, lack of spiritual power, or whatever – and we forget that we are the church.
    Pray for personal revival and diligently search yourself:
    Check your conduct – does your walk glorify the LORD as it should? How about your private conduct, which only the LORD sees?·
    Check your conversation – is your speech profane or impure?
    Check your communion – are you living a growing, abiding life with Jesus?

  14. Comments on Andrew Goddard ‘s idea of structural provision for those who intend to remain in the C of E? What it might look like ? The CEEC / Martin Davie plan for a future Third Province. It’s feasibility given the complex structure and established status of the C of E?

    • The Third Province should certainly be brought in – although the bishops and institutionalists will kick and scream against it, just as they did to prevent a Third Province when women’s ordination was introduced. The last thing people with power want to so is to give up power.

      Incidentally, it is clear that women’s ordination has completely failed to revive the Church of England, as its proponents claimed it would do, instead it has further feminised and liberalised the C of E, at least in its clergy (creating a large body of middle aged and older women NSMs, often former teachers and nurses in a second career move), as men and boys have continued to abandon the C of E. Evangelicals went along with women’s ordination, not foreseeing that it has led to precisely the mess that is LLF as the House of Clergy became more liberal and thousands of Anglo-Catholics left the C of E.

      The root problem is the House of Bishops, created by a liberal ascendancy appointing other liberals as suffragans. The only answer lies in ending the idea of a permanent episcopacy. People should be appointed bishops for a fixed five year term, then go back to parish ministry. It is also essential to SLASH diocesan staffs to a minimum and put money back into actual ministry – parish and chaplaincy work.

      • A Third Province should be brought in when one ‘side’ shows no evidence of research or coherent thinking or of knowing what the counter arguments are nor the statistics for post 1960 sexual practice? Nor evidence of ability to think outside the culture.
        The remedy for that is for them to tick these boxes first.

          • History doesn’t begin with the date of your birth, nor end with the date of your death. It’s not all about you, doesn’t revolve around you. Just get over yourself.

          • I understand what Geoff is getting at. This is a world of 13.7bn years’ duration. What you say is a long time ago is a blink of an eye ago. Short termism bespeaks narrow horizons.

          • Geoff

            History didn’t begin in 1945 either. You guys are demanding we re-enact British culture in the 1950s. Why was culture then “right” (racism, widespread domestic violence, many jobs fired women if they got married, single mothers shunned, gay people were jailed), but not the 1880s or the 1820s or further back.

            You’re defining a “golden age” which was almost certainly morally worse than now for anyone who wasn’t a straight white man with money

      • The Third Province being, of course, the point of the having the whole debate in the first place. Not for the first time we’re just the convenient excuse, not brothers and sisters in Christ, but a “wedge issue” to be kicked around in order for you to whine incessantly until you get your Province so you can schism the Church but take your pension pot with you.

        • I think the comments of Phil Almond, above, show that this is not just a wedge issue, but is far deeper, if other doctrines can be ignored.

          In support of the extant doctrine, here are but two books and a talk:

          “Pierced for Our Transgressions : Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution” is a book on the topic, by Jeffrey, Ovey and Sach.
          The late Mike Ovey was Anglican, and I understand Andrew Sach remains so.

          Here is a talk by Andrew Sach:

          Another book is “Understanding the Atonement” by Donald MacLeod

          It is clear that the comments section here is an inadequate format for discussion. Though it has been made apparent over time that there are contributors to the comments section on our host’s blog who would not sing “In Christ Alone” in worship of our Triune God.

          • @ Geoff

            Well, HJ for one doesn’t subscribe to the (Calvinist) model of penal substitutionary atonement and he’d be happy singing In Christ Alone once this verse is suitably amended:

            ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
            All offence to God was satisfied
            By His self offering all sin outweighed
            Here in the death of Christ I live, I live.

            There, that’s better.

            Besides, doesn’t this hymn represent a “satisfaction theory” of the Cross (i.e. Christ suffers for us), not “penal substitution” (i.e. Christ punished instead of us, or, more accurately, limited to the predestined elect)?

            Penal substitutionary atonement misunderstands the Trinity, the Incarnation, God’s “wrath,” and God’s “perfect justice”.

            Rather, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is one of vicarious atonement for the redemption of the human race – a voluntary offering that satisfied and outweighed the injustice done to God.

            Christ accepted His death on the cross freely, willing laying down His life for each one of us in love. God the Son, as man, freely offered Himself and sacrificed His life. He does this in our place. Being God, His offering is one of infinite value. This act of humility, obedience and love was pleasing to God. And Christ’s sacrifice was of infinite merit for us.

            Here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it

            By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who “makes himself an offering for sin,” when “he bore the sin of many,” and who “shall make many to be accounted righteous,” for “he shall bear their iniquities.” Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father. (# 615)

            And Aquinas writes:

            . . . by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offence of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which he suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of his life which he laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion and the greatness of the grief endured…And therefore, Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race…”
            (Summa, III, 48, a. 2)

          • Reply to HJ on Penal Substitution

            Penal Substitution is the Biblical view as well as the Calvinistic view as follows:
            From Romans 5:12-21 and from other passages it is clear that we all face God’s condemnation (‘katakrima’) because of Original Sin and our own sins. According to Strong ‘katakrima’ is ‘punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, penalty’. Deliverance from that condemnation is surely the greatest need of us all.
            So when Peter writes ‘Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.’ that baring of our sins must surely include bearing our greatest need -the punishment we deserve.
            So Romans 8:1 – no ‘katakrima’ for those in Christ Jesus.

            Phil Almond

          • Penal substitution has remarkably little Biblical backing for supporting it over the other theories of atonement. For example, in Romans 8, St Paul says that God sent his Son to be a sin offering. But he doesn’t say Jesus was condemned, rather “he condemned sin”.

          • To AJBell again re Romans 8
            Romans 8 says
            “…God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…”
            which means condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus
            Also you are not getting my point that just as God does not condemen those in Christ Jesus, the converse is that he does condemn those not in Christ Jesus.

            Phil Almond

          • @ Philip Almond

            Those texts don’t prove “penal substitutionary atonement.” All they demonstrate is that the consequence of human sin was atoned for by Christ’s voluntary super abundant sacrificial offering on our behalf – He suffered for us not instead of us. The Father didn’t “punish” His Son. Jesus willingly offered His Passion to the Father.

          • Happy Jack
            March 26, 2024 at 7:54 pm
            @ Philip Almond

            ‘Those texts don’t prove “penal substitutionary atonement.”’

            It depends on the right exegesis of “…God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh…”.
            If (as I believe,and Schreiner and Moo agree with me) it means
            “condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus”
            then it does prove that Christ was punished instead of us.

            Phil Almond

        • AJB – I have paid tax, NI and pension contributions all my long (and still continuing) working life and have been a member and leader of churches which were and are net contributors to central church funds, giving far more than they ever received in return. This is the case with all medium and large evangelical churches in the C of E: almost all churches in the C of E with 200+ uSa are evangelical. If any churches have s “claim” to the pension pot, it is those thaf gave hivrn sacrificially.
          As for ‘schisming the Church’, ask yourself who it is who is pushing to change church doctrine.

        • “so you can schism”

          That really doesn’t hold water. Those demanding fundamental change accusing “remainers” of being schismatics?

          One could make the accusation that those who hold your position lack the courage to see it through and start another denomination. One could suggest (to use a previous slur) you want to keep your pensions….?

          But such accusations may not be helpful contributions to any debate.

      • Why should a third province be brought in? Evangelicals should fight to throw out the heretics, no matter how high the rot extends.

        • “Evangelicals should fight to throw out the heretics … ”
          Indeed – and that should include throwing out the heresy of being a national/established church, especially as that entanglement with the state, and the way it exposes the body to worldly pressures, has played a major role in the current heresies around sexuality…..

      • I don’t think women priests has been a problem, most are caring and rooted in their communities. Indeed for some families it has even been a confidence booster in their local church as women priests have barely any cases of sexual abuse committed by them.

        I do agree though we need to put more funds into parish and chaplaincy work, they are the foundation stones of the Church of England after all. There don’t need to be as many suffragan bishops either, nor as you say as many funds put into diocesan admin

        • Simon, the issue (as I have always stressed) is that men and boys need men to be their spiritual leaders, not women; and when women become the leaders, men depart for the most part. Like it or not, an unintended consequence of WO has been the further feminisation of an already feminised church.
          Men need men to preach, challenge and model to them Christian living, especially what it means to be a Christian husband and father. A woman, however excellent she is in the Christian virtue, just can’t do this. This is something rooted in human nature, in the way God made us.
          A Christian woman should be alongside her husband.

          • Why? Were Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I and II incapable of leading men too? I do and have attended plenty of churches which have women priests and not noticed any gender difference in the congregation to those with male priests. Indeed some preach better than the men do and they are perfectly capable of setting out too to men as well as women how to live a Christian life.

            As I also said, like it or not instances of child sex abuse amongst female priests are almost unheard of, where they do occur they are almost always from male priests. So parents concerned about child safeguarding of their children in their church can have extra confidence when the priest is a woman (though of course the vast majority of male priests are decent and law abiding, sadly the minority that aren’t have left a stain on both the Church of England and Roman Catholic church, especially the latter which still has no female priests)

          • You are right, Simon – homosexual clergy have caused immense harm to the church. Not that I have ever been worried about sexual molestation of children in any church I have attended.
            I imagine the churches you have attended are about 70% female, perhaps more. But when men go to church, their families usually follow.
            Take it from me, men need to be led by men (like fathers and elder brothers) and not to have the complications of male-female relationships entering the picture. The New Testament church understood this very well. Margaret Thatcher and the Queens of England were not pastors. They would have been terrible at that.
            Bruce, thanks for your support.

          • And there are plenty of male priests about too still for men who do want men to lead themselves and their families, if they really are that fussy about a woman priest attempting to do so.

            However there is no doubt in the services I have seen women priests are often better able to engage children in services and make mothers feel at ease. Ordination of women and allowing choice of female as well as male priests is therefore in my view a positive thing

          • Yes. 93% of fathers who are in a nuclear family will bring their family into the church if they are converted, but only 17% of women (statistics from Christian Vision for Men, UK).

          • Anton’s point is correct and stark, but on Simon’s point, the only reason for those stats is that more mothers than fathers had any faith in the first place.

            You are comparing apples and oranges. The father’s faith is more significant for those growing up, the mother’s (or any Christian parent’s, given the truth of my first para) retrospectively.

  15. Hi Anton
    I agree

    It should be common ground among evangelicals that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

    The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

    But are these messages believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?

    The clear answer to that is “No”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, and the need to help the homeless and those in dire need, very important though such things are!

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

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

    What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the whole Church about this failure.

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

    I have suggested this to CEEC and Church Society more than once without any response.

    Philip Almond
    (former member of Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Network)

  16. In all this vexed question we must not forget God or His Word.
    Soak yourselves in it. The Word of God is a Health Farm for the soul it Refreshes, Restores, Revives, and Re-ignites.
    Psalm 37 is a good place to start.
    Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
    For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
    Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself,…
    … because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
    Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
    For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
    The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes upon him with his teeth.
    The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.
    The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.
    Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
    Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.
    I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
    Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
    Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

    God will break the bow that they have purloined from Him
    to flaunt their pride.

  17. This thread has made it abundantly clear what is the answer to Andrew Goddard’s question, “Can we find a way forward for LLF together?”


    • Not 100% no but Synod voted by majority for LLF as the C of E’s legislature to approve the proposals put forward by the Bishops, the C of E’s executive. So that is that

      • “Together” being the operative word. There’s very clearly no unity or communion amongst Church of England over this.

        As Churchill famously said: Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. The “beginning” of what “end” one asks?

        • No but there doesn’t need to be unity, conservative Anglo Catholic and evangelical Parishes have an opt out from the Prayers of Blessing for same sex couples if they wish. However over 50% of the Bishops and over 50% of Synod voted for the Prayers in services for same sex couples, so a majority of the C of E back them.

          The Roman Catholic church may need absolute unity based on top down doctrine from the Pope and Vatican for all its churches across the world. The Church of England doesn’t

          • Simon, you are like a stuck record, and for one who styles hinself a “Catholic”, you have little understanding of Catholic theology. Google “the Robbers’ Synod” to see how local mistakes – even big ones – can be corrected. That is what it means to be “Catholic”. Your thinking is actually as sectarian as the local fellowship of the Plymouth Brethren.

          • It is indeed as sectarian as that – though there is no harm in being sectarian per se – the flaws in thinking are all coherence flaws, in particular the sidelining of Jesus in favour of more minor things like canon law, votes, and denominationalism.

          • I am not a Roman Catholic, I am an Anglican just more on the liberal Catholic than evangelical wing of the Church of England (and probably a narrow majority of the Synod are also on the liberal Catholic wing now).

          • Jesus of course never opposed prayers for same sex couples and holy matrimony is reserved for opposite sex couples anyway

          • Simon, proof once again that you don’t understand what “Catholic” means (hint: it doesn’t mean “Roman Catholic”, Eastern Orthodox are also Catholics) but essentially sectarian and extremely Erastian in your understanding of “the Church”. You seem to think the Church of England is some local (national) autonomous social institution like the Conservative Party which determines its own identity and beliefs by a vote of its membership without regard to the views of other Christians in the country or the world. In other words, you think sexual ethics and the doctrine of marriage are functionally the same as a local dress code or some other matter of adiaphora and have nothing at all to do with the *Catholicity of the Church: that is, its transnational and transhistorical nature as the Bride of Christ at all times in all places – that is what it means to call oneself a “Catholic”, and thet is why you are really a Little Englander sectarian with an untheological and unspiritual understanding of the nature of the Church.
            And you fail completely to understand even the Constitution of the Church of England, how it is run by Canons which regulate worship and doctrine. The whole PLF thing has ended up in incoherence – as the Bishops learned when they got unwelcome legal advice. Before you repeat your mantra about GS votes, learn something about Constitutional law and Canon B5 of the Church of England.

          • The Church of England is the established Protestant church while also of Catholic and apostolic heritage yes. Canons of the Church are just its past heritage but even the Canons make clear governance of the C of E by its Bishops and Clergy are not repugnant to the word of God and can be changed. Synod and the Bishops therefore still control doctrine and can change it if desired.
            Even B5 only gives some discretion to priests in terms of prayers for forms of service, in accordance with C of E doctrine and where no provision made by General Synod or Canon B2

          • ‘the Canons make clear governance of the C of E by its Bishops and Clergy are not repugnant to the word of God and can be changed. Synod and the Bishops therefore still control doctrine and can change it if desired.’

            So, Simon, you are claiming that, because governance by bishops is biblical, then if the bishops decided to change doctrine to contradict scripture that is, er biblical?

            What bizarre logic!

          • Is this the new argument? That we need to stick to a particular view of sexual ethics for gay people (extremely reluctantly, and badly, explained) in the name of catholic unity?

            It’s just that at the same time, disagreement over things like whether someone can lose their salvation, whether infants can be baptised, whether we can throw books like Judith and Ecclesiasticus out of the canon of Scripture, are presumably all fine. Are we expected to think these are minor, trivial things?

          • How Bishops and Synod interpret scripture defines C of E doctrine, yes. Hence the Church of England remarries divorcees and has women priests, unlike say the Roman Catholic church or Southern Baptists and hence it also now will have prayers of blessing for same sex couples unlike say the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist and Pentescotal churches but not full marriage of same sex couples in church unlike say the Church of Scotland, US Episcopal church, Methodists and some Lutherans churches and the Quakers. For the way the C of E interprets scripture does not exactly match the way other denominations do

          • AJ Bell Well said, as one of the examples you gave showed Anglicans and Roman Catholics believe in infant baptism, unlike say Baptists or Pentecostals who only believe in it for adults

          • @ TI

            Didn’t Jesus pray: ,.i>”That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17: 21)

          • Ecclesiasticus (aka Sirach)?

            On bringing up children, Sirach says: “He who loves his son will whip him often… If you play with your child, he will grieve you; do not laugh with him, or you will have sorrow with him… give him no freedom in his youth… make his yoke heavy” (ch. 30). Is this consistent with the loving discipline in Ephesians 6:4 or Proverbs, or Jesus’ tender talk of children (Matthew 18)? Also, “a man’s wickedness is better than a woman’s goodness” (Sirach 42:14).

            This is not the word of The Lord.

          • Ian

            You wouldn’t have to change scripture, because scripture does not oppose gay people being married. Scripturally is far easier to accept SSM than women preachers because there’s no direct prohibition in scripture

          • ‘scripture does not oppose gay people being married’. That is a baffling claim in the light of the evidence. I struggle to understand how you can claim that after all this discussion. Are you just ignoring all the evidence??

  18. I see. That’s your version of Sola Scriptura is it? If I don’t like a bit of Scripture, or find it challenging, or difficult to interpret, I should just throw it out of the canon?

    • It’s not about disliking it. It’s about whether it can be reconciled with the uncontested scriptures. Do you think so, based on those cruel and misogynistic quotes?

      You would also do well to read “The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church” by Roger Beckwith.

    • Why on earth do you imagine it is always a matter of interpretatio, so called?

      You think that texts often mean completely different from what they say?

      How is that possible? It sounds highly dishonest, and Christians are supposed to be more honest than the average.

      Or maybe other texts mean what they say and Bible ones (highly conveniently) often don’t?? Does anyone actually believe that?

      • It’s always ‘a matter of interpretation’ Christopher, because that is the way that language seems to be used in human communication, most of the time successfully, sometimes not so.

        • it is a matter of different views of what the Bible means. For instance my view of what Romans 5:12 to 5:21 means is that because of Adam’s sin we all face God’s condemnation from birth onwards. Ian Paul’s view is different from my view

          Phil Almond

          • Ian
            I challenge you once again to start a thread devoted to this issue, including why you have committed yourself to belief in Anglican Article 9.

            Phil Almond

        • At law there are ‘canons of construction’ of statutes (and in wills and testamentary dispositions) something Stott recognised in his first edition of Basic Christianity.
          For starters there is the ‘Golden Rule’.
          Are there canons of construction of scripture?
          There certainly seem to be canons of deconstruction.

        • That is not my point. My point is that people use the word ‘interpretation’ in a 2 pronged dishonesty: (1) to try and seem clever, (2) to obscure an issue that is actually clearer but where the decision would come down on the side they don’t want.
          (3) The interpretation they have in mind is often one ruled out by the scholars, as 99% of possible interpretations always are.

          • Once again Christopher you show your bias, and seem to remain ignorant of that bias. Walter Bruegemann stands as a helpful corrective.

            “The work of reading the Bible responsibly is the process of adjudicating these texts that will not be fit together.
            The reason the Bible seems to speak “in one voice” concerning matters that pertain to LGBTQ persons is that the loud voices most often cite only one set of texts, to the determined disregard of the texts that offer a counter-position. But our serious reading does not allow such a disregard, so that we must have all of the texts in our purview.
            The process of the adjudication of biblical texts that do not readily fit together is the work of interpretation. I have termed it “emancipatory work,” and I will hope to show why this is so. Every reading of the Bible—no exceptions—is an act of interpretation. There are no “innocent” or “objective” readings, no matter how sure and absolute they may sound.
            Everyone is engaged in interpretation, so that one must pay attention to how we do interpretation“

          • Andrew G, you appear to be misunderstanding Brueggemann’s approach here, which stands four-square within the Sachkritik tradition. This says that the biblical text is incoherent, that the modern critical reader can discern what the real ‘core’ of the text is, and that this person can then adjudicate between the texts that fit this core, and the ones that don’t.

            The primary assumption here is that Brueggemann’s reading of the texts is superior to the understanding both of the writers of those texts, and later writers in their reception of those texts.

            He thus decides that texts which reject same-sex sexual relationships are incompatible with texts of welcome—because he has prejudged that these relationships are good. The speakers in (including Jesus) and writers of (including Paul and the gospel writers) the New Testament do not appear to agree with Brueggemann on this, articulating both a rejection of SSRs in any context, and a radical sense of inclusion of all who ‘repent and believe’.

            So Brueggemann’s approach asserts himself as a better reader and interpreter of Scripture than that biblical authors themselves. That is not a ‘biblical’ position, but one that parades the hubris of modern critical scholarship.

          • Exactly, Christopher. And Andrew Godsall has just been so kind as to give us an example of what you say, in the words of Walter Brueggemann.

          • Here is the article of Brueggemann’s which you quote, Andrew:


            As a point of logic Brueggemann is correct about interpretation, but the enormous majority of Bible verses are so clear that their meaning is uncontested by anybody sane. Brueggemann reaches the wrong conclusion in this article by being silent about the implications of the Levitical verses which he quotes at the start of his essay: that the community of faith for 3000 years has taken them to be God’s opinions and commands, and that God does not change His views on matters of human morality merely because His Son let Himself be crucified. (Instead, He changed how He deals with such matters.)

            This is not exegetical rocket science. That it is beyond a scholar as knowledgeable as Bruggemann obviously suggests an agenda.

          • As I say Anton, we have been over this many times before. No need to keep rehearsing your tired old arguments. Happy Easter to you!

          • AG,
            Thanks for the laugh….’your tired old arguments’ which are your interjections ….Did God really say? Craftily asked. How old, how wearisome, how self-defining, how life denying-defying, death -defining in pronunciation!
            He is Risen. He is risen in deed, in fact, in space, time, history. Bodily. Resurrection Life in Christ Jesus, in no other.
            Thanks for providing further stimulus to praise and worship Him, Father, Son and Spirit. Word of God written and incarnate.

          • “He is Risen. He is risen in deed, in fact, in space, time, history. Bodily. Resurrection Life in Christ Jesus, in no other.”

            Indeed Geoff. You have had to publish a written apology before for suggesting that I don’t subscribe to the reality of the bodily resurrection. Don’t put yourself in that stupid position again.

          • My point was not close to any of that. It was that people use the word ‘interpretation’ to try and sound clever and simultaneously to attempt to let their own inadmissible (from a scholarly point of view) stance have a place at the table.

            Second, some are far more in a position to give a reliable interpretation than others. So even if everything were merely an interpretation and nothing were a direct understanding, that still would not help us, because there is such variation in different people’s ability to give accurate interpretations. The idea that everything is an interpretation levels the ground and is in danger of the next step being ‘all interpretations are equally good’.

          • Brueggemann cannot very well be anything other than a worse interpreter of writings than the writers, since he will be worse in understanding their intentions than they themselves are, secondly worse in understanding their culture, thirdly worse in understanding their literary devices, fourth worse in understanding the historical events that shape what they write.

        • In which case, we go with those best equipped to interpret. There is an absolutely massive difference in how well the different members of the 8bn human race are equipped to interpret a given text.

          • Indeed Christopher. And I think Bruegemann is rather better placed to interpret than you are.

            Ian: “So Brueggemann’s approach asserts himself as a better reader and interpreter of Scripture than that biblical authors themselves. That is not a ‘biblical’ position, but one that parades the hubris of modern critical scholarship.”

            In fifty years of studying theology I don’t think I’ve ever read such an incoherent approach to biblical scholarship than that in the paragraph you have written above. The biblical authors are not well placed to interpret their own writings *unless* they are able to respond to our questions. History, context, new understandings and the passage of time – to name but four things – raise those questions. A scholar can’t rewrite a text but they can ask ‘what did they understand then that made them express themselves in the way they did’. It’s a basic question for any biblical scholar and your own view doesn’t really allow for it all.

          • The Gagging of God, by DA Carson still speaks today.
            As does the Doctrine of Scripture and the Revelation of scripture by God, as not a merely a human construct.
            Discerning the intentions of God the author throughout the canon of scripture is the task of Christian theologians, scholars who are not all reliable, trustworthy, guides, who attend scripture with their own cultural and social and academic standing purposes and presuppositions of their own to serve and pedestal, replete as they are today in Higher Historical Criticism, relativism, pluralism, Critical theory, deconstructionism, postmodernerism, subjectivism (as opposed to the correspondence)of truth and removal of absolutes of truth replaced by mere opinion, putting God in the Dock, with our high handed moral superiority and sovereign and supreme intellect and “chronological snobbery”.
            God is not dead. God is not gagged. And never will be.

  19. Peter Jermey
    “You wouldn’t have to change scripture, because scripture does not oppose gay people being married”.

    Really!!??? The clearest texts there are say that same-sex sex is wrong, and there wouldn’t seem much point in claiming a marriage without sex ….

    Paul could not be much clearer in Romans in saying that far from being ‘natural’, the urges and desires of ‘gay sex’ are part of the disorder in human life resulting from the underlying issue of sin.

    And of course the Bible does not recognise the category ‘gay people’ anyway – or certainly not as that idea is constructed by ‘gay people’. The Bible has a whole different understanding of what is going on here.

    A sometimes unrealised part of this argument is that the two sides have different presuppositions. Much of the understanding of ‘gayness’ is derived from 19thC materialistic atheism, and in atheism things are conceived as happening somewhat purposely through impersonal physical causes. Bring in the creative purposes of God, and the personal forces which work on that presupposition, and things are somewhat different.

    • (Ian this is an edit because of a small but significant lapse in my original Mar 28 @ 850pm post. Please delete that post to leave this in its place. sorry!
      Peter Jermey
      “You wouldn’t have to change scripture, because scripture does not oppose gay people being married”.
      Really!!??? The clearest texts there are say that same-sex sex is wrong, and there wouldn’t seem much point in claiming a marriage without sex ….
      Paul could not be much clearer in Romans in saying that far from being ‘natural’, the urges and desires of ‘gay sex’ are part of the disorder in human life resulting from the underlying issue of sin.
      And of course the Bible does not recognise the category ‘gay people’ anyway – or certainly not as that idea is constructed by ‘gay people’. The Bible has a whole different understanding of what is going on here.
      A sometimes unrealised part of this argument is that the two sides have different presuppositions. Much of the understanding of ‘gayness’ is derived from 19thC materialistic atheism, and in atheism things are conceived as happening somewhat purposelessly through impersonal physical causes. Bring in the creative purposes of God, and the personal forces which work on that presupposition, and things are somewhat different. Asking what a sensible God might do makes a major difference…..


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