How can we talk about sexuality as a pastoral question?

John Smith writes: The publication of Living in Love and Faith poses a challenge to the entire Church of England to think through the divisions over human sexuality which have so dogged the Church in recent years.

I have found myself wanting to set out some thoughts from the perspective of one who experiences same-sex attraction, and who is and has always been committed to the biblical view of sex and marriage. What I write here is personal, in the sense that I’m not claiming to represent anybody else or any group. It is perhaps not very theological, and is addressed primarily to those in the Church who share my conservative evangelical position, and to encourage further reflection and prayer.

My main reason for writing this is that I am anxious that the LLF discussion has the potential to go horribly wrong, to the disservice of God and his people, the Church. My hope is that this short piece might help reflection and help frame the way we discuss the subject with others.

Two threads run in parallel through this.

The first is that this debate is invariably bruising for people like me, and some of those bruises are occasionally inflicted by friends. Sometimes, listening to the wider debate between conservatives and liberals makes me feel like the child of parents who are heading to a bitter divorce, and where neither of them wants custody of the children. 

The second reason is that I fear that we are dangerously unaware of how the secular world sees us. Most people in contemporary British society accept same-sex relationships and view them as expressions of love no less valid than those of opposite-sex relationships. If our instant response in conversation is to pronounce doctrine, then our conversations will be short, angry, and spiritually ineffective.

There are many themes which rightly need to be addressed in LLF discussions. In particular, it is right and proper that we equip the faithful to be confident in the faith, especially in the face of questioning from an increasingly hostile world. But it is the essence of the Gospel that it is outward-looking, and it should be a priority for us to think about the effect of what we say and how we act on those outside our faith, or rather who are not yet of it. That is what I would like to discuss here.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a work colleague and his wife. They asked me “what sort” of Christian I was. Sensing a rare opportunity for a meaningful spiritual discussion, I replied “evangelical.” They visibly jumped in their chairs and, with an expression of horror asked, “You mean the ones who hate women and gays?” It was a key learning point for me. We need to understand how others see us. And for many, evangelicals are people who hate. If we are concerned to proclaim the Gospel, we need to be aware of this, and to ask ourselves, perhaps brutally, why would somebody want to hear a message from people who hate?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of the Gospel to convict of sin and righteousness, and of the Holy Spirit to work in people in ways we could never have imagined. And I believe in the attempts of the Evil One to thwart the work of the Gospel, however temporary and futile that may be. But surely, if we do not recognise how we are perceived to be, then we erect barriers around ourselves that will make our efforts at witness so much, much more difficult.

This is partly a problem created for us by secular liberalism, jumping on the issues of sex and marriage as being where the Church is “out of step” with society, and by a sex-obsessed media. Those who have never had contact with Church could be forgiven for thinking that sex is all we ever talk about. But we don’t help ourselves in countering this when we make attitudes towards homosexuality a shibboleth. Hold one point of view and you are sound. Hold the other, and you are that ultimate pariah – a liberal. And so we write articles and preach sermons in which we warn darkly that the time is coming when we may have to decide to separate ourselves from the Church of England, as North American Anglican conservatives have already done from the Episcopal Church.

Conservative evangelical Church leaders present this as a point of doctrine, and the upholding of Scriptural authority. And it is. But for some of us it is also a deeply personal one. I long to hear leaders speak with clarity, conviction and love about the pastoral needs of same-sex attracted people who are committed to celibacy, with the same conviction and energy with which they speak about the doctrinal point. It sometimes sounds as though the Church sees my personal and spiritual problem is so uniquely terrible that it is worth dividing the Church over, when almost no other issue is.

If we were to leave the Church of England, what would that mean for how we see those we leave behind? We have been semi-detached for such a long time, that we have forgotten to ask ourselves some deep questions about this. What is “Church”? What is “communion”, and what does “breaking communion” mean? Are we saying that those other people we leave behind are not Christians, that they are not part of the Church of Christ? If we are not saying that, then why are we leaving them? I am hoping that greater minds than mine are thinking about these questions and how to answer them.

If we were to leave the Church of England, what would that mean for how we see people like me? Why is my sexuality the thing that must divide the Church? If, God forbid, I were to fall on one occasion, am I no longer part of the Church of Christ? Is my salvation dependent upon sexual abstinence, while others’ is not dependent upon avoidance of other non-sexual sin? Does grace come with this one caveat?

If we were to leave the Church of England, I also look at those in the wider global Church with whom we would seek to be in communion – and I am afraid. 

In January this year, the bishops of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) put out a statement (“Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops”). It tried very hard to be supportive and understanding. But, among other things, it asked people like me not to call ourselves “gay” or “same-sex attracted”, and then lost itself in a linguistic soup of justification. The general message was that celibate gay Christians were an embarrassment, and it would be better if we stayed in the shadows.

The bishops’ statement prompted a large number of responses. In one, a group of ACNA clergy posted online an open letter to ACNA members who had been upset by the bishops’ statement, humbly offering them love and support. The bishops asked them to take down the letter from their website.

At the same time, the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Henry Ndukuba, responded to the ACNA bishops in horror that the bishops tolerated the presence of any homosexuals in their Church at all, even celibate ones. The archbishop thundered that ACNA had issued “a clarion call to recruit Gays into ACNA parishes. The deadly virus of homosexuality has infiltrated ACNA. This is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough.” For the Anglican Church of Nigeria, even life-long celibacy is not enough: I am not saved, nor can I be.

“Yes but that’s them, not us” you may say. But, these branches of the Church are supposedly “on our side” – the side of Bible-believing Christians. Yet each year we seem to edge closer to leaving the Church of England en masse because we find more in common with ACNA and the Archbishop of Nigeria than we do with that liberal parish down the road.

I am not overstating how it feels to me when I say that if we leave the Church of England, it would feel like it was my fault. This is not a doctrinal problem for me, to be overcome with logical argument, or even careful Biblical exposition.

I experience same-sex attraction, and am committed to celibacy as the proper response to what I see as the unequivocal position of Scriptural teaching. I am also often very, very unhappy, indescribably lonely, and in constant, deep fear of what those who sit next to me at church would think if they knew. That fear is sufficiently great that there have been times when I have walked in to church, and walked straight out again and gone home, weeping.

A major part of what causes me so much distress is that the discussion within the Church focuses so much on who one has sex with. This emphasis has a profound impact on people like me because it means that I am held to account for something I have never done. It means that the whole course of discussion is focussed around something that makes me feel unacceptable – not to put too fine a point on it – that I am an abomination.

It also means that I feel utterly misunderstood. More than any other human thing in this mortal world, what I crave is companionship and affection. That relationship where I am uniquely special to one other person, who in turn is uniquely special to me. Togetherness. A life-partner. There is a strange paradox in our saying that marriage is a wonderful and beautiful metaphor for the mystical relationship between Christ and the Church, and for his love for us, and is to be celebrated, and yet at the same time telling one group of people that they must not experience that wonderful, beautiful, celebrated thing.

Over the years, I have come to know several other people in the underground celibate gay Christian world. All of them – all of them – have given up the struggle through a sense of existential loneliness and a sense that, deep down, they are not really welcome in the evangelical Church, and that they might as well give up trying. I am the last one left.

This brings me again to my opening observation that the conservative evangelical Church simply does not realise how big a credibility problem it has with the secular world, and how major an obstacle that is to biblical Christian witness and to the Gospel. The secular world sees gay relationships as a being an expression of love; and they can point to specific gay relationships which seem admirable, and which meet every Biblical expectation bar one of what a loving and faithful marriage should be. As my friends pointed out to me at dinner, they see our response to what they see as love as being hate.

So my modest proposal is that we rethink how we talk about this subject. We must, of course, be Scripturally and doctrinally-governed in how we think, speak and act. But if we speak of doctrine first, then we will always be seen as the people who hate. So we also need to think, speak and act pastorally, and let that be seen long, long before we speak of doctrine. The central charge against us from the world is that we hate. So we should aim to think, speak, act, live, and model a better love than the world has to offer.

There has probably never been a more difficult age in which to do this. Notions of personal identity now dominate society’s thinking and frame people’s approach to any ethical question. One-time heroes and heroines can be “cancelled” after a single remark which goes against the identity zeitgeist. 

But we worship the one who has overcome the world.

So here are four questions that I would like conservative evangelical churches to ask themselves. I have numbered them in order of importance.

1  If there are no “out” celibate gay Christians in your church, ask yourself “Why not?” Is it because they are afraid of you? Are they there but too scared to say so, or have they been scared away?

2  Why do so many gay people go to church? Is there a spiritual hunger there that you have not recognised or responded to?

3  What would the congregation do, what would your minister do, and what would you do if a gay couple came to one of your services? What would you do to make sure they came back a second time, and a third …?

4  Do you see this subject as primarily a doctrinal one or a pastoral one? How does this affect what you think you should do next?

Speaking through Isaiah, the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

… let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
Isaiah 56:3-5

[Editor note: the phrase ‘A memorial and a name’ in Hebrew is yad vashem; this is the title of the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.]

John Smith is not the author’s real name.

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142 thoughts on “How can we talk about sexuality as a pastoral question?”

  1. Very moving. As a non-Anglican, I am not sure that losing institutional unity (e.g. leaving the CofE) implies losing fellowship, otherwise how can Anglicans have fellowship with, say, Baptists? However, your fundamental point about needing to think better and more pastorally about how we talk about SSA is absolutely valid and I hear it as a personal challenge. Thank you.

  2. Evangelicals are not seen as the ones who hate women and gays. Evangelicals have existed for hundreds of years, and this has never previously been the case. So it is only the case a small minority of the time. The truth is, rather, that:

    ‘Evangelicals in the present culture are seen as the ones who hate women and gays.’

    This is because of an orchestrated campaign from people who seem aware of only 3 issues in a 3million issue world. The Christians are the ones who can potentially make them feel guilty or prick their consciences, so if they can get them out of the way by a combination of sexual abuse (ill-defined at times) allegations at any scale (the scale does not need to be as high as for the population at large, and the way misbehaviour postdates and clusters around the sexual revolution, a secularist initiative, must be brushed under the carpet) and a civil rights narrative of the vaguer variety, then they will. Then they can live as they wish (or as they short-term wish). Although it is of the media class that I speak they can and do create other people’s sense of normality.

  3. If only most Christians took the teachings in the sermon on the mount around worry anxiety lust etc as seriously as you do your issues John they would find they differ very little from the secular world they condemn. They brush their deepest failings under the carpet to focus on a much easier area for them to process. You are much nearer to finding your true Self and the Kingdom. Bless you. PS you may be familiar with Bridget Rivieras website Travelling Nun and her new book Heavy Burdens which movingly addresses these issues

  4. It is the world, not the church, that has become obsessed with sex since the 1960s. Who can honestly doubt that? Conservative evangelicals are simply responding to this obsession by holding the line. If the world hates us for it, let it be so. It hated Jesus Christ first.

    Antagonism between gay and traditional Christian communities arises largely because a democracy has ways to influence governance, and these communities aim to steer society in opposite directions. In a dictatorship that persecuted both gays and Christians, the two groups might get on rather better. But always be sensitive in 1:1 encounters.

    LLF I regard as another attempt by those espousing liberal theology in the Church of England to wear evangelicals down and outflank them. Liberal theology proceeds by the phrase “Did God really say…” first heard in Genesis 3. Changing the definition of right and wrong from God’s definitions would be a start point, not an end point, and the result a generation down the line would be a church changed beyond recognition.

    Christian men like ‘John Smith’, David Bennett and Sam Allberry are heroes of the faith today. My answers to John Smith’s questions:

    1. How can we know who of the unmarried men in the congregation are celibate SSAs? They might prefer not to say.

    2. Is this true? The gay men I have known have steered well clear of church.

    3. This depends on their demeanour. Conservative evangelicals are, like street preachers, well aware of provocateurs. My advice would be never to mention gay matters and, if the gospel is explained to them, convict using sins that everybody does (whether in their hearts or in practice).

    4. Both.

  5. I thank “John Smith” for sharing his experience.

    I believe that we will only find help concerning these issues if we ask ourselves how the character of God should lead us to act. God is holy, just, merciful and gracious. These four things together are his love. We know that each is part of God’s love (instead for example just the last two) because we are called to be like the in dwelling God as believers and his two great commandments call us to only one thing – LOVE. If we are either not holy and just – or not merciful and gracious – we fail to love as God loves. If we present the problem of rightly relating to homosexuals and homosexual inclination as relating only to some of these character attributes – or to anything that isn’t a character attribute of God (as would be the case if for example we believe we are called to be tolerant of wrongdoing) our spirituality is faulty.

    With those things in mind is the primary responsibility of the church to those who experience same sex attraction to ensure that they feel deeply understood in respect of their attraction? Is this how God relates to us – isn’t he the first to understand us – before we are called to understand him? Yes and no. God in his prevenient grace affirms our being his and affirms our deep desire to be in intimate relationship. He doesn’t however affirm our sinful nature. No same sex attracted person should therefore seek to have their same sex attraction – in as much as it is a tendency that leads to sin – be understood by the church. However they can hope that the church will affirm their desire for intimacy in relationship and affirm their being loved by God. And no person called to love same sex attracted people should act towards them as if they are in a special category.

    These are matters of Christian maturity. People who are immature act immaturely. If we fail to see this we will live with our hopes too high. It’s part of life to learn to have realistic expectations of others. We need to reflect these realistic expectations in making sure that from the outset we align ourselves – submit ourselves – only to those who are mature. There are by contrast many people who believe that as part of being a believer they should have the right to align themselves with any church – often as part of insisting that God save or sanctify particular people whose admiration they seek.

    There are plenty of fleshly inclinations – we don’t group people who have them into specific categories. I accept John Smith’s experience – however I believe that the failure of those who profess a faith to love same sex attracted people isn’t a specific fault – it is a failure to submit to all of the truth – a refusal to see sin and salvation as God sees them. All a person needs to be to be rejected by an unfaithful “church” is righteous – the righteousness of God is offensive to the world (more on that below). The church should not think of any category of sin as special – and neither should those who are same sex attracted be wanting the church to treat them as a special group. We don’t divide those with fleshly inclinations into groups – we don’t (or shouldn’t!) have a group at church for those whose tendency is to over work, or for those who struggle with a short temper, or for those who lean towards inaction. To give these different tendencies their own platform would undermine the victory that is ours in Christ. People who are same sex attracted should hope ONLY that they be able to reveal their struggles as any other person might do – and confess failures in respect of them. Although these are not rights – it isn’t for example the right of a pastor to confess his sins from the pulpit – for example that there was a moment this week when he longed to sleep with a woman on the train who was not his wife. Maturity demands that we constrain our choices to only those which will be for the best welfare of others.

    Relating these principles to the ACNA the issue with the ACNA was that their leadership were objecting to people who struggle sexually referring to themselves with labels which carry their own alternative identity. It is unhelpful to believers if we encourage or accept their referring to themselves with labels which establish A LIFELONG CONNECTION with their particular weakness. For those who profess a faith to say that they experience same sex attraction is fine but for them to say that they are gay is not because the latter word implies a lifelong state of being – and possibly other baggage – for example a person who “is gay” might believe that the fellowship of other gay Christians is more intimate than relationships they might share with other believers. To apply this kind of thinking to same sex attraction is not prejudice – it is no different to our considering it fine if a person speaks of their struggle not to find their identity in their work but believing it unhelpful if a person who professes a faith refers to themselves as a workaholic. Instead the believer must repent – repentance is before anything else the decision TO THINK, SPEAK AND LIVE AS IF OUR IDENTITY IS ONLY IN CHRIST,

    The church is not supposed to be a safe place for ANY sinner. To approach a holy God is FOR EVERY PERSON a dangerous thing. The book of Acts specifically explains that the early church was not a safe place for people:

    Acts 5:12-13 ESV
    Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.

    That’s the tension – when the church is doing its job right those who are unrepentant will feel afraid to approach it but also drawn to it.

    Those who are either struggling to come to terms with their sin – or refuse – will find even the right behaviour of the church unacceptable. The gospel is offensive to EVERY sinner – and we are all sinners. The gospel seeks to replace our finding identity anywhere other than in Christ with Christ – it is therefore unavoidably offensive. The person being confronted will as I always have squeal like a pig when God has no wish to affirm our false identity. There is no means by which God can show sympathy for it – it must be put to death – it must die. God IS love – there is therefore no means by which he can love those who refuse to turn to him. What a heartless God! He obviously doesn’t care about us!

    In the first world we have – speaking as a whole – tried to erase the confrontative nature of the gospel. In the real gospel God has DELIBERATELY ensured that the only means of being reunited with him involves responding first to his holiness and justice before seeing and experiencing the fullness of his mercy and grace. We cannot be saved without being born again and we cannot be born again without FIRST dying. Two steps – dying and being made alive – one BEFORE the other – not one step. Yet we preach the gospel as if seeking to resurrect people before leading them to death. A person who approaches God requiring him to first affirm their sinful nature will never know him. The right sequence of events in respect of a person coming to Christ is below (I have put in capitals below what we is as far as I can tell no longer preach in the first world – or if we preach it we preach it in the wrong place – we place it after we speak of God’s mercy and grace – as if when we repent we do so in response to all of God’s character – not true):

    – God reveals his holiness
    – We by contrast with God’s holiness see our sin
    – God’s justice then comes into view – the wages of sin is death – hell
    God reveals his mercy and grace

    The gospel is not an invitation to respond to God on the basis of his being such a nice guy – it is an obligation founded on God’s holiness and justice. I can prove this – 2 Thessalonians 1:8 speaks about the gospel as something which can be obeyed or disobeyed. If the gospel was an invitation we could not obey or disobey it. We aren’t entitled to full insight into the character of God – as though first judging him instead of he us – before being obligated to submit to him. This continues throughout the Christian life – this is what stepping out in faith is. God constantly reacquaints us with the heart of the gospel by demanding our obedience BEFORE we have full insight into how our obedience will be life to us.

    Coming to saving faith is therefore a two step process (although everyone who passes through the first step always passes through the second). First we have faith that God is holy and just – and only after that is there opportunity to have faith that he is merciful and gracious. The first half – while enabled by grace – is a human act – we express faith that God is holy and just in repentance – and the second half is divine – and irresistible – no person who has repented of their sin can resist God’s mercy and grace (Calvinists – in believing that conversion is irresistible – are half right). A person’s sin and God’s holiness and justice should weld them to the ground (although at this first stage they have the freedom to resist) and then grace and mercy literally blasts through them. Any doctrine of faith which says that faith is either fully divine or fully human is incorrect. Faith is both – it’s both a choice and a gift.

    We see this sequence of events in the return of the prodigal to his father – he sees the father only having already set his heart to come as a servant instead of a son. And the thief on the cross – who is told that he will be with Jesus in paradise ONLY AFTER having decided that he deserves his punishment and that Jesus does not.

    To be a believer is therefore BY ITS VERY NATURE to love God more than one’s own life. In the process of being saved a person says in their heart to God “Even if you should throw me into hell I believe that my life is rightfully yours – I would rather have an honest moment with you and be in hell than continue to live the rest of my life as a lie”. Being a Christian is therefore by its very nature to live in a way which sees the devil defeated:

    Rev 12:11 ESV
    And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, FOR THEY LOVED NOT THEIR LIVES EVEN UNTO DEATH.

    I know that my comments are long but I hope it’s possible for the reader to see why I diverted to talk about the gospel and the character of God. We handle issues such as those relating to sexuality incorrectly because we either believe the wrong things or are wrongly positioned in relation to them (which admittedly amounts to not believing them). All the answers lie within these things. Without a right understanding of both – without being rightly positioned in respect of both – we won’t understand how to rightly behave in respect of issues of sexuality either as those who are same sex attracted or those who are called to love those who are. The further we get from God’s character and the heart of the gospel the less insight we will have concerning how to love like God loves.

    I am not intending in saying these things wishing to avoid having sympathy for those who are wronged by others. I am pointing out that the nature of Paul’s faith was to consider it a privilege to know God even when even those who professed a faith abandoned him. It’s impossible to die with Jesus – as all believers have done and are called to do – without experiencing the humiliation, sacrifice, isolation and the irrationality and uncertainty that Jesus experienced in dying on the cross. To want to sympathy when the church wrongs us is to choose to live by a lower standard than that set by the first believers.

    • ‘No same sex attracted person should therefore seek to have their same sex attraction – in as much as it is a tendency that leads to sin – be understood by the church.’ Sorry I think that is really unhelpful.

      And this comment is just far too long to engage with in any meaningful way.

      • It’s my fault. I failed to show how everything I was saying in my long post was in fact the one message – I was writing by gut feel and confess that I didn’t have intellectual insight into how it was in fact all one thing. This enabled me to write a sentence like the one you quoted without any local substantiation.

        But here is a one sentence summary of my post – the gospel shows that we have no right to fully understand God or have God fully understand us – before being obligated to submit to him. And so does Jesus’ death on the cross.

        The reason why the first world has moved the call for repentance to after God has revealed his mercy and grace instead of before is so that people can exercise the right to judge God worthy of worship before worshipping him. That sentence obviously being a contradiction in terms because if we are the ones to judge God worthy then we are positioned as God instead of submitted to his holiness and justice.

        Similarly – if we insist on being fully known before submitting to God – if for example we require God to prove that he knows that our tendency to anger is exacerbated by the fact that our parents crossed inappropriate emotional boundaries – we demand from God what we are not entitled to demand. He is entitled to our repentance on the basis of his holiness, our sin and his justice alone.

        It is therefore clear that to love like God loves we are not called to understand whatever people expect us to understand when they are living with multiple identities. Or when they misunderstand the nature of their Christian identity and for example imagine that God’s loving them means that he also identifies with their choices to find their identity outside of him.
        It isn’t just me making this point – if you read the rest of the comments on this page you will see that the same issue is coming up everywhere. For example one commenter notes that the writer of the article is making what he believes is an important distinction between doctrine and pastoring – when there should be no such distinction. We make the distinction exist only when granting ourselves the right to make God understood by people before they are required to submit to him. When we instead simply behave like God towards people pastoring and teaching are one and the same – as I understand the fourfold instead of fivefold list of gifts in Ephesians 4 indicates.
        Another commenter – Christopher Shell – makes the same point. He says “Doctrinal and pastoral dimensions are both of great importance, and I don’t find it intelligent to assume that what we have here is a dichotomy”.
        Joe S makes the same point in different words:
        “Quote: ‘Notions of personal identity now dominate society’s thinking and frame people’s approach to any ethical question’”.
        And finally Marin Kuhrt raises the same point even if unintentionally by raising the fact that the author is anonymous. He is insisting on being understood before he reveals his identity. (I’m not saying that he is required to throw his pearls before pigs – I’m saying that if he isn’t being self-respectful to reveal his identity to those for whom he wrote the article then he shouldn’t write the article anonymously).

        When we talk as if the very fact that someone’s feelings are hurt is proof that they are not being loved we are whether we realise it circling around the same point concerning whether we have the right to be understood and understand before submitting to God. Our self-understanding is flawed – to then insist that we be completely understood – that every feeling we have be regarded as divine – is to make a god out of our feelings. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any means of knowing if our feelings are right – or that our feelings make no contribution – the point is that we don’t know anything with certainty because of our feelings alone. The author reports feeling isolated – unwanted – as a result of two divided groups arguing over doctrine. How do we respond to this? First we must recognise that his feelings don’t define what love is or isn’t. His feeling isolated or unwanted could be because:
        – he is actually unwanted all the time – not just when people are disagreeing over doctrine. The doctrinal discussions are therefore not related to his feeling unloved.
        – he feels unloved because he hasn’t been sufficiently diligent in determining if he really has grounds for feeling as he does.

        Hopefully you can now see why I have spent time showing how the fact that we have changed the gospel so that we are entitled to review all of God’s character before deciding if he is worthy of worship relates to this article and the issue of how to relate rightly to same sex attracted people. In preaching repentance after God is fully revealed (recognising that I am just describing it as best I can – no-one who doesn’t respond to God’s holiness and justice ever gets to experience his mercy and grace no matter what their testimony may be) we are preaching a liberal gospel – one where we make judgements about God before he gets to make judgements about us.

        • This is an excellent point about pastoring and teaching being the same ministry in Ephesians. Most interpreters of Ephesians would probably second that. In addition, I believe I have proof that they are understood this way also by the 4th Evangelist.

          But then, how thoroughly inaccurate we are when we see pastors and teachers as so different from each other, nay opposed. And (worse) when we relegate teachers to irrelevance). Not content with 2000 years of Christian thought, the idea is to digest none of it and just discard the usefulness of teaching altogether. Which probably has some connection to the fact that people do not want to listen to the teaching.

          It can only be that the word ‘pastor’ is being misunderstood, or the word ‘teacher’ is being misunderstood, or both.

          One thing is for sure. Pastoring has not the slightest connection to agreeing with whatever people say, or even empathising with *whatever* people say. People *may* be mistaken in what they say, or at other times wilful, or at other times deceitful. All of these are ever-present possibilities.

        • I rejoice that God deals with each person as an individual and knows and understands each one through and through, whether they welcome that or not.
          It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal all aspects of God’s character to us and the order in which He does this is up to God’s sovereignty. It is not necessarily the same for everyone.

          • That gentlest of rebukes was no less effective for being gentle Jean.
            As frustrated as we may be that leaders of churches have led their people down a path to self-destruction in the area of sexuality and other matters that doesn’t give us justification to show impatience towards any individual as I have in every comment I have written below this article. The wider picture is not an excuse for not behaving rightly in any individual circumstance. We don’t run the world – it is only for us to act rightly at any moment – not to make judgements about what in our arrogance we imagine to be the thing that God’s world needs to understand most. I do the very thing I condemned here – I imagine that God needs help to be understood.
            We aren’t offering people love if we offer people grace when what we offer is only a blessing if immediately received. Some have chosen the right path here – reaching out to the author of the article – encouraging him to find a place in which he is willing to be more open – and I have not. I could have done that while also suggesting to the author that he be careful not to draw conclusions after input only from his emotions – and not to connect his rejection with the existence of disagreement over doctrine. I ask for his forgiveness.
            The things I have written here have potential benefit in understanding how to respond in other contexts but every word I wrote here was not written with pure motive. And I acknowledge what I have written will be of greater harm because it will give encouragement to those whose pattern is to use the truth to exclude people.
            Jesus condemns the Pharisee’s behaviour as much as he condemns the behaviour of the liberal.
            I’m fifty-six and still not able to be relied on by God to behave rightly in basic ways. I hope that after all the patience God has shown me that this will soon come to an end.

          • The sentence that read
            “We aren’t offering people love if we offer people grace when what we offer is only a blessing if immediately received.”
            should have read
            “We aren’t offering people love if we offer people what is only grace if immediately received”.

  6. “2. Why do so many gay people go to church? Is there a spiritual hunger there that you have not recognised or responded to?”

    Forgive me for the aside, but do we have any statistics behind this?

    First, are homosexuals more or less likely (as a proportion of the total) to be a Christian than their heterosexual counterparts? Or indeed, compared to bisexual or asexual people. Do we know this, even approximately?

    And second, are homosexual *Christians* more or less likely (as a proportion of the total) to be involved in/attend a church than their heterosexual *Christian* counterparts. And again, indeed, compared to bisexual or asexual people as well.

    This is not in any way a criticism or response to the article, which I thought was challenging and excellent.


  7. This is an excellent article. I think the title could have conveyed the power of the personal testimony better – it gave a more distanced and intellectual coating which was a shame. Something like ‘How it feels to be a gay celibate Christian’ would have been better.

    I have felt for the last 25 years or so that my pastoral ‘human’?) response to gay colleagues and friends is simply far, far more important than my ‘doctrinal’ response. I am not a church leader so I don’t even know what a doctrinal response looks like to be honest.

    I have read loads of books on this issue from all angles but about 7 years ago I started reflecting on my *actions* and what they tell me. And I realised that I have never been able to tell a gay friend or colleague what they should or should not do. Maybe I am weak, maybe I am hopelessly liberal, but the thing I have done with gay Christian friends is to listen and talk with them. To hear them, connect with them and basically be friends with them.

    I think the denominationalism is a key factor here. I think that whilst its still difficult, it is far easier when individual congregations make their minds up about their ‘position’ on how they act pastorally to gay people . I think we have to accept that some churches will choose to be inclusive and accepting and others will not. In some ways it will be like (and already is), different congregation’s policy on Baptism.

    The key thing is that we should aim for a situation where each congregation can be open about what it believes. That rather than being an elephant in the room, or one which makes people incredibly uncomfortable to even talk about, is one that can be talked about honestly and openly. This confidence is key to welcoming people.

    What I cannot abide is the rank hypocrisy and deceit that the C of E has been mired in for decades where there are legions of gay clergy in all kinds of ‘living arrangements’ which are either openly or discretely in contravention of the ‘official policy’. This creates so many collateral problems which discredit the church.

    I think this deceit has caused more damage than the disagreement itself. People expect the Christians to disagree – what they don’t respect is deceit and hypocrisy.

    • ‘And I realised that I have never been able to tell a gay friend or colleague what they should or should not do.’ That’s interesting. But of course Jesus does, and he commissions his apostles also to do the same. What, then, does it mean to be an apostolic church?

      ‘What I cannot abide is the rank hypocrisy and deceit that the C of E has been mired in for decades where there are legions of gay clergy in all kinds of ‘living arrangements’ which are either openly or discretely in contravention of the ‘official policy’. This creates so many collateral problems which discredit the church.’

      Absolutely agree. There has been fault on many sides, but chiefly on one.

      • ‘And I realised that I have never been able to tell a gay friend or colleague what they should or should not do.’ That’s interesting. But of course Jesus does, and he commissions his apostles also to do the same. What, then, does it mean to be an apostolic church?

        But of course there is no agreement that Jesus actually does say that. I presume you are referring to Matthew’s single use of the Greek word Porneia. It’s hard to see that as conclusive evidence and for many scholars it doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever. And I have never seen any evidence at all that Jesus ‘commissions his apostles also to do the same’.
        What it means to be an apostolic church is to seek the kingdom of God and open that to others. We are in basic disagreement about what that might look like when it comes to issues of human sexuality. And that is why John Smith is suggesting we need a change in the way we do this.

    • What I cannot abide is the rank hypocrisy and deceit that the C of E has been mired in for decades where there are legions of gay clergy in all kinds of ‘living arrangements’ which are either openly or discretely in contravention of the ‘official policy’.

      Yes. In 2005 the Blair government invented civil partnerships to give same-sex couples the legal rights of marriage, side-stepping Christian opposition – although the Church of England disingenuously lets its priests enter these partnerships if they tell their bishop they are ‘celibate’ (whatever that means). It is a matter of public record that there are bishops in same-sex relationships.

      Contrast this with the integrity of Rev’d Sam Allberry, a celibate same-sex-attracted evangelical. At a Church of England synod on 15/2/2017, he spoke out of church liberals present bullying him for his scriptural views.

    • So the solution to hypocrisy and double standards is that everyone should just openly sin? What is the solution being proposed?

      There are lots of sins that are outlawed. If people do any one of these secretly, then that will be hypocrisy. So why give special treatment (a pass) to one (fashioanable) sin in contradictinction to the others?
      Solution 1: don’t commit the sin, then you will not be a hypocrite. Solution 2: if you categorise different things as sins or not sins, then there are 2 questions. (a) Are you being led by wishful thinking? (b) Why is your authority, in your eyes, greater than that of Christ, the apostles and the Christian church?

      Thus I don’t understand Jon Kuhrt’s points. That is even before we come to the downplaying of doctrine (which plays into the hands of those less inclined to think, or to be scrupulous, or both – and effectively says: the less thinking you are, the better, so condemning those who have devoted themselves to thought to being subject to the tyranny of those who are not inclined to do so).

  8. John Smith…. Thank you for this honesty and critique…

    And for the push to think pastorally. I think this has been neglected if not ignored. I can think of evangelical churches with a “strong” view on this (actually sometimes it’s more the clergy than the laity… without judging between them) but who are weak on helping Christians to know how to deal with personal issues…. in their families, among their friends…. and with love.

  9. ‘I’m not persuaded there are any doctrinal questions here’. Goodness, how extraordinary! What about the doctrine of creation (humanity male and female)? What about basic theological anthropology (what is sex for, and bodily existence about)? What about the incarnation (what is humanity that the Son took on flesh)? What about eschatology (What will we be like in the new creation)?

    ‘Pastorally, we must accommodate both callings.’ Why? Jesus didn’t. And where in the world has that actually happened? In 50 years of debating and deciding on this, not one church has found a ‘twin track’ solution.

    • Ah well I do respect, as I said, those who differ. And you certainly posit doctrinal questions. But you don’t by any means prove that any of them have any bearing on what a committed faithful couple get up to in the privacy of their own homes. And I haven’t heard you campaigning vociferously to ban heterosexual married church members, lay and ordained, from engaging in quite a variety of sexual activity – which consistency would demand that you did.

      Jesus didn’t say a word about homosexuality. Nor did he say a word about nuclear fusion. So you are just extrapolating.

      It is clear, though, that you aren’t keen to allow John Smith’s plea for a different way of doing this……

      • All the doctrines I mention have a direct bearing on Christian sexual ethics.

        And Jesus warns us away from ‘porneia’, which is a reference to the prohibited sexual activities in Lev 18, and confirms that marriage is to be ‘as it was in the beginning’, between one man and one woman.

        It’s so odd when you say that ‘You are not keen to allow John Smith’s plea…’ Who do you think decided to publish it?!

        What’s not particularly helpful to the discussion is bizarre claims like the one you made above!

        • Well if you really are keen to allow John’s then I think a more conciliatory tone is needed here Ian. As I say, I respect your belief that the doctrines you mention impinge on sexual ethics, but I’m not persuaded by you. Not least because you don’t campaign to stop heterosexual married Christian couples from engaging in various sexual acts between themselves.

          The porneia thing stretches way beyond breaking point. Let me quote and then bid you night night.

          First, it’s important to stress the obvious. Jesus actually doesn’t mention same-sex relations here. So to say Jesus “condemns” them, or even “mentions” them is too strong. Jesus is condemning every kind of sexual immorality. And so the question is: Would he have included same-sex relations in that category? He may well have – but he doesn’t say and doesn’t even talk about the issue. Our question is whether Jesus talks about same sex relations. No, he doesn’t.

          But there’s something else to consider here that’s even more important. Scot wants to focus on the term “porneia” and argues that it means a range of sexual activities, proscribed in Leviticus 18. For one thing, Jesus wasn’t speaking Greek so he didn’t use the word porneia. I’m not sure what word he used in Aramaic, but it’s a bit tricky to say that he used one term in his language, which translates into another term into a different language that Jesus didn’t speak, and that other word in the other language means something broadly, but to see what it means broadly we have to look at a passage in a third language that the author of Matthew’s Gospel probably didn’t read and certainly doesn’t refer to. If you see what I mean.

          But there’s a yet bigger problem. If you do want to talk about the Greek word porneia, as Scot does, I think you really need to figure out what the word actually meant to the people who used it back then. And it means things that Scot doesn’t seem to have in mind.

          One piece of evidence that it is NOT simply referring to all of the practices proscribed in Leviticus 18, and that therefore he has same-sex acts in mind, is that in the context of the two passages cited above, at the beginning of this post, in the first one “same-sex acts” doesn’t make sense (as I’ll try to show) and in the second one the reference does not appear to be to Leviticus 18.“

  10. I’m saddened that ‘John Smith’ feels the need to use a pseudonym. There are now several leaders in the English evangelical world who have felt able to disclose homosexual feelings while committing themselves to celibacy and these people are greatly respected for their courage and dedication to the Lord and appreciated for their insights into the challenges this involves. I would urge ‘John’ to seek out a believing community where people can be open about their struggles and receiving loving support to live a holy, joyful , Christ-centred life.

  11. The upshot of a lot of what is being said is that doctrine is of little or no importance.

    This is quite wrong. Doctrinal and pastoral dimensions are both of great importance, and I don’t find it intelligent to assume that what we have here is a dichotomy. Binary modes of thinking always inhibit and constrict.

    I am not sure that it is so simple as one’s views on homosexuality being a shibboleth. It is more the following:
    (a) One’s views on how culture ought to impact the Church (in the direction of necessary conformity in the direction of the culture) are a benchmark or a barometer;
    (b) It is hard to support those who do not see the unique nature of this 180-degree turn in which something seen as sinful becomes seen as admirable. That is nothing like what happened in the case of slavery. Given that this has not happened in any other instance, is it surprising that it becomes a shibboleth? It is the attitude to the biblical perspective in general that is the issue, not the attitude to homosexuality but rather what the revisionist stance more broadly represents. After all, sexual temptations are many and various and this is just one of them – most people will in the course of their lives be subject to others even if they are not subject to this one, and that is understandable;
    (c) There is an equal blindness to the strategic importance of concentration on this issue on the part of Christianity’s opponents because of its genius aptitude to weaken, diminish numerically, preoccupy, and bring down portions of the church. The church can be portrayed as anti-equality whereas what is really happening is that it is being forced to accept categories imposed upon it which may not reflect reality (in the sense that few seem either to know evidentially nor care about whether they are talking about something inborn or endemic or not);
    (d) It is highly disingenuous to blame Christians for the foregrounding of sexual issues such as homosexuality. Everyone knows it was the antiChristians and secularists who did that. The Christians commented on it, and rightly so, because they believe in truth so they saw something happening and remarked that it was happening.

  12. Quote: “Notions of personal identity now dominate society’s thinking and frame people’s approach to any ethical question.”

    Which also explains some of the appeal of declaring oneself a celibate gay Christian. Maybe the solution is to downplay the very notion of an “identity” rather than rely on a Christian version of a secular concept?

  13. Thank you John for sharing this.

    With respect to your 4th question, I find myself believing that the only approach to this is a pastoral one. I am not persuaded that the doctrinal questions surrounding human sexuality have any bearing on what takes place within a faithful, committed sexual relationship of either same or opposite sex partners. I realise that for some those questions are significant and I respect that they are persuaded differently. I believe that they must then apply the same prohibitions on married Christian heterosexual couples i.e. sexual activity must be limited to procreation.

    I am not persuaded – and nor do I think are many – that Jesus said anything at all about same sex activity. To use the reference in Matthew to porneia as evidence of that stretches the word evidence beyond breaking point. Not least because Jesus did not speak in Greek.

    For me then, a pastoral approach can be the only one, and that must involve a twin track approach. As I have said before, I think that is where we shall get to in the C of E before very long.

    Thank you again John for this and Ian for hosting.

    A pastoral appra

    • Hi Andrew,

      “Not least because Jesus did not speak in Greek.” Just a small point, but Peter Williams based at Tyndale House in Cambridge and one of the UK’s leading experts on biblical languages (I understand he did his PhD on the languages Jesus used) argues that Jesus could and did indeed speak Greek.


    • In response to the fourth question, you say that this should be a purely pastoral matter and not a doctrinal matter at all. Do you therefore not believe that Christians should search the scriptures to see what God has to say?

      Yet you also speak of “they must then apply the same prohibitions on married Christian heterosexual couples i.e. sexual activity must be limited to procreation”. What prohibitions, and from whence? Nowhere does the Bible prohibit sex within marriage when the wife is beyond childbearing age, for instance; and if it did then Abraham would not have begotten Isaac.

      • “Do you therefore not believe that Christians should search the scriptures to see what God has to say?”
        Oh I certainly believe that is one area we should search to see what God has to say. But the point John Smith – and indeed many others – is making is that we can’t reach any agreement on what God is saying in this area, so we need to make a different approach to the matter.

        As to my other point, I’m glad that you agree that human sexuality is for pleasure and human intimacy as well – perhaps more – than procreation. The issue then is why should that be denied to those in same sex relationships?

        • I have suddenly realised that new powers are available to me. When I want a person or the church or an organisation to change direction all I need to do is disagree with them. Then I simply say to them “It’s clear that we don’t agree here – and this disagreement is distressing for some – so we” (meaning them) “need to change course – find a new approach”. To have my way I simply elevate the distress caused to some to the position of ultimate arbiter of right and wrong.

        • Yes, human sexuality is indeed for more than procreation. Eve was given to Adam to be an intimate companion. “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Children are a normal consequence of this intimate companionship, but intimate companionship is why the human female – unlike females of mammal species with whom humans share basic reproductive physiology – remains sexually receptive in the infertile part of her cycle, or after menopause, or when pregnant.

          That people cannot agree what to conclude from the Bible is no reason to give up studying. But one party might conclude that another is not studying with a commitment to follow wherever the logic leads, but has an agenda. What then?

          As for “man lying with man as with a woman”, ie sexually, this is described as toevah in God’s eyes (Lev 18:22). Please look up its meaning. Leviticus might be part of the code of law of an ancient nation, but God does not change his opinion.

          In the New Testament, the apostle Paul warns (in 1 Cor 6:9) that arsenokoitai will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. This word is compounded from consecutive words in the Septuagint translation into Greek of Lev 20:13, which repeats the prohibition and includes (in our alphabet) the phrase …koimethe meta arsenos koiten gunaikos… Here, koitai is to go to bed with and arseno is a Greek word for a man.

          This is what God has revealed in both Testaments. For pastoral reasons, we should reflect on why God finds such actions toevah. God made woman from man, to become ‘one flesh’ in union (Genesis 2:24); hence their complementary physiology. Their union is reunion. That is not the case with same-sex physical relations.

          • The same, tired old arguments. Simply repeating yourselves in an echo chamber doesn’t work. It didn’t work for the question of the ordination of women and won’t work here.
            Thank you John Smith for proposing a new way approach.

          • Rhetoric doesn’t cut it, Andrew. You need a counter-exegesis. Provide one if you can and I shall argue it out with you in good faith. I’m sure you’d hate readers to draw the conclusion that you don’t have one.

            Where is my exegesis from Leviticus and 1 Corinthians in error?

          • No, read the best-qualified exegetes, e.g. SBL members of whom there are hundreds or thousands.

            All readers will know already that Andrew’s use of ‘old’ and ‘tired’ and ‘different approach’ makes no sense.

            (1) Old. Whether things are old or new obviously has no bearing on their truth. AG writes as though it does. Therefore what he says proceeds from an inaccurate basis.

            (2) Tired. This means ‘oft-repeated’. True and untrue things are both oft-repeated. Therefore this factor is also irrelevant.

            (3) Different approach. So one of the most debated topics in existence has not attracted the right approach yet, despite so many well-qualified people contributing. What we need is something new? Trillions of things would be new here, most of which would be worthless, and as for the others one would wonder why they had never been seen before given how long this ‘debate’ has been dragging on. This is the irrational neophilia of the secularist, which does not explain why novelty is a virtue in this particular context given that in all other contexts it is a neutral consideration.

          • Christopher: your generalisations are remarkable.
            “Old. Whether things are old or new obviously has no bearing on their truth. AG writes as though it does. Therefore what he says proceeds from an inaccurate basis.”
            New discoveries are being made about the universe regularly as just one example. New discovery is based on emerging understanding about the way things are. So being new clearly *can* have a considerable bearing upon our perception of the truth, which is frequently incomplete.

            “Tired. This means ‘oft-repeated’. True and untrue things are both oft-repeated. Therefore this factor is also irrelevant.“
            Quite wrong. Tired means that a rest is needed. Reference the article by John Smith. We need to rest from the approach we have been taking to try something different.

            “Different approach. So one of the most debated topics in existence has not attracted the right approach yet, despite so many well-qualified people contributing. What we need is something new?”
            Yes. The definition of lunacy is carrying on doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Again, the reference is to the article by John Smith.

          • We’re not all doing the same thing. We’re doing many different things. And what informed people are doing is presumably the most informed activity available. ‘X is not working so try anything but X’ is a logical fallacy. X could still be logically better than any alternative, but what is for sure is that it is not the worst possible alternative that it is portrayed to be. The collective efforts of interested parties would not have been pursuing the worst possible alternative.

            New accurate discoveries are made and new incorrect theories also get posited. Both are equally new. There are 4 categories. New and accurate. New and inaccurate. Old and accurate. Old and inaccurate.

            Who is the ‘we’ that has been doing all these things?

            You talk as though an impasse discussion has been taking place. Only if one identifies with the C of E (or, rather, the portion of the C of E that takes such discussions seriously) in the first place. But the vast majority do not. This is C of E solipsism. If one followed plenty of other ways then ‘Oh what an impasse’ would not be one’s reality. Many need to get out more. Few are likely to take seriously an ‘impasse’ between wishful thinking on the one hand and evidence on the other. Such an impasse is exactly what would have been predicted. Widespread failure even to mention reams of central evidence confirms this perspective.

          • I’m sorry Christopher that is all just very typically vague and general waffle that doesn’t engage with anything I wrote.

          • that is all just very typically vague and general waffle that doesn’t engage with anything I wrote.

            So, Mr Pot, what colour would you be describing that kettle as?

          • If, Andrew, you understand the exegeses of the people you cite against mine, you will be able to explain what you consider to be the errors in my exegesis concisely. This is a public forum, not a private conversation, and readers are entitled to draw their own conclusions from your lack of engagement.

          • “you will be able to explain what you consider to be the errors in my exegesis concisely”….
            I already did. The texts you are referring to do not address the question of faithful partnerships.
            Now let me ask you a question. Do you think it was right for the Queen, acting for the Govt, to grant Alan Turing a royal pardon?

          • In a very general way Anton. Leviticus condemns quite a number of things that we now disregard.
            Are you able to answer the question I put to you?

          • I explained, Andrew, that we are not and never have been under the Law of Moses of which Leviticus is part. But what makes you think that God has changed his view that man lying with man as with woman is toevah? Notice that God is condemning an act here – nothing to do with sexual preference.

            I wonder what those Christians who experience same-sex attraction and share my exegesis would say to you?

            Turing deserved a fuller answer and I was heading for church earlier; my apologies. Be assured of a response within the day

          • I thought it was iniquitous that Turing did not get some senior kind of honour for what he did at Bletchley Park, and absurd that he was pardoned for breaking the law of the land. The Home Secretary of his day should have had a quiet word with Manchester police and told them to lay off before it ever got to court.

            If a gong would have given the codebreaking game away, a Chair should have been arranged for him at Oxbridge where homosexual academics were understood to be part of the milieu.

          • Thanks Anton. Interesting that your exegesis does not condemn him. I assume therefore that you don’t support Christopher Shell’s idea that homosexuality should be re-criminalised.

            We are going to have to differ on the exegesis. I think the points that Jonathan Tallon has made on here many times and in his own teaching about the texts you cite are far more persuasive. Added to which I believe it’s quite possible to say that the bible gives us broad brush strokes about the God whom we worship and who is creator, redeemer and sustainer, but is limited in its understanding of God’s nature. It is not possible to fully eff the ineffable. Our reason, and experience and tradition are ways in which we also can know God. But there are always limits to our understanding of what and who and how God is. I am not persuaded – because of the experience I have of seeing the love of God expressed in the Ministry of those who are homosexual and in homosexual relationships -that the author of Leviticus or the apostle Paul were expressing the fullness of the life of God.

          • I am not persuaded – because of the experience I have of seeing the love of God expressed in the Ministry of those who are homosexual and in homosexual relationships -that the author of Leviticus or the apostle Paul were expressing the fullness of the life of God.

            What are you persuaded about in the Bible? We already know you don’t think any of the miracles recorded therein actually happened, and you place great weight on some things Jesus is recorded to have said (like ‘blessed are those who believe without seeing) while not thinking that the occasion on which he supposedly said them ever took place.

            Is there anything in the Bible you are prepared to say you actually are persuaded about? The empty tomb, say? Did that happen, do you think, or was that made up, like the story of Jesus walking on water or stilling the storm?

          • “I didn’t say homosexuality should be criminalised. I was speaking of homosexual quasi-sexual acts.”
            And still you couldn’t answer a straightforward question about your proposal. Let me ask it again. What would happen to those who committed the crime of “homosexual quasi-sexual acts.”

          • Andrew: If you don’t wish to summarise your arguments against my exegesis then that part of our dialogue is at an end.

            Turing is a special case so far as I am concerned; I’ve explained why. I know that the police are sometimes told not to pursue a case because of political/security implications, and it should have happened with him.

            Do you think God was wrong to penalise man lying with man as with woman in the Law of Moses?

          • Do you think God was wrong to penalise man lying with man as with woman in the Law of Moses?

            Mr Godsall doesn’t think God had anything to do with the Bible, remember.

          • And there Anton is the point. With God, everyone is a special case.
            Thank you. Leviticus and Paul are offering generalisation to fit their context. The context now is different.

          • To say that “everybody is a special case” is to do damage to the meaning of words. I am saying that the authorities should have turned a blind eye to Turing’s lawbreaking in view of what he had done for the nation. Not every gay man did superlative work at Bletchley Park. Frankly I think that the police were foolish to enquire into the nature of the relationship between Turing and the rent boy who burgled him. Had Turing been rewarded with a Chair at Oxford or Cambridge then the situation would never have arisen.

            Would you please now answer my question: Do you believe that God was mistaken to penalise sexual activity between two males in Leviticus?

          • I have answered! I am not persuaded that God did punish two males in Leviticus. What I am persuaded is that: a, It is what the writer interpreted and b, might have been appropriate for a particular time in Israel’s history. See what Jonathan Tallon has written and taught on that text. It is helpful.

          • I am not persuaded that God did punish two males in Leviticus.

            If you think that that is a ‘misinterpretation’ of what God actually said then there are no grounds for believing the gospel accounts are not the same.

          • If you think that that is a ‘misinterpretation’ of what God actually said then there are no grounds for believing the gospel accounts are not the same.

            Mr Godsall has repeatedly stated that he does believe the gospel accounts are misinterpretations.

          • Dear S: I’ve no reason to doubt you, but in a dialogue with Andrew it is proper that I go by what he alone says about himself.

          • Thanks Anton. What I have repeatedly said – which is basic NT scholarship – is the the gospels were written from stories circulating within the early church quite a number of years after the actual events they present. They are faith history – Heilsgeschichte – rather than transcripts. There were no tape recordings. A basic look at a synopsis will tell you that Pericope have been adapted to fit the audience, the sequences of events the evangelist wishes to emphasise etc. The purpose of the Gospels is to persuade, not to repeat parrot fashion. Some parts are inevitably lost in translation because of the human chain of transmission.
            I hope that helps. The scriptures are interpretations of God’s dealings with God’s people. And writers can be prone to misinterpreting because they are human.
            But I am persuaded that they communicate the good news of God’s saving acts in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know you are too.
            Every good wish

          • But I am persuaded that they communicate the good news of God’s saving acts in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            But you don’t believe they accurately record the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So how can you be persuaded that they communicate the good news of acts which, you believe, probably never happened?

            How can you think the gospels are good news when — according to you — they are fake news?

          • Dear Andrew

            Thank you! But what are your criteria for what you accept actually happened in the Bible (such as, I trust, the Resurrection) and what you believe didn’t (such as, presumably, the command recorded in Leviticus as divine to penalise male-male sexual relations)? And where do you get these criteria from, please?

          • But what are your criteria for what you accept actually happened in the Bible (such as, I trust, the Resurrection)

            If you can get Mr Godsall to admit one way or the other whether he thinks the resurrection actually happened I will take my hat off to you, sir-or-madam!

          • Thank you again Anton.
            Method and criteria are scripture, tradition, reason and experience taken together.
            I believe that after his death Jesus walked on the Earth, talked to people and ate with them. I certainly believe in a physical resurrection and have said that here many times.
            Remember that with Leviticus I indicated that this may simply have been a direction for Israel for a season.
            And the same is true of the epistles. In normal circumstances letters are the first or intermediate written explorations of a theme. Rarely are they the last word. They are part of a conversation. That’s true of the biblical letters. We are still having conversations on those themes – not just matters of human sexuality. So you can’t take them ‘literally’ without distorting their intent – which was the writer expressing an opinion and offering advice and wisdom. And advice and wisdom change under different circumstances.
            Hope this helps and that your day is good.

          • Andrew Godsall’s version of ‘basic NT scholarship’ (best to check with actual scholars about this) does not mention that when the gospels first started being written, the apostles and chief eyewitnesses had only recently died (Peter and John both four years earlier). So forget ‘stories circulating’, you could get it from the horse’s mouth.

            Secondly, that was what exactly Papias did, even a decade or two later. No account of how this information was transmitted can pass over Papias.

            Third, Papias makes a link between Peter and the first gospel Mark. This is something that (1 Peter) we would have surmised even if Papias had not said it.

            Fourth, both Peter and Mark were Rome-based.

            In these circumstances, just how long is this ‘human chain of transmission’?

            Normal people just ask those who were there, just like we ask our parents for memories.

          • Dear Andrew, thank you for clarification and I’m glad you believe in the physical/biological death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament letters are indeed part of a conversation but they got into the NT canon – which means they were recognised as totally authoritative by the early church – whereas the viewpoints of the people Paul was writing to did not get into the NT canon.

            But please explain how you apply your hermeneutic to conclude that God did not necessarily legislate a penalty against male-male sexual activity in Leviticus.

          • Sorry ..didn’t express that well. Where is the evidence that God actually carried out any punishment? Jesus didn’t punish the thief or the woman caught in adultery. So where does Gcd actually punish these people?

          • O I see. I was using a verbal shorthand. To clarify: God commanded punishment in ancient Israel for male-male sexual relations.

          • And God also commanded stoning for adultery, yes.?

            Christopher, we had the discussion re Papias before. But you probably don’t remember – it must be 6 months ago. Oh wait – you must remember exactly as it was only 6 months ago.

          • And God also commanded stoning for adultery, yes.?

            If your argument is to draw an analogy between the prohibition against homosexual acts and the prohibition against adultery, and to claim that the prohibition against homosexuality was only for a particular time and place, based on the fact that Jesus did not answer the Pharisees’ question about stoning by saying, ‘yes, you should stone her’…

            … then, logically, you must also be claiming that the prohibition on adultery was also only for a particular time and place, and that adultery (just like homosexual acts) is no longer sinful.

            Is that your claim? That adultery is no longer sinful?

            Because if you say that adultery is still sinful, even though Jesus answered the question the way He did, then logically you must admit that the way He answered the question can tell us nothign about whether homosexual acts are (still) sinful.

            So Mr Godsall: is adultery sinful, yes or no?

          • Or even more to the point…

            Jesus didn’t punish the thief or the woman caught in adultery.

            How do you know He didn’t?

          • Andrew writes: ‘We had the discussion about Papias before.’.

            What? So if anything has been mentioned in discussion before, then everything has been said on that topic that can possibly be said?

        • One thing you seem to have missed, (unless you’ve read something in the article that the rest of us haven’t or have some additional outside knowledge) is that while Mr Smith has advocated for the Church trying a new pastoral in relation to SSA people, at no point have they suggested that the Church should change its teaching on human sexuality or adopt the two track approach many favour.

          • Has anybody suggested that he has? A conservative evangelical would not, by definition, make such a suggestion.
            The point about a new pastoral approach is that it *could* provide a way of unlocking the stale mate we have found ourselves in.

          • A doctrinal position and a pastoral approach are one and the same thing. Biblical truth is a Person and therefore incorporates how to act – it is not a set of ideas.

          • “Biblical truth is a Person and therefore incorporates how to act “
            I agree with this wholeheartedly. Thank you for saying what I have said many many times. The word of God became incarnate in a person, not in a book or an ideology.

          • My position is that whilst the Truth is a Person, the Bible is authoritative written revelation of that Person. If Jesus is the Truth as you are happy to agree – then the fact that he treated the Old Testament as the word of God – as scripture – getting down the meaning of individual words to make points – the fact he rose from the dead proving his divinity – the fact that he promised to reveal his word to his disciples – and the fact that there are examples of the New Testament writers treating the writings of another NT author as scripture – means that the book is also rightly understood to be the Truth – there is no other possible conclusion to draw from the fact that Jesus is referred to as the word of God if not to associate his person with spoken or written revelation. So the Bible is authoritative written revelation of a Person.
            So – in a sentence – believing that the truth is a Person inescapably leads to believing that the Bible is authoritative revelation of that Person.

            Returning to the thread – and I will be bowing out from here (I don’t plan to keep interacting until all our views match – I just felt that it would be helpful to contribute to a discussion in which people might get the impression that teaching and pastoring were separate things) it’s clear we agree that it is impossible separate pastoring from teaching. A point worth establishing because there is evidence in the article of the author’s inner conflict concerning that question.

          • Thank you Philip. I certainly agree that pastoring and teaching can’t be separated. But I believe that teaching is about giving people the tools to answer the questions themselves, and not simply giving them the answers. That’s a pastoral approach to teaching.
            I don’t regard the bible as infallible, as I’m sure you will be aware. But I respect that your view is different.

        • But it’s not only those is same sex relationships this ‘denial’ applies to – it’s applies to those who have not married for whatever reason and to those who have been widowed or divorced unless they remarry (yes I know that last one is controversial ) – everyone in fact who is not in an opposite sex marriage.

          To frame it more positively and do away with the language of denial and deprivation –
          Sexual intimacy is a blessing from God for use in marriage. God has many other different blessings for all His People to enjoy – the greatest is spiritual intimacy – the privilege of knowing God and enjoying Him forever.

  14. I am not a conservative evangelical – though it is a world I know – so I am here as an observer. (My interest in this article invited by Ian – thank you). My heart goes out to ‘John’. I deeply respect and am challenged by his faithfulness. I am also very concerned by the evidently harrowing cost of this to himself.
    Although he starts with concerns about LLF I think the title could have been ‘Being a SSA Christian in a Conservative Evangelical church’. He is inviting some real heart searching here that I do not yet read on this thread. One of his key appeals needs a response – ‘I long to hear leaders speak with clarity, conviction and love about the pastoral needs of same-sex attracted people who are committed to celibacy, with the same conviction and energy with which they speak about the doctrinal point.’ When he testifies, ‘I am often very, very unhappy, indescribably lonely, and in constant, deep fear of what those who sit next to me at church would think if they knew’ he is describing the impact of a church where a way of emphasising doctrine results, for some, in fear, isolation and hiding. This is not good fruit. John is testifying this to us. Despite this, two early contributors basically told him he was wrong. Another challenges him to use his real name. I am reminded of Jesus’s anger at teaching that only puts crippling burdens on people without offering support.

    • Conservative evangelical churches aren’t easy places to be different in any sort of way. They are possibly the least diverse (by social class and personality type) large gatherings of people you could find the UK today. John Smith has opted to remain anonymous because of his SSA status but in order to stick it out in a CE church he must belong to a narrow evangelical ‘type’.

      • That is factually not true. In my city, it is the evangelical churches which are by far the most diverse, in terms of ethnicity, age, and background.

        Most middle of the road C of E churches are full of white, well off older people.

        The black-led churches are, well, mostly black.

        In liberal churches you will often find a single, left of centre, political view.

        In the church where I hold my license we have a complete mix of ages, from youth, young families right through to retired, a reasonable diversity ethnically (including Iranians and South Americans), and diversity of political outlooks.

        • If that was the case then a True Freedom Trust conference would embody some of that diversity – as there’s no reason to think that SSA individuals aren’t born into every type of family background out there. But what you actually get at a TFT conference is a snapshot of the uniformity of evangelical culture.

          I’m not suggesting there is some sinister reason for this (some -ism). It is simply the consequence of church numbers being maintained by Christians having children rather than any actual success in reaching anyone outside of that culture.

          The John Smiths who take a break from evangelical churches (which they do for entirely understandable reasons) find themselves in a gay culture that will de-Christianise them in a few months. It’s a wretched situation if they want to hold on to their faith. Religious belief is irrelevant to the lives of most people in this country and the LGBT community got to that point decades ago. The social unimportance of religion could be one of the main reasons a statement like “evangelicals are people who hate” gets bandied about. It’s usually a form of easy-win moral posturing said by those who have no interest in religion in the first place. At the same time there is a huge interest in meaningful conversations about meaning – or else Jordan Peterson wouldn’t be one of the most popular ‘religious’ thinkers on the Internet.

          Being a bit nicer to the alphabet people is fine by itself but it won’t mean that the irreligious majority will be any less likely to dismiss evangelicals as “people who hate”. A deeper cultural disconnect between believers and non-believers is shaping that conversation (or non-conversation). Evangelicals can hunker down in their churches but the wider culture is bringing a battering ram to the doors.

          • But don’t you think that the complete failure of mutual understanding is a form of laziness? One even sees incomprehension of majority international trans-historical viewpoints.

          • Christopher S. “But don’t you think that the complete failure of mutual understanding is a form of laziness?”

            Possibly. But evangelicals are vastly outnumbered. The secular majority now hold them in contempt – which I don’t think evangelicals have truly come to terms with.

          • But evangelicals are vastly outnumbered. The secular majority now hold them in contempt – which I don’t think evangelicals have truly come to terms with.

            Don’t evangelicals thrive on thinking that the world is persecuting them? I would have thought evangelicals would love to be held in contempt by the secular world, if not on this issue then on something else — it would prove to them they are on the right track. It’s being loved by the secular establishment that evangelicals wouldn’t be able to come to terms with — what then would they define themselves against?

          • It does not matter even an iota that people are held in contempt, unless that contempt is warranted.

            The media and education system are carefully keeping facts and data out of the debate. Every time a new study appears that confounds them, they greet it with surprise. Other than that, they never cite scientific studies. But those should be the first thing cited, the basis of any discussion. Many simply refuse debate, by which ruse they are self-condemned. So all that is needed is to say: (a) if you are not proceeding on the basis of the fullest studies, we do not trust you, because why would you need to avoid them? and (b) if you avoid debate, it is obvious that you admit that your ‘arguments’ do not stand scrutiny and are wrong. QED.

          • As for evangelicals being vastly outnumbered, the cleverest and most accurate individual on every topic on earth is in not just a minority but a minority of one by virtue of *being* cleverest and most accurate, so in a class by themselves.

            I don’t get the advantage of numbers (unless that is the numbers are well informed) – someone please explain.

          • S: “Don’t evangelicals thrive on thinking that the world is persecuting them?

            As a throwaway remark, a bit of bombast, they do. On the other hand it is very much a culture of respectability.

            Waving a rainbow flag at a Pride parade is a display of civic virtue now. Evangelicals aren’t going to hold out much longer. The younger ones are all hoping the older ones would shut-up about the gays and get on with the business being more ‘normal’.

          • I think evangelicals (in fact: many sorts of Christians – catholics, evangelicals, pentecostals, inklings) thrive on battle simply because battle is where it is at. They are at home where the reality and intense importance of the spiritual battle is acknowledged, and ill at ease where it is not.

          • On the other hand it is very much a culture of respectability.

            No, it’s the mainstream Chuch of England which is a culture of respectability — they’re the ones who want to be thought well of by the secular elites, which is why they have been steadily adopting the liberal beliefs of those secular elites.

            The evangelicals in the Church of England define themselves in reaction to the mainstream Church of England — fairly obviously, as otherwise the would be mainstream — and one of the key differences is their attitude to whether being thought well of by the secular elites is desirable or not.

            See, for example, the Twitter furore over the Troon Church’s banner at the time of COP26:

            It was the mainstream Christians (memorably, and accurately, described by one Twitter user as ‘pick-me Christians’) who expressed performative outrage at the banner because it was in opposition to the values of the secular elites with which they wish to ingratiate themselves — not the evangelicals.

  15. This article is circling around the tension between doctrine and pastoral. Those concerned with doctrine (and it is a right concern) can tend to be suspicious when pastoral voices/personal stories get involved. But the relationship, at its best, is a vital and rigorous one. In his book ‘The Word of Life – the use of the Bible in Pastoral Care’, William Challis (former vp at Wycliffe College, Oxford), supports defining the core task of pastoral theology as being ‘to prevent theology becoming oppressive, denying the truth of people’s experience.’ In this respect it is strikingly similar to the chosen method of LLF.

    • David, if you are referring to me when you said someone ‘challenged’ ‘John’s to use his real name then you have misunderstood me. I’m saddened by the situation in which someone who is committed to living a chaste life feels unable to disclose who they are. I was encouraging him to find a church or Christian community where he can.

    • I have not seen anyone saying that the pastoral is unimportant, which is what your comment addresses.

      There are those who rightly say that doctrinal is important and pastoral is important. I am not sure any other position can be defenced.

  16. The way the Nigerians were thinking is:
    We all have sinful desires. With other sinful desires the idea is to minimise them and try to overcome them. But an exception is made by some for SSA, for reasons of cultural pressure, something which is not by any means the driver of Christian behaviour. (a) This looks like favouritism. (b) What is the rationale for the exception? (c) If exceptions are made for one thing, exceptions can be made for anything.

    • It is hard not to come to the conclusion that the Nigerians are emphasizing one ‘sin’ and ignoring many others. Let’s all condemn the ‘gays’ so that noone notices my own sin.

      Thankfully God sees all, including the hypocrisy.

      • The trouble with that is that no-one is then allowed to condemn sins. That is far from biblical and far from just.
        What if people want to condemn sins because they are bad, rather than for more complicated reasons?

        • The conclusion is what is happening in Ghana. But at least we are aware that Christopher supports the criminalisation of homosexual activity – he has made that clear in comments here before. It is the logical outcome of what some in Nigeria and Ghana and those who share Christopher’s approach believe.

          • “Criminalisation is one thing, punishment is quite another.”
            Sounds incredibly vague to me.
            So would there be no punishment? What sort of punishment or no punishment would fit this crime?
            And please don’t say restorative justice unless you can be precise in what you have in mind for this particular crime. And yes, I do understand how restorative justice works having been personally involved in it.

          • The idea is that crimes should be things that cause immediately obvious harm. But what if certain non-crimes cause a far greater deal of harm just on a larger (so invisible) scale, or else further down the line, or at one remove?

            This is only one of several crimes that destructure families and thereby societies. Therefore millions of people (who deserve, and could receive, a better normality) are affected adversely.

            Plus, the immediately involved people are very disproportionately likely to receive in their own person a due penalty.

            So: lose-lose.

            In addition to that: if anything can harm and cannot benefit, then that thing should be a crime.

            Everyone knows that stealing a husband is far worse than stealing a car. Consequently everyone knows that the scale of criminality is not at all the same thing as the scale of morality.

          • Christopher you evade the question. Let me put it again:
            So would there be no punishment? What sort would fit this crime?
            Would you advocate, for example, chemical castration for homosexual men? Would you make lesbianism a crime too? Please be a bit more specific about how the crime would play out……

          • The reason why we should not criminalise homosexual acts is not because they are not sin but because God’s heart is that people be honoured – honouring is promoting someone’s virtue and not subjecting them to unnecessary humiliation. And the bible says to honour all people (1Pet 2:17). There are circumstances where someone’s sin must be exposed publicly – or announced publicly. Such as when for example someone is being looked to for leadership by others – or they are not but they refuse the initial disciplinary steps outlined in Matthew 18.

          • The phrases ‘homosexual men’ and ‘lesbianism’ both commit the determinist fallacy.

            People are not blank slates. If there is anything in their origins out of kilter or unhealthy, they will react unhealthily against that. For every action a reaction. That is why one of the clearest predictors of homosexual behaviour is a broken home. But broken homes are not a given since their instance veers wildly up and down depending on the generation we are talking about. So by normalising them we are condeming people to estranged lives out of harmony with themselves. We could have a mature close-family society in which people would have normal psychological development and would not have love deficits that they would try (in reaction) to fill in harmful short-term ways beacause they would have security in their love.

            So anyone who lacked that could be introduced to it. Those who were not familiar with the realities (statistical, scientific) could be introduced to them.

          • I just answered it. To repeat:

            We supply what is lacking. First, the people who are lacking in proper families (so have a wound at root) can be inducted into that environment. Second, they are proceeding on the basis of a false worldview (supposing that they care, which not all will), so can be familiarised with the data scientific and statistical, so that at least they cannot plead ignorance. Third, ‘chemical castration – no’.

          • (1) I list specific points clearly. Does anyone here agree with Andrew that they were not specific and/or not clear?

            (2) You dismiss it as ‘generalised waffle’, so confirming my point that those who can’t debate just dismiss airily and loftily. As Molesworth dismissed his maths exam question with ‘larfably easy’. How many marks did he expect to get – or do you expect to get for your analysis.

            (3) If you cannot address the points, then you confirm in our minds your inability to address the points.

          • Saying ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree’ is one thing. You grant weight to that. But as you will grant, it can be said by someone with an IQ of 2. It is akin to formation into gangs or tribes of us and them for cosmetic or social purposes.

            Saying ‘I agree or disagree for the following reasons of internal logic and/or empirical match-up’ is all that will be listened to in proper debate. Your failure to proceed in that way is bound to make people question your ability to engage in debate.

        • Not at all. But there seems to be an emphasis on how bad gay sex is compared to other sins. And in this case they are condemning even those who are not even indulging in such sexual activity.

          Do they have the same attitude to those straight people who commit adultery, which leads to the breakup of marriages and families? Or a straight man who has looked at a woman lustfully?

  17. I feel for you John, and completely identify with your feelings. But even if it sometimes or often feels like you’re alone, you are never alone.


  18. Your friends’ comment that you belong to a group that hates women and gays simply underlines Jesus’ words that blessed are those who are falsely accused of all kinds of evil because of him. Such comments are rarely challenged in our society. It is of course a gross misrepresentation. And wearisome.
    If someone were to say, “What? You belong to that group that keeps kidnapping, bombing and beheading people, running organised rape gangs and arranging honour killings for family members who deconvert?” to someone who described himself as a Muslim I’m sure your friends would be outraged.

    • Well said. Why do people take such lazy thinking so seriously? All it does is confirm the ignorance of the speakers. We don’t normally accept the authority of the ignorant.

  19. My dear brother (or sister?) ‘John’
    Thank you for speaking out. Voices like yours were sadly missing from the recent debates in the Methodist Church on this issue – though I understand this was not for want of trying to be heard!

    If I were one of those sitting near you in church I may be shocked initially but then I hope I would seek to come alongside you in your struggles

    God bless you-


  20. What baffles me, somewhat, is why there would be a self-description in the first place as *evangelical*, rather than merely Christian, which opens the door to centring on Jesus, on who he is, the Good News of him, rather than being sidetracked and focussing on human identities. Inevitably, there will be all sorts of responses that will seek to move the conversation away from Jesus.
    Does the general population, our friends and colleagues even, know what Christians believe about Jesus, which God we believe and our relationship (union), communion, with our Triune God for which we exist? To make him known.
    The epitome of gut-wrenching loneliness, isolation of not belonging, is the absence of God’s presence, not belonging to Him for whom we were created.

  21. John’s comments are spot on. One failing of this otherwise excellent post has been the lack of definition of a particular term: the meaning of the word “hate” has been assumed without any attempt to posit what exactly is meant. We live in the generation of Kingsleyian “words mean what I want them to mean” presuppositions. The classic example is “phobia”. How often have people been maligned on the basis of a term which is so often being used as a battering ram in order to force others to conform to the “general will” of the self-appointed guardians of the new absolutisms?

    • This is a good point – and the word ‘love’ needs even more work on it for definition, a problem with the title “Living in Love and Faith”.

      But both (perhaps, better, all) sides in this kind of argument have a tendency to use perjorative slogans against the perceived opposition, rather than engaging properly with substantive arguments. Among conservative christians the term ‘liberal’ is just such a word used to dismiss those whose views conflict with those of the self-appointed guardians of a certain theology.

      • ‘those of the self-appointed guardians of a certain theology’.

        Hi David
        Speaking in general, the ‘certain theology’ is what Canon A5 calls
        ‘The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.
        In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal’

        Note the ‘in particular’

        Phil Almond

  22. I, also, would thank John for what he has shared.

    I think that this debate is actually starting in the wrong place. “Living in Love and Faith” is not actually about Love in its fullest sense. The debate seems to be mainly concentrated about sexual desire and its fulfillment, and also ‘identity’ as masculine and feminine. I think it would be fruitful to step away from that detail and consider a bigger picture.

    John wrote: More than any other human thing in this mortal world, what I crave is companionship and affection. That relationship where I am uniquely special to one other person, who in turn is uniquely special to me. Togetherness. A life-partner.

    I am going to be bold to suggest that the assumption behind this is where the problem lies, and where the Church has failed. It is the assumption of our Modern world that we only find ‘companionship and affection’ and being loved in that relationship with ‘the One’, and with that being a sexually active relationship – which is the sex-obsession of our modern world. If it is true, that actually speaks to the extreme poverty of our other relationships, or, at least, their neglect. Why do our kith and kin not provide that which John craves?

    As I have shared before here, I married for the first time at the age of 61. So, this bit is from personal experience. If we are being asked to approve of SSM in order that the need of same-sex attracted people for intimacy can be met, I would suggest that we have a much bigger problem in our churches and in the world. I suspect that the number of people who are other-sex attracted who are not in that special relationship with one other is significantly larger than the total number of same-sex attracted people.

    Therefore, how we address the issue of same-sex attracted people should be part of how we consider how we provide for single people in general. Should our churches not be places where anyone finds companionship and affection, and where they can be led into that intimate relationship with the one who will give each “a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

    Would it not be the case that if we talked about creating rich and deep relationships within our church communities, and then put that into practice, firstly it would make the demands of celebacy much easier to bear. Our emotional needs would be met, even if we have to deny our desires. Just as important, our communities would demonstrate that we do not hate. Rather, people would say “see how these Christians love one another.”

    • Greetings David. You write: ‘“Living in Love and Faith” is not actually about Love in its fullest sense. The debate seems to be mainly concentrated about sexual desire and its fulfillment, and also ‘identity’ as masculine and feminine. ‘ Having been closely involved in the evolution and writing of LLF I do not recognise this summary at all. There is not a narrow focus on sexual desire or identity in this large and wide-ranging resource. They are there as part of a bigger picture you ask for. But part of any discussion about what human love means is how it is expressed and who we are as we express it with each other. So an understanding of desire and identity are surely very important?

  23. Dear John Smith
    My initial response was – not to respond – but here I am to say that I hear you.
    I think it is because of the heartfelt desire to be special to someone that you expressed.
    I wonder if you have read ‘Craving for Love’ by Briar Whitehead ? If you do read it, it may be helpful for you to read first Ch 12 in which she is very critical of both the ‘liberal’ and ‘orthodox’ sides of the church. If you read it from the beginning, you might be tempted to throw it aside (or delete it). Another helpful writer in the area of relationships is Leanne Payne. I’m re-reading her ‘Broken Image’ and (again) being very struck by her account of what she calls ‘Listening Prayer’ because I am not good at being still before God.
    As for why the church is breaking over this, rather than anything else – perhaps it is because ‘an enemy has done this’.

  24. It’s a bit late and I can’t link to original comment (Anyone a d following)

    “I thought it was iniquitous that Turing did not get some senior kind of honour for what he did at Bletchley Park,”

    It may have been so but he was not alone in receiving zero credit for work on decoding. The main engineer who turned theory into practice was Tommy Flowers. He built the key equipment out of his own pocket. Any recognition came well after the event. After the war some of these decoders ended up (it’s reported) dumped down a coal mine. He also invented the first electronic programmable computer, Colossus. Sadly, I never met him… above my pay grade in the 1970’s…. and in the early 70s it was still a national secret.

    My small point is that Turing’s non-recognition may have had nothing to do with his sexuality.

      • I think we need a bit more info here, from Ian and/or David. Turing’s conviction and chemical castration was an abomination. But as far as I understand it:

        a. Turing was quite open about his sexuality amongst friends and colleagues, and it didn’t hinder his work.

        b. The work was classified until the 1970s, well after his death, and after legal prohibitions were lifted by the 1967 act.

        I think Turing, along with many others, was caught up in the utter stupidity of the UK Government to abandon computing and mothball the work; if they had been wiser, then Oxford would have been the new Silicon Valley.

        • It’s interesting that you use the word ‘abomination’ to describe Turing’s abysmal treatment. That is the same word God apparently used to describe gay sex, with the punishment being death!

          One could argue from that that God’s punishment is an ‘abomination’?

  25. I agree with you that ‘church’ is not necessary, if by ‘church’ we mean an institutions or organisation beyond the individual.

    But in the NT, ‘church’ means the people of God. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are part of that people, and an integral part of discipleship is walking with others who are also following him.


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