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Evangelical responses to the ‘Nashville Statement’

The ‘Nashville Statement‘ is a ‘manifesto’ comment on the issues around same-sex relations, transgender and the debate on sexual identity issued by the so-called Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), which argues that God intends that men should have authority over women in all spheres of life. It provoked a wide range of reactions, some of which were predictably reactionary in support and against. My favourite summary came from my friend Michael Lakey on Facebook:

In the news this week, some Christians were in Nashville for reasons other than country music (which is always a pity) and other Christians whose favoured moral theological axiom is “judge not” condemned them for it, but without irony!

But there were also some significant responses from evangelicals, raising serious concerns with the approach of the Statement. Scot McKnight was the most terse:

Those we can’t trust for orthodoxy on the Trinity can’t be trusted when it comes to morality.

He is referring here to the argument that the submission of Jesus to the Father in the Trinity implies something about submission within human relations, advocated by CBMW but rejected by most as a return to the heresy of Arianism.


Additional Note: Scot McKnight has now made a fuller statement, looking in particular at the pastoral inadequacies of the Statement:

Specific statements in the Nashville Statement, rehearsing as they do the church’s traditional view of sexuality, are sound theologically and exegetically and many of us can affirm what is said even if we may have dropped some lines and added a few others. But my suggestion is that the Nashville Statement is pastorally inadequate. To speak today of same sex orientation and same sex relations or wider dimensions of sexuality, in the complexity of modern and postmodern culture, requires pastoral sensitivities. I’ll personalize this: I’m not sure the Nashville Statement would help me in ministering to the gay and lesbian students I have taught. There’s nothing here I haven’t known nor, in my experience, these students hadn’t already heard.


More striking is the extended rejection of the statement by Matthew Anderson—striking because (unlike Scot) Anderson is theologically much closer to some of those who did sign and agrees with many of the premises, but sees the statement as deeply flawed because it does not attend sufficiently either to the underlying issues nor to the problems that evangelicalism itself is struggling with.

While I am generally ‘statement-averse,’ it seems reasonable to want a succinct depiction of the theological boundaries on these issues. If nothing else, such statements are efficient: they remove much of the work of retelling all of our convictions on a certain matter by giving us a public document to point to…Yet this virtue is also a vice: by creating a public context in which all the people who affirm certain doctrines or ideas are identified under the same banner, statements tacitly shift the playing field, such that to not sign is to signal disagreement…

To point out such realities is to introduce matters on which good evangelicals can “agree to disagree.” But doing so also discloses how the strategy being deployed by progressives on sexual ethics was originally used by evangelicals for purposes more comfortable and convenient to our heterosexual and child-idolizing circles. An anthropology that affirms the theological significance of bodily life will weigh equally against a whole host of procreative practices that do not come up in this statement. Such practices are as deep and fundamental rejections of our bodily and sexual life as gay sex and transgender surgery are.


A different perspective is offered by Mark Yarhouse, a psychologist who has written on these issues previously.

However, the Nashville Statement does not simply reflect what we might call a traditional sexual ethic. It attempts to address several areas beyond the question of whether same-sex behavior is morally permissible or morally impermissible. Most notably, it takes on the question of language or the use of specific sexual identity labels. The use of various sexual identity labels, such as gay, lesbian, and bisexual, is actually a developmental process that has been fascinating to study, particularly among Christians who are sorting out sexual identity concerns. While the use of specific language (e.g., “gay”) has been a concern to a few outspoken conservatives, it has not been a litmus test for orthodoxy that carried the moral significance of behavior, where there is greater biblical clarity. In that way the Nashville Statement will be experienced by some as unnecessarily antagonistic toward some of the very people whose commitment to a biblical sexual ethic means they are living out costly obedience.

That antagonism has been picked up by just such a person, David Bennet, an Australian who has been studying in Oxford recently.

I was once an anti-Christian gay rights activist who knows that to be on the other side. I vote no. I would sign if certain articles were better qualified to what exactly homosexual or transgender self-conception means. The theological anthropology present is erring on clumsily biblicist, not biblical exegesis and the statements do not represent all evangelically minded people. Until I see that, my response is no. Let’s not communicate in a way that shuts down people like myself who are trying to reach the LGBTQI community with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and who are standing against the onslaught of liberal attacks on us. The last thing we need is friendly fire. We must point them to the “washed and waiting” tension we all live in as repentant gay/SSA Christians. I deeply love and respect my brothers and sisters of all kinds and stand in grace as we all work this out but for now I say no. We must lead from the front with the love and truth of Jesus Christ together, not from behind with a limited understanding of homosexual experience. I am praying for a better way forward in that grace – will you join me?

One of the most interesting responses was from another Australian, Mike Bird—interesting because of the attempt to respond sympathetically to the Statement but to be critically reflective at the same time.

First,  I know and genuinely respect some of the people who signed it, and I can understand why they did…Second, I detect a genuine attempt to be pastoral towards LGBTI people, though whether it is perceived as pastoral and loving will be another matter…Third, I can agree with many of the affirmations and denials.

Nonetheless, I regard the statement as deeply inadequate on several fronts. (First… second…) Third, there was no affirmation of the pain experienced by LGBTI people, no recognition of the sins committed against them by the church, no concession about the inadequacy of many pastoral responses to LGBTI people, and no denunciation of homophobia.


So, what is the point of statements like this? As the (anonymous, probably evangelical) commentator on Christian Today observes:

The only tangible difference this statement makes then, other than causing immense amounts of pain and harm to gay Christians and gay people considering Christianity, is to tighten the boundaries of perceived orthodoxy even closer around a smaller and smaller group of people.

But others think the Statement is ‘helpful’ in revealing the ‘true’ views of evangelicals who want to hold to ‘traditional’ understandings of sexuality and marriage. One observer, whom I had hoped understood the debate a little better, commented:

To be against LGBT+ rights you ultimately have to be complementarian on the roles of men and women (not just in home and church but in all situations) and affirm that “Leadership is male” and women are only there to submit and follow.

This demonstrates both a sad neglect of both the biblical data and the way that many evangelicals have approached the two issues, and functions as a kind of rhetorical ‘Aha: now you’ve given away what you really believe despite what you have actually said at length’—or perhaps it does just betray simple ignorance.

In fact, the range of responses suggests that, despite agreement on some of the key issues about sexuality, the evangelical constituency is responding in a variegated, nuanced, theological and informed way that seeks both to engage sympathetically with the current debate and is concerned to prioritise pastoral encounter—and in the midst of this seems quite self aware. It is difficult to see any justification for calling the Nashville Statement ‘the’ evangelical position on any of these issues.


Additional Note: Preston Sprinkle, who has written on this area extensively, has provided a detailed comment which, to my mind, not only offers a model response to the Statement, but offers a model for engaging in this whole discussion.

I admire the authors’ passion to uphold a historically Christian view of marriage and gender. And again, I’m in agreement with the general conclusion about marriage expressed in the document. I would consider myself just as passionate about an orthodox view of marriage and gender as they are, and I do think that Christians who affirm same-sex marriage and deny the biological link between sex and gender are at odds with some very basic tenets of a Christian worldview. (I just don’t think this statement the best way to go about this whole discussion.)…

One frustration I have is this: the evangelical approach to the LGBT+ conversation has been profoundly impersonal and one-sided (lots of truth and very little grace). And this statement was—as statements usually are—impersonal and one-sided. “WE AFFIRM…WE DENY…” who talks like this anymore? What does this do for the 14-year-old kid in the youth group who’s contemplating suicide because for some unchosen reason, he doesn’t feel at home in his own body and daily wishes he had a female one? So he puts on a mask at school for fear of getting beat up, mocked, or tormented on social media. He’s terrified to tell anyone—especially his youth pastor who just signed off on the NS. (I seriously doubt too many youth pastors will sign this, though.) Where is he in this statement? Where is the pastor’s wife who’s attracted to women but could never tell her husband or anyone else? What does this statement do to create a church culture where she could tell her church and be gladly received into a community of beggars who have found bread at the foot of the cross?

I long for the day when gay people can come out to their small group and everyone would yawn. “You’re a sinner too? Welcome to the club. You want to grab my hand as we cling to the cross together?” Evangelicals have been very good at writing true statements about faith, sexuality & gender. We’ve generally failed at loving those who fall short of that truth.

The NS seems very one-sided to me. It fails to own up to the many—MANY—mistakes that theologically orthodox believers have made in this conversation. And it’s those mistakes that’s the real problem. 83% of LGBT people were raised in the church and 51% left the church after they turned 18 years old. Do you know why? The reasons aren’t primarily theological; they are relational. Only 3% of LGBT people who left the church said they left because of the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. The main reasons why they left had to do with relational problems not theological ones. They were dehumanized, isolated, shunned, or simply kicked out of the church once it was discovered that they experienced same-gender love. So my question is this: Will the NS help or hinder these profound relational problems? I’ll let my reader decide.

The first part of Preston’s statement is important, since the two prominent responses, the Denver Statement and the Christians United statement, clearly depart in significant ways from orthodox Christian belief.


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211 Responses to Evangelical responses to the ‘Nashville Statement’

  1. Tina Burgess September 4, 2017 at 10:34 am #

    This is a genuine question…re: the comment by Mike Bird, what are the sins the church has committed against LGBT people?

    • Clive September 4, 2017 at 10:56 am #

      Tina your question is exactly right because they have never been said what the sins are.

      Society was indeed homophobic but it was also society that removed both society and judicial condemnation of homosexuality and yet it is society that is condemned!!! Of course many in society were also in the Church and so when we ask “what sins” we have to extricate society’s attitude and be clear about what attitudes were explicitly from the Church. Then we find that it is not clear at all that there were sins committed by the Church against homosexual people.

      The liberal church has the bizarre idea that if you repeat the maxim often enough then it will magically become true … well actually no it won’t ever become true.

      We have arrived at the situation very similar to slavery. It was Great Britain that changed laws to be clearly and unequivocally against slavery …. and yet it is Britain consistently being accused and being asked to apologise for the very thing that it declared two centuries ago to be unacceptable and, more than that, it was Christians who brought about society’s change of heart.

      It is Christians who have called for society to be much more accepting of gay and lesbian people and yet it is Christians and society being consistently and hurtfully accused.

      • Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 11:18 am #

        “Then we find that it is not clear at all that there were sins committed by the Church against homosexual people.”

        I think thou doth protest too much….

        Historically, the church cannot really claim to have been consistent either way… It is surely beyond doubt that the church, throughout history, has been responsible for intense anti-homosexual vitriol, exclusion and even advocates of violence and/or torture against homosexuals; primarily homosexual men. It is however equally beyond doubt that the same church has also acted in selfless, self-sacrificial ways to stand up for the oppressed, to defend their humanity and their value, even when society and the state has stood against them.

        Weather the ‘balance-sheet’ falls more heavily to one is disputable, but it is not a good argument when there is so much grey area. I definitely agree that is unfair the church takes the lions share of anger and hostility for the stance it used to hold, and in some parts of the world still does, but I don’t think it is helpful to pretend it doesn’t exist.

        • Clive September 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

          Dear Mat

          You have ended contradicting yourself when you wrote …

          “It is surely beyond doubt that the church, throughout history, has been responsible for intense anti-homosexual vitriol, exclusion and even advocates of violence and/or torture against homosexuals; primarily homosexual men. It is however equally beyond doubt that the same church has also acted in selfless, self-sacrificial ways to stand up for the oppressed, to defend their humanity and their value, even when society and the state has stood against them.”

          ….and even then you haven’t looked at Tina’s question.

          Can you give any real examples of either… “intense anti-homosexual vitriol, exclusion and even advocates of violence and/or torture against homosexuals…”
          or ….”selfless, self-sacrificial ways to stand up for the oppressed, to defend their humanity and their value, even when society and the state has stood against them….”

          The latter can have real examples assigned to them, the former however is much harder.

          • Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

            1. It is not a contradiction to assert that both those broad examples are true. It might be incorrect, but it’s not contradictory, as they are not mutually exclusive.

            2. I did read Tina ‘ question, I just chose not to answer it. I was instead responding to your statement, and the implication that in matters of response to homosexuals to, the church is faultless.

            3. Yes I could give examples, they are not difficult to find, and I’m frankly astonished you seem to think they are. Here’s one negative; Westborough Baptist Church.

          • Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

            My point being, that while the original question was legitimate, your answer was not. Certainly it would not been seen that way.

          • Clive September 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

            No Matt

            So you actually think that one Church’s attitude is representative of an entire Church??? Where do you even get that idea from?

            Churches are made up of human beings and human beings do get things wrong – that is the whole point of Christianity but then projecting the mistakes of one church on to an entire denomination is just bizarre.

            And as for “….2. I did read Tina ‘ question, I just chose not to answer it…..” – well it sums it up really.

          • Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

            No. This is frustrating.

            You are not listening to me, and now the point I was trying to make initially is lost. But, even so, I cannot let your twisting of my words stand.

            You said:

            “So you actually think that one Church’s attitude is representative of an entire Church??? Where do you even get that idea from?”

            So firstly, I did not say this, not even close! You asked me for an explicit and specific example of the church behaving in the way I described above, incredulous at the idea it might exist. I gave you one. Just one, the WBC. They are an extreme exception, clearly, but they are one well-known and hard to deny the existence of. I could point you to any number of African, or South American churches that practice similar things as a matter of supposed ‘orthodoxy’ too. Nor is such a thing unknown on the European continent, though it is thankfully rare in the UK. I did not say that these groups are indicative of the whole, far from it, and you should not accuse me of that. The complaint I made was that you, not I, are the one pretending these groups don’t exist.

            “Churches are made up of human beings and human beings do get things wrong – that is the whole point of Christianity but then projecting the mistakes of one church on to an entire denomination is just bizarre.”

            Second, well quite, but this was never about individual Christians. Mike Bird’s comment on the “sins committed by the church” was a deliberate generalization. He wasn’t talking about a specific church, a denomination/movement, or even particular leaders/people, but about the worldwide church and the witness of said church throughout history to LGBT people; a witness that has been anything but consistent.

            In many ways, Mike Bird’s comments are ones I would agree with, he’s right on many points, if not the main one. The pastoral provision often is inadequate, guidance for leaders rare. The LGBT community is often caused additional pain by the unloving manner in which they are treated by the church, even today, and I mean pain other than the pain of not being ‘affirmed’, pain caused by ridicule, or open disgust. These are problems not unique to the church, but they are not separate from it.

            “And as for “….2. I did read Tina ‘ question, I just chose not to answer it…..” – well it sums it up really.”

            Third, I was choosing to ignore Tina’s comment not because it is invalid, or wrong, or unworthy, but because yours was! Tina was asking an honest question, so far as I can infer, about weather Mike Bird had any specific examples in mind when he talked broadly of “the church”? I suspect he probably did, but he did not say them, aiming his comment at the body of believers worldwide. The only person who can adequately answer the question with authority is Mike himself.

            So, to recap.

            It is not her comment that provoked me to respond. It was yours, and the insinuation that the church is not to be blamed, at all, for it’s past and current practice!

            Remember please Clive, that we have spent a good deal of energy on this blog over a couple of years agreeing with each other. You know where I stand, and like you I stand in affirmation of the things the the Nashville statement articulates.

            However, taking that stand does not give me license to deny the experience of LBGT in the world today at the hands of the church, or for me to judge the motes in the eyes of that community without addressing the beams in my own. This debate is going to cause a lot of people an immense amount of pain, and we need to recognize that, avoid it wherever possible, but not yield to it with denial, ignorance or fear.

            I hope we can continue this discussion amicably, without distorting each other’s words, and I am happy to stand corrected or rebuked by another if it is me that has misunderstood.

            Sincerely,
            Mat

          • Clive September 5, 2017 at 4:15 am #

            No Mat

            You are clearly not even reading your own words clearly.

            Westboro Baptist Church is a Church in Topeka, Kansas, so it’s not even a denomination and yet you offer it as an example of hatred projected clearly on to many other Churches elsewhere …. That is just bizarre.

            As I said, and I continue to say, “Churches are made up of human beings and human beings do get things wrong – that is the whole point of Christianity but then projecting the mistakes of one church on to an entire denomination is just bizarre.”

            You have made the claim that “…. that the church, throughout history, has been responsible for intense anti-homosexual vitriol, exclusion and even advocates of violence and/or torture against homosexuals; primarily homosexual men…..” and yet seem unable to give real evidence to support that claim. Therefore Tina’s genuine question stands and I will not engage in this any further.

          • Mat Sheffield September 5, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

            I believe I justified the claim well enough.

            I never said WBC were a denomination, simply that they are, however flawed, part of “the church”.

            I have no problems with Tina’s question, only your response.

            This is a pointless waste of my time as well.
            Mat

      • Chris S September 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

        I don’t see why stopping a great wrong negates having to apologise for doing it and justifying it prior to that.

        In terms of acceptance of gay and lesbian people; Christians have been on both sides, and hardly at the forefront of the societal struggle.

    • Don Benson September 4, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

      It’s a very good question, Tina.

      I’ve asked it on blogs following Justin Welby’s frequent public ‘apologies’ for this as part of his repositioning of the CofE on LGBT issues. I have found his fondness for using this method to cast unsubstantiated aspersions on his own church to be very unfortunate.

      No definitions of what kind of behaviour is included or evidence of specific cases or general abuses has ever been presented in response. There are of course always going to be cases of bad behaviour in churches which can affect anyone but there’s no objective evidence of alleged regular and systematic abuse. Of course you can manufacture ‘evidence’ by redefining what must be considered as abuse (as they do for ‘hate crimes’) but to do so you have to abandon any pretence at justice and start to embrace coercion. It gets increasingly bizarre once you start applying this kind of judgement on people who lived in different times or cultures. And of course you can very successfully change hearts and minds simply by endlessly repeating the same thing, as in this case.

    • Nick September 4, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

      “This is a genuine question…re: the comment by Mike Bird, what are the sins the church has committed against LGBT people?”

      If you read those who have made statements on the revisionist side, you will find them frequently reporting receiving hate mail from those who claim to be Christian and from others who are clearly emboldened by hearing the views of Christians who espouse a traditional view.

      We might condemn such hate mail, but it happens, and those who write it clearly align it to traditional views of sexuality.

      So what are the sins of the Church? We have such people think that traditional views afford them a licence to send hate mail.

      We need to bear this in mind in everything we say so that we can carefully choose our words so as not to give such people an unnecessary opportunities to misrepresent the love of Christ.

    • Lorenzo September 5, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      Dear Tina, it’s actually difficult to think of another group of people, bar Jewish folks, who were victimised quite as systematically and efficiently by the churches. Cardinal Sarah, for instance, just called us ‘demonic,’ yesterday, in an oped for the Washington Post. Try to imagine how this resonates in Africa. Have a look at the adverts broadcasted at the moment in Australia against same-sex civil marriage. The church has demonised its opponents for a long time. It largely has stopped, but not when it comes to sexual minorities. I could line up the examples, but surely, a little google search will do the trick. Apart from Britain, where the CofE played some part in the decriminalisation of same-sex acts, the church has since fought tooth and nail against each and every extension of our civil liberties and anything resembling equality. It has certainly secured legal guarantees against the latter for itself. If you go back further, it lobbied in favour of forced labour, criminalisation (in other countries, it certainly vociferously supports this) and before that, since Theodosius and Justinian, burning us alive. I hope this helps.

      • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 10:41 am #

        Unconscious bias: ‘it’s actually difficult to think of another group of people, bar Jewish folks, who were victimised quite as systematically and efficiently by the churches. ‘

        For some, this must be a real toughie, but let me have a go. Er…black people?…like me?

        • Lorenzo September 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

          Black people were victimised by churches? I mean, I know there’s a lot of racism about, but how exactly were black people persecuted by Christianity? unless you equate Christianity with the slave trade or with colonisation.

          • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

            Lorenzo,

            It isn’t equating Christianity with the slave trade to repeat what was explained in the CofE’s apology for complicity: ‘When parliament voted compensation in 1833 – to former slave owners rather than the slaves themselves – the church received £8,823 8s 9d, about £500,000 in today’s money, for the loss of slave labour on its Codrington plantation in Barbados.’

            Furthermore, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to whom the Codrington estate in Barbados was bequeathed, branded its slaves on the chest with the word SOCIETY to show to whom they belonged.

            There’s also the CofE’s well-documented mistreatment of the first African bishop: http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/anglican-church-sorry-betrayal-first-african-bishop

            ‘despite his passion and high achievements, Bishop Crowther’s mission was undermined and dismantled in the 1880s by racist white Europeans, including some of his fellow missionaries.’

            ‘Historians said prejudiced fellow Anglican missionaries wrongly questioned the moral values and competency of Bishop Crowther and his African staff- and systematically dismantled his mission and undermined his work. In the end, he resigned.’

            Fast forward to the 60’s and in Inheritors Together, John Willlinson records the experiences of rejection meted out by the CofE against black immpigrants to the UK in the 60s, ranging from the vicar directly telling someone not to come again (which I experienced myself at 8 years of age from the choirmaster at Holy Innocents Church, South Norwood), through to coldness and lack of welcome.

            The 2007 National Parish Diversity Monitoring report shows that the white hegemony persists among the clergy:
            1. In Birmingham, the clergy in the diocese was 4.5% minority ethnic, while the core congregations were 11.1% ME. In 2011, the overall ethnic distribution of that city was 58% white, 27% asian and 9% black.

            2. In Southwark, the clergy in the same diocese was 6.8% minority ethnic, while the core congregations were 22.7% ME. In 2011, the ethnic distribution of the borough was 63% white, 9.4% asian and 25.9% black.

            To date, the number of senior minority ethnic clergy, still stands at less than 10, including the Archbishop of York, one suffragan bishop, one dean and three archdeacons.

            If victimisation still means ‘singled out for cruel and unjust treatment’, then the forgoing is your evidence.

        • Lorenzo September 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

          Sure, David, I’m in no way denying that black people have had a raw deal or despicably bad treatment at the hand of Christians, God knows they have, only that they’ve had a raw deal because of Christianity. Some churches have justified racial theories biblically but on the whole there have been black churches, black Fathers of the church, black Christian monarchs, black Christian liberation movements. No church I know has ever decreed that black people should be put to death, or incarcerated for what they do, that they are deicides, etc… It’s seldom been Christian doctrine, only good old hatred and prejudice.

          • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

            Lorenzo,

            As you’re probably aware, the belief that black people inherited the ‘curse of Ham’ was among patristic writings which developed into settled belief in the Church by the 18th and 19th centuries.

            So, Origen wrote: ‘For the Egyptians are prone to a degenerate life and quickly sink to every slavery of the vices. Look at the origin of the race and you will discover that their father Cham, who had laughed at his father’s nakedness, deserved a judgment of this kind, that his son Chanaan should be a servant to his brothers, in which case the condition of bondage would prove the wickedness of his conduct. Not without merit, therefore, does the discolored posterity imitate the ignobility of the race [Non ergo immerito ignobilitatem decolor posteritas imitatur] (Homilies on Genesis 16.1).

            There are numerous further references to similar patristic teaching here: https://scottnevinssuicide.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/the-orthodox-patristic-teaching-on-the-curse-of-ham-and-the-origin-of-black-people/

            The Church neither needed to decree execution, nor incarceration for being black. In the West, the Church became the State mouthpiece for broadcasting the horrific justification that the ‘curse of Ham’ warranted the sub-human treatment, absolute subjugation and life-long servitude of black people.

            A slave-owner doesn’t need a decree to permit the destruction of what was generally considered to be property.

          • Lorenzo September 5, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

            Well, that was new to me, but let’s not engage in competitive victimhood. Tina can now choose between gays, Jews or black people…. but sin the church did, against all three groups, repeatedly.

          • Clive September 6, 2017 at 11:28 am #

            Lorenzo, you have added the word “repeatedly” when, at the very least, it doesn’t really belong there.

          • Clive September 6, 2017 at 11:28 am #

            Lorenzo, you have added the word “repeatedly” when, at the very least, it doesn’t really belong there.

  2. Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    I sympathise.

    I was unaware of the Nashville statement until I saw it referenced in a comment on Firstthings* last week. I went and looked at the statement myself, before reading any commentary about it from the blogosphere, and found it to be a powerful and well-articulated statement that closely aligned with my personal stance on these matters. Conformation bias at it’s best. 😉

    I confess however to finding some of statements a little too ‘black-and-white’ when a little more concern and care about terms and definitions would have been helpful. Statement X/Ten is a good example of what I find difficult; as it uses the word ‘transgenderism’;a largely meaningless label, uncleanly defined and disputed by people on both sides. A simple google search reveals competing definitions, and use as both a pejorative and exhortive descriptor.

    I also disagree profoundly with CMBW, although one time I would have been counted among their supporters. It does not bother me that the Nashville Statement was born out of that group per se, but it does bother me that their ‘branding’ is all over the statement’s (actually rather excellent) website and so to sign would be considered a tacit endorsement of their theology, which I do not agree with.

    Perhaps what bothers me most though is the attitude of several signatories; an almost warrior-like desire to ‘weaponize’ this statement into a political tool.

    I don’t normally link to other blogs, but I would like to bring attention to Alistar Roberts’ excellent blog as it is most appropriate to this discussion; him being a signatory of the statement and a repeated opponent of the theological position of the group (CBMW) from which it was born.

    https://alastairadversaria.com/2017/09/01/on-the-nashville-statement-and-my-signing-of-it/

    Mat

    • Will Jones September 4, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Mat.

      I largely agree with your assessment. The appearance of transgenderism, undefined, in Article 10 took me aback as well. I think the intention of the authors is that transgenderism is the opposite of what is affirmed in Article 7 about self-conception as male and female being defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. But I think the succinct, unamplified format of the Statement does invite misunderstanding on this. Particularly as it asserts that it is sinful to approve of transgenderism – this does follow I think from what the statement says, but you can hardly point to an unambiguous scripture which backs it up.

      • Mat Sheffield September 4, 2017 at 11:24 am #

        Yes, it is a minor complaint about a statement I would otherwise support. Perhaps a concise glossary of terms following the final article would be the way to go? Add the amplification needed.

        I read article 7 in the same way you describe (below), but I can see the issue with it now that it has been pointed out.

  3. anon September 4, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    Ian, it’s well-known that the conservative wing of evangelicalism regards itself as the only true evangelicals. The Nashville Statement comes from that community – self-proclaimed guardians of orthodoxy. Almost all of them are white, American, male, and subscribe to Calvinist theology. And, as you rightly observe, their view of God’s design for human flourishing also includes female subordination.

    Let me make a prediction. No practicing homosexual Christian will change their ways as a result of the Nashville Statement – not a single one. All it will do is continue the status quo where the LGBT community see themselves as modern-day lepers – a despised minority who are rejected as unclean by the religious establishment and forced to exist outside the camp. Yet my Bible tells me that Jesus made a special effort to love these people. So for this, and many other reasons, I won’t be signing it.

    • Sam September 4, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

      Well said anon. Frankly, I read a lot of comments that make a lot of to do about nothing in this thread. Yes. Guilt is there for conservstives as well as any other. I must reject the assertion that Christians/Evangelcals bear no guilt for the harm that their intolerance breeds, as if we can justify our condemning LGBT apart from the violence we inspire. And, I notice the actual slurs or implied suggestions that to be “liberal” is to be immoral. Predictable. We need some liberal ideas. We need someone to contest that in fact the conservatives are being immoral. We need to lose our sense of entitlement that we own the moral high ground before we can be constructive. Simply put, we must discern just what our mandate is in this fight, and what it is not. Levitical law condemns male on male homosexual intercourse. That is the only crime for which punishment is given. It does not memtion Lesbians or transgender people, mainly because of a lack of medical technology. If it takes a Rabbinic decision to include Lesbians in the prohibition, should we not at the least first do no harm. The Levitical writers did not mention Lesbians, and they knew the difference between men and women very well. What gives us all this “moral” authority, this reckless absolutism to lump everyone but heterosexuals into our deviant category? Conservative Jews have invited LGBT into fellowship so long as they don’t violate that one prohibition, that one punishable act, male on male sex. And, the Levitical law does not recognize as sex anything that does not include the male sex organ. If this ancient cultural perspective is to dictate our norms, should we rip it out of its context and distort its norms to better fit our agenda? No. Before we can descend into real constructive discourse, we must shake loose our stranglehold on moral supremacy, a close kin to the other bad supremacies around today. This fight we must allow for agreeing to disagree, and abstain from inflicting our opinion on others, like the Nashville statement does.

      • Will Jones September 5, 2017 at 11:47 am #

        For someone who is keen for conservatives not to claim to know moral truth or inflict their opinions on others, you seem awfully sure of your own moral views (‘We need someone to contest that in fact the conservatives are being immoral’) and not at all shy about proclaiming them as the right way ahead.

        I also don’t think the affirming camp can be accused of eschewing the moral high ground.

        Your argument centres on Leviticus and fails to engage with the theology around why there might be a ban on men having sex with one another. It’s like saying the Ten Commandments only ban murder so it’s ok to maim people, or only adultery so it’s ok to be promiscuous as long as no one is married. You need to look beyond the letter of the law to the theology behind it, using scripture as your guide.

      • anon September 5, 2017 at 11:51 am #

        Sam, just to clarify, I am not seeking to align with the LGBT lobby even though I don’t support the Nashville Statement. I simply don’t feel the constant focus on this subject is at all helpful. Some years ago, Brian MacLaren called for a moratorium on public pronouncements on same sex marriage, and I think this is something the church should take to heart. My knowledge of this subject is very limited – I am heterosexual and have only met one openly homosexual person in my life. But I do know that LGBTs feel hated and persecuted, for totally valid reasons. Public condemnations, of which the Nashville Statement is just the latest example, only serve to perpetuate this.

        • Will Jones September 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

          Brian McLaren is pro LGBT and speaks out on the subject with some frequency.

  4. Will Jones September 4, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    I thought the Nashville Statement was perfectly sound. Sure, it doesn’t cover everything, but I didn’t find myself disagreeing with anything I read. It seemed timely to me.

    I can see the point about Article 7, which denies that adopting a homosexual self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. This does seem a step beyond what is normally said, so is arguably unhelpful. I understood it to mean that the binary categories of homosexual and heterosexual are invalid, as they imply a false ontology that some people are constitutionally homosexual and thus are justified in identifying as such. I understood it to be a repudiation of the idea that it is helpful to adopt a gay identity (as opposed to recognising that one experiences same-sex attraction). I thought this point was right and important, but can see that for many it is out of the blue and seems antagonistic to ministry amongst LGBT people.

    Interesting to see that Sam Allberry has signed.

  5. Clive September 4, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    Interesting summary of the responses here:
    https://juicyecumenism.com/2017/09/02/christian-doctrine-sex-nashville-statement/

    Part of the problem is the very idea that any statement made MUST be wrong by virtue of being a statement. That idea simply doesn’t work.

    I noticed also that Christian Today reported that:
    ” In a statement today signed by the Church of England’s general synod member Jayne Ozanne as well as dozens of US pro-gay church leaders, more than 300 Christians affirm that ‘every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work.’
    Titled Christians United, the statement continues: ‘In every generation there are those who resist the Spirit’s leading in various ways and cling to the dogmas and traditions that he is calling us to rethink and reform. Throughout our history, those who have been on the leading edge of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work have often found themselves initially excluded, marginalized, and demonized by some of those within established Christian institutions.
    ‘In the twenty-first century, we believe that the Church finds itself once again on the brink of a new reformation, one which in which the Holy Spirit is calling us to return to the Scriptures and our traditions in order to re-examine our teachings on human sexuality and gender identity.’ ”

    However, in reality the Nashville declaration includes the clear statement:

    WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the
    image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are
    acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their
    mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and
    should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.

    So therefore the claim that because we are created in the image of God therefore that image must include same sex marriage is a profoundly dishonest statement and the idea that the Holy Spirit would ever believe or deliver such dishonest statements shows how deluded Jayne Ozanne, the US pro-gay leaders and more than 300 Christians really are.

    No the Holy Spirit will NOT be a liar to anyone EVER.

    • Will Jones September 4, 2017 at 11:34 am #

      This is also a handy summary of response articles: http://anglicanmainstream.org/nashville-statement-evangelicals-divided/

      The Christians United statement is, apart from anything else, inconsistent in its attitude to those who disagree. On the one hand it says this:

      WE DENY that teachings on the Biblical interpretation of sexuality and gender identity constitute a matter of orthodoxy and should be a cause for division among Christians.

      Yet it also says this:
      WE AFFIRM that one may live proudly and openly as an LGBT+ individual and as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and that LGBT+ individuals must be fully embraced and included in every level of Christian leadership, life, and ministry without exception in order for the Church to fully embrace its call to be the body of Christ. We also affirm Christ’s call for the Church to be one, united in the midst of our diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities, relationships, and beliefs about the same.

      And this:
      WE AFFIRM that non-inclusive teaching causes significant psychological and spiritual harm to LGBT+ individuals in Christian churches around the world. We likewise affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ is guilty of preaching a harmful message that has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to face bullying, abuse, and exclusion from their families and communities, and must publicly repent and seek reconciliation with the LGBT+ community for the harm that has been done to them in the name of Christ.

      WE DENY that any Christian who perpetuates harmful teachings and refuses to openly dialogue with LGBT+ people is living a life modeled after the faithful example of Jesus.

      People who make these statements hardly sound like they’re going to be happy to agree to disagree and live in peaceful communion with those whom they deem ‘guilty of preaching a harmful message that has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to face bullying, abuse, and exclusion from their families and communities’ and whom they want publicly to ‘repent and seek reconciliation with the LGBT+ community for the harm that has been done to them in the name of Christ’. Sounds pretty unequivocal to me.

      • RevDave September 4, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

        Will, the “Christians United” statement was just a reactionary response and, probably, an attempt to grab attention, so it’s hardly surprising it is a bit of a mess.

        IAN will you be critiquing the “Christians United” statement too? It could be good – to highlight the problems with liberal “theology” “morality”? 😉

      • Simon September 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

        ‘Christians United’ affirm that an individual who is B (of LGBT) is to ‘live proudly and openly’ and be ‘fully embraced at every level of Christian Leadership.’ If an individual who is B is thus affirmed in their sexuality and embraced by the Church as a Bishop, how do they practically ‘live openly and proudly’? What exactly are Christians United affirming and wanting others to affirm? Are we to affirm the individual? The individual’s dual desires? The individual’s alternating relations between partners of different sex? Or a polyamorous relation?

        This is a genuine question – I am interested to know exactly where the Christians United want to take this and what this would look like?

  6. Robert Caldwell September 4, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    Soesking as a Southern Baptist (SB) and an American conservative evangelical (CS), I do believe that the Nashville Statement (NS) is fairly representative of how the typical SB and CS in the pew views same-sex marriage, homosexuality, andtransgenderism. On the other hand, it is very telling that many evangelical leaders are criticising the NS for what it does not say, rather than supporting its clear affirmations and denials. The SSM issue appears to be drawing a “line in the sand” that will sadly result in many church splits and become a test of fellowship.

  7. Philip Almond September 4, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    On Scot McKnight’s observation I point out yet again that the case for pre-Fall male kephale in marriage and ministry, with all the male responsibility and self-sacrifice that it requires, should not appeal to the Father-Son relationship in the way that CBMW and Reform do. The case should start with Ephesians 5 and travel via 1 Corinthians 11 and Genesis 2 to 1 Timothy 2 and 3.
    On other points in the Article I agree that in the Sexuality disagreement evangelicals have not openly admitted the beams in our own eyes.

    Phil Almond

  8. Charles Read September 4, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    When someone commented:
    “To be against LGBT+ rights you ultimately have to be complementarian on the roles of men and women (not just in home and church but in all situations) and affirm that “Leadership is male” and women are only there to submit and follow.”

    I think that is their summary of what the Nashville Statement is saying, and if so, it is a pretty accurate summary. As Ian points out, in fact the two sets of issues are separable and evangelicals in the UK do separate them with most Anglican evangelicals being egalitarian and the constituency split about sexuality and allied matters. In the USA (which really is another country in terms of evangelical identity politics), Christians for Biblical Equality (an egalitarian campaigning group with which I’m involved) has deliberately avoided entering into debates on sexuality.

  9. Christopher Shell September 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Meaning of ‘complementary’ –

    I have always understood this word to mean ‘equal and different’ – together with ‘mutually enriching’.

    No-one can doubt ‘equal’ and no-one can doubt ‘different’…

    since even a single difference amounts to difference overall, whereas in fact average differences between the 2 genders, differences of at least some small degree, are to be expected in most matters.

    Complementarianism is therefore, purely in and of itself:

    (a) not a ‘respectable’ position, but rather a ‘default’ position difficult to deny;

    (b) neutral as regards male headship.

    However, perhaps I am reckoning without the history of discussion, and the contexts in which the term ‘complementary’ has in practice been used.

  10. RevDave September 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    Meaning of ‘egalitarian’ –

    Indeed Christopher! It is liberal egalitarianism that has now in conflict with reality!

    It insists that it is discriminatory to see essential differences between between men and women – a male can be a woman is he identifies as female and vice-versa. Physiology and biology are now the areas where there may be problems – when our psychology clashes with them – and that must be corrected. To attempt to correct our psychology is now not just harmful but “abuse”!

    It also insists that we have a right to children, if we want them (psychological equality again), regardless of the right of the child (which was supposed to be paramount when parental rights were subsumed under them). So two people who love each other (psychologicalequality again) can insist on being identified as the child’s parents on their birth certificate rather than the child’s actual, biological parents.

    There is something seriously with a belief that human biology and physiology can be discriminatory – effectively seeing them as irrelevant – presumably “heteronormative”

    • Christopher Shell September 4, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

      Yes – the idea that transient psychology is more basic than biology is the nub of the problem. It is so obviously false. Those who assert it ought to be immediately challenged on what their basis is for assuming that the former is more basic than the latter. In fact it is clearly less basic. If/since they have no basis, their case falls.

  11. Simon September 4, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    This is actually totally unrelated to the article or issue at hand. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this blog. I’m an invisible (except, obviously, for my present revealing :)) reader and quite new. I don’t participate in the conversations, basically because I consider to do so would be above my pay grade, so to speak. Nonetheless I find the articles always insightful, culturally relevant and timely. Similarly, I’m constantly impressed with the level of commentary – always (well, seemingly so anyway) respectful, intelligent and full of grace. What more could one ask for?

    • Ian Paul September 5, 2017 at 11:22 am #

      Simon, thanks very much for the encouragement! So glad you find it useful.

    • Simon Ponsonby September 5, 2017 at 6:00 pm #

      Hi Simon – I’m the other Simon who frequents here and occasionally offers the odd tangential comment –
      I think I will use my surname to make it clear I’m not speaking for you when you do 🙂 But I agree with you – I am grateful to Ian for his blog, for the interesting and often very important posts and the erudition, wisdom, theological depth, conviction and godly debate I read here. Whilst there are often robust exchanges, the tone is almost always respectful and honouring. Its a good place to hang out and learn.

  12. Don Benson September 4, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

    Nashville Article 1 says:

    “WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to … and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church”.

    This is a complication for which I’ve never understood the reasoning or the purpose. It’s true that Paul connects the two relationships (a husband to his wife and Christ to his church) in Ephesians 5 but is he not simply describing how there are strong similarities between particular aspects of the two relationships (because they reflect the character of the self-same Creator)? And is not his purpose to teach how both relationships hinge on the dual imperatives of readiness for submission and unconditional (sacrificial) love? So the new Christians need to understand both, and using them together is a great aid to teaching on both counts.

    Yet Nashville Article 1 goes much further (as do many people) by implying that the covenant of human marriage was designed, before the fall, in order to illustrate a separate covenant for which the need had not yet arisen. You might say that God exists outside of our restrictive timeline and so would know at creation all about the events which we view as having a particular sequence; but for us humans the connection wouldn’t happen for millennia. Is not human marriage, its physicality, its psychology, its practicality already enough of an amazing idea for God who saw that his creation was ‘good’? Is there not a danger in spiritualising it away from its earthy reality? Because if we do that we are in danger of implying that human marriage is only of interest to God for Christians who realise its true spiritual significance; and if we do that we have nothing to say about sex and marriage for those who are not yet Christians – let them do as they please.

    • Will Jones September 4, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

      Presumably it means that God patterned human marriage on the relationship that he foreknew Christ would have with the redeemed. Paul does say it is a mystery.

  13. David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    What’s so ironic here is that the conservative censoriousness towards the Nashville Statement by demonstrates that many evangelicals are party to the self-same ‘radical individualism’ which fuels the very zeitgeist which they are committed to resist.

    In contrast, Judy Ozanne rustled up a makeshift set of counter-articles which gained a far wider consensus in a few minutes.

    If the case for orthodox marriage dies lose further political ground to the liberal wing, it’s because of that prideful voice in our heads that tells each of us that we could have written a more precise position statement on sexuality.

    We, therefore, refuse to co-sign a single article which are pastorally less sensitive and anthropologically less accurate than anything each of us could have drafted by ourselves. This churlishness typifies radical individualism.

    The orthodox wing is suffering from a theological equivalent of bulimia. Bingeing on any social media post or survey relating to sexuality, only to purge it a few moments later with censorious scrutiny . (And, doubtless, many here will purge themselves of my cursory diagnosis for its rank insensitivity towards the plight of those who struggle with eating disorders!)

    The numerous justifications here for not signing simply prove that the orthodox wing has no political savvy to ‘see the wood for the trees’

    If you can’t sign the Nashville Statement and want to be taken seriously, then here’s my advice: write a better one

    Otherwise, just put up a white flag and quickly negotiate terms of surrender!

    • Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 8:57 am #

      David: your comment is rather unclear in a number of places. So let me ask – are you signing the Nashville Statement?

      As to the Church of England: in typical fashion it has done both of the things you suggest in your very last sentence and it did them at the February General synod. The Archbishop practically help up a white flag once the HoB statement was voted down, and then committed the Church to a new ‘statement’ which will, apparently, take until 2020 to produce.

      Meanwhile in the real world, 99.9% of people don’t get quite so excited about the Conservative Evangelical obsession with sex.

      • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 9:56 am #

        Hi Andrew,

        Long time, no hear! I’m not sure what’s unclear. I’m signing the Statement because I’m in general agreement with it; much the same as liberals are probably in general agreement with the Christian’s United counter-statement.

        I’m not sure why you’re so buoyed up by February Synod’s rejection of what both sides have agreed to be a flawed BRGS report. And, apart from concerns expressed as Synod decided not to ‘take note’ of it, tell me which of its recommendations has been set aside?

        What you call a ‘new’ statement is the very Teaching Document, which was a key recommendation of the selfsame report. The Archbishop was simply seeking to provide further assurance in order to allay concerns expressed on both sides.

        It’s just wish-fulfilment to overstate, as you do, Synod’s decision not to ‘take note’ as evidence of capitulation to inevitable liberal ascendancy.

        In terms of what you describes as ‘the Conservative Evangelical obsession with sex’, I’m surprised that you contribute so few comments to the posts on this blog which don’t relate to sexuality. I’m also surprised that the ThinkingAnglicans blog posts are predominantly related to sexuality. Doubtless, to you, such an editorial focus on sexuality is proof enough of the insidious influence of conservative evangelicals. Let’s face it, they’re everywhere!

        I’m also sure that, in an increasingly secular society, 99.9% of people don’t get as excited about sexuality in relation to the Chalcedonian Creed as revisionist Anglicans do.

        Your point is?

        • David Runcorn September 7, 2017 at 10:11 am #

          David Shepherd ‘ThinkingAnglicans blog posts are predominantly related to sexuality’.
          A quick check reveals that of the 9 main topics posted in the last 4-5 weeks on TA 3 were sexuality related. Of the articles gathered in the twice weekly ‘opinion’ postings 7 were sexuality related and 20 were not.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

            David Runcorn,

            Your check was a bit too quick.

            Tracking back through those opinion posts from the beginning of August, we see that, despite postings on other topics, sexuality predominates because more posts are related to that topic than any other:

            6/09 – Jack Jenkins ThinkProgress Are evangelicals inventing a new kind of Christianity that’s all about sex?

            2/09 – Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Fifty years on – the new Co-ordinating Group meets for the first time.

            26/08 – Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Journal Good disagreement – same-sex marriage

            23/08 – Kelvin Holdsworth Thurible To be an Episcopalian is not to be respectable – LBGT inclusion

            19/08 – Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of faith, speaking of inclusion

            12/08 – Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The growing conflict between Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience

            5/08 – Kelvin Holdsworth thurible Should straight people be allowed to get married – a sermon preached on 30 July 2017

            5/08 – Paul Bayes The Bishop of Liverpool’s speech to marchers at Liverpool Pride last Saturday [four minute video]

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 6:22 am #

            Sorry David Shepherd. That is 8 instead of 7 then?

      • Brian September 5, 2017 at 10:52 am #

        Yes, ‘an increasingly secular society’ in which only 15% of the English identify as ‘Anglican’. In 5 or 10 years that number will be passed by Muslims and what will you be saying then? That Anglicanism is irrelevant to most of Britain? Then why an established church?

        • Brian September 5, 2017 at 11:00 am #

          By ‘you’ I meant Andrew, not David. And David is right: nearly all the ‘Thinking Anglican’ posts are about homosexuality, with the evil Conservative Evangelicals being behind most problems the C of E faces today. You would almost think from their obsession with this subject that 1. traditional Catholics didn’t think the same as evangelicals on sexual ethics; 2. there are no Muslims in the UK.

          • Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

            Brian: there have been more Muslims than Methodists in Britain for rather a long time. What’s your point here? That Methodists aren’t worth bothering with? If the numbers of Anglicans continues to decline at the current rate, then it’s a clear sign that Conservative Evangelicals aren’t exactly doing a great job isn’t it?

            ‘Traditional catholics’, like ‘Conservative evangelicals’ both represent a small but important grouping within the C of E. To say that they all think the same on matters of sexual ethics is nonsense. I know traditional catholics in same sex partnerships, as I do conservative evangelicals who live together before marriage. The idea that there is a uniform view is nonsense.
            And of course ‘Some issues in human sexuality….’ recognises that. Life is not quite so straightforward as you seem to think it is.

          • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

            Brian;s point is straightforward.

            That there is no uniform view held by all CofE members doesn’t negate the fact that there is a predominant view among traditional Catholics and Muslims, who are mostly view same-sex sexual relationships as sinful.

            Brian was commenting on the latter and the fact that the so-called ‘Thinking Anglicans’ rarely, if ever, address this.

          • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

            Brian’s point is straightforward.

            That there is no uniform view held by all CofE members doesn’t negate the fact that there is a predominant view among traditional Catholics and Muslims, who (along with conservative evangelicals) mostly view same-sex sexual relationships as sinful.

            Brian was commenting on the latter and the fact that the so-called ‘Thinking Anglicans’ rarely, if ever, address these groups.

          • Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 7:07 am #

            And my point is very straightforward too David. The predominant view of the conservative evangelicals, who are a tiny proportion of the C of E membership, is not persuading the predominant number of C of E members. Hence the vote in Synod in February. And neither Muslims nor Roman Catholics are persuading the predominant number of the population. The simple reason? Their views are by no means convincing and the vast majority are not persuaded that they are.

          • David Shepherd September 6, 2017 at 7:46 am #

            Again, you continue to overstate the significance of the vote in February, yet even the Bishops of Liverpool and Manchester are committed to uphold the BRGS Report’s recommendation of ‘maximum freedom within the law’.

            In the secular world, the serially divorced and same-sex couples are able to make a civil marriage. In the CofE, the religious exceptions of the Equality Act means that the HoB can maintain its consensus that
            1. there should be no change to ecclesiastical law or the doctrine of marriage
            2. clergy are obliged to fashion their lives in accordance with church doctrine, while being permitted to argue for a change.

            For the most part, I don’t think that either conservative evangelicals, Catholics, or Muslims are trying to convince the vast majority of the population.

            The Church enjoys the Article 9 freedom to manifest its beliefs, which includes the doctrine of marriage, as enshrined in canon law and demonstrated through recent case law.

            Nothing at either Synod this year has changed this. As St. Paul explained: ‘what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside’ (1 Cor. 5:12)

          • Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 7:56 am #

            “For the most part, I don’t think that either conservative evangelicals, Catholics, or Muslims are trying to convince the vast majority of the population.”

            And you know why? Because they realise that enforcing celibacy in others is inhuman and fruitless.

            And that’s why the Nashville statement will be very insignificant too.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 7:15 am #

            Your ‘enforcing celibacy’ argument is what’s fruitless, being nothing more than a straw man.

            God calls everyone to exercise chastity for which there are but two vocations, either marriage between opposite sex partners (which Christ Himself affirmed to be ‘so from the beginning’), or celibacy.

            These alternate vocations are no more enforcing celibacy, than the tables of kindred and affinity are enforcing exogamy.

            1 Cor. 5:12 explains why the focus of this debate is on the Church continuing to uphold Christian teaching and the apostolic tradition, as expressed in scripture.

    • Don Benson September 5, 2017 at 10:36 am #

      David,

      I completely share your frustration and analysis of the failure of evangelicals to organise themselves on the sexuality issue. But it is in the nature of what everyone now calls ‘conservatives’ that individuals tend not to follow the crowd – any crowd, even a good crowd. There is a good side to this: they tend to be more fearless, more focussed on truth than consensus, more ready to shout that the emperor has no clothes; they are probably widely seen by others as ‘the awkward squad’! But the bad side, as you say, is that when consensus and organisation and leadership are needed to fight for what is right, they simply don’t know how or are too self absorbed to do it. And we all know that disorganised rabbles do not win battles.

      However, I would point out that Ian Paul does not present Psephizo as a campaigning body and this site is not where you would look for party leadership or even an exact party line. But what is thought through here (and tested by those who comment) must surely be valuable to those who are then willing to get stuck into the church politics or campaigns or sign up to important statements where signatures do make a difference. So I wouldn’t be discouraged that the theology done here is, in some sense, a more personal and more private precursor to the essential business of fighting the battle in public.

      But, thus far, it is in that public battle where we evangelicals and other likeminded orthodox Christians have clearly failed to organise, to stay focused, to stick together at all costs, and to get ahead in our tactics. But remember that, with God, a few valiant people can defeat whole armies. While we see our own failures and lament our inadequate response to an overwhelming enemy, God is well able to scatter that enemy – perhaps at the very point when we think that all is lost.

  14. Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 10:40 am #

    David: my points were simple.
    1. You had not indicated that you had signed the statement. You now have. Thanks for clarifying that.
    2. We disagree about the outcomes of February General Synod. That’s fine. Disagreement is allowed. All I can assert is that I sat in a confidential group meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and I know you didn’t.

    • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

      ‘I sat in a confidential group meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and I know you didn’t’…

      so..there!

      Next, you’ll be telling us that JW (as you may now be permitted to call him) has you on speed-dial.

      P-lease.

      • Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

        David: you have to stop pretending that what was said wasn’t said. Here are a few brief extracts. You can’t make them read what you want them to read:

        “As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.

        The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”

        How we deal with the real and profound disagreement – put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today – is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.”

        We all belong David. Could it be any clearer?

        To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

        • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

          ‘You can’t make them read what you want them to read’.

          Exactly, your quotes simply underscore the BRGS Report recommendations. While the Teaching Document will supersede Marriage: A teaching document and ‘Issues’, the consensus remains that there should be: ‘no change to ecclesiastical law or to the Church of England’s existing doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships’.

          The statement that ‘we all belong’ was never at odds with the BRGS report. And the ABC’s commitment on behalf of the episcopate to ‘think and think again’ will make no difference to any of this.

          Adding a new spin is not the same as substance.

          • Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

            But the C of E already goes well beyond the Nashville statement you have signed. ‘Some issues’ approach to lay people and the approach of the C of E to the transgender issue are just two examples. That’s the substance. It’s not spin.

          • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

            Now, the point that you’re trying to make isn’t clear.

            It’s perfectly understandable that the BRGS Report and the Archbishop’s comments after the ‘Take note’ debate went well beyond the Nashville Statement, which was released by a group of conservative evangelicals seven months later.

            Equally, the Christians United counter-statement goes well beyond any CofE statement on sexuality.

            All of this is in keeping with the Pastoral Statement, which declared that: ‘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.’

            So, the arguments for and against change will continue, and despite a change in tone, ‘the consensus remains that there should be: ‘no change to ecclesiastical law or to the Church of England’s existing doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships’.

            That’s why I wrote: ‘Adding a new spin is not the same as substance.’

  15. Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    And the Nashville statement certainly doesn’t suggest that ‘we all belong’. It’s very clear who is in and who is out.

    I don’t think it’s really possible to sign it and fully support where the C of E is at the same time. You seem to be limping along with two opinions David……

    • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

      It’s not limping along to follow the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, which explains:

      ’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.’

      There’s nothing in this guidance which prevents church members from signing the Christians United counter-statement as an argument for change, while fully supporting where the CofE is today.

      Neither is their anything in this guidance which prevents church members from signing the Nashville Statement as an argument against change, while fully supporting where the CofE is today.

      • Andrew Godsall September 5, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

        But David….only a tiny proportion of C of E members are clergy. Lay people obv do get married in same sex relationships and the C of E does permit that.

        • David Shepherd September 5, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

          Yep. And the current Pastoral Guidance permits these statements to be issued which can be either in favour of or against the status quo.

          I’d hope that you also fully support the CofE’s current stance, since it:
          1. permits you and I to disagree profoundly and publicly with each other and on the HoB consensus against changing ecclesiastical law and/or the doctrine of marriage.
          2. does not penalise any lay people whose personal lives aren’t ordered in accordance with the very Church doctrine upon which all clergy have expressly sworn to fashion their lives.

          • Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 7:01 am #

            David: hooray! You at last seem to have come around to the view I have been expressing on here for a very long time: that both of us and the diametrically opposed views we hold will have to be accommodated within the C of E and expressed in the new statement.

            And that of course is a view completely at odds with the Nashville statement you have signed.

            I doubt that the publicly expressed doctrine of marriage will change. But I have no doubt that the degree of pastoral accommodation will increase and the February GS and the statement that followed was a clear indicator of that. The tiny number of of C of E members who have signed this Nashville thing are naturally running very scared of that prospect. And some commentators have at least recognised that,

          • David Shepherd September 6, 2017 at 8:01 am #

            Andrew,

            I didn’t need to come around to a view which permitted clergy to issue the Nashville Statement as an argument for change, which I support.

            Equally, the diametrically opposed statement by Christians United is completely at odds with what you claim will be expressed in the new statement.

            I concur with your doubt that the doctrine of marriage will change, but, if anything, it’s the tiny numbers of revisionists who are running scared by reacting to the Nashville Statement with an ill-considered counter-statement.

            If those responsible for the Nashville Statement represent such a small and uninfluential constituency, why did the revisionists bother to issue their ‘knee-jerk’ response?

          • David Shepherd September 6, 2017 at 8:31 am #

            In terms of pastoral accommodation, I’d add that the HoB consensus is that any guidance on liturgy should not be overly prescriptive. As the BRGS report indicates:

            ‘The overall view of the House and College of Bishops favoured guidance to clergy which stopped short of either Authorized or Commended liturgies. It will be important to set careful boundaries for the protection of clergy and others, and a balance will need to be struck between specifying what may not take place and offering advice about what may.’

            Guidance which stops short of commended or authorised liturgies is hardly the kind of church affirmation of same-sex unions that revisionists are looking for.

          • Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 11:40 am #

            You are missing the point David. It is that signers of the Nashville statement, AND signers of the Christians United statement will have to be ‘included’ in the C of E, as indeed they already are. Both views will go on being expressed and both ways of living will go on being lived. It doesn’t matter what the clergy have to agree to or sign up to. They are only a small portion of church people. Lay people will go on living lives that are not celibate, be they in same sex or opposite sex relationships. Enforcing celibacy is neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful. I fully accept that some believe that way is possible. And their views must be included. But it is not the only view and will have to be held in tension with others. That is what the archbishop was signalling.

            The twin track approach is the only one possible and the issuing of both the Nashville statement and the Christians United statement makes that plain.

          • Mat Sheffield September 6, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

            “The twin track approach is the only one possible and the issuing of both the Nashville statement and the Christians United statement makes that plain.”
            -Emphasis mine.

            Other than, of course, Schism.

            Going separate ways is certainly more appealing to many, despite the pain and chaos it would cause, than an attempt to keep two irreconcilable positions together. Was it Phil Almond who said the only resolution to this impasse is a divine one, and that maybe it is right to pray for a ‘miracle’? Whoever it was, they are right.

          • Will Jones September 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

            Andrew, so your view is that the church’s teaching, and orthodox biblical sexual ethics, is ‘neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful.’

            Just about sums it up really. Have you ever thought about setting up a new religion that actually believes what you believe rather than troubling this one with your irreconcilable innovations?

          • David Shepherd September 6, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

            Andrew,
            You wrote: ‘ It is that signers of the Nashville statement, AND signers of the Christians United statement will have to be ‘included’ in the C of E, as indeed they already are. Both views will go on being expressed and both ways of living will go on being lived.’

            The real question is: ‘Beyond the continued freedom to issue statements which argue for or against change, how will the positions of these diametrically opposed groups will be ‘included’ in CofE’s future pastoral guidance’?

            The clergy may well be a small group, but they also wield considerable influence as church leaders and ‘examples to the flock’ who are required to fashion their lives according to current church doctrine.

            Of course, ‘lay people will go on living lives that are not celibate, be they in same sex or opposite sex relationships’, but that will still not make a whit of difference, unless the Church changes its doctrine of marriage and its teaching that ‘sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.’

  16. Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Will

    My view is that as stated – enforced celibacy is neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful. As it happens I don’t think it’s ‘biblical’ either.

    • Will Jones September 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

      Hi Andrew

      Your comment identifies the Nashville Statement with enforcing celibacy. The Nashville Statement is a reiteration of orthodox biblical teaching in this area of sexual ethics. That teaching involves the assertion that sex outside marriage (which is intrinsically male-female) is sinful. Which, in your terms, ‘enforces celibacy’ on the unmarried, including those who do not marry because they lack (sufficient) natural sexual attraction. Thus your impugning of enforced celibacy must be understood as an impugning of orthodox biblical sexual ethics, as ‘neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful’.

      (Do you accept that sex outside marriage is contrary to biblical teaching?)

      • Andrew Godsall September 6, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

        Will: I accept that sex outside of marriage is made irregular by some interpretations of biblical teaching, but by no means all of them, as you will know. And there are no knock down texts that forbid it as such. And the texts that might be interpreted as making it irregular are hardly specific about what constitutes sex outside of marriage.

        And as I get older (I’m 58) it seems like it’s a pretty insignificant bit of Christian teaching that pales into insignificance compared to what various governments of the world get up to on a daily basis. So I’m not that bothered really. You might have to pick on someone else if you want this battle.

        • Will Jones September 6, 2017 at 7:44 pm #

          Thanks Andrew.

          Did you agree with my conclusion that ‘your impugning of enforced celibacy must be understood as an impugning of orthodox biblical sexual ethics, as ‘neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful”?

          • David Runcorn September 7, 2017 at 10:20 am #

            Will Do you agree that in the only discussion/teaching on Celibacy in the NT, in Corinthians, Paul makes it clear it is a matter of choice for those who find the grace to receive it. Paul recognises this is not possible for everyone. There is no judgment on those who recognise their desires are too strong to manage. On the contrary, ‘It is better to marry than burn’. (vs7-9) It is no failure, sin or weakness to need to express sexual desire. This is part of what it means to be human and a very particular way in which human companionship is expressed and sustained. The decision regarding celibacy/abstinence or marriage is left to Christians themselves. Paul is wholly merciful, permission-giving and non-judgmental in this provision. To live within sexually expressed committed relationship is ‘typical’ in creation. It is a gift of God. It would therefore be a contradiction to speak as if this desire, unlike many others, can be controlled and denied expression by simple choice or act of will. There is no scriptural warrant for a community imposing celibacy upon any of its members. It is a gift that can only be freely chosen by those to who find the grace and resources to do so.
            So we mist then ask – what basis is found here for requiring lives of complete sexual abstinence of those who are homosexual in orientation? Is it better for them to burn than to marry? Nowhere is celibacy applied as a ‘remedy’ for what is understood to be dis-ordered sexual desire.

          • David Shepherd September 7, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

            If, as you suggest, ‘it is better to marry than to burn’ applied to every kind of sexual desire and conjugation, in 1 Cor. 5:1, St. Paul would not have called for man who was sleeping with father’s wife to be excluded fellowship.

            The term ‘father’s wife’ (instead of mother) echoes Leviticus 20:11 which even prohibited marriage to the wife of one’s deceased father (cf. Targum of Jonathan).

            So, on the basis of your assertion that ‘there is no judgment on those who recognise their desires are too strong to manage’, St. Paul should have simply commanded that marriage was their remedy too. He didn’t.

            Instead, he commanded their exclusion and, therefore, St. Paul’s later ‘remedy’ of marriage cannot be construed as an accommodation of any form of dis-ordered sexual desire.

          • Will Jones September 7, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

            Hi David R.

            You appear to be trying to use 1Cor 7:9 as a kind of knockdown verse to overturn other aspects of biblical teaching on sexual morality. That is obviously an invalid approach to scripture and, as David S points out, leads to some odd and objectionable conclusions. Paul clearly doesn’t mean that all intense sexual desire of whatever kind must be permitted an outlet through some kind of ‘marriage’.

            Chastity is the basic principle of biblical sexual morality, of which fornication is the corresponding sin. It involves abstaining from sex outside of marriage. That means those who never marry under this teaching never have sex (or if they do they repent and seek forgiveness). There is nothing unreasonable or problematic about that. It is just standard Christian teaching. It’s what it’s always been, and corresponds to the teaching of all the main religions and traditional moral codes. The attempt to make it seem unreasonable is just a reflection of our sex obsessed and saturated culture and nothing more. Certainly it is not the moving of the Holy Spirit!

          • David Runcorn September 7, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

            Will and David For the record I do not think that any sexual desire should be acted upon. Of course not. But I asked if you accept the plain reading Paul in Corinthians, as I outlined briefly above, that celibacy in the Christian community is a choice and no condemnation attaches to those who do find they cannot live without the support of a loving committed marriage relationship?

          • Will Jones September 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

            David R:
            Paul says this:
            Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

            Paul is explaining why although remaining unmarried (he doesn’t use the term celibate) is better it is acceptable to marry. No generalisation can be made here.
            Paul obviously does not mean that it is acceptable for a person to marry a person of either sex. He means exactly what he says: it is no sin to marry.

          • Clive September 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

            Dear David R

            I am confused by your message indicating that David Shepherd and others are pushing celibacy when it was actually Andrew Godsall who created the strange idea of:
            “…enforced celibacy is neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful.”
            Note, please, Andrew Godsall’s use of the word “enforced” which even the Nashville declaration doesn’t say.
            Similarly when Andrew wrote: “…..And you know why? Because they realise that enforcing celibacy in others is inhuman and fruitless.”
            and again “….Enforcing celibacy is neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful…..”

            It seems to me that it is not David Shepherd et al, nor even the Nashville declaration that talks of ENFORCED celibacy but that is instead Andrew Godsall’s view when instead the Nashville declaration only states what the Church has always believed and continues to believe.

          • David Runcorn September 7, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

            Will The difficulty of trying to explore any scripture texts in the present climate is everyone is so concern with how it might relate to ‘that subject’. I feel both you and David are not so much responding to my comments on the text in Corinthians as where you think/fear/assume I am wanting to go it. I understand that. You likely feel the same about me. Fair enough. And we do differ. But my question is genuine in relation to the only place the NT discusses celibacy/sexual abstinence/being married (choose your word for it). I am wanting to establish and agree what the text actually says. That is the first task. If a prior ‘censor’ is at work will not be starting from a faithful reading.

          • David Shepherd September 7, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

            David,

            But, given that you don’t think that any sexual desire should be acted upon, surely the rest of scripture indicates which desires shouldn’t be indulged.

            But that is not the plain reading of 1 Cor. 7, that is ‘quote mining’ with no relation to the wider context of the letter.

            I would consider Herodias to be a prime example of ‘those who do find they cannot live without the support of a loving committed marriage relationship.’

            After all, she was orphaned at around 8 years of age through Aristobulus IV’s execution by Herod the Great, only to be married off by him to her half-uncle, Herod II (which isn’t really conducive to a loving committed relationship, so let’s not sit in pious judgement of her).

            Okay, she divorced him, but she exemplified ‘stunning’ loving committed marriage to Herod Antipas. She followed him into a dispossessed exile in Gaul, instead of accepting Caligula’s permission to retain her property, as sister of Agrippa II.

            Despite this story of steadfast love springing from a tragic upbringing, John the Baptist denounced that half-brother’s wife marriage, much as St. Paul did with deceased father’s wife marriage.

            Clearly, condemnation does attach those whose do find they cannot live without the support of a loving committed ‘marriage’ relationship which isn’t affirmed by scripture as marriage.

          • Will Jones September 7, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

            David R:

            The plain meaning is that it is a man who is not practising self-control should marry a woman (and vice-versa). That is clear from the context.

          • Andrew Godsall September 7, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

            Clive: I don’t think so. You only have to read this excellent summary to discover quite how recent the thinking of evangelicals about sex and marriage is.

            https://thinkprogress.org/are-evangelicals-inventing-a-new-form-of-christianity-all-about-sex-46ff64454c8f/

          • Clive September 7, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

            Oh dear Andrew – you’ve wonderfully changed the subject again. I pointed YOUR use of the “enforced” couple with the word “celibacy” and you try to change the subject to a summary of the recent thinking of evangelicals.

            Could you please try to stick to the subject just once?

          • David Shepherd September 7, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

            I can just about see past Candida Moss’ published denial of widespread Christian persecution before 3rd century AD, but the contradictions of this article are far too glaring to be ignored.

            So, despite the well-known revisionist argument that Romans 1:27Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) only condemns the pursuit of same-sex activity by heterosexuals and that LGBT identities did not exist in the first century, she asks rhetorically: ‘Was there, during this period, condemnation of LGBTQ identities and behaviors? Yes. Was this central to what it meant to be Christian? Absolutely not. The idea that you have to condemn LGBTQ identities to be a Christian is not older than LGBTQ advocacy.”

            Furthermore, in his effort to concur with her, Karl Shuve writes: ‘“The idea of sexual orientations—these do not exist in the Roman world, or the greek world,”

            So, let’s get this straight: on one hand, Moss believes that LGBTQ identities and behaviours existed, but were condemned. It’s somewhat beside the point (and patently disregards the consistently negative descriptions in St. Paul’s letters and other scripture) that condemning such identities/behaviours was not central to what it meant to be Christian.

            Yet, the existence of LGBTQ identities in the first and second century is routinely denied by most of those arguing for the Church to affirm same-sex marriage.

            On the other hand, Shuve insists that the concept of sexual orientation (which is the basis of the selfsame LGBTQ identities which reaped condemnation) was unknown to that era.

            Ergo, there were LGBTQ identities and behaviours which were condemned, although there was no conception that such identities arose from sexual orientation.

            So, the culmination of this circular reasoning by these representatives of progressive scholarship (conservative scholars were not asked for comment) is that had the ancient church accepted (as progressives do today) the concept of sexual orientation identity as a fixed essence, then, instead of condemning LGBTQ behaviour, they would have affirmed it.

            Now, that’s a self-serving special pleading, at best.

            However, even more concerning is where Brennan Breed leverages minor differences in the Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 introductions to the Ten Commandments to attempt to make a biblical case for insinuating moral relativism:‘“Even the Ten Commandments needed to be contextualized,” Breed said. “There are minor differences that seem to reflect contextual changes in the narrative of the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Hebrew Bible]…What we’re supposed to do with that is revisit these ancient texts, revisit the norms of these communities. This process will never be over.”

            Drawing such a reckless inference is completely unwarranted and simply begets unbridled licence by claiming that our modem context diverges so much from the norms of such societies as to nullify and silence what the spirit of the age resents about God’s Word in scripture.

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 6:44 am #

            Clive: it’s very straightforward. The article I cited is a critique of the Nashville statement. If you take the statement seriously, which not that many people will do, it attempts to enforce celibacy outside of traditional marriage. The article points out that such an approach is really quite modern and not very traditional, David Shepherd doesn’t like the article but fails to address that major point.

          • Clive September 8, 2017 at 7:33 am #

            Dear Andrew,

            Not once does the article you linked use the words “enforce” and “celibacy” together. It could be said that just one person in the article uses the word “pushes” with St Paul’s phrase about celibacy but “pushes” is in no way anywhere near as harsh and thoughtless as “enforce” which you use.

            Worse than that it is an article that offers NO serious evidence whatsoever for any of its claims or assertions. I have never read anything so appallingly vacuous.

            When Shuve talks of Christians playing with gender identity and makes a reference to Gregory of Nyssa then the comment made is massively, truly massively, out of context. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of women having the same value to God as men in a culture where women are considered lesser people when he talks of it being not essential to our human nature that we are male and female. To claim that he is speaking of transgenderism is so massively out of context that that is horrendous.

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 7:43 am #

            Andrew – I’ve responded below.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 8:37 am #

            Andrew,

            Clive has already challenged your ‘enforced celibacy’ straw man argument and your attempt to change the subject by referring to an article which doesn’t even speak to David R’s suggestion that 1 Cor. 7 offers marriage as a remedy for sexual desires of all orientations.

            That said, you now suggest that the Think Progress article takes issue with what you call the ‘really quite modern and not very traditional approach’ of the Nashville Statement attempting to ‘enforce celibacy outside of traditional marriage.’

            The scholars in the article actually contradict you. We read:

            ‘Moss, who previously taught at Notre Dame, characterized many of the Nashville Statement’s claims as ahistorical. She noted, for instance, that it idealizes the “traditional” heterosexual family unit, yet many early Christian communities were far less dogged in their support for marriage. Instead, they often preferred celibacy.’

            “One of the most distinctive things about ‘ancient’ Christian morality is the fairly pervasive lack of interest in marriage,” Moss said. “While early Christians see marriage as permissible, especially people who weren’t able to exercise self-restraint, it was better to remain unmarried and never have sex. Comparatively speaking, there was less support for ‘traditional marriage’ among early Christians than there was among ancient Romans.”

            If anything, the criticism of these progressive scholars is that, if the authors of the Nashville Statement wanted to uphold ancient Church tradition, then they should have endorsed celibacy as more virtuous than marriage in the same way as the early Church did.

            In contrast with your insistence that the Nashville Statement is ‘enforcing celibacy’, Ross and Shuve are claiming that, contrary to early Christian tradition, the statement doesn’t promote celibacy as preferable to marriage.

            You should therefore be glad that Article 2 doesn’t promote the virtues of celibacy. It just affirms that chastity is the godly alternative to marriage, which in article 1 is defined as : ‘a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife.’

            Far from underscoring your conclusion, for you to cite the ‘ThinkProgress’ article was a petard self-hoisting exercise!

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 9:57 am #

            Ahh..well that’s ok then isn’t it David.

            ‘Chastity outside of marriage’ looks like enforced celibacy to me because we can be sure the Southern Baptists and other conservative evangelicals will wish to ‘discipline’ those who don’t follow this teaching. By contrast, the C of E makes it clear that we are not to ask intrusive questions about personal lives. Hence the Nashville statement is not actually compatible with what the C of E teaches.

            It looks like we are going to have to disagree. Let’s hope we can disagree well.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 11:36 am #

            Andrew,

            You wrote: ‘we can be sure the Southern Baptists and other conservative evangelicals will wish to ‘discipline’ those who don’t follow this teaching.’

            Yet, that’s just another of your groundless and mean-spirited assertions.

            Once again, as the Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage has explained : ‘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.’

            The Nashville Statement is just expressing a specific position within that highly-valued theological debate. None of its articles purport to explain how its principles should be implemented pastorally, so it is not at odds with CofE teaching, or pastoral guidance.

            A member of the CofE can fully endorse the Nashville Statement in the knowledge that it doesn’t contain any insistence that the Articles should be implemented by asking intrusive questions about personal lives.

            If you can prove it says otherwise, then do so.

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

            David: I am delighted to learn that that there won’t be any discipline for the conservative evangelicals and others who don’t observe the Nashville statement and I’m sorry that I assumed otherwise. It’s good to know how inclusive they have suddenly become!

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

            Ahh, the Appeal to Extremes.

            The fact that the Nashville Statement doesn’t mention discipline neither does not imply that there will be no discipline. As I’ve explained to you before, inspiring reform is not the role of discipline, but of preaching, exemplary behaviour and pastoral care: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-miracles-does-the-church-need-on-sexuality/#comment-346059

            The role of discipline is to ensure that there is no connivance at the behaviour which constitutes ‘an ostensibly objectionable course of life, the observation of which requires neither intrusion upon anyone’s private life, nor acting upon isolated occurrences, nor mere suspicions, nor hearsay.’

            The mean-spiritedness is in your own phrasing: ‘will wish to ‘discipline’, only to suggest that the sole inference from this is the enforcement of celibacy.

            The Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld the lawfulness of disciplinary action taken by CofE bishops for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage.

            The exercise of generous forbearance and discipline are two aspects of the same pastoral duty; ‘wishing’ doesn’t come into it.

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

            Wonderful!

        • David Shepherd September 6, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

          Andrew,

          A comment of mine back in early February predicted the line you’re taking here.

          It was regarding Miranda Threlfall Holmes’ response to the BRGS Report:

          ‘To my mind, MTH is both remonstrating the bishops on their diminishing credibility and rallying the ‘troops’ to re-group into the kind of broad coalition which supported ‘women bishops’ legislation.

          It’s clear that a broad alliance is needed to lobby Synod to remove the key obstacle preventing the church from holding services which affirm same-sex sexual relationships.

          In the BRGS Report, we read that ‘the Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999). Sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings”.

          If that remains the Church of England’s teaching, then, as the Report explains, a service which *sanctioned or condoned* such a sexual relationship would not meet the requirement that a service must “edify the people” and would probably also be contrary to, or indicative of a departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in an essential matter.

          Ergo, if the proposed Teaching Document provides a theological basis for mellowing the Church’s stance on sexual relationships outside of marriage, then it would open the way for the Church to affirm publicly same-sex sexual relationships.

          So predictable.

        • David Shepherd September 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

          I can just about see past Candida Moss’ published denial of widespread Christian persecution before 3rd century AD, but the contradictions of this article are far too glaring to be ignored.

          So, despite the well-known revisionist argument that Romans 1:27 only condemns the pursuit of same-sex activity by heterosexuals and that LGBT identities did not exist in the first century, she asks rhetorically: ‘Was there, during this period, condemnation of LGBTQ identities and behaviors? Yes. Was this central to what it meant to be Christian? Absolutely not. The idea that you have to condemn LGBTQ identities to be a Christian is not older than LGBTQ advocacy.”

          Furthermore, in his effort to concur with her, Karl Shuve writes: ‘“The idea of sexual orientations—these do not exist in the Roman world, or the greek world,”

          So, let’s get this straight: on one hand, Moss believes that LGBTQ identities and behaviours existed, but were condemned. It’s somewhat beside the point (and patently disregards the consistently negative descriptions in St. Paul’s letters and other scripture) that condemning such identities/behaviours was not central to what it meant to be Christian.

          Yet, the existence of LGBTQ identities in the first and second century is routinely denied by most of those arguing for the Church to affirm same-sex marriage.

          On the other hand, Shuve insists that the concept of sexual orientation (which is the basis of the selfsame LGBTQ identities which reaped condemnation) was unknown to that era.

          Ergo, there were LGBTQ identities and behaviours which were condemned, although there was no conception that such identities arose from sexual orientation.

          So, the culmination of this circular reasoning by these representatives of progressive scholarship (conservative scholars were not asked for comment) is that had the ancient church accepted (as progressives do today) the concept of sexual orientation identity as a fixed essence, then, instead of condemning LGBTQ behaviour, they would have affirmed it.

          Now, that’s a self-serving special pleading, at best.

          However, even more concerning is where Brennan Breed leverages minor differences in the Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 introductions to the Ten Commandments to attempt to make a biblical case for insinuating moral relativism:‘“Even the Ten Commandments needed to be contextualized,” Breed said. “There are minor differences that seem to reflect contextual changes in the narrative of the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Hebrew Bible]…What we’re supposed to do with that is revisit these ancient texts, revisit the norms of these communities. This process will never be over.”

          Drawing such a reckless inference is completely unwarranted and simply begets unbridled licence by claiming that our modem context diverges so much from the norms of such societies as to nullify and silence what the spirit of the age resents about God’s Word in scripture.

    • William Fisher September 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

      “…enforced celibacy is neither human, nor dignified, nor fruitful.”

      Very well summed up, Andrew. I couldn’t have put it better.

  17. Perry Butler September 6, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    This is perhaps a bit off piste but I notice the Nashville Statement talks about our first parents Adam and Eve as historic figures and the Fall as if it were a datable event. Is this view held by many C of E evangelicals today?

    • Lorenzo September 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

      Unfortunately, Perry, the idea that sexual dimorphism is a God-ordained pattern and cause of a complementarity apart from which marriage is immoral is very widespread, not only in evangelical circles. No one cares to draw any theological conclusion from the scientifically demonstrable fact that it is a late evolutionary adaptation.

    • Mat Sheffield September 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      I am not sure that is entirely fair summary. Certainly the Nashville statement (specific; article 3) talks of Adam and Eve as historical figures, but I can’t see where it refers to ‘the Fall’ as date-able?

      Certainly several articles talk about ‘the Fall’ as a historical event, as in, ‘something that happened’, with a clear before-and-after impact, but I don’t think any of the statement makes the claim that that event can, or should, be tied to a specific day, or time-frame? The ripples we observe presuppose an epicenter. Perhaps I’m reading too much into what you meant, or I’ve misread part of the statement.

      That said, I don’t agree with Lorenzo on this point (although I agree with his other comments above). The Nashville statement is not providing a commentary on human anthropology, or a scientific case per se, but a commentary on the biblical narrative. Within that narrative the sequence is clear and consistent with what else human reason can tell us, and the Nashville statement seeks to affirm that.

      • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 8:10 am #

        Mat If Adam and Eve are regarded as historical figures isn’t it a bit arbitrary to then say the account of their ‘fall’, just a few verses later, with no perceptible change in literary style, was not also a historical moment?

        • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 8:32 am #

          I wasn’t objecting to the idea of the Fall being a historical event; that is indeed an implicit claim of the Nashville statement (clearly, not the main one), but rather I was objecting to the claim that the statement describes the fall as ‘date-able’, i.e, that we could tie it to a specific point in time.

          I don’t think anything in the statement itself, in the theology of Wayne Grudem or any other leading signatory, would necessitate that understanding of that fall.

          Semantics? Perhaps. But, I can’t help but feel they are helpful semantics. Some people (elsewhere) have been critical of many signatories for having a ‘too-literalistic’ reading of scripture in reference to the genesis accounts, and I think it is helpful to make clear what is, and what isn’t, being claimed here.

          So, just be clear, I am not defending the theological position itself, but the clarity of the statement. Would you say that’s fairer?

        • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 8:36 am #

          So, no, I do not think it is inconsistent. Both the persons of Adam and Eve, and the Fall, are regarded as historical by the statement. Beyond the implicit “these things happened”, the Nashville statement makes no comment on the How, When, Where questions.

          Sorry, I am posting twice because I realized I had not actually answered your question. 😉

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 9:16 am #

            Mat Thanks for helpfully clarify. I am still puzzled if the Fall is thought to be an event that it is not therefore for locating in a before and after, i.e. dateable, moment – in history, with a historical A&E. (It also interests me that nowhere else in the OT does such a specific ‘Fall’ moment seem to be taught. But that is a discussion for another time …..) Thanks again.

          • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 9:35 am #

            I think it’s fair to say it puzzles all of us.

            I am certainly no expert, but for me very little rests on the Fall’s ‘factual’ historicity (unlike, say, the Resurrection), but rather on the truth such a narrative seeks to convey; it is a ‘Myth’ in the technical sense; a story conveying an observed truth about human origins/existence, not an explanation or proof of why that truth is so.

            The accounts at the beginning of Genesis tell us that the creation is good, that mankind has purpose and order in it. Then, due to mankind’s deception (Eve) and rebellion (Adam), that order and purpose in the world is corrupted.

            The trajectory of scripture thereafter is towards to how that formerly good creation can be redeemed and restored, thus ‘the Fall’, while absent from explicit reference in the OT, is nonetheless an essential building block of it.

            This is a big aside from the article above, but a pleasure conversing with you David.
            Mat

          • Lorenzo September 10, 2017 at 6:46 am #

            So you do not believe that ‘death entered the world through sin’? I don’t; I’m happy to confess that death has been our constant companion since life consisted of single-cel organisms. It seems to me however that the evangelical soteriology displayed in the statement (and in the theology of the overwhelming majority of its signatories) requires a historical fall.

          • Ian Paul September 11, 2017 at 9:00 am #

            I always find it strange when critics of my position tell me what I *must* believe, and literalise my view, in order to refute it. Lorenzo, your view is perfectly defensible at one level, but it is difficult to argue that it is, by any stretch of the imagination, something that could be described as a Christian view.

          • David Shepherd September 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

            So, on that basis, contrary to scripture, death is neither evil, nor our enemy, but is a morally neutral part of God’s intent for all creation. (Of course, you could also suspend the notion of a personal God as part of the ANE context).

            In that case, Buddhism offers a closer explanation (myth) by which we can fearlessly relinquish ourselves to the inevitable.

            And, presumably, you would also have no cause to consider that the actions of any human being, including Jesus, as being capable of ridding us of death, as ‘our constant companion’.

            All of this just reduces the gospel to an itinerant Jewish rabbi who eloquently but groundlessly promised eternal life, but delivered little more than ‘hope springs eternal in the human heart’ and then died for it.

            The real efficacy of the gospel is reduced to palliating our worldly fears enough for us to forget the inevitable and, to be touched, as Lincoln put it ‘by the better angels of our nature’ (again, that’s just another a figure of speech)

            And, if that just makes us a bit more helpful and nicer to get along with, then the ends justify the means by which Jesus and His first followers either ignorantly or knowingly deployed an effective and well-meant motivational technique by purporting to have a mission to relay Almighty God’s promise of our entire redemption: body, soul and spirit.

            You might as well say that, for 2000 years, Christians (and perhaps even Jesus) have simply misunderstood the meaning the gospel. Even that such scepticism is the 21st century heir of the Christian faith.

            Only thing is: that would be false. And that’s not just according to evangelical soteriology.

          • Lorenzo September 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

            You’re reading an awful lot in my comment. But yes, I cannot even begin to understand how anyone can ‘believe’ that death entered the world because of sin the the face of incontrovertible scientific evidence to the contrary. And yes, early Christians did not know this.

          • David Shepherd September 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

            Hi Lorenzo,

            I’m just following through on the rationalist reasoning process.

            What is there about Jesus which can ever separate humanity from the unyielding clutches of death, the ‘companion’ of all existence, and which you can square with incontrovertible scientific evidence?

          • Mat Sheffield September 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

            Hi Lorenzo.

            “So you do not believe that ‘death entered the world through sin’?”

            I do believe this, yes. However that assurance does not present a clear picture of precisely what I mean by it…. I am not necessarily in as much disagreement with you as might be implied. I do not fully agree with David Shepard either. The choice of interpretation is not binary. It is however, a significant diversion off-topic, so I’ll leave it at that.

            RE the other point, I feel that I’m going to be arguing semantics again:

            “It seems to me however that the evangelical soteriology displayed in the statement (and in the theology of the overwhelming majority of its signatories) requires a historical fall.”

            As I outlined above in my response to David Runcorn, I am not arguing against the reading of the Fall as ‘historical’, or as a true ‘event’. I agree with your summary. My criticism was very narrow; that is, that by using language of ‘dates’, or attempting to put too fine a point on timelines, opponents of the statement (such as, presumably, Perry Butler, who made the initial comment) are implicitly saying something about the statement that it does not say.

            Dates/dating/historical facts are a question of “when”, but the Nashville statement is only concerned with the question of “why”. or perhaps “how”. Pressing questions on terminology seems an odd way of circumventing the actual argument the statement tries to make, and the role of it within.

            Mat

          • Philip Almond September 11, 2017 at 10:04 am #

            To look at this question of the Fall from another but related angle by asking two questions and some follow-up questions:
            1 – Are we all born with a nature inclined to sin?
            2 – Are people who are not Christians, now – at this moment, facing the wrath and condemnation of God?
            To answer No to either question 1 or question 2 faces the following challenge: alongside the wonderful good news that the Father has sent the Son and the Father and Son have sent the Spirit to save sinners, and that the riches of his kindness and forbearance should lead us to repentance, is the terrible truth, throughout the whole Bible, that God is angry with sinners.
            To answer Yes to question 1 leads to another question: Why are we so born?
            To answer Yes to question 2 leads to another question: When, in their individual lives, did people who are not Christians now start to face the wrath and condemnation of God?
            We are back to the question, to the disagreement, to which all threads on this website ultimately lead: what is God like?

            Phil Almond

          • David Shepherd September 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

            Hi Phil,

            All good points.

            In trying to answer that central question: ‘what is God like?’, we should reflect on Psalm 50:21.

            ‘When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you.’

            It reminds us of how easily Israel was self-deceived into mistaking God’s tacit forbearance for ‘imago dei’ self-affirmation.

  18. Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    Andrew

    All that article does is reiterate the point that early Christianity had a preference for celibacy over marriage. That’s not new, but it does overstate the case. The Bible and Christian tradition also affirm marriage strongly, the church making it a sacrament. Celibacy for the priesthood didn’t become mandatory until the 13th century and never did in the East.

    Nothing the article says does anything to undermine the concept of chastity as the foundation of Christian sexual ethics. Nor the prohibition on same-sex sex.

    As far as I understand it by enforced celibacy you mean the virtue of chastity as a universal expectation. There is nothing novel or recent about that, and attempting to argue it is is either misguided or dishonest. That you regard chastity as inhuman and undignified also says an awful lot about your sexual ethics and where the church is headed if it capitulates to your demands for so-called inclusivity.

    • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      Will: please read what is written rather than what you think is written. I regard enforced chastity as inhuman, undignified, and fruitless. If people choose chastity then of course it’s a great gift for them. But clearly very few people are called to it. The. C of E has, thankfully, recognised that lay people are not all called to it and it is clear that those who are not called to chastity outside of marriage should not be excluded from its sacraments and fellowship. That’s simply the view I’m supporting. Sadly, the Nashville statement is incompatible with that view.

      • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 8:41 am #

        You can continue to promote the straw man of ‘enforced celibacy’ which the scholars in you cited article don’t see reflected in the Nashville Statement.

        Next time, please read what the scholars actually wrote.

        • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 9:52 am #

          ‘Chastity outside of marriage’ (article 2) looks like enforced celibacy to me.
          At least the C of E has made it clear that we are not to ask intrusive questions about people’s intimate lives…..and made it clear that not everyone, and in good conscience, will accept the view that the Nashville statement makes in article 2.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

            Yes, the C of E delivers both confessional statements (such as those contained in Marriage: A Teaching Document) and pastoral statements (such as those responding to the enactment of laws relating civil partnerships and same-sex marriage).

            The ‘we affirm/we deny’ articles are confessional in character. So, whatever it looks like to you, they are not mean to explain how they should be upheld. Certainly, not any more than the Thirty-Nine articles, or the Westminster Confession.

        • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 10:46 am #

          David Shepherd ‘Straw man’? What choices are available then, in Nashville churches, for a Christian for whom heterosexual marriage is not an option but who wants to be fully committed, welcome and involved in the life and ministry of their church?

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 10:51 am #

            Chastity. Like everyone else who is unmarried.

            Like the current teaching and practice of the CofE with respect to clergy. And teaching with respect to laity.

            Though note that heterosexual marriage is always an option for everyone who has not taken a vow of celibacy.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 11:09 am #

            Will ‘note that heterosexual marriage is always an option for everyone who has not taken a vow of celibacy’. Long pastoral experience makes plain this is simply not true. I beg you to reflect on how insensitive that sounds Will in the context of this debate and beyond it. Which is why this discussion about celibacy/chastity is so pastorally sensitive. There is no straw here at all. One of the critiques above of the Nashville statement was that it offered nothing for those engaged in actual pastoral ministry and the real human dilemmas found there.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

            David R,

            The Nashville Statement was confessional (instead of pastoral) in character. The Christians United counter-statement showed little pastoral sensitivity towards the same-sex attracted who are committed to celibacy.

            And you could just as easily criticize the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Thirty-Nine Articles (despite the fact that they bear witness to the faith of the Church) for failure to engage pastorally with the 39% of the UK population who don’t believe in God and the real dilemmas that they have with belief.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

            David Shepherd ‘The Nashville Statement was confessional (instead of pastoral) in character’. Yes and that is exactly what a number of other conservatives (including above) have criticised about it.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

            In contrast, the Christians United statement (Article 2) does not exclude polygamy:
            ‘WE AFFIRM that God designed marriage to be a covenantal bond between human beings who have committed to love, serve, and live a life faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime.’

            ‘WE DENY that God intended human romantic relationships to be limited to one man and one woman and declare that any attempts to limit the sacred or civil rights of humans to covenant and commit to love and serve one another is an affront to God’s created design.’

            I wonder if you’d criticise that?

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

            David Shepherd You are straining. I think it’s meaning and intention is perfectly clear in this context. But I have already said I don’t favour confessional statements. I would have preferred they had not mimicked the binary style of Nashville which is precisely one of the ways this debate gets fatally narrowed.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

            David Runcorn,

            Not straining at all, especially given the license encouraged by those of your side, like Andrew Godsall, who express reservations about ‘chastity outside of marriage’.

            I wonder if you thought he was straining when he interpreted Article 2 of the Nashville Statement by stating: ‘‘Chastity outside of marriage’ looks like enforced celibacy to me because we can be sure the Southern Baptists and other conservative evangelicals will wish to ‘discipline’ those who don’t follow this teaching.’

            A perfect example of that ‘prior’ censor, which you spoke about, preventing faithful reading.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

            David Shepherd ‘we can be sure the Southern Baptists and other conservative evangelicals will wish to ‘discipline’ those who don’t follow this teaching’. You only have to read the stories of gay people in some of those churches to know this tends to be true.

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

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

            It’s just a shame, David, that your beliefs are at odds with the creator of humanity, whose design and law you have just called inhumane.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 8:09 pm #

            Will I will read this as you saying that you strongly disagree with me. Let’s leave it there shall we?

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 11:01 pm #

            ‘You only have to read the stories of gay people in some of those churches to know this tends to be true.’

            Presumably, those stories describe how some have read minds to distinguish a desire to discipline from the mere duty to dispense it.

      • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 10:06 am #

        Andrew everyone is called to chastity outside of marriage, and inside of it. It is the basic principle of Christian and biblical sexual ethics. The CofE has not changed this teaching. It has reiterated that the same standards are for all, clergy or laity. All it has done is made a pastoral accommodation that laity are not to be treated differently on account of failing to live up to it, whereas clergy are – a controversial position but that’s the compromise we have. As so often you elide the difference between pastoral accommodation and change of teaching and standards. In CofE teaching chastity is still the universal standard as it always has been.

        Perhaps you can explain how your concept of enforced celibacy differs from good old-fashioned chastity? Since you insist I am misrepresenting you when I infer it from what you write.

        • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 10:36 am #

          Andrew.

          First, the Nashville Statement doesn’t mention discipline and its teaching on chastity is the same as the CofE. You have inferred discipline.

          Second, it appears that the only reason you regard the CofE’s teaching as not inhuman and undignified is because it is intentionally lax in discipline (note that this is a pastoral provision not teaching). Which means you a) think its approach to clergy is inhuman and undignified b) think it would be inhuman and undignified to act on its teaching for laity.

          Is this correct?

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 11:20 am #

            I’m pleased to learn that the Churches who support the Nashville Statement won’t be undertaking any discipline in this area Will. Thanks for clarifying that and I’m sorry I wrongly inferred it. That’s a great step forward.

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

            Thanks Andrew.

            Referring to the moral requirement of chastity as inhuman and undignified does seem somewhat at odds with orthodox biblical teaching.

        • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 11:15 am #

          “failing to live up to it”

          Will: where do these words appear in any teaching document of the C of E please?

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 11:59 am #

            Issues asserts that the same standards of conduct apply to all and that was reiterated by the 2014 statement. I was inferring from the concept of a standard of conduct.

            Please can you answer the question rather than nitpicking my perhaps unfortunate paraphrasing?

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

            I see. I am glad that inferring is ok then.
            I was inferring that requiring chastity meant enforcing celibacy. I am glad to know that it doesn’t.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

            House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage:

            ’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).’

            Ordained ministry includes accepting the public duty of fashion one’s life in a manner which exemplifies the teachings of the Church. In respect of same-sex marriage, Clearly, lay people have not accepted this Church of England requirement imposed on the clergy through Canon C 26.

            The guidance is as explicit as the case law decisions, e.g. Jeremy Pemberton’s Employment Tribunal.

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

            Thanks Andrew.

            Referring to the moral requirement of chastity as inhuman and undignified does seem somewhat at odds with orthodox biblical teaching.

            (Initially posted this in wrong place above.)

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

            David: what were clergy before they were ordained? Not laity?

          • Andrew Godsall September 8, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

            We’ve been round that one before Will and got nowhere. Not everyone accepts that is it is ‘orthodox biblical teaching’. And no one seems to be making a very good job of convincing the 99% outside the churches that it is ‘good news’ either. What’s the point of the gospel unless is it good news and unless it commends itself?

            A new approach is needed. Let’s hope the new Teaching Document – the radically inclusive one that will have a proper understanding of sexuality in the 21st Century – will do a better job.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

            Andrew,

            I’m struggling to understand the relevance of that question to this discussion?

            There are other professions which hold their authorized practitioners to a higher standard than the general population. Doctors are prohibited from embarking on sexual relationships with NHS clients in their care.

            No-one questions that rule rhetorically by asking: ‘what were doctors before they became registered medical practitioners? NHS clients?’

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

            Andrew anyone who doesn’t recognise the historical fact that chastity has been the basic principle of Christian sexual ethics since New Testament days is simply wrong and either misinformed, ignorant or deluded.

            You can’t just decide what you want these things to be; there are facts to contend with.

          • Andrew Godsall September 9, 2017 at 7:23 am #

            Will: the facts, as I stated earlier, are that I accept that sex outside of marriage is made irregular by some interpretations of biblical teaching, but by no means all of them, as you will know. And there are no knock down texts that forbid it as such. And the texts that might be interpreted as making it irregular are hardly specific about what constitutes sex outside of marriage.

          • Andrew Godsall September 9, 2017 at 7:27 am #

            “I’m struggling to understand the relevance of that question to this discussion?”

            Well let’s use one simple illustration. Jeffrey John meets the criteria for being a bishop but that still isn’t considered enough by some conservative evangelicals unless he offers public repentance for his former life. Does that happen in the case of Doctors? Are doctors required to be celibate? Is that enforced in other professions?

          • Will Jones September 9, 2017 at 8:28 am #

            Andrew if the NT was fine with extra-marital sex why would Paul need to advise it is better to marry than to burn with passion? Why not just say, go ahead. And many other references could be used, such as the ban on using prostitutes.

            Also, it’s not just what the Bible says, it’s also the fact that it’s always been interpreted as supporting chastity. Even for liberals and revisionists this is an odd point to try to cast doubt on. But then they do seem to make an art out of trying to cast doubt on even the most obvious and universally accepted teaching of the Bible.

          • Andrew Godsall September 9, 2017 at 10:20 am #

            Will: we might just have to reckon with the fact that Paul was fallible I suppose, like every other human being. I’m sure he gave good advice in his circumstances, but they are not identical to ours and we need to read his correspondence with that in mind.

          • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 10:38 am #

            Andrew,

            I responded to your rhetorical question about clergy being held to a higher standard of behaviour than laity with the analogy of those belonging to the medical profession.

            Your Jeffrey John counter-example may well highlight an inconsistent application of clergy discipline, but is irrelevant to the matter under discussion. For what does denying him preferment have to do with your comparison of clergy disciplinary standards with the pastoral accommodation of the laity?

            Concerning professions, the common principle is that authorised practitioners are in a position of public trust and are therefore held to a higher standard of practice than lay people.

            As you’re fully aware, medicine and other professions are secular, so doctors are not required to solemnly vow to fashion their lives according to the teachings of the Church.

            Hence, there is no chastity requirement for doctors or other secular professions.

          • Will Jones September 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

            That’s not the really the point, Andrew. The point is that this confirms what everyone always thought: that sexual immorality (porneia), which appears at or near the top of every list of vices and sins in the NT, is unchaste behaviour i.e. pre or extra-marital sex. So it’s not just Paul’s advice. It’s the unanimous witness of scripture.

  19. David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 8:06 am #

    I find one of them to encouraging things about the responses Ian has gathered to the Nashville Statement is that evangelicals who in other respects share their conservatism are saying ‘this is not good enough’, and offering a strong, thoughtful critique of its content and approach. This offers me hope for the quality of the debate as it continues. Thanks Ian.

    • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 9:54 am #

      I’d agree with you here, David.

      However, I wish that those who affirm same-sex relating could similarly explore the Christians United counter-statement, instead of the numerous blogs which chorus their approval of it with unequivocal solidarity.

      Would it not also enhance the quality of debate, if those who affirm could review the Christians United counter-statement and offer, as you say, ‘a strong, thoughtful critique of its content and approach’?

      • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 11:00 am #

        David Shepherd There was argument for not responding at all – because by doing so it treats those who put Nashville together as leaders of the mainstream conservative approach – which, judging by the critiques above and elsewhere, they are plainly not.
        As to your suggestion that ‘affirmers’ should be internally critiquing their numerous responses …
        Well of course, where it is needed I would certainly argue for it. In fact I do not experience the ‘affirming’ world as anything like as prescriptive and defensive as the conservative world as illustrated by Nashville. Rather I find the debates are honest and robust and there is a willingness to challenge. Of course not where issues are painful to manage it is not always easy to engage openly and in an undefended way. But in general I experience a culture of open debate and willingness to differ as already present in the ‘affirming’ world in a way that I do not find in this expression of the conservative belief. I hope that clarifies.

        • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 11:57 am #

          ‘in general I experience a culture of open debate and willingness to differ as already present in the ‘affirming’ world ‘

          Really? Yet, you and Andre Godsall can post remarks here, while Christopher Shell and I, without good reason, are prevented from posting comments to the Thinking Anglicans blog

          That and the constant resort to rescue a failing argument with claims of homophobia speaks volumes about the comparatively miniscule extent of ‘open debate and willingness to differ’ that the ‘affirming’ world will actually tolerate.

          I hope that clarifies too.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

            David Shepherd Sorry – posted in the wrong place.
            Not really. You challenged me about the affirming position critiquing each others views. I replied. I obviously have no way of knowing what led to you, or others, being barred from posting on TA. Nor have I any comment to make on your final paragraph.

        • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

          Weather or not you see a particular ‘side’ as prescriptive, surely depends a good deal on what exactly they are prescribing? No?

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

            Hi Mat I used the word prescriptive (I nearly added ‘proscribing’) to refer to tone rather than content. It is possible to have a right sense of what a pastoral situation may need but be quite inappropriate in conveying it to those most effected by it.

          • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

            My point was not to pick about your grammar, but to suggest that actually your perception of the debate may indeed be shared, mirrored even, by the other side. I happen to find the debate equally difficult when viewed from both camps (in as much as one can sit on the fence). While I might personally hold to the conservative position, I do not think ‘we’ are conducting the debate with any more, or critically, any LESS, integrity than ‘you’ are.

            I genuinely don’t mean to to sound dismissive, or patronizing, but while the tone of the debate can inform a good deal of our behavior and attitude, it is neither binding nor authoritative when it comes to the matter of actually changing established teaching. I think there are lines that can be crossed in terms of the debater’s integrity (dishonesty, or blatant emotional manipulation), that can discredit them personally, but this has….

            A: been extremely rare in my experience. And;
            B: often been corrected/apologised for when confronted by honest critism.

            I don’t know what exactly caused Dr Shepard and Dr Shell to be blocked from TA, but I don’t think they’ve ever crossed that line here, even if they have been close. It is right that a space exists where we can make each other uncomfortable, so long as we do not create pain.

            Mat

          • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

            Hi Mat,

            There’s just one clarification to this post: I don’t hold a doctorate, Instead, I’m constantly reassured by 1 Cor. 15:10.

          • Mat Sheffield September 9, 2017 at 9:20 pm #

            Take it as the compliment it remains then. The use of ‘Dr’ may well have been mistaken, but the respect I meant to convey wasn’t. 😉

          • David Shepherd September 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

            Thanks. That’s very kind of you.

  20. David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    David Shepherd Not really. You challenged me about the affirming position critiquing each others views. I replied. I obviously have no way of knowing what led to you, or others, being barred from posting on TA. Nor have I any comment to make on your final paragraph.

    • Christopher Shell September 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Hi David,

      You now have that way of knowing. There was 2 reasons I was banned:

      (1) The assertion that most of what I write about homosexuality is complete nonsense.

      (2) The assertion that most of my references to statistics are complete nonsense too.

      It was as bald as that. The email is still in my possession.

      In response (for obviously these are very sweeping statements), I asked more than once for chapter and verse. I also said that the best way of countering flawed statistics and flawed references to studies was twofold:
      (1) publicise (for scrutiny) the reasons why you consider them flawed, and then
      (2) say which alternative statistics and studies you are relying on, and why these are thought to outweigh the ones already cited. (I tried to cite the latest, most typical, most large-scale: meta-analyses where possible.)
      After all, the participants who try to rely on peer reviewed material are generally thought to be the ones who are most concerned to reach the truth and to eschew anecdotal evidence and bald assertion.

      There was no response to that. Yes, it is scandalous. Even worse, I have found it to be typical. The challenges were not met, could not be met, yet after nearly a decade I still remain banned. How is that ‘Thinking’?

      • Christopher Shell September 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

        typo – ‘There were…’ for ‘There was…’.

  21. Clive September 8, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

    The Australian Church Synod has voted to reprimand the Scottish Episcopal Church for changing its definition of marriage.
    Some have argued that conservatives are a tiny minority and don’t represent the Church. if the argument then becomes that the Australian Synod doesn’t represent the Australian Church then what is really being said is that the English Synod doesn’t represent the CofE.

    The reality is that Australian Church like most Christians want LGBT respected but they do not want LGBT community distorting facts and changing the words of either the Lord Jesus Christ or the Apostles.

    • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

      Clive You are perhaps not aware that each Australian Diocese is represented on Synod by its bishop and a proportionate number of clergy and laity. (I am drawing figures this from another website). Most diocese have 1 of each. Tasmania has 3, Newcastle 4, Adelaide 6, Canberra/Goulburn, 7 Perth 9, Brisbane 11, Melbourne 18. But Sydney has 35 clergy and 35 laity! The reason for this striking inbalance apparently relates to their distinctive approach to ordained/authorised ministry – from which their quota for Synod is calculated.
      You might want to revisit your interpretation of the voting outcome in the light of these figures?

      • Clive September 8, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

        No David R

        You are creating an unsustainable argument because you are claiming they are somehow not representative….. but the reality is that they ARE human beings and they DO represent the Church in Australia not matter how few diocese you claim.

        So some writers on here consistently claim that conservatives are the off-the-scale minority and yet no matter how representative or unrepresentative Synod members are they reveal that the claim of pro-redefinition of marriage contrary to God’s word is revealed to be a completely empty, hollow, and unverifiable claim completely contradicted by the actual facts.

        • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

          Clive ‘some writer’s here’? Where is ‘here’? An example?
          I have never said conservative are an off-the-minority. I was pointing out that Sydney actually outnumber the rest on the Australian synod. So they are not a tiny minority there either.
          As to the rest I note we disagree on this. Fine.

          • David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

            An example: Andrew Godsall:

            ‘The predominant view of the conservative evangelicals, who are a tiny proportion of the C of E membership, is not persuading the predominant number of C of E members’

            ‘The tiny number of of C of E members who have signed this Nashville thing are naturally running very scared of that prospect.’

          • Andrew Godsall September 9, 2017 at 7:35 am #

            They are a tiny minority. Some dioceses don’t have any churches that have made requests for alternative episcopal oversight by either the Society or by Bishop Rod Thomas. And in those dioceses that have, it’s a handful.

          • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 8:20 am #

            You’re assuming that a conservative position on women bishops is indicative of parishes which oppose revisionism.

            It isn’t. And support for the orthodox position is demonstrated by the HoB’s reluctance to change the doctrine of marriage.

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 9:43 am #

            Two out of 150 is a tiny minority isn’t it?

          • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 10:44 am #

            The HoB consensus is that there should be no change to ecclesiastical law or the doctrine of marriage.

            How is that two out of 150?

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

            Two out of fifty is nothing to do with the House of Bishops (who have not, by the way, revealed anything of the actual consensus/ range of their views so far). It refers to your re-quoting of Andrew of the ‘tiny minority’ of serving CofE clergy who signed the Nashville Statement.

        • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

          ‘House of Bishops (who have not, by the way, revealed anything of the actual consensus/ range of their views so far)’

          In the BRGS Report have, at least, revealed:
          16. The College of Bishops spent considerable time at its residential meeting in September 2016 in a facilitated process, designed to discover the range of views among the bishops, and the “centre of gravity” concerning principles and ideas for what should follow.

          17. As expected, the bishops’ views covered a very wide spectrum. No position or approach commanded complete unanimity. Nevertheless, some broad points on which there was a substantial degree of consensus did emerge.

          18. Two aspects of the emerging consensus are particularly important. First, there was little support for changing the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, as expressed in Canon B.30 Second, there was a strong sense that existing resources, guidance and tone needed to be revisited.

          So, there is an episcopal consensus on the canonical doctrine of marriage.

  22. Jane Newsham September 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm #

    If I may post this here, an evangelical response to the the Nashville Statement by a conservative evangelical:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/newwineskins/fatal-flaws-in-the-nashville-statement-on-sexuality/

    • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

      Hi Jane

      That article basically says ‘I agree with the Statement but it won’t be very good for evangelism’. That’s a viewpoint worth discussing but I’m sure the authors considered that point and decided a clear reiteration of biblical truth was needed at this point in the culture wars. I think they were right and many others agree, but I know others will always feel stating unfashionable moral truth is detrimental to mission.

      • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

        Will It says far more than that. He says it would undermine his pastoral ministry to those most needing it – for who would come near a church with that pinned on its notice board? When he says he could not fulfil the Great Commission through this statement he is talking about making disciples not simply evangelising.

        • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

          ‘Who would come near a church with that pinned on its notice board?’

          Well, it is the more conservative churches which tend to be thriving.

          Not everything can be subordinated to pastoral concerns, though they should always be taken into account, as I believe the Statement does.

          • David Runcorn September 8, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

            Nor can everything be subordinated to size. It was the thriving church in Revelation that was most fiercely condemned.

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

            I didn’t say it can. I was responding to the charge that statements of orthodox sexual ethics are generally off-putting.

          • Nick September 8, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

            “Well, it is the more conservative churches which tend to be thriving.”

            That is often repeated. Is there any evidence to support it? What do you class as ‘conservative churches’?

            It has been recently reported that white evangelical churches in the US are in decline and that the Southern Baptists have reduced by 7% in the last year.

            I would be interested to see some data for the UK.

          • Mat Sheffield September 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm #

            How does the statement take into account pastoral concerns Will? I’m pretty confident that David Shepard is correct;

            “The ‘we affirm/we deny’ articles are confessional in character. So, whatever it looks like to you [Andrew Godsall], they are not mean to explain how they should be upheld. Certainly, not any more than the Thirty-Nine articles, or the Westminster Confession.”

            I think that this is right on-the-money. Whatever the Nashville statement wants to be, it is not a remotely ‘pastoral’ document, though it wants pastoral concerns to be interpreted in light of it.

            Otherwise I would agree with you, the article Jane links to above simply states the obvious as far as I’m concerned. That it might be true, but that doesn’t mean people are going to like it.

          • Nick September 8, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

            The quote that explained what he was saying to me was at the end:

            “I landed in Luke 15 and the famous Parable of the Lost Son (commonly known as the Prodigal Son). In that story the younger son rebels against his father and acts in a way that is disobedient to the father. That is undeniable. But what Jesus contrasts is the reaction of the father to the reaction of the older brother. The older brother refuses to acknowledge the younger son when he comes home. He makes blanket and definitive statements about the wrongdoing of his brother and won’t come into the party. It’s the father, the actual aggrieved party, that patiently looks for the lost son and rejoices when he comes home. He doesn’t deny the rebellion of his younger son, but he allows love and a relationship to trump judgment and condemnation.

            The Nashville Statement seems more like the statement of condemnation by the older brother than the loving embrace of the father. And aren’t we supposed to be more like the father in this story? Come to think of it, wasn’t the older brother representative of the religious leaders of the day who couldn’t wrap their heads around why Jesus kept fraternizing with tax collectors and sinners? Do we really want to endorse something that’s more representative of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day than Jesus himself?”

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

            Hi Mat. I was referring to the unequivocal statements about God’s love and grace and all people being made in the image of God. Faithful and effective pastoral ministry must begin with an understanding of what is true, right and good, upon which the pastoral response to falling short responds. Too much of what passes as pastoral response at the moment seems to be Trojans designed to undermine teaching and standards. Good pastoral ministry avoids that pitfall.

          • Will Jones September 8, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

            Nick: here’s a link to an article on the evidence for thriving churches being orthodox/conservative. It has links to sources which you can follow up
            http://www.christianpost.com/news/actually-its-the-religious-left-thats-dying-198181/

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 6:54 am #

            In the light of this discussion about growth/size being a sign of faithfulness (which often surfaces in this context) I wonder what folk make of these comments by Eugene Petersen?

            ‘Our methods of going about our business are, by and large, counter to the gospel. Everyone thinks if the Church is doing it right they’re going to have a lot of people. But the Church, when it has been alive, has never been popular. Never.’

            In the interview he lamented the consumer assumptions that drove too much church life (in the US) and said that on principle he now only joins small churches.

          • Will Jones September 9, 2017 at 8:07 am #

            David R

            No one here has claimed that popularity is a sign of faithfulness. Popularity was only brought up as a response to the charge that statements of orthodox sexual ethics are generally off-putting to people. The point is that it isn’t true that churches which teach the bible in a traditional manner are generally struggling for members. This is why the mission argument for revisionism fails the crucial empirical test.

          • Simon Ponsonby September 9, 2017 at 8:47 am #

            David R – it is true that large church size is not necessarily an indicator of health but it is an indicator they are doing something effective. I have attended large churches that I thought were unhealthy and small ones which were glorious. However, I do think growth and size is one important indicator of life, effectiveness and fruitfulness because living things grow. Jesus’ parables of the kingdom repeatedly speak of growing – mustard seeds to giant bushes, parable of the sower’s 30,60,100fold return on a seed; parable of yeast etc Growth is part of the DNA of the kingdom. 120 in the upper room to a converted Empire in 3 centuries. The whole thrust of Acts is of a church advancing and growing and influencing not of it shrinking. Living churches grow

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 9:32 am #

            Will That sounds to me is if you are actually equating faithfulness with growth. Sorry if I being thick.

            Simon – thank you. And yes I agree with you. But neither side of this debate resists for long wanting to look at ‘results’ as a sign or not of God’s blessing.

            I am old enough to remember youth club in an evangelical church while this wing of the CofE of still a pretty marginalised. the saying then was ‘One with God is a majority’.

            I prefer not to argue from numbers at all. Not least because the size of any one group in the church is not always a predictor of its influence or the loudness of its voice – for better or worse.

            But I wonder what you and others make of Lesslie Newbigin’s comment – one of the greatest, tireless and passionate missionary theologians of our times. He observed how little interest the New Testament shows in numerical growth. For example, although John’s gospel and epistles reveal great concern for the world, ‘there is no evidence anywhere that the salvation of the world depends on the growth of the church.’

          • David Runcorn September 9, 2017 at 9:56 am #

            Simon Pressed ‘send’ too soon. Just one further thought on using examples like the ‘mustard seed’ and sower parable in this context … Can we really assume that these parables actually refer to church size? Aren’t we in danger of narrowing what ‘growth’ means if we do? These are, after all, parables of the kingdom not the church.
            Thanks for a stimulating exchange.

          • Will Jones September 9, 2017 at 10:16 am #

            I’ll try to make this clear one more time. You said conservative sexual ethics are unattractive to people. I pointed out that churches which teach them are popular, countering your point. That was it. Nothing about God blessing faithfulness. Hope that’s clear now.

          • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 11:29 am #

            David Runcorn,

            On the one hand, you’ve claimed that the conservative evangelicals constitute a tiny and uninfluential minority.

            On the other hand, you insist (and we agree) that we should not equate faithfulness with size, even underscoring that with the saying:’one with God is a majority’.

            You really can’t have it both ways. If size is no arbiter of faithfulness, then it’s irrelevant whether or not conservative evangelicals or revisionists form a ‘tiny minority’.

          • Simon September 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

            Dear David R – thank you – yes I too grew up in a context of the ‘faithful remnant’ which believed the end time church would be small but beautiful and I am very familiar with the “me plus God is a majority” quote. I’ve preached it 🙂 The question of numbers is often brought up and used as threat against traditional evangelicals, who are told that unless we bring our ethics in line with society we will lose numbers/influence etc. Even if that were true, you know we would not change our theology just to accommodate to society’s preferential options. However, I don’t think it is true anyway and the largest churches in Britain are evangelical/conservative or charismatic and orthodox traditional on the sexual ethics.Those effectively multiplying and planting are generally from these traditions. Newbigin is a legend, but on this point I disagree with him – I believe the NT is very interested in numbers. Whilst the gospels do not necessarily look at numbers positively (the crowds are often fickle and its the named individuals who are examples of faith), by the time we read Acts numbers are indicative of God’s Spirit at work and the Church advancing, with Luke highlighting: ‘3000 added to their number; the Lord adding to their number daily; the number of men grew to 5000; the number of disciples grew rapidly, a large number of priests became obedient to the faith etc etc Growing Numbers are a sign of the Church filled with the Spirit, faithful and fruitful. Finally, whilst the kingdom and the Church are not exact, I do think the growth of the church is indicative of the extension of the kingdom and part of what Jesus was referring to in the parables on growth.

          • Will Jones September 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

            Very well said, Simon.

          • Simon Ponsonby September 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

            Eugene Peterson “Everyone thinks if the Church is doing it right they’re going to have a lot of people. But the Church, when it has been alive, has never been popular. Never”

            Actually, not quite true! Whilst there has always been a backlash against the Spirit filled church by powers and authorities who are anti-christ, the church has been popular because of the good she does. Reflecting on Rodney Stark’s thesis, political and philosophical theologian Dr Stephen Backhouse, wrote: “In 165 a plague swept through the mighty Roman Empire, wiping out one in three of the population. It happened again in 251 where 5000 people per day were dying in the city of Rome alone. Those infected were abandoned by their families to die in the streets. The government was helpless and the Emperor himself succumbed to the plague. Pagan priests fled their temples where people flocked for comfort and explanation. People were too weak to help themselves. If the smallpox did not kill you, hunger, thirst and loneliness would. The effect on wider society was catastrophic. Yet following the plagues the good reputation of Christianity was confirmed, and its population grew exponentially. Why is this? Christians did not come armed with intellectual answers to the problem of evil. They did not enjoy a supernatural ability to avoid pain and suffering. What they did have was water and food and their presence. In short, if you knew a Christian you were statistically more likely to survive, and if you survived it was the church that offered you the most loving, stable and social environment. It was not clever apologetics, strategic political organisation or the witness of martyrdom which converted an Empire so much as it was the simple conviction of normal women and men that what they did for the least of their neighbours they did it for Christ.”

          • Christopher Shell September 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

            David, we would not be narrowing what ‘growth’ means. We consider growth is in both quality and quantity. Your position is that it is quality alone. It can therefore easily be seen that it is the latter that is the narrower of the two positions.

  23. David Shepherd September 8, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

    ‘why Jesus kept fraternizing with tax collectors and sinners’

    Well, we know why: it was to call us to repentance, which is the prodigal son’s return, declaring: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against thee’

    You can’t fast-forward to the home-coming when the prodigal is still squandering his wealth in pursuit of ungovernable passions.

    • Andrew Godsall September 9, 2017 at 7:31 am #

      So who can be saved then David?

      • Simon Ponsonby September 9, 2017 at 8:50 am #

        Whoever comes to their senses, comes to the Father, and comes clean about their sin

      • David Shepherd September 9, 2017 at 9:20 am #

        ‘Who then can be saved?’

        After years of treacherously indulging his worldly passions by farming taxes for Rome and at the expense of his own ethnic and religious heritage, the Jewish publican exclaiming at the invitation to divine forgiveness: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’

        In that parable, Jesus contrasted his remorseful penitence with the ritualised religiosity, declaring that he had been granted peace with God.

        Again, Zacchaeus demonstrated his turning to God and away from his darling sin of greed by declaring: ‘Half of my goods I give to the poor, and I will restore fourfold whatever I have stolen.’

        Jesus declared that response to bear the hallmarks of a returned prodigal, as he declared: ‘This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.’

        Zacchaeus demonstrated the faith of Abraham by abandoning his former life to God’s eternal promise: ‘I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward.’

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