How do we journey in grace and truth?

tumblr_mjfro63IVF1qfvq9bo2_r1_1280In early July, a large part of the meeting of General Synod will be given over to the final stage of the Shared Conversations on sexuality. In the run up to this, there has been a flurry of publicity and publication. One of these was a short book called Journeys Into Grace and Truth, edited by Jayne Ozanne, which collects reflections from people who very clearly identify as evangelical, but who are asking questions about the Church’s current teaching. I post here a review of the book by Tom Creedy, who is a member of the Vineyard movement, for a view ‘from the outside’. Vineyard themselves have been on a journey in debating this issue, and Tom is a member of the ‘millennial generation’, that part of culture so (it is claimed) put off the gospel by the present stance of the church.

While I’ve not met Jayne in real life, we’ve interacted on Twitter and Facebook in various ways. The topic of conversation is often the church and its attitude to LGBT people and theology. It was with some interest, then, that I noticed that Jayne has edited and self-published a short book of essays on this question, from and for an Anglican context. The timing of the book is deliberate for internal Anglican politics, coming as it does ahead of General Synod, and much of the coverage thus far has noted this, such as this article from Christian Today. I’m simultaneously fascinated by this book—I am an evangelical Christian who lives in the UK, and work for an Anglican organisation, and care deeply about issues of mission and inclusion—and yet also had a serious sense of deja-vu.

The context of this book is incredibly important. It sets itself up as being a ‘middle way’ type of collection, with contributions from a range of ‘leading evangelicals’ (two terms that need to be clarified, and probably shouldn’t, in my personal opinion, be used together) around the premise: ‘Is it possible to hold a positive view of same-sex relationships while being a biblically rooted evangelical? These writers believe so’. This is a very Anglican book—with contributions from bishops and other clergy, and endorsements from other bishops and some senior lay people. But this book offers nothing new, so far as I can tell, having read it through twice, and tried to be fair. 

The premise of this book is that it is possible to be a ‘biblically rooted evangelical’ and to also have a ‘positive view of same-sex relationships’. There is some clever disingenuity even in these two short phrases, and it would perhaps have been easier and more honest for the book to be mooted as it actually is, as a challenge to evangelicals and the Church of England to reimagine and revise its Doctrine of Marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry in church. In her foreword, Ozanne writes ‘The critical question for all of us, I believe, is to ask what is the Spirit saying to our Church today?’. This is absolutely true, a vital question, and one that cannot be answered in Anglican isolation any more than it can be discussed in abstract terms about ‘the church’ generally. It is unfortunate, then, that this book leans so heavily on books that have already been challenged. There is very little new argument here, with one of the key references being Jeffrey John’s Permanent, Faithful, Stable, which I personally found very difficult to agree with. On the ‘evangelical’ front, it was disappointing to note what one might see as ‘the usual suspects’ explaining a change of mind. Matthew Vines, whose own God and the Gay Christian has, in my view, an inadequate theological anthropology, and Ken Wilson, whose A Letter to My Congregation led to little but division and disharmony amongst other things, are two of the authors whose books are positively referenced.

The list of contributors is fascinating—even if the way that the author’s biographical blurbs are clearly set up to establish the ‘evangelical credentials’ of the writers—and reflects an interesting pulling together of leaders and writers. No doubt some evangelicals, particularly Anglican evangelicals, will be dismayed to see Colin Fletcher’s name in the book. But it is worth noting what he writes:

Now, let me be clear, I am not personally arguing for a change in the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. I still think that it is a strong position to defend theologically. However, what I am pleading for is an openness amongst evangelicals to discuss a range of differing beliefs to their own and to engage biblically with those who hold them.

This is both reassuring and frustrating—reassuring in that Fletcher is one of the contributors who cannot be counted as, bluntly, a fully signed up ‘revisionist’, but frustrating in that, again bluntly, many evangelicals have discussed a range of differing beliefs and engaged them. I’m reminded of Ian Paul’s blog, of Living Out, and a number of books I’ve mentioned or reviewed that can be found on my bibliography on this topic. It is a straw man to say that evangelicals aren’t open—we are, we’ve just found certain arguments wanting. I’d even plug my own ISRLC paper on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, which gives some more context on why Christians have a particular view of sexual ethics.

One chapter that I found particularly difficult to appreciate was one that has recieved significant media interest. Paul Bayes, currently Bishop of Liverpool (J C Ryle springs to mind as being in a different direction) has written ‘Open Table, Open Mind’, which is a passionate but ultimately flawed call for inclusion. He simply doesn’t make an argument. The biblical interpretation questions have all been engaged with in various ways—a robust example is the Vineyard USA Position Paper—and so I’m not entirely clear what Bishop Bayes is actually arguing for. I’ve written about the way that the Lord’s Table is a place of welcome and transformation—I’m not clear whether Bayes is asking for a rethink of Eucharistic thought in the Church of England, or if he is actually just asking for a revision of the Doctrine of Marriage.

Two chapters that do need to be carefully read by those of us who take a ‘non-affirming’ perspective, are those which are more personal and experiential. Marcus Green and Hayley Matthews write two separate chapters which do bring personal stories into the conversation. This is important, as are the stories of those who disagree with a revisionist stance whilst identifying as gay or same-sex-attracted like Sam AllberryWesley HillJonathan Berry, Rob Wood or any of the Living Out group. It is important to recognise the bravery of Marcus and Hayely in sharing their story—but stories alone, particularly as stories can lead us in a variety of directions—are not enough to change doctrine or practice. If we are looking to what the Spirit might be saying to the Church today, we cannot focus only on one narrative or one kind of story, other than Scripture.

One chapter that I did find helpfully provocative was ‘A Lifetime of Learning’ by Anthony Archer. Whilst Archer doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table, I think he is exactly right in his observation that

Over this particular issue it is doubtful whether further scholarship will aid the debate. In some ways the debate has already gone beyond one of biblical interpretation and become a matter of ecclesiology and church order.

I agree. I’m personally of the opinion that the scholarship is clear, and that the implications of this for Church order are also clear. I wonder whether the Church of England could learn from Vineyard USA, whose position paper on this topic gives clear direction whilst advocating for love. This, in tandem with the C of E’s historic understanding and application of Doctrine and polity, would seem to be a comprehensive starting point for moving forward rather than remaining mired in conversations.

Running through many of the chapters of this book is a question mark over whether this particular issue is important enough for schism. I think Wolfhart Pannenberg, a respected German Systematic Theologian has put it well:

Here lies the boundary of a Christian church that knows itself to be bound by the authority of Scripture. Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

Note that Pannenberg is not directing his comments against people who identify as LGBT*. This is important, because all people are made in the image of Godwhich has implications, but rather to those advocating certain things in the life of the church. We’ve already seen what happens when an Anglican-esque church abandons the biblical model of marriage, that ‘relevance’ does not equal growth.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 08.23.53As this review draws to a close, then, my fascination has fully turned to deja-vu. It is telling that this particular book is self published—it seems to add little genuinely new to the conversation. It is important to talk about these things—I do so on my blog and in real life often—but it is also important to be honest about what we are doing and what we are claiming. In my opinion, Journeys in Grace and Truth is a book of its time, and clearly targeted to an evangelical Anglican audience. I just hope that in the spirit of understanding and learning, for the sake of mission and ministry, this book will not be the only thing that people read.

As ever, I welcome comments, and have got a more detailed review, engaging with each chapter, on the back burner. I honestly wanted to learn something new from this book, for it to take the conversation on. I’m sorry to say that this isn’t that book.

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69 thoughts on “How do we journey in grace and truth?”

  1. Hi Ian. Thank you for posting this review (my first response has just vanished half edited – trying again here)

    Well I find it rather frustrating. Not because, to declare an interest, I am one of the authors. Nor the theological critique – which I have largely read before (it is not just Tom who finds little new here). It is those little digs and put-downs throughout.
    He first claims to detect a ‘clever disingenuity’ in the stated aims of the book. Disingenuity means: ‘lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere’. So zero for the editor and author’s motives then. Really? This honours no one.
    He says – ‘this book offers nothing new’. Who too? How does he know? No such collection has been put together before. He is speaking for himself? OK. But there are many in the evangelical world still looking for hospitable places to think this through and to hear the stories of others doing the same. This book is offered to them.
    Bizarrely Tom comments on ‘the way that the author’s biographical blurbs are clearly set up to establish the ‘evangelical credentials’ of the writers.’ Well of course – that’s the point isn’t it? That’s what book biog blurbs are for. I could have majored on my dog and love of cooking and gardening I suppose but what’s the point? It is a book by evangelicals for evangelicals. (we wrote our own blurbs by the way). But having already had a tilt at calling any of the writers ‘leading evangelicals’ this could sound like a familiar evo tactic in this debate – to suggest that these people may not really be who they claim to be – not ‘real’ evangelicals – or even ‘leaders’.
    ‘It is a straw man to say that evangelicals aren’t open’. Well this wasn’t actually said was it? (but not all are open actually. Vineyard folk will surely know that for other reasons ).
    ‘It is telling that this particular book is self published’. Telling what? – is Tom implying no ‘real’ publisher would touch it? But actually (as Tom was informed) it is not self published at all.
    ‘It seems to add little genuinely new to the conversation’. And was that its purpose?

    I’m afraid this review offered nothing new for me.

    • Hi David,

      My take from the review was that Tom’s charge of ‘some clever disingenuity’ was specifically directed towards:

      1) the disparity which he perceived between the stated premise being explored (paraphrase: can biblically rooted evangelicals have a positive view of same-sex relationships?) and the theological reference points employed by those whose arguments the authors have marshalled heavily in support of that premise.

      2) the stated aim of just a ‘positive view of same-sex relationships’ (which would be disingenuous if the authors’ arguments are actually making the case for something significantly more, namely revision to the Church’s doctrine of marriage).

      The book may well appeal to those whom you describe as the ‘many in the evangelical world still looking for hospitable places to think this through and to hear the stories of others doing the same’. They may even agree with it’s premise that ‘biblically rooted evangelicals can have a positive view of same-sex relationships’.

      That’s still very different from asking whether ‘a positive view of same-sex relationships is biblically rooted’, i.e, whether the bible is the primary source and origin (as the root implies) of a positive view of same-sex relationships.

    • David, thank you for commenting, and I’m glad you took the time to read it. It really is a privilege when writers engage with reviews!

      I’m sorry that the review offered nothing new for you – and that it seems to have caused offence. As I note/link throughout the review, there are a range of conversations already had, already done, and already dealt with.

      Regarding my ‘is it telling’ point, it is pretty telling. The market for this book seems to be posting it to members of synod and hoping some controversy ensues.

      If the purpose of the book was to NOT add anything new to the conversation, then it might have succeeded, but what would be the point of a book like that?

      If you are ever in London I’d love to chat through your chapter with you, first round on me, as I believe we share some St Johns Nottm heritage.


  2. I think he’s right, but the review sounds over-critical to me too.

    Tom’s main point may well be that this collection adds nothing new to the debate, and I think this he is probably right (I’ve not read it), it doesn’t look like it does.

    But, that wasn’t what the book was trying to do, it doesn’t seem to claim to be pioneering any new ideas or arguments, it wants to bring ideas already discussed into a more public domain where they can be read and discussed by a wider audience.

    That doesn’t sound entirely objectionable to me.

  3. To be clear, the book seeks to explore – as stated – why people have come to a ‘positive view of same-sex relationships’. it does not make the case for same-sex marriage, although some contributors do touch on this. I think it is disingenuous of Tom to imply that that is the book’s aims.

    To correct a couple of other factual errors, the book is not ‘self-published’ but published by Ekklesia and each writer wrote their own biographical notes.

  4. I am in a debate on viamedia on ‘Journeys in Grace and Truth’ and have posted this preliminary response on that website.

    ‘Journeys in Grace and Truth’ is a serious, earnest and personal compilation. It contains several lines of thought. These include:
    1 The passages and texts in the Bible which have been traditionally understood to mean that homosexuality is a sin do not, when correctly interpreted and understood, mean that. And there are Biblical passages and examples which indirectly or directly support that same-sex relationships are acceptable to God.
    2 Christians who have entered same-sex relationships clearly show the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, evidence by their orthodox beliefs (setting aside for the moment whether their convictions about same-sex relationships are true) and exemplary behaviour.
    3 Christians who experience same-sex attraction have, in some cases, had nervous breakdowns and even committed suicide because of the stress and agony of trying to lead celibate lives while asking God for grace.
    4 The personal experience of Christians who have entered a same-sex relationship even when they believed it to be wrong testify that their personal fellowship with Christ has not been affected.
    5 There are Biblical instances where the Church changed its doctrine on the basis of experience (e.g. Peter’s vision and conversion of Cornelius) and an instance (the Syrophenician woman) where Christ changed his doctrine on the basis of experience.
    6 There are examples from history where the Church has changed its view, e.g. the ordination of women and slavery.
    7 Evangelicals who have had doubts and questions about same-sex issues have felt inhibited from raising the issue for fear of being considered ‘unsound’.
    8 Evangelicals who experience same-sex attraction have felt they were regarded as second-class Christians.
    9 Evangelicals who experience same-sex attraction and believe it to be acceptable to God wished to be recognised by other evangelicals as fellow evangelicals.
    10 it is important to continue the conversations on this sensitive issue.

    I would like to comment on all these lines of thought but would welcome any comments on this list before I try to do so. Have I missed any line of thought? Have I not quite captured a line of thought?

    Phil Almond

    • Looks to me like a very helpful and comprehensive list, and it is very good that you are engaging with these arguments in that forum. A book setting out these lines of thought is helpful, even if they aren’t new.

      I’ve got some ideas about how I would respond to them, but I’d be very interested to hear how you would. It is hard, though, because it is difficult to feel that you are doing justice to someone’s deeply felt beliefs and experiences when the response takes the form of short remarks. Feels dismissive. Yet it is difficult to conduct the discussion in any other way.

      I think we need to keep bringing the argument back to Scripture and assert its priority over experience, and defend the orthodox reading from the new readings. The comparisons (slavery, women, gentiles) also need to be addressed to show why the parallel does not hold in this case.

    • “Christians who experience same-sex attraction have, in some cases, had nervous breakdowns and even committed suicide because of the stress and agony of trying to lead celibate lives while asking God for grace.”

      I’d love to explore why some who have taken the conservative praxis route (celibacy or traditional marriage) do end up with mental health issues whilst others don’t. Are there particular patterns of behaviour, theological process, moral compromise elsewhere, previous mental health history, familial experience etc that make one mental health outcome more likely than the other?

      That would be a fascinating piece of research, but it would require some intellectual and emotional honesty from participants. In particular there would have to be a genuine desire to move away from utilising individual anecdotes as a form of authority and rather to consider macro level outcomes as indicative of (multiple) causative processes.

    • “There are Biblical instances where the Church changed its doctrine on the basis of experience (e.g. Peter’s vision and conversion of Cornelius) and an instance (the Syrophenician woman) where Christ changed his doctrine on the basis of experience.”

      This demonstrates such a level of Biblical illiteracy that I don’t know where to start.

      Peter’s revelation was exactly that – a revelation from God about the way Jesus had fulfilled the ceremonial law which was then followed up by a practical example. The theology preceded the experience, not the other way round.

      As for the Syropheonician woman, where you get the idea that Christ “changed his doctrine on the basis of experience” I have no idea. I think this is more wishful thinking on your behalf in order to find some example of where Jesus changed what he taught rather than supported by the text in any meaningful sense. But by all means, exegete the encounter for us so we can understand where you’re coming from.

        • Peter/Philip.

          This book is little more than a modern-day stab at ad populum Tractarianism. I’m reminded of Tract XC, by which John Henry Newman sought to explain how the more moderate exercise of Catholic ritualism and beliefs was still consonant with the 39 Articles.

          For instance, Article 22 states:‘The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons (de indulgentiis), worshipping (de veneratione) and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing (res est futilis) vainly (inaniter) invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant (contradicit) to the Word of GOD.”

          It seems almost unbelievable now, but, concerning that Article, Newman argued that:
          1. as far as regards relics, a certain veneration is sanctioned by its tone in speaking of them, thought not of course the Romish veneration;
          2. the Article does not reject purgatory per se, but only the belief that it can redeem unbelievers from eternal judgment;
          3. as evidenced by calling upon the Communion of Saints to praise God, the Article does not entirely forbid invoking the saints to pray for us.

          By comparison, the authors of Journeys into Grace and Truth are now doing with scripture exactly what Newman did with Hooker.

          Even the publisher’s name via media connotes consonance with the ‘middle ground’ avoidance of extreme views, as promoted by Tractarians, like Newman.

          Those ‘via media’ aspirations can only be realized through a 21st century Elizabethan Settlement which (as much now as back then) has nothing to do with robust biblically rooted theological arguments and everything to do with the desire within the Church to achieve a social compromise at any cost.

          And, despite all this, they have the bare-faced gall to call themselves ‘leading evangelicals’!

          • “This book is little more than a modern-day stab at ad populum Tractarianism. “

            I don’t disagree.

            My comment in response to Dave Runcorn (above) was not to dissect the theological arguments in said book (as in previous posts, we seem to share much in agreement here), but to comment that this book doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that, although it wouldn’t be so blunt about it.

            To me it is a book with a clear and undisguised premise, marketed at an intelligent (if admittedly slightly cynical) time of the year when upcoming events prompt a wider public interest in the issue. Both sides do this and it is unfair to throw the accusations only one way. I disagree with the message and much of the theology within it, but that doesn’t make the book invalid.

            I am personally of the opinion that the most influential book written in this debate so far has been Matthew Vines’ work. I disagree with almost every conclusion and interpretation in it, most of which I feel to have been conclusively challenged, but without that work (and others that have followed it) I would not be as informed as I am, nor would many others.

            I can see the value in books like this, and feel defensive against those who would seek to be overly dismissive.

    • Dera Philip,

      You claim Jesus and God to have changed their mind with examples from the NT!

      Talk of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father makes no sense. The example given is the New Testamant (“NT”). Yet in the NT is says:
      “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13 verse 8
      “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1 verse 17

  5. The review does seem a touch critical, but I can well understand the frustration of reading yet more papers saying that what evangelicals really need to do is be open to discussing the issues. Evangelicals have discussed the issues till we feel like it’s all we’ve been talking about for years and we wished we could stop (believe it or not it’s the world that is obsessed with sex, not the church). It’s just the arguments put forward by proponents aren’t persuasive or ultimately convincing in their scriptural foundations.

    The pressure is only going to get worse though. Unambiguous affirmation of the non-objectionable nature of homosexuality and its moral equivalence to the heterosexual norm has now become all but a non-negotiable article of faith in Western culture. Non-discrimination has come to mean no freedom to voice or act on any negative view of same-sex relations, and the church’s narrow exemption from this new norm will look increasingly anomalous and hard to justify – especially with pressure from within as well as without. Depressing, but thank goodness our hope is in God and not in our acceptance by our culture or society.

    • Hi Will,


      And what Tom means by ‘clever disingenuity’ is the authors’ elision of the more discerning evangelical counter-arguments against their re-hashing of theological reference points derived from Jeffrey John, Matthew Vine et al.

      The appeal is for enough evangelicals on Synod to treat these theological viewpoints, at first sight, as a credible (If not invincible) alternative viewpoint.

      The constant appeal for ‘openness’ is for Synod to propose an acceptable via media which countenances that alternative.

      This book is as tactical a manoeuvre as conducting a survey which purports to show that the position of CofE leadership on same-sex sexuality is seriously out of touch with its membership. It’s another political lever.

      • You’re right of course. In a comment above I say the book sounds helpful, but actually if it fails to do justice to the published responses to the arguments it advances then it is the opposite of helpful, and is, as you say, essentially a hostile strategic manoeuvre. I suppose it is too late for, say, Ian, to publish a collection of decent responses?

        • Hi Will,

          In my view, for Ian to publish a collection of considered responses would simply shore up the book’s credibility as a serious contribution to the listening process.

          ‘Journeys into Grace and Truth’ shouldn’t be dignified with anything more than these cursory reviews until the authors decide to engage with the numerous hitherto unanswered theological challenges to their biblically untenable conclusions.

  6. I’ve read and re-read Colin Fletcher’s foreward to the book.
    I’m struggling with some of the implications of what I think the bishop is advocating.
    The bishop wants to encourage a robust biblical conversation about same-sex issues, which will create an area of common ground in which all Anglican evangelicals can respectfully agree to disagree. Is that about right?
    But one view that is not welcome on that common ground is the view that that the matter of same-sex blessings/marriage is a ‘first order’/’gospel’ issue. That is the position that the bishop is challenging, page xxviii. Have I got that right?
    On what basis can evangelicals argue for the definition of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman (which the bishop seems to want to retain, p xxix) if it is not a ‘gospel’ issue? If the traditional definition of marriage is merely ‘a strong position to defend theologically’ then it is bound to give way to other positions that are defended or fought for more strongly.

    • Having moved house I had my transfer of licence service this last Sunday and I was struck by the clear statement in the Declaration and Admission Service:

      The Church in Wales is a fellowship of dioceses within the Holy Catholic Church, constituted as a Provice of the Anglican Communion. It maintains the threefold order of Bishops, priests and deacons which it has received, and acknowledged as its supreme authority in matters of faith the Holy Scriptures as interpreted in the Catholic creeds and the historic Anglican Formularies. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making him known to those in your care?

      I, N, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds and to which the historic Anglican formularies bear witness; and in public prayer I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.

      … So the Holy Scriptures are its “supreme authority” in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation… and ever candidates swears that they believe in the Holy Scriptures.
      Yet “modernists” have for some time now wanted to down-play the importance of the Holy Scriptures and raise up emotion and experience in its place but none of that is even what the Declaration and Admission even says.

      • That’s true. Yet there’s truth in the doggerel which should be understood. Those who claim the mantle of ‘evangelical’ in the Church of England forget it seems that the Church is of England and as such its pretensions to be based on Scripture is disingenuous. It is an expression of the State, once a meaningful expression and now a few would attempt to reverse the rot of its own position by vain appeals to hear scripture together. As the State Church you are obliged to reflect the will of the State, that will has decreed that marriage as a reality must become fluid enough to include same sex unions, a reality signed into law by your own ‘defender of the faith’ and earthly head of your Church, so with all due contempt stop your whining and get with the program, or ‘separate yourselves’ because the N.T. never calls for reform but separation. God’s people must be born of God.

  7. Please Ian,

    This cheap taunting rhyme is utterly contemptible. For all the years that I’ve read this blog, I have never read a comment that has resorted to such a jeering tone,

    I would ask you to act quickly to preserve the mutual respect on all sides of this debate, that God has engendered through this blog and your ministry, Freedom of speech is neither freedom to provoke mockery, nor to diminish others, nor to caricature the spiritual challenges of others.

    • I’ve been away for the last couple of days, and did not see this ‘poem’ from someone who has commented before. (Moderation is of people not of comments.) I have immediately removed it, and the contributor will need to be approved before being able to comment again.

  8. Clive – ‘“modernists” have for some time now wanted to down-play the importance of the Holy Scriptures and raise up emotion and experience in its place’. This kind of sweeping generalisation is impossible to respond to on its own own terms. Can you offer any actual evidence? How do you know? On this issue fellow believers have apparently a different belief from the one you believe to be ‘biblical’. Are you assuming from this fact that they cannot be taking the Bible seriously and therefore must be relying on something else e.g. feelings? I can only speak for myself. In all I have written and spoken on same-sex relationships scripture is central. Nothing played down at all. That does not mean I am always right. But it has always been true that bible-centred Christians can and do differ passionately and painfully over what we believe scripture says. Well if that is true of you and me, I won’t accuse you of unworthy motives or claim your whole view of scripture is suspect. I will pray for a way of journeying together and to be a means of growing in truth and faith for each other – as we disagree ‘well’ in Christ.

    • Thank you David for your clear response, which is entirely reasonable and consistent with Jesus’ own approach to the scriptures he knew.

      Clive: it’s very worthwhile reading this book, and perhaps you might like to look at David Ison’s approach. Scripture does not exist in a vacuum but has to be considered in the context of time and culture. We have changed our views about other matters – artificial means of contraception is an example that David explores in his Chapter. And, as David also explores, Scripture is not one book but a collection of them and each book has a different context and culture to inhabit. Taking scripture seriously means taking it as interpreted – which is what the Church in Wales Declaration makes clear. Anglican formularies give quite considerable latitude for interpretation, and the formularies are by no means a closed canon. The debate about women in ministry has made that clear.

      What would you propose instead of the kind of journeying together that David (Runcorn) proposes above?

    • Hi David,

      You say: I can only speak for myself. In all I have written and spoken on same-sex relationships scripture is central. Nothing played down at all.

      Well, let’s look at the centrality of scripture to your contribution to Pilling.

      You wrote back then: ‘Now Jesus strongly affirmed the place of marriage. But he also insisted that a redeemed, gospel community must not only transcend such (bi-focused) social institutions but even renounce them.’

      Yet, if we are to harmonise the teachings of Christ with those of the apostles (and to do otherwise might even make the calling of all clergy questionable), the institution of marriage is not to be renounced any more than the responsibility towards one’s biological kin that St. Paul also mentioned to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:8)

      Yes, Christ was clear that the Kingdom of God would arouse opposition from the kin of believers ‘a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ (Matt. 10:36). however, for Christians to be renounced by their family doesn’t mean that church members should renounce the blessing of family life generally and develop in cult-like isolation: ‘Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.’ (Heb. 13:4)

      Again, in respect of supporting older family dependents, St. Paul doesn’t excuse their younger kin from responsibility on account of Kingdom priorities. Instead, he declares that: ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Tim. 5:8)

      Clearly, the binary marriage relationship that originated in sexual differentiation continues to be valid in the apostolic church. Yet, you probed: ‘Doesn’t a bifocused reading of Genesis 2 for human ordering in creation actually exclude any other kind of human relationships at all – friendship, community or society? There is only marriage on offer.’

      Well no. While marriage provided the first instance of friendship, community and society on a human level, marriage is only on offer for pairing of what was ‘in the beginning’ sexually differentiated and united by divine impetus. Platonic relationships are entirely beyond the purview of prohibitions inferred from the Genesis narrative and completely permissible.

      You stated: ‘Marriage as found in Genesis 2 is theologically, culturally and relationally a very long way from a Christian understanding of marriage.’

      Well, then it does seem strange that Christ himself harked back to the narrative, several millennia later, in the gospels, citing this unrevoked divine impetus wrought through sexual differentiation as the basis upon which a couple become, from God’s perspective, a permanent union.

      While Adam’s ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ declaration signifies equality, St.Paul echoes this type of Christ’s love for Church by saying: ‘In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Eph 5:29)

      So, contrary to your assertion, the Genesis 2 narrative remains consonant with a Christian understanding of marriage.

      Again, you wrote: ”Marriage, as introduced in Genesis 2, is far more than the union of two individuals. In ancient Hebrew culture it expresses a vocation to community. This is often missed. But can the language of bifocus express this truth at all? Or is society itself bifocused – and if so how?’

      Christ’s own words indicate that marriage is the vocation by which a man and woman initiate a new unit of biological kinship. This vocation to kinship precedes any consequent vocation to community.

      St. Augustine explained in the Good of Marriage: ‘‘there is good ground to inquire for what reason it be a good. And this seems not to me to be merely on account of the begetting of children, but also on account of the natural society itself in a difference of sex. Otherwise it would not any longer be called marriage in the case of old persons, especially if either they had lost sons, or had given birth to none. But now in good, although aged, marriage, albeit there has withered away the glow of full age between male and female, yet there lives in full vigour the order of charity between husband and wife’

      So, St. Augustine’s discourse from Genesis sees the good of marriage as comprised of:
      1) the begetting of children and 2) the natural society itself in a difference of sex. He readily accepted that a marriage might exist without begetting children, but not without the latter good of natural society itself in a difference of sex

      You wrote: ”Marriage now appears almost as an aside – ‘for this reason’ (e.g. ‘and while we are on this subject’). For it offers, as the founding expression of human relationship, a primary illustration of the life-fulfilling and life-giving companionship that all humanity is created for. Marriage of man and woman is thus ‘typical’ (Moore), and to be utterly reverenced as that. But what is typical does not rule out the atypical. As we have noted, no other relationships of any kind are acknowledged in this account but we do not draw excluding conclusions from that.’

      ‘For this reason’ is not an aside, it is an inference of what happens in marriage by the divine design explained in the foregoing account of Eve’s origin through and gift to Adam. In fact, Christ drew a conclusion from the implications of the Genesis narrative that prohibited divorce for any cause, as the trivialization of God’s intended permanence for marriage,

      So, why can’t we also draw a similar conclusion from the implications of the Genesis narrative prohibiting same-sex sexual relationships as the trivialization God’s intention for sexual difference (male and female) in marriage?

      Your position also implied that if same-sex relations are merely atypical of the Genesis model, they should not be viewed as contra-biblical.

      However, the sexual relations prohibited by scripture are not simply ‘atypical’ categories of relationships that Genesis does not address. If you consider that same-sex sexual relationships do not belong to the marriage category, you can’t later argue for the monogamous same-sex relationships to be very much of the same category as marriage and to be recognized as such. You can’t have it both ways.

      If a same-sex relationship is atypical, it does not merit our esteem or recognition as marriage. If it is of the same type as marriage, it is as much a divergence from the gender archetype in Genesis 2 as divorce ‘for any cause’ is a divergence from the permanence archetype.

      So, from Christ’s archetype of marriage in Genesis, we can apply the same principle of induction as He did to show that God’s position on same-sex sexual relationships is no different from His revealed will regarding divorce for trivial reasons: ‘it was not so from the beginning’.

      I have not read your contribution to Journeys. Nevertheless, in Pilling, your conclusion that: ‘Including Evangelicals find no grounds here for excluding the possibility of same sex relationships (that is unless any relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are excluded). Rather, the question is simply not addressed.’ is based on several assertions which, as shown here, do not stand up to a reasonable scrutiny for consistency with scripture.

      It might well use ‘biblically references’, but how could your discourse ever be described as ‘biblically-rooted’?

      • So David (Shepherd), let me ask you the same question I put to Clive.

        What would you propose instead of the kind of journeying together that David (Runcorn) proposes above?

    • Dear David and Andrew,

      The reason I haven’t answered your question is that your “question” has already been answered so I find it odd that you even asked it. Peter Ould June 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm has already answered the claim you have made of either Scriptural error or of God changing his mind, and I already showed that the same New Testament affirms that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God do NOT change their mind. I have read and listened to many Scholars and it is clear that the Scriptures give a clear view of marriage, and SSM is not marriage and not to be celebrated but is to be treated pastorally. I had four brothers, all of them have been divorced (I am the only one who has not) and my wife and I have consistently supported all of those involved. We have known divorce, we have known the difficulties created and have supported pastorally all of those involved (including children) but we have not asked for a service celebrating divorce or for a blessing of the divorce.

      Scripture, the “supreme” authority, does not prevent divorce, nor does Scripture, the “supreme” authority, prevent women priests (indeed the question of priests in the New Testament is an interesting one), and so the claim that Scripture allows divorce or women priests does not mean that Scripture can allow SSM when it has been consistently clear on the reality of marriage. Even polygamy is not accepted even in the Old Testament – See Deuteronomy 17 verse 17 as frowning upon Solomon’s behaviour – and Deuteronomy is even one of the Pentateuch books, the essence of the Hebrew and Jewish faith.

      • Clive – forgive me but that doesn’t actually answer my question at all, and Peter Ould does not either. So let me try again: What would you propose instead of the kind of journeying together that David (Runcorn) proposes above?

  9. Greetings David. Thank you for your contribution here – not least because since Pilling was published in Nov 2013 you are only the third person to offer a response to what I wrote that I am aware of! For those who do not know, I was asked to contribute a paper to the Pilling working group to introduce to them the journey and thinking ‘of Christians within the Evangelical tradition, holding a high view of the Bible, who have come to accept the place of committed, faithful same-sex relationships within the church, on the basis of (not in spite of) the teaching of scripture’. Foundational to my approach is that the Scriptures must be translated, read and understood, and their meaning grasped through a continuing process of interpretation. I also noted, ‘no evangelical makes this journey lightly. It is exploratory, tentative and often deeply unsettling. We have not been here before. Long held convictions are being challenged’.
    My (longish) piece was published as an appendix alongside a dissenting piece by Bishop Keith Sinclair –
    How to respond to you? Forgive me if this needs to be brief.
    You have gone to Pilling to test my claim to be someone ‘rooted in scripture’. It means that your piece is not a reliable summary of what I actually wrote. And of course you find what you are looking for. You find I only ‘reference’ scripture – but I am not rooted in it. Quite what that means I do not know. ‘Rooting’ is a metaphor. Do you mean you find my reading to be shallow, selective, distorted – or simply mistaken? ‘Disingenuous’ is the word used in the review of ‘Journeys’ above – which I still find offensive and that I think has no place in Christian debate. I regret you defend its use.
    Can you understand that I am not interested in entering a discussion on these terms? If you cannot find in my writing in Pilling or elsewhere, evidence that I am a serious student of the Word then I will not convince you in these few paragraphs. But an ‘oh yes I am’ – ‘oh no you’re not’ ping pong argument on whether I am biblically rooted or not goes nowhere and honours no one. I have taught in evangelical colleges on and off for 20 years (I speak as a fool) and for all my limitations one thing that has never been challenged is how serious I am about scripture. Whether, on one issue or another I have fully understood is another matter. I say in Pilling, ‘My confidence is not in the certainty of being right, but rather on the grace and mercy of God, before whom I have sought truth as best I can.’
    I think you quote my conclusions and offer your judgment on them without giving the arguments I use to base them on. It means readers will have to read my Pilling piece to come to a view on how you have read me.
    Your comments give the impression my whole Pilling piece was a radical re-think or even de-construction of marriage. It is nothing of the sought. Only a part of the piece was on marriage. It is part of a much wider reflection. Nor is it the focus of my piece in ‘Journeys’ which you say you have not read – the subject of this thread actually.
    I stand by my assertion that the only relationship on offer in Gen 2 is marriage.
    I am puzzled that you do not recognise the radical insistence of Jesus that commitment to the Kingdom must take priority over all earthly ties – ‘who is my mother?’ …. ‘whoever does not hate their family’, ‘leave the dead to bury their dead’ ……etc. I don’t think you have understood the point I was making there.
    It was Bishop Keith who argued in his Pilling dissenting piece that the creation itself is binary at all levels – male and female, light and dark, either/or …. etc. I have struggled to find any theological tradition that seriously argues this. It is not true scientifically, biblically or socially. It seems to me to be a deeply flawed and actually regressive notion.

    So we disagree David. And this is not the place to explore this at more length. But for the record I do not doubt from this that you are a man deeply rooted in scripture – and for that I am deeply grateful.

    • David,

      I prefaced my conclusion about Appendix 4 of the Pilling Report, which you wrote, with the remark: ‘I have not read your contribution to Journeys.

      For all I know, your chapter in Journeys might reveal a significant revision to the framing of your earlier arguments for the Church to have a positive view of same-sex relationships. I specifically used the phrase ‘biblically rooted’ because it was used in the post to describe the premise of ‘Journeys’: that it is possible to be a ‘biblically rooted evangelical’ and to also have a ‘positive view of same-sex relationships’

      You may well explain that this is not the premise which the book advances, All that I’m deducing is that if this is indeed the premise of the book and if your arguments are the same as for Pilling, then your discourse remains contradictory to that premise.

      You’ve also replied: ‘Rooting’ is a metaphor. Do you mean you find my reading to be shallow, selective, distorted – or simply mistaken?

      Well, quite frankly, I took the quote marks in the post at face value: that the phrase ‘biblically rooted evangelical’ was as much of a direct quote from Journeys as ‘leading evangelicals’.

      If it is a direct quote, then you’re better off posing your question about the meaning of the phrase to your editor who approved it., or, at least, telling us what’s meant by ‘leading evangelicals’.

      Regarding such comparisons, you’ve also responded: Can you understand that I am not interested in entering a discussion on these terms? and then, after a sketch of your evangelical credentials, you explain: But an ‘oh yes I am’ – ‘oh no you’re not’ ping pong argument on whether I am biblically rooted or not goes nowhere and honours no one.

      Sorry, but that’s not where I was going with this either, so I’m surprised that you’ve jumped to that conclusion.

      My reference to ‘biblically-rooted’ was not a broad-brush characterisation, but specifically directed at your discourse in Appendix 4. Yes, you can take umbrage and assume that it was a wholesale denunciation of your credentials. Alternatively, you could accept that what I wrote was what I intended to say. i’ll let you decide which inference is more reasonable.

      You also state: ‘You quote my conclusions and offer your judgment on them without giving the arguments I use to base them on. It means readers will have to read my Pilling piece to come to a view on how you have read me. The majority who comment here have read Appendix 4 of Pilling and the report is in the public domain.

      In the religious press, I’ve also seen quotes from Journeys and conclusions supportive of its premise. Those who read them will need to read the specific chapter or even the entire book to reach their own opinions. Readers of this blog are perfectly capable of making up their own minds about arguments presented here and they are ready to look up references to reports in the public domain for themselves (in the case of Pilling, freely downloadable PDF).

      You further maintain: Nor is it [marriage] the focus of my piece in ‘Journeys’ which you say you have not read – the subject of this thread actually. I stand by my assertion that the only relationship on offer in Gen 2 is marriage.

      Yet, my issue is not whether marriage is the only relationship on offer in Gen 2. It’s that you can’t have it both ways: If you consider that same-sex sexual relationships do not belong to the marriage category, you can’t later argue for the monogamous same-sex relationships to be very much of the same category as marriage and to be recognized as such. So, which will it be?

      While you’ve emphasised the Kingdom priorities exemplified by Jesus saying: ‘who is my mother?’ …. ‘whoever does not hate their family’, ‘leave the dead to bury their dead’, this is to the neglect of other scriptural principles (as in 1 Tim. 5:8 and 1 Cor. 7:10, 11) which emphasize that kinship responsibilities cannot be abandoned on account of supposed spiritual priorities.

      Also, I never suggested that creation consists of binaries. Instead, I simply applied Christ’s own induction from the Genesis narrative that God intends marriage to be expressed in a binary and permanent union.

      The theological principle here is founded upon what St. Augustine calls the good of faithfulness, (bonum fidei); to the exclusion of all others on either side. There has been no attempt on my part to extend this to a general binary principle of creation. so, that’s a straw man.

      Nevertheless, it is a special pleading to reject the other divinely bestowed good in marriage, which Augustine refers to as natural society (societas) itself in a difference of sex.

      Yes, we disagree, but not on the basis of a trivial ‘ping-pong’ accusations.

      Apart from encouraging the listening process, the HoB Pastoral Guidance states: The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.

      I have conducted myself here with integrity and it would appear that good disagreement is entirely consonant with valuing theological exploration and debate.

      Good disagreement allows clergy, like yourself to argue for a change. It also allows clergy, like Ian Paul, and laity, like myself, to dispute it. That’s very different from simply agreeing to journey together, while, for the avoidance of being caricatured as implacable or homophobic, rashly capitulating to countenance a positive view of same-sex relationships as one of ‘two integrities’.

      Apparently, despite the value that the HoB places on theological exploration, here is not the place for you to do that at more length. More’s the pity, when you think of St. Paul’s ministry (2 Cor. 10:5)

      As I said of the book, the appeal is for enough evangelicals on Synod to treat these theological viewpoints, at first sight, as a credible (If not invincible) alternative viewpoint.

      And you’ve proved that to be true.

  10. Clive. You have plainly missed the fact that I do not, in this book or anywhere else, argue for SSM. You are attacking me for something I have never defended.

    • David,

      I am not attacking you.

      I merely originally stated that Scripture is important for us as Christians because it is important for Jesus Christ whom we follow. I pointed out that we even swear that Scripture is the supreme authority in our Licensing service. I was then attacked for having said Scripture was important.

      However, I am not alone in seeing the importance of Scripture even though interpretting it can be difficult.

      Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn wrote this week in the Church of England Newspaper:
      “…. But this powerful voice of experience is becoming a more important driver and authority than Scripture itself in our ethical decision-making. The life of the Christian is to be fashioned by what God has revealed. We always have to make sense of our experience within some frame of reference and for the Christian that is provided by the teaching of Scripture. ‘Let it be to me, according to your word’ (Luke 1.38) was not an easy prayer….”

      Ruth Gledhill also wrote in Christian Today:
      Leading evangelicals in the Church of England have made one of their strongest stands to date in support of what they say is a biblical view on homosexuality.
      A background paper sent out to members of the Evangelical Group on General Synod warns: “The problem with being asked to endorse or make provision for sexual relationships outside of male/ female marriage is that unity is being placed ahead of a shared commitment to biblical truth as we have received it.”
      The paper cites the examples of Jesus and St Paul: “The never changing vocation of the Church is to be true to the gospel – even if it is counter cultural or at odds with the political philosophy of the time.”

      Please note the reference to”biblical truth”.

      So I am not attacking you, I am defending my faith and belief in Scripture no matter how difficult I find the interpretation. I swore an oath that I believe in Scripture as having authority.

  11. David R, Andrew, David S & Clive

    The “question” here that is ‘not being answered’ is not one about theological positions; clearly we’re all rehearsing the same arguments in these comments that we have under many previous posts and I hope no one minds me saying that its frustrating for all of us!

    The question being asked is about the way (or ‘a’ way) forward from that position! To my mind this is the next stage of this debate and so it’s right for David and Andrew to assert that the answers to this are less are than satisfactory, although they are being attempted.

    Personally I feel that the theological and scriptural arguments have been made, as have a lot of issues relating to tradition and practice, but the questions of “what do we do about it?” to my mind hasn’t been answered well enough at all.

    Does this book assist in that next step? Maybe.

    • Thanks Mat – that’s exactly it.
      Clearly there is A process in operation, and at least Ian and myself are part of that as we are both members of General Synod. But it’s clear that David S and Clive don’t think that’s really a way forward (and from things Ian has written, neither does he) so it would be really good to know what alternative they propose.

      • I have suggested a way forward in other places on this blog. I would like to see us:

        1. Acknowledge that there is no warrant in Scripture or theology to change the Church’s teaching on marriage

        2. Acknowledge that there are many in the Church who don’t agree with its current teaching, since this teaching was not followed by those ordaining.

        3. In the light of (2) agree that there should be no witch hunts or hounding.

        4. In the light of (1), actually live out the teaching that we have from here on.

        • Ian: that’s no way forward at all, but I can’t say I’m especially surprised. It’s simply imposing your view and doesn’t involve any journeying together. It is not what General Synod have agreed to (in for example the presentation around the Pilling report) and is not what we will be doing in York in ten days time.

          • Yes, that is a way forward, but if it is a way forward you do not like. You asked what I and others propose: this is what I propose.

            General Synod has not agreed a way forward; the Shared Conversations are about a process of mutual listening, to see if we are of a mind to reconsider the Church’s teaching position, which at present appears as though we are not.

            So at present, nothing has been decided—and hence in this book some proposals about a war forward.

          • It’s so good to see that you are approaching the shared conversations – part of the agreed way forward – with a mind to listen Ian. Again – no huge surprise.

          • Andrew, I am listening intently, and am constantly open to new insights which might make me change my mind. As yet, I haven’t found good reason, but I will continue to listen to those with whom I disagree.

            Are you also listening? Have you read Gagnon, Goddard, my own writings, Hays, Williams Paris, Wes Hill, and others? None of these were listed in the bibliography of the book, which I think is where the real problem lies.

            And will you continue to listen to me and give my view due weight even though you dislike my preferred outcome?

          • I was not asserting that no suggestions have been offered, merely that at the moment such suggestions seem unsatisfactory, or incomplete, or both, but I also acknowledge that this is partly because the process isn’t complete yet. We should also acknowledge that a resolution to this is never going to “satisfy” everyone and be honest about that too.

            It is really good to see Ian’s thoughts articulated in brief, but the four points highlight exactly what I was saying about incompleteness. You see, I agree totally with points 1,3 and (mostly*) 4, but point 2 raises many more challenges and questions that have yet to be fully discussed, and it is around that point where the real difficulties lie, at least to me.

            Specifically, my concern (as I’ve said elsewhere) is that if the outcome is that the church upholds it’s current teaching but in response only ‘acknowledges’ that many feel differently, we’re in exactly the same situation as we are now, aren’t we? Nothing changes if the full extent of point 2 is ‘acknowledgement’ alone.

            If anything, I think we need to be more explicit about it (and here’s where I would agree with Clive). It is only worth upholding the traditional teaching if there is intention and willingness to commit to it into action (which is what I think point 4 meant*)! It is one thing to hold different opinions, and to question the churches’ teaching, quite another to speak, act, minister and work in abject defiance of it, which is what’s happening right now. But what might that look like?

            In this respect at least I am in agreement with Ian. I do not think it’s unreasonable to say that the shared conversations seem to be favoring the traditionalist position, nor do I think this is the case because people aren’t listening to the revisionists and it can’t be dismissed as such. I think we have listened well, but found the foundations of your position unsustainable. The tension is because things are dragging on for long enough that those most at the forefront of the debate (on both sides) are weary and tired of saying the same things over and over again, so there is a tendency to be more blunt about it.

            Perhaps I am wrong, but as someone well outside the CofE, that is my perception.

          • Ian: as David R says below, the shared conversations are about mutual understanding. So I certainly have and want to read much of the material you name here. And I certainly want to go on listening to you and giving you due weight. That doesn’t mean that there can not be two integrities in this matter, just in the same way as there has been over women in the episcopate. You have, seemingly , ruled that possibility out already. That, I’m afraid, shows a lack of mutual understanding.

            I fully expect synod, in due course, to find some settlement in this matter, as it simply will not go away until that has been reached. Some, on both sides, will express dissatisfaction at that, just as they have over women in the episcopate. But the only way forward can be one where both ‘sides’ find themselves fully heard and fully respected. That is mutual understanding.

        • Andrew, I am genuinely delighted to read your commitment here to engagement. But I think there is a basic misunderstanding about the different points of view.

          The ‘two integrities’ approach is itself a proposed solution, and one that many find unconvincing. To reject that is not to misunderstand, and to label is thus is ruling out one possible outcome arbitrarily.

          • But hang on Ian, it’s you who are ruling out the possibility! You can’t have it both ways.

          • No I am not. I have told you my ideal outcome, and it is not ‘mixed economy’. It is not clear my view will carry the day, but that’s my view. We cannot enter the discussion saying that mine is not a possible outcome.

          • I am glad to hear that you are not ruling it out.
            Clearly the issue is not going to go away so I am afraid that a mixed economy is the only practical solution UNLESS you would prefer people that you disagreed with were no longer part of the same church.

          • Not at all Ian. That’s not my solution at all. It’s not actually what I want. It’s simply the compromise solution, the settlement that is the likely end.

    • Hi Mat,

      So, let’s look at what’s written in the guidance for the Shared Conversations: The Report itself did not attempt to analyse or decide upon all the scriptural arguments. Exploring the role of scripture, in ways which might enable those of differing views to understand each other and the underlying issues better, was recognised to be a task for the whole church, and shared conversations were the mechanism which the report recommended for such a process.

      On page 16, it states: Tolerance and capaciousness, though part of our history, can never be the last word if a church is to be true to the gospel. The question now testing members of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion is whether the current differences around human sexuality are of the kind which can be accepted as legitimate within the church or whether it is impossible for some to remain in the same church as others whose views are so different as to imply, as they see it, a radically different faith.

      So, it pre-empts that process to determine that because we’ve repeatedly aired our theological differences on same-sex sexual relationships, we’ve fully understood the implications of those differing views for the future of the church; and that we now need to move on to deciding on whether to accept this difference from current Church teaching as legitimate development, as something to be accommodated pastorally, or, for some, to decide whether it is or it sufficiently impinges on ‘first-order gospel issues’ as to be impossible for both sides to remain in the same church.

      All of this is part of ‘good disagreement’.

      Beyond exploring our theological differences, the other question that is being asked in the Shared Conversations concerns reception: What are the full implications of adopting these revisions, and do these implications add up to a legitimate development of the faith of the gospel as committed to us through scripture, tradition and reason?’

      Even if David R isn’t arguing for church liturgy to affirm SSM, others are.

      • I was simply sharing my observations, which come from well outside this process and the wider CofE, rather than attempting to pass judgement preemptively. To clarify, I am well aware my comments are conjecture and don’t mind being told as much. I find your quotes helpful too. As for your comments:

        So, it pre-empts that process to determine that because we’ve repeatedly aired our theological differences on same-sex sexual relationships, we’ve fully understood the implications of those differing views for the future of the church…….

        I don’t think I was disagreeing with this, was I?

  12. Hi Ian ‘Yes, that is a way forward, but if it is a way forward you do not like’. So it is not a way forward at all is it – unless it is ‘my way or the highway’. Of what use is it to claim it as such? And the shared conversations were not ‘to see if we are of a mind to reconsider….’ They were about seeking mutual understanding. They were not tied to outcomes in that way. That is a crucial distinction. As to seeking a ‘war’ forward – well I hope that is to prophetic!

    • Hang on a minute David: Andrew asked me what I would like to see as the outcome, so I said so. Are you now telling that that desire must be ruled out, because listening is the only thing that matters? In that case, what place is there in the process for those unpersuaded to move from the ‘traditional’ viewpoint?

      I am all for mutual understanding, and have worked quite hard to achieve this—though there is little indication that the most radical espousers of change understand the first thing about those holding traditional views.

      You appear to be proposing that a non-negotiable part of the way forward is that it keeps everyone on board. That has never been assumed in the language of ‘good disagreement’ which sees parting company as an option.

      But are you now ruling that out a priori?

    • David,

      Perhaps, you and Andrew are agreeing with what’s stated in the Shared Conversations guidance (cited above): The question now testing members of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion is whether the current differences around human sexuality are of the kind which can be accepted as legitimate within the church or whether it is impossible for some to remain in the same church as others whose views are so different as to imply, as they see it, a radically different faith.

      Ian’s response is as valid a way forward as yours. To think otherwise is ‘begging the question’!

  13. Ian we are taking across each other, not sure how you hear what you think you hear from me.
    Simpler to say – I am with Andrew.

  14. David. Thank you again for this discussion. I am always conscious how easy it is to misread and mishear on these threads. And when issues are deeply felt this is not an easy place to further understanding of each other.
    ‘Rooted in scripture’ is a phrase beloved among us evangelicals isn’t it? It is what we aspire to and what we unite around – even when we are working through disagreements.
    To test whether this can truly be said of me, as claimed in ‘Journeys’, you went to the trouble of re-visiting a longish piece I wrote in Pilling. We both referenced this report here. I am not as sure as you how many people have read it. On the basis of that you conclude that ‘no’ – I cannot claim to be ‘biblically-rooted’. I only make ‘references to scripture’. I asked you what you mean by the word ‘rooted’ and you told me to ask someone else. Er … I have not taken umbrage at all. You do not know me actually. But you might consider what a serious allegation it is to make of a fellow evangelical – calling into question a central life-time commitment as a Christian minister and teacher.
    It may not be your intention here but for folk like me this is a familiar tactic by conservative debaters. If someone’s whole approach to scripture can be called into question then there is no need to listen to their views on any specific topic in hand.
    But perhaps I have completely misunderstood you.
    Now I am genuinely sorry to frustrate you at this point (and apparently the HofBs?). I am now away for a few days – teaching the Bible actually. It is a large part of what I do. So it may be a little while before I can respond this thread. Blessings upon you my brother in Christ.

    • David,

      I appreciate that you’re away, but I’ll be brief (this time)

      My challenge was directly at what you wrote for Pilling. That doesn’t mean that your whole approach to scripture is being called into question.

      Look at Origen and St. Didymus the Blind. Despite their great contributions to the teachings of the Church, certain aspects of their teachings (or more specifically of their followers) were challenged and declared heretical.

      Although few would question their Christian credentials, (I consider them both to be great doctors of the Church), some of their doctrines were heretical and contrary to scripture.

      Of course, we are a long way from that world of anathemas, enforced exile and excommunication. We should be willing to debate respectfully the validity of anyone’s writings as much as the early Chiurch debated Origen’s.

      Calling into question your assertion that scripture is central to all you have written and spoken about same-sex relationships (you claimed ‘nothing is played down at all’) is not the same as calling into question your whole approach to scripture.

      I did the former and not the latter, describing aspects of your contribution to Pilling which didn’t tally with that assertion.

      No, I don’t know you, but your responses here form the basis for our understanding that you consider my challenges here on one of your discourses to be tantamount to calling into question your whole approach to scripture. You’ve said that much. In my book (and those of many others), that’s taking umbrage.

  15. David: “Of course, we are a long way from that world of anathemas, enforced exile and excommunication.”

    I see, so Ian’s repeated talk of ‘discipline’ and Peter Ould’s talk of people like me leading others on a ‘wide road to hell’ is just idle talk is it? Not so very far from “anathemas, enforced exile and excommunication” at all I’m afraid.

    • Andrew, I have no idea how to help you to listen more closely to what I say. I stated VERY clearly above, in response to your question:

      2. Acknowledge that there are many in the Church who don’t agree with its current teaching, since this teaching was not followed by those ordaining.

      3. In the light of (2) agree that there should be no witch hunts or hounding.

      I am not sure what more I can do to help you to listen better, other than to keep repeating it.

    • Andrew,

      My comparison was with Origen and St. Didymus the Blind. As you well know, anathemas was imposed by church authority as the formal exclusion from all participation in church community. To comment adversely on your beliefs and their impact on others doesn’t come close to that.

      If, by your standards, it is comparable, then what should we make of your retort which was typical of our exchange on 28th April: ‘Sadly David you sound just like the Pharisees’

      Yet, somehow, I resisted the notion that your reproving comment was but a step away from having me anathematized by the CofE leadership? I’d advise to take the same approach with Ian’s talk of ‘discipline’!

      The closest example to an anathema in modern times is when the Church of England declared that:
      1. The constitution, policies, objectives, activities or public statements of the British National Front are incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England
      2. Support for the political party concerned by clergy of the Church of England would be unbecoming or inappropriate conduct.

      For someone who fell foul of this declaration, the outcome of an ensuing CDM might well lead to a ban from exercising religious authority, but not from church membership.

  16. Ian: PLEASE pull the other one! You have talked about disciplining those who are in active same sex relationships soooo many times on your blog!

    Now is your opportunity to say if you repent of that. (And discipline is of course different to a witch hunt so don’t try to confuse things with different terms).

    Do you therefore agree that no discipline should be imposed upon clergy or laity in active same sex relationships? I doubt you can say this with any degree of honesty…..but I’m listening.

  17. Dear Ian

    Thanks for putting up this article and for patiently responding to the hail of ordnance flung back – centenary of the Somme or what ?

    Thanks for the link to the Vineyard USA paper – which is solid stuff and will take some time to digest.

    They are not called bishops – but they take their role as teachers and defenders of the faith once delivered pretty seriously.

    May God bless you and keep you

  18. Hi Ian,

    In the run up to the General Synod Shared Conversations, I wonder if you might write a post on ‘What is a first-order Gospel Issue?’

    I’m think of this in the broadest terms of Christian tradition. For instance, I’ve been looking at the Origen’s teachings.

    St. Epiphanius identified the following heresies in Peri Archon:

    The Son cannot see the Father, and the Holy Spirit cannot see the Son.

    The souls of men were once angels in heaven, and having sinned in the upper world, they have been cast down into this, confined in bodies to pay the penalty for their former sins.

    Disciples are urged not to pray to ascend to heaven, lest, sinning worse in heaven than they had on earth, they should be hurled down to the world again.

    The devil will return to his former dignity and rise again to the kingdom of heaven.

    The coats of skins with which God clothed Adam and Eve after the Fall were actually their human bodies.

    Adam lost the image of God when he sinned.

    The waters above the firmament are heroic angels, and those below the firmament are demons.

    I understand why these teachings were condemned as heretical. However, in terms of the current debate, I’m more interested in what particularly distinguishes these kinds of heterodox teachings as impinging on first-order gospel issues.

    What should we make of the Bishop of Liverpool’s distinctive phrasing (first-order)? Is it indicative of a belief in a hierarchy of impingement on salvation vs. the traditional dichotomy of ‘salvation issue’ and ‘things indifferent’?


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