(How) should we engage with Living in Love and Faith?

This week saw the publication of the material in the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project of the Church of England. The result of nearly three years’s work by a series of working groups under a coordinating group led by Chris Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry, it arose from the refusal by General Synod to ‘take note’ of a statement by the House of Bishops which prompted the archbishops to call for a ‘radical new Christian inclusion rooted in Scripture and historic Christian teaching’. It comprises a main book of some 420 pages (though the layout is very open, so it is not as long as it looks), a study booklet, and a whole series of videos which explore the issues around sexuality and faith from a wide range of perspectives. The content will take some time to digest; individual book chapters are available online to download for free, and you can also download a PDF the whole book [correction to my original post], though I have yet to receive my own printed copy.

In this piece, I don’t want to comment on the content itself (though I have read some sections, and from this sampling would agree with a view from outside the Church of England that it is something of a proverbial curate’s egg), but on the context in which we find ourselves. In doing this, I don’t want to be negative or disparaging; a lot of people have put an enormous about of time and effort into producing this, and I think it is possible that they have produced something unusual and even unique in enabling a level of respectful engagement that does not happen often in the discussions on this subject.

But I do want to be realistic, and so I am here offering five observations about the context that we are in, because I think these form, in their different ways, an understanding of the dynamic that will shape the outcome of future discussion.

1. We have been here before…sort of…

Depending on how long you have been involved in or following these discussions in the C of E, you might be thinking either ‘This looks interesting and new’ or ‘Oh no, here we go again!’ The reason for the second view is illustrated by the trail of reports (producing reports is one thing the Church of England appears to be quite good at) over the last 40 years or more.

  • The 1979 ‘Gloucester’ report on Homosexual Relationships from the Board of Social Responsibility was written as a resource for the House of Bishops, but was generally considered ‘too liberal’.
  • The 1987 ‘Higton notion’ at General Synod, which reiterated a ‘traditional’ approach to sex and marriage, and was passed with a clear majority.
  • The 1989 ‘Osborne report’, chaired by June Osborne, now bishop of Llandaff, which was the first to incorporated the testimony of gay Christians; it was not published, but the report was leaked in 1990.
  • 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality, a short document from the House of Bishops which I well remember debating in theological college when in training, which remains the current statement of the bishops, and it the expression of the teaching of the Church which ordinands are (in theory at least) asked to assent to when entering training and at the point of ordination.
  • 1998 The Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 again stating a ‘traditional’ view.
  • 2003 The creatively title Some Issues in Human Sexuality, an extensive and theological exploration (which I remember debating in Synod), which set out five basic positions that the Church might adopt, noting that they were mutually incompatible and that the Church needed to settle on one or the other. Richard Harries, then bishop of Oxford, introduced the discussion by noting that Anglican theology was not based on a ‘three-legged stool’ of Scripture, tradition and reason but that tradition and reason offered ‘hermeneutical lenses’ through which we read and understand Scripture.
  • 2005 The House of Bishops’ pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships, in response to the introduction of CPs in law, which Andrew Goddard at the time thought would lead them into an impossible situation.
  • 2013 The Pilling report, from which Keith Sinclair, the bishops of Birkenhead, dissented.
  • 2014 The House of Bishops’ pastoral statement following the introduction of ‘equal’ (same sex) marriage in 2013, which again reiterated the inherited, current doctrine of the Church, citing the range of documents back to the 1662 BCP which articulated that.
  • 2016 The Faith and Order Commission report on Men and Women in Marriage, which does not appear to have been discussed very much as far as I can see.

Some of these, together with evangelical responses to them, can be found on this listing of historic documents.

The question from one ‘side’ of this debate is: will LLF be just another talking shop with no action, when it is action that is needed? And from the other side: will LLF be just another attempt to slide into a ‘liberal’ position despite the clear teaching of Scripture, and the largely unanimous view of the church in history and around the globe today?

In his fascinating review of the material at Living Church, retired Oxford professor Oliver O’Donovan does appear to think that this approach might be something genuinely new:

The first thing to understand about Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is that the conception is quite different. To confront the stubbornly unyielding disagreements on sexuality and marriage, there were good reasons not to follow the classic pattern. We face an emotionally fraught issue resistant to any kind of “expertise,” a synod entrenched in opposed positions, a church feeling constantly wrong-footed by a morally censorious society. The strategy, shaped by the courageous missionary and pastoral ambitions of the two archbishops, was to widen the discussion.

The question is: if keeping the discussion narrow in the past led to little agreement or resolution, what will be the effect of ‘widening’ the discussion. As O’Donovan goes on to note, the effect is actually to complicate the discussion—which might be necessary to give due respect to the different issues involved, but does not look very easily as though it will lead to clarify, unity or decision.

2. The timing could hardly be worse

The LLF material was originally planned to be published in June 2020, but was delayed because of the restrictions and challenges the came with the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a quite understandable feeling that, given the work that has been done, further delay could not be justified, and of course there is the constant pressure from those who think that the possibility of further change is just being ‘kicked down the road’ or into the long grass (can you do both at the same time…?).

The ambition of the project is that the ‘Next Steps’ group will be able to propose a way forward from November 2021, and that there will be some sort of proposal brought to Synod in 2022. But can these challenging issues really be discussed remotely over Zoom? If not, when are we likely to have the time, energy, resources and opportunity to have sensitive discussions about such a controversial issue? I would be surprised if anything much could happen before June 2021—though I could be proved wrong. I know that some diocesans are not confident of engaging with the material much before next autumn. Most clergy I have talked to simply shake their heads at the possibility of discussing this any time soon.

And what does the timing look like for the Church of England as a whole? Prior to the beginning of lockdown, many dioceses were looking into the abyss of long-term, seven-figure deficits, and needing to take radical action to address these financial problems. The challenges of the pandemic, which has seen unplanned giving fall dramatically, has exacerbated this. Immediately after Stephen Cottrell’s translation to York, Chelmsford diocese were talking about making around a quarter of their clergy posts redundant, and most dioceses are now looking hard at both their central staffing and ministry numbers.

In addition, we have the question of historic sexual abuse and safeguarding practice to deal with, as highlighted by the IICSA report on the Church of England.

And at a local level, the reconfiguration of pastoral practice forced on us by the restrictions of meeting in our buildings has, in some places, barely begun. Whilst some church leaders enthusiastically engaged with the challenge of moving to ‘online church’, with another lockdown and restrictions likely to continue well into next year (the possibility of a vaccine notwithstanding) continues to be a massive drain in time, energy and resources.

A large part of me feels that we need this debate on sexuality like a hole in the head.

3. The antagonism of ‘conversation partners’ is vitriolic

Four weeks ago, in anticipation of the publication of LLF, Simon Butler, who is Prolocutor of the House of Clergy in General Synod, commented on IICSA and linked child sexual abuse to the doctrine of the C of E on marriage. He praised those in the evangelical tradition who had changed their position on sexuality, but contrasted them sharply with those who support the Church’s current teaching:

Other evangelicals within General Synod, effectively kicked out of the Evangelical Group in General Synod (EGGS) for simply wanting to explore a line similar to Runcorn’s, have coalesced into a new group in which a different, honest expression of dissent can be aired, within a caring atmosphere far different from the stifling atmosphere of EGGS which, over my twelve years as a member, became increasingly reminiscent of a Soviet-style party meeting. It gives me no pleasure to admit I often felt afraid.

This comment, made by someone whose role is supposed to be representing clergy in Synod, about fellow Synod members, is at best disingenuous, and at worst shocking. I suppose it is one step better than calling us all Nazis, but it feels like a small step. In reality, the leadership of EGGS exercised great caution and refused to make EGGS a closed group; they showed hospitality to dissenting voices, even when those voices tried to dominate discussion, interrupting other people speaking in meetings and heckling. But it was clear, from an informal survey, that around 95% of the group happily accepted Church of England teaching on marriage and sexuality. Given that the vast majority of both evangelical and mainline scholarship has not been persuaded by attempts to re-interpret the biblical material, it was not unreasonable to clarify what an evangelical understanding of sexuality looked like. Other theological traditions are available!

In the last week or so Jayne Ozanne, a member of General Synod and high-profile campaigner change, has been reaching for the language of ‘abuse’ and criminality in the discussion about the Church’s doctrine on marriage. In response to an article about ‘homophobic’ Christian students and churches in Oxford, she commented:

(In the article, there was an account of a meeting with a group of celibate, gay Christians from St Aldate’s church, who exhibited the ‘worst kind of homophobia’ by being kind whilst still believing in the Church’s teaching that marriage was between one man and one woman. ‘I felt loved and abused at the same time’.)

On a Facebook group, in response to a call to mount an IICSA-style enquiry into the Church’s treatment of gay people, Jayne comments:

Really agree Martin, but personally I think it should be a public enquiry like IICSA led by a QC. I have been talking to certain folk about this…

These two are not voices from the margins, but from people who have been pretty much at the centre of the discussions in the C of E. LLF is seeking to build bridges and encourage serious and respectful discussion—at a time when leaders on one side are comparing those on the other side to murderous autocratic dictatorships and want to see them criminalised.

4. We have bigger issues to resolve

I had a fascinating conversation with an online friend on Facebook about a popular expression of God’s love and judgement in a leaflet, which he found absurd. He is an Anglican cleric originally from London who decided he was a universalist before he began ordination training. (There is no need to name the person, but he posted publicly so I don’t think that he is shy in his views). In response to some comments about ‘an abusive God’, I asked another person ‘Is the God of the NT abusive?’, to which my friend replied:

You didnt ask me but I would say that frequently in the NT, God is described in ways that most right-thinking people would now regard as abusive, yes.

I then followed up with a more specific question: ‘So do you think the Jesus of the New Testament is an abusive religious leader?’

Yes. I think that some of the words attributed to Jesus by the NT writers are abusive from today’s perspective. I see them as reflecting human understanding not God’s. To a large extent that may be the perspective of the writers but even if we knew for certain that Jesus said (and meant) everything attributed to him, I would still say that if it sounds abusive, it is abusive and reflect’s Jesus’s human understanding not his divine.

While I’m sure that sounds heretical and may be problematic in some ways, there are precedents (Jesus telling a gentile woman to go away and her challenging him. I know that’s debatable but isn’t everything?!) And it’s still less problematic for me than ascribing abusive behaviour to God.

Now, there are any number of directions we could go in exploring this theologically—can we separate the divine and human nature in Jesus? Can we be so confident that the gospels writers distorted the teaching of Jesus so badly? If we cannot know who Jesus is from the New Testament, can we know him at all? (On the popular reading of Jesus being racist in response to the Syro-Phoenician woman, see my exploration here.)

But for the purposes of this article I simply want to note that my friend and I stand on opposite sides of a very large theological chasm. If he thinks that the teaching of Jesus we find in the NT is ‘abusive’, how are we ever going to agree on the question of sexuality and the doctrine of the Church?

To change the metaphor: it feels as though we are trying to build a second-story extension on a house whose foundations are crumbling to the point of being almost non-existent. Oliver O’Donovan hints at this rather serious problem, though in a reflective, Oxford-style way of speaking, when he points out one of the omissions of the LLF book:

First, of the various complaints that may be raised against LLF from the conservative side there is one that I would take seriously, which is the way it talks about God. The theological matrix is familiar enough from church documents and homilies of these times: Love is the sole name of God, and “whoever lives in love, lives in God.” The Bible is a book about loving community, injustice is the sole sin, and the Eucharist the sole sacrament. Though undeniably inspired by scriptural and especially Johannine sources, the presentation of God is troubling for its loss of mystery and tension.

God as hidden, God as truth, God as judge: those warnings about the distance of the divine from the human cannot be ignored without the knowledge of God collapsing into a kind of consolatory knowledge of ourselves. With the loss of depth in our conception of God, of course, there goes a loss of depth in self-knowledge. Where there is no “Repent and believe the Gospel!” — no narrow way to enter, no cross to take up — the individual subject settles down to become a unit of society equal to all other units; “every human being regardless…,” with no challenge to self-discovery. What an older generation called existence, that is, the unique and incommunicable demand of living in coherence with oneself, disappears from view.

If our understanding of God is not central to our understanding of both who we are and what God calls us to, I think we have a problem.

5. There is no obvious end-point to which we can all assent

I was involved in a Zoom discussion about LLF on Tuesday with some members of the group and others who have a keen interest in its outcome. In response to discussion about listening to different views, I pointed out that the discussion in the C of E has, probably for decades, not really been about evaluating different views, but about whether the different views are in any sense reconcilable. Can we live in ‘good disagreement’, agreeing to disagree on this issue?

I feel very clear that we cannot. It might just be possible to live in a Church which, in some parts, does recognise and value the ministry of women in certain roles whilst, at the same time in other parts, does not recognise that ministry. Possibly. But it is simply impossible to, at the same time in the same institution, both celebrate certain patterns of relationship as the wonderful gift of God which teaches us about the nature of his relationship with us, and alongside this believe that it is a sinful pattern of relating to which the right response is a call to repentance. In fact, at one point the LLF book acknowledges this:

When we consider the experiences of other Christian churches, we find three broad approaches to questions of sexuality and marriage. One approach maintains the Church’s traditional teaching but stresses listening to and walking alongside individuals who live differently. The Church of England’s current official approach is similar to this.

A second approach permits local churches to respond in different ways. For instance, some might bless or conduct same-sex marriages, while others might continue to view them as wrong. One question, however, is whether this is possible without changing church doctrine, liturgy or law. Can a church bless or marry a same-sex couple while teaching marriage is between one man and one woman?

So a third approach is to change the church’s doctrine of marriage.

There really is no ‘middle’ way—and (as we have seen in the Anglican Church in the USA), if the Church does changes its doctrine, it would not be long before those who held to a traditional view would be prosecuted and expelled—probably for holding to teaching which is ‘abusive’.

Having reached the end of this longer-than-planned comment, I can understand if some people infer that I am suggesting we should not engage in the LLF process. I don’t think I am saying that. I will be reading the material, and offering comment and evaluation on the content, as well as contributing to resources that might help people address the issues.

But I want to be realistic about what might be achieved. O’Donovan comments:

LLF deserves to succeed. Its work has been done painstakingly and generously, and if it elicits the kind of engagement it seeks, it cannot help but change the mood.

I hope that part of that change of mood is to recognise the foundations that need rebuilding, so that the end result is a Church which is more faithful to its calling—its worship of God and its testimony to the world.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2.9–12)

Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

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

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

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

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

696 thoughts on “(How) should we engage with Living in Love and Faith?”

  1. Quote: “But it is simply impossible to, at the same time in the same institution, both celebrate certain patterns of relationship as the wonderful gift of God which teaches us about the nature of his relationship with us, and alongside this believe that it is a sinful pattern of relating to which the right response is a call to repentance.”

    Maybe. But the Church of England has in fact been doing this for many years (decades) with respect to people who have remarried following divorce. For some, remarriage is theologically an impossibility, and is in fact adultery. For others, not the case. Yet we live together…

    • But that was because the argument was made, and accepted, that the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the NT do in fact envisage the possibility of remarriage after divorce. There is therefore no special group in the Church, officially recognised, who believe this is sinful and who are allowed to enact C of E discipline over those who remarry.

      In other words, there is no official acceptance of the two conflicting views. The Church has one view, even if some members protest against it.

      • Clergy have the right to refuse to marry someone who has been divorced. So there is official acceptance of two views. More to the point, the church does include both people who would celebrate such a marriage and others who would believe it is sinful.

        • But clergy do not have the right to publicly call for repentance; there is not official acceptance of two views, but official recognition of dissent.

          And suppose we officially had what we unofficially have now, churches where gay relationships are affirmed, and others which are not. If you read Jayne O’s comments and the Oxford piece, I think you can see how well that would hold up.

          • I think it would be better to recognise officially what we have anyway unofficially. (This is, in any case, how acceptance of divorce, use of a variety of liturgies, and variance in clergy dress during services came about).

          • But what we do unofficially is denying the doctrine of the Church. So to recognise that means changing the church’s doctrine—away from it historic position, away from the global majority view, and I don’t think that can happen without severing our connection with Scripture.

          • Jonathan, your complete ignoring of whether situations are moral or fair or not is chilling. Many things are facts on the ground. Many of those facts on the ground cause intense harm. Yet you attribute authority to things merely because they are facts on the ground! Facts on the ground by definition will include things that are anything from excellent to diabolical. So I am very interested to see how you’d justify your stance.

      • Easier divorce and gay rights are linked. At some point in the 20th century autonomy + consent became the accepted framework for understanding sexual ethics. The 2% homosexual minority benefited the 98% heterosexual acceptance of serial monogamy (and subsequently any form of consensual sex). Without a return to a pre-sexual revolution understanding of heterosexual relationships and norms – including a low tolerance of divorce – the chances of the “traditional sexual ethic” being understood to be anything but homophobic are zero to none.

        • Exactly. They are part and parcel of the same unChristian package and programme, linked to the 1960s legislation.

          The whole view espoused by Jonathan Tallon that there are different ‘views’ is a clear nonstarter. What on earth does ‘views’ mean? It is well established that this meaningless word can be used for everything from hard-won research conclusions to cherished selfish wishes: from the most objective to the most subjective. Unless proponents can get round that huge problem, their stance is doomed to failure.

          • Absolute nonsense. Everybody understands what the term view means. Inter change it with worldview, informed opinion, understanding of,… and several other phrases and I think you will get the hang of it ok.

          • Nonsense. ‘View’ can be either informed or uninformed. Both are frequent. And it makes all the difference.

            Think of a radio phone in. We are in a culture where everyone has their say. There is no gradation according to how well you know your stuff.

            Many a radio phone in could have been considerably shortened by looking at the facts and stats first up. Indeed, it is not clear that any other approach is legitimate; and once this free for all is everywhere then people assume it is somehow ok.

        • Lambeth 1930 and the acceptance of artificial contraception is where you need to start in understanding the break from traditional Christian views about human sexuality and co-creation with God. Break the link between sex and procreation and the door is open to abortion, divorce and remarriage and, ultimately, homosexuality.

          • Time then to ensure that rescinding that acceptance gets on the next Lambeth conference agenda.

            The problem is that the RC church has the same issues whilst not being in favour of artificial contraception. So how does that work?

          • The problem is that the RC church has the same issues whilst not being in favour of artificial contraception.

            It doesn’t, does it? The Roman church’s doctrine is completely unambiguous on the questions of abortion, remarriage and, ultimately, homosexual acts.

            Unlike the Anglican church’s, which is a total confused mess.

          • What? are you saying that no Roman Catholics are divorced and re-married? What about the whole annulment system?
            And there are no RC women who have had abortions? And no Roman Catholic LGBTi people?

          • What? are you saying that no Roman Catholics are divorced and re-married? What about the whole annulment system?
            And there are no RC women who have had abortions? And no Roman Catholic LGBTi people?

            I’m saying exactly what I wrote.

            The Roman church’s doctrine is completely unambiguous on the questions of abortion, remarriage and, ultimately, homosexual acts.

            Unlike the Anglican church’s, which is a total confused mess.

            (Actually you do have a point: it’s not completely unambiguous, but the annulment system is a small wrinkle compared to the utter incoherent chaos of the Anglican mess. So no, the Roman church does not suffer from the same issues of total unclarity and insecurity about doctrine in these areas that the Anglican church does.)

          • Ok time to ensure the Anglican Church rolls back the clock pre 1930 on the issue of contraception.
            And, as I have said several times before, time to campaign for making homosexual acts illegal.

    • Exactly. But the unmentionable D-word is a worse reality than the other. It is quite chilling. And it is associated with Jesus’s best attested saying (and with protecting poor deserted promise keepers who would otherwise be condemned to a living unresolved hell without end). That’s why I don’t get your point.

      It’s a bit like saying that the facts on the ground are that MPs abuse their expense accounts, ergo it is fine to abuse your expense account. How do facts on the ground (or mores) make something fine? The leap in logic is bewildering.

      That sort of ‘argument’ is often found, but surely not among thinkers of a decent calibre?

      • You are simply missing two points here Christopher.
        1. There are those in the Church who will not agree to the re-marriage of divorcees in Church. They conscientiously object to it. No one is asking them to be involved with it – though naturally they will be aware it is happening in the C of E. But those who take quite opposite views on the matter are able to exist within the same Church because of the systems that have been put in place.
        2. People in same sex relationships have been accepted in the Church. The Pastoral Statement by the House of Bishops makes it very clear:
        “The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship.”
        You seem to misunderstand the nature of the ‘facts on the ground’. The Church welcomes those people in same sex relationships who are not abstinent. I can’t see how that position can now change.

        • Which Church? No-one can agree with you that the world’s 4th largest denomination can be called ‘the Church’. But even it it could, the proportion of its life for which it has done any such thing is a vanishingly small minority. Why is the minority to be preferred to the majority?

          In any case, you keep using the incoherent word ‘views’ which renders what you say null.

          Further, you treat this as a matter of conscience (and conscience is very important) when it is a matter of coherence.

          • Oh, and as a matter of fact, it’s the House of Bishops who treat it as a matter of conscience. See the quote I provide above.

          • Well – I made 4 points at 7.25. None of which you addressed. As readers can all see. The entirely minor point you make about the Bishops was never in question.

            As for ‘missing the point’, if you are suggesting that there is only one point in total, then you thereby lose the argument, since everyone knows there are several.

          • It’s very clear that you miss two significant points Christopher. One about the co-existence of opposing views about divorce. The other about the co-existence already of opposing views about those in non celibate same sex relationships. People in these relationships are to be welcomed. It’s not a minor point, but a significant one. I’m glad you don’t dispute it. If you see it as a minor point, then I have no idea what you are making such a fuss about.

          • Notice how all these ‘justifications’ rely heavily on use of the word ‘view’. Once that leaky platform is removed, they encounter trouble.

  2. “1998 The Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 again stating a ‘traditional’ view.”

    The broad sweep is ‘traditional’, and appeal to 1.10 that has been a familiar cry from other areas of the Anglican Communion. They tend to forget what is actually written in two places of the Lambeth 1.10 document. Firstly the resolution says that “We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ; “. It’s not possible to listen to the experience of homosexual person and at the same time tell them they aren’t allowed to have any experience.

    Secondly, the section on 1.10 from Lambeth 98 is clear:

    “We must confess that we are not of one mind about homosexuality. Our variety of understanding encompasses:

    – those who believe that homosexuality is a disorder, but that through the grace of Christ people can be changed, although not without pain and struggle.
    – those who believe that relationships between people of the same gender should not include genital expression, that this is the clear teaching of the Bible and of the Church universal, and that such activity (if unrepented of) is a barrier to the Kingdom of God.
    – those who believe that committed homosexual relationships fall short of the biblical norm, but are to be preferred to relationships that are anonymous and transient.
    – those who believe that the Church should accept and support or bless monogamous covenant relationships between homosexual people and that they may be ordained.

    In short, we have been living together in difference for a very very long time, and Lambeth 1.10 acknowledges this.

    Living together with difference is in the DNA of what it is to be the Church of England and Anglican. I think any response to LLF will have to grapple with this and find a creative way of going forward with this knowledge.

    • Hi Andrew,
      The fact that the C of E has been living together with difference for a long time is neither an argument for or against continuing to do so. The issue is whether those wishing to follow the teaching of scripture should have been accommodating differences on these issues or should not have been.
      The teaching of scripture about false teaching of a primary nature is that those who are not guilty of it should separate from those who are. See Rom 16:17, 2 John vv10-11. Point me to someone – no matter what their views on this issue – who believes that the issues being discussed are secondary.

      • But all sides believe that they are following scripture. The differences are over how to interpret and how to apply. Have a look at Living in Love and Faith chapter 13.

        • Your point doesn’t change mine. I made the point that no-one thinks these issues are primary – because they aren’t – they are about what type of God God is – and I explained that the Bible doesn’t mince words on how people should respond to teaching which they conclude is unfaithful on primary issues.

          • Bummer – I said the opposite! I meant to say “No-one thinks these issues AREN’T primary – because they ARE”. Apologies.

          • The trouble is that every theological issue can be characterised as primary, because it links to God (otherwise it’s not theology), and God is primary. Whether women can be priests was primary, whether divorced people can remarry was primary, whether contraception is wrong was primary, whether kneeling to receive communion is idolatry was primary, what day to celebrate Easter was primary…

          • Jonathan, are you sure you don’t believe in primary and secondary issues? Do the following two issues require the same response?

            – The Archbishop of Canterbury spends church money building casinos
            – The Archbishop of Canterbury gets booked for speeding on the way to work (which would be an achievement because the Archbishop lives where he works, yes?)

          • I agree with you Ian as you know – even if I am not yet aware of the heart reasoning behind your support for marriage always including a man and a woman. I was just seeking to point out that no-one can (even though wrongly) say that the right for people of the same sex to marry is a fundamental issue of justice and then at the next minute act as if it isn’t fundamental – suggest that people agree to disagree.

        • Scripture is very clear on marriage and sexual relations, what we need to remember is that only God has the authority to judge us. The CofE needs to split into three, those who are okay with same sex relations, those who aren’t but are okay with women clergy & Bishops and those who believe in the traditional marriage and male only clergy and Bishops.

          • I agree- as ugly as that may sound.

            The logic that men and women are functionally the same and should therefore have the same function in the same roles in the church is the same logic then undergirds the belief that two men or two women can marry.

          • Hi David, if you read LLF it will point out the multiple scriptural positions people currently take on marriage and sexual relations. Scripture is not ‘very clear’.

          • Philip

            I still don’t see what the ‘functional’ differences between men and women are (aside from reproduction) which makes a male/female marriage mandatory.
            Same sex couples can be as complementary as other sex couples- if that is seen as a requirement for marriage.

          • Penelope

            To conclude that the Bible treats men and women the same you would need to explain why in every single passage of scripture in which God addresses men and women differently that he in fact isn’t doing that very thing. For example you would have to start with the fall (Genesis 3) and Ephesians 5. Or take a simple example – Eph 6:4 where fathers not mothers are told not to exasperate their children. Are we to imagine that the reason Paul addresses Ephesian fathers and not mothers is because by coincidence all those who need to be told just happen to be men? And since their likelihood of failure is not greater due to their orientation that the verse has ZERO relevance to fathers now? Do you not agree that it gets beyond credible – that this verse alone is a perfectly good reason to argue that the Bible recognises sex differences?

          • Ah, yes, the Bible that well known text in favour of slavery, concubinage, celibacy, ethnic cleansing, patriarchy, giving all your goods to the poor; and against divorce, women teaching, inter racial marriage and black pudding.

          • As you know it is obvious to me that the Bible is texts not text, so there may not be (is not) uniform witness on much of what you list (e.g. between OT and NT) – but you did not address the issue I raised. Jonathan Tallon says ‘all sides believe they are following scripture’. Which particular scripture[s] are they following when they affirm 2 men or 2 women sleeping together?

          • Dear Clive

            The Bible is clearly in favour of slavery. It mandates who may be taken as slaves.
            It is regarded as a norm in the NT. Only one text condemns slave traders, not slavery as an institution.
            Slave traders and slave owners cited scripture to support their views.
            Abolitionists also cited scripture, but reading against the grain of specific texts.
            Revisionist readings of the texts is an apologia for inconvenient truths.

          • Dear Penelope

            The Bible was, and is, NOT in favour of slavery.

            the group who got the slave trade banned in the UK (and thereby internationally) had to fight hard for it and were CHRISTIANS.

            In the end British sailors died preventing the slave trade. The UK publically apologised for slavery 300 years ago when they banned it (See William Pitt’s apology). Sailors giving their lives for the cause and the worldwide apology for having been involved obviously isn’t good enough for the so-called educated who demand more and more apologies for the same thing.

            I wasn’t alive 300 years ago (that’s hard to believe I know) and I do not support slavery at all, and neither does the Christian faith. William Wilberforce was a Christian. Amazing Grace is written by an ex-slave trader who converted to Christianity.

            Human beings throughout the Bible are fallen people who do NOT always do God’s will. It does not follow, and has never followed, the just because it is reported in the Bible that it is right at all.

            How many slave did Jesus Christ have? None at all.

            Neither the Bible nor Christianity supports Christianity.

          • I’m sorry that the last sentence of my previous reply (Nov 15 am) was mistyped and was intended to be clear that:

            ….Neither the Bible nor Christianity supports slavery.

        • Hi Jonathan for some reason I couldn’t reply to your last post, in Leviticus it says “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” and in 1 Timothy 1:10 it mentions homosexuality goes against doctrine.

          In my opinion these two verses are crystal clear. I will read LLF

          • Hi David, this isn’t the thread to rehash these well-trodden arguments. Suffice it to say that they may not be as crystalline as you think.

          • The number of times liberals firstly fail to give chapter and verse, and also secondly claim the right to take control of when a conversation begins and ends, is legion.

          • Christopher: I think if you look at Jonathan’s website you will find plenty of reference to chapter and verse. It is an excellent resource.

          • I am happy to do so, but whom am I going to listen to the more – the great scholars of the commentaries, or others?

        • It is for obvious reasons standard-practice to consult commentaries in times like this. Here we are in luck. Both Romans and 1 Corinthians have several high-class critical commentaries. Romans has legion, and 1 Corinthians has Thiselton and Fee of the highest level of detailed analysis, with Fitzmyer, Barrett and Collins etc..

          So why do they give a totally different picture from you, Jonathan? And what makes you think it is acceptable that (a) there are ‘sides’ (which tend to be merely ideological) rather than nuanced positions; (b) the so-called ‘side’ you favour disagrees with the experts; (c) the so-called ‘side’ you favour has by and large not even read or interacted with the experts. Your ‘position’ is so easily refuted.

          • Hi, For those interested in following this debate over the interpretation of Romans & 1 Corinthians further, can I suggest my website http://www.bibleandhomosexuality.org – here I go over the different interpretations & link to the key scholarship (which is often in journal articles). There is also a growing annotated bibliography.

          • Concepts are always differently configured from culture to culture and from age to age. The same applies to lying- and stealing-related concepts. It could not be otherwise. But it is not right to use that as a get-out clause.

      • No idea what you mean by primary or secondary here I’m afraid. This isn’t changing doctrine. It’s simply bringing equality to the doctrine of marriage.

        • No it isn’t. The doctrine of marriage historically has been between one man and one woman, as a reflection of bodily difference and integrally linked with procreation. So-called ‘equal’ marriage rejects this biological diversity and removes the integral link with procreation.

          But actually I think you know that, so it would be helpful to recognise such well-established points of view in the conversation, rather than lobbying.

          • That is rather an immature view of marriage. The link between marriage and procreation was broken then moment the church decided that couples over the age of fertility, or couples who were infertile were allowed to marry. It was further broken once artificial means of contraception became common place. The CofE recognises all of this in the Common Worship marriage service.

          • I believe you are right Andrew in saying that reproduction cannot be the reason for marriage only ever being between a man and woman – even if I totally disagree with you in your support for same sex marriage.

            The heart of God for marriage lies in the functional differences of men and women. These differences exist throughout scripture – if they did not then there would be no separate directives to women and men. And those differences are such that only together do men and women represent the character of God. Men are wired to favour principle over people (justice) and women to favour people over principle (mercy). Together they represent God’s love. Only justice and mercy together is God’s love.

            Take no comfort from that concession Andrew. The teaching of scripture concerning homosexuality is clear – you haven’t in questioning the reason behind Ian’s ideas built a theology in support of your views.

          • @Andrew Godsall

            ‘Over the age of fertility’? Like Sarah, you mean? And infertile couples such as Manoah and his wife? There can be no comparison.

          • Ian, I think you misunderstand: I’m not describing ‘your’ view. I’m suggesting that ‘the’ view (which isn’t just yours) is not fully developed for the reasons I have suggested. Strict sense of the word, not any pejorative one.

          • If the heart of God for marriage lies in the functional difference of men and women, whatever these are, but I assume you are suggesting that only men and women together can represent the character of God, then what does this view imply for the imago dei in single people?

          • Ian

            You might like to take a look at Geoff’s comment at 1.08.
            I think it breaches your comments policy.

          • Sorry I missed your question regarding single people Penelope.

            I believe that there are two training schools in the Bible – singleness and marriage. Marriage is learning through interaction with another person to be what you aren’t naturally oriented in. And singleness is the superior state – it is to not need another person to become the person God wants us to become. Just as the cross is a model for marriage (in marrying justice and mercy) singleness is also in the cross in that Jesus is single – he IS justice and mercy. But then Jesus being male also matters because a fundamental part of being male is to pour oneself out to create the circumstances in which it is possible to offer mercy. That is why marriage in Ephesians 5 is about Christ and the church – each sex isn’t both.

          • Hi Philip

            I don’t believe that there are 2 training schools in the the Bible (NT).
            I believe that there are 2 callings on earth – marriage and celibacy. Each can reflect the will and the love of God.
            Secondly, though I believe marriage is about learning, I don’t think this is about what we aren’t naturally orientated to.
            Nor do I believe that celibacy is the superior state.
            Nor that Jesus being male ‘really matters’ – the unassumed is the unhealed.
            Nor that a fundamental part of being male
            is to pour oneself out.
            Marriage in Ephesians, as in Revelation et seqq, is a metaphor.

          • A calling is a training school. God doesn’t seek to do anything WITH us which is inconsistent with what he is doing IN us.
            Are you saying you don’t believe that marriage develops people in the strengths of the other sex? Are you married – in a marriage of two different sexes? If it doesn’t do that what does it do (that being a believer doesn’t do)? Is it just a state of bliss?
            Here is the basis for my saying that singleness is the preferred state (if your argument is over the word superior I can let it go)
            1 Cor 7:6 ESV
            I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
            You say that marriage being Christ and the church is a metaphor. I think that your stopping at that point (without saying what the metaphor is seeking to achieve) is disingenuous. Why does Eph 5 direct husbands and wives differently? And how does this relate to same sex marriage?

          • “I believe you are right Andrew in saying that reproduction cannot be the reason for marriage only ever being between a man and woman – even if I totally disagree with you in your support for same sex marriage.”

            The danger here is the conflation of the sacred, private and public purposes of marriage.

            The divine reason for marriage being between a man and a woman is no more and no less than the divine authority invested in the creation archetype, which even many millenia later, Christ declared to be as unrevoked as the archetype of monogamy (despite the provisional accommodation of divorce under Moses’ Law).

            His answer on divorce should be the same as our answer on same-sex sexual expression: “It was not so from the beginning” (Matt. 19:8)

            Consonant with this (and, despite the CofE’s pastoral accommodation of church re-marriage after divorce), the pastoral guidance concurs with church doctrine by declaring that those seeking church re-marriage are required to acknowledge that God’s will is for marriage to be life-long and that divorce is a breach of God’s will.

            I’d doubt that LGBT campaigners in the CofE would countenance a similar declaration about same-sex sexual expression.

            In contrast, marrying same-sex couples is at odds with the public purpose of marriage. As the European Court of Human Rights described it (in Schalke and Kopf vs Austria): “marriage is geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood.”

            In other words, marriage’s built-in contingency for conferring joint parenthood (by recognising any child born to a married woman during the subsistence of her marriage as the legitimate offspring of her lawful spouse) cannot be validly applied to same-sex couples.

            The presumption of legitimacy is based on:
            1. solemn vows of lifelong fidelity
            2. the fact that couple are able to consummate the marriage through sexual congress
            3. The child being born to the married mother during the subsistence of her marriage.

            Marriage’s presumption of legitimacy is a contingency for those who, at the very least, at first sight (prima facie) might lawfully appropriate it in respect of their natural offspring. Prima facie evidence is what is immediately visible.

            Therefore, there is no need to resort to speculation or inquire intrusively about a couple’s lack of fertility preventing them from being allowed to marry.

            In jurisdictions that have, in the name of marriage equality, applied this contingency to same-sex couples, it has been at the expense of the child’s natural father.

            Examples include, Q.M v B.C. (New York); In re: M.C. (https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/09/6197/) which resulted in the California Legislature giving law courts the power to disestablish responsible natural parenthood, regardless of the means of conception.

            As the writer of the linked article explains: “judges don’t normally have this much discretion. Biology, marriage, and adoption are usually pretty bright-line indicators of who counts as a parent. The only reason we are giving judges this much discretion is so we can accommodate the triple-parenting cases that are sure to arise when the law normalizes same-sex parenting.”

            Far from being anomalous, these attempts by same-sex couples to usurp natural are part of a conscious political strategy.

            In Capitalism and the Gay Identity, John D’Emilio (Professor emeritus of history and of women’s and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago) concludes: “The elevation of the family to ideological pre-eminence guarantees that capitalist society will reproduce not just children, but heterosexism and homophobia. In the most profound sense, capitalism is the problem.”

            Then, he articulates the political strategy (which has been adopted by many internationally recognised LGBT campaigning groups) for ending the problem: “structures and programs that will help to dissolve the boundaries that isolate the family, particularly those that privatize childrearing.”

            In this regard, the International Lesbian and Gay Association have tabled the following amendments to the Proposed European Convention on Family Status.
            Parental affiliation:
            Article 12 – Spouses and registered partners:
            ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.’

            In its place, he advocates for “networks of support that do not depend on the bonds of blood or the license of the state, but that are freely chosen and nurtured”.

            And this is why same-sex marriage is the “thin end of the wedge” of elevating intentional parenthood at the expense of natural parenthood.

            So much for the notion that same-sex marriage is about no more than celebrating the relationship of two people who love each other.

    • ‘In short, we have been living together in difference for a very very long time, and Lambeth 1.10 acknowledges this.’ Hardly. It sees it as a problem to be remedied, not a desirable state to be accepted.

      • Hardly. It goes on….
        “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand. We request the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to establish a means of monitoring work done in the Communion on these issues and to share statements and resources among us.

        The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”

        It remains a problem, for sure. But it is not to be resolved in the way Philip Benjamin suggests above.

        • You haven’t put forward any biblical principle Andrew for resolving differences. Until you do you have yet to reveal the foundations of your thinking.

          Your foundation must reveal what you believe the bible says to be the relationship between unity and holiness. 1 Cor 11:18-19 reveals that whilst God hates disunity there are matters of holiness which require people to stand separate:

          1 Cor 11:18-19 ESV
          For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognised.

          Do you agree? If so what issues require people to separate?

          • Philip: Paul was addressing a specific set of circumstances. But more generally he is correct – those who are genuine must be recognised. And that applies here – those LGBTi people in the church must be recognised as genuine.

          • It’s not enough Andrew – you must explain how holiness and unity relate.

            If God is holy and we sin where does that leave us? Does it leave us with God agreeing to disagree with us and uniting with us? Does this happen whether or not we repent?

            You must explain how holiness and unity relate.

          • And even if you were right that this was a single example (I disagree) this verse alone proves there are primary and non-primary issues.

            But it isn’t alone. In what instances do you believe that Rom 16:17 and 2 John vv10-11 apply? Is it when a preacher says that Jesus died when he was thirty-seven? Are all examples of false teaching alike?

          • Those verses don’t ‘prove’ anything at all.
            I don’t have to do anything , but please do tell me what you mean by the relationship between holiness and unity.

          • These verses do prove something – that there are circumstances in which deeds are done and words spoken when people should not stand in unity – this obligates you to work out when – but you refuse – you act as one seeking to resist the teaching of scripture instead of someone eager to be constructive in respect of how to submit to it. The need for you to relate holiness and unity (the same thing as creating a principle for when people should and should not remain united due to sin due to these and other verses in scripture in which people are disciplined and separated from) are not my demand. They are God’s demands that you refuse to adhere to.

            As things stand you would presumably welcome the Archbishop as a brother and leader whether he spent all the church’s money on casinos, had sex every day with someone who was not his wife at the entrance to Westminster tube station, or murdered someone. If you are comfortable with your approach I guess there is little left to discuss.

            I won’t be responding to you any longer unless you recognise there are primary issues – issues in which people should be removed from leadership and issues in which people should be separated from even as brother or sister – and state the general categories in which they lie and how you get that from scripture. You seem to be confused – shutting your eyes doesn’t stop us from seeing you.

          • Philip: please do not make personal comments. You have no idea who I am and have never met me.
            Jesus showed unity with many people and was clear on several occasions that sinners were going in to the kingdom of heaven before the self righteous religious people. That tells me a great deal of what we need to know about unity and holiness. We should be wary of those who seek to judge others, which is what you do here.

          • But you do not address Philip’s point. If someone acted in the ways described would you count that as Christian?

          • It could be that liberals are not interested in resolving disputes, because perhaps they desperately wish truth did not exist, and perhaps they want plurality for the (actually, if not consciously) selfish reason that then more fleshly and self-serving ‘points-of-view’ (translate: wishes) can retain a seat at the table. Indeed, according to the liberal system it is sometimes hard to see what would *not* retain a seat at the table.

            Hence ‘good disagreement’. How could anyone disagree with something so superficially fluffy as that? See WATTTC? for a critique.

          • Quote: “It could be that liberals are not interested in resolving disputes, because perhaps they desperately wish truth did not exist, and perhaps they want plurality for the (actually, if not consciously) selfish reason that then more fleshly and self-serving ‘points-of-view’ (translate: wishes) can retain a seat at the table. Indeed, according to the liberal system it is sometimes hard to see what would *not* retain a seat at the table.

            Hence ‘good disagreement’. How could anyone disagree with something so superficially fluffy as that? See WATTTC? for a critique.”

            See how little it takes to rearrange it…

            It could be that conservatives are not interested in resolving disputes, because perhaps they desperately wish different interpretations did not exist, and perhaps they want uniformity for the (actually, if not consciously) selfish reason that then more conservative ‘points-of-view’ (translate: their prejudices) can retain a seat at the table. Indeed, according to the conservative system it is sometimes hard to see what else *would* retain a seat at the table.

            Hence ‘truth’. How could anyone disagree with something so superficially appealing as that?

            Or perhaps it is time to stop wholesale maligning the motives and godliness of those on the affirming side of this debate.

            (For the record, the rewording is to show how actually empty such an argument is – they are not my views).

          • Jonathan: Your rewording doesn’t work. Plurality gives everyone a sit at the table. That’s the nature of plurality. Every view gets a seat regardless of how reasonable or justified the view (unless it fails the tolerance test).

            In pressing for uniformity the conservative is taking a risk- all the seats or none of them.

          • Jonathan, in that circumstance it would be the conservatives pressing for good disagreement too, because they did not value truth. In fact an emphasis on truth is usually characteristic of protestant conservatives. They tend not to be the ones emphasising inclusivity and diversity. If they were, your point would stand. As they are not, it does not. They are willing to employ actual arguments and analysis rather than (as LLF does) assuming, and with no evidence, that all stances are worthy of respect. I am glad to see that my stance that a little man in the fridge switches on the light every time I open it is worthy of respect.

            It’s all diplomacy (JW’s speciality) and no scholarship. It’s all wishful thinking and being ‘nice’ in a merely superficial sense, nothing to do with the way things really are.

          • Not valuing truth is shocking anyway. Could you imagine if judges and academics started pursuing that course? Some already have.

          • Kyle, my point is not really about the process. My point is to highlight how the previous comment smears all those on one side of the argument. Note the cumulative insults: wishing truth did not exist; fleshy and self-serving points of view; superficially fluffy.

            I did not go all out in my reply; I decided not to try to attain the same level of insulting language, but just to make a point.

            At numerous times in this thread the main approach of those on the non-affirming side has been to smear the character, motives, and faith of those with whom they disagree. It has not been pleasant.

          • Yes, Jonathan, I agree. It has been quite unpleasant at times, and those comments are not ones I can support, nor are they representative of the majority of those on this ‘side’.

  3. The bit about divorce in Luke’s gospel comes under the heading ‘additional teachings’ but I think it is not out of context. Jesus was saying, in effect, I am going to marry the church and I’m not going to change my mind or contemplate divorce. If he had not said this about divorce one could imagine a different scenario on the day He comes to take his bride. ….
    The sky rolls back, a mighty angel appears and blows an enormous trumpet and then proclaims.: Jesus won’t be coming as promised. He has been secretly nurturing an alternative bride in another galaxy. She’s much more compliant and tractable…. His voice is drowned out as the clouds roll back, like the Red Sea returning to its place.

  4. A really helpful article Ian, thank you. Please pray for me as I will be reflecting on some of the potential pastoral implications of this with other members of the Diocese of Oxford LGBT+ Chaplaincy Team this very afternoon – and as usual, I shall almost certainly be a lone voice of orthodoxy.

    Like Jonathan’s question above, I want to probe the assertion of the lack of ‘middle way’ a bit more. I don’t know what I think about that (I genuinely don’t know, that isn’t a facetious comment). The Church of England has changed both law and practice on matters such as marriage after divorce and the ordination of women, and on both counts there remains rooms for parishes and individual Ministers to dissent. The Church of England remains in tact despite serious differences in theological conviction around what is and isn’t marriage and who can and can’t be ordained to the priesthood and episcopate.

    Evangelicals disagree on these matters, and yet there seems to be a willingness (at least in many quarters) to ‘agree to disagree’ and to focus our energies on the ‘primary issues.’

    There is a wider point about how we understand the place of Scripture, and it seems to me that Evangelicals can often disagree because we respect the ‘modus operandi’ of those on the other side of the argument – namely, their convictions have been reached Biblically. Conversely, this seems to be a significant dividing line between Evangelicals (mostly holding to orthodox teaching on gender and sexuality issues) and Progressives (mostly holding to a revisionist interpretation of Scripture). Notably, of course, there are those who would identify as Evangelicals and would claim to hold to the authority of Scripture and yet would also be in favour of same-sex marriage.

    Ramble over… Question being: Is there a way to co-exist (as there has been on the aforementioned issues) or is this issue somehow of a different order – and if so, why?

    • One thing is those who were active transformers about divorce, many became active transformers for women’s ordination. So they haven’t time to call for inquiries and make claims of abuse to those priests of conscience who refuse to marry the divorced. Many who were active transformers for women’s ordination became active transformers for the advocacy of same-sex relations and thus there is less time for inquiries and claims of abuse by those not affirming women’s ordination. What is the future if the affirmers get their way here? Their statements certainly suggest that inquiries are on their minds.

      As Ian points out the CoE isn’t undecided on the issues of female ordination or divorcees, but has decided to change the historic teaching. There are opt-outs, but it is obviously not a sin to not marry a divorce person or to not affirm women priests – to call it such you generally have to assume certain attitudes of the doer or add certain other actions. In contrast, the current teaching would hold that a priest making the marriage motions with two people of the same sex is doing an abomination in the most bare-bones sense. You can’t really hold the position ‘this is a mocker of God, an abomination before the Lord, against the clear teaching of scripture, but go ahead and do it anyway’.

      (And some people do hold that same view about not affirming women priests, however “God’s clear judgment which took almost 2000 years for people to notice” is sufficiently odd that there isn’t the same numbers and same confidence.)

    • Ian’s article explained that people’s beliefs on these issues are only a subset of their beliefs on larger fundamental issues – like whether God’s character in scripture should govern our thinking and practice or not. If you wonder whether these issues are or are not primary can I suggest that instead of comparing these issues to ones that have come before (some of which were really this issue at an earlier stage) that instead you engage with the points Ian has made here?

    • Jonny ‘ Question being: Is there a way to co-exist (as there has been on the aforementioned issues) or is this issue somehow of a different order – and if so, why?’

      Apparently not when leading persons on Synod, as named above by Ian, are vociferous in condemning those who maintain a tradition orthodox view and indeed seek to criminalise such.

    • Dear Jonny,
      Praying for you right now!
      The meeting you are having this afternoon might clarify whether there can be peaceful co-existence on this issue. One key question is “Would your colleagues feel comfortable recommending that someone met with you if they were too busy to meet? Would you feel comfortable recommending that someone met with them?”
      It is hard to see how you can recommend each other’s ministry if they believe that your views on gay sex will drive people to a breakdown (as I understand Jayne Ozanne has suggested) and you believe that their views will lead people to hell (as a traditional reading of 1 Cor 6:9-10 would suggest). It’s not possible to recommend one another’s ministry when the stakes are that high.
      If the consequence of a professional’s work is people dying then you would want the agency that oversees professional standards in that field to intervene; you would feel concerned if they did not. If your colleagues are correct, then you should face urgent discipline by your bishop; if you are correct, then they should.
      By comparison, John Stott, Jim Packer and Michael Green had widely divergent views from each other on women’s ministry and many other things, but enthusiastically commended one another’s books. I am fairly confident that if someone had texted Michael Green, “I know you are busy today but a chap called Jim Packer has offered to meet with me to discuss my questions” then Michael’s response would have been very enthusiastic. But that’s not surprising – none of them believed that the others’ views led to mental breakdowns or eternal damnation.

  5. Thank you Ian for laying it out so clearly.

    Given the Christian churches’ 2 millennia of certainty about what the Bible teaches on matters of sex, sexuality, marriage and the family, this recent uncertainty arises as an entry (covert and overt) from outside of them rather than radical new information being discovered from within. A strongly motivated group within the churches has chosen to listen to and accept what influencers and friends in the secular world have decided; they have now set this new secular dogma as a benchmark for a revised interpretation of scripture.

    The subtly chosen title ‘Living in Love and Faith’ leaves little doubt about the marketing intention of those who devised the project, along with the methods involved in nudging the church softly and gently away from its long held adherence to plain scriptural teaching. That plain teaching may indeed be found within the document but if it is set alongside competing ideas, one has to assume that it must be taken as only one assertion which may be outweighed by more convincing assertions elsewhere in the document – everything’s up for grabs, the foundations are gone.

    The issue about which so much work and presentational effort has clearly been done is remarkably simple. Is God’s binary design of human male and female form and function, and the circumstances in which they pair up and marry (become ‘one flesh’ and nurture families), the exclusive pattern he intends for human flourishing; or, apart from celibate living (by choice or circumstance), does God also look with favour on any other expressions or arrangements of human sexuality?

    God’s creation, in which he delighted, reveals massive diversity – and flexibility too. But it also reveals order which we observe as natural laws: he sets boundaries. To be a Christian is to understand that he unarguably set them for human beings right from the start. Crossing them proved disastrous. And when he speaks, for us to disagree is to cross a boundary. If we believe that God speaks through the Bible, the Christian’s obligation is to obey. LLF’s 450 pages and a clutch of videos isn’t going to change that simple, but often challenging truth. We might add that what the Bible teaches on sex is backed up through what is plainly observable through scientific methods. The grain of nature runs as it always will; working against it carries unavoidable consequences.

    So, as has always been the case, everything about LLF boils down to this one question: do we believe that God’s word has been spoken for all time through the pages of the Bible, and will we continue to yield to the boundaries he has set for us in that book?

    As a reality check, the idea that lay people are going to spend time searching through the LLF fog, discussing, debating, reporting back – and falling out over it – with much interest or enthusiasm is absurd. I can vouch that this is an issue predominantly for LGBT train spotters and other assorted obsessives. It makes no difference if bishops and archbishops are in that bubble – it remains a bubble. My experience is that the subject as an interest to your average parish church congregant is rare as hens’ teeth. A look to the sky and sad shake of the head probably remains the majority attitude on the rare occasions that LGBT issues are mentioned.

    I’d suggest there is far more concern about how many churches are even going to remain open – and that goes to the heart of where our energy should be engaged.

    • 2 millennia of certainty on what the Bible teaches about sexuality and marriage? More like 2000 years of difference and dispute.

      Are you assuming that your average church congregants is cishet and is therefore not interested in LGBT ‘issues’? I think you may fine, outside your bubble that many in the church are LGBT, proportionately more clergy and laity. A bubble is not a place in which to live and preach the Gospel.

      • Penelope, I just don’t experience the kind of obsessive interest and concern over issues of sexuality as a phenomenon that bestrides the C of E at grassroots level. I will agree there will be certain churches where the clergy are known to take a non orthodox view and where there may be more overt interest in the subject. I could hardly be unaware of clergy and bishops who find the subject compelling above almost everything else. And I’d certainly agree that there is a virtual mania about homosexuality and transgender which grips our secular culture at present; one would expect that to transfer particularly as an issue into churches and church organisations where there are a lot of young people involved.

        But there will be a large majority of churches where it is simply not an issue on which people want to gen up and spend their energy debating. It is never going to bolster missional endeavour which has to be the defining issue of the C of E right now. In fact, as you will have often heard, there’s plenty of evidence that, far from church growth, it’s associated with decline. That’s a reality it would be hard for you to deny: you might find you’ve engineered a win in the church politics only to discover you’ve lost the people. Be warned!

        • Perhaps you don’t experience the concern (not obsessive, but we’ll leave that) over gender and sexuality, but that, I suspect is because you attend a church which is largely cishet or in which LGBTIQ+ participants are not ‘out’.
          Your characterisation of gay clergy as unorthodox and your reference to ‘overt’ interest in the subject suggests to me that you think it unseemly to discuss sex and sexuality, rather than seeing it as an important part of what it is to be human.

          Do point me to the research that shows that debate about sexuality is associated with decline. My suspicion is that it is. But not for the reasons you suggest. Many young people are appalled by the Church’s attitude to gay and trans people, and many of the middle-aged and elderly have left because of the Church’s perceived cruelty and hypocrisy. And, to misquote Desmond Tutu, I don’t want the church to flourish if it’s a homophobic church.

          There is a FB conversation at the moment about the number of gay bishops colluding in the Church’s attitude. I have no idea whether this is true. But commenters say they have left the church because of its homophobia and collusion.

          • Penelope, I’ve just offered a few thoughts about the numerical decline issue in a response to Andrew below.

            Most of us need no encouragement as far as interest in sex is concerned – it’s inbuilt! On the other hand I’m sure holding such a powerful thing in a proportionate place along with all the other things which demand our attention is necessary as part of living a balanced and fulfilling life. I do happen to think that privacy about such a personal matter should not be underrated: there’s merit in not knowing or wanting to know too much about other people’s intimate lives – it gives a kind of freedom based on mutually accepted but unspoken personal boundaries of both parties.

            And I think there’s merit in this idea for the wider Christian family. If people were less ready or able to assume other people’s knowledge of their sexual lives was a cause for how they were being treated, life would be easier all round. But I suspect in today’s world of excessive interest in that area of life people are primed to make it a big issue and take offence if they suspect bad treatment on account of it. And that problem is obviously going to be exacerbated if those boundaries I talked about scarcely exist any more and people start to present their sexuality in such a way that it demands a reaction from everyone around them. After all, how could there be ‘homophobia’ if good boundaries prevented everyone from knowing or fretting over other people’s sexuality?

            While this all seems pretty obvious to me I realise our culture has gone way past the position for which I would argue – and it’s hardly brought peace and love has it? But its entry into the Christian world is doubly problematic because everything that we do together also has to take account of what God thinks about it. And argument over that is a massive destructive diversion from the short time we have available for witnessing to him in a world that sorely need to hear about him.

            Well there you are, Penelope; you should know not to get me started!

          • Don

            I couldn’t agree more. I have no interest in people’s sex lives.
            I cannot quite understand why the church is so interested in genital sexual acts, whether gay or straight.
            Isn’t it time we grew up?

          • The view that sex is a minor matter will not meet with much assent. It is generally and with good reason held to be something ultimate and cosmic. One tires of making this point.

            For it to be anything less than that – let alone actually trivial! – a person would need to have undergone a de-enchanting fall experience, whether gradually or suddenly, wherein all gold turned to brass.

          • If it is important, then it powerfully impacts people’s lives at root. All the more reason then why it should be of the holy rather than the unholy variety, if we care for people at all. That is why it is so hard to fathom your idea that it does not matter. Both holy and unholy alike can be private, but they are 2 ends of a spectrum so cannot be lumped together.

          • As for ‘grew up’, your theory of maturity is exactly the opposite to what it should be. I think you mean ‘conform’, to which the answer is ‘No, and why should we?’. It is not mature to fail to care about others’ welfare (and/or the lies that society may feed them that may lead them into misery) – the reverse.

            Others say to those campaigning outside abortion clinics, ‘Grow up!’. So not caring about humans being killed is mature. Er yes, highly – er – mature.

          • Christopher

            I couldn’t agree more. As you will no doubt see, I did not say that sex was either minor or trivial. That was your inference.
            I believe sex is important – at least for most people. And sexual relationships can be hallowed. Which is why, as I have contended so often, it is crucial that same-sex marriage is blessed by the church.
            I don’t mean conform to. I mean that focusing on genital acts is a reductive view of sex and sexuality and makes the College of Bishoos into a set of peeping Toms. Hardly edifying.

          • Of course not Christopher!
            I wrote that the Church’s (Bishops’) obsession with genital acts is both reductive and prurient.

        • Don: there is no evidence that this is associated with Church decline. Look at the Diocese of Albany in the USA. It has stuck to an ‘orthodox’ view of this matter, and its bishop has been high profile in that. But the rate of decline in that Diocese is just as fast as others.

          • The Episcopal church is not where you go for faithful teaching. However faithful the bishop of the diocese – recently humiliated – it cannot overcome a faithless institution.

            Its a warning to those who think that they can do effective work as a faithful remnant, however.

          • Andrew, if I thought accepting a revised doctrine on sexual ethics was what God requires of us, even at the cost of declining numbers, I would support revising the doctrine. In that sense doing what we sincerely believe is right before God does take precedence over numerical success.

            However, if you are like me and believe that our traditional sexual ethics still do reflect God’s will, then the possible/probable numerical cost of revision (and the time and energy to achieve it) are a considerably more important concern – it adds distress onto distress! (And I haven’t even touched on the destructive cost of schism.)

            I’m sure, as you point out, there may be exceptions to the numerical consequences but I think there is a general trend which it’s hard to deny.

  6. Ian has put his finger on the depth of fracture, of subsidence.
    It includes:
    1) the exclusivity of Christian Doctrine of God, in Tri-unity, and the centrality of the incarnation, life, death, physical resurrection and ascension and return: Christology; salvation.
    2)Welded to that is the doctrine of humanity, which in liberal circles is the doctrine of god, self -worship, the godness of humanity, in its moral superiority.
    3) the doctrine of scripture
    4) the doctrine of revelation
    At its unvarnished base there is a worship of different Gods, glossed over with intellectual sea of unbelief, the obscurantism of “it’s all subjective reader determined interpretation” – with no scriptural meta-narratives. This represents no less than tenaciously held absolutes, doctrine, post- modernism eating itself. It is but baptised, irreducible and unadorned, naked scepticism, the Emperor’s new suit of clothes.

    • Maybe those who disagree with you are godless self-worshippers who don’t care about God, incarnation, salvation and so on.
      Or maybe, just maybe, you haven’t bothered to understand them and instead are resorting to caricatures.

      • Lots of people don’t care about God. In England it may be the majority view. A view that was pioneered – it is a truth universally acknowledged – by liberal clergy. In what way is it wise – or charitable – to assume that these people think and value like bible-believing evangelicals when bible-believing evangelicals value and think so peculiarly?

      • Jonathan T,
        And maybe, just maybe, I’m not resorting to caricatures and have taken the trouble to understand. Maybe you misunderstand me. Your interpretation is false; wrong.
        In fact your first paragraph of Maybe leave much room to imply your agreement that they are or could be: that I am correct.
        Anyhow, Jonathan, lets have it: where do you stand of questions I’ve put?; on the doctrines? You seem a bit miffed and rather than answer, seek to caricature me.
        Do you have a vested interest in this topic?

        • The exclusivity of Christian Doctrine of God, in Tri-unity, and the centrality of the incarnation, life, death, physical resurrection and ascension and return: Christology; salvation.
          Very happy to affirm all these. Also the importance of scripture and revelation.

          Yet despite this you have painted me as a godless self-worshipper. Hence the caricature.

          My only vested interest is that I think and believe that same-sex relationships should be affirmed. I am a straight, married, cishet male. The very fact that you thought I might be arguing because of a vested interest is another example of caricaturing.

          • I merely asked the question about vested interest? You presume far too much in your caricature of me.
            You seem stuck on caricatures.
            I’m not going down this route, not taking it further and I accept the comments section doesn’t carry the weight of detail explanation, but words such as “affirmation” and “importance of scripture and revelation” are without content (especially when you contend, in effect it is all a question of interpretation) and nowhere near address the questions of doctrine, similarly the Trinity, bodily resurrection and “grace”: Christology, including fully God, fully human,
            It is not until we drill down do we find out what we truly believe and which God we worship.
            And I’ll give you something you can caricature and dismiss me with – “cishet” doesn’t compute with me (nor the spellcheck).

          • Geoff, you continue not to take me at my word but to doubt my meaning. I am a credal (Nicene-Constantinople) Christian.
            If you think you read scripture without interpreting it then there is little point in discussing scripture with you.
            I note that in these discussions it is only those who affirm same-sex relationships who are either assumed to have a vested interest or this is explicitly check out (as here) – this is by no means the first time that I have had this experience.
            Perhaps I should have hyphenated – cis-het. As in, I am cis-gender rather than transgender. I am heterosexual.

          • Jonathan and Geoff

            If I may. I think the reason allies are suspected of having a vested interest is because being cishet, white and male are the unmarked categories.
            If being these things is seen, mostly unconsciously, as normal, natural and neutral, then anything outside these categories is seen as other or aberrant. Then it becomes a problem or an issue, to be discussed and examined.
            At last Whiteness is being examined, not as a neutral category, but as a corrupt ideology.
            Similarly, patriarchy.
            We have more work to do on the cishet category!

  7. I find Oliver O’Donovan’s review of LLF among the best in the growing collection. For some years he has continued to offer real wisdom is this debate and to the possibilities of ways forward. “The human race has often seen homosexual behaviour before, in a variety of contexts … but it has not seen anything like this construction of it, with these sensibilities and aspirations.” As this is raising new and complex questions about the church’s understanding and response, and “it will require a great deal of straightforward observation, perhaps over several generations, before we can begin to answer any of these questions with confidence.” (Pilling Report. 2013. para 270-1). LLF is the latest and surely most creative and original attempt to ask the questions.
    In his contribution to a collection of essays on Marriage and Relationships by a number of conservative theologians he explored whether the doctrine of the church can develop or even change in response to the challenges each age throws up. He acknowledges that ‘the idea of marriage between two people of the same sex is a major conceptual innovation,’ but is clear the argument ‘does not rest on sheer consensus. It rests on the discovery of what allows humanity to flourish, individually and socially’. Exactly. And he warns us that, ‘we have to be alert to the possibility of doctrine being renewed out of scripture in a way that takes the church by surprise.’ (in Marriage, Family and Relationships. 2017. pp 192&198)
    So I agree with him. LLF deserves to succeed.

    • Yes, he does say that. And for OOD, his criteria would include the inclusion of the proper doctrine of God at the centre—which he notes is lacking.

      The transcendence of God, expressed in his holiness and the integral need for humanity to ‘repent’, must be integral. It is striking just how many of those arguing for change in the Church’s doctrine would not accept such a theological vision, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that many are universalist, and have no room for an understanding of humanity not only as made in the image of God but also as fallen.

      I think that is why OOD’s criteria, if adhered to, will ultimately see the project to bring about change fail.

      • Quote: “The transcendence of God, expressed in his holiness and the integral need for humanity to ‘repent’, must be integral. It is striking just how many of those arguing for change in the Church’s doctrine would not accept such a theological vision…”

        I know many people who disagree with your position, Ian, myself included. As far as I am aware, every single one of them, myself included, would fervently agree that “The transcendence of God, expressed in his holiness and the integral need for humanity to ‘repent’, must be integral”.

        Please don’t caricature those who disagree with you.

        • I am not caricaturing anyone; examples like yourself are not a counter to an observation about generalities.

          My discussion partner in the article is a good example; universalism is a significant movement in the C of E, and I think it has generated a theology soil in which changed thinking about sexuality has grown and flourished.

          That’s not true of everyone, but it appears to be true of quite a few.

          • I would observe that acceptance or not of universalism (which has always been a strand of Christian thought) is not incompatible with beliefs in the transcendence of God, that humans are fallen, and the need for repentance. I would suggest that assuming that everyone who argues for some type of universalism doubts these beliefs is simply wrong.

          • Anything that fulfils the dictates of wishful thinking will always be an existent strand of thought for that very reason.

            Compounding which is the fact that we live in a world of 7.7 billion people. So *of course* there will be numerous strands of thought. What does that prove? Schools and universities would not exist unless the main question was whether said thought was justified/coherent or not. A stance’s merely existing does not get us any distance at all. The stance that Jesus was a polar bear exists.

      • I understand humanity to be fallen, for we have all sinned….
        I do not understand some of humanity – that which is is LGBTIQ+ to be especially fallen or uniquely sinful, which is what your comment implies.
        If equal marriage is Holy – as I believe it can be – there is no need to repent.

        • Hi Penelope,

          Can I ask you – if we set aside reproduction – whether you believe that men and women are functionally the same? And if so do you agree that this means women (and men) are not necessary? So the church could exist entirely of men – or entirely of women – and nothing would be lost?

          • Hi

            No we aren’t the ‘same’. I believe gender is an important part of our created humanity, even where gender may be fluid or indeterminate.
            I do not really understand what functional difference is, beyond the ability to reproduce, which is, of course, a telos of marriage (for most couples), but not the only telos.
            I don’t believe that women are more merciful than men, or men more concerned with justice. Although the sexes have probably been socialised so that mercy is seen more as a feminine virtue.
            I think there are theologians who would have been very happy if the church could have consisted entirely of men, but scripture seems fairly clear that male and female are made in God’s image and that we are ‘one flesh’.

          • I agree with you that gender is important. But I couldn’t tell why you have come to that conclusion – you said you didn’t think I was right in respect of my ideas about gender but then you didn’t suggest any others. I was left wondering why have you concluded that gender matters – is it only because you find it difficult to imagine that either men or women are not necessary (beyond reproduction)? Experientially I find it hard to imagine they aren’t necessary. I am asking these questions because believing in same sex marriage involves believing that one of the sexes is not necessary in marriage or in parenting.
            I am not saying that women don’t care about justice or men about mercy – I’m saying that if a woman was a 10 on justice she will be an 11 on mercy. And a similar example could be made for men.
            Independent research suggests that I am right about this people/principle difference. See the video at the link below.

            I believe Bible passages line up with my idea – my idea is that in fact men and women each lead in something – neither complete without the other – the only reason why men lead women in the home and in the church is because their leadership has to precede women’s leadership for it to exist and for women’s leadership to operate in the right context. One no more interferes with the other than an architect building a sports stadium interferes with the more glamorous athlete who runs around the track.

          • Note that I have now replied elsewhere to your excellent question about the image of God and singleness Penelope (I did not notice your question at first).

        • Dear Penelope

          This may be an unhelpful parenthesis, and I understand if you wish to ignore.
          But it is a sincerely asked question and your naming of LGBQTI and defence of equal marriage presents the question to me again.

          I have often wondered about the B in the LGBQTI and how those who believe this to be divinely created understand it to be fulfilled in the context of Christian understanding of marriage as monogamous. I read a christian minister recently define themselves as Bisexual and I wondered what that meant in practise and how those of more inclusive theological position see that as working in the context of marriage.

          • Dear Simon
            As far as I understand it, being bisexual means that you can be attracted to either sex.
            Not that you are simultaneously attracted to both male and female so that you cannot distinguish.
            I know if at ieast two couples in which (at least) one partner is bisexual. One is a same-sex marriage. The other an other sex marriage. Both are faithful and monogamous.
            I am cishet, I am attracted to men, so why should I be less likely to stay than someone who is bisexual?

        • Maybe the problem in debating the issues is that we too readily identify ourselves with our sexuality, heterosexual and lgbtqiq+ and so set up a binary opposition of camps. I have come to the view that we are all flawed sexually in some way. Adulterers, bigamists, fornicators, homosexual offenders, those engaging in bestiality, necrophilia, Paedophilia and pornography etc etc. We are all flawed and so all in the same place. But the logical out working of that essentially inclusive view is the need to come to a right assessment of sexual expression and behaviour: the Scripture and overwhelming testimony of Church history is that this is within a marriage. I realise this might actually be an argument for S-s-m! But my original assumptions about sexual aberration are derived from the Scriptural witness, particularly Genesis and the rest of the the Torah in which same sex sexual practice is ruled out and the procreative functions of marriage are ruled in. So I have difficulty accepting that ssm can be placed on a par with “traditional” marriage (aka marriage) – the latter is a far deeper expression of diversity to begin with.

      • Your comment that”many are universalist, and have no room for an understanding of humanity not only as made in the image of God but also as fallen”. This is clearly seen in the framework of “diversity”, which is lauded as something to be “celebrated”.

        It is of course true that there is incredible “diversity” in creation, and much of this is to be appreciated and celebrated. There seems to be little awareness that under any orthodox understanding of original sin and total depravity, “diversity” has also been affected, so that this fallen world and sinful human nature is also characterised by “diversity”

      • Ian. Thanks again, but once again I struggle with your summary of the words of others. O’Donovan nowhere said that LLF lacked a ‘proper Doctrine of God’. It is true he highlights a lack in what he calls “the way it (LLF) talks about God”. I think he has a point and I agree it matters – though we might also note that according to the scriptures to love God and our neighbour with all of our being is to fulfil the Law. But he then graciously concedes, ‘‘to be sure, collective compositions like LLF can only achieve so much focus and coherence”. He commends LLF for offering “ground on which the church from different starting points can move forward together” …. and its “care and circumspection … strategic approach, modesty of ambition, and scrupulous attentiveness to the manner of execution …. ” So he does not appear to believe that there is a doctrinal deficit that will prove fatal to the whole project.

        • Well, I wasn’t quite summarising his own words; I was extrapolating them in my own assessment.

          In a roundabout, professorial and understated way, OOD highlights three major issues with LLF. He does not go so far as to say that this will make LLF fail; he is far too circumspect. But I think he highlights for this involved in the discussion the omissions that must be addressed.

          I think he is right.

  8. My heart sank at seeing this arrive. Spaced or not, its 400 to 500 pages and the “supporting” resources represent a massive amount work coming at a time of clergy being utterly stretched with the demands of pandemic ministry… within ever changing regulations. It doesn’t take much intelligence to work this out. That church members outside the campaigning bubble would want to take all this on seems highly improbable. Oddly (not) minds are elsewhere. Who on earth thought this was good timing?

    On one hand “discuss it some more” is hard to resist in hoping to hold the church together… but the prospect of a positive outcome seems like a triumph of hope over experience. I simply don’t believe that Jayne Ozanne (but not only) would settle for a (mysterious) middle way… and that dissenters would not eventually hounded out.

    My impression (I’ve read it but not in the way it needs yet) is of taking the endless discussion path on which change will come from erosion, weariness, people falling by the wayside or leaving.

  9. I’m struggling to see how the Church of England can hold together on this. Perhaps a congregational approach in which decisions were left to individual churches could work, but what about the implications for episcopacy? Would we need to expand the flying bishops to allow parishes to relate to a bishop who holds the same view?

    Or is it time to admit that the Church of England cannot hold multiple views and should be split into different denominations?

    • The URC adopted this approach. While it works at some level, in reality tensions still exist because, despite our very congregational polity, aspects of denominational life are shared: ministry, training, discipline, money, collegiality. The tensions can even be expressed within congregations, between a leader and people and between different congregations that share ministry. I think it exposes fundamental differences about theology, mission and pastoral practice.

  10. Maybe, Ian Hobbs, the timing is deliberate, is seen as opportune! Something like politics when contentious policy papers are slipped out at a time when there is insufficient time or inclination to give full consideration, when focus is elsewhere, where “consultation” is derisory.
    Perhaps only those with deep convictions and personal vested interests will bother, lobbyists for change who buy into woke “human flourishing”, self- expressive and oppressive individualism, without boundaries, other than those they seek to impose on others.
    Momentum on the slippery slope has not stalled. It is far from inert. To change metaphor, a waterfall of words, denudes and weakens resistance. Higher ground with ancient, greener and cleaner pastures, with the clean refreshing, flourishing- nourishing ancient breeze of the centuries (with apologies to CS Lewis).

    • Or perhaps the plan was always to publish in June 2020 in readiness for the Lambeth Conference, but this was delayed a few months hoping that COVID would pass. Not everything is a conspiracy.

      • Who said anything about a conspiracy Jonathan?
        You risk seeing conspiracy theorists where there aren’t any! That is a far too easy rejoinder. It was also unnecessary as Ian Paul pointed the planned date of release. A rejoinder without full explanation. Why now? What considerations were weighed? June’s COVID-19 restrictions were not as narrow as now, and Autumn/ Winter escalation of infection was predicted. There was little heavy scientific hope that COVID-19 would pass.
        Those involved or with influence in the production have more than a head start in cascading the contents and influencing and advocating their position, as demonstrated by David Runcorn who has merely cited OOD in support of his own position taking no regard of the essential, foundational point that generated a response from Ian Paul, above.

    • That’s exactly what worries me. The wheels haven’t been still during these past months “certain folks have been talked to”

  11. Since I find myself named there, can I offer two comments on Ian’s response to Simon Butler’s article? Firstly, Ian claims that Simon ‘praised those in the evangelical tradition who had changed their position on sexuality, but contrasted them sharply with those who support the Church’s current teaching’.
    I find nowhere in Simon’s piece where he does this.
    Secondly, in response to Simon’s claim that he and others were effectively kicked out of EGGS (the Evangelical Group in General Synod), Ian insists that ‘In reality, the leadership of EGGS exercised great caution and refused to make EGGS a closed group’. For those unaware, the split within EGGS happened because the leadership proposed to introduce a new line in the statement of faith defining marriage as between ‘a man and a woman’.
    Senior Synod member and long-term member of EGGS, Stephen Lynas, remembers the occasion rather differently from Ian. ‘A number of us tried to persuade the meeting that this was a mis-step. It would effectively mean that EGGS was in danger of becoming a single-issue group: thus – it seemed to us – precluding much discussion on how to handle the vast changes all around us – and excluding people who could, with honesty, claim to be evangelicals while taking a different view to the classic one. We felt the timing of the change was unhelpful and divisive, and we were concerned about the rejection and hurt being felt – and loudly expressed – by LGBTI+ people. As we all know, they feel unwelcomed by the church in so many places. I know of a number who have felt unwelcome at EGGS, too. Well, the Committee didn’t want to deal in such subtleties: the vote was put, and we lost.’ (https://bathwellschap.wordpress.com/2020/01/28/scrambled-eggs/)

    • Thanks David, though I find your comment odd. Here is the whole paragraph; I see in this praise for your ‘biblical and eirenic’ approach, and a contrast with people like me who apparently act like Stalin:

      Some within the tradition have felt uncomfortable about this for a long time. David Runcorn, a long-standing and respected Evangelical theological educator and spiritual director, has attempted to provide an Evangelical theological narrative based on openness, generosity (including to those who take a conservative view) and pastoral care. His recently-published Love Means Love addresses these concerns with an eirenic spirit that is admirable and biblical, although as a straight man he cannot necessarily summon the sense of righteous anger that those of us who see the damaged lives that have resulted do. Other evangelicals within General Synod, effectively kicked out of the Evangelical Group in General Synod (EGGS) for simply wanting to explore a line similar to Runcorn’s, have coalesced into a new group in which a different, honest expression of dissent can be aired, within a caring atmosphere far different from the stifling atmosphere of EGGS which, over my twelve years as a member, became increasingly reminiscent of a Soviet-style party meeting. It gives me no pleasure to admit I often felt afraid. Father Thompson notes the way in which especially some large churches in this tradition use their financial clout to exert leverage over dioceses: do what we want, or else, is the message.

      • Ian. Simon did not liken you to Stalin actually. As I read it he was describing as a gay, partnered man, his experience of being part of an evangelical group in which the majority were conservative on issues about sexuality and voting to control membership on those terms. I can understand why that could feel very uncomfortable and even frightening. I am concerned you do not.

        • Dividing into ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ will always leave the issue confused. Both are inadmissible and ideological. Evidence-based (neutral as to potential
          conclusion) is the only admissible path.

          Nor is it accurate to say ‘conservative’ when what you mean is ‘Christian’.

          • Christopher’s comment is pertinent in relation to David Runcorn’s.
            Your response to Christopher merely evidences the point Christopher is making.
            What do you mean by those terms, Penelope?
            I don’t find your comment to Christopher, smart, or clever, merely tedious. But I probably don’t have the intellectual capacity, emotional intelligence, to understand your subtilty and nuanced points.
            Or do you disqualify yourself through lack of understanding and/or unwillingness to express with unambiguous clarity. I’m certain it is not the former.
            Nor do you even set out your starting points, in your doctrine of Christian God attributes and character, and Tri-unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thrice Holy and doctrine of humanity. There can be no unity in diversity, without agreement on those matters.
            Taking your comments on this site over some years now, we disagree profoundly and my conclusion is that we worship a different God, whether you agree or not.

          • Well, Geoff, I asked Christopher what he meant by those terms and awaiting his response.
            My starting points – as you call them – are that I worship a triune God who is creator, redeemer and sustainer, born of a virgin, crucified, dead and buried; who rose on the third day, ascended and will come again.
            I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life…
            I trust this is ‘your’ God.

          • When Pope Benedict was elected, the clamour was ‘will he be conservative or liberal’ as though this was some kind of politics game. The bias of the media has prevented people seeing that almost no Catholics are liberal according to their (the media’s) standards. Likewise when SSM came round and I was asked to stock books that showed ‘both sides’, the 2 particular ‘sides’ is something that exists in and derives from the secular world, not specially within Catholicism. Our mainstream and very large, much visited Catholic/ecumenical shop never has customers asking for Feminist or Liberationist books, and the gulf between our (very ecumenical) stock and that stocked by Anglicans has never been wider.

            In other words, what someone saturated by western secularism would call conservative is often simply Christian. On a sliding scale, what counts as conservative anyway. It all depends where you envisage the spectrum and middle ground to be, and that can be in a number of places – always supposing (naively) that this is a simple linear spectrum which it practically never is anyway.

            ‘Evidence-based’ equals in accord with research and with internal logic and common sense, and with those who have proven their wisdom and integrity.

            How clever it sounds to say that the definition of ‘Christian’ is especially up for grabs. But how parasitic and destructive it actually is (parasitic in terms of spending a lot of time merely questioning what others have constructed despite not having anything better to put in its place). Positive proposals and positive counter proposals are always good, but merely questioning what there is (e.g. being ‘post-evangelical’), without constructing anything better or even as good, is (apart from being laughably easy and without content) what I would call parasitic in the technical sense. It (oddly) defines matters in terms of that which is rejected – work that one out.

        • David, again I am baffled by the asymmetry in your sympathies.

          No-one threatened Simon. There was no unpleasantness. I was party to agonising by the leadership as to whether this was the right thing to do. Great care was taken. What happened is that the majority view, which has already been present, was formalised.

          Yet on that basis you appear to think it is fine for Simon to liken to a totalitarian regime those whom, having been elected by them, Simon was supposed to be serving.

          By contrast, Simon and Jayne both took me through a formal, potentially ministry-terminating disciplinary process, both of which I view as vexatious and both of which were rejected without any action—though in one case this sword of Damocles hung over me for nine full months, from January to October. And as you are aware, Simon made false accusations of me from the platform of Synod, which led Justin Welby to label me an agent of Satan in his address to Synod—yet none of this provokes either censure or sympathy from you.

          I don’t understand what has happened to you.

          You must be aware that Christians in the Civil Service fear to confess their faith because of the ‘inclusive’ agenda. You must be aware the Christian governors in Church schools fear to question teaching on sexuality. Were you aware that Lee Gatiss of Church Society received death threats after leading the national online service in the summer?

          Yet none of this elicits concern from you. It is very strange.

        • And again, David, you must surely know that Simon’s language ‘we merely wished to raise questions’ is disingenuous. He and Jayne were campaigning. I am baffled by your response.

          • Ian, first I have heard mention of this and have just read the Feb2020 ABC’s presidential address – a loose exposition of 1Pet 5 applied to the enemy’s activity in the church. Why do you think he was referring to you – ad hominum? One could interpret ‘the biting of the lion through social media’ to any and all sides in this debate – although I suppose his ‘the lion which transforms our world into greater injustice and inequality’ may be aiming at those who are conservative and orthodox. mmmmm

          • Ian I cannot comment on what you now choose to disclose here. Indeed, I do not think this is the place to do so.
            On EGGS I quoted Stephen Lynas – not Simon or Jayne. I could have quoted Nikki Groarke in her recent Via Media piece where she recalls how ‘along with others I felt I could not, with integrity, remain part of a group which defined evangelicals in terms of their views on sexuality’. I can only say your memory of it all is very different from theirs and others I know who left at that point. There was much pain and distress.
            You continue to label people like Simon and Jayne as ‘campaigners’. And what exactly is wrong with campaigning? You do it too.
            Finally, and out of the blue, you make completely unsubstantiated claims that the anxieties of Christian civil servants or death threats to Lee Gatiss elicits no concerns from me.
            How can you possibly know that? I respectfully refer you to your own comment guidelines.
            My brother in Christ I prefer not to continue this particular conversation here.

          • Dear David, I am not ‘disclosing’ things here; I have said nothing that is not in the public domain already.

            I do not doubt that there was pain and distress—that often happens when people realise that there is difference, and that this differences makes a difference. But turning those feelings into a charge that a group acted like a totalitarian dictatorship is a serious claim, and I still don’t understand why you think making such claims is not seriously problematic. Perhaps you do; perhaps you have just chosen not to say so.

            Yes, I am campaigning—but I am not campaigning to criminalise those I disagree with, nor am I charging them with abusive behaviour. That is what is happening from the other side. And I am not covering my campaigning with disingenuous claims that ‘all I am doing is asking for the possibility of questions to be asked’.

            On the other issues perhaps I need to modify my comment: to my knowledge, you have never acknowledged the difficulties that Christians face in the other direction in any discussion on this blog. Do please correct me if I am mistaken here; do feel free to point me to any comments that you have made elsewhere. If you contacted Lee Gatiss to express your support and sympathy, I would love to hear it and I know he will have appreciated it.

            One of the Pastoral Guidelines is to name power dynamics; a significant power dynamic at work in our country at the moment (I trust you will agree) is the way that the ‘inclusion’ agenda is silencing Christians from articulating what has been the historic doctrine of the Church.

            I really think we could do with a little more honesty about what is going on here.

          • And, David, having disclosed that I was put through an agonising nine month process, even a simply acknowledgement along the lines of ‘I am sorry to hear you have gone through this’ would be wonderful.

          • David R, wrote “Finally, and out of the blue, you make completely unsubstantiated claims that the anxieties of Christian civil servants or death threats to Lee Gatiss elicits no concerns from me.
            How can you possibly know that?”

            I think Ian believes this David, because of your deafening silence on these matters. On this blog, you are very vocal towards the injustices suffered by LGBT folk in the church, but not in the other direction.
            You could easily put this right and remove any doubt by expressing your concerns and sympathy as to way he has been so badly treated over the last nine months by what has been determined to be unfounded and vexatious accusations. These could have destroyed and put an end to his ministry.
            Do you have no pastoral concern for the immense stress that this would have put him under?- any at all? Yet you maintain your silence.

            As Ian has stated this, is in the public domain so it is entirely in order to express it here if you wished to.

            Your lack of any publically expressed sympathy to Ian and to the other people he refers to (which are well substantiated) as to how they have suffered at the hands of inclusive intolerance (and there are many instances of this both in the church and in the public sphere), would lead me and many others on this blog, to legitimately infer that you think that individuals like Ian get what they deserve for their views on human sexuality. I would not like to believe this of you.

            Your silence does seems very much at odds with the pastoral heart that you consistently claim to have. Does it only work in one direction David? I would like to be assured that it doesn’t as I would imagine Ian would as well.

            Could you enlighten us otherwise?

          • Ian. Yes of course. I’m sorry. From what you describe it must have been a very very difficult time for you and indeed for all those involved.

    • And absolutely no-one was kicked out. There was a long process of debate, over a period of about a year. The group was never closed, and no-one was forced to do anything. Because the group was so open, the question (as we approached difficult debates in Synod on this) was whether, as an evangelical group, we would be able to articulate the view of the vast majority of evangelicals on this issue, which (in terms of what scripture teaches) coincides with the vast majority of scholarship.

      No-one was told ‘You are not welcome’; what happened was that the view of Simon and Stephen were not shared by 95% of the majority. Groups must surely be free to make decisions about what they believe—and individuals free to choose to sign up to that or not. I was sitting next to one of the people who decided to leave and join the new group; I offered to meet and talk about the issues, but the offer was not taken up.

      This has certainly not made EGGS a single-issue group, and Stephen is entirely wrong (and projecting something) in thinking it is.

      But what I am struck by is the fact that, not for the first time, I have been slandered here, labelled a Stalinist, and you have supported this shocking allegation without actually asking for an account from the other side. I confess I am really surprised by this, since you have in the past been so reflective and pastoral.

    • I should add too the phrase ‘for simply wanting to explore a line similar to Runcorn’s’ is unbelievably disingenuous. Simon and Jayne are not ‘simply exploring’ but have been vociferous campaigners—and those campaigns have involved them in attacking those who disagree with them in a whole range of ways, including using formal processes of censure.

      • Does the disciplinary process that you initiated and found subsequently to have no foundation, have any link to the proceedings of the adjudication so it can be seen?

        • No. Only a very few Tribunal decisions are publicly available. And rightly so. Partial disclosures are by their nature often self serving. That’s why I am disturbed by this disclosure.

          I’ve also alerted Jayne Ozanne to this thread: I could imagine it being a disturbing development to have a closed matter reopened in this way.

        • I can’t see anything in the CDM Code of Practice that indicates the content of, or decisions in, a CDM complaint should remain confidential. I am happy to be corrected with specific references.

        • Indeed. I would have thought it would have been self-serving in your own case since no one except a few, can read the unfounded accusations that you initiated against Ian that caused him so much unnecessary stress and worry and the deliberations of the adjudicators that acquitted him.

          So Is this normal procedure in the Church of England?

        • Which bit of “request of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham at the conclusion of that process was that there was an instruction from the Bishop that it should not be aired publicly, especially in the very medium which was the cause of the complaint in the first place” is unclear?

        • “Which bit of “request of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham at the conclusion of that process was that there was an instruction from the Bishop that it should not be aired publicly, especially in the very medium which was the cause of the complaint in the first place” is unclear? ”

          None. But such an alleged instruction has no statutory basis.

      • As a former Solicitor of the Supreme Court, it seems that there is little regard to the rules of natural justice in the operation of the tribunal; in particular that not only is justice to done but must also be seen to be done. That involves openness of processes and decisions, including reasoned public judgements. It doesn’t involve keeping a lid on it. Employment Tribunals in England could be an example.
        Maybe the CoE is not learning any or many lessons in the administration of justice as it applies to itself, internally: lessons painfully brought to light in enquiries.

        Not only that, from someone who knew nothing of this, but only from what David Runcorn raised against Ian Paul and the treatment of “Simon” whoever that was, and indeed in continued support of Simon, who as it happens, it seems, instigated “disciplinary proceedings” against Ian Paul which have evidently been proved to have been unfounded.
        So it rumbled on.
        Yet, this Simon, was content to let this injustices against Ian Paul carry on unabated and uncorrected.
        I certainly find this not only deeply unedifying but a perpetration of continued injustice against Ian Paul.
        And yet this Simon, continues…?
        Ian Paul above said it was slanderous, a “branch” of defamation. As it is has been “published” here in writing, it falls into libel.
        While I don’t personally know Ian Paul, he impresses as a man of integrity and that integrity has been impugned, in my eyes, by what has been written about him with heavy implication.

      • I am very surprised to read Ian’s comments here about the disciplinary process I took out against.. I am more than happy to make available the outcome of my CDM against Ian to anyone who wants it. It is not confidential, but for his sake – rather ironically – I have not made it public. I very much doubt he would want it in the public sphere, but of course I may be wrong.

        • So what is Simon going on about, to mention the Bishop’s instruction?
          I’ve assisted a friend in CDM in the Methodist church to curtail. The whole process was a travesty with no written cases, little to no consideration of laws and rules of evidence finding of fact (such as in the recent Depp liable case) no written ratio decidendi.
          Without that the CDM process could continue to be a method to air grievance, without accepting the decision.
          It could amount to and serve continued “vexatiousness” of any complainant, to serve their own purposes, not justice a way to seek to undermine the decision.

      • I have deleted a comment here from Simon Butler, along with the following responses, not out of a desire to censor, but because the comments were straying into the personal, and the thread include a threat. The conversation had moved a long way from the subject of LLF.

        No-one has been prevented from commenting; the comments alone have been deleted.

  12. Thanks for your thoughts on this Ian. I agree with Ian Hobbs and Sam Jones above. I do not think the foundations are deep enough to hold the Church of England together through the stress that this fundamental and irreconcilable disagreement places on it.

    Evangelicals will either walk away discouraged and weary, leaving an increasingly revisionist and militant core threatening litigation to accelerate its decline, or there will be some kind of formal and amicable split.

  13. Ian

    “The timing could hardly be worse”.

    1. This was not supposed to be a debate on sexuality, but on what it is to be human
    2. But if it is continuing the debate about sexuality, with a view to a resolution, it is long overdue.
    3. Do you really believe that diocesan finances, parlous though they may be, are of greater weight than what it means to be a human fully alive?
    4. Do you believe you would be arguing that we need this debate ‘like a hole in the head’ if you were LGBTIQ +?
    5. I consider that the proximity to the IICSA findings very timely. It is of some urgency that the Church (not just the CoE) examined its disordered relationship with sexuality.

    • Are you saying that the issue of sexuality isn’t the cause or the driver of this? I find that “difficult” to believe in the light of the development of this document. That’s entirely the reason and history surely?

      Quoting “fully alive” brings nothing to the table in this debate. It’s a great soundbite if which people (and some dioceses) are fond but entirely without definition. It’s definition that’s at the heart of issue.

      The “timely” proximity to the IICSA findings sounds like tarring those who differ from you with that brush. Not much point in discussion?

      • Sorry you find Irenaeus is merely a soundbite.
        Even sorrier that you don’t find a congruence between decades (at the very least) of covert sexual abuse and misused authority and a fear and hatred of what is regarded as aberrant sexuality.
        Why did those men (usually men), both evangelical and catholic experience their sexuality as abusive and coercive?
        It really isn’t about tarring those who differ from me. God knows, they have tarred themselves.

  14. Thank you Ian for your précis of the document. I fear you are right, there is no “walking together” on this matter. The Episcopalians in America have shown the future for us if we deny God’s will and bend to cultural trends. They have just rid themselves of the last Orthodox Bishop and are careering in the downward path to oblivion. We are already in a Dow ward trajectory because we are not offering the authentic Gospel of redemption from sin and becoming a new creation in Christ. Being nice and accepting that you may define yourself by your compulsion is not the Christian message.

      • That is the difference Penelope – I do not define myself. I am a woman made in the image of God who has been given the privilege of being the bearer of a child just as Mary is the mother of our Lord. But I needed the other image bearer man to fertilise the egg to instigate new life. The two become one flesh and new life can become possible. The whole of nature follows this pattern of new life.
        You want self to define your being even to the point of denial of sex which is immutable. Chromosomes are unchangeable, feelings and longings are not.

        • Actually, Tricia, I was writing about sexuality not about gender.
          But, in reality, most of us have no idea about our chromosomes.
          I think you might find that they are changeable, especially after pregnancy.
          The whole of nature does not follow this pattern – asexual reproduction, hermaphrodites, species which change sex…..
          I’m not defining myself in any ways that deny sex: I’m a woman, I was fertile, I have not produced a live child, I am not gender non conforming, I am cishet – none of these is universal or ‘right’.

          • You wrote about defining myself by heterosexual compulsion. This is because you are in rebellion against God. You seek to redefine what God has ordained. Christian teaching has always involved denying yourself and taking up your cross, self control and obedience. Our life and our worship should be pleasing in his sight. It seems in the 21st century we supposedly know better than God according to your philosophy, but God is unchanging and Be will not be mocked.

          • Tricia

            Please refer to Ian’s guidelines on comments.

            I am not ‘in rebellion’ against God because I disagreed with your hermeneutic.

            It is extremely rude and aggressive to suggest this. And to aver that my belief is based on 21stC individualism and arrogance.

            Of course Christian teaching involves self denial. Where have I argued otherwise?

            It does not, however, involve self denial peculiar to LGBTQ+ people, which is not required of cishet people.

            How dare you suggest that Fay sndvtrans people don’t exercise self control and that their worship is not pleasing in Her sight.

        • Lots of things are relatively recent: our attitudes to mental health, cancer, Down’s syndrome, autism, epilepsy, left-handedness, rape, homosexuality, race….
          Not all relatively recent phenomena are bad.
          People still define themselves by their sex: I am a cis woman.

          • Penelope please remember there are over 200 references to God as Father in the New Testament and not one to a She god. Please stick with the Word of God or find another religion that will accommodate your new age age she-god ideas.
            That idea has no truck with the Bible as we know it historically.

          • Dear Stojan

            There are quite a few nice religions which anthropomorphise gods if Christianity isn’t to your taste.

          • You actually think that reality is a matter of ‘taste’? That reality will obligingly change according to our taste? What is your justification for that seemingly odd stance?

          • Christopher

            I was replying to Stojan’s offensive comment by suggesting that if he frames God as male them there are plenty of delightful pagan religions which will be only too happy to accommodate his anthropomorphism.

          • I know you were. But anyone remotely honest adopts worldviews according to conviction not preference. The world does not accommodate itself to our preferences, and moreover it is obvious that it does not. One tires of making this point.

      • The URC adopted this approach. While it works at some level, in reality tensions still exist because, despite our very congregational polity, aspects of denominational life are shared: ministry, training, discipline, money, collegiality. The tensions can even be expressed within congregations, between a leader and people and between different congregations that share ministry. I think it exposes fundamental differences about theology, mission and pastoral practice.

  15. Here we go again!

    I recently predicted that Living in Love and Faith would result in Christians being called homophobic and was incorrectly rounded upon, however, here we are in the first few days and it is happening exactly as I said it would.

    We are all called to listen to each other with grace etc and yet anyone who believes in the words of Jesus Christ and in Scripture is being rounded upon and treated with disdain and contempt.

    To give just one example, as it says in the article ….
    “In the last week or so Jayne Ozanne, a member of General Synod and high-profile campaigner change, has been reaching for the language of ‘abuse’ and criminality in the discussion about the Church’s doctrine on marriage. In response to an article about ‘homophobic’ Christian students and churches in Oxford, she commented:

    I’m so glad @TheOxStu are calling out the homophobia they have experienced- we can’t allow this harmful practice of telling LGBT people who are in relationships that they are ‘sinful’ to continue. It’s damaged & is damaging far too many lives – mine too!
    (In the article, there was an account of a meeting with a group of celibate, gay Christians from St Aldate’s church, who exhibited the ‘worst kind of homophobia’ by being kind whilst still believing in the Church’s teaching that marriage was between one man and one woman. ‘I felt loved and abused at the same time’.)

    The alleged crime was that Christians believed in Scripture.

    Academics are being quite deceitful as well.

    Their allegatipon is that Matthew 19 and Mark 10 are Jesus Christ talking about divorce – only he doesn’t in either passage. Yes in many Bibles it is shown as divorce in the titles but such titles are certainly NOT the gospel text itself.

    It is a wonderful and deceitful half-truth that Jesus was asked about divorce …. that much is true…. BUT when Jesus replies he does NOT tell them what divorce is – Jesus Christ tells them what MARRIAGE IS. No matter how you translate the koine greek Our Lord Jesus Christ does NOT tell them what divorce is at all, Jesus tells us what marriage is. So in both cases the passage is telling us what marriage is. It is also leaves the questioners no place to explore and further heckle him.

    It is also completely untrue to claim that Jesus only describes what marriage was at the time. That is also a lie because a careful reading shows that Jesus tells us about marriage tha breaks away from the Patriarchy of the time – so it wasn’t even the understanding of marriage in the Hebrew society of the time. That claim is that the message is an out of date idea of marriage – no it isn’t – it is a wilful and unjustifiable redefinition of marriage happening today. Yet anyone who tries to discuss a way of valuing a relationship without misleadingly identifying it as marriage, is treated with horrible extremism, hatred, disdain and contempt. So you can’t even hold a moderate view today.

    It is clear that academica are desparate to support politically correct views without evidence.

    Even in Living in Love and faith we get the disingenuus claim that God is love that relies upon interpreting all of the koine greek words for love as being the same.

    That idea that koine greek, with a mere 8000 words that we know about, can afford the luxury of having four different words for love is just as silly as claims of the 20th century academics that John’s gospel was late. In time it will be shown to be the nonsense it really is. The phrase ‘God is love’ is only in 1 John and is God is caring-love, i.e. agape.

    Jesus Christ is does NOT lie to us at all. Jesus tells us what marriage is.
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

  16. Schism or Visible and Structural Differentiation is coming and without the Evangelicals, the Church of England will go down with all hands. We are not going to sell out nor are we going to contradict Scripture.

    • Mark. No one here is planning to contradict Scripture. That doesn’t mean that evangelicals do not disagree about how it is to be understood and interpreted. They do – and always have.

      • What do you mean by ‘here’ David? My conversation partner above was very clearly wanting to contradict Scripture: he believes that the gospel writers have misrecorded what Jesus said, or at best the divine Word was corrupted by the sinful human nature so that Jesus was bigoted and abusive.

        I think that is a contradiction of scripture—and this kind of view is not *that* uncommon in the C of E…

        • Your interlocutor wasn’t wanting to ‘contradict’ scripture.
          He averred that some things that Jesus said were abusive, not that he was misrecorded.
          This is not about ‘contradicting’ scripture, it’s about engaging with scripture.

          • Penelope, if you think someone saying ‘What Jesus says in this passage is wrong and abusive, either because Jesus’s human nature here is sinful or the writers have attributed sinful things to him’ is not contradicting scripture, then we lack even the most basic shared grammar to discuss this issue.

          • Half the people commenting here are not evangelicals. And I think a number would indeed be happy to contradict Scripture. That’s not pejorative; it is just an observation.

          • Replying to Ian … Your guidelines urge – ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives.’ ‘I think’ and my ‘observation’ need checking out or they do indeed tend to sound pejorative or sign a view to others of the basis of incomplete understanding.
            Meanwhile your ‘conversation partner’ is not even in the room here. I know him and his provocative but informed debating style. I followed the discussion you refer to. He also likes a wind up at times – just a *thought*.

          • David, having read the thread you will be aware that there were quite a number of well-known clergy who were happy to agree that aspects of Jesus’ teaching in the NT are abusive.

            In the thread, I was very careful to ask questions, to clarify views, and allow people to speak for themselves. They were not shy in repeating their understanding.

            I don’t think there was any sense of this person trying to be provocative. He has a long record of his views, and he even shared an essay he had written setting these views out.

            This is the reality of the C of E; many clergy do not believe that the claims of Scripture are the foundation of our theology.

          • Ian

            I think that fewer than half are not evangelical. At the moment I can name only myself and Andrew Godsall. I know too little about Jonathan’s churchnanship.
            I don’t see anyone on here who is happy to contradict scripture. Whatever that means.

          • I don’t see anyone on here who is happy to contradict scripture. Whatever that means.

            To contradict something means to say it is wrong.

            Andrew Godsall for one has been perfectly willing to say that he thinks scripture is wrong on a number of issues.

            He therefore has demonstrated his willingness to contradict scripture.

            I do not know how happy it makes him to do so. Perhaps it grieves him terribly, and that is what you mean by ‘I don’t see anyone on here who is happy to contradict scripture’?

          • Wrong. What I have said is that some of the things in the scriptures need to be viewed in the context they were written in and may not always apply. It’s called interpretation.

          • What I have said is that some of the things in the scriptures need to be viewed in the context they were written in and may not always apply.

            No, you’ve said that some of the things in the Bible are wrong because they were written by fallible, context-dependant human beings.

          • The scriptures are not infallible. I’m not sure how they possibly can be. The Word of God is a person, not a varied collection of writings.

          • The scriptures are not infallible. I’m not sure how they possibly can be. The Word of God is a person, not a varied collection of writings.

            So given that is your opinion, you must therefore be willing and indeed happy to contradict the scriptures?

          • S: let me remind you that when you could not reconcile contradictory biblical texts you simply referred to them as ‘scene setting’ and not intended to be accurate.

          • I once attended a national meeting of my denomination and was in a break-out session to discuss the work of the Doctrine committee. A colleague, arguing for a more liberal interpretation of Scripture, justified that approach by citing the book of Ephesians. Therein lies the conundrum. Jesus is the Word of God revealed. But how do we know what He was like and what he said? Only through the Apostolic witness of the New Testament, interpreting the anticipating witness of the Old.

  17. Hi Philip

    I don’t believe that there are 2 training schools in the the Bible (NT).
    I believe that there are 2 callings on earth – marriage and celibacy. Each can reflect the will and the love of God.
    Secondly, though I believe marriage is about learning, I don’t think this is about what we aren’t naturally orientated to.
    Nor do I believe that celibacy is the superior state.
    Nor that Jesus being male ‘really matters’ – the unassumed is the unhealed.
    Nor that a fundamental part of being male
    is to pour oneself out.
    Marriage in Ephesians, as in Revelation et seqq, is a metaphor.

        • It’s only problematic if the whole canon meta- narrative of covenants is not followed through nor understood.
          But you do not give any indication of how it is problematic nor to whom.

    • A calling is a training school. God doesn’t seek to do anything WITH us which is inconsistent with what he is doing IN us.
      Are you saying you don’t believe that marriage develops people in the strengths of the other sex? Are you married – in a marriage of two different sexes? If it doesn’t do that what does it do (that being a believer doesn’t do)? Is it just a state of bliss denied single people?
      Here is the basis for my saying that singleness is the preferred state (if your argument is over the word superior I can let it go)
      1 Cor 7:6 ESV
      I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
      You say that marriage being Christ and the church is a metaphor. Your stopping at that point (without saying what the metaphor is seeking to achieve) is disingenuous. Why does Eph 5 direct husbands and wives differently? And how does this relate to same sex marriage?

      And elsewhere I presented independent information that shows that men and women are functionally different. You said nothing about this. Why? – you are responding only to content which your beliefs provide you opportunity to comment on.

      • Philip

        Apologies. Scrolling up and down this thread, I missed your question.
        I don’t believe marriage develops people in the strengths of the other sex. I am not even sure what that means. I am married to a man. It is not bliss, but we argue and we laugh and we share the joys of food and wine an lively debate.
        I don’t see St Paul’s personal asceticism as a mandate for celibacy being the superior state, though the Church largely believed it was for 1500 years, until the Reformation in the west. Then marriage became the superior state and religious orders were regarded with suspicion.
        In my view they are equal callings; though few are called to celibacy, many are single through circumstance – divorce, bereavement etc.
        Ephesians directs husbands and wives differently because Paul, or the author, was writing in a patriarchal culture. Like the household codes, it is more radical than other similar texts in the ANE, but it is still love-patriarchalism rather than the radical new age teaching of Galatians 3.28.
        I’m sorry I still don’t know what it means that men and women are functionally different (besides, as I said, their roles in reproduction).

        • Sorry, meant to add re St Paul that he believed celibacy was preferable given the shortness of time. There was little point in marrying if the End was in sight. And single people had more time to concentrate on the Coming of the Lord.

          • I think I have been too slow to grasp that I am engaging with someone who does not believe that the Bible is the word of God. Or more accurately believes that bits of it are. How does that work? If you are the rightful judge of which bits are divine and which bits are not doesn’t that mean that you are God and we should be worshipping you?

            For the reasons I just outlined I do not believe there is any way to be Christian without submitting to the word of God in its entirety. That to some sounds like crazy nut job stuff but it isn’t – the reason I believe the Bible is the word of God is because God showed me through it things about myself I was unable to see without his help – things so deep that I concluded that I was without his help completely blind. Therefore whether I liked it or not I had no choice but to conclude that I either walk around in darkness or always turn first to God for matters related to spirituality, God and who I am. I also naturally concluded that if God spoke through the Bible once he would do so again. I was left with the choice of either walking in darkness or believing in his authority and capacity to speak to me – doing so in a way in which my own flaws would not affect my ability to judge.
            There are intellectual reasons one can give for believing the Bible is the word of God (it shows that Jesus’ rose from the dead – other theories have serious problems – in doing so he showed that he was God – since he believed the Old Testament is the word of God so should we – and he promised to reveal his word through his disciples and they called letters of the New Testament scripture) – but none of this is my deepest foundation for faith – it lies in the fact that God alone showed me what I could not see about myself. This is the foundation for all Christian faith. If God isn’t reliable in speaking to us about all spiritual matters he isn’t reliable to speak to us about any.

            I wish you well Penelope – I really mean it! – I can tell from reading your comments that you are an intelligent person who must feel some enthusiasm for this whole area if you are willing to repeatedly return here. I don’t however have any means of engaging with you on matters because as things stand you are comfortable with deciding what should and should not be considered authoritative in the Bible and I – because of my sin – do not.

          • Philip

            I believe, as orthodox Christians must, that Christ is the Word of God. To call the Bible that is, I believe, bibliolatry.
            The Biblical texts point us to God, they are divinely inspired but not, I think inerrant. Many Christians agree with this view. Some believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Since the biblical texts often contradict each other, have their own agendas and are sometimes wrong, I find this unconvincing.
            I may be wrong but I infer that one of the reasons you have come to this conclusion about me is because I pointed out the difference between what is core and what is contingent in St Paul. The contingent are teachings and admonitions which are specific to particular churches and contexts, and often culturally bound. Women covering their hair when prophesying might be one example of this. And the Church took the admonition much further by requiring women to wear hats in church, even though they weren’t prophesying!
            Many orthodox Christians are able to have these debates and still find scripture a light to their paths.

          • Jesus did not have the New Testament scriptures

            But you don’t believe the Old Testament scriptures are the Word of God either, so you still disagree with Jesus.

          • Jesus clearly contradicted the scriptures in a number of places. “You have heard it said, but I say…..” He also pointed out that he was the word of God, and not the scriptures. In Christ the imperfect scriptures found proper fulfilment.

          • I think both of those claims are rather tired simplifications which don’t stand up to scrutiny. It doesn’t help the debate to keep on wheeling these out.

          • So Penelope, you wrote:
            “I believe, as orthodox Christians must, that Christ is the Word of God.” So why, exactly don’t you believe it when our Lord Jesus Christ tells you what Marriage is in the Gospels (e.g. Matthew 19)?

            4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said,
            ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

  18. One of the sections I have found most helpful in LLF is Chapter 13 where the writer describe six “speakers” with a scale of views on this issue and how each see scripture.

    I find it disappointing that many of the comments above continue to see the issue as binary and to regard anyone who disagrees with them as at the other extreme to themselves. If readers cannot engage with their fellow Christians in a way that properly recognises and understands their views without resorting to a binary position that misrepresents those views I am not sure it is possible to live at peace.

    There seems to an arrogance among many in this issue, just as in UK and US politics at the moment, that unity can only be found by everyone else agreeing with them. This may be expressed in a variety of ways – like suggesting the CofE would be at an end without those churches (sorry congregations) that they think agree with them.

    The bits of LLF that I have read so far (its over 400 pages and I have a day job) suggest a way of walking together, but the many of the commentators above suggest that it is not so. I am not convinced that this is not possible unless it is because they do not want to try. If they are as large a groups as they believe then the CofE is indeed in trouble because it would be a Kingdom divided against itself. I see similarities in the attitudes of the different Jewish factions in the new testament and what did Jesus say about them.

    There are more important things to consider – like our declining numbers. Below the radar there are churches (both those who consider themselves to be evangelical and those who do not) who are ignoring this debate and are quietly getting on with preaching the gospel and and in doing so growing.

    The new testament church was not without its disagreements, but they did appear to be able to come together to discuss them without the denigration and rancour that surrounds this debate.

    As an elector of General Synod when the time comes, I will be looking for candidates who are prepared to put aside their entrenched views on this issue to try to walk together, rather than fight (yes I will use this word because that is what it looks like from the outside) while the ship goes down further in the water. If I can find such people I might vote for people on both sides of the debate.

    • Nick, thanks for expressing your views so clearly and helpful.

      ‘Below the radar there are churches (both those who consider themselves to be evangelical and those who do not) who are ignoring this debate and are quietly getting on with preaching the gospel and and in doing so growing.’

      I think you are quite right in this—and I am happy to see this kind of fruitful ministry across the traditions. But to be honest, it is another reason why I sigh and ask myself ‘Do we really need to keep on at this discussion?’

      On the question of ‘agreeing to disagreeing’, I take a slightly different view. As I mention in the piece, it has been a long time since we realised that there is going to be no agreement from different ‘sides’. The question for some time has been: is this something on which we can live with difference, or does it actually cut to the heart of who we are as a church? having thought about this on and off for 40 years, my considered view is, because Scripture is so consistent and clear on this issue, it really is about the place of Scripture in the Church.

      If you have decided that we should live with difference, then you have already made up your mind—and the conviction that ‘we must agree to disagree’ can get as entrenched as any other! Interestingly, LLF at one point (which I have quoted) does say this might not be possible.

      • Ian thank you for your reply.

        Yesterday, at our Diocesan Synod, LLF was mentioned, but only in passing, The urgency of addressing a decline in attendance, particularly from younger people and finding the resources to do that was much more important.

        I also ask myself ‘Do we need to keep on with this discussion?’ However, I am not sure how to put it back in the box, so to speak. If we could get to a position where we could say ‘we disagree but we have other common priorities that are more urgent and important’, isn’t that ‘learning to live together’?

        The phrase ‘then you have made up your mind’ irks slightly because I believe, we should all have a humility that should be open to having our mind changed. Not to be blown from side to side by the slightest whim, but prayerfully after careful consideration of new information that others brought to my attention.

        Many years ago I found the ‘headship’ or women to be a difficult issue from a biblical point of view. Now with a closer reading of the texts and taking away the historical lens that translators and readers alike have had, I can be very comfortable with a woman Bishop!

  19. David, I can understand that an Evangelical view of Scripture is completely alien to you and I can understand why you may decide to endorse certain sociological, anthropological and psychological claims, ideas and statements which openly contradict Scripture as having the same as or even greater authority than Scripture and why The Christian Institute: have reported that LGBT activist Jayne Ozanne has accused the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU) of homophobia for affirming the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality – but as Evangelicals we are bound to the Authority of Scripture as a Real.Energetic Pneumatological Life-Force in the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ – it is sacred, holy, sanctifying, transforming, purifying – we will never give it up.. This is Revelation 12:11. It is our very Ontology, Epistemology and Soteriology.

    • Can you be specific on what you understand by an Evangelical view of Scripture? Which of the “speakers” in chapter 13 of LLF would you identify as having an Evangelical view. Is it just one or more than one?

  20. Mark Can I first refer to you Ian’s guidelines about ‘respectful debate’.
    And far from understanding me, I can assure you, you are plainly mistaking me for someone else.

      • Nick, I am not sure if you are addressing me or another commentarian in this thread, however I do have a question. Which of the “speakers” in chapter 13 of LLF would you identify as having an Evangelical mindset and heart conviction. Is it just one or more than one? It would be helpful to identify them from a Joshua 24:14-15 perspective – the elements engaged in open “hate speech” and incitation against Evangelicals in the public domain appear to have already been identified and I am interested as to the nature of the real sponsors behind these public outbursts.

        • Mark,

          Yes I was addressing you with that question. I am somewhat bemused by your response. I thought I was asking a perfectly civil question to understand your position and you start talking about hate speech. Perhaps my question was not clear.

          Chapter 13 of LLF includes a list of “speakers” on pages 295-296 each describing their view of how they regard the Bible. So often this is characterised as binary yet there are a spectrum of views and I was simply trying to explore which of those views you would regard as Evangelical.

  21. Mark. Thank you for asking. I find this well-known summary to lay as good a foundation as any. ‘Anglicans affirm the sovereign authority of the Holy Scriptures as the medium through which God by the Spirit communicates his word in the Church. The Scriptures are the uniquely inspired witness to divine revelation, and the primary norm for Christian faith and life. The Scriptures must be translated, read and understood, and their meaning grasped through a continuing process of interpretation …’ (from The Virginia Report -Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission -cited in The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality ed. Philip Groves, SPCK, 2008. p84.)
    I also try to remember this saying when I am engaging with other viewpoints. ‘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.’ (anon)
    You are not obliged to read it, still less agree with it, but my latest book ‘Love means Love’ – which has had several mentions on this thread – is subtitled ‘the Bible and Same-Sex relationships’ and engages with scripture and hermeneutics throughout from an evangelical anglican perspective.

  22. David OK. I now know who you are. Apologies. I mean that. ✝️. Can I ask how this bermeneutical system based on “their meaning [being] grasped through a continuing process of interpretation” works in practice?

    • Mark. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
      Your question is important. But let’s first note that people with what you call an ‘Evangelical mindset and heart conviction’ have always differed in understanding parts of scripture. So it is frustrating (and actually a cop out) when people assume, even on this blog at times, that anyone holding a view different from mine (and my teachers) must have abandoned scripture, cannot be an Evangelical, is a false teacher etc.
      Given the context of this discussion thread can I suggest you have a look at chapter 13 of LLF (you can download the book free). It tries to engage exactly your question – our relationship with the bible and how we read and interpret it faithfully together. Without knowing the background of faith and church you bring to this discussion I would be interested to know what you of it.

      • David

        I am committed to compassionate, reparative, therapeutic and transformative communicative environments, inquiry and missiology and what I do is prepare and equip people to fulfill the commission, mandate and office of 1 Corinthians 6:3 – I now understand who I am in conversation with in speaking with you and I am happy to engage with LLF Chapter 13 – although when it comes to Diakrisis I distinguish between an type of episcopal discernment directed and dictated by the current secular zeitgeist and the Real Spiritual Discernment of someone Apostolic like Ian Paul.

        In Christ.


  23. David

    The one thing I want you to understand is The Ministry of Reconciliation and the means reconciling everything – all critical theory, all theology and all human complexity with, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ – if we in Communion with 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 then we are in Communion and nothing is going to stop us, nothing can stop us and .othing will stop us from Living the Life in line with 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 and rebuilding the world although I am not going to go into eschatological and millennial disputation.

  24. Last night, in our Zoom Bible study (including 2 clergy and 2 Readers) we looked at the development of Scripture and how we try to translate (let alone interpret) it. We noted the Babylonian Exile and how the Hebrew scriptures *as we know them* emerged from this period. We also noted how an ethic based on the 10 Commandments also emerged at this time, an ethic quite distinct from the ethics of the prevailing cultures of the period and ever since. We could have noted, as part of this ethic, the emergence of a sexual ethic, that the only proper expression of human genital sexual activity is between one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship we call marriage. (We didn’t discuss this last night, because it wasn’t on our agenda!).

    Honoured more in the breach than in the observance, that sexual ethic made post-exilic Jews the laughing-stock, and sometimes worse, of the ancient world, where every kind of sexual activity was practised and lauded, often in association with fertility religion. That ethic was reaffirmed by Jesus, by the Apostle Paul, by the Church Fathers, by the leaders of the corrupt mediaeval Catholic church, by the Reformers and by virtually all Christian leaders and churches prior to the Enlightenment. It continues to be affirmed by orthodox Jews, by the Orthodox Churches, by the Roman Catholic Church and by many Christian leaders throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    Who are we, in so-called liberal Britain, Australasia, South Africa and north America, to question and to seek to redefine this ethic? Who are we, and why are some of us attempting to do this so arrogantly and in the Name of Christ? Who are we?

    I take cover behind the parapet, awaiting the torrent of abuse which I now expect to descend upon me!

  25. Reading through the long and growing thread of comments leads me to two observations and one conclusion.
    – However painstakingly the Church of England’s conversation on human sexuality is framed as an exercise in courteous listening and mutual understanding it seems doomed to descend into a bad-tempered row. We cannot help ourselves because, whatever position we defend, we know intuitively that this is a battle we cannot afford to lose.
    – Much seems to turn on whether the Church of England’s stand on human sexuality will end up being defined as being of first or of secondary importance. At the centre there seems to be a predictable and understandable desire to hold the two poles together. If the conversation in this thread is in any way representative of the national picture I would say we are a long way beyond the tipping point. For revisionists this is about justice and freedom; in the mainstream it’s about costly obedience to the lordship of Christ. Both feel like essentials rather than desirables. Therefore both parties feel like they are Athanasius against the world.
    – At the end of the day, we have been given a preview of where all this goes by observing the starkly contrasting fortunes of the Episcopal Church in the USA and the breakaway Anglican Church of North America since the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003. The former, by any standards, is an ecclesiastical car crash, tanking membership whilst spending fortunes on bitter lawsuits against former members. The latter is raising up leaders, planting churches and growing even as its buildings are confiscated. If you were a betting man or woman where would you put your money?

        • Goodness that feels like an over simplistic and caricatured analysis. The ACNA is a small operation that is about the size of three English Dioceses – 1000 churches. Some of them are beginning to decline already – South Carolina is one, where tensions that are built in are beginning to crack the whole thing.

          This analysis is perhaps the fairest I have seen.

          “Essentially, ACNA is TEC with the clock rolled back to about 1980. With the exception that ACNA has now institutionalized multiple episcopal jurisdictions in all places- since that is the only way this works. There will be a WO and a non-WO jurisdiction overlapping everywhere for the foreseeable future, and the resulting “impaired” communion within the church. Essentially, 2 churches that have a common hierarchy and home office. If you ask “who is the bishop?” you will get 2 answers.”

          • Andrew, You really are not well informed at all and you prefer to listen to items on the internet you like and ignore ones you don’t like,.

            ACNA are already larger than the whole Church in Canada. It is true that the Church in Canada is smaller than ECUSA but ECUSA is shrinking at an incredibly rapid rate – only you don’t want to know that at all.

            Yes ACNA are smaller but growing. ECUSA is larger but shrinking – but you don’t even dare work it out for yourself.

          • Thanks Clive – I’m going by their own numbers. But numbers are only a part of the story. ACNA is already split apart by the question of women in orders. And by all means look at the Anglican Mission in England to see whether anything equivalent will ever emerge here. It won’t.

          • You’re right Andrew – the ACNA will have problems if it starts out unable to find a position on women’s ordination. And so will any that break away from the C of E.

            The logical thing is therefore to adopt Andrew’s current position (he has yet to concede to the idea that there are any primary issues one can disagree and therefore also has not indicated what categories primary disagreements might come in) – that in all situations in which there is disagreement people should remain united.

            So if the Archbishop becomes a satanist – if he decides to invest all of the C of E’s money in the porn industry – if he decides that the poor should be punished for letting society down – it’s a case of stiff upper lip.

          • I was using ACNA figures Clive. The whole Church is about the size of 3 English Dioceses. And yes it is split apart by the division over the ordination of women.

        • I didn’t mean that the ACNA should find ANY position on women’s ordination – the attitude/thinking which equated the sexes functionally – which first allowed women’s ordination – unsurprisingly led to the current support for same sex marriage.

          • Ah so you think the C of E was wrong to ordain women?

            Philip I would be grateful if you would refrain from personalising your comments.

  26. The ECUSA experience is an argument for a formal split now rather than a descent into messy litigation in the future. I can’t see a compromise which all sides can agree to.

    • There is already a formal split if you want one Sam. The Anglican Mission in England (equivalent of ACNA) already exists and is open for anyone to join. What would prevent you from doing so?

      • Andrew, I have no interest in joining AMIE. But I am struggling to see how the C of E can hold together on this issue.

        If the C of E approves liturgies for same sex marriages/blessings would you be ok for some churches/priests to refuse to offer them?

        • Thanks for your reply Sam. I’m curious as to why you’d have no interest joining AMiE.

          As to allowing churches and clergy to opt out: absolutely. I think that has to be part of the ‘deal’, which I believe will inevitably come. It will have to be possible to allow for conscience clauses, just as the HoB has been clear that we can not excommunicate those who are in same sex relationships who are not celibate.

  27. This is a bruising set of threads to read. Probably made worse by the medium of typing responses rather than having coffee together. It is notice-able how many typos there are, especially at moments of heat. This really matters to so many people, but it may be that what matters most (in some responses at least) is the keeping of our viewpoint and the defending of it: – we might however call this faithful witness.
    The conflict is – we know – entrenched, and we also know what trench warfare does to people and the countryside.
    I suspect retreating is not an option for anyone, and advancing means pushing over other people. Campaigning is a word which emerges in the thread – and there are power struggles of all kinds going on and at so many levels. It is always easier to see the wielding of power by others! I wonder which group we think occupies the high-ground, and is it the higher ground of wider public support, or the higher ground of claimed orthodoxy and what the rules currently allow. Both will want to claim the high-ground of the gospel of course, while also pointing out how we have to struggle even more to achieve the vantage-point.
    Can we find the equivalent of the 1914 Christmas Truce and share some presents and have a game of football?
    In WW1 the enemy were the other and we were in the right, but all were human, too many suffered, and it did not end all war. In this conflict the enemy are seen as corroding the truth of God (whether by a disdain for our reading of Scripture, or by a rejection of our way of life – and both believe their reading of Scripture and their way of living to be in accord with God, but they make the case in different ways). But to affirm one is necessarily to reject the other, at least in the way it is currently framed.

    Is the image of trench warfare a helpful one or not? I don’t know. If not is there a different image which might help us see both ourselves and others in a new way. I suspect defending the faith and contending for the faith mean that the battles have to continue.
    Should we make a list of all the victims, not just those on our side, who have suffered albeit maybe in different ways? War brings suffering to both sides and to those on whose ground the war is fought; the bodies of the fallen, many with no name (but they do have a name, just not a name known to us). I feel bruised reading the thread, but there are many who are bruised and even trampled, used as examples of what is wrong, or who is wrong, etc ..

    And if I want to be a pacifist, or not take sides, does that mean I am opting out? It is dangerous to be in no-man’s-land and maybe not possible.

    And – to keep the WW1 image – looking back now, have we come to realise how wrong things were then, but in a rather different way from how people then thought things were wrong. Is that relevant to how we live and respond on this issue?

    • There was a time when Jesus asked his disciples whether they would stay with him or leave. My response is the same as Peter. Where would we go – You have the words of eternal life. You are the Christ.
      Jesus tells us that marriage is between one man and one woman for life and the only reason for divorce is adultery (same sex couples cannot commit adultery for the simple reason that they cannot consummate the marriage, the 2014 Act of Parliament in this country defines this point).
      If the Church of England turns their back on Jesus’ teaching on marriage, then I can no longer serve the church.

        • Tricia and Clive

          Jesus also tells us that marriage is indissoluble. Pick your gospel writer.
          And, of course, same-sex couples can consummate their marriages. It is time that both Church and State dropped the instrumental definition of consummation as PIV sex. Both for same-sex and other-sex couples.

          • Yes Penelope. Marriage is like glueing two paper pages together. Divorce is trying to separate them. That process creates a big mess. Physical sexual union creates the marriage / the certificate is a legal formality. It’s so much easier and better to enjoy the boundaries God has set for our freedom. When we respond to the siren voices to abandon Gods’ revealed ways we ask for trouble. Just ask Adam and Eve.

          • Penelope
            You need to read the Same Sex Marriage Act as you will see that the Government have been very specific. A marriage in the past could be dissolved if there had been no consummation as the bible clearly states that the two become one flesh and all marriage law states this. The Government had to find a way around this obstacle to achieve their ends and did this by stating that same sex couples were married even though they did not consummate and could not be charged with adultery. They have now covered their subterfuge by making divorce just a matter of choice! And devaluing real marriage in the process. Same sex marriage is not equal – it never was and it has devalued real marriage.

          • Tricia

            I have read the Act, and, as I wrote, it is time that other-sex marriage dropped the absurd notion of consummation being a particular sex act of penetration. One which many other-sex couples don’t, or can’t, engage in.
            No, it hasn’t devalued marriage. At all.
            I hope my real marriage is rather more substantial than the fact that I have had PIV sex with my husband.

          • Well, Stojan, I don’t like your analogy.
            But, yes, consent and sexual union do create a marriage.
            For straight people as well as gay.

          • Not ‘a particular’, since babies are made only one way.

            It is astonishing how often liberalism requires the statement of the most basic of facts. It will be man + woman = baby next – as though most 6-7 year olds had not already worked that one out.

          • Christopher

            I think we know how babies are made. Mostly. Some are not made by PIV sex.
            But why should that constitute consummation?
            Our obsession with PIV sex as the only ‘real’ sexual intimacy is tedious and irrelevant to couples who can’t or don’t wish to engage in this particular sexual intimacy.

          • You can’t become one flesh by kissing someone.

            It is never going to be accurate to downplay (rather than exalt) anything that can produce the miracle of new life. No wonder that cultures have not taken the path of downplaying it.

            What is your understanding of ‘one flesh’ then?

          • Christopher
            I think we may have had this discussion before. My understanding of one flesh, following the leaving father and mother, is that marriage constitutes a new kinship group.
            If, however, becoming on flesh does denote sexual intimacy, there are many ways of becoming one flesh!

      • Tricia. Greetings. Just a passing comment. I have friends who share your view on marriage but who, like me, would question whether the text you quote here has any relevant to the debate at all. Firstly, Jesus is teaching about divorce, not marriage (and incidentally the church today accepts a wide range of grounds for divorce – not just adultery). Secondly, he is speaking into a society which only knew marriage as between a man and a woman. That is not, itself, a comment about whether any other forms of committed relationships could or should be allowed.
        Chap 13 of LLF is offers a very thoughtful reflection on how we read and interpret scripture for wisdom on these issues, including our understanding of marriage.

        • Hi David

          The word ‘view’ which you use is incoherent (given that it can apply to the whole spectrum from hard-won research conclusion to arrant wishful thinking), and the failure to see this is a main reason why I am not impressed by liberal argumentation on this topic.

          I find liberals rely heavily on the word ‘view’ and the ‘different views’ idea. Which explains nothing – just kicks the ball into the long grass – because it does not address the far more important question of expounding why/whether said views are justified by comparison with their competitors. Anyone can state they hold a particular ‘view’. You cannot possibly think it gains legitimacy merely through being stated, can you?

        • David

          As noted above, Jesus is NOT talking about divorce at all. That claim is a lie. The Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce but Jesus does NOT reply to them by saying what divorce is at all. No matter how you translate the koine Greek, Jesus tells us what MARRIAGE is and thereby leaves the Pharisees nowhere at all to go with any further questions.

          The “title” that some Bibles give to being about divorce is NOT the gospel text at all and never has been, ever. That pseudo-title doesn’t even belong there at all.

          If Penelope’s argument is “choose a gospel writer” then that argument says that gospels may not be accurate. We know now that they were written in the lifetime of people who witnessed what Jesus said, and were written in a society that remembered the spoken word far, far better than we do today, and so if they were untrue then they would not have survived for 2000 years. As soon as you say “choose a gospel writer” you are telling us to make the Bible say whatever you want it to say and to scrap Christianity altogether.

          • Clive

            Of course I was being facetious.
            But the gospel writers do contradict each other.
            Many biblical books contradict each other.
            Which does not mean that I am telling anyone to make the Bible say what I want it to say.
            Have you read any biblical scholarship?

          • Dear Penelope
            I have not only read and engaged in Biblical scholarship I think I am as well qualified as you are in the subject (aside from other degrees in Engineering and Science as well as Theology), which is why your loose comments create such difficulty.

          • On the subject of both slavery and multiple wives (not related)

            Those who fought hard to end slavery were Christians. As a group, like all Christians, they let others join them. The Christian church is open to everyone to come and meet Christ.

            Hence a lot of the Bible is history which does NOT mean at all that what was done was Christian at all – This is extremely relevant to slavery being in the Bible. The fact that it is in the Bible’s history does not mean it was every right and hence it was a group of Christians who fought to abolish it. That is not revisionist – that is a fact.

            In the same way having multiple wives is in the Bible but is NOT condoned in the Bible.
            Name me and quote me any of the letters of the NT, or Jesus Christ or any of the prophets who ever told anyone to go and get multiple wives.

          • Yes, Clive, some of those who fought against slavery were Christians. But, as I observed above, they were arguing against the grain of the scriptural texts (much like many arguments for the licitness of same-sex relationships argue against the scripture).
            Slaveholders had greater scriptural warrant.
            It may be true that polygamy wasn’t mandated, but slavery certainly was.

          • Except, Penelope they were not arguing against the line of Scripture. Just because it is in the Bible does not make it right – That is muddling up history with any relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

            Right at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1: 27 we are told: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
            That fundamental concept, that we are all created in God’s image, is then used throughout the Bible.

            Slavery goes against the idea that everyone is created in God’s image and it always did.

          • Clive

            I agree. Slavery is rebellion against being made in the imago dei.
            Nevertheless, scripture mandates slavery, which is the clear scriptural argument slave holders used to justify its existence.
            And there is one text in the NT which condemn slave traders, none condemn slavery as an institution. It is taken for granted. We do not even know if ‘Christian’ sexual ethics extended to the use of slaves.

          • Well, Clive, I thoroughly agree with you that what Jesus was teaching about is what *marriage* is.

            (1) In so doing, he exemplifies the sound dictum that the only sane attitude to sheerly ugly things is to treat them as not being part of any sane world at all, or part of the universe of things that we talk or think about. You will notice that the people who talk most about ugly things are those who have adopted an ugly worldview.

            (2) Any theory of marriage (such as Jesus articulates) does have clear and immediate implications for D and is in a way a theory of what D is. A theory of how bad D is because of how great marriage is. A theory of the nature of D derived from a prior true and rich understanding of marriage.

            The C of E’s change on D is precisely the time it lost its power and moral authority. Predictably, and so unnecessarily.

          • No Penelope,

            Scripture does NOT mandate slavery. I don’t know how you can make such an incredibly untrue comment. That’s both an incredibly untrue thing to say but also a terrible thing to say.

          • That is a terrible assertion Penelope.

            As I said to you “Except, Penelope they were not arguing against the line of Scripture. Just because it is in the Bible does not make it right – That is muddling up history with any relationship with God and Jesus Christ.”

            And here you are using history to make biblical laws and assertions. How dare you?
            The Pharisees all too often took items in isolation and out of context and made laws out of them, and our Lord Jesus Christ was (and is) very clear in his response to such twisted views enslaving people.

          • Clive
            Yes it is terrible:
            Numbers 31
            Leviticus 25.44-46
            Proverbs 29.21

            Might I suggest you read these texts.
            And, please, no more anti-semitic tropes about Pharisees.

        • David
          The question he was answering was about divorce, but the nub of the matter was marriage. He immediately refers to what God ordained, which was lifelong union. But the Jews had found ways around this by just divorcing their wife by statement. He is specific – one man and one woman for life and breaking the physical bond is the grounds for breaking the marriage.
          This does not mean there is not redemption. We are fallen humanity – but we must recognise our sin and repent.
          Some clergy do marry divorced couples, certainly my vicar talks seriously with anyone who comes for marriage. Some clergy do not feel it right.
          I know of no previous civilisation that has married two men or two women. To form a tribe you need procreation and more than one wife was the norm.

    • I’m not CxE. Does the fact that Charles may champion a more liberal religion when he ascends the throne drive much of the agenda? Are we seeing a jockying for position in the new order?

    • Yes, it is rather bruising. I don’t think I am responsible for the comments of others (I do not always share the views or approach of those who are opposed to change on this issue…sometimes by a long way, despite what some appear to assume).

      But it genuinely difficult to have a calm discussion when people quite close to the centre on the side for change are slinging around terms like ‘Soviet party’ or stating in the media that those who hold to the Church’s teaching should be prosecuted and criminalised.

      A truce would be great. Can you persuade them to stop doing this?

      • Ian. One thing I have struggled with in this blog is your claim that the ‘other side’ are vitriolic. I know some are and I would never support that. But not all. And there is vitriol on both sides – ‘calm discussion’ is not easy here at times. I would welcome hearing you call that out. It really doesn’t to help to speak as if it is one side. It is not just ‘them’.
        For my part, before my recent book came out, I wrote to a number of friends and met with some local clergy – especially those who would not hold such an open view as me on same-sex relationships. I wanted to share the kind of book I had written and why – and to hear their questions and concerns. It was a moving exchange. Some have since read the book and graciously continued to engage with me. There are other stories to be told.

      • I would like people to stop telling me that I am in rebellion against God, and that I worship a different God from them, that I am New Age, or a secularist.
        I would like people to realise that gay and trans people are often harmed and shamed by what is presented as ‘orthodox’ teaching.

        • In what way are they harmed by the orthodox teaching? If arsenokoitai and malakoi are sins (as the Bible says) then the discouragement to do them is not a harm but a blessing (and the instruction for the orthodox to understand the harm therefore is begging the question). Now in any teaching there is a possibility of misunderstandings that cause harm, however is your movement dedicated to smooth these misunderstandings or to create them? It seems to me that the effort is to create them. Also, are not gay and trans people not harmed – I would say to a far greater extent – by your movement also?

          Putting aside – for as small a time as possible – the arguments that you are leading people into sin and away from Christ. Is not a great deal of harm caused by your movements attempts to demonise your opponents. Young Christian people who for whatever reason think they are same-sex attracted and look to the internet* for answers are being encouraged by your movement to few their church with suspicion, to assume that they are secretly full of hate, to take offence at any possible slight, to be frightened and silent and devoid of trust for their family and peers. Many still keep this paranoia even when dealing with a group of very welcoming and out-(but non-practicing)-SSA people as mentioned elsewhere. Many young people having been convinced in their vulnerable state of hormones and adolescence – and being preyed on by a very skilled, well-funded and ruthless machine – that the love they have been given is just a facade over hate end up killing themselves. Is that not also a harm; one that your movement should take some moments of reflections over?

          The damage done by the affirming movement to SSA people over the last fifty years – even putting to one-side the question of the eternal soul – seems far greater to me than the damage done by the traditional view in the last 2000.

          • Kyle

            I don’t have a movement.
            Fucking men without any commitment us a sin.
            Malakoi is probably more nuanced.
            Young gay people have agency know when their parents and church are being supportive and when they are being hostile or abusive.
            There isn’t a very skilled, well funded and ruthless machine – unless you mean the well funded and ultra conservative Heritage Foundation and Hands Across the Aisle.
            Affirming gay people is only damaging if you believe that gay people are not made in God’s image. They are.

          • I don’t mean a movement of your very own, but no man (or woman) is an island. You’re quite clearly of a side.

            Do you genuinely not consider there being any duty of care to children – worried, suicidal children – to have caution in how we speak of these issues (not hiding from the truth, but not going beyond the truth either)? And that these worried and suicidal children have perfect judgment. Indeed, in many cases it isn’t a question of ‘being supportive’ but the child remaining quiet due to a drilled-in fear that thy will be hostile rather than actual hostility.

            Gossipers and murderers are also made in God’s image. That does not oblige me to affirm gossip nor murder.

          • Kyle

            I think we have a most serious duty of care to all children whatever their sexuality and gender. Untold harm has been done to generations who were taught to be ashamed of their sexuality, sometimes exorcised and forced to undergo conversion therapy. Suicide and breakdown were all too often the outcome of such hostility to perfectly normal diversity. It still goes on.

            Further your analogy – one often made by your ‘side’ – is flawed. It assumes that all homosexual desire is wrong whilst only some heterosexual desire is wrong; hence your egregious reference to gossip and murder. We are all commanded to exercise self control and resist temptation, but teaching gay people that they have an added burden to eschew sexual relationships altogether is cruel and unjust. No one on my ‘side’ commenting here is an advocate of adultery or fornication; we want to see same-sex relationships blessed by the church as straight relationships are.

          • Did isolated incidents of forced conversion therapy and wrongly-diagnosed exorcisms occur? Yes, but typically where the faith was new – when it happens in England we typically learn that the priest was taught elsewhere. In contrast, the attempts to isolate young children from the adults in their life (they’re bigots. theye’re hateful. they don’t understand). The attempts to ban people from being able to have talk-therapy about how they do not want to have those feelings. These are less isolated. These are purposeful attempts to make a universal stamp even unto trying to change the laws of this nation.

            They are no obliged to reject anything that OSA are not also expected to reject. Nor are they refused to accept anything that OSA are allowed to accept. This becomes even more clear with the addition of bisexuals to the acronym. Do bisexual men have a greater desire to have sexual relations with men more than I do? Yes, but they might very well have a greater desire to gossip than I do.

            We are all called to die to ourselves. My desire to have a personal conceited preening anger against the grooming gangs and the molesters of children is far greater than my desire to have an opposite sex relation (so presumably greater that SSA people to have a same sex relation). Is this burden upon me greater than that of someone naturally languid, perhaps. Does it mean that this is unfair? And that really I ought to be a clanging cymbal of fury? No, absolutely not.

          • Kyle

            I simply do not believe your exceptionalism. These are not isolated incidents, nor does it have any bearing where the priests or, indeed lay leaders, were trained.
            It is a common safeguarding practice that children are protected from divulging stuff to adults if they are in danger of being abused.
            There is no reason why people should not pray about temptation – but why do they feel being gay is wrong if they have not been brought up to believe it is and to feel ashamed of their identity?
            Yes, people who believe some laws are immoral, campaign to change them. Thus male homosexuality was decriminalised and marital rape was criminalised. Both good laws.

          • It does matter where they train since if they are not being trained in the Church of England then the Church of England does not have to change hugely in response to them. These nations are in an early stage, we should pray for them; they will – by the power of the Holy Spirit – get better.

            To stop a bad thing, you do not change things based on their superficial similarity to the bad thing (In WW2, you don’t beat up asians to oppose the Japanese regime). You change things based on the effects of changing the bad thing. The Church of England’s position on gay marriage makes not a jot of difference to the exorcising done by Pentecostals; (unless, of course, that by embracing SSM it loses its ability to a moderating witness.)

            Perhaps, there would rather not be homosexual since they desire children, and they desire those children to have a mother and father who sleep in the same bed?

            You say that you are happy about the law to decriminalise homosexuality and use that as your advocacy to change the law. I think it would have been better if the Labouchère amendment had not changed the law in the first place.

          • I agree with you, Kyle. Precious young people are being seduced by authority figures to think that a mixed-up unplanned sexual history is normal and inevitable. I feel for the young people a year or 2 down the line when they irrevocably (but for Christ) discover just how untrue that is.

          • Kyle

            All this about training has lost me, I’m afraid.
            As has nations getting better.

            I’m fairly sure that gay people who desire children are perfectly happy to sleep in the same bed once the children are asleep. You must remember that many straight couples don’t have ‘natural’ children but still find ways of being generative.

            And, Christopher, people find that having a mixed up, unplanned sexual history can be confusing and unhelpful. Mostly, they are straight.

          • Forced conversion camps and mis-diagnosing things as demonic is not something that a mature Christian nation such as England does. The United States and southern Africa etc. will in time and prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit become like England in that regard.

            Two fathers and two mothers isn’t the same as a father and a mother. Anyone who grew up in a single mother’s home can tell you that there is a harm where there is no father absent. It does not require self-hatred for a SSA person to think it would be better to have a partner of the complementary sex.

          • Kyle

            Britain has its own share of forced exorcisms and conversions. A neo colonial attitude does not excuse our culpability.
            Research shows that children do very well with parents of the same sex. Stability is the key.

          • That is s non sequitur. Have you seen the stats on the lack of stability of same sex ‘couples’? Being same-sex is one of the strongest predictors of instability, and will likely remain so because of the dislocation away from the plant-human-animal family structure.

          • No one on my ‘side’ commenting here is an advocate of adultery or fornication

            You yourself have advocated fornication on this site in the past. Would you like me to provide links to where you have said that one-night stands can be moral?

          • Thank you S

            Now people – if they wish to – can read what I actually wrote (I haven’t checked that these are my comments).

  28. It worries me that we spend so much energy of issues of sexuality that we are forgetting Jesus’ command to go and make disciples teaching them to obey what He has commanded. The world is in a serious mess and we need to focus on ‘saving’ as many people as possible before the Final Judgement come. The Bible quite clearly teaches marriage is between a man and a woman and that homosexual practice is not allowed. If clergy have any difficulty with that, then maybe they should change their profession. That may sound harsh, but we have been going round in circles over this issue when there are more important issues to focus on.

    • The Bible clearly says that marriage is between a man and many women, or that marriage is a remedy for lust. The Bible condemns one male same-sex practice. It is silent about homosexuality.
      The CoE is not of one mind on sexuality and lay same-sex couples are allowed to follow their consciences, cf. Andrew Godsall’s comments above.
      What is more important than justice and mercy?

      • Dear Penelope

        Your claim is not true:
        Jesus tells us (Matthew 19) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
        All of his words are singular – a man should not take multiple wives at all.

        Even in the Old Testament we read in Deuteronomy chapter 17 at verses 14 to 20, God says that the kings were not supposed to take multiple wives (or horses or gold).

        While this cannot actually be interpreted as anything like a law, it can be understood as declaring that having multiple wives causes problems for everyone involved. This can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4).

        In 1 Timothy 3: 2, and again at verse 12. Both verses talk about a leader and his wife [leader – singular, wife – singular]. Similarly in Titus chapter 1: 6 we are told a leader should be “the husband of one wife” in a list of qualifications for leadership.

      • That is the sort of nonsense that results from seeing the Bible as a unity tout simple rather than separate documents which share certain important things in common.

        Where is your justification for viewing a multi genre, multi author, multi language, multi culture collection of writings dating over a 1000 year period as being a single writing? So many of your impasses and mistakes stem from this clear error.

  29. It is said above, that no-one is blocked. I spent a little time composing a comment on my phone a sent it, to encounter “access to (IP’s) server denied”.
    That has not happened before. Sometimes there has been a notice to the effect it was awaiting moderation, but not being blocked.
    No matter. I’m lay. But I’d do have a vested interest in Christianity, or rather Christ has a vested interest in those who belong to him by divesting and investing himself on the cross.

    “And can it be that I should gain
    An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain—
    For me, who Him to death pursued?
    Amazing love! How can it be,
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    Amazing love! How can it be,
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    ’Tis myst’ry all: th’ Immortal dies:
    Who can explore His strange design?
    In vain the firstborn seraph tries
    To sound the depths of love divine.
    ’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
    Let angel minds inquire no more.
    He left His Father’s throne above—
    So free, so infinite His grace—
    Emptied Himself of all but love,
    And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
    For, O my God, it found out me!
    Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
    No condemnation now I dread;
    Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
    Alive in Him, my living Head,
    And clothed in righteousness divine,
    Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”
    Charles Wesley

    Amen and Amen.

    (It has happened again as I sought to post this- this time an error notice with IP’s servers)

  30. Yes, but there is no limit to the situations when we can just appeal to a ‘different hermeneutic’. Yet the vast majority of possible hermeneutics are clearly going to be non-starters (e.g. the hermeneutic that assumes that Japan was the Holy Land). Such an appeal has no content – the question is how to *justify* a said hermeneutic. We obviously cannot be expected to give it value if it has not won through in competition with its contenders.

    Also – what hermeneutic is needed short of an empirical approach, a grounding in history&culture&genre&language, a knowledge of former scholarship and already-posited economical/neat theories, and

  31. David

    Your latest book ‘Love means Love’ – subtitled ‘the Bible and Same-Sex relationships’ seems to engage with scripture and hermeneutics throughout from a Post evangelical anglican perspective which has certain implications – it is not Evangelical although it might be a form of the open Anglican hermeneutical approach used in the LLF .

    I agree Martin Barratt Davie on this:


    I am interested in what happened to you as you were Evangelical until you were diverted and I think Denny Burk sums it up:


    • Mark. Thank your reading my book – and for recognising that it engages scripture throughout. Martin Davie’s review is thorough. He is willing to note where we agree and respectful where we don’t. It is a model of courteous engagement across differences. I have written to thank him.
      I simply do not know what you mean when I engage with ‘scripture and hermeneutics from a Post evangelical anglican perspective’. Could you please clarify?
      You ask ‘what happened’. Nothing actually. I do not fit Burk’s four stages – which I find rather simplistic to be honest.
      I have held an including view of same-sex relationships since I studied at London Bible College over forty years ago. I had to keep my views quiet there and my theological development was slow as the evangelical world I was working in was not place discussion was possible or welcome. But I have never changed my view – just continued to study and strengthen my convictions. I still consider myself an evangelical by the way – though folks on Ian’s blog threads enjoy finding other names for me. Thanks again.

    • Thanks for the link to the Davie review. I do not think David R has contributed anything new in his book, nor has he refuted the deeper exegetical work done by Robert Gagnon and Richard Hays, among others. It’s also surprising to see old historical errors about first century homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world being repeated. I have read most of the corpus of Greek classical novels and a fair bit of classical Roman poetry, and believe me, pagan writers knew all about same-sex eroticism then and were very often positive about it.
      I have also said for a a while that David R’s position isn’t evangelical but post-evangelical (in the style of Dave Tomlinson, Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren et al): that is, he no doubt began as a fairly traditional pietistic evangelical but has evolved away from it. David is reluctant to own this change and still wants to claim the evangelical label, but that doesn’t wash, any more than I could claim to be the Roman Catholic I was as a child. Of course I still agree with whole swathes of Trinitarian Catholic theology, but on certain distinctives (e.g., Marianism, transubstantiation, purgatory) I don’t, so it would be disingenuous for me to call myself a Roman Catholic now.
      And it needs to be stressed that evangelical theology isn’t simply a matter of bandying texts around but on discerning the deeper structure of dogmatic or fundamental theology to which these texts bear witness. This is where I part company with people who begin with ‘pastoral’ or ‘spiritual’ approaches: too often (it seems to me) they lack a grasp of the deeper systematic theology that underlies pastoral practices and disciplines, and they assume that modern therapeutic psychology (often Jungian in character) is the same as Christian pastoral care . This is why personal experience has become the final arbiter of truth in liberal and post-evangelical circles. It is also why liberal or ‘affirming’ views on homosexuality are a surefire indicator that liberal (humanistic) views on fundamental theology will soon follow. They have to, because they depend on the same agnostic or uncertain biblical hermeneutic. (I remember it was George Carey who popularised the phrase ‘reverent agnosticism’ among charismatic evangelicals in the 1980s.)
      It really is time to go separate ways now with an equitable division of property.

      • Hi James

        “It really is time to go separate ways now with an equitable division of property”

        I am in general agreement with your view but I think it would be a mistake to ‘go our separate ways’ on this disagreement alone. Let me try to explain why.

        Speaking for the moment just about those who believe that the Bible is a trustworthy self-disclosure from God and regard themselves as evangelicals, these are some of the disagreements among us about certain truths. I state them in shorthand form for brevity, and in no particular order. I hope you see what I mean:

        Justification complete when we repent and come to Christ/ “Believers are already justified, because the eschaton has penetrated the present age. But in another sense justification will be completed only on the day of redemption (cf. Gal. 5:5)” (Schreiners Romans Commentary page 290, note 15)

        Sabbath observance

        Evolution/ 7-day Creation

        Gift of tongues today/gift ceased

        Ordination of women

        Does God wish all people to be saved and yet has devoted the reprobate to eternal destruction and wishes them to perish (See Calvin’s comment on Ezekiel 18:23 and Kuiper (God-centred Evangelism) pages 41 and 42)/ Or is the WCF right: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death”. Double decree rejected (Lloyd-Jones)/Double decree is true

        Supralapsarian/infralapsarian/The whole debate tries to dig too deeply


        Certain that not all will be saved/Possible that all will be saved

        Christian reconstruction – theonomy/not theonomy

        Eternal retribution for the unsaved/Annihilation after some retribution/Annihilation on Judgment Day

        Atonement doctrine of penal Substitution/PSA not true

        Belief that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God and are born with a nature inclined to evil/ Don’t believe that

        In my view some of these are more fundamental and important than the Human Sexuality disagreement. The actual position is that different evangelicals will have different views on most of these and we will all draw the circle of absolute essentials in different places.
        This actual position needs to be recognised and explored before there is any move to ‘go separate ways’. I think that the present crisis on Human Sexuality is the right time to have this deeper, more fundamental exploration.

        Phil Almond

  32. 1)Human flourishing
    With reference to the question of human flourishing raised above by Penelope which generated a minor thread, I’d say the question can not be addressed by excluding:
    1.1 THE true flourishing living man, is Jesus Christ and a new humanity (in the second Adam) in union with Him, in new birth.
    1.2 Christ the living man, is the Glory of God the Father, through God the Holy Spirit.
    1.3 As with Christ birth’s, we then become, “Finally alive ” from being dead in our trespasses and sin -from fallen humanity – through being called out of that state of being.
    1.4 There is to be no true human flourishing in life of the first Adam and humanity in him.
    1.5 We need to be a new creation, born of the Holy Spirit, not of the flesh, not of human will.
    And this is flourishing to include, holiness, sanctification.
    1.6 We are then able to live, albeit imperfectly, in freedom, but not freedom the world craves to do as we will, want, desire, but the freedom to do as we ought, flourishing at it highest, in righteousness and holiness.
    1.7 It is the flourishing of a life transformed, with renewed mind, will, heart (life desires) and bodily use, for the honour and glory of Christ.

    2) The Holiness of God and sanctification, holiness in Christian living, including morality and sexuality has been entirely absent in this debate, so far, as far as I can see.

    It has been avoided in the past, by David Runcorn and others and continues to be ignored, not discussed nor debated.

  33. David, there are certain ecclesiastical elements, who as Leonard Cohen observed, as Evangelicals, we are coming to reward them for their endeavours in trying to collapse the Authority of Scripture and trigger a total Anarchy of interpretation and application – but you have asked whether you engage Scripture in a responsible way in ‘Love means Love’ – ‘the Bible and Same-Sex relationships? We would consider these actions in Chapter 3: Chapter 3 is entitled ‘The Surprise of God? Dialogue with and beyond the word’ where Martin Davie has observed “[David] Runcorn holds that a dialogical approach involves the ‘unsettling process of reading, re-examining, repenting, reinterpreting and revising even long unquestioned biblical convictions under the compelling of the Spirit, and in the light of contemporary questions’ (p.26) and Chapter 5 ‘Reading the Bible with Jesus: Midrash, jazz and the continued conversation, where where Martin Davie has observed, “For [David] Runcorn biblical interpretation needs to be like jazz music, a form of creative improvisation that allows ‘many possibilities’ (p.42) – to be direct violations against the person of the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:10) to be an intended refutation and contradiction of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

    • Hi Mark. I asked you what you mean by ‘scripture and hermeneutics from a Post evangelical anglican perspective’. I would be grateful for a response. I genuinely do not know what you mean so I cannot offer a response to you.
      Have you read my book? You only quote from Martin Davie’s review – which on my analogy of jazz, as with other parts of the book, he actually completely misunderstands what I am saying – and how jazz works actually.

      • For Mark, and any others interested, my reference to jazz came in a discussion of the parabolic teaching style of Jesus and the insights of jewish Midrash as a way of approach the sacred texts. This is only a very brief extract from a longer chapter, but it contradicts, in passing, Davie’s claims of what I wrote. ‘Midrash has been likened to jazz: jazz is not just an experiment or whim, but emerges from a thoroughgoing knowledge of the tradition. By this means a creative dialogue is set up which permits something fresh, engaging and new. In the same way, Midrash “does not compete with the plain sense of the text but improvises with it in relation to some new context, issue or event” by “taking the plain sense seriously but going beyond it, linking it to other texts, asking new questions of it, extending the meaning, discovering depths and applications that have not been suggested before” (David Ford 2007:55 &295). There is a process of faithful improvisation, even play. In so doing the text is given life and given new applicability in our context. Like jazz this improvising is not ‘making it up’. It requires a strong commitment to the original text and tradition. But thereafter, midrash, like jazz, allows many possibilities.’ From ‘Love means Love’ p 42.

  34. From what I have read of David Runcorn’s writings the impression I get is that his modus operandi is primarily pastoral in his approach to sexuality, and secondary as far as scripture is concerned. Although he tries very hard to develop a theological and scriptural framework to support his pastoral emphasis, it is not convincing to me and not I would have thought, to most others of an evangelical persuasion. What David does try to do however, is to put himself in the mind of the gay person and try to see it from their point of view which is something many evangelicals do not.

    Consider for a moment, how the situation must appear to them. Now- I am a heterosexual, married with two children. I experience sexual desire toward women and also experience temptations towards them as well. Most heterosexual men do. However, I never experience sexual desire towards men. In fact I recoil from the thought. Now I would imagine that many people who are gay experience the same but in the opposite sense. I should think (unless they are bisexual) they would find sexual relationships with opposite sex to be just as undesirable to them.

    Now suppose I lived in a parallel universe where being gay was considered normative and being heterosexual in your sexual desires, was thought dysfunctional and discouraged.

    Depending on how deep my desires were and my ability to control them, I would find it very difficult if someone told me that I could not marry someone of the opposite sex. In fact I think I would feel quite alone, isolated and develop mental health issues. Even worse, the Bible I read tells me that it would be sinful to have sexual relations and be married to a member of the opposite sex. Many churches would at best tolerate or at worst ostracise me. Some might try to get rid of any demons they think I might have. A few might accept me.

    This is what I think a lot of gay people in the church feel like.

    Now -this is not an argument for same-sex marriage. It is trying to see it from the gay person’s point of view. Despite many studies, no one really knows why they experience sexual desires that are different to the majority of us. They don’t know either. They just know they have them.

    As evangelicals is not enough to quote passages from the Bible and tell them that this is the cross they must bear. For some it is simply too heavy. For others they are led to take their own lives as they cannot bear to be alone and at the same time reconcile their condition with scripture.

    The key issue at the heart of all this I believe, is the fundamental need for human intimacy. A need to love and be loved. The question to my mind for evangelicals, is how this need for intimacy is best met for those with same sex desires while still being faithful to scripture. In all the discussions I have read on human sexuality from an evangelical perspective, this is rarely examined in any great depth.

    What is lacking I think, and also in this current thread are voices from those who do experience SS attraction yet have achieved a level of intimacy that satisfies them without violating the strictures that scripture has for governing the conduct of sexual relations between men and and women. I think they have much to say to us.

    I believe that Living Out https://www.livingout.org/ has addressed some of these issues but I am not sure if they are represented in the LLF report which I have yet to read.

    It would be a shame if they are not included.

    • Chris,

      I do understand your point about creative empathy. However, the normative heterosexual access to straight marriage (as you’ve described) is just as fraught with dysfunction.

      According to data collected from the General Social Survey, approximately 15 per cent of marriages are sexless, i.e. the couples have not had sex with their spouse in the last six months to one year (https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/when-sex-leaves-the-marriage/). This may be due to medical reasons, but we can’t assume that couples desist from sex by mutual consent.

      I’d agree that “as evangelicals is not enough to quote passages from the Bible and tell them that this is the cross they must bear”. However, apart from considerably more empathy and pastoral support for such couples than is now provided, how should we react to an unfulfilled spouse in a sexless marriage resorting to pornography?

      I’d suspect that many evangelicals would resort to quoting passages from the Bible and to tell them that this is cross they must bear (which amount to the lack of practical empathy described in James 2:16)

      Of course, some might say that, at least, marital vows encompass the possibility of a sexless marriage. However, in baptism, Christian commitment must also encompasses the possibility of unfulfilled erotic desire, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

      The difference of response to Church doctrine is that, however those of either orientation might be able to discover erotic fulfilment, straight people in sexless marriages aren’t seeking to change Church doctrine to affirm an alternative to the scriptural pattern.

      Even in the sad situation results in divorce, the pastoral guidance for those who seek church re-marriage after divorce explains that “divorce is a breach of God’s will”.

      In contrast, I’d doubt that a single “out and proud” gay or lesbian person who would countenance a similar declaration about same-sex sexual activity.

      So, while I’d agree that many evangelicals lack pastoral sensitivity, the real issue is the Church’s LGBT advocacy groups are arguing for far more than that.

      Their argument has now escalated to criminalising the Church’s orthodox teaching on marriage.

      • Hello David,
        Thank you for your reply. I am glad that you would agree that many evangelicals lack pastoral sensitivity – in fact I would say that this is probably more than many – a great of them do in fact. The main point I wished to make is that if we as evangelicals cannot first demonstrate empathy – real empathy – to those who are SS attracted, then it is less likely we will get a hearing from them. We need to understand where they are coming from and not solely as a theological aberration. I often see this debate characterised by evangelicals firing verses like a scattergun to convince them of their wrongness.
        It rarely works. (I am not accusing you of that BTW).

        I do not disagree with what you write, however I would like to offer a few observations if I may.

        Of course, sexless marriages occur in opposite sex –couples and one party resorting to pornography for fulfilment is not the solution. I would never commend that. When I have come across this then barring medical reasons, the sexless marriage is only the presenting issue. Usually there is a much deeper and more profound dysfunctionality going on in the marriage that needs to be addressed that may or may not be resolvable. Sometimes while undesirable, divorce can be necessary and the right thing to do particularly if domestic violence is involved (I concur with David Instone–Brewer’s analysis of the divorce passages in the OT and NT BTW, and how these issue should be treated, but I don’t want to get into the relative arguments for and against divorce here).
        The issues concerning divorce and SSM are not theologically comparable which I’m sure you know despite revisionist attempts to make them so.

        For the Christian who is SS attracted and holds to the view that Christian marriage is only between a man and a woman then the possibility of sexual intimacy is not an option. Other than quoting verses and exhorting then to ‘bear their cross’ what other responses are then possible? What hope could they expect other than to try and battle on with it? It is very difficult for them.

        I think that SS attracted Christians and the gay lobby in general often make a significant error when they assert that their identity is ‘gay’. In other words it is their sexuality that defines them – I am a “gay” Christian.

        This is not true. Our identity is in Christ and in no other. I am not a ‘heterosexual Christian” I am a Christian who has heterosexual desires. This is why Living Out avoid using the term ‘gay Christian ‘and prefer to use the term “SS attracted” instead. In Evangelical dialogue with revisionists, then the use of language here is very important.

        The second error I think, is the belief that the need for human intimacy can only be found ultimately within physical sexual union. Again this is not true. There is a fine line between sex and lust and sex can facilitate intimacy, but true intimacy surpasses these things. I have noticed this when talking to much older folk, whose fires died down a long time ago yet are more intimate with each other in a non-sexual way than they have ever been.

        Finally, having SS attraction is not inevitable. People can and do change. Some go in the opposite direction of course, but it is not true to say that your sexual preferences are innate and immutable. There are many cases of peoples sexuality changing –except they are rarely heard and screened out by vested interests. The only real ‘gay conversion’ specialist is the Holy Spirit. This may not happen for many – yet the possibility nonetheless is there.

        So for evangelicals, can we improve the way we respond pastorally? I think that Living Out have got a lot of things right in their pastoral approaches. While they set out the theological case, they emphasise the need for identity in Christ, not identity in sexuality. Secondly, they provide a very practical framework together with resources where the need for human intimacy can flourish and SS attracted Christian can feel loved and accepted.

        And – most importantly -it is run by Christians who are SS attracted themselves who can speak from knowledge into the lives of those who struggle. The impression I get is that SS attracted Christians do respond to this approach.

        Your last point about attempts to criminalise orthodox Christian belief is an important one and the action by some within the Anglican Church to try and do this should be fiercely resisted. At some point in the late 20th century gay activists attempts to raise their profile turned from simply asking for acceptance, to obtaining rights and latterly, to intolerance of disagreement to the extent of trying to close people down by changing and using the law. This combined with the rise of identity politics and mass communication via the internet, has led to a toxic mix and a morally censorious society. My impression is that Ian Paul has had his own taste of this recently.

        Coming back to the LLF report which I have not yet seen, I don’t really think it is going to make much difference. At best it might reduce the level of rancour and uncivility. However, it is an opportunity though, for evangelicals to make their case along the lines outlined above. We need the stories of SS attracted Christians who have found it possible to live in accordance with the Bible’s commands and have achieved the intimacy they need. And also stories of those whose sexuality has changed from SS attraction.

        We need to insist that their stories are told. I am not sure if they are in the LLF report and if they haven’t , then that is a serious omission.

        • Chris

          Just one response. Gay people should not have to ask for acceptance. Acceptance from whom and on whose terms?
          Just substitute black for gay in that sentence…

          • No. Intelligent or honest people will never see black and gay as analogous. One is inborn, the other is not – the crucial fundamental point. Compounding which, one is apparent to a person of any age or intelligence, whereas (the precise opposite situation) the other is not apparent even in a high tec medical examination. Thirdly the first cannot be lied about, the second can.

            To which we add that there has been a concerted effort to force us to see these as analogous. Intelligent and critical people will have a critical and thinking attitude to that effort.

            As though that is not enough, the above points have been made repeatedly, and are *still* being ignored. So how are we to view the honesty of serial ignorers?

          • Penelope,
            I don’t think your substitution really works here. There is a distinction to be made between the person themselves and their behaviour. One has an ethnic origin and the other concerns a sexual behaviour. They are both humans made in the image of God that I accept as being their fundamental identity, and not defined by the colour of their skin or their sexual preferences.

            For this reason I do accept SS attracted people (as I would people of colour) although I don’t accept their sexual behaviour as I believe it to be contrary to scripture.
            Not that I expect them to agree with me although some would be my friends. They accept me but would not accept my views.

            Others like you I imagine, would accept them and their sexual behaviour.

          • Chris

            Yes. I don’t ‘accept them’ though. Who am I to accept anyone?
            It is quite clear that, although sexuality is fluid for some, it is not so for the majority of people.
            We do not ask why people are straight. We should not ask why people are gay. Unless we believe that being straight is OK and being gay isn’t. And even if it were a ‘choice’? If you believe, as I do, that gay relationships can be as hallowed as straight ones, there are no salvific bonus points to be accrued from not being gay.

          • Christopher

            There is some evidence of a genetic component in homosexuality. But that, for many gay people, is a dangerous construct.
            The analogy is not genetic of course, but how people are perceived/constructed in culture/society. Try a high tech examination of a POC.
            The black and the gay are perceived as threatening because they exist on the margins of our white cisheteronormative society. They threaten your masculinity, they threaten your wife, they threaten your cherished norms.

          • Yes. I couldn’t sleep last night because of black and gay people threatening my masculinity and threatening my wife? It’s shocking?

            You cannot be a gay person. You can be a person who is now gay (has become gay) just as you can be a person who is now a smoker or a Schubert lover.

          • Christopher I think most gay persons would argue that you can be a gay person! And they should know.

          • David

            I agree. But being gay is not a ‘behaviour’. You can be gay even if you’ve never had sex and don’t own a Judy Garland cd.

          • “The black and the gay are perceived as threatening because they exist on the margins of our white cisheteronormative society. They threaten your masculinity, they threaten your wife, they threaten your cherished norms.”

            I think that is an extraordinary statement. Among all the evangelical constituencies I know of, I’m not aware of any who would remotely regard the ‘black and the gay ‘ as threatening to their masculinity and norms -let alone their wives!

            What is intimidating, are the gay activists in and out of the church and aided by a largely liberal media, who try to use the law to bully, criminalise, close down and deprive the livelihoods of those who have the temerity to dissent and challenge their views.

            This is what they find threatening.

          • Penny, you didn’t read what I said. You can ‘be’ a gay person *now*. Just as you can be more or less anything now in your tendencies and behaviour and preferences and addictions and so on. Most of these are nothing to do with who you are in essence (unlike being female or black), but are the result of later developments.

          • “But being gay is not a ‘behaviour’. You can be gay even if you’ve never had sex and don’t own a Judy Garland cd.”

            You can be same-sex attracted on that basis. However, since the 1986 SCOTUS decision rejected privacy arguments in the Bowers vs. Hardwick, the most significant political and legal strategy of gay advocacy groups has been to assert a model of “gay essentialism’ that “assumes the interchangeability…of gay sexual identity, orientation, and conduct.”

            As Berkeley law professor, Sonia Katyal explains: ”This focus on personal expression and identity also takes on legal import in gay civil rights. Because such cases often depend upon an identity that is not immediately visible, as Nan Hunter has explained, the identity–gay, lesbian, bisexual-must be expressed in order to become cognizable. Thus, since a lesbian or gay identity cannot exist without representation, expression has become a component of the very identity itself.”

            Unlike race, absent consistent embodiment in behaviour, gay identity is not cognizable, and all of the essentialist identity-based arguments collapse.

          • “ Unlike the straight identity which is unmarked.”

            The only reason for the notion of a straight identity is as a contesting delineation in support of the policy/legal strategy pursued by gay advocacy groups which asserted same-sex sexual conduct to be an innate and irreducible aspect of the gay identity.

            Happy to dismiss that unwarranted notion.

          • David

            The (male) straight identity has been the cultural norm for 2 christian millennia and long before.
            It’s there in Ephesians and in the Pastorals and the catholic epistles.

          • Ian

            There’s plenty of scholarship which supports my assertion that cisheteronormative patriarchy has been the default in the western tradition and that it is so taken for granted as normative that it has become unmarked.
            Actually, I think David S is right about gay essentialism, but that doesn’t undermine my point that it is heterosexuality (though not always so named) which has been seen as the canon, whilst other sexualities are framed as aberrant. Even LLF pathologises homosexuality in the Science chapter. No one questions the aetiology of straight sexuality. Why? Because it is framed as the norm, the natural, the inevitable, th desirable, the good.

          • No. The fact of virginity and celibacy shows that heterosexual attraction was never deemed to be an irreducible aspect of identity.

            What’s more, the constant refrain of gay advocacy groups is that ‘sexual identity’ was not a part of ancient self-understanding, or experience.

            It’s the basis for arguing that any denunciations against same-sex sex are inapplicable to modern same-add couples because they could not have envisaged sexual expression an irreducible aspect of an immutable identity.

          • There’s plenty of scholarship which supports my assertion that cisheteronormative patriarchy has been the default in the western tradition and that it is so taken for granted as normative that it has become unmarked.

            Tendentious, ideologically-driven activist ‘scholarship’ such as the now-discredited Critical Theory.

            No one questions the aetiology of straight sexuality. Why?

            Because without it neither you nor I nor any of the human race would be around to question anything.

          • David

            Virginity and celibacy were allowable exceptions (at som times more allowable than others) in a patriarchal society. Of course, calling it cisheteronormative is anachronistic, since people didn’t identify as what we now call gay and straight (and there are, of course, problems with the idea of orientation as identity). But western societies, whether, Jewish, pagan, or Christian and, with all their differences were patriarchal ‘heteronormative’ constructs. Being male, married, free, a father….was the default.

      • David
        I agree, sex has been elevated to a degree as never before in our society. There are thousands of people who are living with a husband or wife who is too old or too ill to have a sex life. Many people whose fiancees died in the Great War continued their lives as spinsters. Monks live a monastic life and give their whole focus to work and prayer. The fact is that nobody dies from not having sex, but plenty of people are diseased or die from too much sex with many partners.

          • …that (contrary to some LGBT campaigning) it doesn’t remedy an unbearable burden that straight marriage removes for heterosexuals.

          • But the point is that same-sex couples may derive the same comfort and love from a sexless marriage that other-sex couples do. It’s the prurience about ‘genital acts’ again.

          • If there is “prurience about ‘genital acts’”, then it’s on the part of the LGBT advocacy groups, who argued that, without access to marriage as “remedy for fornication”, gay and lesbian couples faced ‘unbearable’ alternative of deriving “comfort and love from a sexless” civil partnership.

          • David

            No one really believes civil partnerships are sexless (by definition). That’s a comfortable myth.
            I know of no one on my ‘side’ who focuses on genital intimacy. Many on the conservative side do. It’s tedious and prurient.

          • “No one really believes civil partnerships are sexless (by definition)”

            Agreed. The argument about the unbearable burden of celibacy with marriage providing “remedy for fornication” was just another “tired and prurient” ruse of gay advocacy groups in the Church.

            They emphasised this particular purpose of marriage (according to liturgy) as a rejoinder to the “for procreation” argument of marriage orthodoxy.

          • Penelope,

            “ But the remedy for lust argument is much more ‘biblical’ than the procreation one!”

            Well, no. The central ‘one flesh’ purpose of marriage is founding a new bond of primary affinal kinship with legitimate contingency for recognising joint procreative kinship.

            Adoption is subsidiary to natural kinship.

            You’ve still attempted a surprising change of tack.

            What you previously deemed to be “tedious and prurient” for conservatives to focus on is now spun as a more ‘biblical’ LGBT counter to the ‘(contingency for) procreation’ argument.

          • David

            I’m citing Paul in 1 Corinthians. It is better not to marry, but it is better to marry than to burn with lust. Not a very positive view, but scripture is not univocal on the ‘goods’of marriage.
            Same flesh can mean several things, sexual union amongst them, but neither Genesis 2 nor Jesus in Matthew mentions procreation.
            And same-sex marriage can, of course, be one flesh.
            The NT is strangely silent on that ‘good’.

          • And same-sex marriage can, of course, be one flesh.
            The NT is strangely silent on that ‘good’.

            Doesn’t that rather suggest that the New Testament doesn’t see that kind of one flesh as being good? Just as it doesn’t see adulterous one-flesh or one-flesh through fornication as being good either?

          • Silent on that good = procreation (I shouldn’t insert sentences which disrupt my meaning).

            We all get caught between edits sometimes.

          • Penelope,

            “neither Genesis 2 nor Jesus in Matthew mentions procreation.
            And same-sex marriage can, of course, be one flesh.”

            And the Genesis 2 and Matthaen accounts are consistent with “founding a new bond of primary affinal kinship with legitimate contingency for recognising joint procreative kinship.”

            Apart from violating the “it was not so from the beginning” Genesis archetype as much as polygamy does, the issue with same-sex couples is that marriage’s “contingency for recognising joint procreative kinship” cannot be legitimately applied to them as a prima facie presumption.

            And that’s because (as I’ve explained) such a presumption wrongfully places the onus of proving the contrary on the child’s other natural parent.

          • Penelope,

            In scripture, the official recognition of a mother’s procreative kinship to a child stems from the corroborative witness to her giving birth to that child. It was absence of such corroboration (1 Ki. 3:18 – 20), that necessitates Solomon’s judicial intervention.

            The husband’s joint procreative kinship to that child is implied by the scripture affirming the wife’s children as their legitimate heirs, through its record of Israelite genealogies.

          • Ok. Thank you David. But where is that in Genesis 2? Are you saying that the new kinship bond is presumed to be procreative

          • Penelope,

            It’s presumed by the enduring archetype in vs. 24.

            The archetypal ‘man’, before marriage, is procreated kin to “his father and mother”.

            In turn, he leaves the descent group to found (through marriage) a new offshoot of affinal kinship with the self-same contingency for joint procreative kinship of offspring.

          • Hi David

            He leaves the descent group (great to see someone agreeing with me on kinship), but procreation is absent from the text. Indeed, procreation only app after the Fall.

          • Why should the context of “father and mother” be mentioned at all, unless the procreative kinship has relevance to the affinal?

            Surely, dismissing that procreative implication is imposing an overly reductive view of marriage that does violence to the clear implication of vs. 24.

            And Christ Himself didn’t dismiss all but certain parts of Genesis 2 to underscore his declaration (in Matt. 19:8) of God’s unrevoked intent for marriage.

            Why should we be any different?

  35. For a searing account of what it is like to be a young person who gradually comes to realize that she is a lesbian, but is also a convinced evangelical Christian, and the huge internal conflict this causes – to the point where, in the view of her doctor, her body has responded to the point where today she is living with a disease that has practically crippled her – I would highly recommend Vicky Beeching’s book ‘Undivided.’

    As of now, this page has 256 comments arguing theology and biblical passages. Very few of them appear to be aware of the genuine struggles of gay and lesbian Christians.

    I am the father of a lesbian daughter in a same sex marriage, and have many friends who are gay and lesbian. I have been told many times of how many years they struggled NOT to be gay or lesbian. This, they were told, was about ‘walking in freedom’ (or words to that effect), but the impact on them was far from liberating. For many it led to self-loathing, an inability to recognize the image of God in themselves (why would God create them this way if God found them loathsome?), even for some to attempted suicide.

    I’m not interested in engaging in an abstract academic debate about scripture texts and theology that does not take seriously the lived experience of people who are suffering. I note that they have been conspicuously absent in this comment thread, and reading the tone of the comments, I can understand why.

    David Runcorn, who I’m glad to call a friend, is trying to address the issues from this pastoral framework. I’m grateful to him for that.

    • Tim, would you agree that demons want us to sin? Would you agree that that they are smart enough to want to attack us at our weaknesses and where we are most willing to compromise? Would you agree that your position on this encourages demons to attack women like your daughter? Would you agree that this is a bad thing, and that offering all the help we can to the weak and attacked – which is in fact all of us – but without compromising our allegiance to the true king would be better?

      Your position is simply a blank cheque to sin and the devil. Resisting any sin will involve some degree of pain – I would be worried if you did not have your own lived experience on that – and by seeking to compromise the church on this issue that you are encouraging the pain to be focused upon the same sex-attracted minority.

      In addition, the person who has resisted the temptation of same-sex fornication without yet succumbing does not know what the actual pleasure will be. You hardly help them to fight against the temptation. Would you credit heroin or cocaine with such healing power as you give to lesbian sex? Or celebrate alcohol to a drunkard?

      Much of the pain is caused by them living a lie or secrets. This is not the desire of the conservative evangelicals. It is the desire of Satan and the progressives to make SSA-people afraid to speak to Bible-believing Christians. Are conservative absolutely perfect at being approachable? Probably not – not all of the people all of the time. But there is a desire to be open – and a willingness to learn about ways to improve – but always loving God (which includes His judgments) with the whole heart first and foremost.

      • Kyle. I would challenge your words as a response to any pastoral context. But as a response to this brave, vulnerable and very personal testimony by a Christian minister and father your post is distressingly inappropriate and surely crosses the boundaries laid down for respectful discussions on this blog.
        I plead that it be deleted.

        • I don’t see how Tim being a minister is relevant. If it isn’t then, then I would strongly encourage you to consider whether you are contributing to a culture of undue deference. We are a kingdom of priests and God is no respecter of persons.

          I have re-read my post and I see nothing objectionable or disrespectful within it. I can honestly say that I certainly meant no disrespect. Would you mind pointing out where so that I might learn in future.

          • ‘I don’t see how Tim being a minister is relevant. If it isn’t then, then I would strongly encourage you to consider whether you are contributing to a culture of undue deference.’

            Kyle, I think if you knew David, you woulds realize that he is the last person on earth to encourage undue deference to clergy just because they are clergy.

            Not to put words into his mouth, but I suspect David is alluding to the fact that I have been in full time parish ministry for 42 years all over western and northern Canada, and have been called on during that time to offer pastoral care and support to several gay and lesbian people, and their families. When you talk about issues, I see their faces.

      • Kyle

        That you can write this to a fellow Christian and that you believe it is quite acceptable to write of being gay as demonic possession and equate gay desire to drug and alcohol addiction and, further, that you can see nothing objectionable or disrespectful in your rhetoric, is simply mind boggling.
        It does not shew me Christ.

        • I did not write off being gay as demonic possession. I do not think gayness has anything to do with demonic possession. At no point in that post do I refer to demonic possession. Demon attack is a far broader range of activities than possession. The devil can make accusations lead one to shame and silence. To make your theology based on reducing the necessity to fight is to allow the devils to dictate your theology.

          I do think drunkenness and same-sex relations are very similar, and I think one can see traps in where you’re thinking if you treat them differently. Some drug addicts are most definitely born that way. It is as part of their identity as homosexuality is to the homosexual. Yet for the drug-addict we seek to follow God’s word and help the drug addict in following God’s word. Why so different with the one with same sex attraction.

          • From this discussion, it seems to that a pastoral-first approach of immediate harm reduction is an attempt to serve two masters. It is an attempt to get the blessings of Jesus and to enjoy the wisdom and love therein but not to the extent that it angers the demonic. Trying to serve two masters doesn’t work. The result is a perfectly awful state of lukewarmness. Which the demons are perfectly happy with, and that angers Christ. You cannot serve two masters.

            The fight is part of the Christian life. It cannot be eliminated by a pastoral-care-first approach without departing from the narrow path.

            God’s judgments must come first, and must not be departed from. However, convenient departing from them might appear to be.

          • Comparing gay relationships to drunkenness is offensive and must contravene this blog’s guidelines. Please desist from this kind of shameful rhetoric.

          • It isn’t bearing much fruit so I am happy to avoid using it anymore. However, I still do not see what is so objectionable to it and despite registering how much you consider it objectionable nobody has said why they find it objectionable.

          • You know very well that there are many different points on which things can be compared. And also that none of these is equivalent to making a total overall comparison between them. So start again.

            Drunkenness and homosexual behaviour can, for example, be compared in that they may both be examples of giving in to our animal or worse nature and later regretting it and being/feeling the lesser for it for the sake of fleeting or short term pleasure. How does that make the 2 pursuits comparable in other ways? One is to do with hormones, the other with taste buds. No similarity there. And so on.

          • Kyle
            It’s utterly offensive because drunkenness and drug taking are either self indulgence or addiction.
            Same-sex marriage is neither of those.

          • If same-sex relations are neither an indulgence or an addiction (and I would rule out a ‘necessity’, also). Then what is it? I can think of only five things that anything can be: Service, necessity, maintenance, indulgence and addiction. Am I missing a category, and is anything but same-sex relations in that category?

          • Not all other sex-marriages are open to children. Some same-sex marriages are.

            Any actual marriages which are not open to procreation are so due to contingent factors (eg age, or a disease which causes infertility).

            No same-sex marriages are open to procreation due to an obvious essential factor which goes to the very nature of the thing.

            There is therefore an essential difference between the two cases.

          • I do not think age or infertility* stop a marriage from being open to children. I think a marriage when – for example – the man makes himself a eunuch (before the marriage begins) would be an indulgence.

            * You can find newspaper articles on the issue, as well as the Bible.

          • Some couples choose not to have children

            That’s very selfish of them, but is still a contingent factor and not an essential fact that changes the nature of the marriage, as being two of the same sex is. They could have children if they were to change their minds and be less selfish; a same-sex couple cannot have children naturally, regardless of their wishes.

          • S

            Perhaps you might like to re-phrase that: ‘I find that very selfish of them’, rather than ‘that’s very selfish of them’.
            That is your view or opinion. It is not an eternal verity.
            Of course there are other ways of being generative than having ‘biological’ children and many same-sex couples do have children from previous marriages.

          • Perhaps you might like to re-phrase that: ‘I find that very selfish of them’, rather than ‘that’s very selfish of them’.

            No, I am happy with my phrasing.

            Of course there are other ways of being generative than having ‘biological’ children

            There’s adoption, but that requires another couple to have procreated naturally; and there’s artificial fertilisation, but by definition that means that something has gone wrong with the natural method.

            and many same-sex couples do have children from previous marriages.

            So they’re also committing adultery by being unfaithful to their previous partners?

          • You may be happy with your phrasing, but an assertion is not a truth.

            There are ways of being generative besides being a biological or an adoptive parent.

            Your commiting adultery comment only works if you do not believe in divorce and remarriage. Perhaps you don’t, but the CoE permits it.

          • You may be happy with your phrasing, but an assertion is not a truth.

            Any time I make an assertion, you are free to argue with it, as is anyone else. That is how discourse works.

            There are ways of being generative besides being a biological or an adoptive parent.

            Not of generating new life, there aren’t.

            Your commiting adultery comment only works if you do not believe in divorce and remarriage. Perhaps you don’t, but the CoE permits it.

            And as I think we’ve established, that was one of the wrong turns which got the Church of England into its current mess.

          • S

            We’ve established that you think the CoE has taken a wrong turn. Your belief. Your opinion.
            We have not ‘established’ that the CoE has taken a wrong turn.

            Generativity is broader than your instrumentalist notion of reproduction. As Tina Beattie once said – even the dogs in the street do that.

          • We’ve established that you think the CoE has taken a wrong turn. Your belief. Your opinion.

            Which anyone is free to argue with.

            We have not ‘established’ that the CoE has taken a wrong turn.

            Oh, I think it’s clear that wrong turns have been taken; the questions are just exactly where and when, and whether it’s possible for it to get back on the right track.

            Generativity is broader than your instrumentalist notion of reproduction. As Tina Beattie once said – even the dogs in the street do that.

            Well, if you could give an example of creating new life that doesn’t involve a male and a female that might help your case?

            (Humans can also be creative in different spheres, of course, like poetry and music; but in the distinct sphere of creating new life, I know of no other way it can be done than the natural. The fundamental things apply, as the man sang, as time goes by.)

        • Regarding S’s comment that couples who choose not to have children are selfish, consider two scenarios: some couples choose not to have their own children so that they might raise children who already exist through fostering or adoption; some couples choose not to have children because they see the burden that population growth puts on the world and the resources God has given us and choose not to contribute to that for the greater good of future generations of other people’s children.

          Hopefully S will now allow for these scenarios and thereby change their mind.

          • Hopefully S will now allow for these scenarios and thereby change their mind.

            I considered those scenarios.

            It is entirely possible to foster or adopt children and have children of one’s own; and to refuse to have children because of the ‘burden of population growth’ is an anti-human, nihilistic abomination of a philosophy that is even worse than selfishness.

            Therefore I have no changed my mind.

    • “I’m not interested in engaging in an abstract academic debate about scripture texts and theology that does not take seriously the lived experience of people who are suffering.”

      Well, I’m not interested in LGBT declarations of suffering trumping all other ramifications for the Church’s faithfulness to its historic calling or silencing the suffering of children, who, through the joint lesbian parenthood conferred through their mother’s same-sex marriage, are denied access to their responsible natural fathers:

    • Tim Thank you your courage and willingness in sharing this very personal story from your family and ministry. And for bringing testimony into this discussion – something the evangelical tradition has always taken seriously.

      • David,
        I’ve greatly appreciated jazz music, ( including John Coltrane’s, ” Love Supreme”) although not musician but it would be far from a metaphor on which to base an order a Christian life, a life in Christ.
        Yet again you fail to address the question of the Holiness of God, and holiness in Christian life and sexuality.
        I continue to press this point, as no wants to deal with this aspect in any of the LLF, that I can see.
        Perhaps you could help me here, thanks?

        • Geoff. Jazz ‘would be far from a metaphor on which to base and order a Christian life, a life in Christ.’ Can I ask why you think that?

    • Tim, thanks so much for courageously sharing your experience. I don’t think Kyle’s response is helpful or appropriate, and I don’t buy into the sharp division between theology and pastoral care.

      I hope you find the video in today’s post takes a better line…


      • I don’t have a sharp division between pastoral care. I think that pastoral care that is divorced from theology does much good, nor a theology that derives from what makes pastoral care convenient for the pastor.

        “Don’t fight your temptations because then the torment will stop, and that’s the way to stop the torment” is utterly grotesque advice. For hundreds upon hundreds of years people would have found that utterly horrific. One is doing a gross disservice when one allows that be respectable or even bear the name or ‘caring’ or ‘pastorial’. Torment is not something to flee – when you are taking flak you know that you are over the target.

        I think taking a better line is the wrong approach – at least when dealing with those who profess a Christian faith – since we ought to love God and for that love obey Him. We’re not called to love the world and for that reason act with Christian behaviours since they’re wise and peacemaking. By all means make the consequentialist case – it edifies, its good for dealing with non-Christians, and the superiority of the Christian Ethic for man’s life is evidence of it being created by the creator of man. But making the positive case for society – and frankly in most case, I would assume a little dishonest too – as your case moves your eyes from God.

        If God told you to take your son atop a mountain and kill him. You ought to obey because he is God and you are not. Not because he mistreated poor Ishmael.

      • Ian, I apologize if I gave the impression that I was positing a sharp difference between theology and pastoral care. I was not. I was simply pleading that we allow them to inform each other. Most of the ‘pastoral suggestions’ I have seen offered for gay and lesbian Christians (in their absence) in this comment section have been found woefully inadequate by the majority of people who have tried to live by them. They are the pastoral equivalent of being advised to take cold showers as a cure for masturbation. We have to do better.

        • Yes we can…and actually there are gay people commenting here…but you might not realise it.

          But I guess my challenge to those on the ‘revising’ side (if there be one) is this: there is an understandable impatience with theological categories wheeled out and used in pastorally unhelpful ways, including arguments about the meaning of texts. There is, then, a tendency to shift focus onto practical dimensions of pastoral response.

          But here’s the thing: Jesus and Paul were pastors. Paul clearly rejects any form of same-sex sex, and in doing so is completely in line with diaspora Jewish views, as E P Sanders sets out very clearly. And there really isn’t much doubt, from both context and text, that Jesus also was completely inline with the OT sexual ethic that shaped rabbinical rejection of SSS.

          So how do we make sense of Jesus and Paul’s rejection of SSS as a pastoral strategy? Is Jesus actually a model of ministry for us, or (in taking an ‘inclusive’ approach) are we actually saying that we know better?

  36. There are comments here, quite rightly about the pastoral question as though sexual desire is called into account only when it involves homosexuality, bisexuality, but the point applies to sexual desire, full stop, whether married or single.
    It doesn’t take much imagination to see a young heterosexual person seeking pastoral guidance, say for sex before marriage, or for problems with pornography? What then, especially if it is a source of self disgust, a contributory factor in depression? Who struggle with human relationship and intimacy, or lack of it.
    It can seem to be all one sided as if only those with same sex attraction, struggle with desires or what some have called ” over desires”.
    It is also projected or to use an over used word in the comments section, caricatured, that those who may come across as robust and clear in doctrine, lack empathy, understanding and the human touch. Some may, but some may employ that underpinning to wonderful pastoral input. The turned around, life transformation of Rosario Butterfield comes to mind: David Baker? is another.
    Living Out represent others, but it seems that they can face hostility and rejection, but from within their own groupings.
    Self -loathing and depression can arise from a number of differing factors, and I’ve worked into secondary mental health services to know how destructive of a life created in the image of God, it is.
    But as this may come across as easy-peasy – it is far from that- at the existential centre of any human life is, from where do we get our deep identity, deepest security, deepest safety, deepest affirmation, (in who you are, not what you do) deepest love, deepest fellowship, (and my first encounter with this Christian teaching was based on what was then known as Clinical Theology, from Dr Frank Lake) other than from the One we were made by, the One we were made for, the One who gave up it all on the cross for me, arms wide open, and for you and you and you.
    Yes we seek human love and intimacy, but that is but a substitute, for the supreme reality of “Love Divine, All loves Excelling.”
    Do we desire Christ in that way? Do we know his unbreakable, infinitely faithful, New Covenanted love?
    All others are desires in the wrong direction. To know and be known by him is true fulfilled, adopted, gifted (not by works) identity, longing, and belonging: eternal life.
    It is human flourishing transformed even in the midst of fears and fighting and the trough of despond, even in the midst of the battle for the mind, the spiritual warfare. Even if it is not all “hunky dory glory” in this life, even though we are “Simul Justus et Peccator”. Even when we have sleepless nights!

  37. Just a simple contribution…

    If someone accuses you of being ‘phobic’ (implying an irrational fear), couldn’t one challenge it by adding the suffix ‘sceptic?’ (‘Homo-sceptic’… ‘Trans-sceptic’ etc…)
    We’re in a humpty dumpty world of using words to mean what we want them to mean… and resisting the ‘phobic’ slur is one way of claiming back the middle ground for reasoned debate about issues, not imagined fears.

    • Anyone who constantly speaks in terms of ‘-phobic’ sounds to me a person whose own life is emotion-dominated with little rational thought involved, and further (worse) someone who cannot conceive that anyone else’s life is different from that. I.e. each of us in our earlier stages of maturity.

        • Well – it is well known that people are more emotion-dominated the less mature they are and more reason-dominated the more mature they are. By definition. So if people not only frame most things in emotional terms (fear, hatred), compound that by confusing fear with hatred, and cap it all by simply assuming that fear and/or hatred is the only option, having no acquaintance with rational disagreement or rational attention to evidence or statistics, then do those people sound to you as though they are at the more or less mature end of the spectrum?

          • Well, Christopher, I might have to conclude from that argument that your emotionalism over the perceived dangers of same-sex relationships and your inability to take on board rational disagreement, puts you at the less mature end of the spectrum.

          • What emotionalism is that. I care passionately and proportionately about things that can hurt people – the alternative is not to care, and there is a word for that (psychopathic). But show me examples of where that care of mine is not based on prior logical analysis.

            I shall be very interested to see them.

  38. David,
    I’ve greatly appreciated jazz music, ( including John Coltrane’s, ” Love Supreme”) although not musician but it would be far from a metaphor on which to base an order a Christian life, a life in Christ.
    Yet again you fail to address the question of the Holiness of God, and holiness in Christian life and sexuality.
    I continue to press this point, as no wants to deal with this aspect in any of the LLF, that I can see.
    Perhaps you could help me here, thanks?

    Ian, again there is a 502 error, flagged up, along with a bad gateway from your site.
    I’ve made sure the email address is correct. And this is from my phone.

  39. One thing I would like to say to the affirming crowd, is something written in LLF.

    On page 264 it quotes a vicar talking about a subset of gay persons as ‘I think the less you are as a human being’. Isn’t that awful? Isn’t that terrible?

    But it is said by a gay vicar of the affirming variety. It was said about gay people who remain celibate. It calls them pretenders that aren’t living and are less of a human being.

    Celibate SSA Christans are – by not fault of there own – at the coalface on the fight against Satan in this country. We should be defending them and supporting them. We should not be doing the devil’s work by pretending that what the Bible says is ambiguous when it palpably is not. We should not be doing the devil’s work by accusing them of insincerity, hate, or internalised homophobia. We should be supporting them and defending them. Some point out the lack of their voices in this discussion. They should not have to be in this discussion dealing with those who would seek to sow confusion and accusations. We should be willing to defend them – as we would seek to be defended – rather than putting all the burden upon them.

    Nobody – or at least I’ve never seen it – would call OSA celibate Christians as being less-than-human pretenders failing to live. Why the presumption that SSA celibate Christians are?

    • Kyle. You have misquoted and – more seriously – completely misunderstood the story on p264 of LLF. The man is speaking about himself – not accusing anyone else. He speaks of his long experience of having feelings for men, but trying not to act on them. He has come to believe that, for him, it was a kind of pretence. And for him, he says (in the full quote) ‘ the more you pretend, I think the less you are a human being’.

      • “At this point in the story, Austin breaks off to talk about people who
        call themselves same-sex attracted and remain celibate. ‘They say they
        acknowledge their feelings but won’t do anything about them. Well, I
        did that for 14 years, but you can’t do it forever. Well, you can, but I think
        you then look back on your life and think, oh gosh, I didn’t live. I wasn’t
        real, I wasn’t… The more you pretend, I think the less you are as a human
        being. I remember when I was married and I couldn’t touch Caroline
        easily or hold hands, but then neither could I have warm embraces or
        friendships with other people because I wasn’t who I was.’”

        This is the full paragraph in question. I don’t think the idea that Austin was not referring to people who call themselves same-sex attracted and remain celibate (a group to which he did not belong, Austin married a woman) but just referring to himself is credible. I am fairly certain that I have never used ‘they’ when just referring to myself.

        Of course it is from his ‘lived experiences’ that he is making these judgments on the celibate, but I do not think it is credible that he was not using his lived experiences to make accusations against people who call themselves same-sex attracted and remain celibate.

        Certainly, I agree that he is saying that before he was with a man, he was not living fully, was pretending and was less of a human being – and thinking that true for himself. But I don’t think it is credible to say that he is not saying that is presently true for those who “say they acknowledge their feelings but won’t do anything about them.” also.

        • Kylie. You very clearly interpreted Austin as directing accusing comments at ssa celibate people. You incompletely quoted him as well. I do not think you can conclude from this full passage that Austin thinks all SAA who are celibate must be less than human. He is speaking about himself at that point. I could imagine he may be concerned for SAA people in the light of his expense. But I see no grounds here for claiming what you do and as vigorously as you do- ‘Isn’t that awful? Isn’t that terrible?’ – on the basis on misquoting his key sentence.
          But you have rowed back in your second post. If this was a conversation with Austin I think we would be wanting to check out what he thinks about celibacy for others in the light of his own experience. I hope we can agree on that.

          • There is a clear hatred of those who identify as SSA, I have witnessed it in other discussions and it has been highlighted in synod debates.

            I think one reason for this is that the existence of happy, fulfilled, celibate believers highlights the secular lie that sexual fulfilment is a requirement to be a complete person. It is the acceptance of this secular lie which is driving the desired to change the teaching of the church.

          • I did not misquote it. My quotation was perfectly accurate.

            Imagine if we said:

            “At this point in the story, Kyle breaks off to talk about people who
            call themselves same-sex attracted Christians but don’t remain celibate. ‘They say they acknowledge the sovereignty and holiness of God but won’t do anything about them. Well, I did that for 25 years, but you can’t do it forever. Well, you can, but I think you then look back on your life and think, oh gosh, I didn’t live. I wasn’t real, I wasn’t… The more you pretend, I think the less you are as a human being. ”

            Would you consider that acceptable language to use about those engaging in same-sex acts?

            If you do then we should simply agree to disagree on this subject. If you don’t, then I don’t think you’re being fair.

          • David Runcorn,
            Please, help, please.
            I need some of your pastoral guidance on the Holiness of God and holiness in Christian life including sexuality and activity. I’m struggling with the very idea of God being Holy and his command to be Holy as He is Holy.
            I’m beginning to take this personally. You keep avoiding me.
            I do believe in God and at all times want him to be first in my life, though I do struggle and fail.

          • Dear anxious Evangelical believer,
            You are worried about your holiness.
            You have tried to corner me before on this subject.
            I suggest to look back to my replies to you then.
            Ever your agony Aunt

      • One could fail to pretend about one’s *emotional* feelings of lust for a bottle and its contents, or for minors, or for drugs. Such emotional feelings are very real. Or one could (if one had grown up) take the *rational* view that who cares if one has feelings – after all, it is quite obvious that one can have feelings both for things that hurt and for things that help, and it is (equally obviously) only the latter that should be encouraged or ‘fed’.

  40. There has been something on my mind which I would like to put into the arena or bear put of this thread. David Shepherd’s comment laid bear what is at stake here. The right of every child to know their genetic history, to have a mother and father – something that we have always taken for granted, but is being denied to some children because of this acceptance of God considers sin. The story which horrifies me of a man who I became aware of several years ago who had 5 children through surrogacy in America – he lives in this country. He is no longer with his “husband”, but has a new one who was his daughter’s boyfriend! He has paid 77,000 dollars for a genetically designed daughter to share with his “husband”. This information is all in the public domain. God weeps for thes3 little ones and they are the ones we should be listening to, not irresponsible adults.

    • Using this one individual to caricature same-sex marriage is like saying all heterosexual people are incapable of fidelity and parenthood because Trump has had 3 wives and cheated on all of them or that some straight couples abuse their children.

      • No it isn’t. It is to say

        (1) that homosexual average figures of promiscuity are far higher

        (2) and this even in an age when heterosexual have never been higher and have risen alarmingly

        (3) and that the idea of ‘homosexual’-‘heterosexual’ parity looks calculated to lead to precisely that situation

        (4) and that there is no reason for that to change in the homosexual case, since they are operating outside any actual or conceivable human (or any biological: animal or plant) family structures.

      • No Penelope, it is to say that same sex marriage affords the status of parentage because it is given the title of marriage and is destructive to the lives of children caught up in this fantasy land. Civil partnership was the correct option to ensure legal property rights. It is also responsible for the change in RSE in schools and the confusion of children between friendship and sexual love. One child came home from our Primary school and told her mother she must because she is so attached to her best friend. My grandsons friend informed him the other week that he thought he was bisexual (they are 12 years old)!

        • Tricia
          Same-sex couples have been able to adopt for quite a long time.
          Sometimes they take on disruptive or disabled children who are hard to place with ‘nice’ straight couples.
          You think civil partnership was the ‘correct’ option. Would you argue that separate drinking fountains were the ‘correct’ option for ‘coloureds’?
          Most children seem to know their sexuality from an early age. Some are ‘confused’ or ‘fluid’. They sort it out. Unless they are taught that sex and sexuality are shameful.

          • Strange Penelope, you seem to have so much compassion for those who want to have sex in various categories, but none at all for the poor unfortunate children caught in this web of deceit. Our whole society is suffering because of the breakdown of the traditional family and you are perfectly happy with taking away the rights and heritage of children and in confusing them at a young age with identity politics.
            It is no accident that gender identity clinics have been flooded with confused children in recent times.

          • Tricia

            I am not happy with taking away the rights and heritage of children because I am not doing so.
            Teaching children RHSE helps them to understand difference and helps to protect them from abuse by discussing consent.
            Gender confused children are not flocking to the Tavi, although the numbers have increased. The average waiting list is 2 years.

        • Civil partnership was actually hallowing parodic marriage since if if had simply been about friendship-next-of-kin and inheritance then brothers and sisters (whose relationship is surely a more fundamental one) would have been included. Leaving an acceptance of parodic marriage as the only workable theory.

          Furthermore, why should anything be given the green light that produces so much promiscuity and STD on average? Has red light written all over it.

          • Of course it’s not just friendship. Though, like all marriage, it is also that.
            I can’t think why the church celebrates so many straight marriages given that so many end in infidelity, divorce, STDs.
            I think you might find that it is not marriage – gay or straight – which ‘produces’ these things.

          • For the nth time – one should not behave like the chap who counted ‘one – two – many’. Just because there are many STDs and much promiscuity in 2 demographic groups, that does not mean that the rates within those groups are remotely comparable. You know that, Penny.

          • And how many times do I have to say that it is marriage – gay or straight – which is the biblical remedy against lust.
            We are talking about the Christian discipline of Godly marriage.
            Since 80% of straight Christian couples cohabit before the wedding ceremony, I think we should beware of throwing stones.

          • And how many times do I have to say that it is marriage – gay or straight – which is the biblical remedy against lust.

            I don’t think that you can really claim that when Paul wrote that marriage was the remedy against lust, he meant anything other than a marriage between a man and a woman. Can you?

            Since 80% of straight Christian couples cohabit before the wedding ceremony, I think we should beware of throwing stones.

            Surely such a horrific statistic actually means that stones aren’t being thrown enough?

          • S

            Not at all. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the couple are themselves ministers of the ‘sacrament’ of marriage.

          • As has been pointed out elsewhere, the couple are themselves ministers of the ‘sacrament’ of marriage.

            Are they also ministers of the sacrament of divorce when they split up without ever getting married?

            Are they also ministers of the sacrament of the one-night stand, when you think it’s moral?

      • Penelope,

        Your example of generalising about the propensity for straight infidelity based on Trump’s infidelity isn’t remotely analogous.

        Far from a generalisation, the cited case exemplifies how enacting same-sex marriage has led to courts misapplying the presumption of legitimacy to same-sex couples to bestow them with joint parenthood, but at the expense of the child’s right to know and be loved by its natural father.

        Such children’s tragic origin-deprivation (similar to the experience of the Disappeared from Argentina’s Dirty War) is just so much collateral damage on the road to unwarranted parenthood parity for same-sex couples.

        Prof. John D’Emilio and the ILGA have openly declared that replacing natural parenthood (“privatized child rearing”) through intentional parenthood (and “affective communities”) is part and parcel of the LGBT political and legislative agenda, as I described here: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/how-should-we-engage-with-living-in-love-and-faith/#comment-387739

        • David

          One sad and selfish decision by an eccentric individual no more undermines same-sex parenting than Fred and Rosemary West undermine straight coupledom.
          If a child’s father is a sperm donor they have only some rights to know and be loved by their natural father (who may not be invested in their wellbeing) whether they are reared by a same-sex or by an other-sex couple.

          • The fact is Penelope that without same sex marriage and the legal rights it affords, this man would have been arrested and should have been.
            Murderers like the West’s are a tragedy of sin in the world, but the state should not be involved in making laws which adversely affect the lives of children

          • Penelope,
            “ One sad and selfish decision by an eccentric individual no more undermines same-sex parenting than Fred and Rosemary West undermine straight coupledom.”

            Er, ‘Cos (fortunately) the law afforded no endorsement for Fred and Rosemary West’s exploitative evil.

            The issue here is neither about adoption, nor one sad selfish decision.

            Instead, it’s about changing the law to assign primary parenthood to a same-sex spouse and at the expense of the natural father, regardless of the means of conception.

            Supplanting natural parenthood with intentional parenthood is part of the avowed legal and political strategy of influential LGBT advocacy groups.

  41. Many layers above, I commented on the bruising nature of some of the comments and Ian asked how there might be a truce.
    I am not a UN peace-maker, but I know that I relate to some people on this blog differently from others, because I know them already (at least a bit). I don’t happen to agree with all of them, and I admit I find the comments from those who I know and who write more in line with what I think the most acceptable comments, apart from my own!
    The echo-chamber of those who agree with us is alluring. The challenge of a different view is hard and less likely to be managed if the writer is aggressive in posture. I would like to meet those who I only know by a name _I’m sure it would help me understand.
    In answer to Ian’s question, I don’t think a truce is possible – and many of us want to have a final word.
    For some this is a matter of gospel truth and salvation, of upholding God’s holy Law; though the normal starting point is either a creationist one – God made us heterosexual and so homosexual desires as well as acts are wrong, and/or an ethical one – God made us to have sexual relations only with a person of the other sex and in marriage. All other sexual activity is an abomination.
    The Creationist approach on its own would mean that those who say they are homosexual in orientation are already in opposition to God, “unnatural” to use the language of Romans 1. Many don’t want to go that far, but so far as to deny same-sex sexual activities, and also the language of marriage to a couple. The ethical approach on its own should mean that all premarital and extramarital sex should be condemned with equal energy but it seldom is. Those who obsess about sex so often seem to be tormented and even damaged or hypocritical. Does the ethical approach depend on the creationist view or vice versa?
    Generally the evangelical / traditional / orthodox view seeks to combine both the creationist and ethical (Genesis and Leviticus) approaches but normally, in practice, with a somewhat weakened approach to both. Thielicke argued that God made us all heterosexual and that the Fall has meant that there are some who are homosexual in their orientation, which must be accepted but not condoned, which has a logic to it but one that many would not want to follow.
    As mentioned above a few times but maybe not often enough, this desire to engage theologically, seems to minimise, diminish and even objectify gay people and their experiences. *We* write about *them*. We already know the answers.
    And therein the rub. Which currency do we work in and how do we learn to make transactions which require exchange? Evangelicalism wants to start with God and theology so anything which does not fit in its “purity code” is other (Is this Levitical comparison acceptable?).
    Those who are declared other but also claim to be made by God, in God’s image, and of God, will not find it easy to have a conversation with those who have a world-view which says such people are other, and wrong in their desires. They have to be brave to want to, and some are angry. Sharp words can fly from both sides, and for varied reasons and from varied hurts, some to esteem or sense of integrity and some to sense of identity and self-worth.
    Do Canaanites and Moabites have to be got rid of? If not or we can’t, must they repent and change before they can become part of God’s people? But Ruth and Rahab and Matthew’s designated Canaanite woman crash the parties, and Matthew celebrates the first two in his genealogy.
    Many who are first will be last .. Mathew’s gospel suggests some surprises .. maybe we could be wrong in our certainties, though I remain certain of the mercy of God on sinners, who in whatever way, know their need of that mercy.

    • Rahab feared the Lord. (Its why she lived. Its also in stark contrast to the traitor in Judges who did not.) Ruth explicitly says ‘Your people are my people, your God is my god; ‘. Yes they have to change before they can be part of God’s people.

      • Yes, Rahab feared the Lord, though we have no idea why God chose her/ called her, and Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law, cleaving to her as if a husband, which is a provocative verse. ..
        But was not Rahab a Canaanite and so should not have been allowed in, full-stop? And likewise Ruth was a Moabite and the Law was very clear also on Moabites.
        And the woman in Matt 15, Matthew introduces as a Canaanite, a change from Mark who describes her as Syro-Phoenician, so Matthew is making a particular point.
        We may argue that thesewomen changed their views but they did not change their “race” / identity which was deemed to be antithetical to God’s people. In fact they could not change that aspect of themselves, and nor do we read that they repented of it, how could they when it was part of who they were. And of course people from other races could join so why the particular antagonisms in the OT to some peoples?
        So at least one Moabite is found at the heart of God’s people, and two Canaanites, because Tamar is also celebrated in Matthew’s genealogy.
        It doesn’t answer everything but I suggest it does challenge some of the very clear but general teaching of the OT. Matthew is keen to warn us that some dubious types might find their way into the Kingdom before those who think they are righteous, or even instead!
        I hope I let the Scriptures shape my theology as well as aware that my theology and ideology shapes my reading of Scripture. I do not want my theology to flatten the Scriptures into a shape which is not true to our Scriptures, but the one I want to have. I find the Scriptures more edgy and challenging and un-box-able than is comfortable.

        • With all due respect, how confident are you that your view on race (and women) is the old testament view rather than the recent scientism view? And if you are talking about Deuteronomy 23:3 then we have no evidence – or indeed any good reason to think – that Rahab or Ruth did enter into the assembly of the Lord.

          I think that chapter (Deuteronomy 23) is one of those chapters that people who have some animosity to the Old Testament really dislike. Why does God hate those who have been emasculated through crushing or mutilation? The text doesn’t say he hates them, it says that they are not allowed into the assembly. Because He is holy and His assembly is holy and the Christ had not yet come and die to make the eunuchs holy.

          I think the ‘first will be last, last will be first’ is strictly paradoxical when applied to Christianity rather than pre-Christianity. Take the gambler. He’s last. So he’s first. So he’s last. So he’s first. So he’s last. So he’s first. I think it has to be assumed to be meant in the context in which it is used.

    • Peter,
      Why would we start from a world view position? A common starting point and end point would be Jesus Christ with and open exploration and probing and of belief and trust, of the Trinity, the Good News. We may find that we are much further apart than having different views on sexuality. It involves intense listening.
      An excellent sermon from the past which speaks to today is ” The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, by Thomas Chalmers. The language is of it’s day. It may take us out of an Anglican comfort zone, that is, if we are in one.
      (It amounts to a 30 page sermon!) It can be readily found with a search. I’ll not link it as Ian may delay through moderation. It is not offensive but holds a mirror up to us. Like scripture, it reads us rather than us reading it. Scripture holds up a mirror.
      Any discussion, one to one, should should be an exploration of what and who Christ is, is for and why and how of who he is. Who he is in our lives.

  42. David R,
    The point is, you didn’t answer then just as you are not answering now! Not even a smidgeon.
    The language of entrapment is telling.
    It’s a way of closing down discussion, rather than opening up, seeking to discuss, progress the conversation, something LLF claims for itself.
    They are genuine questions to be asked of you and your pastoral practice.
    Conclusion: you have no answer, either scripturally, theologically or pastoral and there is no broaching and discussions of the topics in LLF.
    This is no mere lacuna but a Grand -Canyon chasm.
    This is no high -handed- brushing- off matter. They are matters of great importance in Christianity and a Christian life lived.

  43. Here we are, once again, talking about people who are not here to speak for themselves.

    Why are they not here, I ask?

    I think the answer is obvious. They are not attracted to a ‘gospel’ that tells them they have to live their whole life in loneliness. This does not sound like a gospel to them. A gospel that tells them that the way their brains are wired to love and be loved is like alcoholism and drug addiction. That it is demonic and unholy.

    Why would they find it attractive to engage with people who represent that kind of gospel?

    Hence, once again, as so often happens in churchland, we are having a conversation about the sinfulness of people who are not actually in the room.

    My former primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, used to say that whenever we had a conversation about the lives of others, we should do so on the assumption that they are in the room, listening. I have tried (not always successfully) to remember that.

    • “A gospel that tells them that the way their brains are wired to love and be loved is like alcoholism and drug addiction. That it is demonic and unholy.”

      This is a disgraceful parody of the traiditional orthodox position

      • Simon You misunderstand. Tim is quoting from Kyle’s original responses to what he wrote about his own family. It is some way back up the page – 15th 12.35am. It still appalls me that I am only one to challenge what Kyle wrote there.

        • Can you please quote where I have called same-sex attraction ( , ‘the way their brains are wired to love and be loved’ or anything of that nature) demonic?

          I still don’t see what is so objectionable about the drug and alcohol comparison. Especially when you consider those babies that are addicted from the womb and whose brains are rewired in the womb to love so wholly the drugs that their mothers took (Genuinely the only possibility I can think of is that you and Tim really hate drug addicts and alcoholics, but I am fairly confident that this is not correct. The drunk makes good friends with good stories etc.)

          • The problem with the drug and alcohol comparison is that it is thoroughly inept. Being gay/lesbian is no more of an addiction than being straight is.

          • William, “you’re gonna have to face it; you’re addicted to love”.

            But who would object to comparing OSA to an addiction*? Who would find it so offensive? Who would deny that sometimes straight people allow what ought to be a gift into an overpowering identity? It is common to here admonitions that a single man should not be alone with his girlfriend taking the same precautions as an alcoholic not being alone with booze.

            * A comparison is not stating that something is another thing.

          • I really couldn’t care less what is offensive or otherwise. I am concerned solely with what is appropriate. To compare either heterosexuality or homosexuality in general, or a single man’s attraction to his girlfriend – or to his boyfriend, for that matter – to an addiction to drugs or alcohol is simply claptrap.

          • Penelope. Yes you did. And yes it does. I meant those here who (broadly) share Kyle’s conservative views. Silence. This blog claims that all the nasty stuff is coming from the ‘other side’. It plainly isn’t is it? And for the record I would call it out wherever I found it.

          • I do occasionally resort to sarcasm when I’m tired, it’s late, or I’ve had a third glass of wine!
            But some of the personal invective on here is shocking.

          • David, this blog does not claim that ‘all the nasty stuff comes from the other side’. (My comment was that some are calling others ‘Soviets’ and illegal abusers and campaigning on that basis).

            There have been dismissive comments from both sides, and I don’t have time to check all 430 comments. If those drawn to comment repeatedly here cannot self manage, I will need to turn comments off.

        • Yes David
          I think I have misunderstood
          I cant follow this thread
          strange animus swirlings

          but clearer to me than ever before that our church is irreparably divided
          both sides being hurt – its time to part

          • Simon. Yes I get lost in the swirlings too! But no I do not think we are hopelessly divided. I think Oliver O’Donovan continues to models a critical but non-anxious way of engaging in all this. I also think LLF is offering a quite unique way of exploring and engaging further together … so may I urge you to stay with it … but I do know how much this distresses you and I pray for you.

    • Do you think the people of Ephesus liked being told that they should worship God alone?

      (I hope that metaphor is unobjectionable.)

      ‘My former primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, used to say that whenever we had a conversation about the lives of others, we should do so on the assumption that they are in the room, listening. I have tried (not always successfully) to remember that.’

      I agree with that absolutely. I would go further, though. Do you think that a person with SSA reading your posts will be encouraged or discouraged in fighting the good fight? Do you think that they will read your posts and think that there is hope in Jesus or that there is no hope and they might as well succumb. Will they read your posts and know that know temptation can overtake one whose identity is in Christ, or read them and think that they should put their identity in being ‘gay’. We should not seek the avoidance of offence. We should be seeking the positive edification to those fighting a spiritual fight that we are fortunate enough to go on. We should not be saying things that help the demons and the flesh and the world say to these people: ‘Did God really say…?’

        • I know! Because they grew up in a sexual-revolution society where the sorts of formative experiences that became more widespread would harden into addiction and/or identity.

          • When were you first tempted by heterosexuality Christopher?
            And has this first essay into being straight hardened into an addiction or into an identity?

          • See, here’s the thing. When Paul is dealing with Christians who are trying to stay chaste but not doing very well at it, he doesn’t tell them to pray harder or see their identity differently or grit their teeth and resist. He’s much more practical than that. He knows how hard it is. So he tells them to get married. “It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.”

            Except, apparently, if you’re gay or lesbian. your only choice is to burn with lust for the rest of your life, with no hope ever of enjoying the kind of intimate relationship that your brain is wired for.

            How is that just?

            And by the way, straight Christians aren’t doing so well at it either. A study cited in ‘Relevant’ magazine in 2011 said that 80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex (see ‘[Almost] Everyone is Doing It’, in https://issuu.com/relevantmagazine/docs/sept_oct_2011). I’m not celebrating this fact. I’m just saying that Paul appears to be right; sexual desire is very hard to handle is you don’t have a marriage partner to share it with. And yet this is the yoke that conservative Christians want to put on the shoulders of LGBTQ+ Christians. Matthew 23.4 comes to mind.

          • Tim

            Thank you. I have been trying to say that for years on this blog. The biblical remedy for lust is marriage, not celibacy.
            The responses I receive argue fruitlessly about promiscuity and STDs and the dangers of anal sex.
            All of which misses the point and perpetuates the stereotype that all gay people are promiscuous and perverted.
            I am really very tired of these stale, unprofitable tropes. But I persist because I don’t want these to be the only voices on this blog (they aren’t, of course, but they do tend to drown out the cries for a more focused and reasonable debate). So thank you.

          • Paul, does not say ‘marry somebody that you are attracted to’, he says to marry. If you are having regular sex – as Paul instructs, he is fairly clear that it doesn’t matter whether you are in the mood – then you lower the sex drive for outside the marriage [And yes, if it was reversed and a straight man was having regular sex with a man, he would find heterosexual lusts easier to control.] The physical of the flesh makes a difference.

            We see a similar thing with the idea that this generation of young men having a lower drive due to the porn and masturbation epidemic.

            How many young Christians were even fighting the desire to fornicate, or have they been convinced that everything goes and that fornicating is an actual good. Young people don’t get married, so why should they be denied such intimacy and sexual relations!?

            Holiness should be sought for everyone with a church that helps that journey not calls for it to be untried or given up.

            One thing that should be considered is the young people with their demi-sexuality, asexuality, asexual but heteroromantic, homosexual but biromantic, pansexual etc.. The generation that grew up in a world that considers the gay/straight dichotomy super important doesn’t find that dichotomy sufficient for their lived-experiences.

            I think its silly to think that late 20th-centuray notions of sexuality trump the Bible’s teachings.

          • Hi Tim

            How is it just? (a) Because wherever there are same sex sexual couplings these outstrip by far their rivals in terms of promiscuity and STDs. (b) Because that pattern is unavoidable and has (for proof) never been avoided, because what we have is extra-family (extra-family-tree) activity that is outside the biological cycle. (c) Because the same argument can be applied to other such extra-family behaviours such as when people feel urges/lust either to fornicate, indulge with minors etc etc.. (d) Because the same-sex attracted are largely not drawn to marriage. (e) Because even those who are drawn to couple-life are largely not drawn to monogamy. All of this is a non-Christian picture. Ergo we do not promote it – the reverse. But it does show that we should look at all angles rather than just the well-hashed ones.

            The 2011 stat is caused by the surrounding culture, like most things in life. A secular culture has been adopted, despite warnings, and the results are predictable and were predicted. The only way this would be a significant stat would be if it were replicated in different countries and eras. In fact premarital intercourse was rare both (a) within living memory and (b) for a substantial period, so such a situation cannot be inaccurately portrayed as eccentric.

          • Christopher

            Pre marital intercourse was common in pre industrial England.
            Many brides came to the altar pregnant.

    • Hello Tim,
      Please give some indication of what you say the gospel message is.
      In the comments I’ve made above I give some indication of what scripture discloses as the joyful good news of Jesus. What do you particularly have issue with?
      And you assume far too much, as if I and others are speaking in the abstract.
      I’ve worked with some great people who are proud homosexuals, they are great, and greatly committed to their jobs working in the social justice, charity sector. But and a big but is that their primary, almost sole identity is their sexuality. One was a wonderful humorous scouser who at a team training day said that Jesus was the person she’d most like to meet, the most influential leader in history. I’d say 70 -80% of my colleagues were homosexual. We worked well together, even though they were aware of my Christian views, kept well in the background. 20 years on, I doubt that work situation would be possible, permitted even. I was employed even though they knew from the outset, in the interview, that I was a Christian.
      Someone I knew, son of family friends and acted for as a lawyer had a sex change operation as a mature adult. I could say more but won’t.
      As for Christianity, our sexuality, our sexual identity, our career, our spouse won’t save us. Who does our lives centre on? They can function as saviours in our lives, in effect idols, in place of, displacing God.
      I’ve seen a lovely Christian woman, with an adult lesbian daughter, come away from Christ, after visiting Steve Chalke’s church, but she was challenged admitting she was now confused after I’d preached the new covenant love of Christ on the cross. She been influenced by Chalke’s teaching on the Cross of Christ, God the cosmic child abuser, rather than the Father and Son and Spirits substitutional self giving in love.
      We have Christian friends with an atheist- Jesus isn’t a real person- lovely gay adult married daughter. I’d say our friends are models, loving and accepting their daughter while at the same time she knows they don’t agree the relationship.
      I’ve already said far too much
      I’d say this whole discussion goes far deeper with deeper roots, than many would have us accept.