Have evangelicals made secret plans to split the Church?

Andrew Goddard writes: In response to Nic Tall’s recent argument that CEEC and others have been “plotting the division of the Church of England”, this article:

  • Offers an alternative personal perspective from within CEEC and a critique of the partial nature of his account.
  • Argues that CEEC has in practice recently become more, not less, broad and representative of Anglican evangelicals than it was previously.
  • Shows that its primary goal has been to articulate and defend Church of England teaching and to do so in dialogue with critics of that teaching including in part through the LLF process.
  • Explains that, learning from the experience of other churches and being realistic about the seriousness of our theological disagreements and the significant proportion of the CofE rejecting its teaching and current practice, CEEC has also sought to avoid bitter divisions.
  • Sets out how CEEC has instead tried to develop a better, consensual way forward focussed on differentiation within the CofE rather than theological compromise and incoherence or breaking away from the CofE.
  • Demonstrates it has been quite open about this work as it developed over time but few have engaged seriously with its arguments publicly.
  • Highlights that it has also sought to build relationships and explore these questions with leaders pressing for change as in the St Hugh’s Conversations (which Tall ignores) and the consequent recognition by the Bishop of Oxford of the need to work if possible with CEEC proposals and not simply reject them as unacceptably divisive.
  • Stresses that another primary concern of CEEC has been maintaining unity with the majority of the Anglican Communion.
  • Points out that the significance of the recent formation of the Alliance is that it undermines claims that concerns about the bishops’ proposals are only those of a small minority of conservative evangelicals.
  • Signals concerns about some of the attitudes seen in Tall’s article and among its supporters.
  • Warns of the dangers in combining a pressing forward with changes in doctrinal and moral teaching and practice with a conservative unwillingness to consider changes in ecclesial structures to meet the concerns of those who reject such theological and liturgical developments.
  • Concludes that this approach, rather than that of CEEC, is in fact more likely to bring about the division of the Church of England which Tall wishes to avoid.

In an end of 2023 article, Nic Tall (Secretary of the General Synod Gender & Sexuality Group) presented a case that the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has been “Plotting the Division of the Church of England” since at least 2016. Although drawing on research into the CEEC’s recent activity, the piece is partial both in the sense of being incomplete and selective (whether intentionally so or simply due to the limits of research) and in the sense of not being in any sense impartial but rather clearly having an obvious axe to grind, at times bordering on developing a form of “conspiracy theory”. It has, however, gained a reasonably high profile (particularly among those whose suspicions about what has been going on seem to be corroborated by the evidence he cites) and generated some lively discussion in the comments on the article and on social media more widely. 

What follows is similarly inevitably partial in both senses – I have served on CEEC throughout this time – but seeks to help enable a more rounded picture to be developed. It is a personal perspective, offering my own observations from the inside, not a formal CEEC response. It also needs to be remembered that as in any network, whether Christian or secular, conservative or progressive, there are always a range of perspectives and motivations such that care needs to be taken about making simple characterisations that do not recognise the diversity of views held and ends sought within a group by the various people involved. 

CEEC’s Evolution

It is important to begin by setting the wider background. For a good number of years, CEEC was largely dominated by more conservative, complementarian, non-charismatic evangelicals. It is still often portrayed in these terms with “conservative evangelical” confusingly used sometimes in a novel and idiosyncratic way simply to mean the overwhelming majority within those who call themselves evangelicals who are committed to traditional teaching on marriage and sexual ethics. In fact, however, since a major review leading to a new constitution in 2014 it has become much more, rather than less, representative of evangelicals in the Church of England. That constitutional change has sometimes been criticised for adding two declarations (including one on marriage) taken from the Jerusalem Declaration but their inclusion was not particularly contentious at the time. It has really only become so many years later largely due to the objections of some who identify as evangelicals but have never been involved in or showed much interest in the life of CEEC in the last couple of decades or more. In EGGS (a distinct group, but one represented on CEEC) the decision noted in the article to include these affirmations caused a little more dissent but even there it was overwhelmingly carried with around 90% in favour. 

CEEC’s Primary Goals in CofE Sexuality Discussions

Among the early contributions of the reconstituted CEEC was to contribute to the wider CofE discussion with three significant resources: 

Here, and in its encouragement for evangelicals to engage with the LLF process when it ended in 2020, alongside the central message of its film The Beautiful Story (whose critics I sought to respond to here), it is clear that the primary work of the CEEC for nearly a decade has not been to divide the Church of England. It has rather been to articulate the biblical and theological basis for the Church of England’s teaching on marriage and sexuality and to seek to persuade the CofE to continue to teach this and to order its life in conformity to it.

It has, however, been clear for some time that a significant proportion within the CofE, as represented by Nic Tall, no longer accept this teaching or its implications for the church’s life and want it to change and/or they disregard it in their own contexts. This raises serious questions for how we best live together. In particular, were the CofE to change its teaching or practice it was obvious to CEEC that this would clearly cause major problems for all those in CEEC, and many beyond its boundaries, who would be unable to accept such developments as they view them as a departure from Scripture and the teaching of the church catholic. The sad experience of other churches confirmed this outcome was a serious possibility in the CofE and showed that such changes could often lead to painful and costly divisions. In the light of this, the CEEC was eager to find a better way forward and one with theological integrity.

Discerning A Way Forward: The Development of “Differentiation”

Alongside its work on explaining and advocating for CofE teaching on marriage, CEEC therefore also began to do serious theological, ecclesiological and legal work on how to avoid the sort of bitter splits which developments had created in other Anglican provinces and the wider Communion.  As Tall notes, the first paper to explore this was “Guarding the Deposit: Apostolic Truth for An Apostolic Church”. This was produced in October 2016, discussed at the January 2017 CEEC (just before the bishops’ response to the Shared Conversations was published), and made available on the CEEC website at the time (along with a shorter summary and a report of the meeting). This is hardly the actions of those malevolently plotting or making “secret plans” as an early comment on the article claimed! This paper set out why any change was unacceptable and would require some form of differentiation and it sketched out various possible forms of this that would recognise and give space for the different theologies present within the CofE. 

Further theological work was then done resulting in Gospel, Church & Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life, the fullest theological rationale for the CEEC’s position but one not mentioned in the article. This too appeared on the front of the CEEC website after the 2018 Council meeting which received and discussed it but, six years on, its argument has never been seriously engaged with by those who prefer to caricature the CEEC’s stance as one of “dividing the Church”. It is clear about both the real cause and the tragic nature of any such differentiation: 

significant departure from apostolic teaching regrettably requires in response some degree of visible differentiation, in order formally to acknowledge and mark this distance. Moving away from ‘apostolic’ and ‘catholic’ teaching concerning what it means to be ‘holy’ will tragically mean we are less visibly ‘one’…The potential forms and extent of such differentiation are varied and they must never lose sight of the goal of restored unity in apostolic truth… We do not wish for this differentiation, but recognise that it may become a tragic necessity.

More detailed theological and legal work was then commissioned in 2019 by CEEC, focussing particularly on the possible institutional implications of this stance which had been sketched at the end of “Guarding the Deposit” back in 2016. This resulted in a briefing paper being produced and considered by the Council in January 2020 entitled “Visibly Different”. As CEEC explained in 2020, alongside noting its preparations for the General Synod elections, “Building on previous work, members received a comprehensive paper on possibilities for evangelicals within the Church of England in the years ahead. After discussion, the emergent themes were referred to the Council’s Working Group for further development over the course of 2020”. Part of that further development was the sharpening of the recognition that “differentiation” could take a range of forms within a spectrum at either end of which were the different outcomes of “separation” (ie leaving the CofE) and “continuation” (ie no structural provision within the CofE despite significant changes on marriage and sexual ethics), neither of which options the CEEC could advocate as what should be sought.

It was not just the need for further reflection that held back this paper’s publication, in contrast to past policy of immediate release (The Visibly Different briefing paper was finally posted on the CEEC website when it was submitted to the Next Steps Group in May 2022 after the LLF consultation process concluded, along with an introduction and updating addendum). It was also respect for the ongoing LLF process (where it was still unclear initially as to whether the resources would consider such ecclesiological questions) and the beginning of private conversations between a number of CEEC members with leading bishops and campaigners (led by Bishop Steven Croft) pressing for change. These were an attempt to build relationships, trust and respect, explain the CEEC’s concerns and convictions, hear and understand those of advocates for change, and seek to find some sort of consensus about what such change might mean for the ordering of the church’s life and some form of differentiation. These “St Hugh’s Conversations” were in their early stages in 2019-2020 and, like everything else, impacted by COVID. They were kept confidential for some time but their existence was eventually made public although they are not acknowledged anywhere by Nic Tall. This is presumably because they seriously undermine much of his argument and represent, I believe, a clear sign that the CEEC was not “plotting to divide the CofE” but rather committed to honest conversation and seeking an agreed way forward for the good of the whole church given our disagreements. 

These conversations also appeared to have had some degree of success when the Bishop of Oxford, setting out his stall in “Together in Love and Faith” in late 2022, was clear that for the Church of England to move in the direction he wanted would require “Differentiation of provision and oversight for those clergy and parishes who believe that, in conscience, they need to distance themselves from the parts of the Church that welcome and affirm same-sex relationships” (p.24, also p.46) and that this would be needed for some even with proposals falling short of same-sex marriage, such as those later proposed in PLF and planned for the pastoral guidance. He was also clear, based on those St Hugh’s Conversations, that simple “freedom of conscience” not to participate would be insufficient for some and “some alternative system of episcopal oversight may well be required to enable a differentiation of ministries, such as an alternative province and structure within the Church of England or a system of oversight from a neighbouring diocese” (p.47). It would appear that Nic Tall must conclude that Steven Croft was therefore to some degree at least complicit in “plotting the division of the Church of England”.

One of the frustrations and concerns that I and some others had within the LLF process was that our resources although they touched on ecclesiological questions (in the book and in particular in the final session of the Course) failed to explore these sufficiently. The Next Steps Group also did not seriously consider them or ask FAOC to do so between 2020 and 2022. In fact, it would appear that it has been CEEC (almost alone) that has been doing serious thinking, publishing it, and seeking honest conversations about these theological, legal and political matters. The Anglican Communion, with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is now seriously addressing what “good differentiation” might look like globally (including at IASCUFO’s recent December meeting) and the House of Bishops is wrestling with possible forms of “structural pastoral provision”. What CEEC has been seeking is to prevent separation (as happened in the US between TEC and ACNA) or expulsion (either dramatically or gradually) of one vision and perspective on these matters by the other. What it has been trying to think through is the development of forms of ecclesial structure which recognise our deep and irreconcilable theological differences and create some form of shared ecclesial space under the umbrella of “the Church of England” without requiring theological compromise.  My view therefore remains basically that which I set out in November 2020 in part of my response to critics of The Beautiful Story:

This is not a case of “do what we want or we’re leaving” but rather something like “we clearly have very different and seemingly incompatible views and so, unless we are to follow the disastrous pattern of other churches such as in North America, we need to talk about whether we can find some agreement as to how our structures will need to adapt if we are to provide space for these different views with integrity”.  In the words of one contributor on the film – “no one knows the answer to this and I’m not offering a solution, I’m simply saying we may have to have that kind of a conversation in order that we can create safe, sustainable space for these clearly fractured groups across the Church of England as a whole”.  At present, CEEC has done more work than any other group to try and explain both why this is theologically coherent and some of the forms this might take from forms of alternative episcopal oversight (similar to but perhaps extending those already in existence in response to differences over women priests and bishops) to some form of new provincial arrangements.

The Church of England and The Anglican Communion

Another feature of the CEEC in recent years has been its deepening relationship with the wider Anglican Communion particularly through the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC) of which it is part and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA). One of the features of Nic Tall’s article is its almost total focus on the CofE without reference to global Anglicanism or the wider church catholic. Rather than “plotting the division of the Church of England” one of the concerns that has driven the CEEC is preventing those like Nic Tall creating a total division between the Church of England and the overwhelming majority of the Anglican Communion who, as has been made clear since February, cannot accept the direction set by the bishops.

CEEC & The Alliance

Finally, Tall’s article extends the plotting to include The Alliance but with little interest in how this relates to CEEC’s work or what its recent creation and activity really signifies and demonstrates. Although CEEC leaders are part of the Alliance, as are leaders of networks which are part of CEEC, the Alliance includes significant evangelical/charismatic leaders and networks which have never been part of CEEC (such as HTB and CRT) and also Anglo-Catholics. It would appear therefore to be a sign (confirmed by such narrow votes in General Synod) that, far from being a small and unrepresentative grouping of narrow conservative evangelicals, CEEC is simply part of a much larger body of churches and networks within the CofE which (although they have not been involved in the work which CEEC has been doing) cannot simply accept what the bishops are proposing and carry on as if nothing significant has happened. The example cited from a document circulated in December far from showing a desire to divide the CofE and “proactively recruiting” people for a “split” confirms that, like the CEEC, the Alliance is seeking to find ways to reassure and keep within the CofE those church leaders and congregations who are so concerned about what the bishops are doing and how they are doing it that they are seriously considering leaving. All this could, of course, be expressed as saying that it is in fact the actions and further goals of Nic Tall and many bishops, especially if combined with a refusal to take seriously the work on the need for differentiation by CEEC, that can more credibly be described as plotting the division of the Church of England (and the wider Anglican Communion).


I wouldn’t claim my perception is the only possible reading of the complexities of evangelical and wider church politics over recent years. I do think, however, this account does more justice to more of the evidence than that offered by Nic Tall. There are also a number of characteristics of his account and the attitudes of some who have supported it which are causes of serious concern. It would appear that he and others pressing for change have paid little or no attention to what CEEC has been openly saying and doing. They are now shocked and horrified that evangelicals have been seriously thinking about what would happen should those pressing for change succeed and have been preparing for how they can continue to flourish as evangelicals given such an eventuality. Now realising the seriousness of the situation created by PLF, there appears to be only a hermeneutic of suspicion. As a friend commented about the article, it “has interpreted every event in this long narrative in as hostile and uncharitable a manner as possible”. Related to this, one of the lessons I hope I learned through the LLF process is the problem of “othering” and “talking about us, without us”. It seems to me that this article is a classic example of that in relation to the leadership of the CEEC and Alliance of which it is so critical.

What CEEC, the Alliance, and the large, often growing, parts of the CofE they represent are asking for is that they are not deprived of being overseen by bishops who continue to uphold, in their own teaching and ordering of their ministries, the teaching of the CofE which they promised they believed. It is not immediately obvious that this is an unreasonable demand that can legitimately be described as plotting or engineering division. At the very least, those who find such requests unacceptable need to engage with their rationale and the deep concerns of those unhappy with the developments underway in the CofE. A failure to do so would appear to suggest that the way forward is simply one which welcomes theological and moral revisionism and development but is marked by an institutional conservatism, even rigidity, that will not flex in order to keep within the CofE fold those who cannot accept the proposed changes in church doctrine and practice. Whether intended or not, it is that approach which to me seems inevitably to create exactly what CEEC has been accused of plotting: the division of the Church of England.

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre(WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF and the subgroup looking at Pastoral Guidance.

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312 thoughts on “Have evangelicals made secret plans to split the Church?”

  1. Thanks Andrew – a much more balanced account of the history of this matter than that offered by Nic Tall, and a welcome corrective

  2. Straining out gnats and swallowing camels …. worrying so much about the sexuality issue while resolutely ignoring that the major premise of the Church of England, its established status in England, is monumentally unbiblical. And by the way, much of the problem about sexuality is related to the pressures of being so ‘established’, in an improper relationship with the world….

    • For the reasons you give, I suspect that God will cause the faithful to ‘lose’ this battle as judged worldly criteria – although of course they will win it by heavenly ones. But I do not hear the general cry “Come out of her, my people” coming from heaven at this point in this battle, and I support those who fight against evil in the church.

    • If you are so opposed to the C of E being the established church, as it has always been since Henry VIII created it to replace the Roman Catholic church as the national church with his being the supreme authority over it not the Pope, then what on earth are the likes of you doing in the C of E? You should have left for a Baptist, Pentecostal or independent evangelical church long ago

      • It’s a legitimate question (although you spoilt it with “should have”). I quit the CoE 20 years ago due to the combination of liberalism on my PCC (of which I was a member), lack of life in the congregation, and questioning of Christianity’s core tenets by bishops. Since then I have been in several free congregations, changing congregation only when moving town. A few years ago my Elders took a major decision about the congregation I was in (unrelated to sexuality) with which I disagreed; I campaigned against it openly and courteously at meetings, but lost. So I resigned. I remain on good terms with people there. Rather to my surprise, given that I now disbelieve in priestly ordination and multiple congregations under one episkopos rather than vice-versa, I found that the best congregation reasonably near me was evangelical Church of England. So I go there. Nobody has asked me to pledge loyalty to the bishop, and if they did then I would refuse and see if I were required to leave; I see no reason to resign just because the bishop is patently unfaithful. Nor does the vicar!

        • If you wish to stay in a conservative evangelical C of E church, which will have an opt out from same sex prayers and blessings and already maybe has from women priests and bishops, then that is fine. Just don’t expect the majority of the C of E, as established church, nor the diocesan bishop to follow suit on those issues

      • For clarity – though brought up in the CofE and having much admiration for many of its people, I have essentially been ‘Anabaptist’ since my mid teens and currently am about to formally join a local Baptist Church. (Mennonites in the UK chose an interesting strategy of NOT founding a UK Mennonite denomination but sharing key Anabaptist ideas with anyone interested) For me a key period was observing the ‘Troubles’ in Ulster which kicked off in the late 1960s when I was at Uni, which events highlighted the problems with ANY of the various forms of ‘Christian country’ idea in comparison to the biblical presentation in which, in effect, the only ‘Christian nation’ is the international Church operating somewhat similarly to the Jewish ‘Diaspora’.

        I still work with Anglicans as much as possible. I do wish they would wake up to how much the pressures they face on sexuality issues are a product of their entanglement with the world because of their ‘established’ status….

        • Fine, I expect you will find most Baptist churches more in tune with your firm line on biblical doctrine and rejection of the largely secular western world than most C of E churches. Most Anglicans like me in England are fine with our established status and connection to the local Parish and people in it and welcome it

      • It was the established Church well before that. Bishops had formal legislative roles all the way back to the Saxon Kingdoms.

    • Dear Steve, I imagine your comment is just a summary of some of the things you believe. Your name appears in blue so we know you have your own website. I right-click on your (blue) name above your comment and it takes me to http://stevesfreechurchblog/ – but that website doesn’t exist.

      So can you provide us the correct link to your blog? Thanks!

  3. I’m not sure where I land on this, but I will say that if you came to the near decade of shared conversations in good faith from a perspective of wanting something better than the status quo, it is a bit bewildering that what’s being offered is in many ways even worse than nothing and the evangelicals are still saying that they have to leave over it, it kind of sounds like they would have wanted to leave whatever the conclusions.

    In the United Methodist Church (in the US) a very similar thing happened. There were discussions over same sex marriage etc and the global conference voted to make the prohibitions even tougher, yet the conservatives still decided to leave.

    I think partly what’s happened here is a shifting of tectonic plates. Opposition to same sex relationships has become a shibboleth for conservatism. Maybe the shared conversations have had the opposite effect and convinced conservatives that they aren’t even part of the same religjon

    • But the discussions were about ‘Are there grounds to change the doctrine of the Church?’

      The consistent answer has been ‘no’—but those wanting change appear to have assumed that they would get what they want regardless, and so have hijacked and undermined due process.

      That is hardly the fault of the orthodox.

      • How has the process been hijacked? LLF resources demonstrated that the majority who took part were in favour of some kind of blessing. That is the outcome, via Synodical process. A very few meagre crumbs are being reluctantly offered to gay couples who wish to avail themselves of a blessing in a church which still regards them as an issue.
        For CEEC et al, this is merely a presenting issue. Any pastoral approach short of compulsory abstinence and, in some cases, a refusal to allow gay people to take part fully in the life of the church, would have necessitated schism for a few. Except they appear to be working for a nice cosy separation without entire schism, i.e. let’s keep all our funds, appoint new ‘overseers’ (without any safeguarding concerns), resile from any diocesan oversight or structures we don’t like, yet keep the buildings, the stipends, and the pensions.
        This is far more about power than it is about sex.

      • Once again, we have the spectacle of evangelicals claiming exclusive use of the word ‘orthodox’ – with the implication that those who disagree with them are heterodox (aka heretics).

        The test for ‘orthodoxy’ has always been the creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian). It is remarkable (not to say arrogant) for some evangelicals to redefine the tests for orthodox Christian beliefs. Traditionally, the only way to do this would be to call a General Council of the Church.

        If you wish to claim exclusive use of the word ‘orthodox’ then it seems to me that you have no other option than to have the guts to follow the examples of other ‘exclusivist’ parts of the Christian Church and form a separate denomination, where only those who agree with you are allowed in.

        So a key question to be answered by Ian Paul and others who are using this term repeatedly in this context is this: do you believe that those who disagree with you on this issue are not ‘proper’ Christians? No matter how sincere we are, no matter how much thought we have given to this matter – are we, in effect, heretics in your eyes?

        • I think you are mistaken in plenty of claims here.

          First, being heterodox is not the same as being heretical. People can be Christians who are in error.

          Secondly, taking the creeds as defining *all* that is required for agreement is reductionist and unhistorical. The creeds don’t tell us we should not be greedy! But someone who teaches this is fine is, I think, heterodox. What would you call them?

          Thirdly, we are ‘orthodox’ in the sense that we agree with the teaching of the church catholic, which has in every time, in every place, and in every tradition been that marriage is between one man and one woman. Can you point me to a time in the past where this has not been believed?

          Fourthly, there is no need to separate or be exclusive. We would just like all those who made public vows saying ‘We believe and will teach the doctrine of the Church of England’ to actually believe and teach the doctrine of the Church of England, including on marriage. Why is that such an unreasonable request?

          • So you won’t actually answer the question. Am I a ‘real’ Christian in your eyes if I don’t agree in this specific matter?

            I don’t expect to agree with you on the matter of same sex relationships but I don’t presume to call you ‘not a real christian’. And I find it deeply offensive when people like you imply (by claiming that only they are orthodox) that I am not. I have been a Christian for almost 50 years. I have been in ordained ministry for over 25 years.

            And yes, you ARE trying to redefine the understanding of what the term ‘orthodox ‘ means in an exclusivist way.

            Why don’t you just have the courage to say so clearly?

          • David, how can it be ‘redefine’ when the thing that is new is the idea that Christians can indulge in homosexual relationships. That is the innovation, so it is that which is the attempted redefining. You can see that. You can scarcely be scandalised when you know how new this initiative is.

            Secondly, every part of doctrine is exclusivist, in that it states one thing and thereby excludes everything else. Christians are called Christians (just as Platonists are called Platonists) because that word has a definition. It doesn’t mean just anything. Is there an alternative? The only alternative is for words to have no meaning, i.e. for there to be no words.

            Thirdly, you are using the word ‘exclusivist’ as though there was only one issue that existed or only one really important one. The homosexual issue. That is neither the only issue nor the only important one. Not by any means. So you need to say ‘exclusivist in this particular matter’.

            Fourth, how do you distinguish ‘inclusivist’ from ‘pluralist’ or ‘relativist’? And how do you distinguish that from ‘What is truth?’ or ‘truth doesn’t matter’ or ‘anything goes’?

          • Christopher, maybe a suggestion? If you are going to keep using your ‘secondly’ argument here about ‘words’ and ‘definitions’, please read some semantics (or, better, (linguistic) pragmatics). Your argument simply doesn’t work! Or are emus, ostriches and penguins not birds?

          • Ian, I write without theological training, but I think the creeds are meant to define all *doctrine* that is required for agreement.

            CEEC has followed Gafcon in elevating the traditional marriage-and-sexuality position to the status of doctrine – by including it in the Basis of Faith. It doesn’t belong there, any more than “don’t be greedy” belongs there.

            I agree with CEEC’s and Gafcon’s position on this issue, but I don’t agree with the elevated status that they claim for their position.

          • Thanks Peter, but that is clearly not true. As others have mentioned, it clearly was not true at the time; the creeds functioned to clarify the central points of contention at the time of writing. They have never been treated as exhaustive (witness how it used to be the norm for churches to have the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer on their walls at the east end). And it does not make sense either; Jesus taught clearly about marriage and sexuality, and sexual ethics has never been a ‘thing indifferent’ in Christian teaching (as it was not in Jewish teaching either).

          • Thanks Ian, I accept the historical correction.

            A couple of rejoinders:
            “the creeds […] have never been treated as exhaustive” – I think the creeds were designed to list everything that we *must* believe. I agree of course that they don’t list everything that we *should* believe, but that’s a much longer list than the first one.
            “sexual ethics has never been a ‘thing indifferent’ in Christian teaching” – but formulations of what we *must* believe have never included sexual ethics.

            My point is that one can disagree with CEEC and with the weight of church positions through history on this issue, and still be a saved follower of Jesus. I think that too often CEEC speaks and acts as if that isn’t the case.

          • Bruce, emus, ostriches and penguins are all birds because they are related biologically (and also trivially because they have wings). Are you saying ‘Christian’ has no meaning? All words have meanings, and those meanings typically exclude 99% of possible entities from being described by the word.

          • As I suggested, Christopher, you should do some reading in semantics and pragmatics. Maybe try Margaret Sim, _A relevant way to read_. (Notice, no Foucault or Derrida in sight! 🙂 ) My problem is with your strict ‘word’, ‘definition’, ‘meaning’ correlation.
            Of course I think when someone says or writes ‘Christian’ they are (if you like) ‘meaning’ something. But until it occurs in an actual utterance its ‘meaning’ is somewhat vague. So you might rethink whether a word _has_ a meaning.
            On emus being birds, definitions _do not_ help. What actual biological features define ‘bird’? What if people speaking another language classify non-flying ‘birds’ differently — are they simply ignorant? What are ‘wings’? How do ‘wings’ differ from ‘arms’?
            Reading some more recent semantics/pragmatics may help us to avoid unconvincing claims about human language/communication.

          • Also, Christopher, your statement ‘All words have meanings’ is rather problematic. Arn’t there some (many) words what are instructions for how to interpret other bits of language — words like in English, ‘so’, ‘and’, ‘the’, ‘however’? Can you ‘define’ these?

          • Remind me Ian, what has been the teaching of the church catholic, in every time, in every place, and in every tradition about what to do about gay people (and what gay people themselves ought to do)?

          • Ian

            I totally agree that the creeds were about resolving contention during the 4th (?) century. They don’t contain anything about slavery as slavery wasn’t in contention at the time, but modern churches would rightly not accept that a slave owner today was a faithful Christian.

            The problems with writing new creed like statements on non heterosexual sexuality are 1) there’s no broad agreement so any statements are going to deliberately split the church 2) there’s no detailed agreement so the creeds are only going to exacerbate problems for LGBT people at the local level and 3) its difficult to come up with something with clear meaning that the majority agree on.

            Lambeth 1.10 has split the Anglican communion between liberals, ultra conservatives and moderate conservatives (sorry for these terms!) to the extent that each is using Lambeth 1.10 to justify the split. Requiring a new creedal statement to be signed is going to cause a split.

            We know GAFCON has had internal division, despite having a creed like statement on this. They all agree that sexually active gay people must be excluded from the church. They don’t agree on what to do with gay people who are not sexually active. They don’t agree on whether self identification makes a difference or not. They don’t agree on punishment for same sex sex. Any new creedal statement will cause more division because its saying that its important we all agree, but its not sufficiently defining the terms.

            We know from the different implementations of “issues in human sexuality” and Lambeth 1.10 that whatever is said is going to be understood differently by different people so a new federal statement is not going to bring conformity. Like it or not you will get people who habe been told they just have to sign it, they don’t have to agree with it. You will get people who have been told they just have to live it, they don’t have to agree with it or require others. You will have endless arguments over where abstinence begins and ends. I know the bishops are already continually asked by gay people what exactly is it that they are and are not allowed to do.

        • Canons 3 and 4 of Nicaea deal with sexual misconduct (sin). The creed of Nicaea doesn’t float above it original context. That context, in respect of sexual expression outside of marriage, is clear and encompasses the moral world of the early church, in respect of ‘orthodoxy.’ Unsurprisingly, I might add.

          • As per Ian P above, Canon 3 of the Council of Nicaea says “The great Council has stringently forbidden any bishop, priest, deacon, or any of the clergy, to have a woman living with him, except a mother, sister, aunt, or some such person who is beyond all suspicion.” So I feel that the Council of Nicaea is somewhat discredited thereby. I am embarrassed!

            Canon 4 of Nicaea relates to the appointment of bishops, not to sexual misconduct.

      • Ian

        LGBT people were encouraged to bear their souls on the understanding that the discussions would be in good faith. If you are correct then the conservatives were never interested in even listening

        • Of course they were in good faith from the side of orthodox Anglicans.

          We were all open to any evidence that we should change the doctrine of the Church. I still am.

          The problem is—there isn’t any. That is not my fault, or my failure to be open.

          • Ian

            OK that contradicts what you said before though “the consistent answer has been no”. People did get involved in these discussions, some at personal cost, because they were told they would be held in good faith.

            I think you can argue that conservatives were interested in listening, but were ultimately unconvinced on the validity of marriage, but then I do think that conservatives should have tried to demonstrate alternatives rather than just saying “no way”

          • This is completely consistent with what I have always said.

            If anyone can offer me a convincing biblical argument for same-sex marriage, I will change my mind.

            It is not just that I have not been persuaded; there has been no argument forthcoming. That is why we have settled on ‘blessings’ and why the bishops have hidden the legal and theological advice.

            There is no convincing orthodox, Anglican, case for change.

          • Ian

            My point is that LGBT people were deliberately misled and arguably now the cofe is even less safe and less inclusive than when SSM first became legal. For the first time priests are being threatened with legal action if they bless a gay couple

          • They can threaten all they want but for the first time Synod has voted to authorise prayers of blessing for same sex couples in C of E churches if PCCs agree. So once a Parish PCC has agreed to perform the prayers priests have full legal power and certainty for the first time to do them and nothing at all opponents can do about it having lost the Synod vote on same sex couples prayers

          • Legal power in the C of E resides in the majority of Synod as devolved to Synod by Parliament last century. Synod voted by majority for prayers of blessing for same sex couples, if needed Parliament could and would legislate to enshrine that in statute law for the established church too.

          • T1

            I think its far more likely that parliament disestablishes the cofe than requires it to marry gay people. No other religious institution is required by parliament to marry gay people

          • Far from it, why would Parliament do that and lose any potential control over the C of E ? Labour MPs like Bradshaw and Bryant made clear they would prefer to push through Parliament to impose homosexual marriage on the established church in line with English law if the same sex prayers and experimental blessings had not gone through Synod rather than disestablish.

    • There does appear to be a significant minority labelled as ‘evangelicals’ who hide behind homophobia, to push their apparent agenda to pass judgement and control the lives of others.

  4. One thing I find a bit strange is that the conservatives say they want different bishops and different finances, but I thought that already existed because of the fallout from allowing women into ministry? Sure there are conservatives who are pro woman, but opposed to the blessings, but what is already in place could be easily extended

          • I believe that the Rev Martine Oborne who is a leading light on WaTCH has advocated a solution through theological cleansing by which candidates for ministry in the CoE who oppose women priests should never be considered for selection and the existing ones would eventually die out.

            Presumably the Bishop of Dover would agree.

          • Chris Bishop – thanks for this; Peter Oborne is one of my favourite journalists. I knew he was married to someone who belonged the C. of E. clergy and, following the lead you gave, I discovered that Rev Martine Oborne is the wife of Peter Oborne.

            Peter Oborne is a ‘good guy’; his wiki page indicates that he is a friend of Craig Murray. Craig Murray posted a very nice piece about the conflict in the Palestine – and the way it is being represented in the UK press


            and from what I understand of Peter Oborne, he’d probably be very sympathetic towards this piece (since the views there aren’t a million miles from things I’ve read by Peter Oborne).

            I just looked at Rev Martine Oborne’s web page. Difficult to gauge what she actually believes, but I got a whiff of ‘universalist’ from it. I didn’t see ‘saving faith’ (as so beautifully described by David Shepherd in response to a comment by Anton a few threads back) leaping out of the page.

            If what you say really does reflect her views on women priests (i.e. she sees no place for those who oppose them within the Anglican communion) then on the one hand I’d agree with her, but on the other hand I’d say that she’d be better off with the Salvation Army rather than the Anglicans, since the Anglicans have a tradition going back centuries of accommodating the anti-women-clergy point of view. But her web page looks very posh and upper middle class – so Salvation Army probably not for her.

          • Chris Bishop

            You make that sound sinister, but its no different than the attitude of those who oppose women priests is it?!

        • It’s not really enough to actually split the Church Peter. The alternative arrangements are for avoiding ordained women, not avoiding people who think it’s ok to ordain women.

          • AJ

            I’m not asking for the church to be split! I’m asking why those who object to bishops who allow the blessings can’t simply seek alternative oversight from the flying bishops who already exist.

      • Christopher

        There was significant opposition to allowing women’s equality in the church of england. The settlement was that some congregations could have alternative oversight if their diocesan bishop ordained women. I think this practice continues.

        My question is why can’t people who don’t want oversight from a bishop who supports the blessings go instead to the alternative oversight bishop(s) that already exist?

        • I was just commenting on the loose use of the phrase ‘pro-woman’ / ‘anti-woman’ to mean something it does not mean.

          • Christopher you seem to find it impossible to read and see anything in other than monochrome vision when the world is actually in a glorious mix of 16 million colours. It was quite clear how Peter was using the phrase.

      • Peter J. I am not making it sound ‘sinister’. Its simply what she is advocating as a means of getting rid of a theological view in the CofE she doesn’t like. Her strategy has a certain logic to it. I am not aware of similar moves to get rid of women priests.

  5. Congratulations CEEC, you’re the scapegoat.

    This was somewhat inevitable. From the moment it was clear that what the driving forces behind SC/LLF wanted (namely, change in doctrine) was never going to happen and that the process would likely end in a fudge (and what a fudge PLF had turned out to be!) the institutional authorities that have staked their integrity on the outcome have been looking to blame someone.

    For what it’s worth, the conservative trend to blame the progressives, and the progressive trend to blame the conservatives for this mess, is exactly what the HoB and Welby want, because it prevents and distracts from both camps uniting to hold them responsible.

    Where’s Anton, he called this 8 years ago. 😉

    • MS

      From my persepective (what do I know) the driving force was Welby and people like him who thought they could improve the church’s reputation by pretending to support LGBT equality while really delivering no change. Instead they’ve upset everyone – they have again misled and abused LGBT people in the church and, of course, conservatives don’t want it to even look like the church supports gay people

      • Synod voted for the proposals by a majority, Synod rejected full same sex marriage but voted for prayers and experimental services of blessing for same sex couples.

        So Welby did only what could get through Synod

      • Peter, Justin has been clear that he has changed his mind and does not believe the Church’s doctrine of marriage. His hesitation in saying so unambiguously is because he thinks that he can keep orthodox Anglicans on side by keeping quiet. It is not working.

        • Ian

          Its strange how he has only said this to you and has said the exact opposite to LGBT rights campaigners, MPs, media and synod. I think the reality is that he has spent his entire adult life using ambiguity to mislead people. He should never have been made a priest with that kind of attitude, let alone a bishop

          • Ian

            But why do we have the lead bishop in the church sneaking about sending secret letters out that contradict one another?! Shouldn’t he say publicly what he believes?

            I don’t even live in England any more and its very stressful to me to hear that such an influential person is so opposed to my marriage that he’s publicly blaming us for the persecution of Christians in African and ME countries, but secretly is saying that we are right and good. I dread to think what this dishonesty feels like to those who have made painful life choices based on trusting in his public statements.

          • I cannot account for someone else being inconsistent. I agree that it is appalling. Everyone has the right to write in a personal capacity; but acting inconsistently is poor for anyone in Christian ministry.

    • I personally don’t like the tone of the CEEC and the way it conducts itself; I cannot identify one particular reason, just the CEEC seems to act/read like a bunch of cranks.

  6. There is no reason I would have thought that those evangelical churches which disagree with the majority of Synod’s decision to allow prayers and experimental services of blessing for homosexual couples to come under alternative episcopal oversight. After all, conservative evangelical and Anglo Catholic churches and priests who disagree with women priests and bishops have already had their own conservative male ‘flying bishops’ within the C of E for years. There is also clearly much overlap between those churches which reject women priests and those which reject blessing homosexual couples (albeit more Anglo Catholics reject the former than the latter and more evangelicals reject the latter than the former).Such alternative oversight would ensure as Synod has agreed that such churches no more have to bless or pray for homosexual couples than they have to have women priests as they can opt out of now.

    As for the wider Anglican communion, the C of E is a distinct church within it and the blessings it and Anglican churches in Canada, NZ and Australia and Wales now allow are actually a middle ground between the marriages Anglican churches in the US and Scotland for example have already approved and the opposition of any recognition for homosexual couples in African Anglican churches. For in Africa homosexuality remains illegal in many nations unlike in the West where even homosexual marriage is now largely legal (South Africa the only African nation which allows homosexual marriage).

    • It is indeed a ‘distinct church’ and more so and for different reasons than TEC or the SEC. Goddard refers to the discussion within the AC–and indeed the remarks of Welby himself–as to whether this particular, unique distinctiveness will perdure. Or, whether it will (indeed) become one of the provinces like those you mention. The problem with this latter idea is the subject of the present essay and discussion. That is, these other provincial examples have nothing akin to the CEEC and its broad constituency.

  7. Nic Tall knows very well that the consecration of Gene Robinson and similar events are the most institutionally divisive in living memory. And his party fail to address or answer this point when it is repeatedly put to them. Which is how we know they are – at least so far as that goes – dishonest.

    It is, after all, of institutional division that he is speaking and about which he is exercised. So he is exercised about it and yet is in favour of the events that achieved it more than any others?

    It does not add up.

    The synodically minded think that truth is attained through voting, so doctrinal division will not exercise them. It does, however, exercise all good people, i.e. all who know that truth is important.

    A fourth point. You may think that truth is found by voting. OK then, we have a 51-49 vote on the most recent occasion. That is pure division. But did he ever hail it as even partial division?

        • No. I simply don’t know why Christopher chooses the election of Robinson as his ‘breaking point’.
          Well, I do know why: it’s his ideology.

          • Penny, has the entire TEC history of litigation and squabbling over buildings passed you by?

            If Gene Robinson did not begin it, what did? In your view?

          • And the endless meetings, the endless screeds, the formation of GAFCON and other alternative bodies – where did it all start from?

            What is this hidden cause that is nit Gene Robinson that has passed us by?

          • Christopher

            No, it hasn’t though I daresay my reading of it is rather different from yours. But there are many reasons for schism and the entirely valid election of Robinson is only one presenting issue.

          • Quite. For all the cries about defending doctrine, it’s striking to me that Gene Robinson was the problem, rather than John Shelby Spong.

      • But it doesn’t address the point. Was it a huge cause of increasing division or was it not. Which of the two? And what other division of late has been comparable?

        • I think we can safely say that no-one is able to name or cite a recent cause of undeniable division which compares in scale with the ordination of Gene Robinson. Therefore we agree on all sides that this is the leader of the field. Predictably.

          So – what is it that causes division most of all?

          • Conservative churches flouncing off because they don’t understand that, in the Anglican Commmunion, they don’t have any right to interfere in the decisions of autonomous churches. It’s just unseemly power play.

    • Christopher

      I cannot tell you how angry it makes me that supposed conservatives who claim to care about being “orthodox” are more upset about the ordination of a man in a same sex relationship by the TEC than they are the promotion of the execution of gay people by the church of Uganda.

      How can the Anglican communion justify punishing churches which allow gay people to have relationships, but doing nothing about churches which successfully lobby their governments to execute gay people?!

      This really speaks to the moral bankruptcy at the heart of the Anglican establishment. Theres a similar problem in the RCC – these people are demanding respect as moral leaders, but have no moral understanding whatsoever

      • “are more upset about the ordination of a man in a same sex relationship by the TEC than they are the promotion of the execution of gay people by the church of Uganda.”

        That’s simply untrue. Where in the CofE have you witnessed this? It’s been countered by the truth before on this blog.

        ..not that “upset” fairly describes opposition to SSM any more than the mere assertion of feelings would describe the views those pro. And it’s use could be seen as distraction from the issues. Argument lost, throw mud?

        • Ian Hobbs

          Zero action has been taken against the church of Uganda. TEC has been put on the naughty step. Welby was dragged kicking and screaming to write a letter asking them to not do so. That’s it.

          We never hear how abuse of gay people in every part of the communion is harming the communion. But SSM is the issue splitting the communion

      • I don’t think anyone mentioned any of the words or stereotypes you have just spoken of. The main reason they were against Gene Robinson being promoted was that he espoused false teaching; espoused a nonChristian culture; abandoned his wife and family; committed adultery; and embraced a lifestyle especially correlated with diseases, with promiscuity and with unsafe/unhealthy sexual practices.

        THe word ‘relationships’ is vague. Why use it? What does it mean? Why would any relationship be exclusive anyway? I can see why this would be the case in cases where 2 were one flesh, but otherwise?

        Uganda does not even remotely kill people for being gay. You know that it a lie. They have the death penalty, which is very rarely used, for particular despicable acts. What is this compulsion to spread and endlessly repeat an untrue stereotype?

        And finally just because someone is speaking of topic A at this moment, how on earth do you deduce from that that they think that topic A is more important than topic B?

        • As someone who is so concerned with evidence, I am surprised to see you repeating the lie that Gene Robinson left his wife for the man who would subsequently become his husband.

          • How dare you say I was lying?
            Every reader, including you, could already see I never mentioned whom he left her for.
            He abandoned wife and family. That is all I said. It is an awesome (as in dreadful) thing.
            He then compounded that with other things later. Proper leadership and formation are crucial. The whole loaf gets affected.

          • I dare say because you are.
            He didn’t ‘abandon’ his wife and family.
            He didn’t commit adultery.

          • Abandon means forsake them in the shape of joining another family unit instead.
            Seeking and in his mind attained a union with some alternative person instead is adultery.
            It is necessary that the second official union postdates the ‘divorce’. That is always the case.
            I am scratching my head here.

          • Christopher

            He didn’t abandon them to form another family unit. He and his wife split up amicably by mutual agreement.

            His second marriage failed because of the appalling abuse he received. I cannot imagine having to spend ones public life wearing a bullet proof vest. It is especially egregious that he had to do so whilst conducting public worship.

          • “His second marriage failed because of the appalling abuse he received.”

            So that is it? He suffers from alcoholism. He was in charge of a tiny diocese and spent his days in a desired role of national advocacy.

            Bulletproof vest as hair shirt? At some point this is boilerplate. I was with GR at a conference after his consecration. He was not wearing a bulletproof vest but was a decent chain-smoker.

          • Since he wasn’t wearing a bullet proof vest at one conference he wasn’t a victim of abuse and threats on his life?
            Since he was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker he isn’t a child of God.
            Because he smoked and drank he couldn’t do his job? That would have been a surprise to Churchill.
            You should be ashamed of yourself.

          • “You should be ashamed of yourself.” Facts are intractable things.

            No one is looking for moral perfection. By the same token, would you regard this as conduct befitting a Bishop? Alcoholism, heavy smoking, serial divorce, for most of us, false teaching. No bullet proof vests guard against such things.

            And no, I think the idea of non-stop vest protection is theatrical.

          • Penny I think you will find that Christopher Seitz and Andrew Goddard have been instrumental for many years in seeking to promote particular interpretations of events in the life of TEC and the Anglican Communion in a somewhat biased direction through The Anglican Communion Institute/Anglican Institute. You would have found the stated purpose of those two institutes stated thus:

            “It is the mission and purpose of the Anglican Communion Institute/Anglican Institute to make a biblical and historical articulation of the faith once delivered readily available to the larger church through conferences and printed word. By bringing together the finest theological and biblical scholars in the Church, it has been and will continue to be our goal to offer a forum for significant reflection on core matters of the doctrine and discipline of the church for its clergy and lay members.

            In an age of religious confusion, ignorance and tentativeness, both in the church and in the culture, an engagement with and an understanding of the gospel that will generate a sturdy and effective faith needs to be enthusiastically offered and succinctly articulated. It is the goal of the Anglican Communion Institute to accomplish just this task. “

          • Chris

            There are worse sins than smoking, drinking and divorce x 2. Bishops are sometimes guilty of them.

        • Christopher

          About a year or so ago the Anglican Church of Uganda pressured the government of Uganda to make homosexuality a capital offence. There are already two gay men facing the death penalty.

          Justin Welby has been close to silent about the issue. He is too busy blaming gay people for the religious persecution of Christians in Muslim majority countries

        • Godsall: By all means let’s stay away from the Bishop’s bullet proof vest and advert to other matters, and post-haste!

  8. Thanks for the article. I wonder if you could tweak it so that those of us who aren’t immersed in acronyms and organisations could make explicit what EGGS and The Alliance are? (I had to do a google search, so NOW I know they are the Evangelical Group on General Synod; and The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (?)

    • Oh yes. Sorry! The Alliance is just that—a group of people from organisations who are concerned about the dishonesty and lack of transparency of the actions of the House of Bishops.

      They are not an Alliance of anything else.

      • Ian

        What are you going to do about it?

        There’s also apparent dishonesty on the related topic of sexual abuse. Does the cofe not realize that its credibility is gone in a generation because of the behavior of its senior leaders? How can Justin Welby be a moral leader for the country when he isn’t even honest?

        • Peter ‘How can Justin Welby be a moral leader for the country when he isn’t even honest?’ If you are asking me to be a defender of Justin Welby’s leadership, you are not merely barking up the wrong tree—you are in the wrong forest.

          • Ian

            No, that’s not my question.

            My question was what are you going to do about it?

            Jayne Ozanne has quit synod and called on Justin Welby to resign because of his behavior. I’m not suggesting that’s an effective reaction or necessarily the best thing to do, but its at least acknowledging there’s a major major ethical problem with him.

          • Ian

            Because, as I understand it, you have the power and the responsibility.

            I don’t think we get to a more moral church with more secrets and plotting

          • I don’t have the responsibility of breaching confidence. I have personal conversations with lots of people; I don’t publicise them. It is a little thing called ‘integrity.’

  9. Once again, the fortified barriers are erected, the champions step forward, the circular arguments are unprevaling.
    It is much like the catastrophic First World War.
    For those who respect the word of God I would suggest that instead; rather than raising the barriers higher that we start digging the ditches.
    That is to say, prepare for the gentle often silent dramatic interventions of God.
    See, Elijah – Jehoshaphat – Elisha, digging ditches.
    “This is that which will Overcome the World”;
    Stand fast the Overcomers.

  10. I fear this visible differentiation may backfire. Some churches will be known as those who separated ‘because of the gays.’ What you see as a badge of orthodoxy may be seen very differently by society at large. It may even split evangelical congregations right down the middle.

    • and I should have added: the meaner the provision for same-sex blessings (not even marriage) will prove, the more bigoted your visible differentiation will come across.

      • The adjective ‘bigoted’ may be a favourite judgement levelled at those who have not been captured by the latest ideology to grip the Western world. But for Christians it pales into insignificance compared to the hope that we will one day hear the judgement of God himself that we have been ‘faithful’.

      • Bigoted is a thoughtless word. Positions are ranked by how much evidence there is for them, and you have not shown that this is a low-evidence position.

        Some unintelligent or devious approaches think they can terminate discussion by using one particular word, e.g. bigoted or far right. It would certainly be useful for them if discussion were terminated, since then they would not need to do any thinking, which (judging by this use of single mantra words) is something they find taxing.

    • What makes you think that people want differentiation? Many like me do not want it now (they just want one self-proclaimed ‘party’ to research and think more), and the remainder are driven to it only as a last resort – they don’t want it one bit, just can’t see the alternative.

      The church is already split, nor is that a good thing. Why are you not bewailing the Catholic-Orthodox or Catholic-Protestant or Conformist-Nonconformist splits? They are no less important than the one that consumes your attention.

    • Lorenzo, I think you are right to some degree.

      But the issue is not ‘because of the gays’, but ‘because of the teaching of Jesus’. I don’t think I have yet met a liberal advocating for SSM who is not also a universalist.

      And those churches which hold to the teaching of Jesus, including on sex and marriage, are the ones that are growing and attracting young people. So it is not backfiring for them…

    • maybe you should read a few rabbis on the matter, Anton, before enrolling Judaism into your tradition, Conservatives, Reform, Masorti and even some orthodox synagogues hold same-sex weddings. Here’s Rabbi Joseph Speck’s shiur on the matter, well worth a listen. He’s the senior Sephardi rabbi in the UK. Even extremely Orthodox Jews will not kick you out if you’re not frum on the matter, unlike evangelical Christians.

    • You really believe that marriage is a scripturally based tradition going back 3000 years?
      Marriage is not even a consistent tradition in 2000 years of Christendom and certainly not in 1000 BCE when the Judahite religion(s) had some very different takes on ‘marriage’ and there wasn’t yet a Bible to take a tradition from.

      • This argument is perpetually wheeled out over the last 20 years, usually by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes with great fanfare. It amounts to:
        -Marriage has changed in various details if not in its core. ‘Therefore’ it follows that we can change any detail we wish, including core details, and in any way we want.

        Or, more succinctly, women are no longer viewed as property, therefore women can marry women.

        It follows. It figures.

        The plea is that man+woman is not a core detail. Core details are invariables.

      • Penny, you keep saying that, and I keep being surprised.

        Could you point me to the texts in scripture which prescribe (not describe) the idea of the woman as the property of the man?

        Could you point me to that idea in any Anglican liturgy?

        Could you point me to any place in Christian history in any tradition where marriage is other than between a man and a woman?


          • Marriage goes back to Genesis 2, whenever that was written but at least 3000 years ago. It is a relationship between man and woman that is intended to be permanent, intimate, public and exclusive (acronym: PIPE), all of which can be inferred from that passage. Regarding exsclusivity, God did permit polygamy if a man was wealthy enough to keep more than one woman and the children he begets by them, but there is still to be no sex outside marriage and nothing positive is said about polygamy throughout scripture. Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that monogamy is for Christians (unless a polygamist converts, in which case he should provide keep for all his wives and take no more while they live).

          • Anton Gen. 2 is older than Gen. 1. But it wasn’t written 3000 years ago.
            And it nowhere says that Adam and Eve are married.

          • No Penelope, and you don’t find in Genesis Adam suggesting to Eve that they shack up for some casual screwing without their getting married either.

          • Anton Gen. 2 is older than Gen. 1. But it wasn’t written 3000 years ago.

            You were there? The best explanation is in the work of the aptly named PJ Wiseman. ), who recognised that Genesis is a compiled sequence of ancient texts written originally on stone tablets. Many stone tablets from Mesopotamia, dated as old as Abraham and Noah, have been uncovered, and they have their own writing conventions, which Wiseman recognised within Genesis. The retaining of those conventions by the compiler – presumably Moses, who also wrote the last part of Genesis, set in Egypt – shows that he copied faithfully. Moses simply added the names of places which had changed name by his time. We even know who each tablet was written by (or for), because the earlier, Mesopotamian parts of Genesis each end (not begin!) with the phrase “These are the toledoth of…”; toledoth means “historical origins”. (For example, “these are the toledoth of Jacob” in Genesis 37:2; our chapter divisions do not match this understanding.) Each section gives information which only that man could have known or found out reliably, and runs up almost to the death of the man named yet never reaches it. The other four books of Moses have been reliably dated to the era of which they speak in “The Books of Moses Revisited” by Paul Lawrence.

          • Anton

            No reputable HB scholar would support your account of the genesis and authorship of Genesis.

          • I couldn’t care less what your idea of a reputable scholar is; someone who ageees with you or the apostate Documentary Hypothesis? Have you actually read Lawrence (a university scholar) or PJ Wiseman?

            It is speculation to say that Adam and Eve had no sexual relations before the Fall. We simply don’t know.

          • Although you are correct, Penny, the argument is circular, since it depends entirely on who is defining ‘reputable’.

          • Anton

            What an interesting response. You revere scripture, but you don’t care if your beliefs about it are entirely unevidenced and inaccurate?
            Truth (and good scholarship) doesn’t matter it seems so long as your preconceptions about the Bible are canonised.

          • I actually gave reasons for my views, summarising Wiseman on Genesis and citing Lawrence for the rest of the Pentatauch. Whereas you have not only failed to engage with any of those reasons but declined to say whether you have read either man.

          • “Could you point me to any place in Christian history in any tradition where marriage is other than between a man and a woman?”

            Care to answer the question as posed?

      • “It is speculation to say that Adam and Eve had no sexual relations before the Fall.” It was a widely held belief in early Jewish and Christian interpretation and was seen as the one reason for the serpent’s envy and malice. The joy of Eden, which he despises.

          • After his horrible sermons against the Jews (which cannot be explained away as being merely against ‘Judaisers’ who wanted to import Mosaic Law into the church), I don’t want to read Chrysostom on anything.

          • I’m afraid your comment is incomprehensible. The classic study of these early sources is Gary Anderson (Hesburgh Professor, Notre Dame), in ‘Garments of Skin.’

            I have an survey of Antiochene Exegesis in the OUP volume on Orthodoxy. Chysostom is many things, but exegete would not be one of them (esp compared with his conferes Diodore, Theodore and Theodoret).

          • Christopher

            You haven’t provided any explanation for your eisegesis.


            Luther was a horrible ant Semite too. Do we disregard everything he wrote?

          • Luther was indeed horribly antisemitic toward the end of his life, but not so when he started the Reformation: his essay That Jesus CHrist was Born a Jew (1523) stated of the Jews: “I would advise and beg everybody to deal kindly with them”.

          • Dear Ms Doe, I am instructed to read a thesis written by someone whose name and work are unknown to me, who claims to be a scholar of some description (you); and when I indicate that a very sound study on Genesis 1-3 is available by a highly regarded scholar, Hesbugh Professor of Biblical Studies at Notre Dame, in the public domain, instead of acting like a serious student and read further, you make an incomprehensible comment about Chrysostom, which you fail to explain, and then pose questions about it, and speak blithely of ‘eisigesis.’ I have directed over 30 PhD theses at Yale, St Andrews, and the University of Toronto, and have sat on oral defenses at twice that number. I teach formal PhD seminars on the history of interpretation. I know we are living in the odd days of ‘everyone an expert on first-name basis’, but that is not my frame of reference and I am reluctant to see it disappear or devolve into “queering/querying” jargonizing. Charges of “eisegesis.” Luther this, Chysostom that, one-liners on a blog. When you have worked your way through Anderson’s book, let me know. That would approach what is called scholarship. Or has been, prior to queering things.

          • [Comment deleted.]

            Ian says: we have reached a new low in comments. I have asked again and again for you to avoid descending into sniping and vitriol—to no avail it seems.

            Please come back when we can have a sensible discussion, without character assassination and point scoring.

          • Christopher (Seitz), can you point me please to where you have discussed Paul Grice and linguistic pragmatics. Thanks.

  11. My own thoughts are humbly enclosed.

    Full disclosure: I have no problems with same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage.

    I am mindful of Mark 3:25 (ESV): “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

    So here ‘we’ are, in another mess.

    Growing up with vicarage life, I ‘witnessed’ the troubles and woes caused by the ordination of biological women, flying bishops etc; what is coming now must surely be much more serious, have deeper consequences – possibly lead to a civil war within the C of E.

    Then there are the likes of myself: A practising Christian, regular church attender, member of PCC, member of Deanery Synod. Questions I haven’t found answers to, and points that I cannot find an agreeable position on:
    1. LLF / PLF both appear to be injecting sociology into a theological setting – won’t work;
    2. Unless I am very much mistaken, Canon B30 was not amended – possibly leading to LLF etc being open to legal challenge;
    3. If LLF is ‘struck down’ and tradition continues, what is to legally stop one person identifying as a different gender and forcing a marriage service that way?
    4. If the current situation continues, could this lead to questions concerning the legitimising of polygamy?
    5. Different bible versions seem to give different conventional understandings of biblical history, eg NRSVue. How will the C of E address this?

    Hypothetically, individuals may observe that the move against LLF (as opposed to keeping tradition – different horses) has an element of homophobia. The C of E cannot have it both ways – you cannot be welcoming people of different genders and/or sexual orientation with open arms then telling them their (subjective) love is not as equally valid as hetero love.

    How does the C of E intend to convey to people in same-sex relationship(s) that their relationship(s) are any less valid than hetero relationship(s)? Good luck with this, esp. as contemporary society has great focus on the rights/opinions related to sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual identity.

    I don’t like:
    1. The current mood within the C of E;
    2. The distraction that this entire mess is causing from praise and worship and, separately, preaching and teaching; I for one want to be part of an active church community which focuses on the aforementioned – I have no wish to be involved in the politics and power plays currently being fought out;
    3. The idea of disestablishment. It could be hypothetically argued that the removal of an established Christian church could lead to a rise in atheism / unbelief or open a doorway through which a different religion could assert itself the majority.

    I cannot in good faith continue to be involved in what looks like the beginnings of a protracted civil war which will do naught but harm to the C of E, possibly further damage the understanding of ‘Christianity’ within secular society, and undermine the efforts of people who want to get on with the matter at hand – sharing the Gospel of Good News.

    I may very well quit the PCC, Deanery Synod; I have absolutely no intention in getting involved in any power struggles, political infighting, or ‘which side to you support?’ questions.

    Time for those who thought this entire mess up to face up to the mess they have made. This goes beyond human sexuality being a first order issue. Time we all faced up to the fact that sex, sexuality, gender, and identity are very important to very many people; the issue cannot be wished away.


    • Then why didn’t they split the church at any time over the last 2000 years?

      They are biological issues which have been constantly present. Biology hasn’t changed, Dave.

      So why have these enduring biological issues be seen as an issue for now but not for any previous part of the last 2000 years? It doesn’t add up.

      As for the fostering of division, this is what we already said that the emphasis on sexual rights would do. It is a one-issue division factory. Just like abortion produces an eternal culture war in one move.

      • Biology hasn’t changed, Chris, you are absolutely correct.

        However, possibly how we understand/view/perceive biology has changed? I cannot answer your question sufficiently.

        Biological issues over 2000 years? I don’t know to be honest; possibly we have a better understanding of sexuality, gender etc?

        • For example, if people were born gay, that would be a game changer. Yet the science is against the idea that people are born gay. Hence, there is no game changer.

          • Christopher

            I think you are looking at the wrong “science”

            As a rule of thumb I wouldnt give much weight to anything written by someone who doesn’t have both relevant scientific qualifications and experience or that relies on self identification.

            Both genetic studies and twin studies show a genetic component. There is no clear evidence for any other cause, although I believe the top favorite is the womb environment.

            So the only cause we have strong evidence for, the mostly likely other cause and individuals lived experience says that orientation is pre determined before birth

          • PC1

            Because if gay people are born gay than the interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that claims everyone is essentially straight is proved either an incorrect interpretation or a situation that no longer applies to the world in which we live. These leaves evangelicals with not much more than a few clobber verses with which to justify their opposition to gay equality

          • Peter J: Gen 1 to 3 doesn’t claim ‘everyone is straight’ but states (correctly) that humanity is made male and female, and that that reflects God’s intention, and that that should therefore determine our patterns of sexual intimacy.

            No-one is ‘born gay’ just as no-one is ‘born straight’ because sexual preferences are formed through a complex psychological process of development. When we are born, we don’t even know there are two sexes; it is something we must learn.

          • PC1 it is why sexual orientation is not any kind of essence.

            Peter J, you say that it is possible to read the wrong science. That means you say that selecting what you read is good. No, those who select are cherrypicking and dishonest.

            Are you by any chance ‘selecting’that which is most congenial to you? If so, you know that that is dishonest.

            One has to know what has been written, and then prioritise that which is largest scale and most methodologically rigorous. But I have said all this many times.

            Of course there is a genetic component as there is to everything, in this case about 10%. But that 10% is not determinative just especially compatible.

            There are many physiognomies and physical types of make up. If you take all the possible behaviours, all of these will be especially suited to particular physiognomies and constitutions. It could scarcely be otherwise. None of which says anything at all about whether the behaviours are good or not.

            Take the testosterone example from the 2019 psephizo piece. This is one key point that is often made. We see the interaction of intrauterine environment with family in the way that a boy with more testosterone will automatically be less likely on average to get on well with his father. So is that intrauterine or environmental? Both. But it is more environmental because different fathers will be able to treat this situation differently, and a wise father will make allowances. The sexual revolution produces a diminished number of wise fathers.

            If there is one lesson from the piece, it is that family environment is absolutely crucial. Since the family has been under attack for the last 60 years, it can scarcely be unrelated that homosexual behaviour has become more widespread in exactly the same period. It is natural that people who are disaffected and estranged for family reasons will manifest and enact that disaffection and estrangement, even to the extent of not being at home in their own bodies. To fail to do so would suggest it did not matter. It matters hugely.

          • “Gen 1 to 3 doesn’t claim ‘everyone is straight’ but states (correctly) that humanity is made male and female, and that that reflects God’s intention, and that that should therefore determine our patterns of sexual intimacy.”

            Meaning gay people should enter ‘straight’ marriages because that’s God’s intention for us?

    • Dave, you write:

      I have no problems with same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage.

      OK, but do you think God does, and where would you find his views?

      “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” So here ‘we’ are, in another mess. Growing up with vicarage life, I ‘witnessed’ the troubles and woes caused by the ordination of biological women, flying bishops etc; what is coming now must surely be much more serious, have deeper consequences – possibly lead to a civil war within the C of E.

      Civil war is posssible only within a hierarchical church, which is both the strength and the weakness of Rome, Canterbury etc. I am unusual in taking a congregational view of church (which I hold is scriptural, but arguing it would be a digression) yet being in a CoE congregation – because it is the best near me.

      individuals may observe that the move against LLF (as opposed to keeping tradition – different horses) has an element of homophobia.

      Would you define ‘homophobia’ please, and do you consider the scriptures homophobic?

      The C of E cannot have it both ways – you cannot be welcoming people of different genders and/or sexual orientation with open arms then telling them their (subjective) love is not as equally valid as hetero love.

      We have their highest good at heart, i.e. avoiding hell. St Paul is clear about what actions to avoid in order to avoid that.

      • 1. Where would I find God’s views? Closed question; nice try.

        2. Congregational: If my understanding is the same as yours – in that each church is effectively sovereign in their own right, then this may be a good answer. Good point; given me food for thought; thank you.

        3. ‘Homophobia’ as a perception (subjective), not as an established fact. I have had the misfortune to meet more than one whose biblical perspective appeared to be tainted or driven by a general dislike of same-sex relationships and/or people.

        4. St. Paul. Good point.

        I really don’t want to quit local church life, I feel it would be some type of surrender or ‘giving up’; at the same time, I feel that it may be time to step back and let others fight it out amongst themselves. I am very conflicted.

        • 1. Nicely ducked!

          2. Yes indeed – for my exegesis please see

          More generally, it is obvious that both sides of this are gearing up for battle. On scriptural grounds I support the ‘conservative evangelicals’ and find this a wise article
          but because of my congregational views I can’t be bothered to get too involved. I think the biblical side will lose, largely because God wants his committed persons in churches run differently as persecution looms from secular humanism and/or Islam.

          • Anton

            Point 1. We ‘get’ God’s views through the bible as a primary source, pastoral and church guidance as a secondary source (rules etc). We meet together as members of the body of Christ to share, care, learn and grow. We use prayer as a form of focal thought and to ask for guidance through the Holy Spirit. We pray together to focus our minds on a more collective hermeneutic. We are mean to understand God’s views more succinctly when we fully surrender to Jesus and put aside earthly woes; something I am no where near mastering.

            Apologies for my sharp reply earlier.

    • Dave, thanks for your really interesting thoughts.

      I think you sum up the problem in a nutshell.

      On the one hand, you comment that you have ‘no problem’ with same-sex marriage.

      On the other hand, you are an active member of a Church which does. The doctrine of the C of E is very clear, and is expressed in Canon B30. (It is available online.)

      The reason, ISTM, why we are in this mess is that there are many active members, like you, and even clergy, who either do not know or do not agree with the doctrine of their own Church.

      As long as it is all ‘on the back burner’, then there is a sense in which we can live with that kind of incoherence. But it is in fact liberals pressing for change who have put it on the front burner.

      What then? Then it is fair to ask ‘Why did you get ordained in a Church whose doctrine you don’t agree with?’ I don’t see how we can avoid this. We have sown to the wind of ‘let’s not talk about what we actually believe’ and now we are reaping the whirlwind.

      • Dear Paul,

        Thank you for your kind reply.

        You’ve hit the nail on the head.

        1. I am confused and conflicted over the current situation;
        2. I am upset that I cannot work my way through this; I am grieved that I am distracted and lost with this situation – this is an unwelcome distraction from what should be a happy time in my life living in Christ and trying to be a disciple;
        3. I have sought guidance and there doesn’t appear to be any, which compounds point two. Those I have spoken too don’t seem to be much clearer on the subject either;
        4. I understand that the bible does say that marriage is between two people (one biological male and one biological female) and that love as eros should be confined within marriage boundaries;
        5. How can I, in everyday life, explain to someone who is in a same-sex relationship with the same legal standing, that they are ‘committing a sin’? I have no confidence that could put myself in such a situation, without some dire reaction (legal, emotional, being doxxed etc);

        I believe one root cause is that society is focused on love as eros and not love as agape and philia. Love as eros being the measuring stick within wider society.

        I am on the verge of quitting PCC, Deanery Synod and withdrawing from active church life for an indeterminate period of time. If I cannot get the help/answers/guidance/support I need, what’s the point?


        • I’d be happy to chat. In terms of reading, have you looked at the latest book by Preston Sprinkle?

          The reason you might find it helpful is that he is very strong, at the beginning and end, on the pastoral issues.

        • Dave,

          I am an adult convert, a scientist who was secular till my 30s, and I went to my local parish church for a decade and eventually got on the PCC. It consisted of a number of elderly ladies who were lovely people and faithfully did the flower arranging etc but had scant idea of spiritual leadership, plus two men who espoused liberal theology. I remember baffled looks when I asked “What has the Bible to say about this?” concerning a matter which came before us. We once had a fortune teller at the church fete, which I was obliged to boycott that year. The PCC downed every attempt I proposed for Christian activity during an interregnum. That situation, plus heretical comments by CoE bishops, plus closer study of the New Testament about church polity, drove me to a local baptist church, where I was happy.

          Having since moved town – and perforce congregation – twice, I have recently gone the opposite way, and moved from a free church whose policies I disagreed with (courteously, and not about sexuality) to a Church of England congregation. The difference from my first decade in the CoE is that I now take a congregational view of church and I chose this congregation simply because it is the best near me. The vicar has grown it from a small and declining number 18 years ago to over 100 each Sunday including multigenerational families, many being new converts, and without compromise of the gospel. Perhaps the bishop would say that my congregational view is anarchistic, but I would respond that it is biblical.

          So don’t be afraid to go shopping. Use biblical criteria. If leaving the CoE would cause you real pain, ignore advice from cradle free-churchers who won’t understand you and try the autobiography of Herbert Carson (“Farewell to Anglicanism”) who wrestled with his conscience and left a vicarage and a pension for life among the Frees.

      • Dear Paul,

        I am genuinely having a crisis over the current situation.

        I can’t even explain the matter properly, accurately, or with confidence to younger people in my circle – what does that say about me as someone who is meant to be a confessing and practising Christian?

        • @ Dave

          My advice is to trust in Christ, pray, continue to worship God, and, if being involved in the ‘politics’ of the church is damaging your faith (and heath), then withdraw from it until your faith and strength is restored. Many saints – and Jesus Himself – have faced times when they’ve needed to withdraw from the world.

          Your in my prayers.

    • dave – I can’t imagine why you add the adjective ‘biological’ in front of ‘women’. You’ll find that the Pentateuch specifically vetoes anyone who has had any part of their male equipment chopped off from entering the priesthood (Deuteronomy 23:1) – so it’s not only ‘biological’ women who have the problem.

    • Dave

      Just on your point 3, gay people really don’t want to force a priest to marry them if the priest disapproves of their relationship. They also are not going to pretend to be trans (for their whole life?!) just to get a CofE marriage service.

      Indeed for many LGBT campaigners better treatment in the CofE is more important than being allowed to marry

    • I recommend approaching this as a simple question – what are gay people to do?

      Some of the Church’s problems stem from too many trying too hard for too long to avoid that sort of simplicity. (And of course some stem from some people who’d really like a civil war in the Church).

      Jesus flipped our ethical questions around. The Laws of Moses epitomised by the Ten Commandments with its characteristic “Thou shalt nots” was summarised with Jesus positive command to love God and love your neighbour. Christian ethics is not a list of prohibitions, but a call to positive action – what are we to do?

      These are important questions for all sides. For the conservatives, if you are saying no to same sex marriage, what are saying yes to? What is the positive action? Is it that gay people should enter straight marriages? Or should they have covenanted friendships, essentially marriages without sex, instead? Or are they to embrace lifelong celibacy? And for whichever is advocated, how do the rest of us help with that, and what does it require of the Church to make it real and make it work? For the progressives, if you are saying yes to same sex marriage, does that match with the rest of your message on marriage? Is this a free for all or are we saying that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage, gay or straight?

      Ian is right that when we don’t talk about our beliefs for a long time, when we do broach the subject, we get shocked and surprised by what we find. Quiet discussions have been carrying on in the corners of the Church and now it’s out in the open, it’s a shock where some people have gone to. Some people see the purpose of marriage and sex as to have children, others see it as true companionship. For some, the key text is Ephesians and Paul drawing on the metaphor of marriage to explain Christ and the Church. For others, the key text is 1 Corinthians where Paul warns against imposing rules of celibacy, emphasises equality in marriage, and says it is better to marry than burn with passion.

      • Thanks Adam. This is an important question…and evangelicals have been offering consistent answers to this. I certainly have in various conversations here and IRL.

        What are gay people to do?

        a. Reject the idea that ‘being gay’ defines who you are. (Same applies to straight people.) God made us all in his own image, male and female, fallen but offered redemption in Christ. This defines our true identity.

        b. Don’t be shaped by our sexualised culture. (Same applies to straight people.)

        c. Don’t buy the myth that you will be happy by doing your dream job, earning money, and having a happy marriage with 2.4 children. (Same applies to straight people.)

        d. Notice that Jesus (and Paul) lived a full life as a single celibate person. (Same applies to straight people.) Theologically, this anticipates the new creation where we will be ‘like the angels’.

        e. Realise that there is a fruitfulness in this creation that comes from marrying and having children. But there is an even more profound fruitfulness that comes from living as a faithful disciple, testifying to the grace of God, and having spiritual children who come to new birth through your testimony. (Same applies to straight people.)

        f. Don’t buy into the individualism of our time, but live in community with the brothers and sisters who are your true family, sharing your lives with each other and giving and receiving in loving service. (Same particularly applies to straight people.)

        I have said this often on this blog, as have others. Living Out (who are a constituent member of CEEC) teach on this often. See also books by Preston Sprinkle and other evangelicals. If you have not come across this teaching, then you need to explore more.


        • Thanks Ian,

          I would strongly dispute that evangelical answers have been consistent on this, especially if we’re saying the same applies to straight people.

          The answers shift constantly from recommending lifelong celibacy, to hinting that homosexuality is something that can be changed, to saying celibate partnerships akin to marriage might be ok, to saying they’re obviously out of bounds but entering a straight marriage would be fine even if you’re gay, and so on. Even with the answers you’ve just given, you’re not actually clear about what you’re recommending. I can infer that I think you’re saying gay people should embrace lifelong celibacy, but you might be giving yourself enough wiggle room to come back later and say entering a straight marriage would be a good idea.

          I would add that it’s a mistake to attribute this to a sexualised culture. Firstly, just how sexualised is our culture, compared to earlier times? The data actually shows young people today having less sex, and waiting longer, than they were in the 80s. We’re living in the shadow of the MeToo movement, not the Playboy mansion. Nor do I think it’s correct to see the arguments against a celibacy rule and for marriage to be simply about sex and a sexualised culture. After all, Cranmer and Luther both decided to repudiate their own vows of celibacy and take wives in the 16th century and we wouldn’t say that was because they suffered from an overly sexualised culture.

          But the idea that “the same applies to straight people” is, I’m afraid, nonsense. You’ve previously been quite clear I thought that you’re not rejecting ‘being straight’ as a defining characteristic, and instead view it as an inherent part of the human condition given our two sexes. I have yet to encounter anywhere in the Church that encourages young straight people to embrace vows of lifelong celibacy, let alone suggests it might be a rule. What we get is some preachers sometimes suggesting that if you happen to end up single, that’s not so bad, which is wildly different. I have not heard of a preacher anywhere who tells his congregation that they should avoid marriage, and avoid having children, because Jesus was celibate and we can have more profound spiritual children instead. This stuff is not actually, in practice, taught to the Church generally. Where it typically comes up in the last few pages of someone’s book on homosexuality and the Church or Bible, where there’s a scramble to say what to do after spending a long time and lot of words arguing that same-sex marriage is forbidden. And then there’s a slightly mournful wish that the Church could apply this sort of teaching to its straight congregants, and that it probably shouldn’t be quite so pro-family and pro-marriage as it is.

          None of this should be surprising. If we were really telling everyone to reject the idea that their sexuality was important, that marriage was overrated because we were unhealthily obsessed by sex, that we should take vows of lifelong celibacy in anticipation of the new creation, that spiritual children were more profound than having our own children, and the Church living communally would overcome any need for intimacy or fear of loneliness, then where are all the straight people in the Church taking such vows of lifelong celibacy? There’s precious few lifelong singletons, let alone actual celibates. Instead marriage and family is absolutely dominant from top to bottom.

          • Then I am unclear what your sources are. Do you attend meetings of CEEC? Do you regularly engage with material on Living Out? Have you read evangelical books on these issues? Where is there ‘shift’?

            And what is ‘unclear’ about my comments?

            I don’t believe that ‘being straight’ defines people; but I wanted to point at this none of this is special teaching ‘for gay people’ but applies to all. Did you miss that? Oh dear…

            Where do I say people ought to ‘avoid getting married’? But if you are not aware that being single for the sake of the gospel has been a serious part of evangelical thinking, then you need to read about a chap called John Stott.

            Where do I say ‘sexuality is unimportant’? Where are all the straight people taking vows of celibacy? All over evangelical churches. Read Kate Wharton’s book, and others writing on singleness. There is even a Grove booklet or two. And try reading Seven Reasons why your Church Needs More Men.

            Please don’t criticise my comments for being inadequate, when they fail to educate you on the things you have not read about! One blog comment is not enough to address every ignorance!

            And were you aware of the theological status of virginity in the early church?


            PS have you read these two articles? https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-is-a-biblical-theology-of-sexuality-part-1/


  12. Because, in ordinary conversation, I have been asked to qualify what I mean by man/woman. Therefore, I add this as an absolute qualifier to avoid the nonsense discussion.

    • There is an argument about terminology and there is an argument about categorising people in society. I, a traditionalist, am willing to contend about both, but when I meet people who advocate a different definition of man and woman from that used since time immemorial I set the terminological argument aside and use language agreed by both sides to probe the more important categories-in-society issue. I ask whether persons with XY genotype and penis from birth ought to be allowed in sporting events, toilets, prisons etc for persons with XX genotype and ovaries from birth, and I am willing to argue for the answer No. Re the lesser terminological argument, I simply ask people to define what a man and a woman are, and if I get the reply “anybody who feels like/says they are a woman” I reply “feels like/says they are a what?” Et cetera.

  13. I do find it quite unusual for Penelope to quote Scripture
    {2 Samuel Ch 12] but lacking any point.
    Was it David’s many wives; stealing a man’s only wife; God’s judgement of Murder and Theft; David’s repentance; God’s chastisement; David’s amendment of life being blessed by God?
    Even in repentance there may well be consequences – loss of wives and a child; the Sword, civil war, never after departing from his house thereafter.
    It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of one who is a consuming fire.
    And if it first begin at the house of the Lord where oh where shall the sinner appear?

    • Penelope cites scripture all the time. She suspects she reads it rather more competently than some of the commenters here.

      • Or maybe she reads it more suspiciously than some of the commenters here.
        Penny doesn’t ‘read’ Scripture the way Jesus read the Old Testament and the way the early church read the New Testament (and I’m not talking about her competence in Hebrew and Greek).
        Rather she ‘reads’ them through the eyes of Foucault, as an exercise in power play by one group over another. In other words, with a thoroughly human neo-Marxist ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ which sees texts as instruments of power that must be ‘unmasked’ and resisted.
        It isn’t how Jesus, his apostles and the early church read the Bible, because it’s basically an atheist trajectory – if you are consistent and follow through.
        I had a fellow student at Trinity College in Bristol who was a relatively early explorer in these fields and a vocal campaigner for women’s ordination. Still in her mid 20s, she came to Trinity with an Oxford theology degree and she was writing a PhD in feminist theology for Exeter University. She wasn’t an evangelical (I thi k her background was liberal catholic) but she came to Trinity because it was convenient for her family (she was married and had a baby). She was subsequently ordained but it wasn’t all that long before she left the ministry, her marriage and Christianity to become a writer and publisher of fiction and poetry in Wales.
        It’s hard to say what she believes now: maybe a general mysticism about existence? I think of her path as the ‘George Eliot way’: from Christian faith to vague religiosity.

        • Cliché ridden rhetoric which swallows all the false demons of modernism.

          None of us reads the HB the way Jesus did or the HB and NT the way the early church did. That would be impossible after nearly 2000 years of cultural change.

          The problem is your unwillingness to admit that like every reader you negotiate with the text. Yours may not be a neo-Marxist hermeneutic (mine neither) but you – and all other readers and commenters – bring all your own preconceptions, beliefs, and culture to the texts. As did the gospel writers, and Athanasius, Aquinas, Luther, Barth etc. etc. There is no pristine text which can be recovered without being read through some hermeneutic lens. You simply believe that your lens are either correct or neutral. You are mistaken.

          I wish all the best to your erstwhile colleague. She is on her own journey. Mine continues to be within the church. Which is still, thankfully, generous enough to include us both.

          • Of course we all read the Bible through our own hermenutic. But we let it challenge that hermeneutic – that is the point.

            What is your hermeneutic in regard to Christianity and sexuality? In your own words,

            The last part of this thesis will challenge the hermeneutics of Pilling and its afterlife by queering its methodologies, particularly in their approach to biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. This will be an experiment in disrupting the normative scriptural hermeneutics employed by the Pilling process and in queering/querying their position of privilege and authority in the Church. The wife of God/bride of Christ metaphor, which is routinely employed to support the normative position of ‘heterosexual’ marriage as a creation ordinance, will be reconstructed, both as analogically gay, and as a disturbing picture of normative marital fidelity and flourishing.


          • “None of us reads the HB the way Jesus did or the HB and NT the way the early church did. That would be impossible after nearly 2000 years of cultural change.”

            What a tragic statement, lacking humility, curiosity, and desire to be alongside the church through time. As a professor I strive mightily to get out from under ‘cultural change’ and learn to read with every age, in the company of the saints. My students get disoriented, then curious, then oriented. The best of what we mean by ‘education.’

          • Penelope:
            As Anton says, quoting your own words, your approach is pure Foucault, which is Neo-Marxist in its methods and assumptions.
            Which is what I said above about your use of ‘the hermeneutic of suspicion’ – atheistic and certainly not how Jesus taught us to understand and use the Word of God.
            As for my erstwhile colleague, I understand she is now living in a forest in Brittany where she practises yoga and is seeking to become a herbalist.
            Such is romantic faux Celtic greenism. At least she isn’t advocating Druidic sacrifices, yet.

          • Hi Anton and James

            Well that précis from the university is rather out of date. But you will be able to read my forthcoming book in May.

            Anyway, you do both spout nonsense.
            I’m neither a Marxist nor a neo Marxist. I read some Foucault, but critically. I don’t read everything through his hermeneutic lens. Do you read everything through a particular scholar’s lens?

            At least I’m honest that I read through my own cultural presuppositions and hermeneutic choices. You are both utterly convinced that your hermeneutic is neutral and/or faithful.
            And you are both wrong.

          • Yes, Christopher we all strive to read with every age and alongside the saints. That’s why we read the Church Fathers, Aquinas, the Reformers etc. etc., as well as the NT. That’s why we study history, sociology, anthropology and languages.

            But we can’t read any text as a pristine artifact unaffected by the years which intervene between its production and our own experience and expertise. I would be quite shocked if a professor thought we could.

          • Penelope:

            You write: “At least I’m honest that I read through my own cultural presuppositions and hermeneutic choices. You are both utterly convinced that your hermeneutic is neutral and/or faithful.” Did you miss my comment that “we all read the Bible through our own hermenutic. But we let it challenge that hermeneutic”?

            I never mentioned Marx or Foucault (although there is a superb and detailed takedown of the latter constituting chapter 5 of Keith Windschuttle’s book “The Killing of History: How a discipline is being murdered by literary critics and social theorists”).

            “You are both utterly convinced that your hermeneutic is neutral and/or faithful. And you are both wrong.”

            Always a pleasure to read reasoned argument.

            You say you are into yoga. As that involves tying yourself in knots, I’m not surprised.

          • Having read Penny’s thesis in its final draft I can confirm that it takes a really quite orthodox approach to scriptural exegesis. Having taught with Penny for a number of years I can confirm that her approach is full of humility, curiosity, and a desire to be alongside the church through time. The conclusions her thesis reaches makes this abundantly clear.

          • “Yes, we all strive to read with every age and alongside the saints.” Thank God for that. As an erstwhile Anglican Divine put it, one canon, two testaments, three creeds, four councils, five centuries.

            Said Divine did not conjure up the idea of ‘pristine artifacts’ (whatever that means) or some vast chronological chasm across which we must negotiate impossible paths. The character of scripture crosses those paths to find us on its own terms. That what it makes it as far removed from a ‘pristine artifact’ as one can imagine.

            Thank God, as well, that new seasons in biblical studies have put paid to slogans like ‘what it meant and what it means.’ Philosophers like Gadamer and canonical hermeneutics joy hands here.

          • Hi chaps

            SCM Press, forthcoming.
            As I said above, the Exeter University précis is out of date.
            Title of thesis:
            Queering the Pilling Report: Church of England Reports on Sexuality and the Queer Art of Failure.
            Public access embargoed until publication of book.
            Abstract available on request.
            You’re all very welcome.

        • A Godsall: ‘…it takes a really quite orthodox approach to scriptural exegesis.’

          Well, that puts my mind at rest!

          If you’d like to point me to its published version, I am happy to take a look.

          • Is this the abstract from above? Sounds like a page right out of the ‘Orthodox’ handbook. A real study in how to read scripture alongside the long history of interpretation. And without a vest!

            “The last part of this thesis will challenge the hermeneutics of Pilling and its afterlife by queering its methodologies, particularly in their approach to biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. This will be an experiment in disrupting the normative scriptural hermeneutics employed by the Pilling process and in queering/querying their position of privilege and authority in the Church. The wife of God/bride of Christ metaphor, which is routinely employed to support the normative position of ‘heterosexual’ marriage as a creation ordinance, will be reconstructed, both as analogically gay, and as a disturbing picture of normative marital fidelity and flourishing.”

            Bon chance.

          • Chris were you not actually able to read the exchange of comments above? You really epitomise those words ‘a man hears what he wants to head and disregards the rest.’
            As you actually haven’t read the work I think it might be best to refrain from comment until you have. An approach I’m sure even your most junior of students would have understood.

          • I will refrain from comment when I get intelligent and intelligible commentators.

            I found the quote quite pertinent, don’t you? “Queering/querying” — is this meant to be taken seriously in a refereed journal a publication other than self-published?

            But if you are vouching for its ‘orthodoxy’ well then that settles it! Thanks for your private reading and endorsement.

          • If it is a thesis that has been passed for award of a doctorate from a UK university then (subject only to bureaucratic delay) it will be available online for free without having to pay for a version from a publisher.

            Penelope: have you been or are you to be awarded a doctorate as a result of this work, please: and if so then is it available online for free yet, and if so then where?

          • That is not true, Penelope, and if you are in good faith then you will not mind answering:

            1. Have you been awarded or approved for a doctorate on the basis of this thesis? Please include a clear Yes or No and make clear that your reply is to this specific question.

            2. If Yes, is this thesis (and not a publisher’s version) online yet? Please include a clear Yes or No and make clear that your reply is to this specific question.

            3. If Yes to (2), what is the URL, please?

            I acknowledge that this is a blog, not a court of law, but I would prefer silence to a deliberately ambiguous reply. You are an intelligent woman and will understand the difference.

          • Anton

            I don’t know what part of my reply was deliberately ambiguous and I find your questioning impertinent.

            But, to clarify:
            1) yes
            2) as I said above it’s embargoed at present (for 18 months after submission). You can request access for genuine research purposes. I have already granted one such request.
            3) as (2)

          • “Pilling – The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, published in November 2013, initiated a process within the institutional Church of England of discussions and reflections on the issue of (homo)sexuality. This thesis will que(e)ry the contents and methodology of this report, set in the context of earlier church reports on sexuality, analysing the hermeneutical lenses through which Pilling chose to examine homosexuality and its place in church polity. After critically reflecting on the report itself, the thesis will turn to the processes which it launched: official and unofficial conversations about gay identity and gay relationships. Both the report and these processes will be interrogated for their constructions of authority and for their, perhaps unacknowledged, construals of power and privilege in which white, educated, cisheterosexual norms remain unmarked and ‘other’ identities are (albeit implicitly) positioned as abject. Pilling – both report and process – claims that it is not searching for a consensus or a resolution in the sexuality debate, yet its apparent reliance on the neoliberal narrative of progress and productivity denies the possibility of failure. The thesis suggests that one kind of resolution might be through, what Halberstam has termed, the ‘queer art of failure’, a turning away from the hegemonic epistemologies of church reports and institutionally sanctioned debate, towards an undoing of theological privilege and hierarchical constructions of authority. The queer art of failure recognises that failure is part of the human condition and for Christians an inherent part of our fallen nature. Failure may be faithfulness to an apophatic tradition, inhabiting the unknowingness of Holy Saturday and the queer temporality of living in the ‘not yet’.”
            University of Exeter 2023

          • So, in a queer construal of reality, failure to follow the teaching of Jesus is now characterised as faithfulness? Could you point us to the chapter which explains why black is really white?

          • ‘queering’ / ‘querying’ is merely at the level of playing around with words; coincidental similarities between words such as this are random and without scholarly import. I believe this triviality stemmed partly from Derrida; see Anthony Kenny’s critique.

            Secondly, it is no good queering things that are not queer. And to need to queer them is to suggest that they were not queer until you stepped in. It sounds like a bid for saturation or world domination by one ruling idea, without anyone else’s consent and also without justification being provided.

            Thirdly, for words and sentences to be clever-sounding (what Molesworth called ‘advanced, forthright and significant’) is no guarantee that they are. In fact, anyone confronted with something they do not understand will see the possibility that it is too intelligent for them to understand. The other ever-present possibility is that they do not understand it because it means nothing. But the genius of all this is that if the reader would not understand it anyway if it DID mean anything, they cannot possibly know whether it DOES or not. So there is always the lingering possibility that it does, even in cases where it does not.

          • Thank you, Penelope. I’ll be interested to see how you ‘queer’ the exegetical appendix to the Pilling Report, which we all know was written by Keith Sinclair. But I’m content to wait till May to read your thesis online.

          • Kevin

            Thank you! Precisely.


            I can see you are struggling. My work aims to interrogate the constructions of power, privilege, and authority embedded in Church of England Reports and the processes – authorised and unauthorised – which they initiate. Since the search for consensus had apparently resluted in a stalemate I suggest that the ‘art of failure’ could be an alternative to that futile striving and that the Church could learn to dwell in the queer temporality of Holy Saturday (H/T von Balthaser).

            Does this help you to understand that this research is not about what Jesus ‘says’?

          • Penny, I am not struggling. I just think this kind of language lacks intellectual coherence.

            It can pass as an academic piece, but that shows the problems we now have in academia.

          • Christopher (Shell this time)

            Perhaps you’d like the names and contact details of my examiners?

          • Anton

            Enjoy! But, to forestall disappointment, I don’t queer Keith Sinclar’s appendix, nor David Runcorn’s.

          • If someone heard ‘Let’s queer this school’ or ‘Let’s queer this government’ it would sound rather unpleasant.

          • Why would I need the names and contact details of your examiners? This Derrida-derived nonsense has been around in biblical studies at least (University of Sheffield) for 30 years and more, and that was not where it began. Deconstruction was all the rage when I arrived at Oxford 40 years ago.

          • Christopher Shell

            1) it wouldn’t. Many institutions could benefit from queering.

            2) My thesis is not in biblical studies (the clue is in the abstract).

          • Penny, in response to serious comments from well known and established scholars, you throw out sarcasm and jibes.

            I am not interested in having this on my blog. If you cannot engage, please comment elsewhere.

          • Penelope: I’m not surprised; I don’t think it is possible to ‘queer’ that exegesis without doing serious damage to the dictionary.

            All: Keith Windschuttle’s book “The Killing of History: How a discipline is being murdered by literary critics and social theorists” is an excellent takedown of Derrida, Foucault and other postmodern pseudoscholars. Windschuttle is a serious scholar who has taken the trouble to read his targets in detail. In Foucault’s “Madness and Civilisation”, for example (which I have read, and thought little of), Windschuttle shows that Foucault gets entirely the wrong century for the ‘great confinement’ in which those deemed by Western society to be mad were mandatorily placed in institutions. A more fundamental error in a study of this subject could scarcely be imagined.

          • Google Sokal, Pluckrose, Boghossian, Lindsay.
            Sokal in the 1990s wrote a deliberately meaningless article parroting all the Derrida-speak. It was accepted for publication, and soon spawned 50 conferences – I think, though I may be wrong – addressing the question of how this could happen. (I think we know.)
            Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian tried the same thing with multiple articles 6-7 years ago, again with much success.
            This is how we don’t merely theorise but rather know that this Derridean stuff is largely meaningless.

          • So do you think that my children’s school would benefit from queering, which is something they have not previously introduced?

          • Christopher Shell

            It might. One could interrogate a school’s pedagogical models to ascertain whether they reinforce patrirachal csiheterosexual norms, or if they allow flexibility, creativity and an awareness of those marginalised by normative epistemologies.

            This isn’t queering the kids. So don’t pretend to misunderstand.

          • The Sokal Hoax was a hoot. Alan Sokal, a theoretical physicist, wrote a deliberately meaningless article “Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity” combining buzzwords from theoretical physics and postmodernism and submitted it to an academic cultural studies journal. They published it. Sokal then explained what he had done, at greatest depth in a book with Jean Bricmont, another physicist (like me!) These men and myself have friends/colleagues in common, so I emailed Sokal with congratulations and got a friendly reply.

            As a better man than me wrote: “You might as well hope to detect typographical errors in Finnegans Wake, as hope to detect factual or logical errors in Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, etc.”

          • Penny, you do amaze me. Whoever said, or would think, that your thesis on Pilling was in biblical studies. I was just musing that Derridean approaches took root (in biblical studies ‘at least’, i.e., at any rate, for I am not sure about other areas, but I guess it was about the same time) around 30 years ago, and earlier in English faculties.

            On the basis of which you are sarcastic about something I never said in the first place.

  14. Jock
    January 6, 2024 at 6:50 pm
    Excellent point Jock, but it’s not allowed to quote Scripture for the lgbtuvw liberal humanists.

    • Alan – actually, on closer inspection, I suspect that Deuteronomy 23:1 was intended, right from the beginning, as God’s response to men, quite deliberately, getting ‘gender reassignment surgery’ (i.e. getting their equipment chopped off and calling themselves women). It may have been prophetic – in the sense that Moses may have had no idea why the Good Lord was instructing him to write down such a commandment – since he probably thought that it would never occur to anybody to actually do this, but a prohibition against entering the assembly as a result of an unfortunate accident really makes no sense at all. The real target of this verse may well be transgenderism.

      • Jock,
        You are a quick learner, with a first class reconstruction of scripture through the application of a queer theory hermeneutic and the underpinning philosophies, which can not be gainsaid.

    • You don’t appear to understand what you have read here. That event, in 2008, (a full 16 years ago!!) is precisely the narrow take-over that Andrew refers to—which CEEC has moved away from.

      That inclusion of the statements on sexuality happened just a couple of years ago, and was indeed uncontentious. As a result of this, EGGS in Synod grew by 50%.

  15. “some who identify as evangelicals but have never been involved in or showed much interest in the life of CEEC in the last couple of decades or more”

    By its constitution, CEEC is an echo chamber.
    It refuses to hear from people whose views differ from its own – all members must commit to keeping each other on-message.
    It even refuses to keep such people informed – one has to affirm CEEC’s Basis of Faith (as expanded) when signing up for its email bulletins.

    And CEEC’s new parish support fund enacts division. It refuses financial support to anyone who hasn’t affirmed the Basis of Faith – as if doing so were the only reliable evidence that the PLF won’t be used.

    Can we really be surprised that some people don’t want to be involved?

    • ‘By its constitution, CEEC is an echo chamber.
      It refuses to hear from people whose views differ from its own’

      What a strange way to talk about any organisation. I am a Council member of CEEC. Do I refuse to hear from people I disagree with? Of course not!

      On that definition, Inclusive Church is an echo chamber. It certainly seeks to exclude people like me, as does so-called ‘Inclusive Evangelicals’.

      ‘People don’t want to be involved’? Since this clarification, more and more have been involved. Since EGGS also made its terms of membership clear (after years of meetings being dominated by a very small number of ‘revisionist’ voices) the numbers signed up grew by 50%.

      What a terrible problem to have!

        • What are the intrinsic merits of diversity? (Apart from biodiversity?) Diversity is clearly something intrinsically neutral. You can have diversity of marks on a maths test. That’s a good thing?? Diversity of standards of behaviour. Is that good? Diverse means different. Being different is both vague and hard to define because it is entirely relative to whatever random thing something is being compared to.

          ‘Diversity is good’ is an unexamined mantra, cynically employed to get all kinds of unacceptable things a place at the table.

  16. Is the *cloud of witnesses* going to be overpowered by the apophatic darkness of the *cloud of unknowing*, that knows not the life of the resurrected Savior Jesus of his life as Light of the World pored out for us and into us through the Triune God of orthodoxy who can be known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    Anything else is a power grab, by denial of God’s self revelation, by negation, into a Serpentine discipleship of darkness of unknowing and understanding, alienated from the life of God…
    As it was in the beginning.
    Yes as it was revealed in the beginning and now revealed by God. “In the beginning God…”
    And further revealed by the same God:
    John 1:1-18

  17. [Comment deleted.]

    Ian says: we have reached a new low in comments. I have asked again and again for you to avoid descending into sniping and vitriol—to no avail it seems.

    Please come back when we can have a sensible discussion, without character assassination and point scoring.

      • AJ, I am thinking the same. And yes, Ian, I think this thread at times has been at a low point. And yes, I do throw out ‘sarcastic comments and jibes’ from time to time. Mainly on questions about how language is used in human communication.
        But I notice that Professor Seitz has not responded to a question above: has he discussed anywhere the work of Paul Grice and those following in linguistic pragmatics? I would really be interested if he has because ISTM these are relevant to some of the criticism aimed at Penny but also other comments on language.

        • The simple answer is that Penny has the most consistent track record of throwing out insulting one-liners instead of engaging with issues, and when she starts using the f-word in comments, I have had enough.

          I even went to the trouble of arranging to meet with her face to face—but she has just got more angry and barbed since.

          He has responded, but in a later comment, not on the thread.

          • Thank you Ian for filling in some of the context. Since it’s your blog you didn’t need to do that, so thank you sincerely.
            Can I also fill in some context? I guess that Professor Seitz’s response to my question was this:
            ‘January 9, 2024 at 3:21 pm
            Mr Smyth, you have confused me with someone else. Prof. Seitz’
            Is that the case?
            Well, no, I have not confused him with someone else. The immediate context for my question was Professor Seitz’s comment to Penny:
            ‘January 7, 2024 at 5:51 pm
            Said Divine did not conjure up the idea of ‘pristine artifacts’ (whatever that means) … That what it makes it as far removed from a ‘pristine artifact’ as one can imagine.’
            The thing is that anyone familiar with pragmatics would know exactly what Penny meant by ‘pristine artifact’ and his response did not reflect that.
            In looking at some of Professor Seitz’s published remarks on language I am still not sure how he sees the place of language in communication. So I remain interested in any discussion he had on Grice whose ideas form the basis of pragmatics since the 1970s.
            Within the biblical studies guild, examples of interaction between pragmatics (in this case Sperber &Wilson’s Relevance Theory) and biblical interpretation include Pattemore (Revelation and elsewhere), Sim (Mark and particles), Casson (Romans), Green (2Peter and Jude and elsewhere), Gutt (on translation) and others.
            I do not want to waste his time (or yours) but I am still interested.

        • I did respond. Please look above.

          You have confused me with someone else. (Not that that touches on the decisions regarding publishing comments).

          Professor Seitz

          • Professor Seitz, I’m not sure how I can be confusing you ‘with someone else’ when I ask about where in your work you have discussed specifically the ideas of Paul Grice and those coming after him (i.e. all pragmaticians within linguistics). Are you not the Christopher Seitz who advocates for the plain sense of the text? How does this relate to the notion of implicatures?
            If you can point me to even one reference in your work I would be grateful.

  18. We must love the Lord your God… with all your…mind…
    To deconstruct God on the altar of our intellects de-Glorifies, de-Graces, de-thrones Him and re-constructs a counterfeit-idol- god in our own sin-dissembled-marinaded, golden- gilt– image. And my oh my how truly we love to worship and love our self made our god.

      • Idolatry. Apostasy.
        The blatant inversion of the commandments summarised by Jesus.
        What is the CoE to do about that? Continue with ever greater rapidity down that slippery helter-skelter? Or dismantle, deconstruct it? As fond as its leaders and teachers and influencers are of deconstructionism. Deconstruction of the Triune God of Christian orthodoxy, of scripture, of male and female created in the image of God.

        • Geoff,
          Rhubarb Crumble, Marriage, Cities, …theology?
          “come buy wine and milk without price” says Wisdom through Isaiah

  19. At the risk of commenting on the actual article…

    The reason CEEC is being criticised for being mostly concerned about how to split the Church, is because that’s how CEEC’s behaviour reads, and that’s what it has prioritised. What’s been conspicuous by its absence from the debate has been a conservative account of how the Church ought to respond to gay people, what its pastoral recommendations should be to gay people, and what that means for the wider Church. For example, now we have gay marriages in the UK, we will see people in gay marriages coming to Church and coming to faith. Are we to tell them they ought to divorce? People aren’t coming out in their late 20s so much these days, it’s happening when they’re 15 or 16. Are we telling them that they’re now the youngest monks in the Church and their vows of celibacy have already been implicitly taken, or are we telling them they might still meet the right girl and have a straight marriage after all, or is it something else entirely?

    For all the bleating about how much faithful engagement there’s been, what is striking is how silent CEEC are on questions like this. They hide behind “marriage is between a man and a woman” (which actually provides no answers to those questions) and try to move the conversation onto the preferred topic of differentiation. What this has entailed has been quite extreme, including floating the idea of a third province in England, and always done with one eye noticeably on the money. This is the focus CEEC has given in its responses to the concluding debates of LLF – not really saying what a better teaching or doctrinal recommendation would be, but instead bemoaning the lack of progress on differentiation. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s the differentiation that they really want, and the issue of homosexuality itself is just the convenient excuse. This became very stark in the debate at last Synod where the conservative side didn’t even try to offer amendments to forge a more conservative teaching or set of prayers. For example, if they thought that gay people ought to embrace celibacy more openly, why didn’t they ask for explicit provision for prayers of blessing for that? If they thought that gay couples who come to faith ought to divorce, do we need prayers for that? Or should we ask the Bishops to address in their pastoral work? That’s just a couple of examples, but there was nothing. Instead we got gameplaying of procedure, attempts to delay, and more wailing about differentiation.

    One thing that really did leap out at me in the article though was Andrew being keen to say that the differentiation arguments were not secret, hence there is/was no secret plot. That is undermined of course by the St Hugh’s Conversations – private conversations between CEEC and leading Bishops and campaigners, that were deliberately kept confidential, and went so far as to suggest differentiation requiring a third province. You can argue that it’s come to light so it’s not really that secret anymore. But I don’t think it’s the accusation of secrecy that bothers me. It’s the dishonesty of the position: a pretence that CEEC is trying to hold the CofE together, when it’s trying to saw it apart, grab the assets it wants, and reduce its membership of the CofE to a technicality.

    • AJ Bell – is it OK to put the question back to you – and to ask you what *you* think the church should be doing for gay people and what gay Christians should be doing for themselves?

      • Hi Jock,

        I think Lambeth 1.10 got things precisely the wrong way around. It said that “abstinence is right for those not called to marriage”. Scripture, on the hand, argues that those who are not called to celibacy are right to marry (see 1 Corinthians 7).

        What is presented as the traditional teaching of the Church – that we should not discriminate, that being gay is not something you can change nor itself a sin, but that if you are gay you are meant to live a life of celibacy – is really only about 30 years old. The old actual traditional teaching from St John Chrysostom on down was that men who engaged in gay sex, were just excessively sexualised and lustful, and should just rein it in and go back to their wives. They considered gay sex harmful, and therefore not loving, because they saw it as corrupting – men corrupting boys to become like them and pursue more gay sex. We’ve rejected that sort of teaching pretty much wholesale (at least in the West) and settled on our new “tradition” but it doesn’t work.

        In the desperation to preserve the idea that marriage can only be man and woman, we’ve forgotten what Scripture has to say about celibacy. Jesus (Matthew 19), Paul (1 Corinthians 7), and the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 4) all warn against embracing celibacy too easily, or seeing it as a rule to be enforced on people. Issues in Human Sexuality got into some of this, declaring that “Celibacy is this a choice of the unmarried state not for self-regarding reasons but from love in order to serve God and neighbour more freely, whether through life of prayer or activity or both… Celibacy cannot be prescribed for anyone.”

        If people really are gay, can’t change that, and celibacy is not something we can enforce as a rule, then where does that leave us? We could take a hedonistic approach – gay people have no risk of accidentally creating a life when they have sex, so have at it. That would be sharply at odds with Christian ethics on sex, and the dignity of the person. We could say, in the light of Ecclesiastes 4 for example, that it’s the intimacy of a faithful companion that really matters (Eve is created in Genesis 2 as a helper because it is not good for man to be alone) and look at the idea of covenanted friendships as same-sex marriages without sex. This already is how civil partnerships with clergy are seen. The experience of that has made me wary – no-one seems to believe that they aren’t having sex. It’s worth considering why that is. Do we think that marriage in reality requires it for true intimacy (rather than a throwback to medieval law on ensuring legitimacy of children)? If this is what we want, the Church ought to be able to formalise and recognise this in its liturgy. But if we don’t believe these relationships are what we say they are, we can’t go down that track with integrity. All of which leaves us with same-sex marriage – just like for straight people in the Church, if you’re not called to celibacy, you are right to marry.

    • Thanks for these good questions. But they all have good answers.

      What are gay people to do? Evangelicals have been talking about this for a long time, including Living Out who are a constituent member of CEEC. I have posted my six key points in answer to your question posed further up. A particular question is ‘What do to when a marriage gay couple come to faith and begin to realise the teaching of Jesus?’ This is analogous to the welcome of those in polygamous marriages in the past, and this needs careful reflection and handling. I don’t think you can blame anyone for not having a well worked out answer to this yet—especially given that it will apply to so few people (less than 2% of the population).

      You are mistaken on the amendments to the prayers. Evangelicals both worked behind the scenes and made challenges in Synod. They have welcomed the prayers for those who are in celibate friendships. On other objections, they were either overruled or outvoted.

      CEEC’s own work was always open, and not secret…but at the time we were criticised for that! The St Hugh’s conversations were kept confidential—at the request of the liberals! I suspect they were worried that their supporters would think they should not be fraternising with the ‘enemy’.

      Those who are trying to saw the Church apart are those who are denying the doctrine they promised to uphold.


      • It is fascinating that the question is posed about those who come to faith after a civil marriage who then realise teaching of Jesus and seek a divorce.
        It begs the question: are those who press for ssm in church, not of faith, not converted, and openly oppose, deny the teaching of Jesus?

      • Thanks Ian,

        We’ve had same-sex marriages for 10 years in this country, and civil partnerships for 20 years. I am told this question is a salvation issue, a Gospel issue. So actually I think I can blame people for not having worked out their answer on this. Comparing it to polygamy would suggest you think same-sex marriages should stand if people subsequently come to faith – would that be a fair characterisation?

        Interesting that some people welcomed the prayers for covenanted friendships behind the scenes. I thought I’d watched all of the Synod debate, and I don’t remember anyone from the conservative side mentioning covenanted friendships let alone saying they welcomed or supported that part of PLF. Who was it?

        • You state repeatedly that conservative evangelicals have no advice to persons struggling with same-sex desire. Are you aware that the LGBT lobby has caused some of that advice to be arguably illegal under discrimination legislation, and that conservative evangelicals prefer to engage with persons potentially interested in Jesus Christ than with persons seeking to entrap them? The latter is the experience of every street preacher in the land. I would put it this way: you are free in this life and this land to do as you please, but your choice is between fulfilling your sexual desires and Jesus Christ.

          • Luke 12:14
            This might seem out of context on this thread but I think it shows how we should approach this, or any subject. The reason evangelicals are incoherent is because they should have answered like Jesus did at the outset. Proclaim the good news and when peoiple regard the message as of no value, move on. Isn’t this basic wisdom? Even when deciding who to talk to at a party. For me, I primarily avoid football and golf, not wishing to waste anyones time.

          • Hang on Anton, I’m not talking about advice. Advice is stuff you can take or leave as you choose. I’m talking about the teaching of the Church (or lack thereof). How can you reduce this to mere advice if it’s supposed to be a Gospel issue? It is alarming though that your advice which you will not divulge might be so discriminatory (and presumably luridly harsh) that you think it would run afoul of the law. That’s completely different tack to Ian, who is at pains to suggest the advice is the same for gay and straight people.

          • AJB, you *have* been talking about advice, for you have repeatedly asked “What do conservative evangelicals think we should do?”

            It is alarming though that your advice which you will not divulge might be so discriminatory (and presumably luridly harsh) that you think it would run afoul of the law.

            What is alarming is that peacable free speech has been taken away by a medley of thin-skinned special interest groups. Ask any street preacher.

        • AJ Bell – thank you for your well thought out reply above. But who told you that it is a *salvation* issue? It’s certainly a very serious issue. The so-called ‘clobber verses’ are there in Scripture and written down clearly and plainly – so it is certainly very serious. But a Salvation issue? Isn’t the one and only Salvation issue expressed nicely and succinctly in John 3:16? Where the author of Hebrews sums up what faith means in Hebrews 11:1 (and elaborated in the sequel)? If failure to keep from sinning really is a salvation issue, then what is Romans 7:14-25 (the wretched man) passage all about? (written in the present tense by a mature Christian)? The Romans passage does indicate that despite the sin, there is a warm cuddly ‘innermost being’ somewhere that actually abhors the sin that the ‘sinful flesh’ is perpetrating. But I can’t really see how this could be categorised as a ‘salvation issue’.

  20. Thank you, Andrew, for your article. I am afraid I haven’t read through the vast number of comments on this thread, but let me make some responses to your article, and I do so as somebody longing for the acceptance by the C of E of committed, consensual, faithful, ideally life-long, same-sex relationships, ideally expressed in partnership or marriage.

    First, I appreciate the eirenic tone of your article. We need to move away from the ding-dong arguments that never show any real listening to the other side, arguments where each side claims to be 100% right, while the other side is viewed as full of people denying the truth and meaning of the Christian gospel. (And that sort of attitude is seen on both sides of the debate).

    I therefore agree that the only way forward must involve some sort of compromise. I note that in Acts 15, as the early church discussed the response to the Gentile converts in Antioch, an issue that was at least as important as the current sexuality debate, the result was a compromise – James in his letter to the Gentile converts rules out the need for circumcision and the full keeping of the law, but includes requirements about meat, evidently with the desire to keep on board those on the conservative side, for whom the food laws were probably still important.

    It would therefore be good if those on opposite sides of this debate could seriously consider what sort of compromise could be made to work.

    Second, you rightly raise issues about unity within the C of E and within the wider Anglican Community, but don’t say anything about questions of unity within the evangelical section of the Church of England. In the now somewhat distant past, bodies like CEEC represented all C of E evangelicals, and so we gladly gathered for the various NEAC conferences, from Keele to Blackpool, and even the somewhat disastrous one-day event at All Souls. However, when CEEC added its marriage declaration in 2014 that ruled out all those evangelicals who hold to an accepting position on same-sex relationships. The result is that CEEC is viewed as solely for conservatives and therefore is no longer a home for those of us taking the accepting position, and this has resulted in the recent formation of Inclusive Evangelicals.

    So if CEEC is to justify any claim to stand for unity it has to tackle this issue, which seems to be entirely of its own making.

    Third, I feel your article does what so many articles from the conservative side do, namely it says nothing whatsoever about the people who are affected by the conservative stance. This surely is not the Jesus way. He always put people and their needs at the forefront of what he did. Yes, people’s needs cannot on their own be the clinching issue in this debate, but they most definitely must not be ignored.

    If we are to find a compromise unifying position (my first point) and if we are to preserve (or should I say regain?) evangelical unity (my second point) then the situation and needs of gay and lesbian people must be at the forefront of the discussion.

    Finally, I would urge that there needs to be serious biblical study and discussion on this issue, including between evangelicals of differing views. (Could representatives of CEEC and of IE get together for this?) LLF was good in many ways, but its biblical sections were quite thin, and did not tackle the crucial Bible passages (Leviticus laws and Romans 1, for example). Some conservatives claim theirs is the biblical position, (as opposed to a biblical position) ignoring the fact that there are serious questions over all the relevant passages and that there are other possible biblical positions. The Berean Jews in Acts 17 set us an example of quite extraordinary open-minded examination of the scriptures, and that should be something for us to emulate.

    • Dear George

      Many thanks for commenting. Andrew might reply himself, but just a quick observation from me.

      1. I am not quite sure that the settlement in Acts 15 was ‘a compromise’. It was a recognition that the inclusion of gentiles *as gentiles* was part of the eschatological purposes of God. On sexuality (which was a key issue) gentiles were expected to conform to Jewish sexual morality, which then became the norm of the mixed Jewish-gentile followers of Jesus. So it is not clear that there is a real parallel with our current situation.

      2. CEEC has, in recent years, actually function to broaden and unify evangelicals, and so it now happily represents those who do not recognise the overall leadership of women and those who do, members of New Wine, HTB, Church Society and all in between. If you are asking for it to include those who want to see the Church’s doctrine of marriage change, then I think you are going to need to demonstrate your bona fides. The biblical, hermeneutical, and theological position of this group does not seem to me to have any continuity with evangelical thinking in the past. So why should this be included?

      3. CEEC thinks a lot about those directly affected, and we have several gay members of CEEC, as well as having Living Out as a constituent organisation.

      4. No church or group of Christians anywhere in the world or in the past has found a ‘compromising unifying position’. What evidence do you have that one exists? How can marriage be between one man and one woman, and at the same time not be between one man and one woman? What does that look like? The only option I can see is that this is declared to be a ‘thing indifferent’. Can you point to any argument as to why this should be the case, given that it is not in scripture and has never been in the history of the Christian church? This issue has divided all—see https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-united-methodist-church-justin-welby-christian-catholics-b2474566.html

      5. I completely agree with you that we need more study of scripture. But whenever I have asked for that, those wanting change have rejected this call. Why do you think it is mostly absent from LLF? I think it is because everyone knows that this will not support the case for change.


      • Thanks, Ian.
        Responding to your 5 points with 5 numbered points.

        1. Of course the Acts 15 settlement was, as you say, a recognition of the inclusion of the Gentiles, but I fail to see how that affects whether or not it was a compromise. To my mind the fact that the requirements about meat were included (requirements which we now take absolutely no notice of) shouts compromise, just as we have a compromise over the ordination of women to keep those of conservative viewpoint on board.
        2. No continuity??!! What about being Christ-centred, cross-centred (though of course not seeing the crucifixion isolated from incarnation, resurrection, ascension), believing in the necessity of personal response (whether by conversion or by growth), and seeking to be Bible-centred (see 5 below). Frankly it is arrogant of CEEC to take it upon itself to decide who is in and who is out, and this has been utterly destructive of evangelical unity.
        In this connection, my recollection is that you have somewhere else talked about the need for borders. But borders come in different forms – fixed, clear and defined, (such as the border between England and Scotland – I cannot see that the evangelical/non evangelical border is like this), fuzzy and undefined (such as the border between red and orange on the spectrum – this is much more akin to the evangelical border) and not fixed, but rather moveable (such as the border between land and sea as the tide goes in and out – which is similar to the historically changing definition of what the word “ evangelical” means).
        3. Yes, but what about those who find celibacy intolerable or a denial of the love they have found? In Genesis 2 God says it is not good for the man to be alone, but what about if he is gay? I am afraid I do not see the conservative side showing much concern for people in this position. And what I do see frequently is material from the conservative side that talks about this as an issue, but makes no mention of how this will affect people, and that is what seems to me to be so unlike the pattern of Jesus, who always put people at the centre. (There used to be a paper on the CEEC website, now I think removed, that absolutely exemplified this approach).
        4. I wonder if you would describe the present C of E position on the ordination of women as a “compromising unifying position”? It surely is a compromise and it aims to be unifying, and seems to succeed at least to a reasonable degree. But if I adapt your wording – “How can ordination be for men and women, and at the same time be for men only? What does that look like?” Well, it looks like what we have got. Is it beyond us to do something similar for this issue? Of course we will never find a compromise that pleases everybody or is perfect; almost by definition compromises are not like that. But that is surely the one and only way forward, just as it proved to be the one and only way forward on the ordination of women.
        5. My guess (and it is a sheer guess) as to why LLF failed to tackle the key Bible texts on this issue is that (from a desire to be eirenic) it funked the divisive issues, and went for less controversial Bible passages. Obviously I don’t know about who and under what circumstances people have rejected your call for study of scripture, but I suspect the assumption of many on the conservative side that their view is THE biblical view and that therefore by definition no other view can be biblical makes those of other viewpoints feel there is little point in engaging when their view is ruled out from the start. In my own group of churches I have endeavoured to engage with these texts, and the result is a series of videos on our website, at https://stlukeschurchbuckfastleigh.org.uk/media/ (bottom of the page).
        I did incidentally suggest to you some considerable time ago that I would be willing to write something for Grove Books along these lines, but you rejected that. Rejection can work both ways!

        • Can I add to my point 2 above about who is and is not an evangelical reference to the blog article by Michael Vasey-Saunders entitled ‘Who is an “evangelical”?’ on the Inclusive Evangelicals website.

    • Thank you for this thoughtful reply.

      As to Acts 15 only. It has not always been viewed as a ‘compromise’ or, much less, a warrant for revisionism (as one can read popularly in this age in the West). James was clearly the ardent Jewish-Christian amongst the first apostles and especially vis-a-vis Paul. He speaks of Moses “being heard everywhere in the synagogues.” The proscriptions laid upon Gentile converts correspond perfectly to the law of Moses to which he is referring: in Leviticus reference is made to the ‘sojourners in the midst of Israel’ and the laws pertaining to them. These are exactly the same proscriptions we find in Acts 15, for gentiles, i.e., ‘sojourners (in Christ) in the midst of Israel.’ Paul and he agree at this point and that is where the Gentile mission proceeds. As noted, as well, ‘sexual immorality’ is amongst the concerns of the laws Leviticus for the ‘sojourner in the midst of Israel.’ The Western text of Acts modifies ‘no meat strangled’ to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ but leaves untouched ‘sexual immorality.’ The standard assumption is that the Golden Rule modification arises in the light of the tragic ‘parting of the ways’ and the now largely Gentile church (without need for dietary compromises, a la the end of Romans).

        • I speculate on this modification in my book Figured Out (2001, pp 117-29). As for Leviticus and Acts 15, there is a (characteristically detailed and incisive) article by Richard Bauckham that I cite (“James and the Gentile Church (Acts 15:13-21)”). He was my colleague as St Andrews in this period. I’ll find the quote when I’m at my library.

  21. The essay is “Positive and Natural Law” — Christian use of the Decalogue and Moral Law, in I am the Lord your God, C. Braaten and C.R. Seitz, eds., Eerdmans, 2005. Engages the important work on Jewish Law in Christian hands (Horbury, Bauckham, Bockmuehl, Houston, et al.) 18-38. The Golden Rule obviously correlates with its first appearance in Leviticus (in Israel, 19:18; “love the sojourner as yourself” 19:33-34), and may account for the modification of ‘things strangled’ and ‘from blood’ (‘you shall do no murder’) in the Western Text, after the parting of the ways when dietary compromises were no longer at issue. “Sexual immorality” is of course not modified in any way. You may find other explanations for the two alterations and I’d be curious to know them.

  22. I have emailed Andrew Carey (CEN) and John Dunnett (CEEC) the following:

    I note your comments about Tom Woolford and his appointment as “an interim theological advisor to the House of Bishops, who happens to be a very well-qualified clergyman, Tom Woolford, with Church Society affiliations. Could it be she is resigning because he is a conservative?”

    I wonder if you have studied Tom’s essay “Keeping evangelicals catholic and the catholic church evangelical”? in “God’s Church for God’s World” which Tom co-edited. I draw your attention to the following extracts from that essay:

    “Being institutionally united with Anglo-Catholics, middle-of-the-roaders and liberals (not to mention with whom I disagree about a raft of secondary issues) is painful, costs time and energy (particularly in synods and committees) and involves many compromises and fudges. We’re obliged to navigate a strained, tense, inconvenient Christian unity……………Such a challenge is good for us as Christians. It means that we’re bearing with one another. It means that that we’re making sacrifices for the good of another or for the good of the whole.”

    “Some moot the possibility of a third province……..I think, though, that we should be cool about the possibility, not enthusiastic, for it is not really a catholic solution………………As it happens, a third province may prove to be the least bad option, but let us at least call for it (should it be necessary) to be provided for revisionists who petition for inclusion therein. At least that way, we orthodox evangelicals might retain our preservative function for the undecideds, for whom inertia might prove decisive.”

    Tom’s essay as a whole is a powerful plea to avoid the kind of institutional differentiation advocated by CEEC. I don’t agree with Tom’s view and I also disagree with the CEEC view. I have tried to make it clear to all and sundry that I advocate an open letter of challenge from all evangelicals to the whole CofE.

    Phil Almond


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