Gender identity and the Christian vision of humanity


Last week, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales issued a pastoral document on the question of gender identity in the light of biblical and theological understandings of what it means to be created male and female in the image of God. It is a fascinating, clear, refreshing and helpful statement, and like all Catholic statements is relatively concise (at 11 pages) but achieves a lot in that space. There have been some interesting reactions to it, and it tells us a lot about what it takes for a denomination to speak well into this complex and challenging issue.

The document is called Intricately Woven, a title which draws on Ps 139.13–15, which the document starts and ends with:

For you formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

This is powerful language to draw on, since it combines the pastoral and theological issues which meet in this discussion—the truth that we are creatures, created by God in the image of God, so there is a givenness to who we are (note the passive tense of ‘woven’), and the reality of the experience that human life is complex and at times puzzling. Both these realities are attended to through the document.

It is striking that, in contrast to other statements (including those from the Church of England) in this area, the bishops are clear and unapologetic about their challenge to a major aspect of contemporary culture—an absence in other places that the Cass report lamented.

The document, titled Intricately woven by the Lord: A pastoral reflection on gender by the bishops of England and Wales, emphasises that all are welcome in the Church, but says that the sexual identity of an individual is not a purely “cultural or social construction.”

The document refutes the idea, proposed by Gender Identity Theory, that everyone has an ‘inner’ gender identity, which sometimes fails to match the biological sex of the individual. It upholds the value of the body and importance of sexual differentiation.

The bishops assert that we are all created in the image of God, with a dignity given to us by our creator and stresses that leading people to the fullness of life in Christ is a journey rooted in truth as well as compassion.


In relation to the content of the document, there are several important things to notice.

First, there is a direct commitment to the place of truth as central to good pastoral care of those facing challenging complexities of life. Truth is not set up over against a loving response, but as integral to it.

In this journey we are guided by these convictions: that in every human person, regardless of how they understand their identity, the image of God shines forth; that every person is willed, necessary and loved; that all are welcome in the Church. Indeed, the love of Christ urges us to open wide the doors of the Church to all people, especially to those on the margins and to those who suffer…

[We] see the importance of holding together the pastoral care of those experiencing gender dysphoria or identifying as transgender and the need to proclaim the truth of the human person (pp 3–4).

Within this commitment, there is an implicit recognition of the power dynamics at work, though this is not referred to explicitly. In a ‘postmodern’ context, where the idea of truth is contested, then debates very quickly reduce to power and influence, particularly the power of language.

In our time, many conflicting, divergent and often contradictory views of the human person have found wide acceptance and can easily dominate discourse. They have led to holders of traditional theories being cancelled or even losing their jobs. A new language has evolved to describe these diverse ideas, with words and phrases appearing in public discourse such as: ‘trans’, ‘transgender’, ‘gender identity theory’, ‘being born in the wrong body’, ‘gender fluidity ’or ‘gender being different from sex assigned at birth’.

For anyone in the Church of England, this is a remarkable statement to read. I cannot think of any public statement by any Church of England bishop either challenging the use of this language or even speaking up for those who have suffered discrimination for doing so in their workplaces. Here, every Catholic in England and Wales is offered spiritual and ecclesial leadership to support their own challenges to this misuse of power.

What is also striking is the way that this commitment to truth-as-part-of-care is something highlighted by both the Cass report and many commentators who have welcomed it. And it is a key focus of Andrew Bunt’s Grove booklet, written out of his own experience, of engaging with issues in the ‘transgender’ debate.

As part of this holistic approach, there is a careful and vital distinction drawn between responding to people and countering false ideology.

Following the example of Pope Francis in this sensitive area, we too distinguish between pastoral care of the person experiencing these struggles and ‘[trans]gender ideology’. We recognise echoes of our position in many people, across different spheres of society, such that there is a synergy between the Church and many other voices who through science, reason, philosophy and other approaches, highly value biological sex and affirm the importance of the human body as created (p 4).

This is also an interesting exercise in bridge-building with those who share concerns from a scientific point of view, who might not necessarily share the theological position of the Church.


The second striking feature of the statement is its clear rooting in biblical theology. There is a careful and concise exposition of the opening chapters of Genesis, noting the goodness of creation, humanity made in the image of God, the importance of the sex binary of male and female, but also the impact of the Fall or ‘original sin’ in affecting the world and our understanding of it. This is immediately followed by a statement of hope in the redemption offered by Jesus.

The realisation of this vision of the human person is marred and impeded by the reality of the Fall and original sin. This leaves our human nature wounded. Rather than living in the harmony intended by God the Creator, we can and do experience disharmony within ourselves, in our relationships with others and with creation. This can include varying degrees of alienation, or disharmony, with our body, soul and mind. As a result of this woundedness, we are often confused and confounded by conflicting desires.

The Good News is that Christ came to restore the original harmony intended for us. In the depths of struggle and suffering, there is the light of hope, given by redemption in Jesus Christ. In Christ, God is reconciling us to himself, and it is Jesus, ‘the image of God, who enlightens fully and brings to completion the image and likeness of God’ in the human person.

Those who experience discomfort around issues relating to sex and gender, are reassured that such confusion, although deeply painful, is an expression of our shared humanity (p 6).

This then leads to a concise exposition of biblical anthropology, which I think is one of the central affirmation of Scripture about who we are, and counters both ancient and modern ideas that we are ‘souls’ trapped in ‘bodies’ just waiting for release. It undergirds the Christian credal hope of the ‘resurrection of the body’ and our eschatological hope of the renewal of a reunited heaven and earth.

We believe that the human person ‘though made of body and soul, is a unity,’ wherein spirit and matter ‘are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.’ There might be a distinction between soul and body, but both together determine what it means to be human. The body has meaning and importance both in this present moment and into eternity…

This is why Pope Francis stresses that ‘the acceptance of our body as a gift from God is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father…learning to accept your body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning’ (p 7).

But you cannot talk about the goodness of the human body without then immediately discussing the importance of the binary of bodily forms we are given as male and female.

With regard to the matter of biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (or some might say gender), we are keen to emphasise that while these can be distinguished, they cannot be separated. We recognise that how we live out our roles as male or female ‘is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons as well as other formative situations.’ We also recognise that roles attributed to the sexes may vary according to time and space. Therefore, ‘rigid cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are… unfortunate and undesirable because they can create unreasonable pressure on children to present or behave in particular ways.’ However, it is clear that the sexual identity of the person as man or woman is not purely a cultural or social construction and that it belongs to the specific manner in which the image of God exists (p 8).

I cannot think of a better short summary anywhere in Christian literature of the givenness of sex binary and its relation to the various expressions of sex difference in different cultural and social contexts. Sex difference is a given; but how that difference expresses itself in different cultures will vary.


Finally, the statement then sets out what all this means in a practical and pastoral response to those who are experiencing distress or confusion about their ‘gender identity’.

We recognise that such pastoral accompaniment is complex, encompassing legal, medical, psychological, theological, spiritual and pedagogical elements. It takes place within the context of ever-changing and polarising developments in the political, cultural and commercial spheres…

Thus it is that we speak to those adult members in our Catholic communities who have chosen to transition socially and medically: ‘You are still our brothers and sisters. We cannot be indifferent to your struggle and the path you may have chosen. The doors of the Church are open to you, and you should find, from all members of the Church, a welcome that is compassionate, sensitive and respectful’ (p 8).

I found it striking that the complexities of the debate and the pastoral need were located within the journey of discipleship in the grace of God, in contrast to many of the Anglican debates, where the order is reversed and discipleship is located in the secular and alien assumptions of ‘transgender’ ideology.

In the journey of discipleship, which constantly unfolds, primacy always lies with the grace of Christ. It is, then, the face of Christ which sets in motion each person’s salvation history wherever that face may be glimpsed. Certainly, our task of pastoral accompaniment is expressed ‘in an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy’ (p 9).

And because of this, if we are to care properly for those we are accompanying in this journey of discipleship, there are clear boundaries around what we can and cannot do and say.

Yet care should be taken to resist the temptation to adopt the language of gender ideology in our institutions. In the heat and confusion surrounding the ‘gender issue’, the Church is called to proclaim an authentic understanding of the human person with clarity, simplicity, love and respect.

With regard to children and young people, across society and within the Church, there are some who experience gender incongruence/dysphoria. From a pastoral perspective, accompaniment must have at its heart an acceptance and celebration of the body as created, respect for parents as primary educators, and should uphold best practice in terms of safeguarding principles. Medical intervention for children should not be supported. It should also be recognised that social ‘transition’ (living in the opposite gender role) can have a formative impact on a child’s development and can set a child on a path towards later medical interventions. Care should be taken to avoid this especially with young children.

Here, at a stroke, is a challenge to those who demand both language and actions as the requirement of ‘care’ in response to confusion about gender identity. It comes with a refreshing clarity and simplicity. Would that the Church of England had been able to make such statements!

The wisdom of the bishops’ statement is illustrated in the perhaps surprising welcome that is has been given by the LGB Christians group:

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales firmly oppose this and have shown the way forward in a compassionate, delicate yet doctrinally clear pastoral reflexion called ‘Intricately Woven by the Lord.’…

It should neither be difficult nor contentious to overcome fears of being tarred with bigotry to protect children and youths who are otherwise deeply vulnerable and in pain, especially when the churches’ own teaching may very well contribute to such pain and cause LGB kids to dislike their sexual orientation so intensely that they begin to believe that they have a gender identity at odds with their own bodies. It is therefore refreshing to read that the Catholic bishops ‘also recognise that roles attributed to the sexes may vary according to time and space. Therefore, rigid cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are… unfortunate and undesirable because they can create unreasonable pressure on children to present or behave in particular ways.’…

The Church of England and all other ecumenical ‘inclusive’ organisations have yet to utter a word. Or dare they not because they have been so egregiously wrong? Or do they simply not care?


Why is the Catholic Church able to make such helpful statements? It is clear that the bishops take their teaching role here very seriously, and it is also clear that they are happy to say things without worrying about how they will be received. They have never suffered from the excruciating embarrassment of Justin Welby when, asked whether gay sex is a sin, he replied ‘I cannot give you a straight answer’. Whether it is because of the anxiety about the establishment of the Church, or a simply lack of confidence in Christian theology and their own doctrine, Anglican leaders appear to lack the confidence and clarity that is evident here.

Of course, a key part of this is the belief in the magisterium (the teaching authority) of the Church. But it is fascinating to note the way this has been expressed. This statement does not come from nowhere! It is peppered with footnotes and links to the Catholic Catechism as well as to previous statements, including statement for several years on this issue and in the most challenging of contexts which is young people and schools. If this statement is courageous, it is not born of a courage that has been recently discovered.

I am well aware that the Catholic Church not free from its own disputes and differences, shown up most recently in the reactions to the statement by Pope Francis on praying for those in same-sex relationships. Having a more monolithic teaching discipline in a denomination has both benefits and problems: if the person at the top goes astray, then the whole institution is in trouble. For that reason, I am grateful that the Church of England does not have a pope.

So why has the Church of England been incapable, for many years, of making this kind of clear, needed, and helpful statement? It cannot be a result of lack of resources; we have many more clergy and bishops than the Catholic Church, and many, many more staff and theological advisers. Nor do we have a lack of clear doctrine (see Canon A5), nor a lack of past resources and statements. What we lack is any depth of theological wisdom in our bench of bishops, and a lack of coherence: many of our bishops don’t know or understand or believe the doctrine of their own church. If you don’t believe me, watch the late Alan Wilson deriding and mocking the biblical material on marriage and the doctrine of his own church in front of a secular audience. Or read the incoherent, bordering on theologically illiterate, statements by two of our most senior diocesan bishops, Steven Croft and John Inge.

Dear reader, do not misunderstand me. I am not about to swim back across the Tiber that I crossed many years ago when I left the Catholic Church to join the Church of England. But I lament the fact that I am part of a denomination which has huge resources at its disposal, has a rich theological legacy, has a ‘constitution’ (in the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles) which gives it a clear foundation in the Reformation tradition of returning to scripture for its own theological renewal and its pastoral resourcing—but is now completely incapable of offering the kind of impressive—biblical, pastoral, countercultural—statement that the Catholic bishops have issue here.

You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. πολὺ πλανᾶσθε! How far have you gone astray! (Mark 12.24, 27).


DON'T MISS OUT!
Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.


Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.


Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

194 thoughts on “Gender identity and the Christian vision of humanity”

  1. As I see it, one of the significant failures of the current senior leadership of the Church of England is to lose sight of the understanding of the Church as being part of the worldwide Church Catholic. How does the drift in understanding about these matters isolate the CofE from the broader Church of Christ?

    We don’t need to swim the Tiber. There is a broad bridge of communion between us. Our bishops are burning that bridge.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilson confirmed a god-daughter of mine last year. At least he played no part in her (adult) baptism some weeks earlier, which is what really mattered before God.

      Not for the first time, I would be happy if the bishops of the Church of England were merely useless. I would even be happy to pay them to shut up. But they are worse than useless, far worse.

      Today I take a congregational (small-‘c’) view of church, and I happen to worship in an Anglican congregation because it is the most faithful congregation reasonably near me (10 miles). Happily there is no need to swear loyalty to any bishop or archbishop.

      Reply
    • The RCC and the COFE are at odds over women’s role in Christian life, who make up more than 50% of both churches. It would be odd if, whether it’s appropriate for the ~0.2% who are transgender children to seek medical advice, is a bigger problem than this!

      Reply
  2. After years of secular hype that “you can be anyone you want to be”, and children adopted by gay couples being told they have two fathers or two mothers, which is genetic nonsense, the trans confusion ought to have been predictable. The lack of an anchor in secularism is terrifying. Well said Rome – but the Vatican will find this line hard to hold unless it shows confidence in the biblical view of sexual matters more widely.

    Reply
    • I don’t think I’ve ever known another Christian to be so hostile to the idea of an adoptive father or mother.

      Reply
    • When I married my husband, our daughter was thrilled that she was going to have three Dads.
      Parents are people who show up, not those who merely contribute genetic material.

      In my wider family we have (or had) a family made up of a single mother, a biological mother and non-biological father and adoptive mother & father.

      The idea that there even is the option of all kids being parented by both biological parents is not realistic and it’s not preferable.

      Adoption seems especially important here in the states, where abortion is now illegal in about half the country. If we are telling victims of sexual assault they must carry their pregnancy to birth are we then also telling them they have to parent the child (with the man who raped them)? This may seem a facetious question, but this is the *real* world, not a nice theological model

      Reply
      • ‘When I married my husband, our daughter was thrilled that she was going to have three Dads.’

        Except biologically, she doesn’t. We all biologically have a father and a mother, and research shows children flourish best when they have a mother and father present and involved in raising them. We learn different things from these two different parents.

        ‘Parents are people who show up, not those who merely contribute genetic material.’ Yes they are. But to pit the one against the other is a false dichotomy.

        Reply
        • Ian

          No, that’s not true. We dont all have a biological father and mother.

          The research *actually* shows that children of same sex parents do as well as children of opposite sex parents.

          I’m not the one pitching active parents against biological parents! You guys are!!!

          You’re telling me that me, my two brothers in law and my sister in law are all substandard parents because we are not genetically related to our children. It’s silly, nasty and – according to actual research – untrue!

          Reply
          • If you are going to put words into someone else’s mouth that summarises inaccurately what they said and then contend against that summary, the result has nothing to do with anybody but yourself.

          • Anton

            What I think conservatives don’t understand is these theological statements are not abstract theory, but actually incredibly insulting and damaging to the people they are directed at.

            My uncle died when he was about my age from a rare lung disease. My aunt brought their two daughters up alone – and they are now both great young women. To contend that my nieces had the possibility of a biological mother and a biological father growing up is false. To contend that they would have been better off with an opposite sex couple as parents is deeply hurtful and untrue, and if taught in church may mar children’s relationship with their parents.

            This seems to be a constant refrain from me that conservative theology is all very well if you are spherical and in a vacuum, but it doesn’t work in real life…at least for everyone

          • Anton

            But orphans exist. This is exactly the problem with conservative theology- you come up with universal statements denouncing single parenting and then say “oh well I didn’t mean orphans”, but orphans exist right?

            Theology is meaningless if it cannot be applied to the real world.

        • You are quick to cry ‘context’ to try to undo arguments tfrom the Bible that you happen to dislike, yet you ignore the context in which I made my comment above.

          I am not going to write blog posts in the same manner as a contract drawn up between lawyers acting for two sharkish businessmen. It is impossible to prevent people twisting one’s words. Even Jesus had to suffer that.

          Reply
          • Anton

            You didnt say anything. Ian Paul claimed

            Except biologically, she doesn’t. We all biologically have a father and a mother, and research shows children flourish best when they have a mother and father present and involved in raising them. We learn different things from these two different parents.

            We don’t all have a biological mother and father. All means all. It doesn’t mean “oh except for orphans etc”

            It’s also not true that research shows opposite sex parents are superior to single sex parents. Actually research shows that it makes no difference.

            And of course all this is very general anyway. You can have a fantastic single mother (like my aunt was, unchosen) and you can have a chosen married opposite sex couple who are abusive or neglectful.

            The problem with conservative theology is that it wants to apply general statements as universal and condemn parents for not being able to conform with their ideals, *even* if they are better parents than the average conservative Christian couple. The quality of the parenting is irrelevant. The happiness and stability of the child’s life is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is if the couple are examples of the theology working or if the couple are examples of the theology being clearly wrong. I think this is one reason why abuse is often not dealt with in churches because the perception is more important than the welfare of the child.

          • It’s also not true that research shows opposite sex parents are superior to single sex parents. Actually research shows that it makes no difference.

            “Research shows”? Peter, I *do* research. Not in this subject, but in a proper science. Tell me what research.

          • Anton

            When I last read up on this there had been about 90 studies of same sex parenting. It was a fairly hot topic in the 2000s when western governments were dropping bans on gay people adopting. I’m aware of only one of these that didn’t show either
            Children of gay parents doing as well as straight parents

            Or

            Adopted Children of gay parents doing better than those of straight parents (put down to gays being better with kids from troubled backgrounds because they could relate)

            There’s one study showing Children of gay parents doing less well, but it’s not a like for like comparison

          • Anton

            I’d like that too. Unfortunately the research is all social science stuff and all from a different context than we are living in now. Most of the research was done at least a decade ago when same sex parenting was the BIG worry and based on data which was even older. So it’s wishy washy data and dates from a time before families with same sex parents had the option of marriage and when schools weren’t as inclusive of kids from such relationships

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6309949/

  3. I, too, crossed that Tiber and do not plan to go back. I also share your lament that CofE appears unable and or unwilling to offer biblical, pastoral, countercultural statements based on God’s holiness and love.

    I have long thought that the CofE will have egg on its face relating to its woke stance on so-called gender-identity and children… whilst the World is beginning to row back on some of the extreme ideology that resulted in children being put on puberty blockers and denied access to counselling that did not simply affirm, the CofE still remains conflicted.

    Why can we not also have such a biblical, pastoral, countercultural statement regarding marriage and the so-called blessing of same-sex couples?

    Come on bishops!

    Reply
        • Yes, Ian did brilliantly well in this debate, we should all watch it! The Bishop of Buckingham was like a cartoon character and full of bluster.
          And as far as I am aware, the Bible does not forbid marrying your deceased wife’s sister?
          Also, he seems to misunderstand how metaphors work. The seed is the word of God in the parable of the sower, but the seed does not itself become an authorative revelation of God – we should be careful about reversing metaphors.
          The metaphoric statement in Ephesians 5:31-32 is a ‘mystery’ not a sacrament. The mystery revealed is how the Gentiles are included in the Abrahamic promise. The metaphor is demonstrating that just as a volitional covenantal union allows the bride to become what she was not—a member of her husband’s family—thus it is via a volitional covenantal union we Gentiles become a member of Christ’s family via the affinity union with him, who is the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) – and thus we are ‘counted a’s in his family (Romans 9:8) and therefore heirs of God’s promise to Abraham. Thus human marriage displays a central understanding of the gospel. Of course all this passed the Bishop by.

          Reply
          • … ‘counted as’ in his famaily.
            Also, the principle of ‘counting as’ – i.e., treating affinity relationships like blood relationships in the forbidden sexual relationships in the Bible was to protect family relationships—especially where extended families cohabited.
            So, we have the anomaly in our modern world where there was legally nothing wrong with Woody Allen marrying his partner’s adopted daughter.

          • Colin

            People did indeed believe that the Bible did teach that you couldnt marry your dead wife’s sister. That’s what haunted Henry VIII because he had married his brother’s widow. He believed God was punishing him with no male child because of that.

            I expect in 50, 100 years conservative Christians will be claiming that there never was any “Biblical” opposition to same sex marriage either

          • Yet in ancient Israel you were supposed to marry your dead brother’s widow! The late-mediaeval Catholic church was miles from the Bible. So, admittedly, was Henry.

    • Kathryn

      I think the Cass report criticized the NHS for being too slap/dash with transgender care, including wrong/rushed diagnosis, but I dont think it is fair to say that trans kids were denied counseling. Actually that is arguably what the RCC is saying here – no medical intervention at all.

      Reply
  4. Rooted: the cool sea breeze of the centuries.
    Addled Anglicanism suffocates in its secular sophistry and postmodern pomposity.
    It is interesting that this follows on from rooting in, John 15.
    There needs to be a root and branch cutting off in the CoE.

    Reply
    • Yes, I would like to see the ecclesiastical equivalent of peaceable civil disobedience at General Synod by the party of faith.

      Reply
    • The CofE hierarchy are confident that the majority will not walk away, let alone cut off anything. It might fizzle out or die off like the Methodists but before that happens they will have exhausted every form of secular sophistry and postmodern pomposity.

      Same-sex marriages will happen soon enough presided over by women priests.

      The nature of the CofE beast is going with the flow (albeit 20 years after the rest of society).

      Reply
  5. A cynic might say that:
    The RC bishops always believed this about sex and gender, but they have waited until the winds of social and cultural opinion have changed before daring to utter these views publicly.

    I hope that’s not the case!

    The C of E bishops however do not believe what the bible and Christian tradition say, but are only interested in what the fashionable opinion of the elites says. I don’t think this is a cynical view, just a statement of fact.

    The question is, what do faithful Anglicans who are appalled by the institutional embrace of this and other damaging heresies do about it?
    a) Stay in the C of E, contend for the truth as a minority position, and hope that in time the institution can be won back to orthodoxy?
    b) Stay in the C of E and campaign for a friendly split within the denomination / ‘structural differentiation’ / 3rd province?
    c) Cross the Tiber.
    d) Join the nonconformists (generally speaking, the International Presbyterians are engaging with these deep socio-cultural issues; FIEC are not).
    e) Remain Anglican, but outside the Church of England, linked to global Anglican orthodoxy? This option has only been available in the last 4 years.

    Reply
    • Rico Tice, a former stalwart of the CoE has gone presbyterian, it seems and that may disappoint some global Anglicans in England.

      Reply
      • Increasingly this is like the situation after 1688, when the high church men of principle could not be Anglican ordained priests because they felt unable to swear allegiance to William and Mary who had usurped James II; and many low church men of principle went to nonconformism which was once again legal, as it had been in the (overly maligned) 1650s. The rump that remained, aptly satirised in The Vicar of Bray, dulled their church into a torpor described acidly by Lytton Stracey in Eminent Victorians:

        For many generations the Church of England had slept the sleep of the… comfortable. The sullen murmurings of dissent, the loud battle-cry of Revolution, had hardly disturbed her slumbers. Portly divines subscribed with a sigh or a smile to the Thirty-nine Articles, sank quietly into easy living, rode gaily to hounds of a morning as gentlemen should, and, as gentlemen should, carried their two bottles of an evening. To be in the Church was in fact simply to pursue one of those professions which Nature and Society had decided were proper to gentlemen and gentlemen alone. The fervours of piety, the zeal of Apostolic charity, the enthusiasm of self-renunciation–these things were all very well in their way and in their place; but their place was certainly not the Church of England. Gentlemen were neither fervid nor zealous, and above all they were not enthusiastic. There were, it was true, occasionally to be found within the Church some strait-laced parsons of the high Tory school who looked back with regret to the days of Laud or talked of the Apostolical Succession; and there were groups of square-toed Evangelicals who were earnest over the Atonement, confessed to a personal love of Jesus Christ, and seemed to have arranged the whole of their lives, down to the minutest details of act and speech, with reference to Eternity. But such extremes were the rare exceptions. The great bulk of the clergy walked calmly along the smooth road of ordinary duty. They kept an eye on the poor of the parish, and they conducted the Sunday Services in a becoming manner; for the rest, they differed neither outwardly nor inwardly from the great bulk of the laity, to whom the Church was a useful organisation for the maintenance of Religion, as by law established.

        Reply
      • I found his statement offensive because he chose to leave over the issue of same sex blessings and not coverups of sexual abuse. And again Im led to wonder how these people can claim moral leadership of souls when they don’t seem to be in the least bit moral in their own lives. I’m sure he would say the same about my life, but I’m not telling other people how to live their lives!

        Reply
          • Yes, perhaps not those exact words, but statements against investigations and action to block investigation are certainly de facto arguments in favor of hiding sexual abuse.

            As far as I can tell from public statements, at least 10 different individuals reported Mike Pilavachi to senior leaders in the Church of England and instead of investigating the allegations, they gave him an award.

            There’s zero mention of this or other issues of abuse in the CofE, yet Tice singles out blessings for gay people as the reason he’s leaving.

          • Anton

            Sorry I gave up after the first line.

            It’s simply doing what failing governments do – find a minority to cast all of the blame on and then seems to be doing the typical thing of cherry picking Biblical verses, divorcing them from context and completely failing to come up with anything like a comprehensive theology addressing gay people beyond “we’d really rather you didnt exist, but if you insist on existing please remain single”

            Isn’t find a way church can be relevant to ordinary people in the west a bigger challenge? What about addressing the many charismatic figures in the church that bring in the crowds, but abuse the faith? Or the weakness of church’s response to covid (mostly a huge wasted opportunity to minister to the sick, the vulnerable and the scared)?

          • Sorry I gave up after the first line. It’s simply doing what failing governments do – find a minority to cast all of the blame on and then seems to be doing the typical thing of cherry picking Biblical verses.

            Come back when you’ve read it.

    • A cynic might say that: The RC bishops always believed this about sex and gender, but they have waited until the winds of social and cultural opinion have changed before daring to utter these views publicly.

      Credit where it is due, Andrew. Those winds have changed in Britain, thanks mainly to ‘a few good [wo]men’, but little has changed in recent months either way over Trans in the traditionally Catholic world. For the Vatican, Britain is not a big deal. As for the timing, Trans took off about a decade ago (not long after gay marriage – a coincidence?) and here is Rome’s response. A decade is not a long time for a large and ancient organisation to muster a response. I’d be glad to hear from Happy Jack on this thread.

      Reply
    • Andrew, no need for cynicism; the Catholic bishops have been making statements like this pro-actively since at least 2016. See the other documents footnoted in this one.

      Reply
  6. Increasingly I have come to believe that one of theological and intellectual difficulties for the Church of England has been its neglect of natural law as a God-given dialogue partner (and ally) for understanding and articulating the meaning of being human.

    If Church of England clerics understood natural law and how it relates to Scripture, we would have been spared the sixth former buffooneries that Alan Wilson peddled.

    In this, as the above report makes clear, the Catholic Church has always stood firm.

    Natural law – which is accessible to people of no particular faith – asks us to observe what we are by nature and what purposes our bodies serve. Of course we fall short of fulfilling our telos (and Scripture explains why), but the telos of human beings remains, and is given a more glorious meaning that the best of men and women could naturally perceive.

    The failure to recognise and appreciate the transcendent character of nature (i.e., how God has made the world) is probably the reason why modern Anglicanism always falls in with modern secular liberalism (which is nothing other than the prioritisation of the autonony of the individual and his or her desires against “heteronomic” claims). Even Rowan Williams fell for this nonsense when he described transgender efforts as “a sacred journey of becoming whole”.

    Of course, repudiating natural law was a necessary procedure for those promoting same-sex relationships (which natural law forbids, based on the design of our bodies, the nature of reproduction, and physical harm), but transgenderism was the logical consequence of this move.

    Reply
    • James, when you say “modern Anglicanism always falls in with modern secular liberalism” do you mean all expressions of Anglicanism, or the form of revisionist secular-influenced worldview embraced by a majority of Anglican leaders in the West, which is not shared by the majority of Anglicans worldwide?

      Reply
      • I was referringto the liberal hierarchy in “Western” or white Anglicanism found in the British Isles, North America and Australasia – excepting of course ACNA, Archdiocese of Sydney and such like.
        It is based on tiny churches that are very nearly dead in Scotland, Wales, the US and Canada which have very few people in church but lots of bishops and inherited money.

        Reply
  7. Thank you for posting this, and other articles on similar topics. It is a deep relief to read something that rings true and makes sense.

    Reply
  8. The Church of England is an established church (unlike the RC church outside the Vatican city), so inevitably will take a view of scripture closer to contemporary culture

    Reply
    • Yes, but Anglicanism and the Church of England are not the same thing. It is possible to be Anglican in ethos and practice, but not be in the Church of England.

      Reply
        • Indeed and some are even more socially liberal than the C of E eg the Scottish and US Episcopal churches which already perform same sex marriages in church (and all Anglican churches descend from the C of E as the first Anglican church literally created by Henry VIII as the Pope wouldn’t allow him to divorce his wife)

          Reply
    • It isn’t “inevitable”, it’s just spinelessness.
      If you mean its present bishops seek the approval of a post-Christian “intelligentsia”, then you are probably correct.
      But that is not to tbe credit of the Church of England. Profits before prophets?

      Reply
    • T1, unless it can *justify that ‘view of scripture closer to contemporary culture’, then it is sheer dishonesty to pretend it is a bona fide view.

      Are you actually saying that people can pick the ‘view’ that they please?

      The only ‘view’ that bears any weight is the one that can be justified by evidence and supported by scholarship.

      You should be ashamed of thinking that one can simply pick any so-called ‘view’ that one likes, without any justification, evidence, or scholarly support.

      You cannot really think such a thing. Hence there is also dishonesty involved. Which only makes things worse.

      Reply
    • ‘inevitably will take a view of scripture closer to contemporary culture’ Why? Its job is to shape culture—that is what it means to be established—to be shaped by it.

      The C of E is a Reformed Protestant church, so looks to Scripture as its supreme authority.

      Reply
      • However the C of E also historically takes a reasoned approach to Scripture, it doesn’t take every word of the Bible literally

        Reply
        • Strawman alert! No-one ‘take[s] every word of the Bible literally’, it would be a bonkers way to read any text. There are clearly metaphors, analogies, and similies throughout. Otherwise we’d have to make a tent out of Jesus’ skin in order to abide in him, for one silly example.

          But we do have a high view of the authority of scripture to establish normative behaviour in the church. See Canons A2, A3 particulaly A5, and Articles VI, VII and VIII, XX and XXI. Nowhere do I see any idea that establishment means that our ‘view of scripture’ is anywhere different.

          Reply
          • You mean you don’t know the One-Eyed Baptists of Outer Oklahoma and the One-Handed Fellowship of Upper Alabama? Must be a librul.

        • So ‘the C of E’ is the highest authority in the matter?
          No – it has fewer biblical scholars than one might expect, and more sparsely distributed than among various other denominations.
          Your assertion sounds like that of an unquestioning ‘C of E fundamentalist’. But unquestioning fundamentalism is not a tenable position when so many people ARE questioning, open and lively minded.
          As for ‘every word of the Bible literally’ – many words present themselves explicitly non literally, and the idea is irrelevant because no-one holds that position in the first place. It sounds like you have only just begun to think things out, so why are you not deferring to those who have been thinking about them for much longer?

          Reply
        • It’s a literary acount, so of course it should be taken literally. I think you mean that not every word should be taken MATERIALLY. There I agree with you. We might not agree about which words, though.

          Reply
      • The job of a church is to win converts to Christ and then let Jesus Christ guide them. Whether that will influence culture is up to Him. The scriptures warn us that genuine believers will always be a minority, and reconciling this truth with the idea of an Established church and a Christian nation is difficult. It is easy to attend funerals of explicit atheists conducted according to a liturgy which assumes Christian faith of the deceased; who wants to tell the family that the man in the coffin is going to hell? But it is an absurd situation. An Established church is always going to have to compromise with the world, and indeed the CoE was founded in a denial of certain scriptures about marriage.

        Reply
    • I am struggling to see the connection between the CofE being established and the result that “its view of Scripture being closer to contemporary culture.” This seems to imply that being established means that the Church is somehow subordinate to the secular authorities (of different kinds).

      It reminds me of the point in the film “Chariots of Fire” when Eric Liddle is discussion with the Price of Wales and others his refusal to run on Sundays. He says something like “I must obey God before King and Country.” To this an old buffer mutters, “in my day it was King then God.”

      More seriously, it also reminds me of “we have no king but Caesar!”

      It is also of note that the members of the Anglican Communion who are furthest down this path are not established.

      Reply
        • The Anglican churches in Wales, the US or Scotland all descend from the C of E as the first Anglican church as do all Anglican churches indeed.

          In Christian terms Anglican churches, certainly in the West, are relatively moderate and liberal in their interpretation of scripture. If you want a more socially conservative Catholic denomination then you would be Roman Catholic or Orthodox, if you want a more socially conservative evangelical church then you can be Pentecostal, Baptist or join an independent charismatic church. There are still some conservative evangelicals and Anglo Catholics in the C of E however they are not the majority, hence PLF was passed by Synod in all 3 houses as Synod also voted by majority for women priests and bishops and by majority to remarry divorcees (with an opt out for churches which disagree)

          Reply
          • that’s a great phenomenology of where some churches find themselves at the moment.

            But I am interested in theology. The doctrine of the C of E is found, by canon law, in the BCP and the Articles. You appear to struggle to engage with this reality.

  9. Wonders are many (polla ta deina) said Sophocles, Antigone.

    Was he right or what?

    The least of humans is worth 1m times more than the Taj Mahal.

    Second: he added ‘but the greatest of these is humanity’. Again: spot on.

    And within humanity, the greatest thing is human reproduction – an on tap miracle.

    The gender identity thing is wrong because it has no awe at the very thing that most of all inspires awe.

    Second, it has no gratitude. Gratitude is always a sign one looks for in good and healthy people.

    We are going to commend a lack of awe AND simultaneously a lack of gratitude? No, we are not even going to be neutral about it. We are going to condemn it.

    The whole gender identity attitude is – As for this universe, it is not much cop – I could have done better myself, and there are plenty of better ones that exist. Utterly wrong on all 3 counts.

    Reply
  10. The words of the Pope quoted here are quite insightful, lucid, and kind. They certainly lack the anger that seems to be present in some of the comments above. That leadership is what I admire about this fellow at the head of the Catholic church right now, and I’ll miss him when he is gone. The Catholic church is not always so lucky in its choice of Pope. Of course the Anglican church will be a little messier in its positions because it has many bishops at the head of the church, not one Pope. Certainly it seems a little silly to me to get letters from our Dean signed with pronouns attached. But this too will pass. Well, that was a lot of words to say I agree with T1.

    Reply
  11. In 2019, a C of E Primary school invited the trans lobby group Mermaids in to ‘educate’ the staff and governors before being let loose on the children. The local vicar challenged this and was told to shut up, not just by the school but also by the Diocese, who backed the school as part of their ‘Valuing all God’s children’ ethos. The bishop of the Diocese at the time was Stephen Cottrell. The clergyman in question resigned and is now leading a congregation outside the C of E.

    From what I’m picking up in this discussion, we are all agreed that the trans ideology is wrong. The question is, what do people in the Church of England do when their leaders have fully embraced that ideology?

    On the other hand, maybe these same bishops who lets not forget have authorised the use of baptismal liturgy for celebration of identity change, have a sudden change of mind like politicians, and we will hear them claiming that they never supported it?

    Reply
    • How strange that it took not the consideed words of orthodox theologians and philosophers in the classical (natural law) tradition to give the liberal bishops pause but a report by a distinguished medical professional pointing out the irreversible harm caused by chemical and surgical interventions on troubled adolescents.

      When are Rowan Williams and Stephen Cottrell going to issue an apology for their mistaken words, misusing the language of discipleship and pilgrimage?
      Probably after Steven Croft apologises for his safeguarding failures.
      /crickets

      Reply
    • The question is, what do people in the Church of England do when their leaders have fully embraced that ideology?

      The options are: (1) ignore the bishops and get on with building the kingdom while you can in a faithful CoE congregation; (2) leave for a faithful denomination; (3) engage in activism within the CoE and call out the bishops loudly and publicly. I think that God is directing differing people to each of these alternatives today, not to one of them exclusively.

      Reply
      • It is very important to factor in that these worldly ways have no power and run out of steam. If people remain faithful they are always the last ones left standing.

        Reply
      • I suspect it’ll be 1 and I’ve heard that view here. “Local counts and nothing more”. That may be true in significant numbers where members of a congregation are not in esse Anglican but simply Christians gathering in a local church with which they feel an identity.

        Moving congregations is only an option if there is one within sensible reach or if you can actually get there. It’s not only older members who may have physical difficulties. People will be marooned…

        Hence the importance of 3. Whatever else it is… it’s also a speaking up for others.

        Reply
      • Peter

        What’s the value in telling children that there exists such category of people as “LGBT”? It’s high time that that factitious and illogical initialism, together with all of its equally illogical and tiresome extensions, was permanently ditched.

        Reply
        • William

          Value 1 LGBT children (and to a lesser extent children of LGBT parents) will know that they are not abnormal freaks and are safe and welcome at school.

          Value 2 if you don’t teach kids this stuff they will pick it up from other sources and not understand or worse use it to bully other kids. I can remember aged about 8 that “bum chum” was a popular insult st our school.

          Value 3 like it or not LGBT people are no longer seen as criminals or people to be hid in the attic. Teaching kids about LGBT people means they are better prepared to be adults in a society where there’s at least some tolerance of LGBT people

          Value 4 not least because of Section 28, the current parent population has had no education on LGBT people so this generation of parents is even less equipped to tackle the subject than their parents were

          Reply
          • Peter

            There are no such beings as “LGBT” children – or “LGBT” anyone else. That initialism – which has been forced onto the public through relentless repetition, and to which equally irrational additions, such as “intersex” and asexual, are continually being made – is illogical and misleading: it does not stand for any genuine people category, since being gay, lesbian or bisexual and having the delusion that one’s “real” sex is the other one are two quite different things. (And “intersex” people are yet another completely different group.) Which is why it should be definitively ditched, not taught to children. That is my point.

          • William

            There certainly are children who have exclusive attraction to the same sex (gay). I was one of them. Denying they exist is, at this point, just deliberately dishonest.

            Lying is a sin, being gay isn’t

          • Peter

            The word “children” is somewhat ambiguous. Certainly there are children who, as they grow up, will turn out to be gay, just as the great majority will turn out to be straight, but if we talking about pre-adolescents, then the concept of a gay child – or, for that matter, a straight child or a bisexual child – is, at best, an extremely dubious one. We can’t possibly be certain of any child’s sexual orientation at that stage of life, or even meaningfully say that they have one. And even during the teenage years, sexual attraction may not necessarily be fixed.

            But all that has nothing to do with the point that I was making above, which is that there are no such beings as “LGBT” children or “LGBT” anyone else because the “LGBT” initialism is trash, as are all its tiresome variations and extensions. It implies that people with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, and people who claim that they are “really” members of the other sex, form together a single category, which is absurd. The more recent addition to the initialism of so-called “intersex” (anomalies of physical sex development) – which has nothing to do either with sexual orientation or with the “trans” delusion – and of “asexual” (no sexual attraction to anyone), is merely a further absurdity.

            I certainly do not think that being gay is a sin, nor have I said or written anything that implies that it is.

          • William

            LGBT just means lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. It’s like BME. Nobody is saying that an Arab and a Black person are the same. They are grouped together because they face similar treatment in our culture.

            In my life I go to events for LGBT people and for gay men. There’s no contradiction there.

            It’s typical that gay people discover their orientation age 13, but there are certainlykids who know much younger. Outside of single sex boarding school I don’t think there’s actually much confusion about orientation *but* the confusion is irrelevant really. If the child is just “going through a stage” then it makes no difference in the day-to-day than if they actually are gay or bisexual

          • Peter

            LGB and T don’t face similar treatment in our culture. And even if they did, bolting them together, as though they formed a single group, would be illogical. People who are gay, lesbian or bisexual face disapproval of their sexuality, although thankfully to an ever-diminishing extent. Males who claim to be women and females who claim to be men face disbelief in their delusional claim. There are, of course, people who fall into both categories, but the same could be said of almost any two disparate categories which are not mutually exclusive.

            Certainly it is true that gay people, just like straight people, generally discover their sexual orientation during adolescence. But to say that a pre-adolescent can know with any certainty his or her sexual orientation is nonsense. And no-one discovers that they are “LGBT(Q+&c.)”, because there is no such thing. That ridiculous initialism is just a fabrication to try to manipulate gay, lesbian and bisexual people into thinking that they are somehow obliged to support the “trans” delusion and the anti-factual genderist ideology and unreasonable demands of “trans” activists. We are not.

    • Thanks for sending it. Only because LGB Christians have not often welcome the teaching of bishops of the Catholic Church on sexuality and marriage, that is all.

      I think it was an interesting sign of the quality of the document, and the ‘success’ of the attempts in the statement to build bridges with others.

      Reply
  12. Having completed two semester of study as the Jesuit Seminary in Manila, Philippines – they knew I was a ‘hot prot’ but we got on famously – I rather got the impression that on the whole senior RCs are rather better eductated than CofE bishops, who on the whole are not over bright.

    Reply
    • RC bishops have usually spent several years studying philosophy (often Thomistic) as a twin pillar to their dogmatic studies.
      Anglicans by contrast rush through their ‘training’ in 2 or three years and usually avoid philosophy.
      As a result, Catholics can’t preach but they can do a bit of philosophy.
      Anglican bishops can do neither. But they are usually better dressed.

      Reply
  13. I think this may seem like clear “helpful” statements from 10,000ft, but for people whose lives it actually impacts, it’s dangerously vague/general and answers none of the challenges that trans people make to the religious establishment, other than to completely exclude and other.

    I think it’s extremely dangerous for those with no medical training to seek to override expert medical advice. I think this is especially dangerous to be too general about it. “Medical intervention” could mean no genital/breast surgery or it could mean no drugs or it could mean no counseling or it could mean it’s a sin for parents even to seek medical advice for very distraught children. I think the deliberate denial of help for children is really really wrong. I know that the RCC had trouble a few years ago in a document about “intersex” people, when they actually meant transgender people. I really think they need some expert advice when drafting these documents because detail is essential.

    I think most of the tension between conservative religious theology and real life LGBT people is the attempt to apply broad generalizations absolutely universally. And this comes from the combination of non-experts being given authority to teach on a subject. The vast majority of people are one gender (male OR female), their sex matches their gender and they are attracted to the opposite gender. And we live in a society where certainly everyone over 30 has spent most of their lives being deliberately shielded from having to think about people who fall outside of this.

    I doubt any of these bishops (conservative or liberal) have much in the way of education on biology or gender. This tension is not confined to individuals where there is any risk that they are deluded or making it up as this type of theology fails for intersex people as well as gay and trans people. Although general physical differences have been shown for both gay and trans people, it’s slight enough that it’s deniable for those who dont want to see it. It’s impossible to deny if someones genitals clearly dont conform or if they have DNA that’s not XX or XY.

    My own experience, as a gay person, not a trans person, is to be told that God created everyone with human dignity, but he didn’t make me. I don’t exist or I am a demon. Clearly I know I exist. But my existence must be denied for conservative theology of the sexes to work. There’s been relatively recent attempts to suggest that gay people do exist, but just must remain single. This doesn’t really work very well because it casts God as someone who is willing to punish people for the way he created them. And it creates this totally unclear situation where gay people in the church have to guess what is and is not acceptable for them to do. Recent discussions here suggest there are at least some conservative Christians who are telling gay people it’s a sin for a male person to hold hands with another male person (this is ‘clearly’ ‘sex’), but not a sin for a male to wrestle or massage another male (this is not ‘clearly’ not ‘sex’) and judgments of what is and is not acceptable vary with the wind, made by people who do not even consider the implications of their own teaching.

    To write that these struggles are an expression of our shared humanity is, at best, completely tone deaf. If you are not gay, trans or intersex then you are not constantly being “othered” by church teaching. Sorry, but there is no cis-hetero equivalent. Being told that your entire life experience is wrong is not equivalent to addiction to drugs or fancying the checkout lady. A neighboring issue *might* be divorce and remarriage, except that the same churches that have anti trans/gay teaching tolerate this much more prevalent heterosexual issue, at least more than they tolerate same sex marriage. The Roman Catholic Church allowed Boris Johnson to marry his mistress in one of its cathedrals, for a very obvious example.

    And then we have to understand that certain passages of scripture don’t apply to us. And most conservative Christians (in the pews, not leaders) do not believe this anyway, but continue to believe that all gay people are evil etc … and are not hesitant in telling you so!

    I do not wish to speak for trans people, but I do think it’s wrong to say that trans people are saying they were “born in the wrong body”. One thing that’s essential when discussing difficult topics is to be able to understand what the other side is actually saying.

    Woe to you white washed tombs!

    Reply
    • Peter JERMEY: do you have a word for those termed ‘minor attracted persons’? Would you tell them to change their feelings (if they can), or failing that, to control them and not express them?
      Or would you tell them it’s legitimate and right to seek some outlet because ‘that is how God made them’?
      Can you answer this question? Or do you choose to ignore it? If so, why?

      Reply
      • James

        I can try to answer your question, but I don’t know much about pedophiles. I dont know any. The nearest Ive come to knowing any has been hearing one preach.

        So actually my response has turned into more questions.

        Do you know if there are any exclusive pedophiles ie they are *only* attracted to children? Do you if there’s any scientific evidence of the causes? Do you know if it’s possible to change those attractions?

        Sorry I’ve not been good at answering your questions, but I don’t really know anything about them.

        Reply
        • Peter Jermey:
          I think you have quite a bit to say about the Catholic Church and child sex abuse in the past.
          However, you are probably aware that about 80% of RC abuse was not technically ‘paedophilia’ but homosexual abuse of post-pubescent teenagers.
          From what I understand, people with paedophile atttaction have this all their life. Some have asked for ‘chemical castration’ to take away their sex drive.
          I do not know how the attraction arises in people. Or how other sexual paraphilias arise. You have said more than once ‘God created me gay.’ I do not know how you know this, but if that were true, you would also have to say, ‘God created me with gender dysphoria’ or ‘God created me with paedophiliac attraction.’
          Why are you not willing to be logical about this?
          The point is this:
          The existence of a particular sexual desire is not a justification for ‘living it out’. We are not equal in our life experiences (including the crucial ones we cannot choose) or in our temptations. But God gives every one of His children grace to live His way.

          Reply
          • James

            Yes, from what I have learned about abuse, most of it has nothing to do with sexual attraction. Predators of children are not necessarily attracted to them and the vast majority do not seem to be exclusively attracted to children.

            I wasn’t created a pedophile or transgender. But I can testify that my lived experience is that I am gay “from birth”, naturally, how ever you want to say it and the scientific research on the causes of homosexuality is consistent with that lived experience. I cannot tell you if there are people who are exclusively attracted to children or not. If they exist I cannot tell you why they are like that.

            I agree entirely that having a particular sexual desire is not justification for living it out. And you should know that if you’ve read any of my posts on sexual abuse by clergy!

          • Gay from birth?

            Er, Peter, firstly you do not remember anything till you were about 3. Secondly even at three you did not have sexual attractions. Thirdly, by the time you did, any number of circumstances had intervened. Fourthly, you have many times heard that the innate proportion of ssa (from extremely scattered and not probative sources) is around 10-11 percent. Fifth, this is predisposition rather than predetermination.

          • Christopher

            I agree with most of what you say which is why I put it in quotation marks.

            I disagree with you on two counts. Firstly I think the proportion of gay people is closer to 2% than 11% (bisexuals are probably about 10%, but I wasn’t talking about them!).

            This means in a small school with a year group of 100 pupils, one or two will be gay and maybe another ten will be bisexual. I dont think they should be punished, excluded or “othered” for that.

            Secondly I disagree that homosexuality is not predetermined. The scientific evidence is certain that genetics plays a significant role. It’s not the whole role, but the current assumption is the rest is the wombe environment (evidenced by the older brother experiments) or epigenetics.

            Furthermore despite decades of people desperately trying to find evidence that homosexuality is caused by nurture (perhaps substandard parenting), no evidence at all has been found. This doesn’t mean that this theory is proved wrong, but it does mean it is unreasonable to claim it true.

    • Peter

      I would be extremely surprised if the bishops intended “medical intervention” to include counselling. I have no doubt that they are referring to such procedures as the prescription of puberty blocking drugs and of cross-sex hormones. If so, then they are absolutely right.

      No-one’s natal sex can be changed, and children should not be lied to by being told, or by being encouraged to believe, that any such “transition” is possible. (Talk of “gender” is merely clouding the issue.) Since normal age puberty is not a disease or a disorder, there is no justification for blocking it, the only exception being in those very rare cases where a life-threatening disease is being fed by the sex hormones. We know, of course, that male bodies produce a small amount of oestrogen and that female bodies produce a small amount of testosterone, but an extraneous excess of the “opposite sex” hormone irreversibly distorts young people’s development, turning them into physical freaks, and if it follows years on puberty blockers, will permanently destroy both their fertility and their sexual function. That is not how any young person should start adulthood, with on average five or six decades of their life still ahead of them.

      Reply
      • William Fisher

        So which is it? Should puberty blockers never be prescribed or only be prescribed when they are preventing physical harm? And who should get to decide this? And if we are saying that God’s creation is still so perfect that no child’s gender conflicts with their sex then how can we say that children get life threatening diseases? Why is the church suddenly so terrified of doctors that they are only to be deployed when a child’s life is in danger?

        Maybe they meant to include counseling, maybe they didn’t. Who can say? And why should they bother to be clear on a life and death subject impacting children?! Although they come close to apologizing for the damage caused by imposing exaggerated stereotypes on his who couldn’t live up to them, they’ve clearly learned nothing by their error and continue to pretend to know better than trained medical experts.

        I know that because of puberty blockers there are people who will likely see their 70s. I think the church is becoming more and cruel and aloof as all the people with some compassion left decide its no longer for them

        Reply
        • Peter

          The instances in which puberty blockers can justifiably be prescribed are: (1) precocious puberty – and even in those cases there are some issues with undesirable side-effects – and (2) when puberty blockade is the only means of halting the progress of a malignant disease. A “gender” which negates one’s unalterable natal sex is a delusion, and blockers should never be prescribed just because a child or adolescent has that delusion. In fact, the majority of young people with “gender” dysphoria eventually come to terms with their sex, if they are allowed to go through normal puberty without such medical tampering. Many will turn out to be homosexual or bisexual; others will turn out to be heterosexual. Let the chips fall where they may.

          Yes, children can, and unfortunately sometimes do, get life-threatening diseases. There is no such disease, however, as being in the wrong sex. That is just as well since, even if there were, there is no means of changing it. The injection of cross-sex hormones and so-called “gender-affirming surgery”, i.e. delusion-affirming mutilation, do not change anyone’s sex. As I have already said, such procedures merely turn people into physical freaks.

          With regard to your talk of “trained medical experts”, I would say two things. Firstly, I hope that you are not intending to imply that there is consensus on these matters among the medical profession, because there is not. Secondly, unethical or misguided medical or surgical procedures cannot be justified on the ground that they are being carried out by trained medical experts. Josef Mengele was a trained medical expert. So also were those who performed lobotomies, and those who tried to “cure” homosexuality by administering electric shocks and violent emetics, or by dangerous tinkering with people’s endocrine systems – a practice which is being continued today by the “gender affirming” industry. Those who objected, whether they were trained medical experts or not, were in the right.

          As for your claim that “because of puberty blockers there are people who will likely see their 70s”, if we’re going to play guessing games like that, my guess would be that puberty blockers will cause FEWER people to see their 70s.

          Reply
          • William

            You just claimed there was no such thing as a gay child. So which is it? Are trans children just confused gay children or do gay children not exist?

            I think decisions about a child’s health should be made by the parents in consultation with doctors and the child themselves. I dont think the RCC, or any religious leader who isnt a fully qualified pediatrician, should be pretending to have expert knowledge in children’s health.

        • Peter

          I have explained in a post above why a “gay child” is a highly dubious concept, although a small minority of children will become gay adults. As for “trans” children, I appreciate that there are children who have got the idea into their heads that their sex “ought” to be the other one, or who believe that they would be happier if they could change it to the other one – although that is a biological impossibility. I do not accept that any child has been born into the wrong sex.

          As for decisions about a child’s health, any such decisions should be in accordance with biological reality. No-one – parent, doctor or anyone else – should ever encourage a male child to believe the lie that it is possible for him to become a girl or a female child to believe the lie that it is possible for her to become a boy. Still less should any child’s or teenager’s normal, healthy development be stunted with puberty blockers or irreversibly distorted with cross-sex hormones, on the basis of that lie. And one doesn’t need to be a fully qualified paediatrician or any other kind of doctor to object rightfully to such procedures, any more than one needs to be one to object to the other harmful and misguided procedures to which I referred in my previous post.

          Reply
          • William

            Gay children are not dubious. I was one. Talk to any gay person and they’ll tell you the same.

        • Peter

          Oh no, they won’t. I am a gay person, and I am saying that the concept of a gay pre-adolescent child – or of a straight or bisexual pre-adolescent child, come to that – is claptrap. And I know that I am not alone in this.

          But all this is a distraction from the main theme of this thread, which is genderist ideology. No child is born in the wrong sex, and no amount of gratuitous tampering with the endocrine system (puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones) or of mutilating surgery will change anyone’s sex. To practise any such procedures on minors is iniquitous. Kudos to the Roman Catholic Church, although it took the wrong side against astronomical reality back in 1633, for supporting biological reality against genderist dogma in 2024.

          Reply
  14. Very few have been impressed by the so-called experts who worked in the Tavistock Clinic in the UK. Sometimes ‘experts’ can do a hell of a lot of damage to others, in this case to children.

    Although you have just condemned non-experts for giving their views, you then do precisely the same thing in defending your own position as a self-admitted non-expert. Pot and kettle come to mind.

    As a gay man, I do not know why my sexuality is such, but I think genetic, physical, psychosexual and psychological aspects are all factors. You may agree with some or all of that. But regardless of ‘why’ Im gay, I am convinced that God does not want me to have a sexual relationship with another male. That, in the end, is my choice. And yours.

    I think in the same way someone who thinks their gender is not reflected in their body will probably have similar factors that have led to that. Does that mean God ‘made them’ like that, to have gender dysmorphia? No. But it is reality for some, and mercy and kindness is needed. But that does not mean others, whether the medical profession or society at large, should give what such people think they need, especially if it arises, as seems standard, in childhood. I think basic questions such as, has something happened in that child’s life that led them to reject their own body? Or are others far too quick to offer a scalpel or medication?

    I think you should listen to the voices of the other experts in the medical and psychological fields who have raised serious concerns regarding the treatments offered, especially in relation to children.

    Yes there are quite a few white-washed tombs around, but that doesnt justify you pointing the finger at people who want to do what God wants.

    May God have mercy on all of us!

    Reply
    • Pc1

      I’m not an expert on transgender people, but nor am I trying to ban them from seeking medical advice or in anyway telling them what to do and I’m not telling you how to live your life either

      Reply
      • Peter, read the Cass review. You clearly have not. The bishops’ pastoral reflexion has precisely been caused by the largest, most comprehensive medical review of ‘gender affirming care’ to date. You should read it or hold your peace. Nobody is trying to ban kids from seeking medical advice. I’m gay and I never thought I’d see the day when the RC magisterium defends lesbian and gay kids from medicalisation. Over 90% of youths referred to gender identity ‘development’ services are same-sex attracted, and hate themselves for it. The Us are witnessing the remedicalisation of homosexuality and you just spout nonsense about ‘trans’ children.

        Reply
        • What about adults with gender dysphoria? Are they not SSA to their biological sex? And isn’t it primarily a male-wanting-to-be-female phenomenon?

          I have seen at first hand the current social contagion affecting teenagers and it seems to be overwhelmingly girls wanting to be ‘boys’ (or what they think boys are).

          Reply
          • Yes, James, the sudden and stratospheric increase in teen referrals to GIDS has inverted the trend. It’s now mainly girls wishing to transition (although the proportion of boys seeking transition is still sky high). And the overwhelming majority of youth referrals are same-sex attracted. However since LG people are only 2-3% of the population, straight (mostly) adults still are a majority. They identify as ‘lesbians’ after transition, but they are really straight men.

            I think ‘identifying’ into homosexuality is offensive, quite frankly.

          • James

            Some trans people are gay, some are straight and some are bi.

            There are both trans men/boys and trans women/girls, but media coverage is almost exclusively about trans women/girls.

        • It’s the RCC that opposes medical intervention, not the Cass Report

          “Medical intervention for children should not be supported.”

          I did read the summary of the Cass Report after being confused that it was being celebrated both by anti trans people and by trans people! The Cass Report does not say all medical intervention is sin.

          I don’t agree that trans people are “medicalized” gay people. It’s a different thing

          Reply
          • Dr Cass does not offer any theological pronouncements, but she does advise against transitioning minors and young adults. Read. Her. Review. and stop disgracing yourself.

          • Disgracing myself?!!

            I’m a disgrace because I havent read a 100 page document that doesn’t apply to me or anyone in my family?!

            Im responding to the above article, not the Cass Report. I can’t really agree with your summary of the Cass Report because it directly contradicts her own summary. She concludes that there’s not sufficient evidence either way to say social transitioning is net benefit or net negative, she recommends a puberty blocker trial and far from rejecting outright medical intervention, her summary outlines best practices for medical treatment.

      • Youre right, youre not, but doesnt God have a right to do that? Though He never forces anyone. He allows people to make their own choices, good or bad.

        Reply
  15. Was recently engaging with a guy on another forum who was going on about how ‘transgender’ was made by God as part of the wonderful variety of his creation. But his blustering rhetoric didn’t quite manage to disguise that even to him being transgender seems to be a distressing situation that needs ‘alleviation’. Indeed it must be very distressing if it needs ‘alleviation’ on the major mutilation level of sex change surgery. And mind you he was unlike some being honest that all that surgery is way short of a true ‘sex change’ – he admits that transgender ‘women’ are not really women in all kinds of important ways, but only ‘transgender women which is a lot less….

    Yet having given away all that downside of it, he still wants to insist that it is in effect ‘normal’ for God to afflict people with such distress needing such ultimately inadequate alleviation; doesn’t seem to realise that surely a God who would gratuitously afflict people thus is frankly insane….

    Reply
    • Stephen Langton

      Not all trans people have that sort of surgery, but many may want some form of medical help, even if it’s just counseling.

      Reply
      • Peter, I’m aware of that. But Christians will want to help on the basis of a Christian understanding of the world. And in such a Christian understanding it is pretty clear that ‘trans’ can’t be a part of God’s original creative intent but is part of the disruption caused by sin. And yes, we have to be careful because in a world generally affected by sin some problems people face are not the result of them being specially sinful (see eg the case of the man born blind).
        A simplistic view that “God makes people trans” really doesn’t stand up and as I pointed out rather implies an insane God to gratuitously afflict people with such problems. I don’t see it as much comfort to be telling people “You are trans because God is cruel and mad”; but great comfort to understand that such problems are part of the “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” thing and that God is dealing with the problems and at enormous cost through his love and there is hope.

        Reply
        • But the problem with that argument is *all* of the theology against full acceptance of trans people relies on God’s original creation, not a fallen version of it.

          I’ve recently had surgery for an issue in my body that probably would have eventually killed me. I’m happy to ascribe that to a fallen world rather than God’s original intent. I’m not happy for someone to say it was sinful for me to go to the doctor about it *or* that the doctor was wrong to treat me.

          In the conservative Christian view point there’s no hope for trans people because they cannot conform to the pre-fall creation pattern

          Reply
          • Who is saying it is ‘sinful’ to seek medical treatment for an illness?

            The great majority of people with gender dysphoria recover from it in time, with wise counsel and an understanding of why they feel the way they do. Medical ‘intervention’ makes things worse.

          • Peter; as far as I can work out I’m not taking exactly the view of many ‘conservatives’.
            Yes I see people being ‘trans’ as part of the consequences of living in a sin-affected world, and yes, of being basically a sinner. But I also understand that cases like the ‘man born blind’ do not involve special sinfulness of the person concerned; and I would feel much the same about physical ‘intersex’ conditions. I can conceive the idea that some have ‘gender confusion’ as a not-physically-obvious condition in the way that autism is, a genuine problem but not itself a sin. I can conceive a possibility that there might even be cases where the so-called ‘sex change’ might be appropriate.
            However I would also feel that precisely because it is unimaginable that so distressing a condition needing such drastic ‘alleviation’ could be part of the original creation, it’s an area requiring great caution, especially when dealing with adolescents. And I note from various medical sources that many ‘presenting’ with gender dysphoria are autistic, and my own knowledge and personal experience suggests why autistics might so construe themselves yet almost certainly their problems can be better dealt with by a real better understanding of autism and of social gender roles than by following the fantasy idea they’ve been ‘born in the wrong body’.

          • Stephen

            But it’s anti trans people who say they have been born in the wrong body.

            Children are born all the time with far worse conditions than being trans. Indeed until the 20th century I’d guess a third of children didn’t make adulthood. In my wider family we have a child with Downs. He’s still very young, but he’s already developmentally several years behind his peers and is very vulnerable to diseases. That seems to me to be a harder thing to live with.

        • James

          The above article is praising an RCC document which it quotes from. The RCC is telling parents not to take their kids to the doctor if they experience gender dysphoria. I think this teaching is very very dangerous and stupid.

          Reply
          • My reaction to that is a bit ambivalent; yes ideally people with such problems should be seeking medical help.
            Trouble is right now I think there are a few too many medical professionals who have become dazzled by what they can do in the various treatments that they are themselves trapped in a bit of an unhealthy fantasy about what is in real terms very far short of a true ‘sex change’ – so far short as to be frankly laughable or delusional….

          • Stephen

            From what I hear from my parents, the NHS is in real trouble. I think there has been rightly criticism of inappropriate treatment of trans people, but I still don’t think the church should be trying to take the place of doctors or telling parents not to take their kids to the doctor.

  16. To Andrew’s question about what to do, given the situation in the Church of England, I would say that there is no one answer. Staying and focussing on a local church, ignoring the clamour outside, might work for some, but only to some extent. I would be hesitant to call this ‘building the Kingdom of God’. I used to tell my seminary students remaining in their mainline denominations in the West that the reason for doing so has changed from the 1980s to today. Back then, the argument that they might bring revival to those denominations seemed reasonable, even if doubtful. The past 40 years has proven that argument wrong. The argument for staying that makes the most sense to me today is that hospice ministry (or suicide watch) is a ministry, and some are called to it. Yet this offers nothing to the youth. All we offer the youth is an argument against the institution and for something that they could only consider to be a utopian dream–a holy people without spot or wrinkle, washed and waiting for the return of our Lord. I could not encourage them to follow a calling into ministry in this context. Worse, the context may lead children astray–as Paul warned all believers in 1 Corinthians 5. Even if the last five turn out to be orthodox Christians rather than an orgy in one of the cathedrals, think of how many children will have been lost by then.

    Reply
    • I am staying in the C of E a. because I am already in it b. because I believe in its doctrine and c. because until that doctrine changes I don’t see why I should leave. Unlike other clergy I don’t have the golden handcuffs of housing and stipend.

      But I happily travel and speak at any other orthodox Christian church if I can teach and encourage them.

      To young people exploring faith I would say: find somewhere that is rooted in Scripture, open to the Spirit, committed to sharing faith and engaging in serving the world. Denomination is of less importance. But I am not sure I would ever have said anything different…?

      Reply
      • Yes, thank you. We are called to be faithful witnesses with Christ, the Faithful Witness (Revelation 1.5). Antipas was a faithful witness to the end in Pergamum, where Satan set up his throne and ruled through followers of ‘Balaam’ who promoted religious pluralism and sexual immorality (Revelation 2.13-14).

        ‘…Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
        Still ’tis Christ’s hand that leadeth me….
        His faithful follower I would be,
        For by His hand He leadeth me.’

        Yet I also wonder what might have happened differently had Lot saved his daughters out of Sodom before they developed their sexual ethics and before he developed a drinking problem! (Genesis 19.30-38)

        Reply
      • Ian; I can’t now remember or easily trace it, but it is now quite a few months since I challenged you to show me the NT support for the doctrine of the establishment of the CofE, and I’m still waiting. Which to me is not unexpected because of course there is no NT support for that idea, but a great deal which lays down a different and better way to do “Church/State” relations….

        Reply
        • Stephen

          I think its all based on the doctrine of the divine right of kings, which is yet another teaching that people used to think scripture clearly said that we struggle to see in scripture nowadays.

          I doubt Ian is a desperate defender of the establishment of the CofE. I think the only people who really care about retaining that are the Lords Spiritual

          Reply
          • The ‘divine right of kings’, whether or not in republican garb, is simply the teaching that civil authority is derived from God and ought to be obeyed for the good of the commonwealth. This is certainly the teaching of Romans 13 and other passages of Scripture, which deal with a pagan Caesar. You’re not an insurrectionist, are you, Peter?

          • James, I usually agree with you but the divine right of kings is no more than a religious pseudo-justification for “might is right” after a battle in which the victor proclaims himself king.

            I am not an insurrectionist but I don’t have to believe self-justification by men of violence who dare to quote the scriptures in their own advocacy.

          • Peter; on divine right of kings see this from my blog
            https://stevesfreechurchblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/but-seriously-5-the-divine-right-or-wrong-of-kings/

            To me both that and the state church in general are a bit of a case of people thinking “but surely God must want….” and unfortunately ignoring that the Christian God in the ‘new covenant’ has said we should do it a different way.

            James; Romans 13 does indeed teach ‘subjection’ to the state. However in line with texts like Acts 5; 29 this clearly does not mean simple obedience. Again from my blog
            https://stevesfreechurchblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/but-seriously-romans-13-the-so-crazy-it-must-be-truei-interpretation/

            As I see it the big point, stated in I Peter, is that there IS a Christian nation in the world, and therefore no need of superficial ‘Christianisation’ of other secular nations. The actual and ONLY Christian nation is the Church itself; the various geopolitical units we live in are ‘the world’ OUT OF WHICH we call people into Jesus’ rather different kind of kingdom, and it confuses and hinders when we seek that superficial Christianisation.

          • James

            I’m not an insurrectionist. I do think we need to replace the House of Lords with an elected body. Having barely survived Trumps presidency I can see the benefit of having an unelected apolitical head of state.

            In our history the “orthodox” view was that Kings (not Queens or prime ministers) were chosen by God to rule and that in some sense their decisions were approved by God and therefore not to be questioned.

            I think you’d be hard pressed to find many Christians in England who still believe that

  17. Are any of us born the way that God intended us to be? The CBEW document quotes from Psalm 139 but does that reflect the development process of a fetus in our fallen world? Larkin’s poem ‘This Be The Verse’ describes the processes by which we are shaped after birth.
    I don’t think many people would doubt the adverse effects of drugs, stress and alcohol on development within the womb. What has yet to receive much attention outside of scientific circles as those involved, for obvious reasons, do not wish to be drawn into the current maelstrom of gender politics, is that our environment is awash with gender/development disrupting chemicals of multiple varieties.
    Would we argue that a child born with brain damage due to environmental lead poisoning is the way that God wanted them to be?
    We are all, straight, gay, trans, whatever born with a burden of genetic, epi-genetic and developmental damage. This will have influenced/formed/damaged who and what all of us are and, in the case of cancers etc, eventually kill us. Some of this damage we can escape and some we just have live with. But are any of us the way God wanted us to be?
    We live in a fallen world. Fallen in more ways than current versions of ‘original sin (call it what you will)’ allow.
    The CBEW document provides a steadying hand on the tiller to hopefully aid all of us on the path to redemption, learning and mutual support.

    Reply
    • The CBEW statement is based in part on Natural Law thinking – something that used to be shared fully by Protestants (Hooker is replete with this) but in the 20th century forgotten or repudiated. I have a suspicion that Barthian Neo-Orthodoxy, with its kneejerk rejection of natural theology, has some responsibility for this: ‘the Christian message is pure revelation and has no ‘points of contact’ with the way people think about the world.’ This is obviously a disastrous cul de sac to go down.
      The temperamentally conservative person (not necessarily a Christian) looks at the world and observes that certain traditional structures – marriage, family, intergenerational solidarity, the local community, the nation-state (buttressed by a sense of patriotism, which is simply a large sense of family-love), respect for figures in loco parentis (teachers) or authority – have created stability and security for as long as anyone can remember and concludes that these things make for human flourishing. This person concludes, “The world isn’t ‘me’ but ‘me in mutual relation to others'” – and that means a measure of dying to oneself.
      But liberalism – the dominant secular code of the West today – insists that the individual is the starting point, and happiness consists of fulfilling my sexual desires. In fact, my ‘identity’ is nothing other than my desires. There is no telos for the liberal except the pursuit of desire (even though the thoughtful person understands that this is really chasing phantoms). Edward Feser has written a significant analysis of modern liberalism and how it leads to our current dissatisfactions. And school children, cast upon a sea of indecision, are the victims of this.
      The result is that Christian thinking about sex and sexuality is now presented as a peculiar choice, not grounded in reason but in some malevolent desire to control and harm.
      The rediscovery of Natural Law by Anglicans is long overdue.

      Reply
      • Edward Feser’s essay ‘Western Civilisation’s Immunodeficiency Disease’ is the one I referenced above – he argues how secular liberalism dissolves social bonds and leads to anomie in the west, in a way that Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern people wouldn’t recognise. I have inserted some spaces in the link which need to be removed to download it:

        https: // www. postliberalorder . com /p/ western-civilizations-immunodeficiency?r=3ogiue&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&triedRedirect=true

        Reply
      • Paul adopted language of ‘according to nature’ / ‘against nature’ in Romans 1.26-27 that was common in Greek philosophy. It meant according to how the world is, not how I feel. His Jewish creation theology, grounded in Scripture, found a connection with natural ‘theology’/philosophy. Certainly, Barth overreacted to Brunner in his opposition to natural theology. If I’m not mistaken, it had more to do with his understanding of the challenge to see clearly when sinners have a ‘depraved mind’ (Romans 1.28) than with any disagreement over the truth of creation theology. Yet he certainly confused the state of the argument for those hanging on his words. And Postmodernity is an experiment in an antinatural worldview.

        Reply
        • I think Barth’s Christonomism was his wrong move. The Stoics in Paul’s day perceived an order in the world, and human flourishing followed from this. That is part of Paul’s appeal to natural law in Romans 2.
          Scholastic Catholicism of course looks to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, seen through the lens of the Bible: natural virtues plus theological virtues. Grace completes nature, it doesn’t abolish it. Barth missed this.

          Reply
        • Rollin

          We need to be careful with what Paul even means by nature. He says it’s unnatural for a man to have long hair. I don’t have much hair left now, but if a young man leaves his hair to nature then it will grow long.

          By “nature” Paul doesn’t mean “what would happen without human intervention”

          Reply
          • It is quite clear, I suggest, what Paul means. Epictetus says the same thing about long hair and nature. If long hair in a culture signifies a man wanting to be or identify as a woman, then it is unnatural. 1 Cor. 11.2-16 is actually a significant passage for Paul’s understanding of gender roles and biological/natural identity. The interpretation of Paul’s words that he is referring to natural growth of hair is wrong. Other ancient writers indicate what long hair indicates within Graeco-Roman culture–and authors were well aware that in some other cultures (German, Persian) long hair did not indicate effeminacy.

          • And if we leave our bodies “to nature” they will stink and soon succumb to disease, and our teeth will fall out. Even (or especially) cats groom themselves.
            Grooming our hair (which is simply dead skin cells) is not ‘unnatural’ once you understand that ‘nature’ means the way God made us to be, reflecting His glory.
            I think Paul was talking about effeminacy of appearance (and the blurring of the male-female distinction) which was cultivated in some parts of the Greco-Roman world.

          • Rollin – I didn’t see your comment but am glad it agrees with mine. Homosexual effeminancy and cross-dressing are referenced in the first century novel ‘Satyricon’ by Petronius.

          • For reference, I quote Epictetus in the translation on Perseus. This is Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 11.2-16 about hair.

            Epictetus, Discourses 3.1 You are a human being; that is, a mortal animal, capable of a rational use of things as they appear. And what is this rational use? A perfect conformity to Nature. What have you, then, particularly excellent? Is it the animal part? No. The mortal? No. That which is capable of the mere use of these things? No. The excellence lies in the rational part. Adorn and beautify this; but leave your hair to him who formed it as he thought good.
            Well, what other appellations have you? Are you a man or a woman? A man. Then adorn yourself as a man, not as a woman. A woman is naturally smooth and delicate, and if hairy, is a monster, and shown among the monsters at Rome. It is the same thing in a man not to be hairy; and if he is by nature not so, he is a monster. But if he depilates himself, what shall we do with him? Where shall we show him, and how shall we advertise him? “A man to be seen, who would rather be a woman.” What a scandalous show! Who would not wonder at such an advertisement? I believe, indeed, that these very persons themselves would; not apprehending that it is the very thing of which they are guilty.
            Of what have you to accuse your nature, sir, that it has made you a man? Why, were all to be born women, then? In that case what would have been the use of your finery? For whom would you have made yourself fine, if all were women? But the whole affair displeases you. Go to work upon the whole, then. Remove your manhood itself and make yourself a woman entirely, that we may be no longer deceived, nor you be half man, half woman. To whom would you be agreeable, to the women? Be agreeable to them as a man.

          • There is also this in Epictetus:

            Has she [Providence] not by these [hairs on the chin] distinguished the sexes? Does not nature in each of us call out, even at a distance, I am a man; approach and address me as such; inquire no further; see the characteristic? On the other hand, with regard to women, as she has mixed something softer in their voice, so she has deprived them of a beard. But no; [some think] this living being should have been left undistinguished, and each of us should be obliged to proclaim, ” I am a man!” But why is not this characteristic [of facial hair as a distinction of the sexes] beautiful and becoming and venerable? How much more beautiful than the comb of cocks; how much more noble than the mane of lions! Therefore we ought to preserve the characteristics made by the Creator; we ought not to reject them, nor confound, as much as in us lies, the distinct sexes (Discourses 4.16).

          • Rollin

            But there we are, Paul doesn’t mean “nature” as we mean it, but is actually talking about 1st century western cultural values

          • James

            In our century we live much longer because we use substances not found naturally to keep ourselves clean and healthy. I have 8 pills to take today which are all eventually aimed at helping me live longer. None of them are naturally occurring.

          • I’ll lay this point in 1 Cor. 11.2-16 out. I thought the quote from Epictetus would be clear enough.
            Premise 1: People are naturally (biologically) men or women.
            Premise 2: Long hair in that culture signals that a person is a man and not a woman.
            Conclusion: Therefore, it is unnatural for men to have long hair as those who do are adopting an effeminate identity against nature.
            What is cultural? Hair length. What is unnatural? An effeminate man.
            I can assure you that Paul’s use of ‘according to nature’ and ‘against nature’ is replicated countless times in Graeco-Roman literature (it is a foundational point in philosophy) and that it means what we mean: nature, biology, the way God/the gods meant it be. If one wanted to mean ‘convention’ or ‘custom’, one would use an antithesis of ‘nature’, such as ‘nomos’. If this really interests you, you might read Epictetus’ Discourses at greater length. The point is key to Stoic philosophy.

        • Corrected Post (premise 2):
          Premise 1: People are naturally (biologically) men or women.
          Premise 2: Long hair in that culture signalled that a person was (unnaturally) identifying as a woman and not a man.
          Conclusion: Therefore, it is unnatural for men to have long hair as those who do are adopting an effeminate identity against nature.
          What is cultural? Hair length. What is unnatural? An effeminate man.
          I can assure you that Paul’s use of ‘according to nature’ and ‘against nature’ is replicated countless times in Graeco-Roman literature (it is a foundational point in philosophy) and that it means what we mean: nature, biology, the way God/the gods meant it be. If one wanted to mean ‘convention’ or ‘custom’, one would use an antithesis of ‘nature’, such as ‘nomos’. If this really interests you, you might read Epictetus’ Discourses at greater length. The point is key to Stoic philosophy.

          Reply
  18. Thus, having few if any workable solutions, we turn to the bashing of the Bishops
    A reflection on Psalm 53[especially vs.2 and 4] might be helpful and perhaps Jam 1:5

    Reply
  19. Also to your point, postliberals (heirs to Barth’s Neo-Orthodoxy), proceeded to a narrative theology/ethic (Hauerwas) or cultural-linguistic understanding of doctrine (Lindbeck). Such approaches to theology should not be set over against objectivity, though, as they did. Lindbeck rejected a propositional understanding of doctrine. Postliberals rejected Scripture’s authority as an inspired text, locating authority in narratives. (Richard Hays located ethical argument in ‘focal images’ over against moral law.) Their arguments could only be advanced from subjectivity, then, from the inner logic of one’s community’s presuppositions. (So also philosophers like W. V. O. Quine and Stephen Toulmin.) These ‘friends’ opposing liberalism cannot be depended on to hold the line against today’s postmodern antinaturalists.

    By the way, I’ve observed the notion of ‘against nature’ that is so prominent in Stoicism also in Cynicism and Aristotelianism over against Epicureanism and Platonism. I think I’m right about this as an important distinction in classical philosophy. As you say, Aquinas developed natural law from Aristotelian philosophy in combination with Christian theology, though Paul had affirmed it through his commitment to the Bible’s (Old Testament’s) divine authority and not on philosophical grounds. (This is one reason why I would rather speak of ‘creation theology’ than ‘natural theology’ or ‘natural law’).

    Reply
    • A lot to unpack there – and I confess I don’t know enough about Lindbeck to comment on his moves. But I note that in Romans 2.14-15 Paul talks about the Gentiles ‘do[ing] by nature (phusei) the things of the law’, and ‘the law written on their hearts’ which sounds close to Stoicism. Similarly 1 Cor 11.14 (he phusis aute didaskei).

      Reply
      • It has nothing to do with gentile ‘natural law’ arguments, James. Paul, like all the rabbis of his day, believed that humankind was naturally monotheistic and that homosexuality was a consequence of their subsequent straying away into polytheism: a punishment and degradation. It’s not.

        Reply
        • Lorenzo

          I agree with that, but I’d go further that the sort of “homosexuality” Paul talks about is clearly not what we now call “gay” people, but straight people indulging in orgies which involved same sex sex.

          Reply
          • except he doesnt say that. Youve just decided to read that into the text. There’s nothing clear at all in your understanding.

          • Regardless, Stephen, homosexuality is not a consequence of idolatry. Paul’s aetiology is bonkers.

          • Stephen

            You’re making a very solid argument with very thin material. There’s more biblical basis to ban (almost) all remarriage after divorce, yet the vast majority of churches will at least tolerate these relationships. There’s more biblical basis to ban all women from talking in church, but I’ve never been to a church that does that (even churches where women have to sit in a separate section to the men) and there’s almost as much biblical basis to ban shaving. Is it easier to go through life alone or with a beard?

            The closest the Bible gets to a SSR (instead of orgies or gang rape) is David and Jonathan’s relationship, which is presented as positive

          • Of course they don’t tolerate it, Peter. What happened is that there was a sexual revolution in the 1960s and as soon as those values became normalised across society THEN people started tolerating it. That is a tiny minority proportion of history. Is it superior to the entire remainder of history put together?
            If it is, then breaking families is superior to not doing so. Eeucgh.

        • I think Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is not quite as you suggest. The primary problem is in the rejecting of God, the thinking in effect that we humans can do better. Trouble is of course that we can’t and instead we find ourselves inventing new gods or having them developed for us by exploitative fellow humans. The point is that by rebelling against God we put ourselves ‘out of kilter’ with reality, and all of life becomes distorted and disrupted including within ourselves, whence sexual problems. We also are out of kilter with other humans whence the other things Paul lists at the end of the chapter.

          Reply
          • Lorenzo
            “Regardless, Stephen, homosexuality is not a consequence of idolatry”.

            Sorry, I thought that was exactly what I just said myself. The line is not that people are homosexual because they are idolatrous, but that both idolatry and homosexuality are consequences of the bigger problem of rebelling against God and so becoming out of joint with reality.

            Plus – a point I keep making – there is no Christian problem about men loving men and women loving women. The issue is whether ‘gay sex’ is an appropriate way to express that love. And it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that in the Bible God has said no, it’s not appropriate and he doesn’t want us to do it. And therefore faithful Christians won’t do such things. And another point I keep making, it is rather the point of ‘gay sex’ even for gay people that it’s not something people ‘just are’ without choice; it is very much something people do and choose to do, a very different moral category….

          • Stephen

            The problem with this interpretation of Romans 1 is that it’s the opposite of what gay men, raised in the church, experienced. We didn’t reject God, we spent most of our lives crying out to Him to make us straight.

            For gay people it’s
            Early years > recognize attraction to same sex > try to become attracted to opposite sex > get rejected by the church you grew up in > get married > have sex.

            Paul’s version
            Reject God > He punishes you with just for the same sex.

            Do you see how they are the opposite? Therefore Paul is either not talking about gay people *or*, more seriously, the Bible is wrong

        • Inaccurate summary, Lorenzo. Paul believed that pre-fallen man was naturally monotheistic and that homosexuality and polytheism were both a consequence of the Fall.

          Reply
          • Nope, he clearly wrote that homosexuality is a consequence of polytheism, not that both polytheism and homosexuality are both consequences of the fall. The Mishnah claims the same in many places

            ‘they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. THEREFORE God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity etc.’

            Paul was wrong. So was Judaism on the matter.

          • It was a common assumption among the Jews of his day, still is:

            Kiddushin 82a:3
            GEMARA: What is the reason that a bachelor may not teach children? If we say it is due to the children themselves, that it is suspected that he may engage in homosexual intercourse with them, but isn’t it taught in a baraita (Tosefta 5:10): They said to Rabbi Yehuda: Jews are not suspected of engaging in homosexual intercourse

          • You should look at the whole passage, comprising Romans 1:18-32. Paul is saying that they turned their backs on God and he correspondingly abandoned them to themselves. They were fallen by then, and abandoning them to themselves is abandoning them to their sinful desires, of which Paul says homosexuality is one.

            You are, I understand, a vicar in the Church of England, yet you are prepared to say explicitly that the apostle Paul is wrong and bonkers in part of his thinking.

          • If you miss that you miss the whole thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 1 and 2, which is to begin by stirring up righteous condemnation of the pagans in chapter 1 in order to convict Jewish believers in chapter 2: ‘Therefore you are without excuse when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.’

          • Yes, Anton, I man indeed a Vicar in the CofE, not an inerrantist and, yes, Paul makes claims that are bonkers in several other places to boot: there are no ‘powers of the air,’ or planetary spheres. ‘We who are alive’ were not ‘caught up in the air to meet the Lord’ during his lifetime. I neither believe in possession nor that the nations of the world are ruled by malignant ‘principalities.’ And homosexuality is not a divine punishment for paganism.

          • Anton, I think Lorenzo used to be a Roman Catholic Dominican monk. He left the RC church in disagreement with its teaching and joined the Church of England as a clergyman, although he disagrees with the Cof E’s teaching that the Letter to the Romans is inspired Scripture, part of God’s Word Writte, and therefore to be used in the formulation of Christian doctrine,
            I do not know which parts of the Bible Lorenzo believes are true and the Word of God and which parts are false, but a list
            would be helpful to enable dialogue.
            I imagine we would end up with something like Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, with all the offending passages removed.
            But Lorenzo’s Bible would probably be quite different from other people’s Bibles, and his “Old Testament” different from the NT writers, including the apostles.
            I don’t know why Lorenzo left the Roman Catholic Church and priesthood.

          • This is a big plot hole with conservative theology. If people are LGBT because of the fall then why do you hold them personally accountable for it? At the very least this should mean conservatives are cheerleaders for making space for well behaved LGBT people in the church and society and yet the absolute reverse is true

          • Peter J,
            I never hold people ‘personally accountable’ for feelings and attractions that developed unconsciously and unbidden in them, especially when they were young. I do not know where most of my own feelings and attractions came from. Many are good, others less so. The moral issue for me has always been how far we act out our feelings, and whether we feed our appetites.
            I recognise this can by enormously difficult and painful for people, in all kinds of ways: not just our sexual feelings but our appetites for food, drink, stimulants etc, and the emotional demands we make on others (for love, acceptance, admiration, submission etc) – demands which others may not be inclined to accept, which may leave us desolate, lonely or angry. I am reminded that Christians are called to self-denial, not self-hatred, and we all need to cultivate a kind of autarchy-in-Christ, as the Apostle Paul: to be satisfied in plenty or in want and to know that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.

    • The Natural Law School of Jurisprudence sees all God’s laws as over and above human made laws, and includes the moral order.
      It would also include creation ordinances and it is suggested thatin Christianity it would be grounded in the doctrines of God and anthropology as revealed in scripture.
      In reality, Natural Law is supernatural which includes the created material and spiritual order, fallen as it now is.

      Reply
      • It is supernatural – but is accessible to people who don’t have faith in Christ and even to atheists who believe in ‘nature’ (the given biological and physical order we inhabit which is not of our making). That#s the point of Lewis’s ‘The Abolition of Man’.
        Christians can go further and say nature (phusis) is creation (ktisis), which is not clear to the non-believers.

        Reply
      • Roman law distinguished three types of law: the law of nature (jus naturalis), the law of nations (jus gentium; international law), and civil law (jus cives). This understanding can be shown in Greek sources as well.
        Epictetus (1st c. AD Stoic) speaks of natural law in the following way: ‘But as to good and evil, and beautiful and ugly, and becoming and unbecoming, and happiness and misfortune, and proper and improper, and what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, whoever came into the world without having an innate idea of them?’ (Discourses 2.11). Refer back to James’ reference to Romans 2.14-15. This is Paul’s point as well.

        Reply
        • As the article draws on and as indeed, you have referred to, natural law predates Roman and Greek eras, although such a language was not employed: it is seen throughout the Old Testament, and continues through the New Testament,confirmed and doubled down, in the incarnation, life death, bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

          Simply,though not simplistically,natural law is enfolded in the Sovereignty of God.

          Paradoxically it is not to be found in a closed material- world- system, though as Romans 1 shows it is visible, if uncomprehended. Without God being central, there is muddle, confusion and a quagmire for the unbelieving and the querelous.

          Reply
          • An older and dear sister in the Lord, died a week ago, subject to the Natural law which is the law of God. Also according to the ‘law’ of God she is more alive now than ever in Christ.
            Without God, natural law is dead – end entropy.

          • “Natural law is understood as the rational creature’s participation in the eternal, divine law, thanks to which it enters in a free and conscious manner into the plans of Providence. It is not a closed and complete set of moral norms, but a source of constant guidance, present and operative in the different stages of the economy of salvation.”

            International Theological Commission, ‘In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at the Natural Law’ (Vatican, 2009)

          • James, thank you

            That summary of natural law ( linked to Providence) from the Vatican 2009, sadly exposes the theological and scriptural impoverishment of the CoE bishopric which has causative repercussions not only in this particular matter.

  20. Thanks for signposting this excellent treatise, Ian.

    My only disappointment is that it avoided dealing with the vexed question of pronoun use. The document was so embracing in purpose but leaving this matter out seemed to ignore what would be a conflict point in pastoral interactions. I also thought the use of ‘dissonance’ was a helpful way of expressing the conflicts rooted in dysphorias.

    It was interesting to see that their authority appears to derive from the Pope as equal to scripture. Also, there was no appeal to Science. I have reflected that the testimony of Science in this matter should be primary. After all, before creation there was the Logos, then, in creation (and therefore science), the Logos was revealed (Col 1.16), lastly there is the revelation of the Logos in scripture. When viewed scientifically, this pastoral document is fully authenticated.

    It is so sad that the document highlights the weakness of theology in the CofE. I recall Rowan Williams endorsing the view that “To be Trans is to enter a *sacred journey* of becoming whole: precious, honoured, and loved, by yourself, by others and by God”. Crossing the Tiber is definitely appealing since they seem to be sticking to their orthodox roots (and Mary wasn’t mentioned once)! However, I have “crossed the Thames” (that is away from Lambeth Palace) and am somewhat wandering in a hinterland for the present.

    Reply
    • Peter

      We have a friend from Guatemala and it’s taken us a long time to figure out the right pronounciation of his name because him and his husband also use an Americanized version of it in certain circumstances.

      I think it’s pretty normal to address people how they wish to be addressed. They regularly seem to be minor news stories where there’s been an argument because someone has been misidentified as a trans woman because they look a bit butch.

      I’d day your safest assuming that the other person is better judge of their own gender than you are.

      Reply
  21. Reply to Peter JERMEY
    May 6, 2024 at 12:49 pm
    From Romans 5:12-21 we are all sinners because of Adam’s sin and that sinful flaw manifests itself in different ways – e.g. heterosexual lust and homosexual lust, pride, greed etc for which we are all accountable.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
  22. Lorenzo; you say
    “If you miss that you miss the whole thrust of Paul’s argument in Romans 1 and 2, which is to begin by stirring up righteous condemnation of the pagans in chapter 1 in order to convict Jewish believers in chapter 2: ‘Therefore you are without excuse when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.’”

    So Paul’s argument in the first chapter is simply to allow him an insulting ‘gotcha’ at the expense of about half his readership? And so by implication the things he says there are unimportant, not to be taken seriously, and especially not the clear condemnation of ‘gay sex’.

    Try a more rational approach. Paul in Romans is kind of sending a ‘portable apostle’ to a church/group of fellowships which doesn’t have anyone of apostolic level authority, but needs to know its stuff about the faith because they represent Jesus in the Empire’s capital city. He gives them a simple serious run-down on basic Christian teaching. The first chapter simply explains the basic Christian ideas of the sin which makes the gospel necessary; the human rebellion against God which in turn disrupts and distorts various aspects of life, leading to polytheism, disorder in sexual matters, and all the other things he describes in the chapter – all serious sins, including the sexual sins he mentions. He then has to turn to his Jewish readers not with a ‘gotcha’ but simply because the different history of the Jews as God’s chosen people might lead them to think that they don’t have the same basic need of the gospel as their Gentile fellow-Christians. No, he says, despite the different histories of Jew and Gentile they too need the gospel – “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God….” as their own scriptures tell them. Thus he supplies the church in Rome as a whole with really helpful ways to explain sin and the need of salvation to their mostly Gentile fellow-Romans, and heads off something that might divide the church. And he has way more positive intent than a sneaky trap for the Jewish readers….

    As I say, everything in ch 1 is basically a sin and is clearly condemned as such – ‘gay sex’ included.

    Reply

Leave a comment