Good disagreement? This isn’t it


Christopher Landau writes: It is a deep, sad irony. The Archbishop of Canterbury is an accomplished peacemaker, with reconciliation as a key priority in his ministry, and yet he is now presiding over some of the deepest disquiet and disunity seen in the church in two decades.

Across the theological spectrum, the bishops’ pastoral letter and accompanying ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ are causing substantial unease, and I believe this stems from a profound corporate episcopal misreading of how Christians are to face their disagreements faithfully and fruitfully. 

Ecclesiastical fudge?

I understand why pictures of fudge have been clogging my social media. The church is apparently being encouraged to exchange the notion of being led into singular truth, along the narrow way, for an uncertain future including a pick-and-mix selection of “prayers that bear a nuanced variety of understandings” (to quote the official document).

During more than a decade when I have been researching and writing on theology and disagreement, alongside other ministry, it has become abundantly clear to me that, at best, the role of disagreement in ecclesial life is routinely misunderstood; at worst, it becomes weaponised. This is about how disagreements are faced (the affective question); how the church learns to assess the factors within a particular disagreement; and how disagreement is seen as a fruitful process of revelation, rather than a holding pattern or destination in itself. I will explore these in turn. 

Progress on how Christians treat each other in the midst of disagreement is arguably one of the gains made in the LLF process. Whatever the criticisms, and there have been many, churches have undoubtedly been challenged to admit the limitations of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy; potentially abusive theologies or practices have been brought into the light; and a deep sense of the intrinsic value of all members of the Body of Christ has been affirmed. 

Damaging Disagreement

Systemic problems remain, however. In ‘Loving Disagreement, published last November, I begin the book by suggesting that Christians are in fact addicted to damaging disagreement. Like alcoholics, we are often in denial about both the addiction itself and its impact on our lives. So I invite readers to consider the twelve steps designed by Alcoholics Anonymous: it is an instructive process to replace the word ‘alcohol’ with ‘disagreement’. The first challenge is to admit that there is a problem. Another crucial step involves believing in a higher power that can bring positive change. 

When it comes to disagreements concerning sexuality, I fear there has been little softening of hearts between opponents in these debates—and social media has continued to highlight toxic rather than loving approaches. We are yet to explore fully what it might mean to apply the fruit of the spirit in the context of our disagreements; and the challenge of John 13:35 that those beyond the church might discover something attractive when they see the mutual love within it, falls on deaf Anglican ears.

In my more optimistic moments, I can suggest that there has been at least some demonstrable progress in this first aspect of disagreement; at least in some contexts, including some local churches, deeper listening and learning has led to better mutual understanding. But improving this ‘affective’ approach to disagreement, which hopefully includes even a deepening love for the enemies for whom we pray, is not the whole story. 

Assessing the arguments

Effective disagreement must include a second crucial aspect: doing the painstaking work of assessing all the contributory factors in a disagreement. In the papers from the college of bishops issued in the last few days, one can only conclude that this deliberation seems to have been rushed. 

It is worth noting that the bishops did not end up reviewing and discussing these issues for the length of time that had originally been planned; the Queen’s death led to the cancellation of one residential retreat, removing more than a quarter of the time originally scheduled for this work. But even with that aside, a five-year LLF process in the whole church has been followed by a few short months of episcopal reflection. 

Indeed the bishops’ own document reveals many areas in which it is acknowledged that more work is necessary, and many of these are surely issues that need to be faced effectively before the proposed prayers could be used with pastoral or theological coherence. Instead, it feels as though mutually contradictory statements have been allowed to sit alongside one another, because the bishops “want to continue walking together, bearing with one another in love”. But does “a gracious interpretation of doctrine”, prompting many new questions, really equate to seeking the truth that Jesus promises will set us free? Whether disagreement is described as good, effective or loving, to disagree well must involve an effective facing of the issues in question.

In my home diocese (of Lichfield), the episcopal letter circulated by email perhaps inadvertently revealed an interesting dimension to the final document – the PDF file name is ‘final draft prayers of love and faith_8’. Oh to see the tracked changes! But the assumed to-and-fro of the drafting process rather speaks to the lack of unanimity behind the scenes. Clearly, the bishops have wrangled their way through a variety of options. I am not alone in regarding the resulting proposals as being so diffuse as to risk being theologically incoherent. 

So what would seeking to analyse this disagreement with a new depth, seeking a singular truth, actually look like in practice? 

Disagreement unresolved

The key issue is that rather than being faced in its totality, a disagreement is being left unresolved, and a potentially unworkable compromise is being proposed. Few seem convinced that it is really possible to defend the doctrine of marriage as the church has traditionally understood it, while simultaneously offering blessings that by all logical estimation have an essential impact on how the church understands marriage and sexuality.

The tortuous wording surrounding some of the proposed prayers, and the accompanying report, rather illustrates this. A close reading of what is and isn’t being said is necessary, which then rather highlights why for many, ‘Anglican fudge’ is back on the menu. 

The bishops commit “to welcome same-sex couples unreservedly and joyfully”. As progressive campaigners have frequently underlined, rather more than a warm welcome is desired—and indeed the Archbishop of York’s public comments have gone further than this text. But the document only suggests that the welcome is unreserved and joyful; the content of the prayers is much more circumspect, and it is only in the curious section on ‘Everyday faithful relationships’ in the report that sexual activity is named. It isn’t prayed about.

Absent theology

By one reading, this reflects an apparent reticence to pray unreservedly and joyfully for a sexually active same sex union. Furthermore, the criteria for blessing a same sex couple is that they are in a monogamous two person union. But the theological basis for this is unclear, beyond an imitation of the marriage doctrine that already exists—which prompts further questions. If this isn’t in fact akin to marriage, why would the bishops offer a blessing that excludes various other kinds of queer relationship? But if it is much more like marriage, for what theological reasons have they stopped short of proposing marriage equality? Or is this simply about a political consideration concerning whether doctrinal votes would pass in Synod?

For Christian Ethicists (of whom I am one, inasmuch as I have a doctorate in the discipline), the discussion of any moral dilemma often relates to ‘competing goods’. It is clear that plenty of Anglicans affirm that many, if not most of the goods of marriage can be visible in a committed, permanent same-sex union. But the creation ordinance and ‘good’ of the possibility of natural procreation is absent—and in the tradition of the church this has not been seen as a negligible factor.

Suppose that in ten years’ time, churches in Brighton are, like some in Massachusetts today, encountering families of three or more adults, living in sexually active, committed relationships, where (as the Harvard Law Review reports) legal recognition for these relationships is being developed. How might the English church respond to this? If Scripture and tradition have been set on one side, and the only argument we have for moral discernment relates to our experience, I fail to see what logical choice there would be but to continue to use an inappropriately generalised appeal that ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God,’ and for the bishops to offer a further extension to the currently proposed prayers. 

Another way?

So is there another way? In my days as a journalist, I was the reporter for BBC Radio 4’s news coverage of Vincent Nichols’ appointment as (Roman Catholic) Archbishop of Westminster in 2009. I remember asking him about questions of sexuality, and at the time being deeply unconvinced by his appeal to a distinctive Christian vision of same sex friendship, which overlapped considerably with the moral goods of many contemporary gay relationships, but which maintained a distinctive sense of Christian call and vocation. (The Vatican’s position on same sex blessings is a brief and instructive read.) In the intervening years, however, and through my own experience of ministerial formation, I have come to appreciate this distinctively Christian vocation as one which is both coherent with theological tradition, and alert in its critique of some of the wilder excesses found in both straight and queer contemporary sexuality.

Perhaps the Church of England has a literally foundational problem when it comes to questions of marriage, and we can’t quite shake off this wounded Tudor history. But I had rather assumed the bishops would seek to maintain a logical consistency with their previous teaching, and even if blessings were offered to gay couples, an extension of Elizabeth I’s desire not to ‘make windows into men’s souls’ might offer local churches a degree of freedom in their prayers, without compromising or undermining the stated doctrine of holy matrimony. Such an approach might not have pleased everyone, but it would have offered a way for bishops to speak with more obvious coherence about the doctrine of marriage being preserved. 

The third aspect of disagreement left sadly unresolved by this process to date concerns disagreement as a fruitful process. Rather than a theologically cogent, easily understood proposal, we are offered an unresolved, ongoing holding pattern where new questions are thrown up and existing certainties undermined. Even the way for equal marriage is apparently left open (“there is further to go as we seek God’s coming kingdom together”). 

Pastoral implications

The pastoral implications of this for various groups are currently left unanswered. Anyone who has previously seen some element of sexual self-sacrifice as an intrinsic part of their Christian discipleship is now left wondering what the bishops are commending, and how the church now encourages them to live a holy life. Some gay couples remain uncertain about what may or may not be possible for them in future; others remain excluded given their practice of open relationships.  

I happen to believe that if the bishops had proposed pastorally generous solutions that maintained coherence with their previous teaching, they could have offered something to the church which was both more robust theologically and which would have had a much stronger chance of maintaining unity. But in this already strange scenario, a further twist involves the Archbishop of Canterbury both welcoming the developments and saying he won’t take part. One might say that you couldn’t make this up. I cannot imagine his decision will make any positive difference in the wider Communion.

It feels like we are stuck in this holding pattern, seemingly never to land at the airport—because a weak appeal to disagreement has been made as an attempt to bypass hard but necessary theological work. Those who believe in conscience that this is about waiting for gay marriage in church may hope that a few more years in the sky might result in the change for which they long. Others may fear that the plane seems likely to crash, before its planned landing. 

Turbulence ahead

Whatever else happens, there is certainly turbulence ahead. If some parliamentarians get their way, the Church of England’s relationship with the state will be examined afresh if equal marriage is not approved; the threat of disestablishment hangs in the air. It certainly feels as though we are entering a new period of existential reflection in the life of the church: about marriage as one of its most honoured institutions; about the definition of sin and the bishops’ freedom to redefine it; and about what constitutes holiness and flourishing in the particular voluntary calling of the Christian life. 

I recognise that in conscience people of good faith come to radically different conclusions on these issues. But from Acts 15 onwards, the Christian tradition has always claimed it has the internal resources to reach singular, theologically coherent conclusions on complex issues, even with elements of compromise, which enable a united church to move forward in mission. That seems a rather distant hope in today’s Church of England. But it remains my sincere prayer. 


Revd Dr Christopher Landau is the author of Loving Disagreement: the Problem is the Solution (Equipping the Church, 2022).


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132 thoughts on “Good disagreement? This isn’t it”

  1. The only solution is not to have one totally top down uniform Church of Position but to let each Vicar and Parish decide. That is already the case for women priests and women bishops, where there are Anglo Catholic Parishes which have their own flying Bishops if they believe women priests are incompatible with the Bible and teachings of Paul.

    It is also the case for remarriage after divorce, where remarriage of divorcees is left up to individual Vicars if they believe remarriage of divorcees if that divorce was not on the grounds of the spouse’s adultery is incompatible with the teachings of Christ.

    There is no reason the same cannot apply to evangelical Parishes having their own flying Bishops if they do not want to conduct homosexual marriages, even if liberal Catholic Parishes are allowed to do so if they wish. Otherwise if Labour win the next election they may impose homosexual marriage on the Church of England as the established church anyway through Parliament and the law, maybe not even with an opt out for evangelicals who disagree

    Reply
    • I have some sympathy with this. However, this would be starting to turn C of E parishes into independent churches. If we decide whether to have women priests (I say yes, BTW) and whether to have same-sex marriages (in all but name), where do we stop? More importantly, do we get to have the ability to reject our diocesan bishops if they hold a stance on this opposite to how the parish decides? How would that work in the many multi-parish benefices? It might work in the olden days of one parish = one vicar, but would be extremely difficult today.

      I’d love to hear more on this, though.

      Can Parliament impose anything on us if General Synod doesn’t agree? Disestablishment, yes, but as a still established church?

      Reply
      • Yes you do. Hence Parishes which don’t have women priests reject diocesan bishops and have their own flying Bishops like the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

        Evangelical churches can be made into multi parish benefices if needed. Parliament can impose anything it likes on the Church of England as it is the established church, even if Synod disagrees.

        Reply
        • Parliament can impose anything it likes on the Church of England as it is the established church, even if Synod disagrees.

          Parliament can impose anything it likes on any religion. Parliament could bring back Test Acts. Parliament could make it illegal to be a Presbyterian, or a Muslim, or a Jew. But Parliaments don’t have infinite legislative time and some of those things would be very very complicated and require lots of drafting and debate — effort that a government may prefer to use for something else that affects more than the 0.9% of the UK population who attend the Church of England.

          Reply
    • The only solution is not to have one totally top down uniform Church of Position but to let each Vicar and Parish decide.

      That word basically mean the Church of England ceasing to be a single denomination, and becoming a federation of different church groupings with different theologies, united in the most superficial, in-name-only way.

      As someone who seems to place the highest value on the Church of England being the (singular) established national church, I don’t see how you could welcome such a development as it would mean the end of the thing you seem to care most about, a single established united national church under secular law.

      Perhaps you could explain this apparent contradiction?

      Reply
      • No it wouldn’t, it is already the case for women priests different Parishes take a different line.

        The Church of England is much more flexible than the Roman Catholic Church

        Reply
        • So the explanation of the apparent contradiction is that you don’t really care about unity, only the superficial appearance of unity.

          Should have realised, really.

          Reply
          • If I cared about unity above all I would be Roman Catholic not Anglican wouldn’t I! There what the Pope and Vatican say really does go for every Roman Catholic parish across the world.

            The Church of England let alone the Anglican Communion have always been much loser, after all Henry VIII created the Church of England in the first place as a Catholic and Apostolic church which would still allow him to
            divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn which the Pope wouldn’t

          • If I cared about unity above all I would be Roman Catholic not Anglican wouldn’t I!

            Come to think of it why are you an Anglican?

            What do you think the purpose of the Church of England is? If the Church of England didn’t exist — if the UK was a secular republic like France or the USA — why would you think it needed to be invented?

  2. In his response to Pilling (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0953946814530239a), Oliver O’Donovan wrote: ” Considered faithfulness must involve deliberation on possible courses of action, and it must involve reflection on the shape and practical implications of the truths the church believes.”

    In O’Donovan’s words, LLF’s task was primarily reflective, i.e. it was tasked with reflecting on how the truths of the faith shed light on a new practical question, gathering the interpretative yield from the work of theologians, listening to those who reflect on it in the course of their lives and ministry, and synthesising it in a form that can facilitate deliberation.

    In contrast, a deliberative body is ”charged with recommending a course of action, summing up the practical situation, weighing alternative possibilities, implications, modes of implementation, difficulties etc.”

    Importantly, O’Donovan wrote: ” A good revision in practice cannot be supported by a ‘revisionist’ theology—on the contrary, it needs a thoroughly catholic and orthodox foundation. By articulating carefully love everything theological that two sides in a practical disagreement can say together, we can get the scope of the disagreement in proper perspective, and may open the way to agreement on experiments which have a chance of commending themselves in practice. So long as proposals for experiment come with the label of ‘revisionism’, on the other hand, no church with concerns for its catholicity can embrace them.”

    In essence, it means that, at the very least, LLF should have been able to acknowledge their differences, while articulating the scope of their agreement.

    The latter would provide a launching point for a further deliberative body (e.g. the House of Bishops) to identify a range of permissible catholic options which would likely be received as legitimate developments.

    However, as an example of general agreement, the Pastoral Principles do no more than articulate the manner in which followers of orthodoxy, revisionism and anything in between might co-exist beneficently and disagree amicably.

    While important, there has to be far more common ground than these principles can provide, so that any future deliberative body can propose permissible catholic options that would survive the process of Anglican reception.

    In relation to CofE doctrine and practice, HoB’s proposals reveal themselves to be lacking in the depth of deliberation and weighing of pros and cons that, for example, made the Rochester Report (Women in the episcopacy) so outstanding in identifying differences and establishing the kind of common ground upon which a future deliberative body could make ‘real world’ practical recommendations..

    Instead, for the HoB merely to leave canon B30 unchanged, while introducing draft prayers for blessing (vs. prayers *of* blessing) does not lessen the revisionist tone of the draft proposals.

    For the sake of catholicity, it would have been better to develop prayers for affirmation of mutual Christian love with no sexual connotation whatsoever, while maintaining that clergy continue to be prohibited from entering same-sex marriage.

    Reply
    • The church leadership has allowed for years gay clergy living with their partners, this development is no surprise. Essentially it appears many bishops agree and affirm gay sexual relationships, but just dont want to call it ‘marriage’ but for all intents that is what it is.

      Reply
    • Thanks for these really helpful comments. I agree that Oliver O’Donovan’s work is very important in these debates.

      Reply
  3. I’m really sorry but this is largely fluff. I’ve been reading articles like this ever since I became a Christian a decade and a half ago. This has been the fluffy road of appeasement, in the name of ‘grace’, that too many in the C of E have been treading for too long.

    As was said daily in my grandfather’s day – ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on?!’
    Up and until we realize that this is a battle being waged within a cosmic Spiritual war, we’ll continue espousing and treading this fluff.

    Firstly, go back to Scripture – It is clear we are in a Spiritual war and there is a dark scheming force at work, which has been the case for decades plotting and scheming all this.

    Secondly, again as we go back to Scripture we see many of the Biblical heroes being all to aware of this fact that we remain oblivious to. How fluffy was Elijah as he confronted the agents of Baal? How fluffy was Paul in confronting the Judaizer’s of Galatia? (Gal.1:9)
    How fluffy was Jesus in confronting the Jewish leaders and those not pursuing the will of God?

    And finally, for my money, one of the problems leading to all this has been the very fluffy approach that we’ve taken within the enterprise of Christian ethics for far too long.
    When did this fanciful notion of ‘virtue’ promote itself as being superior to the deontological??
    For virtue ethics to be anything but fanciful fluff, they must be ground in the deontological, ie in God Himself. If any virtue is not grounded in the very nature of our creator Himself, then it is vaccuous. Which then takes us back to the central point that this is all about:

    Has God spoken to us – if so, are we going to respond in obedience?
    And are we going to challenge and even stand up against those who do not?

    Reply
    • I guess it’s a fine line between peacemaking and what you call the “fluffy road of appeasement” – but I believe we’re called to both grace and truth. Virtue ethics has a profoundly important place in Christian ethical tradition. As does turning the other cheek… in all these issues it’s surely a balance!

      Reply
  4. I’m posting this in a bit of a rush so it may be too coherent. When deciding on whether to have women priests, this is a soley PCC decision, isn’t it? Hence, a PCC may decide this just after their current vicar retires. With the LLF stuff, how is this meant to work? What if a vicar thinks it wrong to have LLF blessing, but his/her PCC votes otherwise? Ditto in the opposite direction? What if a vicar is appointed thinking one thing and then comes to the opposite conclusion later?

    Reply
    • I suspect that it is the incumbant who has the sole say-so. That certainly was the case when it came to the marriage of divorcees. My vicar at the time did discuss the issue with the PCC on one occasion, but made clear that it was his decision.

      Reply
  5. “But from Acts 15 onwards, the Christian tradition has always claimed it has the internal resources to reach singular, theologically coherent conclusions on complex issues, even with elements of compromise, which enable a united church to move forward in mission”.
    Really!?
    What about the Arian Controversy? What about the disagreement about Original Sin?
    At the moment the Church is in disagreement about what ‘Mission’ means.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • What about the Arian Controversy?

      They reached a theologically coherent conclusion to that: Arius was wrong.

      What about the disagreement about Original Sin?

      No reason that a theologically coherent conclusion couldn’t be reached on that, either. Some people just persist in being wrong.

      At the moment the Church is in disagreement about what ‘Mission’ means.

      But presumably the aim is to come to a theologically coherent conclusion, yes?

      Reply
  6. Surely part of this identifying the central questions of doctrine on which the church should pronounce as opposed to the issues left to personal conscience. The church at a quick guess should be concerned with issues raised in the creeds and in church governance, neither of which define marriage.

    Reply
    • But marriage is rooted in the doctrine of creation, and is pretty central to a theological understanding of what it means to be human made in the image of God.

      Do you think that is secondary? It comes under ‘I believe in God Almighty, maker…’

      Reply
      • Do you thereby disagree with the Reformers, Ian? Calvin saw no such institution of marriage in Genesis: as for it being rooted in the doctrine of creation, so is agriculture and cobbling, he wrote

        “The last of all is marriage, which, while all admit it to be an institution of God, no man ever saw to be a sacrament, until the time of Gregory. And would it ever have occurred to the mind of any sober man? It is a good and holy ordinance of God. And agriculture,
        architecture, shoemaking, and shaving, are lawful ordinances of God; but they are not sacraments. For in a sacrament, the thing required is not only that it be a work of God, but that it be an external ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. That there is nothing of the kind in marriage, even children can judge.”

        It is beyond marvellous to see evangelicals resorting to the arguments of the Council of Trent against the Reformation, and the theology of the last few popes.

        Reply
        • Do you thereby disagree with the Reformers, Ian? Calvin saw no such institution of marriage in Genesis: as for it being rooted in the doctrine of creation, so is agriculture and cobbling, he wrote

          I don’t know about Ian Paul, but I firmly agree with Calvin there that marriage is not a sacrament, and see no contradiction with it also being instituted in Genesis and rooted in the nature of creation.

          Perhaps you can explain where you see the contradiction?

          Because you seem to have confused ‘arguing against marriage being a sacrament’ with ‘arguing against marriage being instituted in Genesis’, when these are not the same thing at all.

          Reply
      • I’m not sure that you can jump theologically very easily from Genesis 1&2 to the Anglican marriage service, never mind the different cultural settings you are trying to treat as one.

        Reply
    • The church at a quick guess should be concerned with issues raised in the creeds and in church governance, neither of which define marriage.

      I don’t understand this obsession some people seem to have with the creeds.

      The creeds are just summaries. They aren’t God’s Word, like the Bible is. Their sole virtue is brevity; but by that same token they have to leave a lot of stuff out, including important stuff.

      To rely on a creed is like relying on a three-page summary of the law. It can be useful, it’s certainly a lot handier to carry in your pocket than a full copy of an Act of Parliament, but it’s absolutely no substitute for the authoritative legislation.

      The creeds are no substitute for the Bible.

      Reply
      • Well said, S. Creeds were written as antidotes to the heresies threatening the church at the time they were written. That meant Arianism. Today the threat is liberalism. So I’d be glad to see a new creed for today – although not one written by the liberal bishops who have make a public spectacle of the Church of England in the last week. They would rewrite it thus:

        I believe in one God, whatever the word means
        Maker of heaven and earth, although it might have been there beforehand
        And of all things visible and invisible, but not the supernatural
        And in one lord Jesus Christ…
        Who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, unless she and Joseph overdid it
        On the third day he rose again according to the scriptures, although we don’t believe those any more…

        Reply
      • I don’t understand this obsession some people seem to have with the creeds.

        I’m being disingenuous here. I do understand. It’s clear that to some people (maybe you can think of examples) religion isn’t about truth: it’s about belonging. You’re not, for example, a Christian rather than a Muslim because you think that the claims of Christianity are true (you think that Jesus was God, born of a virgin, for example) and those of Islam are false (you don’t think that the Quran was dictated by God). Rather you are a Christian or a Muslim depending on your culture. These people think that all religions are equally true, or rather, equally false; that all supernatural claims are wrong, in all religions, and stories of miracles are n not meant to be taken as historical records but are metaphors written by people struggling to express their subjective experiences of the divine.

        These kind of people love creeds because creeds function for them as shibboleths: they are the things you say to mark yourself out as a member of a particular community. They’re not meant to be taken literally as objective truth-claims that can be correct or incorrect (hence you can say the Nicene Creed while denying the virgin birth because you think Jesus had a human father) but rather things that unite those who say them in belonging to the same community.

        Reply
          • (It also helps if you take a sort of Kierkegaardian notion of ‘belief’ as not meaning ‘something I think is true’ but rather ‘something I chose to put faith in’. This is of course nonsense but it allows you to say ‘I believe in X’, which is the form creeds tend to take, even though you don’t actually think X is true but is just something that aesthetically appeals to.)

    • And maybe because when the Creeds were agreed the definition of marriage was not in dispute but universally held as man/woman exclusively…

      It simply didn’t need saying…. like there’s no reference to murder, adultery or theft. And the Creeds are not primarily “how to be holy” guides…

      Reply
  7. I was struck by the article how there is little reference to Christian biblical theological terms, little looking at it were, “through the eyes of the testator” to appropriate a term from interpreting wills and testamentary dispositions.

    I can understand some reasons for that: to employ another idea from the law. To have a right of audience, to address the Court you need to be professionally qualified, need to be aware of the terminology, the whole ethos of the system.
    From the outset, the article establishes a “right to be heard”.

    After that preamble. I pick out what I see as two key but interlocked and cross referencing points.

    1 “Competing goods” Using theological terms that seem to be largely absent in the CoE I’d highlight the goods of:

    1.1 “common grace”, that God graciously bestows on all people in his providence. Is that not what CS Lewis was emphasising in his WW2 broadcasts.

    1.2 Saving grace, the grace of Christian conversion and the operation of a “higher power”, yet not so as to blaspheme Holy Spirit, it is through the operation of the Person of God who is Spirit, who is Holy.

    1.3 Sanctifying grace of Holiness, through the person of God the Holy Spirit.

    1.4 the grace of God in his revealing grace through the whole canon of scripture, including all genres: grace of his law and grace upon grace of the Gospel and his coming among us, as put by CS Lewis, descending into “enemy occupied territory.

    2 Higher Power (see above) this is none other than God the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who is operative in salvation and sanctification.

    3 There certainly are “competing goods”, when the goods of common grace, unknowingly perhaps . perhaps even in self exalting, pride-of-life emnity,(as very life itself is Common grace bestowed on all of life and the material world) seek to be the “ultimate grace” as it were , to usurp the Triune God of Grace

    Andrew Godsall near the very end of the comments to the previous blog article assumes this:
    “One assumes that the work of the Holy Spirit was somehow somewhere present.” In the engagement in the LLF process).

    Yet this is to call on the good offices of the Holy Spirit who, it seems, according to Andrew, was not operative in the writing and composition of the whole canon of scripture, which, as we have it, is “uncorrectable.”

    God the Holy Spirit does not operate contrary to his work of revelation of the whole canon of scripture, which is clear and coherent, on point, not confused and befuddled.

    Revision is enmity.

    Division is sown: division is reaped.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this – for me, these wider pneumatological questions about how the Spirit works through flawed churches are fascinating.

      Reply
    • Where have I ever said that the Holy Spirit was not operative in the writing of Scripture? Please do point to the exact words I used.
      Geoff you have done this before – written here that I have said something only to the find that I had never said such a thing and then had to withdraw your statement with an apology.

      Of course the Holy Spirit was operative in the writing of scripture. What else does inspired actually mean?

      Reply
      • Where have I ever said that the Holy Spirit was not operative in the writing of Scripture?

        ‘Operative’ is a weird so vague as to be utterly useless. You certainly don’t think that the Holy Spirit made sure that Scripture is reliable, do you?

        I think the important questions are:

        (a) in what way do you think that the Holy Spirit was involved in the writing of Scripture, and what effect did that involvement have on the end result?

        (b) do you think the Holy Spirit was uniquely involved in the writing of Scripture, ie, involved in the writing of the documents which make up the canon of the Bible in a way that it was not involved in the writing of any other documents during the whole of human history?

        Reply
  8. I am an Anglican and Church of England in particular as I am Catholic in liturgy I support women priests, homosexual marriage and allowing remarriage of divorcees (certainly if spousal adultery) unlike the Roman Catholic Church.

    That is why the Church of England exists ie for liberal Catholics and that would be the case even if the King didn’t head it and is the case in the US, Welsh and Scottish Anglican churches. Anglo Catholics by contrast can always go full Roman Catholic, as some did over women priests in the Church of England. Evangelicals can always go to Pentecostal, Baptist or charismatic evangelical churches, as some may if homosexual marriages allowed in the Church of England

    Reply
    • I am an Anglican and Church of England in particular as I am Catholic in liturgy I support women priests, homosexual marriage and allowing remarriage of divorcees (certainly if spousal adultery) unlike the Roman Catholic Church.

      What does ‘Catholic in liturgy’ mean? What do you actually believe, theologically?

      Do you believe in the universalist heresy?

      Reply
      • It means I emphasise communion and the Mass and the hierarchy of Bishops more than evangelicals do and also that I don’t take every word of the Bible literally as many evangelicals do too

        Reply
        • It means I emphasise communion and the Mass and the hierarchy of Bishops more than evangelicals do

          Don’t define yourself in opposition to another group, like ‘evangelicals’. Be yourself!

          What does it mean to ‘emphasise communion and the Mass and the hierarchy of Bishops’?

          Do you believe in transubstantiation? Is that what you think is important?

          And you didn’t answer my question about universalism. Are you a universalist?

          Reply
        • You got me there. Guilty. I do try to take the bible literally…

          “It is most important to distinguish literalistic from literal interpretation. The former [literalistic] generates an unlettered, ultimately illiterate reading—one that is incapable of recognizing less obvious uses of language such as metaphor, satire, and so forth. By contrast, the latter [literal] attends to what authors are doing in tending to their words in a certain way. “Literalistic” interpretation is like a word-for-word translation that yields verbally exact or “formally equivalent” versions but that also runs the risk of overlooking the main (illocutionary) point. Literal interpretation, on the other hand, is more like a translation that strives for dynamic equivalence and yields the literary sense. “

          Reply
    • T1,
      We graciously extended the invitation to you to swim the Tiber. Buoyancy aides are available.
      Let’s see how welcome ssm is there.

      Reply
      • We graciously extended the invitation to you to swim the Tiber. Buoyancy aides are available.
        Let’s see how welcome ssm is there.

        It’s quite a consumerist attitude, isn’t it, to want to be able to pick and choose this bit of Romanism but not that bit? To make up one’s own religion entirely according to one’s own preferences?

        Reply
      • I have no intention of swimming the Tiber. I am a liberal Catholic not an Anglo Catholic and support women priests, homosexual marriage and the King as head of my Church. Why would I? The Church of England will always be my Church

        Reply
    • “Evangelicals can always go to Pentecostal, Baptist or charismatic evangelical churches, as some may if homosexual marriages allowed in the Church of England”

      Many former Anglicans have taken that step.

      Reply
    • Liberals can always go to Methodist or Metropolitan churches if they want SSM. Why should evangelicals leave, its liberals who are trying to change the doctrine and practice of the Church.

      Reply
  9. Demonstrating two nights ago outside Lambeth Palace, Jayne Ozanne said, “we talk about unity all the time… but… even talk of unity seems to exclude the LGBT community who are leaving in their droves.”

    https://anglican.ink/2023/01/24/welby-fails-to-calm-protestors-outside-lambeth-palace/

    This demonstration seems to have been a mixture of secular people such as Peter Tatchell, and LGBT Christian people who believe that homosexual activity is not sinful such as Jayne Ozanne. Presumably those in the Church of England who share her views are ‘leaving in droves’ for Methodism. Will they trigger revival in that denomination?

    In the CoE, liberal theology retains its grip on the theological colleges and the bishoprics. Can evangelicals change that?

    Reply
    • Evangelicals can try to change it if they all cooperate under the leadership of CEEC to challenge the rest of the Church at all the synodical levels about the Church’s failure to believe and preach the doctrines of Original Sin, the wrath and condemnation of God which we all face from birth onwards, the necessity of a birth from above to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the atonement doctrine of penal substitution, eternal retribution on the unsaved, and the wonderful, true promises of the Gospel for all who repent and believe, and, I would add, the view that the Bible rules out the ordination of women – and pray that God would move the hearts of the whole Church that these things are true. Our God is a great big God.

      Phil Almond

      Reply
  10. Conservatives are not interested in good disagreement. They simply wish to preserve the status quo, if not make the discipline for LGBT people even stricter – thet believe the CofE has already offered far too much leniency to lay people who are in same sex relationships.

    Reply
    • Quite right. And liberals aren’t interested in good disagreement either. Both sides are frightened of a fight, though, because of the risk of losing the worldly assets of the Church of England (land, a building in each parish, capital investments) and the right to call yourself the established church. So, what next?

      Reply
      • On a forced choice it would be the liberals who get to keep the historic churches and inherit the billions in assets, as they did in the US Episcopal Church when those opposed to homosexual marriages left for GAFCON.

        Parliament would also ensure the established church was a liberal one on a forced choice via legislation, not an anti homosexual marriage one, in line with UK law

        Reply
        • On a forced choice it would be the liberals who get to keep the historic churches and inherit the billions in assets,

          I expect the wealth would indeed go to thosewinning to fight for it; in other words this most committed to laying up treasures for themselves on Earth.

          Parliament would also ensure the established church was a liberal one on a forced choice via legislation

          If Parliament were to set aside the time to pick apart establishment it seems unlikely they would stop halfway at a ‘liberal Catholic’ church, given that would still exclude atheists, Jews, Muslims, etc. it seems far more likely that it would go the whole way and establish the institutional version of those ‘faith rooms’ you find at airports.

          Works you like that? Where the historic buildings of the Church of England were required to be open to all, to be used for communion on Sundays, Islamic prayers on Friday, and the Jewish sabbath on Saturday, and atheist Humanist celebrations during the week? Because that’s what disestablishment would mean; not a ‘liberal Catholic’ established church but an inclusive, diverse celebration of all faiths, suitable for the King who started he wanted not to be ‘defender of the faith’ but to be ‘defender of faith in general’.

          Would that suit you?

          Reply
          • It wouldn’t be disestablishment though? Why would Parliament want to disestablish the Church of England and lose control of it when as the established church it keeps control of it (and indeed those from other religions and denominations who might want to convert to it)? No it would keep the Church of England as the established church just require it to perform homosexual marriage in compliance with the law of the land.

            The King has said he wants to remain Supreme Governor of the Church of England as he will be at the coronation, just protect those of other denominations and faiths and indeed no faith as he made clear in his Christmas speech. Reflecting the fact the UK he is head of state of is now multi faith with a third non religious

          • No it would keep the Church of England as the established church just require it to perform homosexual marriage in compliance with the law of the land.

            To do that would be very complicated, legislatively. Disestablishment would be simpler; but if they were minded to open up the settlement, why would they stick to making a minor change when it would be no more time-consuming to rewrite the settlement entirely to make it more in keeping with modern, multi-faith Britain?

            So tell me: do you like the idea if the Church of England being replaced by a ‘National Prayer Service, For Those Of All Faiths And None’? Because that’s what you’ll get

            The King has said he wants to remain Supreme Governor of the Church of England

            If he’s said that then he’s changed his mind, hasn’t he? Who’s to say he won’t change it back again?

          • No it wouldn’t be complicated at all, they would just amend the Act which legalised homosexual marriage in 2013 to remove the exemption for the Church of England. Disestablishment would be far more complicated, unwinding centuries of legislation and the role of the King as Supreme Governor. Anyone could pray in Church of England churches too then, as long as they were not intolerant of homosexuals.

            As the King made clear in his broadcast he will be Supreme Governor of the Church of England, just defend faith more broadly too and indeed those of no faith

          • No it wouldn’t be complicated at all, they would just amend the Act which legalised homosexual marriage in 2013 to remove the exemption for the Church of England.

            That would create a situation where the Church of England was required by one law to perform same-sex marriages, but required by another law (its canons, which have the force of law) not to. A total mess. No. It wouldn’t do. Parliament would have to change the canons at the same time; and that would be complicated .

            Disestablishment would be far more complicated, unwinding centuries of legislation and the role of the King as Supreme Governor.

            At the point where you’re changing the canons then total disestablishment is probably easier than trying to unlock the settlement, make a specific tiny change, and then sew it up again. Besides what if you want to make another change in future? Why return control of doctrine to the Synod once you’ve taken it out of their hands? Why not take the opportunity to reshape the Church of England into something more modern and multi-faith?

            Is that what you want? A Church of England for those of all faiths and none?

            As the King made clear in his broadcast he will be Supreme Governor of the Church of England,

            I heard that broadcast. He managed to talk about his visit to Bethlehem and somehow make it all about himself, where his late mother would have made it about Jesus. He may know what he is supposed to say but his actual commitment to Christianity is clearly barely skin deep (but then maybe so is yours?)

          • Even changing Canons would be quicker than the process of disestablishment. Though in likelihood even if Synod hadn’t approved homosexual marriage and changed its Canons before Parliament required to it rapidly would after such legislation.

            Parliament obviously only has control over the Church of England as the established church, if disestablished it loses all such control. Or unless
            Parliament required all evangelical churches, Pentecostal,
            Baptist etc, the Roman Catholic
            Church, all Jewish Synagogues,
            Hindu Temples and Muslim
            mosques to perform homosexual
            marriages too which is obviously
            not going to happen.

            Given your rudeness to the King as Supreme Governor why you insist on staying in it is beyond me anyway?

    • That’s not really a winning point is it?

      Change “Conservatives” to “Jayne Ozanne” and carry the reversals through what you have written and you’ll end up with a critique of *some *so-called progressives voicings.

      It’s not reason just ad hominem

      Reply
    • Progressives are not interested in good disagreement. They simply wish to dispense with any call to restraint and so do everything they feel is right in their own eyes – they believe the CofE has already offered far too much authority to theology, tradition and the wider church catholic.

      See, anyone can write generalised nonsense. 😉

      Reply
    • It’s not about the status quo, it’s the understanding of God’s view on same sex relationships. Why pretend otherwise? Ive yet to see a convincing argument as to the meaning of the Bible taking into account its original context and concluding that God views such relationships as ‘good’.

      Reply
  11. Nonsense? Surely, not by DDO’s, the present and future of the CoE?
    Let’s see how the reasoning of CS Lewis may apply not only to the question of nonsense, but to this present moment in the life of the CoE, particularly with regard to contradiction and confusion re ssm and blessing, and the Person of God. Can God ever be anything other than consistently true to himself?
    This whole farargo is at the horizontal, human level and almost exclusively excludes the Person of God at both the vertical transcendent level and immanent, horizontal level, or what is known as the attributes of God.

    http://theamericanculture.org/the-possible-and-the-impossible-c-s-lewis-on-gods-omnipotence/

    Reply
  12. And you are graciously invited to join your nearest Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic Evangelical church too if you won’t allow Church of England Parishes even the choice of performing homosexual marriage in the established church in line with the law in England

    Reply
  13. 1 What or which God do you believe?
    2 What is the evangel?

    Is the CoE, buildings and
    hollowed -out forms and formalities, all to be a visual testimony to the lament, call of “Ichabod”.

    As a former solicitor you seem to be greatly untutored in the civil and criminal law of England and Wales, even in the schools of jurisprudence, which includes, natural law.

    Reply
  14. The C of E buildings ultimately belong to the established church and whoever heads it. As a former solicitor you should also know Crown in Parliament alone is supreme in English law.

    Reply
    • The C of E buildings ultimately belong to the established church and whoever heads it.

      Unless Parliament passes a law saying otherwise, of course. Which it might do if it is persuaded to invest the legislative time to open up the settlement.

      Reply
      • No the buildings would still belong to the Church of England whether the established church or not. The question would only be how much the State funds their maintenance, easier of course as the established church

        Reply
        • No the buildings would still belong to the Church of England whether the established church or not.

          Not if Parliament passed a law saying ‘all buildings which formerly belonged to the Church of England more belong to the National Prayer Service’, they wouldn’t.

          Basically Parliament could, if it wanted, nationalise the Church of England. Would you like that?

          Reply
          • Basically Parliament could, if it wanted, nationalise the Church of England.

            … and provided the bishops got transferred to management positions in the new nationalised service, I suspect there’d be nary a peep out of them. Most of them seem to regard themselves as civil servants anyway.

          • And who is going to perform prayer services in the National Prayer Service? Church of England priests. Who is going to perform homosexual marriages in them? Church of England priests. Humanist leaders might be able to use it too but obviously not for prayers as they don’t believe in prayer, maybe for meditation sessions.

            Otherwise Parliament would have to pass laws to oblige all Roman Catholic and Orthodox priests and non Anglican evangelical ministers, all Muslim Imams, all Jewish Rabbis and Hindu priests to perform homosexual marriage too if they wanted to use the National Prayer Service

          • And who is going to perform prayer services in the National Prayer Service? Church of England priests. Who is going to perform homosexual marriages in them? Church of England priests.

            Except now they wouldn’t be Church of England ministers, they’d be National Prayer Service ministers. You’re basically asking the same question as, who’s going to perform operations in the National Health Service hospitals? And we know the answer: the same doctors who used to do the operations in the hospitals when they were charitys, just now they’re employed by the state.

            They’d probably keep the name ‘Church of England’ for the National Prayer Service, of course.

            Otherwise Parliament would have to pass laws to oblige all Roman Catholic and Orthodox priests and non Anglican evangelical ministers, all Muslim Imams, all Jewish Rabbis and Hindu priests to perform homosexual marriage too if they wanted to use the National Prayer Service</i

            I suspect that would be a condition, yes; if not explicitly, then pretty soon an activist same-sex coupe would bring suit against someone who refused to marry them, claiming that the Equality Act forbid all who use the National Prayer Service facilities from discriminating.

          • Or to a newly incorporated National Events and Plural Ceremonies Service. Netflix may be interested. It may get more viewers.

    • That I do thanks, having studied Constitutional and Administrative law. Supremacy of Parliament, involves Separation of Powers, the executive, legislature, and independent judiciary.
      It is high time that separation included separation of church and state.
      It includes the rule of law, of which prof Dicey wrote.
      1 What or who do you worship?
      2 What is the evangel?.

      Reply
  15. Perhaps my views are heretical, but here goes:
    1) Love transcends human comprehension; for example it cannot be entirely be explained by rational processes such as STEM;
    2) It would be abhorrent for me, personally, to expect two consensual non-blood-related adults to be socially forced, or subjected to the expectation of a life of abstinence / non-sexual contact, as this goes against of key component of physical contact within a loving relationship;
    3) The C of E, has more important issues to focus on than what goes on between the bedsheets;
    4) The current mess does nothing to promote harmony and progression within the C of E (a house divided etc);
    5) The current situation does nothing to help the C of E’s public image within secular society;

    Reply
    • Thanks Dave, but a number of observations. Jesus did appear to think that sexual morality was more than just a private concern, and also appeared to think that sex in marriage should be informed by God’s intention of the creation of humanity as male and female.

      About 70% (or more) Christians who attend church on any given Sunday attend other churches who adhere to the historic, majority view of marriage. I don’t see them getting all that much flak for it. The only reason the C of E does is that people think there might be a chance of change.

      If we were to draw a line, retain our doctrine, and move on, I think the media would too.

      Reply
    • Dave, you say:

      “expectation of a life of abstinence / non-sexual contact, as this goes against of key component of physical contact within a loving relationship.”

      Why do you think that sexual physical contact is a “key component” within a loving relationship? Surely there are lots of loving relationships between people which have physical contact which is non-sexual. In fact, most loving relationships are non-sexual.

      I think it is a key thing to recognise in all this that sexual attraction and sexual desire are not in themselves love. Also, any discussion of ‘love’ needs to recognise the variety of different kinds of love – we have all read C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves”, haven’t we?

      Kierkegaard wrote a piece called “Works of Love” in which he sets out reasons why erotic love – associated with sexual attraction – is deficient compared with neighbour love. It is the latter which is closest to God’s love for us, and which is commanded of us.

      Part of the problem in all this is that erotic love and sexual activity have become idols.

      Reply
      • David B- “Part of the problem in this is that erotic love and sexual activity have become idols”. These are not part of the problem – they are at the root of problem! In what is viewed in Reformed theology as the creation ordinances , three verses stand out: Genesis 1:27; 2:7 and 2:24. Man (generically – 1:27) has been created in the image of God. The man (male) shall leave his parents and be united with his wife(2:24).
        Male and female shall become one flesh and the significance of this psychosomatic union? Not only is it an expression of “erotic love/ sexual activity”; it is a glorious reflection of God’s creative activity. The male/female union takes us not only into the heart of an individual relationship. It also reminds us the corporate nature of humanity as a recreating species.
        I would submit therefore that human sexuality( not “cleanliness”) in all its many aspects is “next to Godliness”. But now it seems, we want a “God” in our own image. “God is love” has become “love is God” and “self” love has usurped the rightful place of the Creator God. Yes! These human qualities have become idols!

        Reply
      • Though it shouldnt be forgotten that God’s relationship with the church is expressed as bridegroom and bride, so it’s not really surprising that ‘neighbour’ love isnt the first thing you think of.

        Reply
        • Though it shouldnt be forgotten that God’s relationship with the church is expressed as bridegroom and bride, so it’s not really surprising that ‘neighbour’ love isnt the first thing you think of.

          Surely the first thing you should think of is the way Jesus taught us to address God — a loving relationship far more than neighbourliness but still decidedly non-sexual.

          Reply
  16. No it doesn’t, the rule of law is only an ideal theory. In reality Parliament can pass any law it likes, including imposing homosexual marriage on the Church of England.

    If you don’t like the established church so much you are supposed to be a part I suggest you leave it now and find your nearest Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic Evangelical church. It is just inevitable anyway you will leave as homosexual marriage will be allowed in the Church of England in the next few years, whether by Synod or by Parliament

    Reply
    • In reality Parliament can pass any law it likes, including imposing homosexual marriage on the Church of England.

      Of course it can; but it isn’t working from a blank slate. It has to try to write laws which don’t cause unintended consequences when read in the context of the centuries of existing laws. So some laws are more complicated than others.

      A law to directly change a bit of Church of England doctrine would be very complicated, because of the centuries of law that has grown up around the established church’s legal position. So if Parliament were going to go to all that trouble, why would they only change that one little bit of doctrine? They wouldn’t, at the very least they’d want to make it easier for them to change other bits of doctrine in the future.

      So they may as well, if they’re going to do that, just nationalise the Church of England, make the vicars and bishops into civil servants, and be done with it.

      Would you like that?

      Reply
    • Pleased you have finally admitted that there is no such statutory legal mandated, imposed at law at present as you rattled on and on with S.
      We’ll just have to wait and see won’t we. House of Lords abolished to boot!
      Would it be imposed equally on all religions, Catholic, Islam, Judaism?
      Would it affect the biblical, scriptural, spiritual, material, reality of the Sovereignty of the Triune God of ChristianityGod who in his righteous judgement gives us over to our unrighteous desires: the church ( called out from the world, in it but not of it) of the Lord Jesus Christ is the first to be judged.
      1 What or who do you worship?
      2 What is the evangel?

      Reply
  17. Logically Parliament could only impose homosexual marriage on the established church, otherwise yes it would have to impose homosexual marriage on Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Roman Catholics, Baptists, charismatic evangelicals, Pentecostal etc too

    Reply
  18. Logically Parliament could only impose homosexual marriage on the established church, otherwise yes it would have to impose homosexual marriage on Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Roman Catholics, Baptists, charismatic evangelicals, Pentecostals etc too

    Reply
    • But then you run into equality laws, never mind legislation being subject to Judicial Review a battle that has raged down the ages between parliament and the independent judiciary.
      You seem to think that England has an unwritten constituon a frequent error. It is merely uncodified and includes rule of law, Judicial and law and equity and ecclesiastical..
      Enough there for a lawyer’s bun fight.
      Your fear and self interest are uppermost here as to seek to trip a short -circuit CoE ecclesiastical own parliamentary processes.

      Reply
      • Parliament can of course amend equality laws if it wished and Judicial review has no power to override clearly written Statute law passed through Parliament.

        Reply
        • Parliament can of course amend equality laws if it wished

          It can but that’s more complexity and Parliamentary time required and therefore not available for something else that affects more than 0.9% of the population.

          and Judicial review has no power to override clearly written Statute law passed through Parliament.

          No, but if you have two statutes which are clearly contradictory — which is easy to do if you’re not sufficiently careful — then the courts have to figure out which one applies in which situations. The issue isn’t that the courts might override statute law — they can’t — but that the courts, already overworked, might get further clogged up unnecessarily trying to disentangle a government’s legislative mess.

          Reply
          • Clearly written statutes? You are seriously untutored in the law and the canons of statutory construction,

            Scripture is clear on ssm and sss according to all canons of Christian construction of the legislative canon of scripture.

            Your comments here verge on frivolous and vexatious, (let alone tedious repetition) a cause for striking out at law. You’d be given short shrift in court.

          • The canon laws governing the Church of England cannot just be changed by Synod but by Parliament too as it is the established church

          • And legal history and common law, case law, have many precedents of parliament having to go back to the legal draftsman to over-rule with revised legislation, the Court’s interpretation of statute.
            T1, you do sound rather desperate.
            As you bash on, you knock yourself out!

          • Yes, so Parliament always gets its way in the end, even if it must go back and amend legislation to make it clearer if a court ruling interprets it in a different way

          • Yes, so Parliament always gets its way in the end

            It does. But it can take a long time; and it’s doubtful whether a government would want to spend all that time on something that affects only 0.9% of the population.

        • If the Westminster Parliament started passing laws anywhere close to the extremes of its supposedly unlimited power, British courts could (and would) just grant themselves expansive judicial review, as they did with the supposedly unreviewable royal prerogative in the ’80s. (The original Marbury v. Madison was itself conjured from whole cloth; likewise “parliamentary sovereignty” itself, which appears to exit purey because the superbly named Dicey said it did.)

          Parliament has realistic power here only because the CoE is currently established. If church is no longer tied to the State, it’ll have the freedom it desires. Question is, will it pay that price?

          Reply
          • The courts can never overrule Parliament as we don’t have a written constitution unlike the US. So Marbury v Madison is irrelevant in the UK as ultimate power in our constitution is solely held by Crown in Parliament.

            The royal prerogative and executive power alone is not supreme but if passed into statute law by Parliament it is. There is zero chance the Bishops will ever give up being the established church and the power and influence and status that comes with that. They will tell evangelicals to walk if it comes to a forced choice between continuing to refuse homosexual marriage in their churches or not being the established church if Parliament passed legislation requiring homosexual marriage be allowed in C of E Parishes

          • If the Westminster Parliament started passing laws anywhere close to the extremes of its supposedly unlimited power, British courts could (and would) just grant themselves expansive judicial review, as they did with the supposedly unreviewable royal prerogative in the ’80s.

            But the courts depend for the enforcement of their decisions on the apparatus of the state, which is controlled by the government. The Court can’t simply grant itself powers, unless the government agrees to abide by them.

            (The original Marbury v. Madison was itself conjured from whole cloth;

            M&M was a masterpiece of trickery; by giving the President the ruling he wanted, but only by reasoning that the Court had absolute power to strike down legislation, they forced the President into accepting the Court’s power-grab in order to get his way. Had those particular circumstances not arisen, and the Court had tried without that precedent to simply declare it had the power to strike down legislation against the will if the executive, it’s likely the ruling would simply have been ignored, and American legislative and political history would have been very different.

            likewise “parliamentary sovereignty” itself, which appears to exit purey because the superbly named Dicey said it did.)

            It exists because everybody accepts it does, and because to reject it now after so long would plunge everything into chaos.

            Parliament has realistic power here only because the CoE is currently established.

            Even then, while Parliament certainly has the power to carry through on these threats, will a government really spend the large amounts of Parliamentary time and political capital necessary to legislate here on something that affects 0.9% of the population? I think these threats may be like Putin’s dark hints about nuclear escalation: fundamentally empty.

          • James, many thanks for your nonsense stopping intervention. It is like a breath of fresh air. My constitutional law student days had ended be fore the 80’s, but what you write seems to follow the course of the history of the relationship between the Courts and independant Judiciary and Parliament.
            Thanks for the link. I’ll look at it tomorrow.

          • They will tell evangelicals to walk

            But they have no power to make evangelicals walk. That would take a new Act of Conformity. And while that’s certainly within Parliament’s powers, can you really imagine any party in existence passing one?

          • (Reply to S) Agreed that Marbury’s an ingenious piece of judicial Aikido, and that enforcement ultimately rests on the willingness of the powerful to obey (Lincoln famously straight-up ignored the SCOTUS when he felt like it).

            Other common law jurisdictions following the Westminster System have seen judicial supremacy asserted absent the unique circumstances surrounding Marbury (including Australia and Israel, the second of which is interesting as Israel, like Great Britain, lacks a codified constitution), and in 1991, British judges awarded themselves the power to “disapply” Acts that conflicted with E.U. law.

            Does this make a British Marbury likely at present? Not at all. But it does illustrate why governments aren’t keen to push their assumed powers anywhere close to their theoretical limits. (Even Dicey, high priest of parliamentary supremacy, admitted that practically, it’s always give way to popular sovereignty, he just thought it’d be bad form.) If the CoE is disestablished, realistic risk of state interference in its doctrines evaporates.

          • I can certainly imagine Labour in government passing one? Why do they care less about evangelicals in the Church of England, who are almost all rightwing social conservatives anyway. Labour could happily pass legislation removing evangelical churches from the Church of England if they refuse to allow other churches within the established church to perform homosexual marriages

          • I can certainly imagine Labour in government passing one? Why do they care less about evangelicals in the Church of England

            Exactly my point. I can’t see them passing an Act of Uniformity because they simply don’t care enough about what goes on inside the Church of England — which, again, only affects 0.9% of the population.

            ‘Why are you wasting Parliamentary time passing an Act straight out of the seventeenth century, when the health service is in crisis, the economy is melting down, and the climate is dying?’ would be the media cry.

  19. There is a real differences between the present proposals for local decision on the prayers and the situation in relation to marriage after divorce; a) the bishops provided for a careful examination by the clergy and the couple to be married and b) there is an explicit recognition that the second marriage involves repentance for what was involved in the divorce.

    Reply
    • That’s helpful. There seem to be so many loose theological or pastoral threads in what is currently being proposed.

      Reply
  20. It is an interesting article and it might be right. But are actually now in a conflict situation? is our situation about LGBT+ more like the conflict in Galatia, 2 Peter, Jude, the Arian conflict and the Reformation, not mere disagreement. Good disagreement with good methods should work on secondary issues such as the identity of the antichrist, the millenium, etc. but does it work on issues where both sides see it as critical and something they just can not compromise on because they would then need to change their theological worldview? Good conflict anyone?

    Reply
    • If both sides reckon Christ is living, powerful and on their side, one of them is deluded. So let them fight and the godly side will win while the other will be educated.

      Reply
      • So let them fight and the godly side will win

        One word hope that the godly side would win (and of course in the long run that is true) but I don’t think there’s any guarantee that, in a fallen world, the side which wins will necessarily be the godly one.

        Reply
    • It’s certainly the case that this is a protracted conflict. But because the bishops repeatedly refer to disagreement, and because that’s the area in which I’ve worked and published, it seemed appropriate to analyse whether my understanding of what qualifies as effective theological disagreement is being witnessed here.

      Reply
      • Why on earth does ‘Good Disagreement’ as a principle refer generally only to one issue, when thousands of issues exist?
        The suspicious minded are bound to have a field day at such a situation.

        Reply
          • I already said ‘generally’.

            Research what was the specific occasion of the concept coming into existence.

            Then secondly research in what contexts the phrase has, in practice, been used.

            Then thirdly, ponder the fact that it is being used in a context where (in a world of many real and acknowledged inner-Christian controversies) there was till very recently little controversy, and biblically remains none on the essential topic of acceptability or otherwise, albeit some on more minor details.

  21. Christopher (Landau) thank you for your article which is most interesting.
    May I ask you to expand on this statement, which I find somewhat limited.
    “But the creation ordinance and ‘good’ of the possibility of natural procreation is absent—and in the tradition of the church this has not been seen as a negligible factor.”

    Can you say where the Church has found difficulty with those of mature years, and unable to procreate, getting married? C S Lewis is held by some here as a kind of hero. But he married late in life with no intention or hope of procreation. Was his marriage in some way inferior?

    And does the Church have a problem with family planning – be that by natural or artificial means? The C of E doesn’t seem to have such a problem.

    Part of the problem with writing about good disagreement in this context is that none of us write in a dispassionate way. We all have an angle. And therefore our commitment to good disagreement is always compromised. I fear that is true of much of what you have written here, but would be equally true of whatever I might write as well.

    Reply
    • The question of a man and woman getting married when older can be answered in two ways. The first is that the Bible (read that?) does relate more than one story of older couples unexpectedly producing children, and children of some significance!

      The second is to realise the difference between essential and contingent difference. Sex between to people of the same sex cannot, by its essential nature, produce childen. It is of its essential nature that sex between a man and a woman is directed towards procreation. The need for contraception for those wish to control fecundity is evidence for this. That sex between a particular man and particular woman does not result in children is due to their individual circumstances and does not change the essential nature and directedness of the activity.

      The primary reason for marriage in the BCP service for its solemnisation is that the children that very often are the product of the relationship are properly cared for.

      If Shadowlands is not terribly inaccurate, CS Lewis married Joy Davidman initially to enable her to remain in the UK. It was only when she fell ill with cancer that he decided to marry her properly – i.e. in the eyes of God. Given that she was dying, I’m not sure that question of children was actually on the agenda.

      Reply
  22. What this all reveals, in sum, is the depth of real and apparent sin in our lives, so that none of us have any excuse at judgement. It make God’s judgement even more just, as it were, as if that were ever possible.
    There is no hiding place, but one.

    Reply

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