Clergy conduct and the doctrine of marriage

Andrew Goddard writes: The question as to whether it would be right for the Pastoral Guidance to change the current teaching and discipline of the Church of England in relation to clergy (and in some places licensed lay ministers) is one of the challenging questions still left unresolved.  The latest paper for General Synod (GS 2346) considers this in some detail in Annex B in relation to allowing clergy to enter same-sex civil marriage and makes clear how limited the options are for the bishops, particularly given their commitment not to change the doctrine of marriage.

Despite this, the draft proposed commitments include “we commit to exploring the process for clergy and lay ministers to enter same-sex civil marriages” (Commitment 8). What follows sets out the various options to show how difficult it is to proceed without a change in doctrine, either the doctrine of marriage or the doctrine concerning what is expected of those who are ordained. Appendix A below this article collects together key elements of the 2014 House of Bishops pastoral statement; Appendix B summarises key statements from the past; Appendix C contains the key paragraphs from the judgement in the 2018 Pemberton case.

1.  The current situation is as set out in the 2014 HOB Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage where the key points on clergy and ordinands are in paras 22-28 at the end (see Appendix A below). Any change from these as regards clergy discipline and its rationale would need to be explained and defended theologically and legally, particularly in the light of the successful defence of its argument in the 2018 Pemberton case (Court of Appeal decision, note, in particular, paras 63 and 64; see Appendix C below).

2.  The underlying principles for this bar on clergy entering same-sex marriage are based on Scripture, Tradition and the doctrine of the Church of England as set out in the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal and are thus themselves part of the doctrine of the church. In his 2007 paper (so when all bishops were male) relating to whether divorced priests could become bishops Oliver O’Donovan summarised this in these terms:

1.3.1 Why should the appointment of Bishops present a special problem in this context?  The question is parallel to that of why the conduct of clergy should be considered as a special question apart from the conduct of the laity. The functions of ordained leaders include “being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).  The BCP Ordinal asks would-be deacons, priests and bishops to promise to frame themselves and their families to be “wholesome examples”. In this respect Christian leadership within the church differs from most other paradigms of leadership current in secular society, which tend to concentrate on certain technical competences and bracket out the wider life-context. The seriousness with which the church maintains its understanding of priesthood and episcopacy will be judged on its readiness to maintain this, albeit unfashionable, aspect of its historic understanding of Holy Orders.

In order to fulfil episcopal functions a man must be a “good example” in the most general terms—i.e. a good example of the Christian life. This example is not confined to, but includes, the conduct of family life, a point drawn out in Scripture (1 Tim. 3:12) and in the Ordinals. Relevant to the exercise of the function is the candidate’s conduct before being appointed to it (1 Tim. 3:10), the reputation for which will give Christian people confidence in his or her ministry. In keeping with this understanding of Christian leadership the Clergy (Ordination) Measure 1990 (No.1) stipulated that a candidate for ordination who had married twice and whose former spouse was still living, or who was married to a person with a former spouse still living, required a faculty from the Metropolitan. This was to ensure adequate pastoral examination of the circumstances.

3. In relation to questions concerning same-sex relationships and sexual behaviour, the matter of clergy discipline has been regularly addressed in reports and pastoral statements in line with these basic principles. See Appendix B for summaries of the key relevant past discussions.

4. The Bishops have been clear that the doctrine of marriage remains unchanged as stated in the Pastoral Guidance:

The Church of England teaches that Holy Matrimony is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, blessed by God in creation and pointing to the love between Christ and the Church; a way of life which Christ makes holy. It is within marriage that sexual intimacy finds its proper place (p. 1).

5. Given the Church’s marriage doctrine, there are therefore two distinct (but in some situations combined) scenarios in relation to those in or seeking Holy Orders. It is important that both of these are considered and treated in the same way unless some justification can be offered for treating them differently: 

5.1 being married to a person of the same sex (usually a civil marriage but may also be a marriage entered into in a Christian church which marries same-sex couples) and 

5.2 being in a sexually intimate relationship (same-sex or opposite-sex) other than Holy Matrimony. 

6. The key questions concerning the effect of the Church’s doctrine in relation to each of these situations for those in Holy Orders are 

(a) is this way of life compatible with the doctrine, incompatible with it, or its compatibility dependent on particular circumstances?

(b) if it is incompatible (either universally or in some but not all cases) what follows in relation to the discipline expected of those in Holy Orders? and 

(c) is to permit something incompatible itself a change in doctrine concerning Holy Orders?  

This leads to the following 5 broad options: 

(6.1) this pattern of life is incompatible with the Church’s doctrine and so not a way of life acceptable for those in Holy Orders (the current position in both situations);

(6.2) this pattern of life is incompatible with the Church’s doctrine but may be acceptable within Holy Orders in certain circumstances (which circumstances would need to be defined and defended on the basis of different criteria from those set out in the Church’s doctrine);

(6.3) this pattern of life is incompatible with the Church’s doctrine but acceptable for those in Holy Orders (raising the questions as to why it is acceptable, whether any patterns of marital and sexual relationships are unacceptable and if so on what basis given that basis is not the Church’s doctrine; would that basis not become de facto the new doctrine?);

(6.4) this pattern of life raises questions in relation to the Church’s doctrine so requires careful scrutiny of each case guided by the doctrine (this is the current position on marriage where a former spouse is still living, although this could be construed as closer to (2) in terms of legal compatibility given wording of canon C4.4,5); or

(6.5) this pattern of life is compatible with the Church’s doctrine and so acceptable for those in Holy Orders (the current position in relation to celibate civil partnerships).

7. Concerning opening the episcopacy to divorced clergy, O’Donovan’s 2007 paper suggests three approaches:

1.4.1 To focus the discussion it may be helpful to distinguish in advance three kinds of judgment one could reach about a candidate who has been divorced, remarried or married to a divorced person.

(i) The marital history presents no significant problem, and the candidacy may be considered without reference to it.

(ii) The marital history is such as to constitute a bar; further consideration of the candidacy would be inadvisable, at least at this point. 

(iii) The marital history is a significant problem, but not necessarily decisive. It must be weighed alongside the range of other evidence for the candidate’s temperament and character.

8. In relation to each of the two situations set out in (5) these 3 options can be connected to the 5 approaches set out in (6) above:

8.1 Being in a civil same-sex marriage/non-marital sexual relationship “presents no significant problem, and the candidacy may be considered without reference to it” either because it is compatible with the Church’s doctrine (6.5 above) or incompatible but not relevant despite the requirements on godly living (6.3 above).

8.2 Being in a same-sex marriage/non-marital sexual relationship “is such as to constitute a bar; further consideration of the candidacy would be inadvisable, at least at this point” (ie 6.1 above and current position).

8.3 Being in a same-sex marriage/non-marital sexual relationship “is a significant problem, but not necessarily decisive” (ie 6.2 above or 6.4 above requiring some process and criteria for making distinctions between cases).

9. If we were to move away from the current position of 8.2 then one option would be to revisit the question of the Church’s marriage doctrine but the bishops appear to have ruled this out. There appears to be no serious consideration being given to 8.3 but if this were to be considered it would need to be clear as to whether the path being taken was 6.2 or 6.4 and the rationale and legal and administrative process for discriminating judgments between different scenarios clearly set out. The goal for the majority of bishops seems to be to move to 8.1. However, if the doctrine is unchanged and as stated in 4 above this creates significant challenges for each of the two scenarios set out in 5 (both same-sex marriage and non-marital sexual unions) whether one follows a compatibility (6.5) or incompatibility (6.3) track.

10. In relation to 5.1 (civil same-sex marriage) a serious attempt has been made to follow the compatibility track (6.5) by separating civil marriage from Holy Matrimony but this now faces major legal and theological challenges although GS 2346 makes clear (p. 15) that on 9th October the Bishops voted by 20-15 with 2 abstentions that ‘this House agree that same sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony such that same sex marriage is not seen as impinging on Holy Matrimony in a way that contradicts the Church’s doctrine.’ Unless this vote is upheld and applied, it appears necessary to accept the incompatibility of clergy in same-sex marriages with the church’s doctrine.

To proceed in this situation is to break with all past arguments about what is required in being “diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ” (especially as Canon B30 claims to be based on the teaching of Christ). This is in itself arguably a change of doctrine concerning holy orders. The still unanswered crucial issue here remains that Bishops need to come to a view on what a same-sex couple are considered by the Church to be doing when they contract a civil marriage (as distinct from a civil partnership) and if this is something that the Church can approve given its doctrine of marriage.

11. In relation to 5.2 (non-martial sexual relationships) now that the attempt to detach a sexual ethic from the doctrine of marriage has been abandoned and the doctrine restated to include that “It is within marriage that sexual intimacy finds its proper place” the compatibility track (6.5) again appears impossible. The only option is again to detach the discipline expected of clergy from the doctrine of the church, perhaps by an appeal to conscience and private judgment in matters of sexual conduct being extended from being granted as “pastoral provision in a time of uncertainty” or a pastoral accommodation to the laity. This though raises the question as to why clergy who are meant to live godly lives should be able to reject the church’s moral teaching here? 

12. The change away from the current position that being in a same-sex marriage/non-marital sexual relationship “is such as to constitute a bar; further consideration of the candidacy would be inadvisable, at least at this point” (8.2) to acceptance of clergy in same-sex civil marriage and/or sexual relationships other than marriage therefore requires a case for the discipline expected of those in Holy Orders to be able to be incompatible with the church’s marriage doctrine. This case has never been made, itself represents a fundamental change in the church’s teaching and practice (see 2 above and Appendix B), and amounts either to a de facto change in marriage doctrine or a change to our doctrine concerning holy orders (as yet without legal or theological justification).

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.

Appendix A: Key paragraphs of 2014 House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

22.  The preface to the Declaration of Assent, which all clergy have to make when ordained and reaffirm when they take up a new appointment, notes that the Church of England ‘professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.’ This tension between the givennness of the faith and the challenge to proclaim it afresh in each generation, as the Spirit continues to lead the Church into all truth, stands at the heart of current debates about human sexuality and of what constitutes leading a life that is according to the way of Christ.

23.  At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to fashion their own life and that of their household ‘according to the way of Christ’ that they may be ‘a pattern and example to Christ’s people’. A requirement as to the manner of life of the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26, which says that ‘at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.’

24.  The implications of this particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church have been explained as follows; The Church is also bound to take care that the ideal is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance. This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always been accepted ‘(Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section 5.13).

25.  The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.

26.  Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.  The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of integrity.

27.  The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.

28.  The Church of England has a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too firmly, not least when an issue is one where the people of God are seeking to discern the mind of Christ in a fast changing context. Neverthless at ordination clergy undertake to ‘accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it.‘ We urge all clergy to act consistently with that undertaking.

Appendix B: Some Key Statements from the Past

B1. The Ordinal is clearly crucial here. It requires that that those who are ordained should be affirmed as persons of ‘godly conversation,’ ie way of life. The Epistle in The Ordering of Deacons is 1 Tim 3:8. The bishop calls on candidates to

so endeavour yourselves from time to time to sanctify the lives of you and yours, and to fashion them after the rule and doctrine of Christ, that ye may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow.

These statements in this source of doctrine in turn shape canon law e.g. Canon C4.2 states

Every bishop shall take care that he admit no person into holy orders but such as he knows either by himself, or by sufficient testimony….to be of virtuous conversation and good repute and such as to be a wholesome example and pattern to the flock of Christ…

and Canon C26 that any Clerk in Holy Orders

shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.

In the modern ordination service all this is reflected in the question:

Will you endeavour to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ, that you may be a pattern and example to Christ’s people?

B2. The Gloucester Report 1979 after concluding “there are circumstances in which individuals may justifiably choose to enter into a homosexual relationship with the hope of enjoying a companionship and physical expression of sexual love similar to that which is to be found in marriage” (para 168, p. 52) and recognising clergy have a proper expectation for “reasonable privacy in their private and domestic lives and a ‘presumption of innocence’ in all matters concerning their personal behaviour” (para 254, p. 76) stated,

Nevertheless, the clergy must accept the fact that their domestic affairs, insofar as they are common knowledge, inevitably affect their standing as leaders of the congregation and examples to the flock of Christ. This is especially true of the parish priest, living amongst the people of the parish. We have already come to the conclusion that the only sexual union to which the Church can give public recognition in the lives of her members is marriage. A homosexual priest who has ‘come out’ and openly acknowledges that he is living in a sexual union with another man should not expect the Church to accept him on the same conditions as if he were married (para 255, p.76).

It concluded that

a priest in this position ought to offer his resignation to the bishop of the diocese, so that he as the minister bearing responsibility for the Church in the locality could with the pastoral care appropriate to his office decide whether it should be accepted or not (para 256, p.77)

B3. The 1987 General Synod motion (reproduced here, p.2) both reaffirmed the traditional teaching of the church and stated that “all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality; and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders”.

B4. The 1989 Osborne Report has a whole chapter (Chpt 10) devoted to “The Exercise of Pastoral Responsibility” (pp. 107-124) which explores a number of areas and options in some detail (and includes a shocking account of how to handle clergy in sexual relations with a minor).

B5. Issues in Human Sexuality from 1991 discusses the matter in its final chapter (5.11-5.24) where it is clear that

From the time of the New Testament onwards it has been expected of those appointed to the ministry of authority in the Church that they shall not only preach but also live the Gospel….People not only inside the Church but outside it believe rightly that in the way of life of an ordained minister they ought to be able to see a pattern which the Church commends (5.13).

[Although] the Church should be free in its pastoral discretion to accommodate a God-given ideal to human need….the Church is also bound to take care that the ideal itself is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance. This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always been accepted (5.13).

Those who disagree with “the mind of the Church on matters of faith and life” are free to argue for change but not “to go against that mind in their own practice” (5.15). As a result

the clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships. Because of the distinctive nature of their calling, status and consecration, to allow such a claim on their part would be seen as placing that way of life in all respects on a par with heterosexual marriage as reflection of God’s purposes in creation (5.17).

Because of their “duty to affirm the whole pattern of Christian teaching on sexuality…and to uphold the requirements for conduct which will best witness to it” the authors “call upon all clergy to live lives that respect the Church’s teaching” (5.21) and state that “candidates for ordination also must be prepared to abide by the same standards” (5.22). Given the importance of this document since 1991 and the presentation of the Pastoral Guidance as a replacement for it the argument here would need to be addressed if this policy were to change.

B6. Some Issues in Human Sexuality (2003) discussed these questions arguing that it would be difficult for the Church of England

to abandon a requirement that the clergy should refrain from sexually active homosexual relationships while still upholding its traditional teaching about the nature of marriage and its role as the proper locus for human sexual activity (8.4.26, p. 267).

It set out the arguments for this in 8.4.28:

the Church could not call upon its clergy to act as teachers and exemplars of the Christian way of life, and yet say that they are free to live in ways that are contrary to that way of life as this is understood by the Church..

through to 8.4.34:

What the clergy are expected to model is the Christian way of life. At present the Church of England continues to affirm the traditional Christian teaching of sexual relationships within marriage and abstinence outside it and therefore this is what the clergy are called upon to model. If the Church were to present openly practising homosexual clergy as role models this would contradict its own teaching…

with reference to Scripture (1 Tim 3.2 and Titus 1.6 are cited in 8.4.30) and the question in the BCP ordinal (8.4.31).

B7. This logic was applied in relation to Civil Partnerships in the 2005 Pastoral Statement (paras 19-22) and that of 2019 (paras 22-28) which reiterated both the freedom of clergy to enter a same-sex civil partnership

provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship—whether same sex or opposite sex—is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality (para 22)

and that

it would be inconsistent with the teaching of the Church for the public character of the commitment expressed in a civil partnership to be regarded as of no consequence in relation to someone in—or seeking to enter—the ordained ministry (para 24).

They warned as in 2005 that

Because of the ambiguities surrounding the character and public nature of civil partnerships, the House of Bishops advise clergy to weigh carefully the perceptions and assumptions which would inevitably accompany a decision to register such a relationship (para 25).

In relation to the new opposite-sex civil partnerships it was also stated that

clergy and candidates for ordination wishing to enter an Opposite Sex Civil Partnership should expect to be asked to explain their understanding of the theological and social meanings of their decision (para 26).

Any change from the principles set out here in the most recent (2019) statement from the House of Bishops (and also in the Handbook for DDOs) would need to be clearly explained and justified.

B8. The Pilling Report’s 2013 recommendations noted:

The Church’s present rules impose different disciplines on clergy and laity in relation to sexually active same relationships. In the facilitated conversations it will be important to reflect on the extent to which the laity and clergy should continue to observe such different disciplines (Recommendation 15, referencing paras 371-3)


whether someone is married, single or in a civil partnership should have no bearing on the nature of the assurances sought from them that they intend to order their lives consistently with the teaching of the Church on sexual conduct. Intrusive questioning should be avoided (Recommendation 18, referencing paras 400-14).

Para 404 stated that

The questions asked of candidates for ministry should reflect the agreed teaching of the House of Bishops” and set out how this might work in a relational context which “gives scope for considerable variance in practice and questioning between dioceses.

After citing the existing advice it made clear that

Those of us in the group are agreed that a vocation to ordained ministry involves the willingness to live in an exemplary fashion, striving to embody Christian morality and the teaching of the Church…What is demanded of candidates for ministry is not a promise that they will never fall short but an indication that they understand the implications of the Church’s teaching for their lives and will strive to exemplify it (para 409).

They concluded that

all candidates for ministry should be treated in the same way regarding their sexual conduct: that is, they should be reminded that they are called to chastity and fidelity in their relationships and to order their lives according to the will of the Church on matters of sexual conduct, and that they should be asked to give an assurance that they will seek to live by that standard (para 411).

 Appendix C: Key paragraphs from the 2018 judgement in the case Pemberton v Inward (EAT)

63. It was not necessary, as Mr Jones suggested, that there should be an express provision prohibiting a priest from entering into a same sex marriage and spelling out the consequences if he did. The teaching and in fact, the doctrine of the Church of England (in the sense in which the Church uses the term) is quite clearly spelt out in Canon B30. Paragraph 1 of that Canon makes clear that the Church of England considers marriage to be between one man and one woman. By its very terms it delimits the concept of marriage in accordance with the teachings and doctrine of the Church in a way which excludes same sex marriage. Furthermore, it is made clear in paragraph 3 that a priest is expected to uphold what is described expressly as “the Church’s doctrine of marriage.” As Mr Linden pointed out, Canon B30 does not state expressly that the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage does not include polygamy but it is quite clear that it does so.

64. Although the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 has extended the meaning of marriage, the position of the Church of England is carefully preserved in sections 1(3), (4) and 11. Mr Jones conceded that the Church of England does not accept same sex marriage as “marriage” for its purposes at all. As the statement of Pastoral Guidance from the House of Bishops made clear at paragraph 9, since the 2013 Act, there has been a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in law and the “doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.” A clear statement on marriage and same sex marriage is contained at paragraphs 9, 11, 12, 26, 27 and 28 of that document, including the need to obey the Church on these issues. Paragraph 26 states expressly that marrying someone of the same sex would be at variance with the teachings of the Church of England. Paragraphs 27 and 28 leave little to the imagination in relation to the effect upon a clergyman’s ‘good standing’ of entering into a same sex marriage. This is all the more so when coupled with the form of the Preface to the Declaration of Assent and the Declaration itself contained at C15 of the Canons and the requirement to exemplify the teachings of the Church contained at C26, to which reference is also made in paragraphs 23 and 26 of the statement of Pastoral Guidance.

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189 thoughts on “Clergy conduct and the doctrine of marriage”

  1. I am all for non-martial sexual relationships, Andrew, but I suspect it is a typo.

    You have put in a huge amount of work keeping abreast of all this and it has not always been easy reading, but someone had to do it and I thank you. Ignore the Pharisees who accuse you of legalism while themselves playing dirty with the Church of England’s constitution to get their ball over the line. Jesus warned the godly about hypocrites.

    The Church of England needs to say that the State may do as it wishes but the church does not recognise SSM, and that it will never bless or endorse that which the Bible calls sin.

    It has been suggested that some of Welby’s rowing back is due to threats of legal action by Nicky Gumbel stating that the church has reached the evangelicals’ red line; see the five minutes or so from 16.20 at

    If so, well done Rev Gumbel.

    • I agree with everything you say, Anton, but I think there are some things to add in regard to the issue of taking legal action.

      In a very real sense, even the highest court in the land is being made to act well above its ‘pay grade’ if we are expecting it to make definitive judgements on matters which belong solely to the sovereign power and will of God. Does not our Christian doctrine seek to discern this, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, from scripture alone and possibly the corroborating witness of our observation of the created world in areas of doctrine which concern our physical existence?

      However the secular courts can certainly apply their legal minds and give a disinterested judgement on whether the church is acting with integrity according to its own processes. But trust that every court will always deliver a ‘disinterested judgement’ is hardly realistic. The real point here for Christians is that they should not, in any case, be going to the secular courts to settle their differences.

      If, however, there appears to be no alternative to such recourse (and I think that may be where we are now), it’s not acceptable that it should (allegedly) be happening in secrecy between two old Etonians who have resources (the church’s or their own money) and contacts among a metropolitan elite which exists in a world far removed from the rest of us. If it must be done, let it be done openly and with respect for every single church member rather than conducted within some inner circle with its own unspoken rules and assumptions.

  2. “Bishops need to come to a view on what a same-sex couple are considered by the Church to be doing when they contract a civil marriage (as distinct from a civil partnership)”

    Isn’t this the key point?

    Clergy are permitted to enter civil partnerships.

    The question is therefore, is a same-sex civil marriage, akin to Holy Matrimony (and therefore a problem) or akin to a civil partnership (and therefore not)?

    • The basis of accepting CPs was that they were not necessarily sexual (which is a dubious claim). But that claim cannot be made about marriage—so the answer is pretty clear.

      • A further complication is that if a couple in a same-sex civil partnership subsequently chooses to convert their CP to a marriage, it is retrospective – the marriage is backdated to that of the CP. A clergyperson doing this upon retirement would, therefore, have been in a same sex marriage whilst they were in active ministry.

      • Ian

        And part of the problem is that the bishops cannot answer what counts as sex and what does not. There may well be people in CPs who regularly are doing activities which the average person on the street doesn’t consider sex, but there bishop does. As with everything else on the topic of real gay lives there’s a total refusal to provide any meaningful guidance

    • It may be to do with Egalitarianism/liberalism, but is not to do with ‘The Leftist slippery slope’. There are Christians to the right, centre and left of political debate who hold either to traditional teaching on SSM, etc., or wish for a so-called progressive view.

      • And it’s not to do with egalitarianism/liberalism, either. The two are in no way equivalent. Don’t forget too that there is a nasty slippery slope to the right – as seen most obviously in parts of the US church.

  3. Two basic comments
    1) the pro-SSM position here seems to be predicated on the idea that people ‘are’ homosexual in the same way that they ‘are’ for example ethnically different – white European or black African say. And it’s not that simple. It is rather the ‘point’ of homosexuality that it is about sexual acts that people DO in a way that nobody can ‘do’ being a particular race. And with things people DO, and therefore CHOOSE, any ‘being’ is not as neutral as skin colour and the like, but a quite complex matter of urges and desires to do the deeds in question.

    Agreed that the ‘urges and desires’ thing applies to anything ‘done’, acts of both sin and saintliness. But precisely for that reason it’s rather questionable to say, as gay folks rather inevitably do, “Oh, I have such and such urges and desires so it must be OK for me to live them out, act them out”. Urges and desires can clearly be evil as well as good or neutral. And that puts ‘gayness’ in a different moral category to things like racial differences. The gay claim to the contrary is not an assertion of equality for people with a definitely morally neutral difference – it is in real terms claiming a privileged position for certain urges and desires and the beliefs/worldviews that accompany those urges. It attempts to say that unlike other cases, those urges/desires/beliefs must be beyond challenge and even in effect allowed to persecute those who dispute them. The standard gay case is not an assertion of civil rights, but a threat to true civil rights.

    The other issue for any Christian church is this; in atheism and some other worldviews, people just have their urges and desires with no real purpose behind them. In a Christian view, there is a God, there is design and purposeful creation. To claim in a Christian context that ‘gay sex’ is OK, it is really necessary to say God designed and intended it from the Creation; that it is something God intended ‘before the Fall’, and definitely NOT something which is only a questionable consequence of the disordered world resulting from the Fall and sin. That, as many gay people would put it, God has ‘made people gay’.

    There are no two ways that if there is a God, he has clearly made heterosexual sex. But is it really credible that having made that sexuality with its complementary anatomy as something males do with females, he also intended before the Fall to deliberately deprive some people of the necessary urges and desires, and deliberately give them instead the rather absurd and certainly sterile urges and desires to do ‘gay sex’? In the first place, if we do say that, doesn’t it depict a rather weird God? And in the second place, isn’t it actually biblically rather clear that the urges and desires of gay sex are indeed a post-Fall result of sin which God simply does not approve. Men loving men indeed – but men having ‘sex’ with men …????

    can be felt to be irresistible; the fact

      • Stephen Langton, I think that is an excellent summary of why intrinsic biological differences like skin colour etc to not have the same moral equivalence as homosexual behaviour. This the main reason why I have difficulties with it.

        Your argument could equally apply to transsexualism. There is no evidence to suggest that one is born ‘gay’ or made that way by God. Outwardly, it is a behavioural characteristic that develops over time and is more related to innate notions of self identity and personal rights which are reinforced by experience. ‘Lived experience’ of any kind, can never be a substitute for what is right or wrong however intense that experience may be.

        I don’t think anyone would deny that homosexual desires and feeling are very strong for those who have them. The question is what should be the most appropriate pastoral response, and I think that question is best answered by those who are homosexually- inclined yet still manage to live within the bounds of the Bible’s teaching on human relationships and marriage.

        • Not something I want to follow out in great detail here but I think transsexualism is a rather different problem, somewhat akin to the issues of physical intersex but not so physically visible, and to be treated with sympathy.

          It is however a ‘post-Fall’ issue. There is no way a loving or even simply a sane God could have intended in Creation to ‘make women’ by the ‘trans’ route of creating a perfectly good male body and then making the person in that body so unhappy with it as to need some of the most drastic voluntary surgery known to humans. At the same time I can’t totally rule out that in the post-Fall situation the drastic answer may occasionally be appropriate.#

          I do think that at the moment, partly because of the way ‘trans’ has become associated with the LGB movement, there is currently a lot of confusion and a lot of pressure to too easily affirm particularly adolescents who may be confused. As a person who has autism I’m particularly worried that many presenting with ‘gender dysphoria’ are autistic and perhaps need a better understanding of that autism rather than pressure to think of their problems in trans terms.

          Suggest we sideline that particular issue here to discuss the key LLF/SSM issues which as I say I see as different.

        • “I think that question is best answered by those who are homosexually- inclined yet still manage to live within the bounds of the Bible’s teaching on human relationships and marriage.”

          1) We’re gay. Trying to dance around that with wordplay is disingenuous.
          2) Imposing a rule of celibacy is unbiblical, unbelieved in practice, and an extraordinary burden for those not called to it.
          3) Expecting an opposite-sex marriage for a gay person lacks integrity. Promising them they will become straight is a lie.
          4) God said it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2), and St Paul told us that those who are not called to celibacy are right to marry (1 Corinthians 7).

          • 1) You are gay if you say so. But one is not is dancing around with wordplay. Being gay is not like being born with a different coloured skin. It is a developed and conditioned behavior that occurs over time. Despite many studies, there is no evidence of a ‘gay gene’.
            2) If the Bible condemns same sex -sex as sin or sex outside marriage for opposite sex couples as sin, then why should celibacy be unbiblical?
            3) Agreed. Entering a opposite sex marriage if you have strong homosexual inclinations that you cannot control, does indeed lack integrity and should not be attempted. It won’t make you straight – only the Holy Spirit can do that. There are those who have submitted their sexual feelings to God and have changed, but not all will. However the testimony of some is that change is possible and cannot be ruled out.
            4) Paul did indeed say that those who are not called to celibacy should marry – but not to someone of the same sex . He would not have recognised SSM.

          • 1) As I pointed out above, nobody is ‘gay’ in the same kind of way they are things like White European. The issue about ‘gayness’ is things people DO, and ipso facto CHOOSE to do, and can choose not to DO. Like other sins, those deeds may be very hard to resist – but they are not things anybody ‘IS’ in the sense that matters morally.
            2) A rule of heterosexual celibacy is indeed biblically questionable, though at the same time celibacy is required of the unmarried. Homosexual celibacy is a case of having urges and desires to do something nobody is supposed to do – and God has not made that so, it is part of the disorder of sin.
            3) Yes there are people who should not enter into opposite-sex marriages, and no people won’t become ‘straight’ by forcing themselves down that route.
            4) It is not good to be alone – but it is also not good to to ‘gay sex’ – it is possible to have a loving relationship with another man without the need for what isn’t real sex anyway…. Paul who wrote I Cor 7 also wrote Romans 1 which makes clear that ‘gay sex’ is inappropriate whatever.

          • 1. Some people who are same-sex attracted reject the use of ‘gay’ as a primary identifier.
            2. Celibacy has a central place in biblical thinking about sexuality and in Christian moral thinking too. Jesus and Paul were celibate, because that was the expectation of those who were not other-sex married.
            3. I have same-sex attracted friends who are happily other-sex married. For them the issue isn’t becoming straight; it is loving the person they are married to, and not accepting ‘gay’ as an all-embracing identity.
            4. God said it is not good that we should be alone, and in Christ he calls us into a new family. When Paul said ‘marry’, he could only have meant other-sex married. To impose another meaning on the his team is dishonest.

          • Ian

            Most people who are same sex attracted are bisexuals. Perhaps your friends who are happily married to the opposite sex are bisexual? Are they attracted to their spouses? Some people are gay. Any individual can identify with whatever words they want, but the word “gay” refers to a real group of people who are not deluded or pretending. In a strict sense it means people who are attracted to the same sex and have no attraction to the opposite sex.

            FWIW I know at least five gay men who got married to women because their churches told them it would cure them of homosexuality – in every case it led to families being broken by divorce. Is this really the best theology the church of England can manage?

        • If being gay is not intrinsic but is morally neutral, these arguments make no sense.
          A person could morally choose to marry a partner of the same sex. There relationship is not fallen, unnatural or sterile. If faithful and loving it can be a means of grace.
          Aetiology is irrelevant.

        • Chris

          There certainly my is evidence to suggest that being gay is inherited or locked in from birth. The confusion comes because the current evidence suggests this isn’t the full picture (although generally these studies have to rely on self identification or known behavior, neither of which is very good at identifying gay people!).

          The evidence we have is that there are some chromosomes associated with gay people, that if you are a man then the more older brothers you have the more likely it is you are gay and if you have a twin who is gay then you are also more likely than average to be gay.

          There’s been a lot of articles etc which have sought to pompom the whole notion of this being locked in since birth because no single genetic switch has been found, which is a bit like saying this person wasn’t murdered because after an extensive search no murder weapon could be found!

    • Stephen

      Generally most conservatives oppose same sex sex, but some also oppose “adopting a homosexual identity”. My personal experience is that if you admit to being gay then it’s for you to prove you’re not having sex. The assumption is that you are.

      This is one thing that I hoped the cofe would tackle during this last decade, but they haven’t bothered

      • Im gay and Im not having sex. I dont get the impression others assume gay people are having sex, especially if they call themselves Christian.

        • Do you attend a conservative church? Do people there know you are gay? Have you had to specify to them that you are not in a relationship or having sex?

    • No Stephen, you’ve missed the point.

      Gay is not an action, it’s a sexual orientation. And being able to explain how that orientation is formed is not the key point. The key point is that the orientation is not chosen and is not something I can choose to change. That’s what we’re dealing with. You speak as if the orientation is irrelevant and there would be no issues with a gay person entering an opposite-sex marriage. That is simply untrue.

      Dismissing urges and desires in the way you do overlooks a couple of important things. Firstly, it’s very clear that our heterosexual brothers and sisters find it extraordinarily hard to put aside these desires and urges. There is no one taking vows of lifelong celibacy at 16. Indeed, religious orders that take such vows wouldn’t actually let you do so at 16 (although that is, in effect, what is asked of gay people in the Church). Marriage is in fact so common and so expected, that we fret that we’ve idolised it. Perhaps more worryingly this dismissal has to overlook Scripture – God modifies Eden before the Fall because of these desires and urges (Genesis 2), Jesus is quick to push back against any suggestion that he’s asking people to celibate and notes the power of the desires and urges (Matthew 19), and Paul of course says that the desires and urges mean you ought to marry not simply ignore them (1 Corinthians 7).

      You’re right though, that simply having a desire does not give licence to fulfil that desire any way you like. Hence, for example, sexual desire leads to marriage not lots of promiscuous sex. The key passage for sorting through this is, I think, Romans 13 where Paul explores and explains how it is that Jesus summarised the law as love God and love your neighbour. He was very clear that sin violates this because it is harmful (and love does no harm). So for example, stealing harms those you deprive of their property, adultery harms your spouse by betraying them, using a prostitute harms them because it’s using them and dehumanising them etc. etc.. The classic, and grossly offensive argument here is usually something like asking whether a pedophile quenching their desires for sex with children is a problem. That of course is an extraordinarily harmful abuse of the child. The question about gay relationships is completely different – by definition we’re talking about a mutual desire between two people, not a use and abuse of one by the other. The harm is much harder to see. Instead it looks much more like the mutual sexual desire Paul talks about in marriage.

      As for your final point. I detect a hint that you’re assuming if a gay person (i.e. a person with a gay sexual orientation) isn’t engaging in any gay relationships, they are perfectly free and able to enter heterosexual relationships and marriages, so there’s no problem. Is that right? Are you assuming everyone has a heterosexual desire, but that us gay folk just have a homosexual one on top of that that we want to indulge?

      You’ve said a couple of times, that you see no problem with same-sex love, but instead it’s the sex that’s not allowed. Does that mean that you’re arguing in favour of things like covenanted partnerships – a kindof same-sex marriage, where you have a partner, live together, can be affectionate, but just not have sex?

      • Sorry this took a while to put together- I’ve currently got a bad case of ‘workmen in the flat’ distracting me….
        1) My actual point is that ‘homosexual orientation’ is not, as ‘gays’ often claim, the same kind of thing as for instance ethnic differences. And the reason it’s different is because it involves actions and in turn the urges and desires to do those actions. In both Christian and most normal moral discourse it is in a different category. And that category in effect goes all the way from the good to the bad, so it is not enough just to claim “I have such-and-such urges and desires so it must be OK to live them out”. And the typical ‘gay’ comparison with ethnic differences and the like is therefore not a sound argument, precisely since ‘doing because urges and desires’ is very different to simply having say black or white skin colour.

        In Christian terms the issue is whether it is part of God’s creation design that people do gay/lesbian sex, or whether those urges and desires are part of the disjointedness of human life because of what we sum up with the phrase ‘the Fall’.

        2) Before going any further I want to lay down one very clear marker; although I started out in a nominal Anglican family, these days I’m essentially Anabaptist. People like me were saying Christianity is voluntary back when the CofE was still fining people for not attending their services; indeed even before Anglicanism went Protestant, as one of the earliest records of Anabaptism in England is a group martyred under HenryVIII’s somewhat different Church of England… We don’t regard it as our or the state’s business to legally enforce either Christian belief or distinctively Christian morality. We uphold biblical standards by persuasion, not by coercion. And it’s not the state’s business – we would echo the Donatist’s question in the 4th century “Quis est imperator cum ecclesiae?”

        Further statement from that; since the late 4th cent CE there have been ‘Christian states’ in which in effect Christianity was enforced. This was in fact unbiblical though the modern CofE has still not fully realised that. The centuries during which homosexuality was criminalised and punished in such ‘Christian states’ was in Christian terms improper. BUT it remains the case that ‘gay sex’ is sinful in Christian terms, that Christians should not do those CHOSEN ACTS (not something they ‘just are’) and a Christian church which (or individual who) approves those actions is rebelling against God.

        3) Pause for perspective – ‘homosexuality’ is in itself a pretty minor issue; the trouble right now is that unfortunately it has become the focus of the wider metaphorical battle with implications which affect far more serious issues about, for instance, the nature of ‘sin(s)’ in general. I’ve been known to liken it to the two farms Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte which were very unimportant until one day Napoleon and Wellington ended up fighting the battle of Waterloo there, and it became crucially important to the bigger battle that the British won that local skirmish and kept control of the two farm buildings which for every other day of their existence before and since were not important at all….

        I’ve also said frequently that for those who do not profess Christianity their consensual sexual activities, even when a problem, are likely to be the least of the problems between themselves and God; though conversely, they will be major issues for those who do profess Christianity and whose inappropriate sexual activities are therefore pretty much a conscious act of ‘unfaith/distrust/rebellion’.

        4) Returning to the main point
        Like most people on the pro-gay side you concentrate too narrowly on the gay/sexuality issues. My position is much more widely based on considerations about ‘sin’ in general. In essence because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, many aspects of human life are ‘out of joint’ or distorted in various ways. Essentially most human ‘urges and desires’ can be either defective or exaggerated, whence the fact that there are thefts, lies, violence up to and including war, etc. And in all areas where people are doing the wrong stuff there is also an element of at least feeling there is ‘no choice’; Luther or Calvin would have referred to a ‘bondage of the will’ or echoed Pauline comments about ‘captivity’ to our sins. Such an inability/limitation is not exactly innocent because it’s part of the damage we humans have done to ourselves by the underlying ‘sin’ issue, so it is something we need to resist as temptation rather than think it’s OK to go ahead. And you are right that there are temptations to inappropriate use even of heterosexuality. Far from ‘dismissing’ the ‘urges and desires’ factor I’m taking it extremely seriously. But understand this concept applies to all sin, not just sexual issues. I could go into much more detail on how this works – it is quite well-known theology – but this post will be long enough already.

        5) Moving on to details from your post
        a)“You speak as if the orientation is irrelevant and there would be no issues with a gay person entering an opposite-sex marriage”. No I didn’t say that and would not expect a person to force themselves in that way. (Note that I, and as I understand it the Bible, don’t quite define ‘gay’, or indeed ‘orientation’, as you would).
        b) “God modifies Eden before the Fall because of these desires and urges (Genesis 2)” I assume – because I can’t see any other interpretation here that makes sense of what you say – that you refer to the portion where there isn’t a suitable helper for Adam and God creates Eve.

        c) “Jesus is quick to push back against any suggestion that he’s asking people to (be) celibate and notes the power of the desires and urges (Matthew 19)”. Actually surely Jesus expresses here the traditional Torah view that sex is for male-with-female married couples and that celibacy is the only legitimate alternative. And same-sex coupling is not a legitimate option. He is indeed generous to those who fall into temptation – but the final answer is always “Go and SIN NO MORE”. Whatever is done by those who do not profess Christianity, Christians are supposed to attempt the correct conduct. Nowhere in Christianity is there a suggestion that it is easy to resist temptations to inappropriate conduct; but that resistance is what is expected. And Paul in I Cor 7 is clearly talking about heterosexual relationships; I would have to be pretty sure from everything else he says about gay sex that he would not be suggesting it was better to marry than to burn in that context.

        d) And following from that I categorically do not believe that Paul in Romans 13 would contradict what he said in Romans 1, or would expect vague general talk of ‘love’ to somehow justify conduct he declared improper in the earlier chapter. He would inter alia want to make the point that in ch13 he uses the word ‘agapE’, not ‘eros’…. This is I fear one of the places where the gay attempt to find biblical justification becomes very absurd and illogical, and very very strained interpretation. To suggest such Pauline contradiction is insulting to Paul’s intelligence, and not I fear saying much for the intelligence of the person making the suggestion.

        On ‘harm’ I think clearly many kinds of harm are not happening; but the attitudes connected with same-sex sexual activity, and the distrust of God in rejecting his instructions in the matter are a very real kind of harm.

        e) It is wrong to suggest that gay people are as simply evil as paedophiles; but it is right to point out that ‘gayness’ is in the same general moral category, of deeds based on urges and desires rather than the simple ‘being so’ of ethnicity, and as we’ve both said, if I understood you rightly earlier, it takes more than a claim of merely having certain urges and desires to justify them as OK to do…. Gays who do not face that point are being disingenuous or worse.

        f) Am I “assuming everyone has a heterosexual desire, but that us gay folk just have a homosexual one on top of that that we want to indulge?” No simply what I said above that because ‘sin’ human urges and desires are distorted and off kilter, and the Bible identifies gay sex as such distortion.

        g) “Does that mean that you’re arguing in favour of things like covenanted partnerships – a kind of same-sex marriage, where you have a partner, live together, can be affectionate, but just not have sex?” I would certainly consider such a relationship a possibility, especially in complex modern society – a kind of mutual adoption offering many of the legal advantages of marriage. I understand that some time back there was a formal possibility of that kind in French law, probably then mostly entered into by widowers, known as ‘enfrerement’.

        • Some people draw analogies with race (you can’t choose your sexual orientation nor your ethnicity) but to argue against the suggestion that race and sexuality are exactly the same, is to argue against a straw man. It might make you feel better, but it just ignores the real issues involved.

          A couple of quick points:
          Where are you getting the idea that a traditional Torah view is that lifelong celibacy is a legitimate alternative to male-female marriage? Jewish ethics would disagree with you on that.

          If we think that covenanted partnerships are fine, don’t we owe it to people to say that clearly? For some us this isn’t an academic debate taking place in the abstract. It’s the actual lives that people are trying to lead right now.

          I think we have to take Romans 13 really seriously. It’s not minor thought: it’s Paul explaining Jesus’ own summation of the law. If we are to look through the prism of harm and love, we need to actually do that. Trying to force it back to a legalistic argument to try and skip over identifying the actual harm (such as the harm we can quickly identify with theft, murder, adultery etc.) is somewhat circular.

          Romans 1 and 13 aren’t contradictory. So whilst you can’t use Romans 13 to simply overrule Romans 1, you can’t use Romans 1 to overrule Romans 13. They have to be read together (if only because they’re in the same Letter after all). If the view that Romans 1 is talking about gay people having exclusively gay sex (and telling us that’s wrong) doesn’t work with Romans 13 spelling out what love and the law mean, then I suggest that view of Romans 1 is wrong. It’s striking that when St John Chrysostom wrote his homily on Romans 1 he was at pains to point out that the people described had no excuse that they were being denied legitimate sexual intercourse. He saw, as seems quite plain in the passage, that you’re talking about people who have heterosexual relationships, marriages and sex, deciding to indulge in same-sex sex. Apparently there are some Roman cults who encouraged this as part of their rites. This, I think, is the real point and the real distinction being drawn. Roman and Greek society viewed same-sex sex as something additional to your marriage, not instead of it. In effect it becomes a permitted adultery, or not even really adultery because it’s same-sex. Scripture would as I read it disagree: same-sex is sex, and if you’re married it’s adultery, and denying your sexuality (exchanging relations) is a problem because your sexuality is at the root of your marriage and partnership (see Matthew 19).

          • AJ Bell
            1) The ‘some people’ who draw analogies with race are the pro-gay lobby who try to win a cheap victory with a claim that race and sexuality are (not exactly the same but…) the same kind of thing. In doing so they ignore the very clear difference between something people ‘just are’ like ethnicity and things which they ‘do because urges and desires’, things which in practice, unlike ethnic differences, are chosen actions. I’m not sure they are engaging in a formal ‘straw man’ argument but they are certainly confusing moral categories. I suppose it ‘makes them feel better’ but it doesn’t deal with the real issues.
            2) Lifelong celibacy is not exactly ideal; but in a sin-affected world lots of non-ideal things do happen. The question here is can you show biblically that a same-sex marriage is a legitimate alternative to a heterosexual marriage; if you can’t – and I seriously don’t think you can – then celibacy is the alternative to the heterosexual marriage. Note by the way that if God did approve gay sex and same-sex marriage the OT would have to EXPLICITLY say so (which it doesn’t!!) and there would basically have to be a lot of extra ‘law’ to cover how those relationships should be handled. Precisely because there is no explicit approval but rather the reverse, and because there are not those extra legal provisions, homosexuality cannot be a biblically legitimate option….
            3) “Covenanted partnerships” appear to be fine – but note that it would be rather the point that these would NOT be sexual partnerships.
            4) I do of course take Romans 13 very seriously; the teachings early in the chapter on church and state issues are very important. But I repeat – if Romans 1 forbids same-sex sex, then there is nothing in Romans 13 that can salvage it.
            Your (attempted) interpretation of Romans 1 appears to depend on an implicit assumption that God planned both ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ sex and marriage from ‘before the fall’; only so can it make sense to claim that God does not forbid such sex by gay people but rather that straight people are forbidden it. But that is absolutely what Paul does not say and you are rather imposing later ideas upon him. What he actually says is that God created sex heterosexual and that there only are ‘gay people’ because of the disruption and dislocation of human affairs due to sin. It is not part of God’s plan, not something he inflicts upon people, that he deliberately deprives people of heterosexual urges to give men instead the desire to absurdly shove their male organs up other men’s bums or down other men’s throats; those urges are to be resisted/avoided as, just as I said, part of the dislocation due to sin, just like other dubious urges such as deceit or theft.

  4. Yet another post from Andrew obsessed with legalism and what reports do and don’t say. That seems to be the only way he can undertake his theology.
    At least the questions to GS this weekend have made it clear that there is not any substantial legal advice that is being withheld. (Unless, of course, people want to suggest Bishop Martyn is not telling the truth in his answers).
    Bishop Alan Wilson who so suddenly and sadly died this last week made a very important point about legality. He said this:

    “Realise that you can’t make your effective theology entirely through lawyers. Lawyers are the last people you consult, to give legal effect to what you have decided to do, not the first people you use to shape your theological options.”

    It is so important we stick to this principle. If it is true that Nicky Gumbel has made some kind of legal challenge I hope that will be flushed out at GS and uncovered, as well as the response from whoever he made the challenge to.

    • Yet another post from Andrew Goddard, in which he thinks that words actually mean something, that when people said something in the past, that might actually have significance, and that the C of E actually believes things.

      You are right—life would be much simpler if we could set all this ‘legalism’ aside, and make up the faith day by day on the spot.

      (Whatever you said above, I don’t expect you to still mean it by the time you make another comment. After all, that would just be legalism, wouldn’t it?)

      PS Alan Wilson was someone who lampooned and derided the doctrine of the C of E he took public vows to uphold, and mocked those who actually believed that doctrine in line with their own vows. So good he wasn’t ‘legalistic’ on believing what he solemnly swore to believe. Who needs integrity?

    • If so then it will be Welby who wants it kept quiet and Gumbel is merely willing to keep it private. So let it be shouted from the rooftops by all means.

      Given that the liberals have been exploiting the constitution of the CoE to its borders and beyond in their efforts to get SSM into the church, it is ironic that you accuse evangelicals of legalism.

    • “what reports do and don’t say”

      Isn’t this part of the problem? Putting everything together isn’t legalism but a matter of getting to the truth especially in a synodical process.

      Not being on GS (PTL probably!) how do questions settle the legal advice confusion and, as it seems pretty obvious, the context of refusal to share it earlier? Answers might.. and who is the arbiter for what “substantial” amounts to?

      • Three very defensive posts replying to mine – they speak volumes.
        Noted that you wish to rubbish someone who is less than a week dead Ian. Very pastoral

          • I don’t think Gumbel would be taking out any legal threat against the Archbishop – in what capacity could he do that? The Archbishop isn’t responsible for decisions made my GS, but I very much doubt the peculiar American pseudo journalists would understand that.

            And Ian Paul is totally inaccurate concerning Alan Wilson.

          • Anton I think they are actually pretty clear there isn’t any legal threat. Just speculation that Nicky Gumbel and Justin Welby had a ‘conversation’. Old school chums from Eton and all that. Playground stuff really you know? ‘Back off else I will get my mates from CEEC on you’.
            If you really believe anything from ‘Anglican Unscripted’ or ‘Anglican Ink’ then you might just as well read Grimms Fairy Tales.

          • Now you are speculating. A legal threat to get the legal advice provided to the bishops would certainly embarrass Welby.

          • Anton you clearly need to read the questions and answers to GS rather more clearly. The legal advice has been made available.
            And once again, the Archbishop isn’t personally responsible for every decision that is made,

          • Andrew Godsall writes, ‘If you believe anything from ”Anglican Unscripted” or ”Anglican Ink” then you might as well read Grimm’s Fairy Tales.’.

            The two organisations have another name and are using these two names merely as pseudonyms, which apparently is the reason for the inverted commas (unless the reason is snobbery). If AG knows the real names that are hiding behind these pseudonyms, what are they?

            Second, George Conger is a news reporter and used to preside over all the news reporting for CEN, and so on.

        • Andrew, I am not ‘rubbishing’ Alan. I am reporting accurately what he said in public. It is online for anyone to watch. That is precisely what he does—proudly, and John Inge is also proud of it. ‘Alan at his best’.

          • That is simply your interpretation Ian.
            Alan had so much integrity and knew where priorities were needed. His death is a tragedy for the College and I regard your disrespect towards him and his family at this dreadful time as really unpleasant.

          • It certainly is, Anton. Call it out whenever people use it in a clever-seeming way that really introduces a viewpoint that no scholar would touch.

            It reminds me of my dealings with BPAS and their conferences. They love using clever-sounding words when all the time they are presiding over the killing of babies, and, like Chesterton said, they get taken aback when someone uses simple language to say obvious things.

          • Ian

            I have to say that Alan was very kind to me when I had been through a really quite nasty circumstance.

            I realize that kindness has got a bad press of late, but when you’re hurting it matters a lot!

            I do think there is integrity in standing up for what you believe is true when doing so will harm your career, bring you hate mail and have people speak badly of you after you die.

        • I’d point out that you (repeat “you”) introduced Bishop Alan as supporting your position but think it’s out of order if others critique his view. You’ve used him but want your contribution to be unchallenged.

          I never mentioned him and you didn’t answer my questions. Why assume everything is merely an attack?

          PS I’m definitely not “ultra conservative”.

          • I can’t see any questions that aren’t just rhetorical there Ian (Hobbs). I think you will find the answers to some of your questions in the questions/answers available for GS.

            P.s. and I am not unorthodox.

      • In which case you don’t really understand how General Synod works.
        There has been a process of longer than 7 years. The CofE is governed by Synod. The fact that the ultra conservative group doesn’t like the outcome of democracy rather reminds me of the way in whjch in Donald Trump and his supporters challenged the outcome of the US election 4 years ago – we don’t like the result so we will challenge the legality of it.

        • I am puzzled by your position, Andrew. On the one hand you object to ‘legalism’, but on the other hand you state that the CofE is “governed by Synod”, which is a legislative body.

          Such bodies get themselves into a mire when (some of) the members want an outcome which contradicts existing legislation and the body of interpretation of that legislation.

          Correct me if I am wrong: there seems to be lurking in your statement about GS that it could decide anything it wanted. It could change doctrine to deny the Trinity, for instance.

          I would have to say that this is not the case. The decisions of GS should be constrained at least by the “constitution” of the CofE, namely the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures, set forth in the Catholic Creeds, and witnessed to by the historical formularies of the BCP, 38 Articles and the ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Any departure from this witness would mean that it ceases to be the Church of England. It becomes a different religious organization.

          Another constraint on the GS is that the CofE calls itself a part of the Church Catholic. Any change of doctrine which departs from a general consensus of the majority means that this character of the CofE ceases.

          Perhaps my major issue with the CoE being “governed by GS” is that the CofE should see itself as part of the Church of Christ, and Christ is the governer.

          The people came to Samuel and demanded a king, to be like the other peoples around. Samuel was hurt, and complained to God that he had been rejected. God replied that it was not Samuel who they had rejected, but God. It is a very dangerous thing to assume that one can govern in whatever way one likes.

          • I think you are rather missing the point here David. There is being legal. And there is being legalistic.
            Synod can change some areas of doctrine and it has done so. The validity of holy orders for women is one such area. I’m not aware that it has changed any credal doctrine and I doubt it would do such a thing would it? Perhaps you can think of examples.

            The point I was making is that the theological decision needs to come before the legal. We ask lawyers to work for us in giving legal effect to what has been decided. We don’t say, “we don’t like the result, therefore we need to pick holes in the legality of it”.

          • The Church of England was established with the King as its governor and originally its doctrine was set by Parliament. It has always been connected to the state, if anything the fact its doctrine is now set by its Synod is a step away from its doctrine being determined by the State not God

          • It’s not terribly clear what they believe. They keep hiding it (such as the lobbying in favour of covenanted friendships whilst voting against PLF).

            The obfuscation is coming home to roost in US where it seems that the Rosaria Butterfield (supported by the likes of Christopher Yuan, Jared Moore and Becket Cook) has declared theological war on Preston Sprinkle, Wesley Hill, CRU and the rest of seemingly conservative evangelical thought on this question because she thinks they recommend celibacy rather than opposite-sex marriage for people “struggling with same-sex attraction”, and is willing to say that people who gay won’t see change in their orientation.

          • Use of ‘ultra-conservative’ and ‘hard right’ etc are attempts to shut down conversation without any substantive points being made. They are overweening attempts to dictate where the middle ground lies too. And, third, they replace thought with labels. A backward step.

          • Andrew, ‘orthodox’ means ‘right belief’ in accord with scripture, the creeds as their interpretive key, and the doctrine of the church catholic which the C of E shares. It is what we commit to as clergy. It is a useful word.

          • That’s right. I don’t think I have ever used the word. It can be used descriptively, but it is difficult to use it affirmingly, since to be orthodox to a body’s tenets says nothing about the quality of the tenets themselves, which quality is the main point.

          • AJ Bell

            Oh yes Rosaria Butterfield is very extreme. I last saw a video of her preaching that women shouldn’t be allowed to preach to a stadium full of college students. This seems a complete contradiction to me, but what do I know.

            I think the huge danger in the cofe is that by remaining silent or embarrassed by gay people, their youth will seek out information elsewhere which will likely be more extreme. Extreme views are in the cofe and are not being dealt with because despite promising a zero tolerance to homophobia the bishops are giving plum jobs to people who describe gay Christians as “wolves”. I myself was called a ” whore” in the comments section of this blog a few months ago.

  5. Yet again, we bandy around words without definition. What is “legalism”, what is legalism in the context of change of doctrine?
    Sure, lawyers, in their capacity as lawyers, don’t define or make theology, but that has never, so far as I can see, been what has taken place in this process.
    In plain terms, the difference is between “is” and “ought”.
    And it is incorrect to say that lawyers are to be consulted, merely, after the event. Wisdom would determine that in many instances consultation and advice should be obtained before setting out on a course of action: not only is the outcome sought lawful? But is the process itself, lawful?
    An example would be in employment law where in cases of unfair dismissal, the dismissal must be according to the law And the process of dismissal itself must be not be unfair.

    It is to be hoped that someone/body will seek to call the process and any defacto change of doctrine to account.
    If I recall Nicky Gumbel was formerly a barrister at law.
    And Welby was supported and sponsored in his rise in the CoE by him HTB. (I stand to be corrected).

    • There is ‘legality’ and there is ‘legalism’. Legality is something Christians are supposed to respect; legalism is quite an array of other unsatisfactory things. Some 50 years ago I faced a pastor who disagreed with something in the trust deed of a neighbouring church which was going through hard times, and in effect would only help that church if he was allowed to drive a cart and horses through the provisions in question. Cue him accusing us of ‘legalism’ because we wanted to stand by the provisions. I particularly remember an occasion when he said “Your legal rights don’t matter; we’re not under law, we’re under grace – don’t be legalistic”. I could preach quite a long sermon on why that is biblically and otherwise wrong. The accusations of legalism here look rather like that….

      My worry here about the CofE is somewhat different. I’ve spent quite a bit of my life studying issues of Church and state/surrounding-world after the appalling ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland alerted me to the problems of the ‘Christian country’ idea and led me to discover that such ideas are seriously unbiblical. Way too much of the ‘legality’ here is to do with the entanglement of church and state, and that raises a serious problem. That entanglement is essentially disobedience to God, going against the biblical portrayal of Church and state/surrounding-world relations. This is one of the cases where ‘subjection to the authorities’ is or should be overruled by the principle that we must ‘obey God rather than man’ (Acts 5; 29). The kind of decisions the CofE needs here should be made by a truly independent church on the basis of the Bible and there should be no need to deal with an extra layer of ‘legality’ where the church is improperly governed by/entangled in state law.

      • Stephen you simply assume that this matter is disobedient to God. Thankfully even those in the CofE who are opposed to same sex marriage or the blessings of such relationships recognise that those who are in favour of them have come to that view after a great deal of study and prayer. Their study and prayer has led them to sincerely believe that it is not being disobedient to God.

        • A quote from Cassian of the Desert Fathers came to mind when I read your comment Andrew.
          “You cannot know God only in your mind, you must know Him in your heart.”
          Study and prayer without Holy Spirit guidance and knowing Christ in a relational way, is a secular activity. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit prevents error as it leads us into deeper knowledge of our Saviour as we study his word.

          • Tricia what makes you think that there has been “Study and prayer without Holy Spirit guidance” or that those who conclude differently to you do not know Christ in a relational way? I can assure you that you are quite incorrect about those two things. There really is no need to be insulting.

          • Because, Andrew, the Holy Spirit does not guide those who choose to walk away from the scriptures that He inspired.

        • A great deal of study?
          Where has this been published?
          Most footnoted studies say the opposite, and liberals are not renowned for Bible knowledge….

          • The liberal scholarship which Andrew Godsall affirms includes Bill Loader, Luke T. Johnson, Walter Brueggeman and many others. These liberal biblical scholars are all agreed that the Bible is negative about homosexual relations. They also say that the Bible is mistaken on this question. I think that is Andrew’s position.

          • James, what do they say the Bible is? Again and again, turn and turn again the whole question centres on this point. So it really is not a question of interpretation. We don’t even get to interpretation if there is no accetpance of what scripture is.
            And how many subscribe to the teaching of Open Theism/Process theology which may underpin their beliefs and advocacy.
            As such the it is clear that any suggestion that Christian theology and doctrine are determined by lawyers is mischievously, mendaciously, vexatiously false.

          • “and liberals are not renowned for Bible knowledge”

            What a ridiculous generalisation. You mean C H Dodd, and John Robinson, and Dennis Nineham to name just three from the top of my head knew not much about the bible?
            And you call yourself a scholar? I’m afraid your comment has everything to do with uninformed prejudice and nothing to do with actual knowledge.

          • Andrew Godsall:
            Am I correct in thinking that you agree with Loader, Luke Johnson, Brueggeman et al that 1. The Bible writers are against sam sex relations, and 2. the Bible writers are wrong about this?
            This is how I have always understood your position.

          • But Dodd’s Mandaean theory and Nineham’s form criticism emphasis have passed into history as inadequate; likewise Nineham’s Acts scepticism and destructive rather than constructive tendency (it is obvious which of the two is by far an easier task). As for Dodd’s careful scholarship, there was nothing particularly liberal about that. That is just pigeonholing. Scholars are students of evidence, and precommitments liberal or conservative disqualify you from that. As for Robinson, his NT scholarship was generally perceived as very conservative. Much unlike his SCM potboiler speculative theology.

            This is a strange and very English snapshot of NT scholarship. Robinson produced 3 larger NT works, two outside the mainstream (i.e. they have received widespread specific criticism). Dodd was scholarly but lightyears removed from the tradition you represent. Nineham’s main (only) specifically NT book-length work was a semi-scholarly commentary. Full critical commentaries by the score, and monographs by the thousand have been produced, and their authors are the representatives of NT scholarship.

          • But in any case we are talking about one issue, which is one that none of these three writers particularly commented on. Robinson wanted the age of consent reduced. That was not in a NT-related writing.

          • And so it is Christopher that you make a mockery of your own claim that “liberals are not renowned for Bible knowledge”

          • It is? How? We are, as ever, talking averages here. As to whether evangelicals or liberals know the Bible better (and the disparity is on average vast in my experience, for all the chatter) the clue is in the name. But as for the three scholars you mentioned, one was just a careful scholar rather than an ideologue and another was notably conservative when it came to the NT.
            So explain your ‘mockery’ claim.

          • James et al
            Some scholars believe that scriptural negativity towards some same-sex relationships is contingent and contextual rather than core.
            Some scholars believe that the Bible is silent on same-sex relationships entirely since what is being prescribed is behaviour mostly enacted by men whom we would now describe as heterosexual.
            Ancient West Asia had no concept of orientation.
            Nuance is important here.

        • Andrew, you have maybe slightly misread me above. I do believe that same-sex sex and marriage are disobedience to God, but in that last post I focussed rather on the CofE’s ‘established status’ and the resulting entanglement with the state. That as far as I’m concerned is an even greater disobedience to God and the implications in terms of UK law a major unnecessary complication of the SSM issue. As I said recently on either Premier Forum or another post on this blog, in terms of Jesus’ comment about straining gnats and swallowing camels, the ‘establishment’ is a huge ‘unclean’ camel (the original text being about the uncleanness of both fly and camel, not just about the size).

          • The Catholic church was the Established church of the Roman (and until 1054 the Byzantine) Empire. I agree wtih you about this – but God permits such arrangements to be long-lived. I suggest that He is drawing this era of institutional churches to a close today. They contain many genuine Christians but unlike non-hierarchcal churches they cannot survive persecution…

          • An Established church – making Christianity the religion of state, and baptising uncomprehending babies into it – seeks to make Christianity ‘the world’ (meaning the prevailing culture); yet the scriptures are clear that the church is defined in contrast to the world, and will be persecuted by it. On that scriptural basis, we can describe the early protestants as the church and Catholicism as the world; the anabaptists as the church and the magisterial Reformer movements as the world; and so on.

          • Well if you want a church which is anti divorce, anti same sex relationships and anti women priests then don’t be in the C of E (which has been the established church since it was created).

            Of course the largest institutional church, the Roman Catholic church, still opposes divorce, opposes women priests and still does not perform same sex marriages so on that basis in your view would surely be closer to God’s word and the Bible than say the non hierarchical Protestant Methodists or Church of Scotland which now perform same sex marriages or those Pentecostal churches which have women priests and allow divorced couples to remarry

          • The Vatican goes in for de facto worship of Mary and transubstantiation and an ordained priesthood, none of which I believe or can see in the NT.

      • Indeed Stephen,
        In Christian circles ove the years there jas been much discussion and teaching over what is and isn’t “legalism’. Invariable it revolved around the question of salvation.
        It has nothing to do with what is now being disparaging employed as ad pejorative trope, again without definition, by revisionists.
        It has nothing to do with subjective sincerity, measured how? On the
        Sincerity Scale? Measured against what?
        We can be sincerely and grievously wrong set against scripture and the God of self- revelation therein.

        • To Andrew
          I am sorry Andrew, but I am not being disparaging – I am looking to Truth. The Holy Spirit leads us into all Truth. Jesus tells us we shall know the Truth. The lives which the Romans led was of hedonistic pleasure and Christianity told the truth to that society and we should be telling the Truth to our current sin soaked culture. To accept Christ is to accept Him as Lord and Saviour and requires a turning from those things in your life which are not acceptable to Him. I became a Christian in my mid thirties and He showed me many things which needed to change, including thinking it was OK to live with a man without marrying. And I am of course speaking of marriage between one man and one woman for life. However much we want something, if it is not acceptable to God it has to be dealt with.

          • Tricia. I am sorry but I do find you disparaging. I have seen your comments before and they all have – I am sorry to say – a self righteous tone that I find anything but Christian.
            The Holy Spirit does indeed lead us into truth. But it is very clear from the debates on this topic so far that the truth in this matter is much more complex than a simple ‘the bible says’.
            You are so right. If something is not acceptable to God it must be dealt with. And this simplistic ‘I am right, you are wrong’ is definitely not acceptable to God.

          • To Andrew
            So now I am self righteous as well. Making personal comments is not appropriate.
            I stand on the historical reading of the biblical text regarding how Christians have led their lives in obedience for 2000 years. In no other century has it been suggested that 2 men or 2 women should marry each other. Conforming to the world is antithetical to Christianity.

          • “Making personal comments is not appropriate.”

            It’s called speaking the truth in love when you do it I think?
            Please don’t suggest that those who have come to a different conclusion to you haven’t done so after very careful and prayerful study, and, indeed, guidance from the Holy Spirit. That too is a personal comment.

  6. Quite a few people talking about legalism. The CofE is Episcopaly led and synodically governed thus the HoB is surely about vision and Synod about rules and lagality?

  7. “on 9th October the Bishops voted by 20-15 with 2 abstentions that ‘this House agree that same sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony such that same sex marriage is not seen as impinging on Holy Matrimony in a way that contradicts the Church’s doctrine’”

    The thing that strike me here is only 57% of the bishops think same sex marriage is distinct from Holy Matrimony. Think back to the council of Nicea dealing with what had been a long drawn out debate about Christology and all but two of the bishops came down on the side of what we now know as the Nicene Creed. Why such a small percentage (43%) think it sufficiently close to Holy Matrimony to therefore oppose the proposal? Have we now got a church so riddled with apostasy that it is no longer the living church of Christ? It seems to me the bishops are playing linguistic and legal games rather than looking at Scripture and arguing from that.

    I liked the article a lot. Well put.

    • The big issue with this approach is that we can’t marry people who are in civil partnerships. The claim that they are entirely different necessarily implies that the bishops would happily allow people to enter holy matrimony who are in civil marriages to other people?

        • Merely by giving notice of termination/ dissolution as far as the law of partnerships is concerned.
          But I ‘ve no idea so far as this relates to puasi – marriage (civil partnerships).

          • Except that m+f marriage can be annulled, unless the law has changed. Ssm can’t.
            But we’ve been here before, more than once.

          • And the fact that a m+f marriage can be annulled emphasises the defining importance of sexual intercourse to constitute a marriage. There is no de facto marriage without, it is voidable, rendering it void ab initio.

          • Geoff

            Im not saying you are saying this, but I have seen other conservatives confused on the point of consummation. A m+f marriage that is not consummated is still a legal marriage. It can be annulled, but is not automatically void.

            I think its a great shame that gay people are not allowed to seek an anullment and only have the option of divorce. And the reason is that our pathetic political leaders are too embarrassed to define what legally constitutes gay sex. A couple of generations ago they were happy to lock people up for it, but when it comes to giving people legal rights rather than criminal records, its suddenly too difficult!

            I think a big mistake of LLF is that it has not sought to define any categories of sex. I know that some conservatives consider kissing to be a sex act. I don’t understand how gay people can be expected to follow church teaching when the leaders of the church cannot be specific about what is and is not allowed

      • Thomas Pelham — interesting, I hadn’t thought of that. If they are entirely different then you can be in *both* a civil partnership and be married in church. Obviously insane when you think about it.

        • For me, it’s clear the bishops are essentially voting that the sky is red or that male is female. Civil Marriage and ‘Holy Matrimony’ are entirely equivilent. Entering into one disbarrs you from entering the other. You can’t be married twice concurrently. They are the same. Any pretense they are not is nonsensical.

        • Civil partnerships were an invention of Tony Blair to give gay people rights without appearing too radical. They were opposed just as fervently as marriage.

          I think they only remained because erasing them would mean married cofe priests.

    • Richard

      And the whole point of allowing gay people *marriage* as opposed to civil partnerships was to give gay relationships the exact same status, rights and protections as straight people. Most of us don’t want a separate institution or to be made to move to the back of the church if a straight couple comes in (which actually happened to me as ludicrous as it sounds!)

  8. Do any of my more learnèd friends here know more of Archbishop Anselm’s Council of London in 1104 where they discussed reform of the clergy. Were minutes taken?

    It is interesting because homosexuality was discussed (and confirmed as a sin in the English and wider church). However, at that council the slave trade was condemned and it was stated ‘men should not be sold like cattle’. I’d be interested to know the voting on these issues. Was it the 57%-43% we’re now seeing or something clearer?

    Some of the dealings between Anselm and the UK legal framework of the time seem interesting and pertinent to what we’re seeing today. In 1095 “[King] William ordered the bishops not to treat Anselm as their primate or as Canterbury’s archbishop, as he openly adhered to [Pope] Urban. The bishops sided with the king, the Bishop of Durham presenting his case and even advising William to depose and exile Anselm. The nobles siding with Anselm, the conference ended in deadlock and the matter was postponed.”

  9. I think I’m right in saying (please correct me if I’m wrong) that it’s still the case that openly gay people cannot become bishops regardless of marital status so really its irrelevant if a bishop candidate is in a same sex marriage or not. They would be rejected even if they could prove they’d never ever had sex.

    • Peter: no, that is not correct. Nick Chamberlain the Bishop of Grantham, is in a same-sex relationship and this was known when Welby appointed him in 2016. I know also of a woman bishop in a same-sex relationship.
      Alan Wilson, the recently deceased Bishop of Buckingham, claimed on Premier Radio that one in ten bishops are gay but he was probably exaggerating. Colin Coward is always saying he knows who the gay bishops are.
      As for liberal scholarship on the Bible, Luke T. Johnson Bill Loader, Walter Brueggeman are among the liberal scholars whom Andrew Godsall follows. These scholars agree that the Bible writers are opposed to homosexual relations but they also claim that the Bible writers are morally and theologically mistaken here.
      This is also Andrew Godsall’s poition. Andrew believes, as liberals have always done, that the Bible teaches many good and true things as well as errors about theology and morality, and the purpose of theological reflection is to distinguish truth from errors. Among the errors Andrew sees are the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality. This is identical to Colin Coward and the scholare mentioned above.

      • From reading Colin Coward’s recent series of articles in TA one gets the impression that he has abandoned orthodox Christianity and seems to be moving into a form of Quakerism.

      • James – how about you e mail me and find out what I actually believe. It isn’t that.
        Though Ian seems to be preventing me from posting at all at the moment….

        • That has posted obviously…but I have been trying to post a helpful link to a biblical case for inclusion. I don’t believe the bible is simply wrong.

          • ‘Inclusion’?

            What a deceitful term. It has two internal incoherences:
            (1) It assumes that only one issue exists in the world. Inclusion equals LGBT inclusion, because the entire world is an LGBT world and no other kinds of inclusion exist.
            So – it is true or untrue that only one issue exists in the world?

            (2) It bypasses the most central issue of all – the distinction between people and behaviours.
            So – is there a distinction between people and behaviours or are they the same thing?

            These slogans are carefully formed to prejudge issues. The unwary, unscrupulous, and less analytic fall into the trap by just repeating the cynically formed slogans, without showing evidence of independent thought.

          • Andrew, rather believing that the Bible is wrong, would it be more accurate to say that your view is that parts of the Bible are simply no longer relevant and if so, how would you make that judgement?

          • Nobody in the liberal world believes “the bible is simply wrong” but rather as a human testimony to God, that it is a mixture of truth and error, getting much right but other parts wrong and outdated because of the limited nature of human understanding, superseded by later knowledge, including sociology and psychology. In liberal thinking, the current state of our critical thinking (generally but not slavishly following the precepts of Enlightenment rationalism) largely determines what may be believed. This is the position which Alan Wilson came to and articulated in his blog, and is the viewpoint which you have generally supported.
            An alternative view is put by David Runcorn, who claims that the entire Christian Church has misunderstood the Bible on homosexuality from very early on, and it was only in the 1960s that some began to discern the actual meaning of the texts. Runcorn is, of course, not a biblical scholar or a scholar of first century literature, and his arguments are rejected by Johnson, Loader, and John Nolland.

          • But why are people treating those who are not biblical scholars as part of the biblical debate?
            Least of all when there are oodles of biblical scholars around?

        • Andrew, just say what you think here, I am pretty sure you agree with Luke Johnson, Bill Loader and Walter Brueggeman as you have echoed their ideas quite frequently and they are liberal biblical scholars that you approve of.
          To me it has always been clear that you think the Bible writers are wrong on homosexuality. That is a common view in the Church of England, and in western culture and one you share.

          • As I said, I had tried posting a link three times and each time it would not post.
            James, that is not my position. You are more than welcome to e mail me to discuss further or please see the link that I seen to be prevented from posting 🙂

      • James

        To clarify – I don’t mean bishops who are secretly or quietly gay.

        As I recall the Bishop of Grantham was outed against his will after he became a Bishop.

        • Peter: that is wrong. Chamberlain’s same-sex relationship was known long before he was made a bishop. This is very easy to confirm on the internet,

          • Peter: not so. Look at the Guardian 2 September 2016 where Chamberlain says many peole knew, besides Welby.
            The fact that Chamberlain is in an emotional exclusive relationship with a man to whom he us sexually attracted is a worrying sign that he is potentially compromised and being sexually tempted. This is NOT a good place for a Christian leader to be.
            Similarly with the woman bishop.

          • James

            “Many people knew” is not public

            I once had a CEO who was dismissed under a cloud. We were never told why. I expect “many people knew”, but it was still not an open and public piece of information

      • This is the ‘I know something you don’t know’ spirit – the gossipy tendency which fulfils the stereotype all too well – which shows what the perpetrators are made of. I.e., they are still in the playground.

        • Indeed Christopher.
          I knew nothing at all about him, therefore what is to be known can not possibly be public, nor common knowledge! If it were, I’d have known about it!

    • In that case define “gay”

      How many people of the same sex do you need to be attracted to and in what proportion to people of the opposite sex?

      Using labels in this way is vile and I really hope the CofE is not (still) doing that

          • Why is it, do you think, that so many people (and perhaps especially church leaders) are fond of introducing themselves with a short biography referring to their spouse and children?

          • PC1

            In a church that teaches that same sex relationships are evil, it matters a lot if a senior leader of that church is in one!

            On an issue of diversity and inclusion, it is important to know if there are invisible barriers to gay people. Here in the US we have only just had an openly gay member of the cabinet and there’s never been an openly gay President (or Prime Minister of the UK). So it matters from that point too! How can the cofe be accepted as a moral voice when it discriminates against gay people?

        • No, if the word ‘gay’ is not defined, then what is it they are being openly. Desirous of something or engaged in something?
          I have pointed out repeatedly that this is not a debate between liberals and conservatives so called, but between less clear and clearer thinkers.

          • As a gay man, I have always viewed ‘gay’ as simply a description of my sexuality, in that I find men (well some) physically and sexually attractive, but I am not attracted to women. In other words I am sexually aroused by men rather than women.

            I dont find it a difficult concept and to me is quite clear.

            And it is clear that ‘gay’ does not mean one is automatically in a sexual relationship with a member of the same sex, any more than ‘straight’ means one is automatically in a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

    • No, Gaca is wrong on this. The whole subject of the meaning of ‘porneia’ has been studied exhaustively by Robert Gagnon in ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’. Trying to set Jesus against Paul is also a mistaken (and anti-catholic) move – again, see Gagnon on this.
      Loader, Johnson and Brueggeman are agreed that the Bible writers are morally wrong on homosexuality and this is your position as well, Andrew. Just agree with them!

        • One person writes a thoroughly analysed and footnoted monograph. Another person makes a four word unsupported assertion. The ratio between these two figures is a brains ratio.

          • It is the usual cheap shot from Christopher and it will of course go unchecked.

            Gagnon’s prejudice will not allow him to see the wood for the trees. The idea that an argument can rest on one disputed word that Jesus probably never used is rather troubling. It’s especially troubling for a standard one might expect from scholarship.

      • James

        I’ve read a bit of Brueggemann and I would say that’s a mischaracterization of his beliefs. His belief is that we have to consider the whole trajectory of scripture, not just a few verses that appear anti gay.

        • Peter: that’s pretty much what I was reporting him as saying – that Scripture has a lot of good things with errors about sex mixed in, and we can remove these errors like chaff from wheat. A basic liberal approach that treats the Bible as a fallible record of God’s dealings with mankind – basically OK with some faults.

          Of course, other liberals find the errors in the Bible to be much deeper and more pervasive than just about sex, and include errors about the character of God, about the divinity and sinlessness of Christ, about the Trinity, about heaven and the uniqueness of the Christian faith. Colin Coward is very clear on the theological and moral errors he finds in the Bible. He uses the same hermeneutic as Brueggemann but is more throughgoing in his critique.

          • James

            How is that a different hermeneutic to those who believe that its not a sin for women to be in leadership or who believe its not a sin for men to be clean shaven?

            FWIW I don’t fully agree with Brueggemann, but I don’t agree that he says the Bible is wrong. He says that we shouldn’t isolate some apparently anti gay verses as being the only verses that speak to the issue of homosexuality

      • Gagnon is indeed just wrong on this. The whole discussion of what is meant by porneia is really oversimplified and I think it highly unlikely that Jesus ever used the word.

        James you seem really obsessed by what I might think the bible says and whether I think it’s wrong. I’ve always said that you can’t talk about the bible in that way. That too is a far too simplistic approach.

        Let me say a few things that are pertinent to my view of holy scripture.

        The Christian tradition so far as it is represented in the NT doesn’t understand what we mean by same sex relationships. Romans is addressing unrestrained lust. 1 Cor and 1 Tim are addressing exploitation. Marriage in the NT is about covenantal love and fellowship, and our 21st century view of marriage in the West is nothing like that in the NT.

        If we look at the Hebrew Bible, then Sodom and Gomorrah is addressing gang rape, not loving relationships. Leviticus has to be read in the light of a very specific culture and context and patriarchal gender roles.

        And in both NT and OT celibacy is a gift and not a mandate.

        Add to this that the whole arc of scripture moves towards loving relationship.

        So scripture is not wrong. It is limited by context and culture. And the contexts and cultures we encounter there do not know of same sex relationships as we understand them today, in the same way that they did not know about electricity or sonata form in music.

        • Romans is addressing unrestrained lust?

          (a) So leaving the proper conjunction with the other sex for the same sex is not a general matter?

          (b) So Paul chooses a recondite niche sin to represent the entire idolatrous abandonment of the acknowledged created order? Surprising then that he reproduces it in the two vice lists you mention which are all general sins.

          (c) Which of course they must be if you are listing only a total of 10-20 sins. There is no space for niche ones, only for large categories.

          So Paul’s view is – Sleep with one another (do male-bedding) as much as you like – just don’t do it with unrestrained lust.
          The trouble is that this is not only wrong but the opposite of what he says. It is the bedding of males which Lev rules out and the vice lists reproduce lexically.

          • Christopher

            So nobody may bed males…therefore all sex outside of female female sex is sin?

            No, clearly Paul is not saying this

          • That’s silly. No-one refers to the entirety of females as ‘male-bedders’, least of all in a vice list. The only ones who would appear in a vice list would be those who do but shouldn’t.

          • Christopher

            You think its silly that this might apply to all straight women. I think its silly to think it applies to all gay men

          • It doesn’t matter, because there are so many thousands of people who know Greek better than you do.

  10. Given divorced clergy who have remarried are allowed to be Church of England priests and bishops, there is no reason whatsoever why homosexual clergy who have received a same sex marriage in English civil law cannot stay Church of England priests. They can also have prayers for them and their partner now in a Church of England church service following Synod’s vote for PLF

  11. Andrew Godsall writes: “The whole discussion of what is meant by porneia is really oversimplified and I think it highly unlikely that Jesus ever used the word.”
    – I imagine Jesus spoke in Aramaic and was correctly interpreted by the Gospel writers. This is the historic teaching of the Catholic Church. Further, on sexual morality Jesus was stricter than most Jewish teachers of his day (condemning adultery ‘in the heart’), not looser.

    “James you seem really obsessed by what I might think the bible says and whether I think it’s wrong. I’ve always said that you can’t talk about the bible in that way. That too is a far too simplistic approach.”
    – You obviously haven’t understood then what Johnson, Loader, Brueggeman et al have said, or you haven’t read them. Have you actually read them, Andrew?

    “The Christian tradition so far as it is represented in the NT doesn’t understand what we mean by same sex relationships.”
    – If you think that, you have a rather limited view of Jesus and his apostles, and you may don’t know much about the first century Greco-Roman world. I have studied 4th c. BC Greek (Plato’s Symposium) and 1st century BC and AD Greek and Latin literature (Chariton’s Callirhoe; Longus’s Daphnis kai Chloe; Catullus, Horace, Vergil’s Georgics and Aeneid book 9, Petronius, Satyricon) for many years and taught it for several to A level, and I can tell you that homoeroticism is everywhere in this literature and very rarely condemned. The ancient pagan writers did NOT think of it simply as exploitation of slaves or boys. Anybody who thinks that hasn’t read Symposium or Catullus etc. Paul and the Gospel writers lived in the very midst of that world, they understood it far better than 21st century people with only a vague grasp of first century life.

    “Romans is addressing unrestrained lust. 1 Cor and 1 Tim are addressing exploitation.”
    – No, the context is much larger than that. Frontline technical commentaries (Moo, Dunn, Fee, Schreiner etc) make it clear that Paul’s argument is based on creation and natural law, not simply ‘unrestrained lust’. Look at the meaning of ‘phusis’ and Paul’s use of the natural law concept in Romans 2.

    “Marriage in the NT is about covenantal love and fellowship, and our 21st century view of marriage in the West is nothing like that in the NT.”
    – So much the worse for modern secular ideas, which fall far short of our Lord’s teaching.

    “If we look at the Hebrew Bible, then Sodom and Gomorrah is addressing gang rape, not loving relationships. Leviticus has to be read in the light of a very specific culture and context and patriarchal gender roles.”
    – There is a good deal more to Genesis 19 than that. Gagnon, Wenham etc have expounded the point on the meaning of ‘toevah’. Read Gagnon and Wenham carefully. And consider also the condemnation of ‘qedoshim’ in the OT.

    “And in both NT and OT celibacy is a gift and not a mandate.”
    – Purity and holiness are required of all Christians, in whatever state they find themselves. Many heterosexual Christians are not able to find a marriage partner, and some who are married don’t find it sexually fulfilling. You are not saying these disappointed heterosexual Christians should seek out prostitutes or use pornography, are you? Do you see the logical correlative of your argument?

    “Add to this that the whole arc of scripture moves towards loving relationship.”
    – ‘Whole are arguments’ are notoriously slippery, they tend to get us where we want to go. Actually, Scripture defines the meaning of ‘love’ as keeping God’s commandments (John 14; 1 John), so a relationship isn’t ‘loving’ if it breaks God’s commandments. You sound more like Joseph Fletcher here than the Beloved Disciple!

    “So scripture is not wrong. It is limited by context and culture. And the contexts and cultures we encounter there do not know of same sex relationships as we understand them today, in the same way that they did not know about electricity or sonata form in music.”
    – This is nonsense and chronological snobbery, Andrew! “… as we understand them” … – do you ont know that we Anglicans believe Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit? I’m afraid your last paragraph sounds just like the Bishop in ‘The Great Divorce’ who tells his visitor that Jesus was only a young man when he died and he would have changed his views if he has lived longer ….

    • Good Lord we have been over this so many times. Of course scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Where have I ever said it wasn’t! Haven’t you actually read the LLF material about the bible where it explores a number of different approaches that faithful Anglicans make to scripture?
      As to quoting C S Lewis… I’m sure he was a lovely man. But he was also complex. And I doubt he’d say the same stuff now if he was still around, so he would be somewhat hoisted by his own petard.

      • Yes, Andrew – we have been over this many times and you keep repeating refuted viewpoints and show no sign of having read and understood Johnson, Loader, Brueggemann et al, or Gagnon for that matter. And yes, I did read the LLF material about the Bible (use a capital letter for the Bible, please, andrew) and also searing critiques of its inadequate treatment by Andrew Goddard, Martin Davie and others.
        Nor do you seem to understand the point of the Bishop in hell in ‘The Great Divorce’.
        You have of course no justification for saying what a 125 year old C. S. Lewis would say today – we call all play that ‘arc of history’ game. For example, I know of several Anglicans who say C. S. Lewis would have become a Roman Catholic if he could have foreseen where Anglicanism was going to end up, and on the basis of Lewis’s own writings (in ‘Mere Christianity’ and on ‘Priestesses in the Church’), I am fairly sure they are correct.
        Please read Johnson et al – and then say why they are wrong.

          • James

            Given that, even now, we have plenty of people (especially religious people) who reject the idea that gay people exist, it really does seem to be bizarre to claim that the first century church had a good enough handle on it!

            I suspect if they had any knowledge of gay sex, it was of wealthy married straight men experimenting with their slaves or military types using sex as a weapon

          • Who rejects that idea?
            They reject imposing catgories on others that others might or might not accept as bona fide categories. But what does or does not count as a bona fide catagory is discovered by analysis, which is why I always give the life-stage by life-stage analysis so that we can all see whether the category ‘gay people’ holds up or not.

          • Christopher

            Lots of religious conservatives still categorize being gay as an addiction to be overcome or perhaps a mental health disorder, with the natural state being exclusive attraction to the opposite sex for all people. If, even now, there isn’t Christian consensus on the existence of gay people by nature then how can we possibly claim that the first century church (without the scientific knowledge or mass communication we have) understood this?

          • You seem to be living in an unreal world where everyone is at least a teenager, and cosmopolitan and metrosexual to boot. Babies are not accurately described that way; children are not either; and adolescents simply have not settled yet. When they do settle it can be either for good or for ill, and that depends on what circumstances, decisions and events intervene in their lives.

            You are speaking as though everyone has to recognise the existence of this category. Why should everyone follow you, in particular, in which categories they accept? If a person is out of kilter with the way they are composed/made, that does not sound natural to me. But even if it were natural , it would not sound like the way things were meant to be. Especially given that the human make up is so awesome that nothing like it has ever been seen in the universe.

  12. Luke Timothy Johnson: ‘Homosexuality and the Church. Scripture and Experience’

    “The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The
    exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with
    what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. To avoid this task is to put ourselves in the very position that others insist we already occupy—that of liberal despisers of the tradition and of the church’s sacred writings, people who have no care for the shared symbols that define us as Christian. If we see ourselves as liberal, then we must be liberal in the name of the gospel, and not, as so often has been the case, liberal despite the gospel.
    I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of
    Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.”

        • Brueggemann makes some reasonable points, and I agree that LGBT people should be welcomed (as I am one of them). But that is not the same as God or the church saying ‘the old has gone the new has come. You can have any sort of sexual relationship you wish, as long as it’s consensual’.

      • As to Luke Timothy Johnson, again you selectively quote. So let me provide an alternative quote which shows that in fact he and I are not very far apart.

        “I suggest, therefore, that the New Testament provides impressive support for our reliance on the experience of God in human lives—not in its commands, but in its narratives and in the very process by which it came into existence. In what way are we to take seriously the authority of Scripture? What I find most important of all is not the authority found in specific commands, which are fallible, conflicting, and often culturally conditioned, but rather the way Scripture creates the mind of Christ in its readers, authorizing them to reinterpret written texts in light of God’s Holy Spirit active in human lives. When read within the perspective of a Scripture that speaks everywhere of a God disclosing Godself through human experience, our stories become the medium of God’s very revelation.”

        Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and I have said this many times. You always seem to ignore that. But the Holy Spirit did not stop speaking when the canon of scripture was closed. Something else I have said many times. A point that is very well made by Johnson above.

        • I do love this argument: ‘Scripture tells us that sometimes scripture is wrong and we should rely on our experience. So believing scripture is wrong and experience is a greater authority is scriptural.’

          There must be a word for this kind of argument…!

          • Ian

            If you look at the nativity story, Joseph is commanded to ignore what he has been taught the scriptures tell him to do. Its the very first command in the New Testament. Its not that scripture is wrong, its that religious leaders interpret it to suit themselves

          • He is not told to ignore what the Scriptures tell him to do.
            The Scriptures just don’t cover this eventuality.
            Scriptural (and other) laws never do cover eventualities that occur just the once.
            Particularly not those that can only occur just the once.
            As for the first command in the New Testament, the order of books in the NT is conventional. Matt was not the first NT book to be written, nor even the first gospel.

  13. Andrew Godsall quotes Luke Timothy Johnson:
    “What I find most important of all is not the authority found in specific commands, which are fallible, conflicting, and often culturally conditioned, but rather the way Scripture creates the mind of Christ in its readers, authorizing them to reinterpret written texts in light of God’s Holy Spirit active in human lives. ”
    This is EXACTLY what I have been saying – that Johnson teaches that the Bible commands things which are WRONG – but also helps us to think in ways that sees these commands are wrong.
    In other words, the Word of God is mistaken and contradicts itself.

    Thank you for finally grasping this point about Johnson, Andrew. It has taken time but it was worth it.

    • Shouting doesn’t help you James. Johnson doesn’t use the word wrong about the bible, and neither do I. (And it’s bible just as library has a lower case l. The bible is a library)

      The bible is a collection of books written across many different centuries, cultures and contexts, it doesn’t speak with one voice and isn’t intended to. That is the point that Brueggemann, Loader and Johnson are all making. And I fully agree with them. Please don’t twist what they or I are saying.

      • Andrew – I wouldn’t consider the word ‘wrong’ as a pejorative in this context and – based on what you and James have both written – I’d say it is a reasonable description. I think we all consider the bible to be ‘wrong’ (in some sense) in certain places – I consider Ezra (for example) to be a racist bigot, utterly convinced that he was right, for whom ethnic purity took precedence – and he was more than willing to duff up functioning marriages in order to get it. King David’s sexual ethics were appalling (many children, each with a different woman – so it’s difficult to see how his relationship with any of these women could be described as a healthy functioning marriage) – and as far as Holy Scripture is concerned, the only thing he did wrong was the way he dealt with Uriah the Hittite. The ‘cultural differences’ argument doesn’t work for me when we’re required to swallow behaviour that was just plain nasty. So we all think that Scripture is in some sense ‘wrong’ in places. As far as male homosexual activity is concerned I’m in agreement with James and against you (and Bruggemann and all these other incredibly brainy theologians who got a mention).

      • No “shouting”, andrew – the capital letters just stand in the place of italics or bold which I don’t think I can do on this blog.
        And the capital letter for the Bible recognises it as a proper name for this book, just as I spell ‘Quran’ with a capital Q and ‘Bhavagad Gita’ with a capital B and G. This is simply correct style in all languages which have capital letters. I don’t refer in writing to ‘the british library”.
        The Catholic and Evangelical doctrine of Scripture is that the Bible is a symphony, not a cacophony, of voices guided by the Holy Spirit which harmonise together, instead of contradicting each other. This was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ (‘The Scripture cannot be broken’) and in 2 Timothy and 2 Peter, and is the historic teaching of the Church Catholic (Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin) and the Anglican Reformers: Article XX, Scripture is God’s Word written, and “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”

        • James – well, it may be a symphony rather than a cacophony, but the musical analogy that springs to mind is Malcolm Arnold’s ‘Grand Grand Overture’ for 3 vacuum cleaners, 1 floor polisher, 4 rifles and an orchestra. I get the point that Genesis 2 is fundamental teaching about marriage and it is good and Holy. But much of what God seems to tolerate (e.g. Jacob married to 4 women – the KJV tells us that he ‘married’ the servants of Leah and Rachel when he produced children with them – this teaches us something about what the bible means by marriage, and King David, who seems to have had-it-off and produced children with so many women that even if he had had same-sex attraction to Jonathan, as some perverts twist Scripture to claim, he would have been too exhausted to actually do anything about it, also the mind really boggles at the question of where Solomon got his energy from).

          • Jock,
            God’s will, his binding covenanted promised, his Promised Seed will not be thwarted by human sin and and rebellion doing what is right in our own eyes.
            Scriptures are replete with those who start well, but end badly, those who start badly and end badly, those who start badly and end well in the Biblical history of redemption.
            I think we read scripture, particularly the the OT, amiss if we only look for character and moral studies: don’t be like A, be like A, do this, don’t do that.
            All the characters are flawed, prophet, priest and king, with cycles of unbelief, repentance, worshipping false gods, judgement, all catalysists for a longing, a crying out for, by faith, for a fulfilment in the sinless, righteous, Flawless One, Jesus, about whom “all scriptures testify”. John 5:39-40.
            The risk of error in reading, in our day and age, is to hold God to account with our fallen prideful moral and ethical superiority. It is a risk compounded by subscribing to Open Theism and/or Process theology, which seems to have taken hold, and embedded in the progressive, revisionist circles and is being manifest with some vigor in the area of ssm/b.
            Doubled down by Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
            The result: God is not Sovereign humanity is. God is not God, humanity is. Idolatry in self-sufficiency, in self- fulfillment. And it shouts OT in action today. It shouts God’s judgement in action, today.

  14. The Holy Bible does speak with one voice -God’s; in themes, shadows, allusions, types anti-types genres and more.
    It is not a mere human construct-destruct.
    It is a revelation of God by God. An infallible God, infallibly to and through fallible people.
    I’m affraid you appear to be stuck in the anti-supernatural past of Higher Biblical Criticism and it tributaries, including John Robinson, mixed with the waters of postmodernism and deconstructionism. Behind the times in Biblical hermeneutics.
    Central to all of that is a miniscule view of the Person of God , perhaps even restricted to deism and an anti-supernatural closed- material- world-sytem.
    Mixed with pluralism syncretism, and moralistic- therapeutic- deism and maybe a flavour of neo-marcionism.
    Or as Jesus said, knowing neither the scriptures, nor the power of God.
    (But, as we have yet again been here before the influence of the Jesus Seminar pervades as does the likes of Albert Schweitzer separating the Jesus of History from the Jesus of faith; did Jesus really say that?)
    But this, what the Bible is and who God is is what this whole topic is ultimately about.
    The CoE is being led into institutional apostasy. It may only seem to be recent, but it has been decades being made in the mould of unbelief.

  15. My goodness, Puritanism, and the narrow-minded sex-obsessed inquisitorial Pharisaical mentality that goes with it is just SO unattractive a form of religion. I had almost forgotten just how unattractive until reading this article. Thankfully, it is an entirely different religion from Christianity, and so those of us who just want to be Christians will continue to avoid it altogether, one way or another.

    • Eh?
      Just who intitiated this whole farago?
      What a facile trope, a stereo -typical response from the playbook of some Biblical and doctrinal revisionists, that admits of no theological, Biblical substance in argumentation, that knows little of the depth of spirituality of the Puritans. Try John Owen size, Richard Sibbes!

    • Mark, it’s about trying to live the life God wants us to live as his followers. The only reason it comes up is because churches like the CoE are being asked/demanded to change their view of appropriate sexual relationships in line with society at large. But society is not always right or in line with God. That should be obvious.


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