Canon B5A: in or out? Ten key questions for the bishops


Andrew Goddard writes: In February’s General Synod, two of the divisive looming questions are: introducing standalone services for same sex couples experimentally using Canon B5A; and whether we should “reset” the LLF process.

This article asks if, rather than polarise again around these two issues, an apparent consensus on the need for greater honesty and transparency may also help with clarifying and answering the “B5A or not B5A?” question. After noting the sudden appearance of the “standalone” category and use of Canon B5A within the PLF process during last summer, it traces the convoluted “hokey-cokey” history of Canon B5A through the College in September (“in”), House in October (“out”) and Synod in November (“in”) to the current (“shake it all about” possibly leading to a decision to “turn around”) situation.

In doing so it raises ten questions focussed on legal matters and the bishops’ legal advice in order to try to uncover the rationale for the rapidly changing positions of archbishops and bishops, with the hope that greater clarity here might enable better mutual understanding and discernment going forward.


As we await the papers for General Synod, due out at the end of this week, it appears from the recent article by the then co-lead bishops (currently reduced to a single lead bishop, the Bishop of Leicester, following the resignation of the Bishop of Newcastle) that a “reset” of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process will be proposed. This will be in order to seek, on the basis of some proposed “commitments”, an agreed “settlement”. The next steps would therefore not involve proceeding to introduce experimental “standalone services” using Canon B5A or new pastoral guidance to replace Issues, drafts of which have indicated it would open up same-sex civil marriage to clergy. Rather, to return to comparisons with Brexit, it would be more a case of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. The aim would be to find a whole package including pastoral reassurance, probably in the form of providing new “structural provision” that recognises the depth of our disagreements. This possible new direction of travel has not been received well by those pressing for change.

One particular concern for many is that this path will delay, perhaps for a year or more, the introduction of “standalone services” for same-sex couples using the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) resources. Those resources were commended by the bishops in December but only for use in regular services where they could not be the focus of the service. This delay, first proposed by the House of Bishops in their 20th October paper to the November General Synod, was thought to have been overturned and prevented by the Synod when it passed (by only a majority of 1 in the House of Laity) an amendment from the Bishop of Oxford. The final motion therefore requested the House of Bishops “to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis”. This was widely understood to be a request for the Archbishops to use their authority under Canon B5A to authorise standalone services on an experimental basis rather than waiting, as originally proposed, for authorisation only through the lengthy and uncertain Synodical process under Canon B2.

There is the risk that this issue will now become a new flashpoint: those wanting standalone services objecting that Synod is being ignored if experimental services are not authorised soon, those not wanting such services welcoming this delay. Having previously argued that the key question was “B2 or not B2?”(there is a short summary here, with full PDF text here) that has been settled in favour of “not B2” for the prayers now commended for use under Canon B5. It appears that “B2” has probably now also become a settled answer for “standalone services” but that raises the question of “B5A or not B5A?” as an experimental authorisation before or alongside the Canon B2 process.

Rather than rushing into making this a new stand-off along the usual fault-lines it may be better instead to step back and look at how we have ended up here and identify questions it would be very helpful to have clarified. 

Among the commitments being proposed are “honesty and transparency” and many—across our divisions—are increasingly concerned that transparency and perhaps honesty have too often been in scarce supply in this process for some time. What follows draws on a much lengthier and more detailed chronological account to highlight the key stages that have led us to this new focus and potential impasse on “B5A or not B5A?”. It raises ten questions that need answering, even if giving these answers may require from Archbishops, bishops and the central church structures, two other “basics” which have been proposed as commitments in the reset: “humility and repentance”.


Standalone services?

Before focussing on “B5A or not B5A?”, there needs to be a clearer explanation answer to the first question that helped generate it:

  1. How and why between the July General Synod and the meeting of the College of Bishops (from 18th to 21st September) was this new sharp distinction between “regular” and “standalone” services created and how and why were different canonical routes proposed for each category?

Both legal advice and political pressures may have contributed to introducing this stark separation within the PLF drafts presented in February and July. However, as I sketched when it was formally announced, it raises numerous questions. It was interesting that, when pressed for “a definition for a standalone service…as a general principle”, the Bishop of London had to tell the Synod member asking (p53), “I can get an answer written to you…I know somebody who knows”.

Once this distinction was put in place the bishops appear to have been all over the place in relation to the introduction of the standalone services. There are three distinct phases in relation to Canon B5A from the September College through the October House to the November General Synod. These phases can be thought of as representing a sort of episcopal and archiepiscopal hokey-cokey with each step raising important questions, particularly in relation to the changing substance, interpretation and use of (all of it unpublished) legal advice. Such legal advice must surely be a central element in due process for any decision-making, particularly decisions concerning which canons are legitimate, best suited and least risky if we are to introduce controversial new liturgy into the life of the church.


Putting B5A in

At the September College of Bishops it appears, from a subsequent leak which has never been corrected or confirmed, that in two indicative votes the bishops (a) overwhelmingly supported a plan to introduce the standalone services on an experimental basis under Canon B5A and (b) also strongly rejected the option to leave their introduction until the end of the Canon B2 process. Given the importance of this apparently strong consensus the second question arises as to 

2. What legal advice existed at this initial stage of the bishops’ consideration in relation to the “B5A or not B5A?” question and what did such advice state?


Putting B5A out

At the November General Synod, when asked for “some more clarity on why there was a sudden change in the decision to go from B5A to B2…probably around October the 9th”, the Bishop of London objected “there was not a sudden change…I do not think it was sudden” (Proceedings, pp 55-56). The reality is, however, that I and many others (including Professor Helen King, Vice-Chair of the General Synod Gender & Sexuality Group) were told by the bishop in various meetings a week before the House of Bishops that the proposal that was to be put involved (1) commending the suite of prayers for use under Canon B5 as proposed to, and supported by, Synod in February but (2) bringing standalone services to Synod under Canon B2 along with an experimental period authorised under Canon B5A.

On 9th October at the House, however, the Bishop of London instead proposed going straight to Canon B2 without an experimental period using Canon B5A. This was strongly supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The vote, it is reported, was tight (19 for but 16 still wanting to use B5A) but it was announced that evening in a press release which explained that

Bishops gave serious consideration to an alternative legal process which could have enabled special services to be authorised almost immediately—but temporarily—(under Canon B5A). This would still have required a further process for the services to be authorised permanently (under Canon B2) by Synod. 

The Bishop of London also explained in the press release (with no mention that this was a major reversal of the recent recommendation of the College) that the House

have agreed to commend Prayers of Love and Faith and also considered the best way to authorise special standalone services. Having carefully considering [sic] the legal, theological and pastoral implications of possible approaches, the bishops concluded that it would ultimately be clearer to proceed directly to consideration under Canon B2.  We acknowledge that there are some who would like this process to move faster, however the move to full authorisation will provide clarity and wide consultation ahead of a final decision by synod in 2025.

Two further key questions raised by this process and statement are:

  1. What were presented to the bishops as the “legal, theological and pastoral implications of possible approaches” that led them now to conclude, after consideration, in favour of Canon B2 and to reject the use of Canon B5A?
  2. Was this change in proposed canonical processes agreed by the House in October due to the legal and theological advice now being offered to them having become, in an iterative process, different from that which had been offered to the College in September in relation to the use of Canon B5A?

Less directly related to the “B5A or not B5A?” question, but not unconnected to it given concerns about legal challenges to the Archbishops if they used Canon B5A, there is also the question 

  1. Why, in a dissenting statement, did a dozen bishops at the House state that “legal and theological advice the House has received suggest clearly to us that the decisions of the House may fall short” of the bishops’ declared intention (and the requirement within the February General Synod motion) that “the final form of the prayers should not be “indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England””?

Three weeks later, on 20th October, the House published its full proposals to bring to the November General Synod in GS 2328. This led to major and understandable critique from those pressing for change and the leaking of the contrasting voting figures between College and House. GS 2328 makes no mention at all of Canon B5A or an “experimental” option. The only hints as to why the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and a narrow majority of bishops had changed their mind are found in para 10 of the covering paper:

The third section of the Prayers contains the forms of service to be used for separate, standalone services (those outside of existing regular worship). These forms of service will not be commended, but will follow the process for liturgical authorisation under Canon B2. Following the Canon B2 process for these services will provide the firmest footing for those using them within the shortest possible timeframe. It will provide reassurance concerning legal challenges, both for those who wish to use the prayers and for those who do not. It will also regulate the form in which this material can be used, and enable an opt-in approach to provide clarity and transparency about which churches have decided to offer them.

The two central arguments for B2 but “not B5A” here appear to be in relation to speed (“the shortest possible timeframe”) and security (“the firmest footing for those using them…reassurance concerning legal challenges”) and both these themes were strongly present in written answers to questions released on 10th November (e.g. Questions 2, 24, 53, 57, 60, 73). One of those answers also clearly stated that “The proposal that the standalone PLF services should be introduced in the General Synod for approval under Canon B 2 was a collective decision of the House of Bishops” (Q73).

In the light of this, an additional sixth question arises 

  1. What legal advice was being given to the bishops at this stage concerning (a) the respective speeds of the “B5A or not B5A?” question in relation to the B2 process and (b) the different legal risk assessments of “firmness of footing” and “reassurance concerning legal challenges” in relation to these two possible canonical routes?

These are particularly important because within three days of the answers being published it began to become clear that, led by the Archbishops and the Bishop of Oxford, with the support of the Bishop of London, the majority of the House of Bishops were now engaging in a “reverse ferret” to support “B5A in”. They would do so while simultaneously claiming, in the face of repeated requests from Synod members to be able to see their legal advice, that the legal basis for their position was not being “hidden” as it was all set out in the papers that argued, paradoxically, for “B5A out”.


Putting B5A in again

In proposing his amendment (effectively to return to Canon B5A), the Bishop of Oxford confirmed an earlier comment by the Bishop of London (in answering a question) that legal advice in relation to the relative speed of the “B5A or not B5A?” options had apparently recently changed. She had said:

The further clarity has been that, actually, you could run experimental services alongside the B 2, which is where the amendment comes from (p. 56).

The Bishop of Oxford in proposing his amendment stressed that it would “enable those services to be celebrated much sooner, and during the Canon B 2 process” (p. 252). 

No mention was made of the other argument in relation to security or whether the move to run Canon B5A alongside Canon B2 (rather than before it and then having to withdraw it leaving no authorised service in place) now meant “B5A” rather than “not B5A” provided “the firmest footing” or the greatest “reassurance concerning legal challenges”. It may have done or it may have been a political judgment that even if legally riskier, opposing the amendment and sticking with “not B5A” might lead those wishing standalone services to join conservatives in voting down the whole motion.

These points were powerfully made in the first speech opposing the amendment, by Kate Wharton (Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York):

The Bishop of Oxford does not name Canon B5A, but that is effectively what we are talking about, and yet the House of Bishops discussed and voted against B 5A. In fact, GS 2328 and answers to some questions outline a number of reasons why B 2 is better than B5A. There we are told that the risk of legal action is greatly diminished if B 2 is used, that the firmest footing for proceedings lies with B 2, that broad consultation across dioceses will be possible with B 2. Why, then, having been told so clearly that the bishops chose B2 for all of these good reasons, would we now switch to B5A? The question of legal advice has already been much discussed in this Synod. The House of Bishops has received such advice but have declined to share it. The House of Clergy has been told that advice cannot be provided to us in time. These are extraordinary decisions to be asked to make without recourse to such advice (pp. 254–5).

Joy Mawdesley also highlighted some key legal matters:

It concerns me that, on the one hand, we are being told that GS 2328 includes all the advice, legal or otherwise that we need, and yet it seems that it can be swept aside in an instant and standalone services offered, albeit on a trial basis, without waiting for the approval of Synod under Canon B2. May I remind Synod of the reasons why the bishops concluded that B2 was the appropriate way to go. These are just some of them. “It will provide the firmest footing for those using the services within the shortest possible timeframe”. “It will provide reassurance concerning legal challenges whether you wish to use the prayers or whether you don’t”. “It will provide time to set up important safeguards, the Independent Reviewer, complete Pastoral Reassurance work, explore structural pastoral provision” (p. 258).

To sum up these various concerns with a seventh question:

  1. What new legal advice was drawn up and provided to the bishops that persuaded so many of them in the November General Synod to overturn their decision in the October House (which had been based on the consideration of “legal, theological and pastoral implications of possible approaches”) and defended in GS 2328 and why was neither this or earlier relevant advice made available in any form to members of General Synod?

Shaking it all about?

In a small but welcome initial move to greater transparency, fuller notes were given of the 12th December meeting of the House than have ever appeared in the recent past, including concerning decisions at the crucial but still largely hidden 9th October meeting. These stated:

Noting that the House had previously voted in favour of seeking authorization of the Prayers of Love and Faith standalone services under Canon B2, and that the Synod had asked the House to reconsider whether other options might be possible, for example experimental authorization under Canon B5A, the BISHOPS OF LEICESTER and NEWCASTLE led the House in a discussion of the options. No decisions were made.

When, after the meeting ended, the Pastoral Guidance was issued it did include guidance in relation to standalone services but it was made clear that this was provisional for “the forms of service currently proposed for approval by the Synod under Canon B 2” (p. iv) and no reference was made to the possibility of experimental authorisation under Canon B5A.  As we have seen, it now appears the default position has once again become “not B5A” with this question of authorising experimental services being made part of a much wider “reset” in search of a “settlement”. 

This raises at least three further final questions:

  1. Has the Legal Office now issued, after General Synod, further legal advice to the bishops that was not previously available and can (as before the last February Synod but never since) at least an accurate summary of that (along with any earlier 2023 advice) be made available?
  2. What in any legal advice has changed post-Synod, particularly in relation to those criteria of speed and security? 
  3. Or has the legal advice remained constant after Synod and the bishops (or simply the Archbishops who alone can trigger Canon B5A) decided to “turn around” back to October’s “not B5A” rather than the “B5A” of September and November because of other, more political and/or relational reasons, rather than because they have received different legal advice?

Conclusion

Since at least the sudden and unexpected disbanding of the Implementation Groups last June, the LLF/PLF process became much less transparent and accountable (as illustrated by the account of the LLF journey). This unhelpful trajectory to a certain extent began with the ending of the remit of the Next Steps Group in March and its morphing into a “steering group” which no longer issued even brief summaries of its meetings. All this makes it very difficult to be absolutely clear about what has gone on. The account above, seeking to piece together what information is available, is certainly incomplete and may well be inaccurate in some of its details and therefore in the questions it raises. However, repeatedly, on a number of key questions, not just that of “B5A or not B5A?” explored here, there were crucial and legally significant decisions being taken, at times which remain unclear, by people who have never been identified, and for reasons that have never been properly explained. Some of those decisions, as we have seen, were also rapid and significant reversals (sometimes unjustified and formally unacknowledged) of previous decisions and commitments. Any serious and proper “reset” cannot ignore these and other painful realities of the LLF/PLF process last year.

As we approach the next General Synod, the focus appears to be on the question of standalone services and “B5A or not B5A?”. Rather than simply entering a new battle based on our different answers to that important question, is it possible that there will prove to be a genuine commitment to “honesty and transparency” on the part of the new leadership of the process and more widely? What will this entail regarding the relationship of bishops with General Synod and concerning the release of past, present and future legal advice to bishops in relation to various options? 

Might a consensus be possible across the “B5A or not B5A?” and other divides that greater honesty and transparency in relation to the 10 questions raised above (and perhaps other questions concerning the process which I have not identified) would be helpful to everyone concerned? 

And might such an approach to “honesty and transparency” also help us then to better discern together what a commitment to “humility and repentance” might look like and to follow  the pastoral principles of addressing ignorance, acknowledging prejudice, speaking into silence, casting out fear, admitting hypocrisy, and paying attention to power? On that basis we might better seek to discern together (Archbishops, bishops, Synod members, the multiple stakeholder groupings, and the wider church, particularly those whose lives and loves are most directly and often negatively affected by this whole process) the best way forward for the Church of England and, inextricably bound up with that, the wider Anglican Communion?


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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244 thoughts on “Canon B5A: in or out? Ten key questions for the bishops”

  1. From where I’m standing (admittedly outside the CofE) all the discussion of formalities like canon this that or t’other is a distraction from the real issue of whether there is a biblical case for same-sex sex in the first place. I recently explored this in a blog post (link below). As far as I can see, the ‘God’ of the LLF proponents is in fact somewhat weird and simply NOT the God of Christianity. People who believe in such a ‘God’ should be honest and admit that they should not be in office in a Christian church in the first place….

    https://stevesfreechurchblog.wordpress.com/2024/01/13/anglican-same-sex-relationship-blessings/

    Reply
    • And give up their worldly prestige and, above all, dwellings and salaries paid for by the faithful?

      As Christ said laconically in a somewhat similar context (Matthew 6:2), “They have their reward.”

      Reply
    • Stephen

      I agree that its a distraction, but I disagree that the question is about a biblical case for same sex sex.

      I think the core questions are “is homosexual attraction a natural part of human diversity, a sinful choice or something akin to addiction/disease?”

      Only when this question is clearly answered can there then be a second level of “how then should gay people live?” and more importantly “how should the church of England be supporting gay Christians in their faith?”

      It seems to me that not only is there a wide spectrum of disagreement amongst cofe clergy on the first question, theres also a large number of priests who have a different answer depending on whether you are speaking from a theological perspective or a pastoral perspective! This is really really unfair on gay people in England, gay Christians and gay priests! Nobody knows if they are welcome or not or what they are and are not allowed to do.

      Reply
      • But the Bible has something to say about your core questions. Which is why the real core questions are what the Bible says and what its authority is.

        Reply
          • The Bible describes sexual relations between two men as toevah.

            If my life experience is not consistent with the Bible then, as an evangelical Christian, I would take any such discrepancy to be a bad thing. I do not discuss my personal life on blogs.

      • Peter: define your terms! Many things (all things, actually) happen “in nature”: high intelligence, blue eyes, polydactyly, curly hair, Down’s Syndrome, absence of widom teeth etc etc. How do you evaluate these phenomena?
        To speak usefully, you have to decide whether 1. Nature is really creation (something designed and planned by the Creator); 2. Nature has a purpose, order, teleology (directed to a purpose). Atheists don’t think in terms of teleology, Christians do.
        Where do you discover the Creator’s intention?

        Reply
        • James

          I think separating natural and creation is more complicated and less relevant to answer how people should live their lives. In my family we have a person with Downs. Whether or not we believe Downs is part of Gods original plan, its not something our family member chose or can choose to change. We don’t berate him for it and actually we adapt to include him! His parents even changed churches because the original church was not a safe environment for him. None of that would change if we discovered for sure that Downs was part of Gods plan all along and none of that would change if we discovered that Downs was a result of the fall

          Reply
      • I’ll try and give you a balanced answer, Peter. As I understand it the deal is that people are meant to love people, including men loving men and women loving women, and hey we are physical beings interacting in a physical world those relationships can legitimately be very physical. BUT from a Christian viewpoint sex as such has been designed for God as a thing males do with females and integrally connected with reproduction. For same-sex couples the attempt at a sexual relationship is just not appropriate, and I have hinted in the blog piece at some reasons why.

        Essentially Paul in Romans says that the urges to do same-sex ‘sex’ are part of the disorganisation of the world and human life which results from sin, and like many other sins are an excess beyond what is proper.

        Having said that I would be willing to suggest that for non-Christians their consensual sex activities generally will have to be pretty weird to be the biggest problem God has with them, or they with God. But Christians should follow what God says and so NOT do ‘gay sex’. And some Christians who seem even willing to persecute fellow Christians for rejecting ‘gay sex’ are I think at least massively stretching their relationship with God …..

        Reply
        • Stephen

          So you think gay people should be allowed romantic partnership as long as they don’t have sex?

          Thanks, but you’ve completely missed the point of my post and instead are telling me why you think gay people shouldn’t have sex. I’m saying that I think the cofe needs to answer more fundamental questions about gay people before it even starts to discuss relationships, singless, sex or abstinence

          Reply
      • Anton

        I’m saying the core question is

        Is homosexual attraction a natural part of human diversity, a sinful choice or something akin to addiction/disease?

        You answered as if the question was about same sex sex. Its not the same thing

        Reply
        • Homosexual attraction, supposing you mean homosexual *sexual* attraction which is what is understood in context of LLF, is causally related to same-sex sex.

          Reply
        • Peter – my last response was perhaps a bit flippant with circumstances at the time precluding a more detailed response. Nevertheless….

          Really the key question here is the ‘same-sex sex’ bit and whether that was God’s original creative intent. In terms of Genesis (whether one interprets it simplistically literally or more metaphorically) there is the bit where God creates everything and ‘saw that it was good’, and then there is the fall after which much of human life is ‘off kilter’ and distorted by sin and its results.

          Is ‘gay sex’ part of the original that was ‘good’, or is it one of the things which are ‘off kilter’? And despite massive efforts by various people to produce what generally seem very strained and stretched interpretations, the Bible does seem pretty clear that ‘gay sex’ belongs in the ‘off kilter’ category. Some of the things which are ‘off kilter’ can be regarded as consequences of sin which do not constitute sin in themselves and do not imply special sinfulness in those suffering those specific consequences. My ‘go to’ example for that is the case of ‘the man born blind’ in John 9. Down syndrome is another example – I think of the delightful son of two friends at church. Autism which I personally suffer probably another case…. God allows these consequences for ultimately good reason and how we react and deal with them is important as we work with God to repair the sin-affected world including ourselves (what might be called ‘character-building’).

          However quite a bit of the ‘off kilter’, generally the bits which involve things we DO rather than just ARE, can be not just a consequence of sin but also sinful in itself if we choose to ‘live out/act out’ the things in question. The urges and desires in question may be felt as ‘natural’, but are not ‘nature as God intended’ and should be resisted as temptation. Biblically the urges and desires to DO ‘gay sex’ are rather clearly presented as belonging in that category.

          Most things that can be done by same-sex couples to express love and affection are not problematic. A few years ago I was on a forum where people would regularly present a long list of ‘what gay couples do’ and ask what I thought was wrong with that; and basically the answer would be that those things were not wrong – but of course the actual ‘sex’ was left out of the lists…. Interestingly there were also a lot of people who identified as ‘gay’ but didn’t do the ‘sex’ or thought it distasteful – I’d have to say they were not in fact ‘gay’ but were misunderstanding the wider situation.

          I would point out that as basically an ‘Anabaptist’ I consider that it should be voluntary to be a Christian believer and it is not appropriate for Christians to run ‘Christian countries’ in which Christian theology is enforced including certain distinctively Christian moral conduct. It was never appropriate that ‘gays’ were criminalised and the CofE in particular has a lot to answer for about that.

          Reply
          • Stephen

            Gay does not mean a person who has same sex sex. If that’s your understanding of the term, that’s fine, but that’s not how it is used in the wider world.

            I do think it matters to ask my core question first because it impacts the theology of same sex sex and it also impacts the way we read scripture. For example if being gay is a chosen sin then its easy to say that scripture denounces it. This seems to be your position – that being gay is something chosen.

            I think its harder for people who are gay or who have close friends or family who are gay to accept this because it is not our lived experience.

            Where I live in the US we currently have several senior politicians who are Christians and want to recriminalize same sex sex.

        • “Is homosexual attraction a natural part of human diversity, a sinful choice or something akin to addiction/disease?”

          There are a few words there which have some ambiguous meanings, so I will explain how I interpret the words as I give my answer.

          By nature, I take it to mean according to human nature, as designed by God in the absence of the corruption of sin, and expressed in terms of the various natural tendencies which define what it means to be a rational, social animal (including the tendency towards reproduction which in part defines the animal nature). I would thus not describe same sex attraction as natural, although it is a part of the diversity of fallen human beings (just like every other inclination to sin). There are other meanings of the word “natural,” but they do not carry implications of whether or not it is good, which is ultimately what we are discussing.

          By “choice” I understand to mean something adopted freely from the will. In this case, I would say that it is in almost all cases not a choice. I would say (in my non-expert opinion) it is due to a combination of biological susceptability, experience and environment, though how important each factor is varies from one individual to another. So I would reject this option, although I would agree with the “sinful” part of it.

          And is it something akin to an addiction or disease — Again, I would say no. I would describe a disease as an affliction which impairs the natural bodily functions (including those which impair brain functions), but which carries no moral implications. Catching a cold or cancer, while a result of the fall and which we ought to try to ammeliate, is not something that inclines people towards moral evil. It is not really analogous. An addiction is almost always the result of one’s past choices, and it compels someone to an action, which is different from same sex attraction.

          So my answer to your dilemma would be “none of the above.”

          So how would I answer the question? That it is a condition that ultimately arises from the sinful nature that has dominated humanity since our rebellion against God, which makes it ultimately no different to any other sinful inclination which people stuggle against, but with God’s help can learn to control. So it is alongside inclinations to greed, or lust, or anger, or sloth which exist due to our original sin. Nobody chooses to be short tempered and easily angered; but some people are so, and it is still an inclination towards sin. Something which many people struggle from — and almost everyone has at least one of these sinful inclinations — but which are not part of God’s purposes for mankind and which thus part of the bonds by which we are held in slavery to sin. Likewise, same sex attraction is an inclination towards sin which some people need to learn to resist, no more or less serious than any of the other manifestations of original sin in our fallen human nature. So it is a manifestation of sin, but not a choice and thus people will not be held accountable for the attraction.

          Of course, whether or not someone acts on that attraction is a matter of choice, and therefore something which they would be held accountable for and would need to repent of should they fail.

          Reply
          • Nigel

            But how do you repent when its not something you chose and its also not something you have any power to change? Do the bishops.of the church of England have any moral authority to require people to repent of being gay when they don’t require people to repent of adultery, sexual abuse or covering up sexual abuse -all of which are far easier to do?

            Thank you for being the first person to actually acknowledging the question! However I wasn’t really looking for an answer. I was making the point that the CofE is failing to address second level questions about gay people because they have failed to even attempt to address more fundamental questions

      • It will never cease to amaze me how many people spend so much time in this discussion strenuously avoiding and side-stepping those questions.

        Reply
        • You have had the answers many times here; please stop trying to pretend otherwise. I refer readers to previous threads on this blog on the subject.

          Reply
        • AJ Bell (finding a reply tag under your name to respond to your question below)

          The common ‘gay’ presentation is that to be ‘gay’ is the same kind of thing as ethnic differences, which indeed ‘just are’ and cannot meaningfully be done. That does not really work however because the issue is of DOING/CHOOSING ‘gay sex’, behaviour rather than just ‘being’. Things “Done because urges and desires” are a different ball game….

          There are all kinds of ways that sexuality can be ‘off kilter’, not just those involving same-sex relations. Clearly for many people there is a lack in sexual attraction to women, so that same-sex relations are major in those lives; but also no desire to do ‘gay sex’. Note that before roughly the mid Victorian age a great deal of physical display of affection between men would have been acceptable, but that what seems to have been a ‘moral panic’ including the Oscar Wilde prosecution meant that for some time such displays of affection became shall we say ‘suspect’, unbalancing societal views of the whole area and leading, for example, to people believing they were ‘gay’ (and so ironically being tempted into gay conduct!) who at an earlier period would have been regarded as natural. The problem is when there is a desire to do ‘gay sex’, or when a person is just generally ‘randy’.

          So-called ‘conversion therapy’ has generally tried to use aversion techniques or similar to make men unattractive to other men; among reasons this is inappropriate is precisely that so much affection between men and the displayng of it is in fact natural, so such therapy is often really going against nature and putting wrong stresses on people. I would certainly see it as dubious also to push people into heterosexual marriage. And by the way I hope at some point to do something on my own blog about the implications of autism (which I suffer myself) which can well screw up relationships and lead to misunderstandings.

          I tend to the view that the main thing to do is on the one hand to make clear that it is the ‘gay sex’ that is the problem, and if anything to talk up the possibilities of non-sexual male relationships. One of the troubles right now is that developments over the last century have created massive confusion which is likely to take some time to get over.

          Inevitably this has been incomplete and sketchy – but probably the most important thing is to counter the idea that ‘gay’ is “like hair or eye colour”. Preccisely because it involves that ‘doing because urges and desires’ thing ‘gay’ is in a different moral category, and much of my current concern is that by treating it as a ‘just are’ issue gay people are seeking an inappropriate kind of legal protection, actually a threat to others’ civil rights…..

          Reply
          • Stephen

            There’s certainly a focus on the traditional teaching that same sex sex is a sin. This teaching is going to land differently to people who are attracted to the opposite sex (A bit like saying “never ever try marmite”) but becomes far more problematic for people who are attracted to the same sex.

            People who are attracted to the same sex have a natural, God given, desire to form relationships and a need to find community amongst people like themselves. This causes a real problem for people espousing the traditional teaching ” no same sex sex” – taking a minimalist approach (you can have a relationship just don’t have sex) runs the risk of being seen as permissive by the wider Christian community and is not well understood by most people (why would you buy marmite if you have no interest in eating it?), but teaching that same sex attracted people cannot have sex or relationships (or identify with other same sex attracted people) is telling people they must pervert themselves into something they are not and creates a crushing burden of loneliness

      • Homosexual attraction is clearly part of human diversity, but how do you define ‘natural’. Is everything that is ‘natural’ God’s will? Or are there actually quite a lot of things that happen in this life that God doesnt like or approve of? People often refer to the ‘natural world’ exhibiting, for example, same-sex sexual behaviour and therefore conclude that gay sexual behaviour in humans is ‘natural’, and good. The problem is the same people ignore behaviours in the animal or insect world which are ‘natural’ but which would be frowned upon by humanity. So it’s not much of an argument.

        I dont believe people choose to be attracted to others of the same sex, I think it gradually develops over a number of years in childhood, but everyone chooses how they behave and what they ultimately do. That is primarily the issue the Bible addresses.

        Although it is common today to refer to any addiction as a disease, Im not convinced that is the proper way to look at it. Yes it has been established that the more you do something, the physical structure of your brain actually changes which typically makes it easier for you to keep doing the same. But you had a choice in starting in the first place, and I dont believe if the connections in your brain have changed that this prevents you from changing your behaviour, though it may be more difficult.

        Reply
        • PC1, that’s not really the argument being made. It’s not that if you proved homosexuality (the sexual orientation) was ‘natural’ then it must be morally fine. The argument is that people who are homosexual (i.e. gay or same-sex attracted people as some insist on saying) have no say in that orientation, and therefore cannot choose to be oriented another way. So the moral question becomes what you do about that, and what those gay people should do.

          Nearly everyone seems to accept that sexuality ought to play a role here: i.e. just ignoring your sexuality and entering into a straight marriage as if you were straight is a seriously bad idea (liable to end badly, lacking in integrity, and lacking in honesty). After that you’re left saying either that your sexuality can be completely downplayed and shouldn’t be an insummountable barrier to straight marriage (although there’s a lot of questions about that); or that these circumstances require a rule of celibacy, despite everything Scripture says about not inventing such rules and imposing them on people; or consider a third option. That third option would be to look at Romans 13 which tells us how to look at the law and issues like sexual immorality – that we’re really talking about what’s harmful to our neighbour, and because love does no harm, that is why Jesus and Paul can say that love is the fulfillment of the law. Gay relationships are harmful and problematic where they’re essentially adulterous (i.e. I have a wife, but am sleeping with men/boys on the side, as you might in the find in the ancient world) and the Jewish contribution here was to insist that these sort of relationships were not a “get out of jail” card from adultery in marriage. So if they’re not additional to that straight marriage, but essentially instead of it, and between two gay people where is the moral problem?

          Reply
        • Christopher

          But you’re not born a murderer. Are you born gay?

          You’re don’t become a murderer at puberty. Do you become gay at puberty?

          You’re not a murderer until you actually make a choice to kill someone. Do you get a choice to be gay?

          Reply
          • People have different propensities to anger and violence, almost entirely through no choice of their own. We still hold them accountable for their actions.

            Science says very clearly that the development of our psycho-sexual identity arises from a complex process over many years. No-one is ‘born straight’ or ‘born gay’. We all still have a choice about how we act on that.

            (I am not sure why we need to keep revisiting this well-established question).

          • This and your last response to me (which didn’t have a ‘reply’ tag) seem to have similar answers. It would seem things have developed so that different interpretations of ‘gay’ are in play….

            Where I’m coming from, it almost can’t be said strongly enough that men are supposed to love men – see eg David and Jonathan ‘a love greater than the love of women’ but as I understand it not a case of ‘better sex’ but of having something ‘better than sex’. The point is that a line is crossed from appropriate conduct to inappropriate/sinful conduct when a same-sex couple attempt, without the appropriate anatomy, to replicate the male-with-female sex that God actually designed and intended.

            You appear to be still ‘stuck’ on the gay propaganda idea that ‘gayness’ is something people ‘just are’, that it is comparable to eg ethnic differences or things like hair or eye colour. Such things indeed ‘just are’ and of course also can’t really have much moral element. In contrast ‘gay’ is in very different moral territory because it very much involves stuff that people DO and CHOOSE and any underlying ‘being’ is not simple things like skin colour but complex matters of urges and desires which can very much involve moral questions. Putting it simply ‘urges and desires’ cover such wide territory that nobody can just say that because they have such-and-such urges and desires it must automatically be OK to live out/act out those urges and desires.

          • Ian

            Because the cofe has not answered these questions. There’s been no attempt to answer these questions and because they have not there is now vast disagreement on how to apply Scripture to the situation

            I don’t like your answer because orientation is not merely a potential to behave in a certain way. It has huge implications across many aspects of life, most of which habe nothing to do with sex.

          • Stephen

            Its always tricky ascribing modern categories to historical figures, but I think we can go as far to say that David and Jonathan are the nearest we have to a same sex relationship in the Bible. They don’t have sex, as some gay couples today do not, but they do behave in a homoerotic manner. I think we could suggest that Jonathan might be gay and David bi.

            Its not propaganda. Its real lived experience.

          • Peter – again using a reply tag on one post to reply to others without such a tag….
            Modern ideas about ‘gayness’ are largely derived from a materialistic atheist world view, and at that a simplified version which ignores many of the moral and philosophical problems inherent in conistent atheism. Christian views are (unsurprisingly) based on the very different world view of theism and we believe our views to be better morally and philosophically. In that theist view there are no ‘gay people’ in the way that gays see it, we construe the situation differently.

            There is no Christian problem in men loving one another but not desiring to do what passes for ‘sex’ in a pair who do not have between them the complementary anatomy of true heterosexual sex. A temptation to do ‘gay sex’ is just that, a temptation, which should be resisted, to improper behaviour; actually to perform ‘gay sex’ is simply disobedience to God and a sin (though in people who are not Christian, probably not the biggest problem they have with God).

            Yes in sexual and other sins there can be an element of people not feeling choice when they sin. In Christian terms this is part of the disorder resulting from sin; the sinner has damaged himself in a way that makes him ‘captive’ to his sin much as an addict is captive to his addiction – one of the many aspects of sin which requires divine power to overcome. Luther I think described this with the phrase ‘bondage of the will’.

          • Stephen,

            If there are no ‘gay people’ in the way that gays see it, then what are you saying about how those people ought to live their lives? Would opposite-sex marriage (i.e. a ‘gay’ man to a woman) be recommended? Is their sexual orientation going to change with enough prayer and hard work? Because a lot of people tried just that, for many years, and it was a disaster that eventually imploded but not before harming a great many lives. God seems extremely reluctant to turn gay people straight.

          • Stephen

            The modern category of “gay” arises from people coming together and discovering that there are other people exactly like them with the same experience of lifelong attraction to the same sex. Its nothing to do with materialism.

            To a certain extent orientation is connected to behavior, but there’s lots of instances of gay people not having gay sex, straight people having gay sex etc etc. As I said in my other response prohibition on gay sex has a bigger implication for gay people than straight people. The individual doesn’t be once straight just by no longer having gay sex. The prohibition on sex isn’t the huge problem. The implied prohibition on relationships and the often de facto prohibition on non sexual gay behaviors are actually much more problematic than a sex ban. Most people can live without sex

    • Yet I didn’t see evangelicals making so much of a fuss about the C of E endorsing remarriage of divorcees in church? Yet God, through Jesus, clearly does prohibit that except for spousal adultery. As the established church it is right that the C of E also gives some recognition of same sex couples now legally married in English law

      Reply
      • ‘Yet I didn’t see evangelicals making so much of a fuss about the C of E endorsing remarriage of divorcees in church?’

        Then where were you? They were very vocal indeed, and continue to be so.

        Reply
      • It’s the exact reverse. I see that as when the rot set in; though there was also contraception nearly 100 years ago.

        Reply
        • Albeit without King Henry VIII being refused a divorce with Catherine of Aragon by the Pope, he would never have created the Church of England to let him marry Anne Boleyn. The Roman Catholic church would still be the national church today in England

          Reply
          • Allow me to recommend the recent documentary film Morningstar about John Wycliffe, dramatically good and made by sticklers for historical accuracy.

          • Yes but Wycliffe and his Lollard followers were persecuted by the state and church. Only on Henry VIII’s divorce did a new English national church with the King as its Supreme Governor replace Roman Catholicism as the national church. Henry never even made the C of E Lutheran however, in essence until his death he essentially wanted the Church of England to be Catholic without the Pope. Indeed Pope Leo X had earlier given Henry the title ‘defender of the faith’ for his opposition to Luther and the Lutheranism emerging in Germany and Scandinavia

          • I agree, T1, that Wycliffe and his Lollard followers were persecuted by the state and by the Catholic church (although because Christ warned that the church would be persecuted by ‘the world’, meaning the prevailing culture, perhaps you should ponder which of Catholicism and the Lollards were the church and which the world). But what point are you making, please?

          • We had Wycliffe. But the Czechs had Jan Hus, and they still ended up Roman Catholic. France produced John Calvin of course, and the Huguenots were never more than a small minority.

          • Wycliffe and Hus were dissenters, it was only the support of the state to replace the Roman Catholic church with the Church of England that made it the national church. Calvin did manage to effectively form the national church in the Netherlands and Scotland though, with the support of the authorities there, as did the Lutherans in Scandinavia and the northern German states. The rest of western Europe retained the Roman Catholic church as effectively the national church

          • T1 and also Ian
            AIUI, Henry did not create a Reformed or Protestant church. His beliefs to the end of his days were basically Catholic but because of the way the ‘dispensation’ had worked out by which he married his brother’s widow, he rejected Papal authority. It was of course easier for an independent national church to go Protestant and I get an impression that the then ABC was manipulating things in that direction…..

            Yes via Wycliffe and Lollardy there was a significant native reformed movement even before Luther. And yes the ‘proto-reformation’ was significantly international. A problem was that all or at least most of that movement remained national and produced a far from biblical church/state relationship.

        • There is nothing wrong with, at least, barrier methods of contraception within marriage. There is no ban on marital contraception (perforce primitive methods) in the Law of Moses. The Catholic church banned it because it was associated with prostitution. But in the 20th century respectable married couples started to use it and the Church of England was biblical enough to let them. Big trouble came when single women started to use the Pill and were enabled to behave as badly as men always had, but the law they are breaking is that against nonmarital sex, not a non-existent law agasint contraception.

          Reply
  2. We need a “Deep Purple” to leak the legal advice given to bishops in its entirety. Bishops on both sides of this tragicomedy ought to remember the words of One whom they claim to serve: “Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:3).

    Reply
  3. It is really hard to imagine that the Bishop of Newcastle would still have resigned if the interim theological adviser that was appointed had concurred with her own view of SSM.

    Reply
    • Chris: I am afraid that is something of a slight on the Bishop of Newcastle. She resigned – as any sane person would – because the new lead bishops were not consulted about an appointment with which they had a very significant connection. The advert for the post read this way:

      ‘The post-holder will need to be able to contribute significantly to theological and pastoral work on LLF and will need to command the respect of the very wide diversity of stakeholders with an interest in this matter. The post-holder will form part of the core team working on LLF, working closely with +Helen-Ann Hartley and +Martyn Snow as the episcopal leads on LLF.’

      Helen-Ann is person of great integrity and her resignation was about frustration with the process and not the person.
      It is all part of the enormous joke that LLF and the CofE as a whole now has become. Why anyone any would any longer wish to be associated with it is beyond me.

      Reply
      • Andrew, the Bishop in Europe confirmed the process was conducted impeccably, and the interviewers judged Tom was quite able to fulfil this brief. Helen-Ann was perfectly aware of this process, and could have participated had she wished—or of course she could have trusted her colleagues.

        What actually happened was that revisionists put pressure on her to not accept this, and she bowed. Not a good judgement.

        Reply
        • Ian

          Its hard not to see him as a deliberately antagonistic choice, given that he seems to have written an article calling gay people “wolves” in the church that leaders need to protect the sheep from. How is that supposed to unify the church? You may as well appoint Nigel Farage as chief advisor to the foreign secretary

          Reply
          • If you think that, you are buying into conspiracy theories, and clearly have not read what he wrote.

            His language comes straight from John 10, and is part of a register of language found all over the ordinal.

            If you think appointing an orthodox Anglican to this role is antagonistic or problematic, then I think that itself is where the problem lies…

          • “You may as well appoint Nigel Farage as chief advisor to the foreign secretary”

            I suspect the many supporters of Trump who frequent this place and comment here would be very happy with such a suggestion Peter.
            If you ever need evidence that the CofE has once again become the Tory party at prayer, then you need look no further than here.

            The fact that Tom removed his article from the internet tells us all we need to know about the man.

          • Ian

            I’m aware of the source of the language – that’s why its really really offensive and people who habe devoted their lives to serving their communities are really really upset about it. Its water off a ducks back to me (I have been called far worse just for holding my husbands hand), but I can well understand why others are upset. I don’t understand why he cannot just apologize.

            I actually tried to read the article when I saw that some of my friends were so upset about the appointment. I tried to read the article, but its mysteriously been taken down…funny that. Its almost like he was now ashamed of it. But church leaders never seem to say “sorry for calling you a wolf”. They just deny it ever happened

          • Ian

            Just to be crystal clear. The problem isn’t that he is “orthodox”. That isng the problem at all. Its his treatment of gay people that is the issue. The problem is that *again* the bishops have acted with no regard to LGBT people in the church on an issue that directly impacts them.

          • What is wrong with using the term ‘wolf’? Even Jesus did. And Paul too. The only thing that would be wrong would be if someone were using it inaccurately.
            For example, mainstream approaches and culture in the UK groom young children into the thought patterns of the sexual revolution. Wolves, in other words.
            Do you think that wolves do not exist at all? That would be a rather extreme position, surely?

          • Christopher

            Its problematic if you are claiming to be offering “radical new Christian inclusion” to then give a major job impacting that to someone who has said gay people are wolves. It implies he doesn’t agree that gay people should have any inclusion in the church. Its an indication of further dishonesty by the bishops

        • “What actually happened was that revisionists put pressure on her to not accept this, and she bowed.”

          And of course you have evidence for this scurrilous suggestion and you will post it now.

          Reply
      • ‘It is all part of the enormous joke that LLF and the CofE as a whole now has become. Why anyone any would any longer wish to be associated with it is beyond me.’

        On that I think we agree. The process needs to be ended right now.

        Reply
  4. I appreciate Andrew Goddard’s painstaking summaries and probing questions, the better for evangelicals to prepare for the upcoming General Synod where LLF is to be discussed on February 26th (afternoon) and 27th (morning). But let us never forget that this is about attempts to get the Body of Christ to bless and endorse that which the Bible calls sin.

    Reply
    • Divorce is sin according to Jesus Christ, expect for spousal adultery, yet the C of E already remarried divorced couples. Women priests are sin, according to St Paul, yet the C of E now has women priests and bishops.

      So you can’t really have that and not fully accord with all aspects of the Bible already without being a hypocritical Church if you then deny same sex couples even a blessing, not even a marriage. Remembering too Jesus at least never opposed same sex unions even while reserving marriage for a woman and man for life

      Reply
        • If opponents of same sex marriage manage to overturn the Synod vote for them then what next on that basis? Presumably they will then move on and try and reverse female ordination and then remarriage of divorcees too

          Reply
          • I would like to see a reversal on the marriage of divorcees in church while their former spouse is alive. If a dam leaks in two places, is that a reason for not plugging one gap?

          • You might but it would be near impossible for the C of E to remain established church if it ended remarriage for divorced parishioners in its Parishes (or at least blessings for divorced couples remarried in civil law) as well as refused to offer even blessings for its same sex parishioners married in English civil law

          • Jesus would have allowed remarriage of divorcees if spousal adultery and blessings for others and same sex couples fine. After all the C of E is not just a church of Jesus but the established church too obliged to represent all its parishioners

      • You are correct Simon, the Church of England needs to repent and stop marrying divorcees. You are 100% correct – the white wedding of Meghan and Harry was a disgrace!

        And you are correct on the second question: whenever Jesus was publicly challenged by the Pharisees on same sex unions, there is NO record of him opposing them! We also have NO record of Jesus opposing transgenderism and incest. Significant, eh?

        Reply
        • I do not recall any point in the Gospels where was Jesus publically challenged on same-sex unions by anyone. It is not surprising. Within Judaism there was no issue about same-sex unions. All sides agreed they were wrong. It was an aspect of pagan culture which was abhorrent. Jesus’ mission was first to the Jews. The points of challenge were the issues with those matters which they were getting wrong, not those which they were getting right. So, that Jesus had no record of opposing something cannot be used as an argument that that something is OK.

          Rather, as the issue of the remarriage of divorcees illustrates, in general Jesus tightened up on these issues. His statement on this is more strict than most positions of the debate of the time (some suggest that this was participating in the debate by use of hyperbole). In the same area, his statement about those looking lustfully commiting adultery makes the 7th Commandment more strict.

          Given this, it is far-fetched to suggest that Jesus would relax the OT holiness law on same-sex activity.

          Reply
          • Well, of course – you do realise I was being ironic. Jesus is not recorded as speaking against homosexual unions (although he does condemn ‘porneia’ which includes homosexual acts as per Leviticus 19) – because, as far as we know, the issue never arose in his ministry; and if it had, we can be sure he would have condemned them, rather than giving the Pharisees a flagrant opportunity to condemn him for contradicting Moses.
            It is this simple point, together with his ignorance of first century Judaism, that Simon (‘T1’) fails to understand.
            First century BC Greco-Roman poetry (among the Romans, Catullus, Vergil, Horace), on the other hand, has quite a lot of references to homosexual love, usually the pederastic love of an older man for a handsome, beardless boy; but that setting is obviously pagan and was condemned by the Jews (and by not a few Roman moralists) as evidence of Gentile degeneracy.
            Unfortunately, Simon keeps displaying a lack of knowledge of first century Judaism and the first century Greco-Roman world.

          • So, despite the uniform consensus of scholarship about scripture’s rejection at every point of all forms of same-sex sex because of God’s creation of humanity as male and female, you need this to be specified in every part of scripture! Amazing!

            The Bible would have to be a very, very long book for you, to spell out by proof text on every ethical issue in the last 2,000 years!

          • “in general Jesus tightened up on these issues”

            Often said, but I’m not sure it’s really true. There’s a whole debate (see Ian’s writing on this) about just how restrictive Jesus’ divorce teaching really is. But in any case, one of his very famous teachings was a relaxation: the woman who was to be executed for adultery is set free because only he who is without sin was to cast the first stone.

            We go awry if we look at these ethical questions as simply a list of essentially arbitrary rules written down for us to follow, and avoid doing things which are forbidden. Jesus’ teaching is often to switch the question around: instead of asking is such-and-such permitted, he asks what you should do. He invites us to consider the point of the law. Hence, he tells us that the law can be summarised as love God and love your neighbour, and makes sure we understand that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.

          • Ian

            Sorry but I have to disagree with you there!

            There is no explicit mention of gay people or same sex unions in scripture. There are easily as many passages that can be interpreted as supporting marriage for gay people as not. Its just there’s this unspoken rule that we are only allowed to discuss the clobber verses, Genesis 2 (but only from v21 onwards) and Jesus teaching on divorce with respect to this issue!

          • I think all I can say is that—after going over this again and again—you don’t appear to have engaged with the literature on this.

            I am not aware of any reputable scholars who would support your view. Once more can I refer you to the list of liberal, critical scholars, who are uniform in their reading.

            (Of course, they think that Scripture is either incoherent, or contradictory, or wrong, but they agree on what the text says.)

            https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/is-the-bible-contradictory-on-sexuality/

          • Ian

            Just repeating your previous answers isn’t going to get me to agree with you. There are scholars who disagree with you on what Scripture has to say. In fact I saw only the other day a friend posting from an academic conference where a paper was being presented suggesting that Leviticus 18.22 is really opposing the situation where two men sleep with one woman because then the parenthood of any resulting children is unknown. I’m not saying I think that has much credibility, but I am saying that there is a vast array of academics who don’t agree with your interpretation of scripture

          • Peter, this really is nonsense.
            (1) What you are talking about is nothing to do with ‘what Scripture has to say’. It has to do with what far less than 1% of Scripture has to say. One single passage.

            (2) The scholars in question you do not name.

            (3) Being scholars, they would raise such a possibility as one among others to be brought to the table. Not as exclusively true.

            (4) If disagreement means we cannot be sure, then we cannot be sure of anything at all, since in a world of 8bn people one will always be found to disagree.
            This is the parasitic nature of liberalism of which I often speak. Short on actual scholarly advances, rich in chipping away at the advances of others. Which is easy – anyone can do it. Look at a toddler. Which is easier – destruction or creation?

          • As for ‘clobber verses’, you are repeating a cliche, which works against being seen as able to think independently.

            Second, this particular cliche makes no sense. Any verse at all *could* be used to ”clobber”. So there is no way that ‘clobber verses’ can be coherently defined as different from ‘verses’.

            Third, it looks to me that ‘clobber verses’ are nothing but verses that you wish were not there.

            But the fourth and main point is that every time these points are repeated they are ignored. And a reason for that (with its implications) is not hard to find.

          • Christopher

            Yes I believe in the case I’m talking about the paper was about a list of possible meanings of that verse. My point has nothing to do with that specific example. My point is that scholars dont all agree with one another on this issue.

            I apologize for using the phrase “clobber verses” it was intended as a shorthand! I don’t wish them removed from the Bible. I wish they would stop being used as excuses for abuse, slander, discrimination and hatred

          • Your choice, Peter, is to deny that those clobber verses are of God, or to charge God with hate speech. Either way it calls your faith into severe question.

          • But I have already answered the ‘scholars don’t agree with each other’ point. Read back and see.

            (1) Scholars are the most precise people, and will see fine distinctions that others don’t see.

            (2) Scholars are trained enough not to think in a merely binary way.

            (3) There is almost nothing that scholars *totally* agree on. But the percentage of possible answers that are ruled out is higher with scholars than it is with the general public. The range of possible answers they will accept is narrower. Therefore scholars agree with one another more than laypeople do.

            (4) Your benchmark is total agreement when we live in a world of 8bn people and hundreds of thousands of scholars? All it takes is one.

            (5) Scholars generally do not say X is right, they say X seems to be the theory with most evidence in its favour, but this is a percentage/proportions matter.

            (6) Even then this conclusion is provisional, because it is limited by the particular evidence a given scholar will have looked at, which will always be a selection of evidence and never total.

            (7) The least taxing things for scholars to sort is whether negative texts are speaking negatively and whether positive texts are speaking positively. There will be exegetical disagreement on smaller points, but that is irrelevant to the issue of whether SSS is viewed positively or negatively, which is not a controversial matter. Because it is not a controversial matter, none of the discussion needs to take place. And the fact that it does shows how many dishonest people there are around.

          • Anton

            I don’t deny they are of God or think that they are hate speech! I think they have been misinterpreted by the modern church. In general the church got its theology wrong based on misunderstanding and myths about gay people that in the 21st century have become demonstrably untrue (for example that being gay is a deliberate choice).

            To me Romans 1 is obviously about the pagan Roman elite (not gays) and Matt 19 is obviously about men who discard wives when they get bored with them (no coincidence that we see praise of such men by the most fierce critics of gay people in our secular culture). For Paul’s sin lists I’d say they probably involve sexual abuse (which the church of England is trying not to have to talk about).

          • Peter,

            You don’t deny – so presumably accept – that the ‘clobber’ verse Leviticus 18:22 is of God. Let us discuss it, you and I, then, regardless of how the church interprets it. This verse states that man lying with man as with woman (ie, for sexual gratification) is toevah, an exceedingly negative word in Hebrew. Do you consider that God has changed his mind?

          • Anton

            Do you think that God also condemns men who are clean shaven or do you think that Leviticus is perhaps not a set of universal laws to be applied equally to all people at all time?

            Its easier not to shave than it is to never have a relationship

          • Peter, seriously?? You think any of us here are proof-texting verses in isolation? Really?

            If not, why AGAIN throw up this kind of silly parody of what it means to read the Bible??

          • Peter,

            The limited applicability of Mosaic Law outside ancient Israel is irrelevant. The author of Leviticus states that man lying with man for sexual gratification is toevah. You have accepted that the verse is of God. If God views this practice as toevah inside ancient Israel then why would he not view it as toevah outside it?

          • Peter, it does not matter a whit what you would say about Romans 1 or what it is ‘to me/you’. Because there are so many thousands better qualified to speak about it, and you know that. It is hubris to speak on things you are not expert on. Am I to speak on atomic physics and be regarded as an authority?

          • One of the joys of being a protestant is that I do not have to defer to magisterium to tell me what to believe, as the perspicuity of Scripture allows me to read and think for myself.

        • Indeed but divorce and same sex marriage are lawful under English law where the C of E is established church, so some recognition of them is required while it remains the established church. Even if only blessings rather than full church marriages.

          However incest is not legal in English law. There is no ceremony needed to recognise transgender people anyway

          Reply
          • You continue to use the term ‘transgender people’ as though this were a scientific and stable phenomenon, when one would be hard pressed to argue that it was either of these two.

          • Christopher

            Trans means someone who was ostensibly male (female) at birth, but matures with the lived experience of being female (male). Personally I think a lot of these people are likely to be undiagnosed cases of intersex. Our prime minister seems to think they are a reason to point and laugh

          • Er – no.
            They might feel that way today and the other way tomorrow. Feelings are like that.
            Second, it can be circumstances or trauma that make this happen in the first place. And in loving and stable mature well-ordered societies it happens less. Do you honestly think instances are equally many in all society and family types? You speak as though it is a natural progression, that we are all hermetically sealed from circumstance through all our years.

          • Christopher

            If they feel female one day and male the next then, I’m no great expert, but I can say with certainty that they are not trans. Queer or non binary, perhaps, but terms like “trans” have a specific meaning which relate to a category of real lived experience.

            I think this idea that trauma changes someone’s experience of gender or orientation is strange. I’m sure it can happen, but I’m not aware of anyone whose story follows that pattern. I’m much more familiar with gay people than trans people. I must’ve met hundreds of gay people and I’ve never come across one for which the experience was not life long.

            I did have a friend whose sister experienced temporary attraction to the same sex after being assaulted. But it was temporary, not life long.

          • Lifelong?
            Lifelong?
            So, beginning from babyhood?
            What do you mean?
            You are completely wrong. A typical age to begin such feelings is actually adolescence, which is a very advanced age.
            It is also the most confused of all ages, ranking bottom in terms of stability. It is a transitional, unsettled. sometimes experimental time of life, where behaviour is often not to be taken at face value.

          • Christopher

            Typically gay people know they are gay by age 13, some much younger.

            Yes there is special confusion amongst some teenagers, but not all. I wonder if some of this kind of myth that homosexuality is merely a stage of teenage development comes about because so many in senior leadership in the church attended single sex boarding schools where the only experimentation that can be done is on the same sex?!

            I am not a social researcher, but I have lived my own life and have seen how my two teenagers respond. They are both naturally heterosexual. Neither has had a period of thinking they might be anything else despite a school and home environment in which they would be supported if they were.

            Kids are themselves. You’re expanding a data point of some kids are confused to therefore say that all gay kids are confused and there’s just too much data opposing that view for it to be remotely plausible

          • Exactly! ‘By age 13’. Straight from the horse’s mouth. So to repeat my previous points:
            (1) Far from being born gay or gay for life, they wait 13 long years, by which time they have had a majority of the impressions they will ever have, and their character has already been set.
            (2) It is exactly the most confused and chaotic age, the very last age at which a characteristic could be called settled, and the last age one would take at face value or ascribe any authority to.
            (3) It is also a time of high desire when habits could be irresistibly set, and habits are hard to break and are character forming.
            (4) It is an age when (for age reasons) it is unlikely that they can assuage desire with females and simultaneously (for attractiveness reasons) it will be all too easy to find males.
            (5) It is also a risk taking age.
            (6) We already knew from Savin-Williams and Ream that those who call themselves gay at ages like that largely do not do so later. They are undeveloped in body as in mind as in constitution.
            (7) But again, the main point is that all these points have been repeatedly made and have been ignored. The ignoring is dishonest, and therefore that is liable to be how we view the ignorers.

          • I didn’t say they were confused, any more than their peers. I said it was a confused age. Which it is, for all its inhabitants.
            However, if your mind is out of sync with your anatomy, that is clearly one kind of confusion, yes.

          • Then you miss the point spectacularly. Do you or do you not agree with my points that:
            (a) scholars are in closer (and better informed) agreement than laypeople;

            (b) they hold a range of possibilities in their purview without necessarily always being able to commit to one exclusively;

            (c) if there are that many scholars in the world, it only takes one and there will be disagreement;

            (d) examining conclusions is worse than useless, given that the point is the arguments on which the conclusions are based. You are just jumping straight to the conclusions with no grounding.

            ?

      • “Women priests are sin, according to St Paul,”

        Please provide one, just one, mention of either men or women as “priests” in the New Testament.

        Reply
        • There are quite a few. However, apart from Acts 14.13, they all refer to Jewish men.
          The NT is clear that is a holy priesthood but none of its ministers is called a ‘hiereus’. The reason is obvious: such men served the temple in Jerusalem.

          Reply
        • In terms of holding a position of authority in the church Paul was clear ‘”I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” First letter to Timothy

          Reply
          • Make up your mind… “priest” or “teacher”… There is a gulf here without taking an awful lot more.

            I’m afraid this is sloppy bible-study.

  5. I think its both important to be legal, but also not to let legality be the excuse. The cofe has been talking about same sex relationships intensely for more than a decade. It seems embarrassing that the only result is prettification of blessings that were basically already possible (if you follow the Welby view that these are blessings of people in relationships, not relationships in people). (The church has nothing else to say to gay people (in relationships) despite a decade of thinking!) It becomes a Truss scale farce if they now have to come back and say oh we can’t even do that. If the result of ten years of trying to improve treatment of gay people is to create a decision facto ban on blessing gay people, just as the RCC(!!) explicitly says no such ban exists for their priests

    Reply
    • The RCC has not really done even that either ‘The Vatican has stressed that allowing priests to bless same-sex couples is not an endorsement of homosexuality, but neither is it blasphemous, after some Catholic bishops reacted negatively to the measure announced last month.

      Pope Francis approved a ruling in December allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples so long as the blessing was performed without any type of ritualisation and did not give the impression of the church’s approval of the relationship’
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/04/vatican-says-blessing-of-same-sex-couples-is-not-blasphemous

      Reply
      • Simon, you have often said you are a Catholic Anglican, so surely the remedy for you now is to make your peace with Rome and return to the Catholic fold? Especially since Francis has given you what you want. Why be an Anglican?

        Reply
        • No, I support women priests and bishops and same sex blessings. The Roman Catholic church opposes the former unlike the Church of England and on the latter at most has gone no further than Synod voted for. I also support the C of E as established church with the King as its Supreme Governor. If the C of E was disestablished and the Roman Catholic church supported women priests and bishops and Cardinals and even Popes as well as same sex blessings I would consider becoming Catholic. However we are a long way from that at the moment

          Reply
    • You keep on saying there is a ban on ‘blessing gay people’. You knew before you said it that that was inaccurate. The ban, if any, would be on viewing them as couples.

      Reply
      • Christopher

        According to the Archbishop of Canterbury himself the blessings are of individuals in a relationship, not of the relationship

        Reply
        • He and everyone must know that ‘relationship’ is a vastly (and often deliberately) vague word not used by precise people.

          Yes – correct. The coupledom is not blessed. But every individual of whatever description can be blessed. You said that was not the case. But, as you knew, it is.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            I thought that was the whole point of these prayers though, that they could be used on any form of relationship?

  6. Given Synod voted by majority for experimental services of blessing for same sex couples, that democratic mandate has to be respected and they should proceed. Even if there is some provision for flying bishops for parishes which disagree none the less they should proceed sooner rather than later.

    At least same sex prayers within services are now going ahead in Churches within the C of E whose PCCs approve

    Reply
  7. Andrew is very good at dissecting the intricacies of this mess but the bottom line is that godlessness, refusal to submit to God’s word, theological cowardice, and a love for the world rather than Christ will of course plunge a Christian institution into chaos and disorder.

    Reply
    • Yes indeed. Definitions of integrity include both ‘moral soundness’ and ‘undivided or unbroken completeness’; so once someone has demonstrated the will to forsake integrity in one area of their dealings, it’s unrealistic to assume it will remain in all the other areas. Christians who act and display the qualities you’ve described have been captured by something other than the will to accept the cost which comes from obeying God; their vision and guiding principles will have changed from what the Church of England has always expected of them.

      So in the present circumstances within the Church of England we should not be surprised by exactly the kind of chaos which Andrew Goddard surveys, and we cannot expect scripture or reason to have any effect in changing people’s determination to see through that on which they’ve set their hearts.

      I personally would therefore question the wisdom of any attempts to ‘achieve a settlement’ within a church which has been captured as has now happened to the C of E. How effectively or for how long can we expect such an arrangement to honour God and give a coherent witness to people outside the church who need to hear God’s call? If we are asking for explanations, honesty and openness from the ruling revisionist grouping, we need to hear also some pretty specific answers to that question from the orthodox remnant who hope to remain in a church with the current trajectory: how, why, and for how long can such a situation possibly work?

      Reply
      • “How effectively or for how long can we expect such an arrangement to honour God and give a coherent witness to people outside the church who need to hear God’s call?”

        Yes… That would be a concern to me. As a “supporter ” of women’s ordination I am saddened at the way those who cannot accept this have been treated sometimes. The promises about inclusion and honouring …?

        Reply
  8. But what will happen if it can be demonstrated that the Church of England (or the Bishops) have taken a course of action that is illegal? On the basis of which of those 10 questions is someone going to initiate a court case to get PLF thrown out? It’s all very well demonstrating that questionable advice or processes have been followed, but in the final event, so what? Sorry to be blunt!

    Reply
    • By definition it hasn’t. As C of E law is proposed by the Bishops and approved by Synod, so as PLF was proposed by the Bishops and approved by Synod majority it is by definition legal. Even UK statute law confirms Synod as the C of E legislative body

      Reply
        • If only, Ian, if only. Parliament regularly makes laws that contradict other laws of our land, and judges have the impossible task of weighing totally unambiguous yet mutually contradictory laws against each other – for which they receive much criticism, some of it justified, some unjustified.

          Reply
        • Synod can make whatever law it likes. Parliament legislated early last century to make Synod (or its predecessor the Church Assembly) the law making body for C of E doctrine

          Reply
  9. In a recent meeting of the ‘Contemporary Theological Society’ in Canterbury, the Dean of Canterbury, David Monteith, who is in a civil partnership with another man, gave a lecture on ‘Theological Reflections on Ministry in Contemporary British Society’, the text of which has now been released. It’s a pretty downbeat discussion about being a minority in a culture that doesn’t care (and the lecture also totally fails to mention the growth of Islam in the UK today), but Dean Monteith aligns himself with that liberal hero St Augustine of Hippo:

    ‘With St Augustine we hold to a vision of the City of God which is emerging amidst the City of the world at times co-existing and at at times in stark dialogue’ – for which I read ‘conflict’. He then goes on to say:

    ‘This is one of the reasons I find the rise of a new Puritanism with its attendant bibliolatry and fundamentalism in our churches to be so alarming. Rather than accepting what is happening and trying to perceive God the neo-Puritanism of the so called successful churches of our day are trying to impose a Godly vision onto society rather than working with society to grow a Godly vision from the ground. … Such neo Puritanism is likely to be (sic) become just as antagonistic , just as iconoclastic, just as violent, and just as dead end as it has been every time it has emerged ….’

    So there you have from the heart of the liberal, pro-LGBT+ establishment: liberal post-Christian culture is really where God is and evangelicalism (what Dean Monteith means by ‘neo-Puritanism’) are violent troublemakers. You can’t really patch over these two visions.

    Reply
  10. It would be interesting to develop Augustine in contrast with the developed Pelagianism of revisionism.
    Indeed, to followAugustine through to the era identified as Puritans.
    It is a frequent epithet to denounce Christians who oppose ssm/b as puritans without understanding or mendaciously misreprenting the deep devotion to God of the Holy Bible by such as John Owen.
    Likewise, the antogonistic denunciaction of facile theological throwaway categorisation of Bibliodolatry.
    Whereas, scriptural adherrants who are resistant to doctrinal change in sexual morality, have a high view of the doctrine of scripture and higher still the Triune God of self revelation therein.
    And those in opposition include Protestants who subscribe to the Reformation five Solas and to Classical Theology/theism such as found in Aquinas.
    In is doubtful that the Dean’s understanding of Augustine’s City of God will accord
    with this: How do we live in the City of God, Lessons from Augustine
    https://credomag.com/2023/11/how-do-we-live-in-the-city-of-god-lessons-from-augustine-phillip-cary-and-matthew-barrett/
    The Dean’s understanding appears to a wrong reductionism to further his own purposes.

    Reply
      • Yes, but it would be a little tiring trying to engage with people who may not know much historical theology beyond survey courses in theological college.
        What may trouble Dean Monteith is the recently published statistics which show that Canterbury diocese is the only diocese in the country that has not shown a recovery toward 2020 attendance figures after the Covid closures. There has also been a big increase in the number of churches with no children at all in attendance – more that half the Anglican churches in Canterbury diocese. When the average age of a congregation is 70+, you kbow it can’t last more than five years.
        On the other hand, the online presence of Canterbury Cathedral is very good, to judge by youtube figures. The question is, where in the world are people watching from? Is this the Anglican equivalent of Vatican TV? How does one translate this into something more concrete?

        Reply
        • ‘When the average age of a congregation is 70+, you kbow it can’t last more than five years.’ Not necessarily, Canterbury diocese is relatively rural beyond Canterbury itself, Maidstone and Ashford. Rural areas tend to attract retired people, who along with farmers make up most of the population, so there will likely be more incoming over 70s who are retired and moving from cities and towns seeing a quieter life to replace those who die off. Some of those will be Christian still, noting especially that on the last census over 50s are the only age group in the UK now where the clear majority are still Christian and most of those will be C of E

          Reply
          • You clearly don’t know Kent at all. Most of the population is urban. This includes Herne Bay, Margate, Broadstairs, Dover, Folkestone, Ashford, Maidstone and the Medway towns, besides Canterbury. The student population is large and almost entirely unchurched.
            The statistics of post-covid decline in church attendance are very striking: the ONLY diocese in the nation not to increase attendance since the illegal closures.
            The disappearance of children’s work from most Anglican churches in Canterbury diocese is also alarming.
            It is disingenuous in the extreme to imagine an influx of devout retirees will magically change things. It won’t happen.

          • Not in East Kent it isn’t. Most of the population lives in rural areas, villages or at most small towns. Indeed of the areas you listed only Margate and Ashford and Maidstone have populations over 50,000 and of those only Maidstone has a population over 100,000. Yet even Maidstone is not a city, Canterbury is the 1 city in the diocese only because it has a cathedral, its population is only 43,432.

            As a largely rural diocese with a higher percentage of retired people it is not surprising that some of them decided to keep joining services online rather than in person. Given their age group is still most at risk from Covid. Yes you can have a few childrens’ groups but children and families tend to be concentrated mainly in dioceses with big cities or large towns and that is not really Canterbury diocese and never will be

          • Simon, you have missed the point again. There are many children and students in Kent – but church work among them has collapsed in the majority of Anglican parishes. Why do you think this is?
            Churches cannot be sustained by elderly retirees, it has to be by families.
            Look up the Kent statistics, they paint a very different picture from what you say.

          • More children are likely in Rochester diocese and areas like the Medway towns and the London commuter belt of Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks than East Kent. And of course seaside towns of Canterbury diocese like Broadstairs and Folkestone are filled with retired people as well not just the rural areas

    • Yes, the Puritans were the most godly men in 17th century England.

      Augustine contrasted the city of God with the city of man, a curious metaphor given that Christ preferred to speak of the kingdom of God set in contrast to this world.

      Reply
      • You clearly don’t know Kent at all. Most of the population is urban. This includes Herne Bay, Margate, Broadstairs, Dover, Folkestone, Ashford, Maidstone and the Medway towns, besides Canterbury. The student population is large and almost entirely unchurched.
        The statistics of post-covid decline in church attendance are very striking: the ONLY diocese in the nation not to increase attendance since the illegal closures.
        The disappearance of children’s work from most Anglican churches in Canterbury diocese is also alarming.
        It is disingenuous in the extreme to imagine an influx of devout retirees will magically change things. It won’t happen.

        Reply
        • I don’t know how my reply to Simon (T1) ended up here.

          But to respond to Anton, Augustine’s metaphor does make sense and may be inspired by Hebrews: ‘here we have no abiding city’. As the fundamental Christian philosophy of history, ‘Civitas Dei’ is a work that exceeds conventional descriptions (as well as book sizes) and really should be tackled (although I am only half-way through after owning a copy for years).

          Reply
          • A reference also to the book of Revelation; new Jerusalem come down and the world wide City of God is it not. The ‘City’ and Kingdom of God are one and the same are they not?

          • Reminds me of the point N T Wright makes about the idea of being a “citizen of heaven” (see Philippians 3). We today will tend to think of citizenship being your home that you will return to. In the 1st century, especially in a Roman colony like Philippi your citizenship was what marked you out as different. You lived as a Roman citizen in Philippi, and there was no expectation that you would return to Rome. And as a Roman citizen in the colonies you were expected to go and greet the Emperor should he come to you.

        • I agree the situation in the Canterbury diocese is concerning. But there are young people/ children in the Ignite communities and I see them in some of the ( urban) churches I have attended. However well before COVID it has been difficult to recruit full time clergy for east Kent including Thanet etc. There are a lot of vacancies.

          Reply
          • And as Froghole ( on thinking Anglicans) has pointed out decline comes from lack of provision. Most village churchgoers rarely travel to a service so in a multi church benefice ( 4 plus churches) only having one or two services per benefice adds to the spiral of decline. And Canterbury has a lot of multi church benefices. A new strategy is needed.

          • What ‘provision’ can you make for a group of 15 meeting in a vast church building—not least when giving is so low in the C of E compared with other churches?

          • They should close half of the churches and buy a minibus to transport those who need lifts. Or put up big screens in the different churches so people can join in by youtube.
            Problems of course if the only service is communion (unless you believe in telesubstantiation ….)

          • Multi church benefices are often the only way to keep historic, medieval rural churches in hamlets or small villages still being used for worship. We have that here with most parishioners being willing to travel over our 4 churches which alternate services between them over the month. Though it can’t be many more than 4 to be sustainable. A minibus can also be an idea if the Parishes can raise the funds to transport elderly members of the congregation certainly we want to keep our most historic and ancient medieval churches going where we can. Remember most of our pre 1500 churches are found in rural areas as that is where most of the population lived at that time. The majority of the population only moved to the cities and large towns after the industrial revolution in the early 19th century

          • Ian

            There’s a uniqueness and importance in having a presence in every community. I have had two friends who in different villages, at different times both became Christians and eventually excellent priests after wondering in to their parish church and being met by the holy spirit.

            I dont have a greag answer, but I am sure if you cut the village church resources and give the money to a new HTB plant then at least 10 of the 15 will stop attending anywhere and several will eventually lose their faith.

            Which new church plant can genuinely boast that they have ten genuinely new Christians (not already Christians tempted back from New Frontiers or people new to the area) to replace those lost by this strategy?

          • Exactly, the C of E has £8.7 billion in assets and investments, it doesn’t need lots of giving from its congregations as much as newer evangelical churches given the wealth it has built up over centuries. It has more than enough to maintain existing Parishes, including in rural areas even if small congregations

      • One and the same.

        From a rather fine article:

        Augustine provides a key for a proper perspective on human events. Along with a theology of history, he puts together a Christian philosophy of society. He states that Scriptures alone can instruct human beings about the highest good and the highest evil. Without this guidance, human endeavour has no purpose. History is a great drama between two cities: the “City of Man” and the “City of God”. The former is founded on self-love, with pride, ambition, greed, and expediency reigning supreme. The City of God is founded on selflessness, love of God and love of neighbour, where humility, sacrifice, and obedience are paramount.

        Human history is a conflict between these two “cities”. A conflict destined to end in victory for the latter when Christ returns. The City of God is marked by people who dedicate themselves to the eternal truths of God revealed in the Christian faith. The Earthly City consists of people who immerse themselves in the cares and pleasures of this present world. History is the unfolding of God’s plan which involves fostering the City of God and filling it with citizens destined for eternal life with God – this being the purpose of creation.

        Augustine presents the four essential elements in this universal struggle between good and evil. The visible institutions of the Church and State, and the invisible City of God and City of Man. The Church is divinely established to lead us to eternal goodness. The State is intended by God to hold back evil, to promote virtue and foster a political community that seeks human good and human welfare. The visible societies are to aim at justice and the physical and spiritual welfare of citizens. Mirroring these and interacting with them, are the two invisible societies. To achieve a harmony between the Church and the State, to achieve order and justice, mankind must strive to enter the City of God. Human society and individuals must choose which of the two invisible “cities” to join.

        Whilst these “cities” are distinct, they comingle. Everyone within the State and in the Church struggles between these cities. At times, men find themselves immersed in the City of Man and at other times in the City of God, but, often, bestriding the two. Augustine writes: “So long, then, as the heavenly City is wayfaring on earth, she invites citizens from all nations and all tongues, and unites them into a single pilgrim band.”
        https://dodothedude.blogspot.com/2024/01/the-end-is-nigh-or-not.html

        Reply
          • The New Jerusalem is ahead, and if that is what Augustine meant then why didn’t he use its name? Christ’s metaphor is good enough for me.

          • Anton, the problem may lie in our modern word ‘city’ used to translate ‘civitas’ (and derived from the latter word). In classical Latin ‘urbs’means a city as a large agglomeration of buildings but ‘civitas’ is closer in meaning to a state as a political unit. Don’t think of it geographically but more nearly in political-ethnic terms as a state.

  11. There is a missing consideration here. Does the controversy over the use of B5, B5A or B2 extend to all of the Prayers of Love and Faith? Or is it only some of them?

    We’ve previously learnt that at least some of the conservative/evangelical side in this have viewed the prayers for covenanted friendship quite differently. Is that still the case?

    Reply
      • Advocating for a different version or have you changed your mind about them? I remember when the PLF were published, I thought that you agreed with me the covenanted friendships proposed were a bit ropey not least because you could enter into them whilst married. Or have I embarrassingly misremembered?

        Reply
      • Ian

        Interesting…

        Is there an understanding that these are highly controversial amongst grassroots evangelicals? Has there been an effort to educate about them? I ask because my experience of friends who have tried this sort of thing is that they still seem to be ostracized because ultimately its too gay to be accepted amongst conservatives

        Reply
      • In a spirit of genuine puzzlement, where (and when) did the notion of ‘covenanted friendships’ arise? Presumably they do not include normal heterosexual marriages or normal non sexual same sex relationships; so what exactly are they, and how are they different from naturally strong bonds and loyalties between family members or best friends? Have we discovered a theology which would point to the need for public blessings of a newly defined area of human interaction?

        Unless there’s something pretty convincing which has never before been observed in human behaviour, are we not really looking at a political device to enable the introduction of a highly contested piece of liturgy by creating enough ambiguity around it to enable everyone to let it pass? At very least this kind of proposal is something about which the average person in the street deserves to be given a clear understanding; we Christians owe them (and ourselves) total honesty and coherence rather than ambiguity at a time when what they are learning from the secular world is anything but honest and coherent.

        Reply
        • Agreed Don. Genuinely baffled. Are there any lines to be drawn anywhere and if so where and how?
          Why is it sought and thought to be (theologically) necessary.
          Could there be such a blessed relationship between two brothers, sister and brother.
          Is it to be a life -long foresaking all other special friendships?
          Not sure where the CoE evangelicals are going with this and AJB is correct in drawing attention to what appears on the surface as a change in stance or inconsistent, muddled- confused thinking/ theology.
          It is not as if there has been a lack of comments on the site alone, on this very same point. Can’t recall many comments that were in support of the suggestion that set out coherent and cogent reasoning. But, as always, I stand to be corrected.

          Reply
          • Geoff

            Its to answer the problem that requiring gay people to be single and alone leads to a whole raft of problems,not least intense loneliness,so the idea is that they can instead form friendships that make a covenant to support one another.

        • You can see the idea in the recommendations of the Pilling Report a decade ago. It talked about this idea of a partnership of life long fidelity for same sex couples, albeit not a sexual relationship, and that this permanent relationship should be marked by a priest in a public service.

          You can see the idea covenanted friendship (as celibate partnerships) entering the debate in the US, and it seems to be a rising topic here:
          https://www.livingout.org/resources/posts/120/what-do-living-out-think-about-covenantal-friendships-or-celibate-partnerships

          Reply
          • Thanks for the link AJB. Although not remotely convinced, I’m not going to open this one up any further here for now!

          • The whole issue of covenanted friendships has, for me at least, been very informative about the problems with the LLF debate.

            They really seemed to come out of the blue in the PLF, and weren’t really discussed in LLF itself. But something like them is in Pilling. Why? Because for the leaders the debate in LLF wasn’t ever really about trying to find an answer for gay relationships (e.g. do we all agree that celibate partnerships are ok). It was, as the Bishops work on the theological arguments revealed, meant to be about how to keep the Church united whilst we all disagreed about this. The “answer” they had for gay relationships was what they had from the start from Pilling.

            More surprising and perhaps more worrying has been even after the PLF were published much of the criticism has skipped over what the PLF actually say. So when it’s revealed that a number of the conservative evangelicals who ostensibly oppose PLF are actually supporting the covenanted friendships within PLF this is a bit of a shock to some of us, because we don’t hear the arguments for covenanted friendships publicly. As far as I’m aware this has been an argument behind closed doors so far. But an argument is definitely going on: as the PLF have been refined/redrafted covenanted friendships have been one area that has changed considerably. The changes have gone so far as to quite profoundly undermine the idea of covenanted friendships being the sort celibate partnerships (akin to marriages, but definitely without sex) by making it clear that the PLF covenanted friendships are not exclusive, and you can enter a covenanted friendship with someone whilst being married to someone else.

          • AJ

            I think they aren’t discussed much because they are already well within what’s allowed even for priests and because the bishops decided to make the entire thing focused on same sex marriage rather than answering the tougher questions of how gay people should live and how they can be included in the life of the church

          • The thing is Peter I don’t think they did focus on same-sex marriage. This wasn’t really an exercise in trying to persuade conservatives like Ian that same-sex marriage was a grand idea. Nor was it about persuading folk like Jayne Ozanne that celibacy or opposite-sex marriage was the way ahead for gay people. LLF assumed that no-one was going to change their minds about that, and instead the focus was on how to be in a Church where we disagreed on this. That’s why when the Bishops produced their theological arguments, it was all about Church management, and not at all about same-sex marriage.

          • AJ

            Yes you are right actually!

            I feel great sadness about covenanted friendships etc (or what we used to call Side B – meaning people who believed same sex was a sin, but being gay wasnt) because they are generally people who want to be fully part of a conservative church, but, with some exceptions, are generally too gay to be accepted. They fall out of line on gay rights, TV, music, culture and just fit in. And there’s often a suspicion that they must be secretly having sex – because many conservatives don’t understand that gay people need the relationship part of relationships too

          • I think the normal assumption would very much be ‘A+B’ rather than ‘A rather than B’! In fact, I can’t think of anyone who believes ‘A rather than B’ is the norm.

          • Christopher

            Side A means people who believe that gay people are allowed to marry (and have sex)

            Side B means people who believe that gay people can never have sex, but can form romantic partnerships as long as they don’t involve sex.

            Side X means people who believe that gay people must become straight or attempt to become straight.

            Gay Christians are usually divided between A and B. Straight Christians are usually divided between A and X. That’s why side B relationships end up being controversial – the people in them have theological problems with both A and X, but are by far the smallest numerically

          • Sorry, I confused everything with my use of logical A and B. Your Side A and side B is another thing altogether and I was not thinking of it.

            ‘Have a problem with’ is a dreadful phrase, isn’t it. What is wrong with ‘disagree with’? It is also an inaccurate phrase, because it locates the problem with the objector, which is unlikely to be the case but is certainly not always the case.

          • People don’t just disagree about this Christopher. Those on mine and Peter’s side of question will regularly find that people go further than disagreeing with us, they will question the legitimacy of our faith and salvation. So I think “have a problem” is the more accurate description of what’s happening.

          • Where to start, AJ?
            You say that anyone who is on the other ”side” from you has a problem?
            Second, my question ‘Whatever happened to just disagreeing and having a different opinion – nothing problematic about that, let alone insultingly locating a problem within a dissentient?’ remains unanswered.
            Third, you classify things in a binary way based on 2 ”sides”. Which can only be because you are thinking of positions not of the arguments and thinking used to reach those positions. But it is possible to hold a position with no argument or thought backing it at all. So a position alone is of no merit.
            Fourth, questioning the legitimacy of someone’s faith and salvation – particularly if that questioning is based on evidence – is an entirely normal thing given that the whole point is that some are saved at present and others are not, and if salvation were automatic there would be nothing great about it, and what would be the point of Jesus coming at all. You are confusing errors against diplomacy and polite society with errors against reality. The two are not even close.

        • Don Benson

          Covenant Friendships are an invention by conservatives who oppose sex or romantic relationships for gay people, but recognize that lonely living isn’t a good option either. So the idea here is that gay people pair up to have a deep friendship with one another and provide all the daily support that they can’t get from a spouse or family because they aren’t allowed them

          Reply
          • Thanks Peter. I would have thought that the blessings we use at the end of every Church of England service are already meant to apply to all present, irrespective of the many and varied personal situations involved. After all God sees and knows us all, he’s well aware of our friendships, loneliness, ill health, temptations, mental anguish or financial woes etc. Expecting some kind of public affirmation by means of blessing a covenanted friendship seems unnecessary and frankly a somewhat childish cry for attention.

            It should only take the most basic of imagination to recognise that same sex attracted people who cannot in all conscience become involved romantically with another person of the same sex may carry an enormous burden of loneliness (particularly those who are naturally introverted). But we should not forget that exactly the same thing may apply to bereaved people, disabled people, those whose physical appearance denies them the fulfilment of romantic love. Perhaps we do need to speak of such human issues in a more relaxed and open way, not least in terms of how each one of us needs to think through for ourselves how to handle life’s unfairness without being bitter or broken.

            I wonder if city life, locked away in houses and flats far from rural areas, has taken away people’s opportunities for experiencing the exhilaration as well as the solace offered in abundance from getting out there in God’s created world of moors, mountains, forests, fields and beaches – in all weathers too! Whether alone or in company such experiences can be endless and amazing, a source of healing and peace; and the enormity of God’s creative mind knows no bounds – it’s all there for us to explore and enjoy. Paradoxically perhaps, some people might do well to consider living away from cities which may simply emphasise their loneliness among people who seem to live exciting and fulfilling lives!

            And of course, we Christians do have the hope of eternal joy with God which, soon enough, will eclipse what we perceive as the shortcomings of our minutely short mortal span. That’s a perspective we all need to embrace because even a perfect life can go belly up at the drop of a hat!

          • Don

            There are practical problems as well as emotional problems of not being allowed relationships or community.

            Bereaved people, disabled people and ugly people are not barred from community or relationships and indeed a great many are in relationships! Its actually possibly easier for ugly people to form relationships than the beautiful.

  12. On the subject of Canterbury diocese and its decline, let me just add that turning the nave of Canterbury Cathedral into a rave for rock or death metal fans – in order to make yet more money as stoned night clubbers dance on the grave of martyrs and saints – is enormously offensive.
    What is the Dean of Canterbury thinking?
    How does this advance the Gospel of Christ?

    Reply
    • I agree on that, Cathedrals are sacred spaces and while choral concerts are fine they aren’t intended for raves which should be left to nightclubs and festivals

      Reply
    • Romans 1 says the forsaking of the gift of the male/female masterpiece plan (the one point of multiple millions of years of evolution) is a matter of not showing the awe and reverence that is known to be due. After all, the art and architecture masterpieces at which we rightly gawp are nothing to this. Independently I find this lack of awe (triviality; ingratitude; taking the gratuitous gift of life and creation for granted) to be the main feature bar none of sexual revolution discourse, and the tonedeafness to irreverence (dancing on the graves of martyrs) which you highlight is one more example of that.

      Reply
      • The male/female masterpiece plan?

        Adam starts off alone in the Garden of Eden. Jesus himself is single his entire life. St Paul argues it’s best to be celibate, and wishes all were celibate like him. When he argues young women in the Church ought to marry, it’s to avoid scandal, not because they need to fulfil a male/female masterpiece plan. When he tells the Church in Corinth that it’s good to marry, it’s because it’s better to marry than burn with passion, not because they need to fulfil a male/female masterpiece plan.

        Reply
        • Jesus has his covenanted Bride of believers on a Divine exchange of vows. O the depth of Love Divine All Loves Excelling. Our ugly sin His, His beautiful righteousness ours. Our poverty His, His riches, inheritance, ours. Our nakedness and shame His, His royal robes of righteosness ours, clothed in Him.
          He is our portion. Is He not enough? He is all sufficient, all satisfying.

          Reply
          • AJB,
            I’m unsure whether your uncertainty is genuine or feigned? While scripture isn’t cited, the comment drew together scriptual truth, intellectual, spiritual, experiential reality. A believer’s, collectively His Bride’s union with Groom Jesus.
            As Christopher says it Awe. And it is new- life transforming.
            It is something the maligned puritans rejoiced in. Enjoying and glorifying God.
            ………..
            “It is the God-centerness of awe that results in fear of doing anything to grieve or dishonour Him, an awe/fear
            that increases the more we admire and praise Him in wonder….
            Either the awe/fear of the Lord will be be our life centre, God’s Word will be the unquestioned arbiter of truth or something else will ( public opinion, our own feelings, or human scientific reasoning. Either God and your relationship with Him will be the thing you esteem most -and every single other thing will be evaluated in the light of that – or your relationship to some other thing will define reality.”
            The Way of Wisdom ; Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller; p39 KNOWING GOD, The Fear of the Lord;
            February 8,
            Proverbs 1:7

          • Sorry Geoff, I recognise the reference (the metaphor in Ephesians 5) and the imagery. I don’t get why you think it’s relevant to the discussion about whether there’s a male/female masterpiece plan that expects all humans to have heterosexual sex and reproduce (which if you believed it, would imply Jesus himself fell short of the plan, which is nonsense).

          • AJB,
            Jesus is the Last Adam, born of the Spirit born of woman, born of Mary, (the anti-type of Eve) the promised seed, and born from above, a new life, new humanity in Him, and a covenant relationship with Him above all others.
            It is interesting that you resist the import, including citation from Keller.

        • This is exactly the same irreverence I spoke of. You are proving the point. Diminishing awe, when the only accurate thing to do would be to enhance it.

          The entirety of evolution has moved to a summit of human union. The male/female binary is all about reproduction, proliferation, survival. These things are obviously true and basic whether or not they are centrally related to a given Bible passage.

          Reply
          • Well, there we go. Our teaching doesn’t need to be rooted in Scripture? We can reason that evolution places heterosexual sex and having children at the summit of life? Unbelievable.

          • Do you think that any truth spoken of in a text was true in reality before it appeared in the text, or did it suddenly become true when the text was written?

            The answer is obvious. No text has ever *made* something true that was not already beforehand true in reality.

            The premise of your argument is that things get written down in Scripture and from then on become true? Think about it.

            As for human marriage – yes, a human being is undeniably the greatest and most highly developed reality that anyone has seen. And secondly, a human being was arrived at through the process of evolution, as the peak of that process. These 2 points are uncontroversial.

      • Christopher

        I can’t agree with that view because demonstrably the people who most value the symbolic, the idea of having special holy places etc are most likely to support same sex relationships and the people who value these things least, but want to “get bums on seats” who are least likely to support same sex relationships.

        Also this “rave” seems like a really bad idea to me and I’m same sex married!

        Reply
        • The reverence I mentioned was not towards a building!
          That is a common fallacy. The building is mysterious. God is mysterious. Therefore the mystery is one and the same. No.

          Reply
          • Why the building? Where the church meets, there is Christ. It follows that some places are more associated with Christ’s presence than others. But that presence is in the people not the bricks. That is basic New Testament. The other is Old Testament. Whole point of Jesus was the transition from Old to New. Living stones, living temple.

          • Yes, because as is clear from my comments I am very much in favour of chanting along to Eminem in the place where the church normally meets. Not.
            It is an utter disgrace and blasphemy. From a predictable source.

  13. AJB,
    Tracing and following on from our comments correspondence above-
    Jesus is the Last Adam, born of the Spirit born of woman, born of Mary, (the anti-type of Eve) the promised seed, and fruitfully bringing a birth from above, a new life, new humanity in Him, and a covenant relationship with Him above all others.
    It is interesting that you resist the import, including citation from Keller.
    Additionally, sss/m is inherently barren, unfruitful.
    Male and female marriage is a joinder, a union of becoming one flesh.
    Gen 2.
    God blessed male and female and said to them. ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’ Genesis 1:28
    The woman would be named Eve, mother of all the living.
    The commandment to be fruitful is repeatd in Genesis 9:7
    There are numerous scriptures that apply to fruitfulness by the expansion and increase the number of human beings.
    Again, that is inherently impossible in sss/m.

    Reply
      • That’s interesting. It refutes your argument because they, unlike you, do not argue that everyone ought to be getting married.

        The Bishops have their own problems though. This is not dissimilar to the longer article they published about the conservative case for marriage. It curiously ignores lots of what scripture actually says about marriage and the purpose of marriage. Genesis 2 doesn’t merit a mention. Nor does Ecclesiastes 4. Nor 1 Corinthians 7. Nor 1 Timothy 5. Not even Matthew 19. Even Ephesians 5 isn’t actually quoted when its imagery is invoked. Besides the terrible grammar – our salvation does not spring from the lifelong union of male and female, but from the grace of God, Christ’s death on the cross, and his resurrection – it’s argument is that God created the institution of marriage so that Paul could have a handy metaphor in his letter to the Ephesians. That is an inversion of Christ’s teaching (the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath) and completely ignores the scriptural teaching that marriage is a practical concession to us: instituted because it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2); the practical need for companionship (Ecclesiastes 4); that it can be necessary to channel sexual desire healthily (Matthew 19); that it is better to marry than burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7); and avoid social scandal (1 Timothy 5). And of course if our marriages were cosmically significant, you might expect them to carry over into the next life, but Jesus tells us they don’t (Matthew 22).

        The Bishops view of the purpose of celibacy is also bizarre. It’s a declaration of the sufficiency of our eternal union with God in Christ? That would mean that every Christian who gets married (and there’s a lot of them, including amongst these Bishops) is declaring that for them, the eternal union with God in Christ is not actually sufficient because they’re not embracing celibacy. What nonsense. Paul has a bit to say about the purpose of celibacy, and it isn’t what these Bishops say. As with marriage, he is much more practical: an unmarried person is concerned about the Lord’s affairs, and living in undivided devotion. But Paul is at the same time adamant that he is not creating a celibacy rule for anyone or requiring it (1 Corinthians 7).

        Reply
        • AJB,
          If you read carefully what I’ve written, I’ve not argued that everyone ought to get married.
          God’s teleological theme of marriage, male and female, is reproduction (after its kind).
          I was well aware that the question of singleness was not addressed.
          Union with Christ is sufficient and where a Christian is married it is symbolic of that union in a like covenant relationship.
          Marriage is secondary (read Keller again). Christ is still primary, first, in the relationship for both Christian husband and wife. Christ is in that union in the marriage as individuals and in becoming a union of one flesh marriage relationship.
          (Strictly as an aside, I’d strongly advocate that a Christian should marry a Christian, not an unbeliever.)
          Christian marriage does not ‘complete’ a person: union with Christ does.
          For someone who has been married for over 40 years, who were both converted some 20 years afterwards, marriage didn’t complete us but Christ changed us. He comes first in our marriage.
          Hunky -dory- hard work?!
          But for someone single in their union with Christ there would be no distractions and pulls on counter allegiances and devotions that there are in a marriage. Their singular and sufficient a priori devotion in their union would be to God. It is He who completes, who satisfies, fulfills, in ways that any human marriage can not, no matter how good, and it is finite, ends.
          Our union with Christ extends, to be enjoyed from now, glorified into eternity, complete and replete in Him.
          Marriage wasn’t meant to replace who we were created for.

          Reply
          • And yet, for all that, we don’t see young Christians taking vows of celibacy, or even being encouraged to. What we get is some people ending up single and being told that’s ok, and some people being told that the vows have effectively been made on their behalf and they have no choice about it. Hardly anyone is saying they’re going to choose to forgo marriage because their union with Christ is sufficient. Maybe St Paul had a point after all, eh?

          • ‘And yet, for all that, we don’t see young Christians taking vows of celibacy, or even being encouraged to.’

            It depends on where you are. It was certainly something I considered in my 20s under the influence of John Stott.

          • I thought you got married in your 20s – have I mixed you up with someone else? Apologies if so.

            If there’s so many actually deciding to embrace lifelong celibacy in their teens/20s, where are they?

    • Celibacy is just as inherently barren and unfruitful. And yet, Jesus himself lives a celibate life, and so did Paul. So to have numerous other Christians down the ages. Were they ignoring Scripture and God’s commands? Are you imploring me to marry a woman in order to have children and increase the number of human beings?

      Reply
      • Read 1 Corinthians 7 and you will see that it is fine for a believing man to marry (meaning marry a woman).

        Part of the confusion is that the New Testament portrays Christianity as a religion of dissent from the local culture. Yet it went on to become the default religion of Europe and set its culture. Some of us believe that the institutional form of the faith is inauthentic and comprises in the main people who do not allow God to remake them (although its churches certainly include some committed believers), and that if you want koinonia – the *corporate* experience of the Holy Spirit – then you stand a far better chance of finding it in dissenting congregations. Others are entirely happy with the institutional churches. But the distinction is crucial. Without being radically changed by Christ you will be a slave to your sarx (flesh), and most self-defined Christians in our culture are like that.

        How Christ might change your desires is up to him, but you will be able to avoid what the Bible calls sin. Here are some words from the testimony of Rosaria Butterfield, a former academic specialising in feminist theory and queer theory who became a committed Christian and changed her lifestyle: sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed”… Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less.

        Reply
        • Have you ever heard Butterfield’s testimony about all this? Her whole view of sexuality is something you choose. She started off having a “heterosexual past” as she puts it, who decided in the name of valuing diversity as a queer theorist to make the “moral choice” to be a lesbian. When she became a Christian that moral choice changed. Butterfield seems to be, from what she says, the archetypal “political lesbian”, an inversion of the typical ex-gay story – where people chose to behave in a straight way, entering straight relationships, ignoring their actual sexual orientation. So it doesn’t necessarily shock me that Butterfield has stopped being a “lesbian” and believes that sexuality is something Christians are to set out to kill. But her story’s application to other people is I’m afraid bogus.

          Reply
          • That’s a diversion. Do you or do you not agree with her statement that

            sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed”… Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less.

      • Already answered, AJB in my comment @ 11:38 am which you seem to have indignantly ignored.
        Are you cognisant intellectually and spiritually and experientially as a believe of your union with Christ? As such, why would any of us seek to join Him, bodily in our sin. For the principle, see 1 Corinthians 6:16-18
        I don’t expect anything of you as I don’t know you, but I’ll not endorse sin. I’d have some expectations of you if you are in a church leadership role.
        This is a quote, that I can no longer find, I find your thoughts are altogether ‘too human’ as expressed in your last sentence, not the mind of Christ.
        Finally, a repeated suggestion, read Keller again, above.
        Keller, in the reading today, continues the theme of fear of the Lord as a joyful restraint, citing two sources that would surprise many. It is highly relevant to this topic specifically and others more generally.
        It would be edifying to cite it extensively. I may seek to do so later, on my computer, with our host’s further indulgence.

        Reply
        • It’s a straw man argument to say that I’m suggesting you endorse sin. After reading Matthew 19, Mark 2, Genesis 2, Ecclesiates 4, 1 Corinthians 7, Romans 13, and 1 Timothy 5 (amongst others) I do not consider gay marriage to be a sin. Furthermore, I’ve yet to encounter a cogent argument that covenanted friendships (as originally envisaged, not the odd version now crafted into the latest version of PLF) are a sin. Maybe one’s out there, but it’s keeping pretty quiet.

          I think it really does matter being clear about what we think gay people are to do. The different approaches have radically different implications for their lives and their families. To pretend that there’s little difference between say Rosaria Butterfield who encourages gay people into straight marriages, someone like Ed Shaw who believes there is a rule of celibacy being imposed, and someone like Eve Tushnet who thinks we ought to be looking at covenanted partnerships, is daft. At this point, pretending it’s a non-issue or something we don’t need to talk about risks turning the Church as a faith of the head, rather than something to be lived out in our lives, and that’s pretty concerning. There’s a particular problem with saying this question has nothing to do with the mind of Christ considering he gets into this question of marriage or celibacy rule in Matthew 19.

          As for the Tim Keller quotes – there’s a problem in the modern Church where some people seem to have decided that “fear God” means we ought to be scared of God because he’s angry with us (see the stereotype of the angry old man in the sky). It’s an inversion of the Gospel, which from Jesus own lips in John 3 starts with God loving the world so much he sent his only Son. N T Wright has a good discussion on this. To fear God is to be reverential and take Him, and His revelation in Jesus and Scripture, seriously. And if you’re starting off by ignoring John 3 are you really doing that?

          PS: This habit you have of trying to declare anyone who disagrees with you a non-Christian is pretty tiresome.

          Reply
          • the Gospel, which from Jesus own lips in John 3 starts with God loving the world so much he sent his only Son.

            The ‘so’ in English translations of John 3:16 does not mean ‘so much’ but means ‘in this way’:

            “For God in this way loved the world”, i.e. *This* is how God loved the world: that he sent his son…

          • I am not saying that God does not love the world that much. I am explaining the correct meaning of a verse of scripture.

          • Indeed Anton,
            In context, it is in that way…which is the way of the Cross of Christ.
            As for tiresome, the moral recidivism of cultural permissive progressive, revisionist infiltration of the CoE is terminally arid, God’s present -day judgement Romans 1. It requires a 180 degree turning, repentance.
            For judgement begins with the household of God. 1 Peter 4;17

  14. WHY? Why NOT?
    To close the brackets on my comments, taken as a whole, particularly with AJB, this adds further weight to the priority of desire and motives.

    Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction

    “CHANGING DEEPLY. Faith in Jesus moves us from the dread of punishment to the godly fear that is the beginning of wisdom.
    In Christ we no longer fear God’s judicial penalty (Romans8:1,15). But wisdom requires a genuine hatred of wrongdoing, not just a calculated avoidance of it out of self- interest. The dread of punishment only makes us self-absorbed -worried about being hurt.(46)
    The true fear of the LORD serves him out of joy and a high appreciation for who he is. *Even if there were no hell* this kind of loving fear *would still shudder at offending him alone.*(47)
    The difference between slavish, self interested fear sand the true fear of the LORD is the difference between a mere moralist and a real Christian. There is no wise living unless we have a relationship with him, one in which we obey him out of love for who he is. Only a faith sight of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us both humbles us yet affirms us into joyful fear of the LORD.(48)
    Do you refrain from sins mainly becaue you hate their consequences? Or do you refrain out of distaste for the sins themselves, as they grieve and offend God?

    Endnotes:
    46 John Murray (Principles of Conduct) points out,*The fear of god which is the soul of godliness does not consist…in the dread which is produced by the apprehension of god’s wrath…The dread of judgement will never of itself generate within us the love of God nor the hatred of sin…Even the infliction of wrath will…(only) incite to greater love of the sin and enmity against God.
    Punishment has of itself no generating or converting power.

    The fear of god in which godliness consists is the fear that constrains adoration and love. It is the fear which consists in awe, reverence, honour and worship.

    47 *This mind restrains itself from sinning, not out of dread of punishment alone, but because it loves and revers God as Father, it worship and adores him alone. Even if their were no hell it would still shudder at offending him alone.* John Calvin, Institutes 1.2.2

    48 The two aspects of fear of the LORD can be seen in places where it is treated as a synonym. In Psalm 19 the fear of the LORD is a synonym for the law, statutes, precepts, commands and decrees of the Lord (Psalm 19:7-9.t
    So fear is to recognise God as the authoritative law giver. It is to say *Thy will, not mine, be done.* In Deuteronomy the fear of god and the vlove of God are often used interchangeably to express the kinds of motives that should empower our obedience (Deuteronomy 5:29, 6:2,5, 10:12)
    *So the fear of the LORD is the obedience out of love of God for who he is in himself. It is loving him #for himself alone.* Waltke, Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15””

    From the Kellers, The Way of Wisdom,(February 10) referred to in comment above.

    WHY NOT?: WHY? For The LOVE OF GOD, IN CHRIST, ALONE

    Reply

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