In dialogue with Steve Chalke?

steve-chalkeLast week I was invited, with a small group of other bloggers and online journalists, to a discussion with Steve Chalke about the Open Church event being planned by Oasis next April. I was impressed with the idea of discussion on this, and appreciated the invitation and the opportunity to talk with Steve in person.

The shape of the evening, which was informal and over a meal, included conversation with Steve, along with more formal information about the planned event. This follows from Steve’s decision to take a stand ‘as a matter of integrity‘ and campaign for the church to change its teaching on same-sex relations. Steve expresses this as a call for a ‘global conversation’ and talked of the Open Church event as being a ‘discussion.’ But a number of things in the evening made it clear to me that there is not much interest in discussing whether or not the current position (e.g. of the Church of England) should change. The discussion is all about how we welcome those in active same-sex sexual unions on an equal footing with other Christians in the Church. The fact that we should appears to be taken as read. Five things led me to think this.

First, Steve opened the evening with a series of stories about gay people he had met who felt they had been rejected by the churches they had been part of, and this experience was also shared by Oasis PR man Gareth Streeter, who organised the event, and had had some very negative experiences as a gay man. There was unanimous agreement that the stories recounted some appalling treatment that should have no place in any Christian church—and I was impressed (again) by Steve’s own response of compassion, something which has motivated the many remarkable movements he has been involved in.

But throughout the conversation, Steve identified ‘orthodox’ teaching on sexuality, that same-sex sexual unions do not have the same moral status as heterosexual marriage, as the cause of all the problems. To clarify, I asked him:

‘Would you say that this ‘orthodox’ position on sexuality is, of itself ‘hateful’ (to use a term you have introduced) to gay people?’


I think this position is also made clear in the Christian Today headline:

Steve Chalke: churches can’t criticise same-sex relationships and still welcome gays

And it was reinforced for us in the dinner conversation when we were shown a hate video on YouTube castigating Vick Beeching for her ‘filthy’ lifestyle. This, we were told, is the inevitable consequence of the ‘traditional’ view, so there is no option but for that view to change.

This sounds very similar to the belief that anyone who rejects the equivalence of same-sex and other-sex sexual unions is homophobic. Since Steve believes that it is inherently impossible to offer a welcome to gay people or be in pastoral relationship with them without affirming same-sex sexual unions, it is hard to see how we can have a meaningful dialogue on this basis.

Secondly, Steve Chalke seemed particularly offended by the criticism of his ‘Integrity’ piece by his fellow Baptist Steve Holmes. In response to Chalke’s assertion that the debate hasn’t happened, and needs to start, Holmes points out the extensive material about the Bible, its authority, and the pastoral and biblical issues around same-sex relations that is available, along with his experience of debate at a more popular level. In our discussion, I also listed the frequent discussions I have been involved with over 35 years, as a teenager, an ordinand, a church member, a church leader, a theological educator and a scholar. Steve Chalk’s response was to ask why was it, then, that there was a hunger to discuss this, citing meetings he had had in recent months.

I would agree with Steve C that there is more discussion to be had—but that is not the same as suggesting that no discussion has been taking place. And I am not sure whether the debate that has been taking place is not one that Steve thinks we need—since within it the ‘revisionist’ position he is advocating comes under serious scrutiny. As one commenter on Steve Holmes blog says:

Thanks Steve Holmes; I felt exactly the same puzzlement, and I’m grateful to you for articulating it so clearly. I fear it appears Steve C discovers something for himself and then thinks no-one else has ever thought about it before—what did those who trained him for Baptist ministry get up to, one wonders? Or was it that Steve C wasn’t paying attention?

Steve Chalke hinted in conversation that Steve Holmes might be rethinking the views expressed in the blog post—so watch this space.

Thirdly Steve’s lack of engagement with existing debate is really striking in his position paper. I don’t think I have any problem with people asking questions of or disagreeing with another’s position, but Steve’s paper does something quite different. It demonstrates no awareness of and no engagement with either scholarly or popular positions, on either pastoral or biblical matters. Some of the arguments (eg that supporting the idea of women’s ministry is a much clearer contradiction of the Bible than supporting the equivalence of same-sex unions) would be seen as laughable by most people with even a little understanding of the issue. Steve’s response to this was that he had shown the paper to some reputable Bible scholars. But I am quite confident that those Bible scholars would share my evaluation of the paper, and one of the people Steve mentioned has publicly stated that the position Steve advocates is a serious pastoral, hermeneutical and theological error.

When I raised the issue of the clarity of the biblical texts, Steve responded with examples from three churches he knew. One tried to exorcise a gay person; the other prayed for healing; the third taught celibacy. ‘So how can you say the Bible is clear?’ This respond confuses issues of text and interpretation, and again closes down serious discussion of what the biblical texts say.

This raises two concerns for me. The first is that, if Steve is not aware of how his paper has been received and read by those with whom he disagrees—in terms of the significant issues and well-founded arguments—that is going to make any kind of dialogue very difficult. The second is that there will be many in the church, especially young people to whom Oasis appeals, who will take Steve’s argument at face value. As is the case with Alan Wilson’s book, failing to acknowledge the good and reasonable position of your opponents says to your own side, loudly and clearly, ‘There is no reasonable case against my position’—and some will not think to question this.

Fourthly, Steve was happy to talk about people who are ‘naturally gay’. This phrase sidesteps any discussion about the nature of sexual ‘orientation’, questions of causality, and the relation between ‘orientation’ and action, so again closes down discussion and ignores some well-established pastoral, theological and scientific positions.

Fifthly and finally, I am not at all clear that the event which is planned will be a place for discussion of the issue in terms of engaging well with ‘traditional’ views. Steve and Gareth showed us the list of speakers; at the moment, of the 12 people who are coming, at most 2 are those committed to current Church teaching—though I am aware that the list is not yet finalised. When I asked what would be the place of those convinced of the traditional position, Steve responded that the conference was really only for those who wanted a ‘conversation’, by which I think he meant those who are unsure of current teaching, and interested in moving to Steve’s position.

I was grateful for Steve and Gareth’s hospitality, and the chance to engage on these issues directly. Steve has said he would be willing to meet again to discuss these issues. I hope that happens, since without significant change in these areas, I don’t see how the planned conference will be much more than a campaign event.

Declaration of interest: Oasis Trust paid for my train to London and a pub meal.

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186 thoughts on “In dialogue with Steve Chalke?”

  1. Ian – thanks very thoughtful piece.

    Just three quick points from me:

    – We may not have done a very good job of making it clear, but the event is definitely meant to include discussion around (to put it crudely) whether ‘same-sex acts’ are sinful. There will be contributions from people (who we haven’t yet signed on the dotted line so can’t announce) who have studied scripture and have a different view point from Steve. I’m sorry if we didn’t make this clear at the event.
    – Although I did share stories from my personal experience, I did not intend for this to close down conversation on any of the issues. I recognise that when someone is talking form their personal experience, it can be hard to disagree with them to their face, but I did try and emphasie that I’m pretty thick skinned. I do apologise if my attempts to share appeared manipulative; however I don’t apologise for making these things personal because this whole debate is, by nature, inherently personal.
    – I’ll blog on this separately but I disagree that church leaders, scholars and academics debating biblical interpretation around these issues is the same thing as the ‘open conversation’ Steve has called for. I do not believe that many people actually affected by these issues in most churches are welcome to contribute freely, without risk of some form of church discipline if they go ‘off piste’. However, I recognise that I have not been to every church in the world ? and would welcome examples where this is not the case

    Thanks again for your engagement on the night and this thoughtful piece. Bear in mind that if we didn’t genuinely want an open discussion on this issue, we probably wouldn’t have invited you – it would have been easy to pack out the room with people that agree with Steve – but where would that get us? You made it a much more interesting night ?

    Hope to speak to you soon! GBS

    • Gareth, thanks for your comment—and again for the invitation. I really appreciated it.

      I am glad to hear that there will be discussion on the central question. In all these things, language is difficult—as your inverted comments indicate! That is why I have gone for the phrase ‘equivalent to’ because I think that is what is at stake.

      I don’t think you did make that clear in the evening, for the reasons I mention. Steve’s comment that my position is ‘hateful’ to gay people (presumably including yourself…?) isn’t very encouraging. Neither was the slate of committed speakers, nor Steve’s comment about who qualifies as being interested in discussion.

    • I don’t think your sharing of stories was manipulative—and the meeting was for a purpose. But I do think that Steve’s phrase ‘people who are naturally gay’ makes a large number of massive assumptions, and each of these has been debated at length.

      So I hope he and I will have a chance to explore these things further.

    • I understand your comment about people ‘going off piste’. But there’s another way to look at it. If churches have a discipline based on a moral position—since we are hear talking about sexual ethics—I don’t think it is reasonable to suggest that people can, on the one hand, claim to be full members of that church whilst, on the other, wanting to argue for a change in the discipline at the same time as living in breach of it.

      This is the issue which has dogged discussions in the C of E. I don’t think it is really possible for a bishops to denounce the teaching position of the body of bishops to which he belongs with integrity.

      But we have got into this situation because of the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.

    • Glad that I made it a more interesting night. Not sure that I made it a more comfortable night! I thought that there was a mixture of social openness with an intellectual less-than-openness if I am honest.

      • Lots for me to think about here. I will write about this separately, but I guess I would argue for a whole different model of Church; perhaps where people don’t have corporate positions on issues but create space for people to work it out (which isn’t to say leaders couldn’t share their specific positions)

        • Serious question: what would you expect people to be able to work out on their own? Would it be ok to decide Jesus didn’t exist? That he was just a good teacher? That God isn’t Trinity? That the Bible is just a collection of wishful thinking?

          I ask it seriously, since if you think *everything* is up for debate, and you can still call this ‘church’, I am not sure what is ‘Christian’ about it. At the very best you would look like a liberal Quaker.

    • Thanks, Ed, that’s interesting. I have shared a platform with Jonathan previously—I really liked him.

      It was suggested at one point in the evening that TFT now just functions as a gay dating agency, which I thought was odd.

      • The purpose of a dating agency is to play matchmaker. TFT doesn’t do that. Maybe it was a flippant comment or you misheard it? TFT does function as a support/friendship network and it would be cruel if conservatives undermined the good work they do in this area by being too suspicious of “what might happen” when gay/ssa people meet up.

        Do individuals ever partner up after meeting at a TFT event? Sure they do – but they do that everywhere. TFT certainly doesn’t exist to ‘facilitate’ it.

        • It was certainly a flippant comment, and it was not made by a conservative! I think TFT does a great job. I have a feeling it started out in the church I was helping to lead for 8 years.

          • I know lots of guys at Oasis who are no more interested in lifelong monogamy than non-Christian gay guys.

            I’m not suggesting that this is Oasis’s intention.

          • Dear Joe

            Monogamy is one of the things that those in favour of SSM are not admitting is up for discussion at all. Monogamy is an essential foundation of marriage, starting even with the Laws of England & Wales.

          • Clive,

            I’m copying Gareth. You may have given me the ‘official’ answer but what is the unofficial reality? Isn’t it a little unfair to undermine the integrity of TFT with insider observations but let Oasis off the hook?

          • Sorry Joe, but your comment about monogamy is about Oasis and not about TFT.

            If we are to have a real and genuine conversation then Scripture is genuinely to be discussed, the New Testament is to be discussed and all other aspects of what the love of marriage actually means (such as monogamy) is to be discussed.

          • Joe – there may well be people at an Oasis church who do not believe in monogamy although I can’t recall meeting them.

            But just because that’s the few of people you’ve met doesn’t make it my view. You don’t have to believe X, Y or Z to be part of an Oasis church. However, my view is that promiscuity is dangerous and I would use that view to kindly challenge people.

            I have also heard Steve talk about the dangers of promiscuity while preaching.

            You might find this post helpful:


          • Gareth

            I said *lifelong* monogamy. I realise most will be in serious relationships – which will last the standard 2 – 3 years for gay guys. I didn’t say anything about promiscuity.

            Does anyone get a telling-off for having sex outside of marriage at Oasis?

            Anyway, you posted a candid insight into what sometimes happens at TFT. I sure you weren’t trying to undermine anyone’s confidence in TFT by that statement. Why not be as honest about Oasis?

  2. Thanks as ever Ian for your articulate and very gracious reflection on talking with Steve.

    If only, more Christians were like you in their response, however I suspect the great majority who are, are also people easily overlooked because they do not ‘youtube’ about it. However it’s sad to witness what appears to be a growing polarisation, especially from someone asking for openness, but who appears to also be closed off to further discussion with those who try to graciously hold a different position with equal integrity.

  3. Hi Ian,
    I’m somewhat perturbed to hear you say Steve was ‘particularly offended’ by my comments; I sent them to him when I made them, had a gracious response, and we have had several good conversations since, including the odd glass of wine, and some planning on a joint project, in none of that has he ever indicated to me anything but gratitude for engagement – and obviously some disagreement. Nothing remotely like ‘offence’. Might you have misunderstood the tone there?

    As to changing my mind, I refine my thinking on all sorts of issues all the time, but on questions of Biblical authority and sexual ethics, I am not planning any major volte-faces in the foreseeable future. I read whatever is published and try to take the arguments seriously (easier, this month, in the case of Song’s – very good – book than another which I notice you reviewed…), and deliberately seek out thoughtful and informed people with different views for private conversation. Maybe tomorrow the convincing argument will be made, but right now I can’t see it coming.

    • Thanks Steve. The phrase I used was ‘seemed particularly offended’—but I don’t think that was in the sense that you were rude. I entirely agree with you, and remember reading your piece at the time, and you say it directly but graciously.

      He appeared to think you and I were completely mistaken about the notion that a discussion was happening, and went to some lengths to give examples to show he was right and we were wrong. He recently went to a church in Leeds, and met leaders and ‘academics’ during the day, and had a an evening meeting with church members—to which the daytime people also came, because clearly a conversation needs to happen that is not happening. I don’t think it would be unfair to say he thinks we are deluding ourselves.

      He cited the bishops’ ‘conversation’ as a sign that no proper debate has yet happened.

      Oliver O-Donovan’s book title aside, Steve gave a strong impression that there is no real discussion happening, and he is stepping into the breach.

      When I did something similar to your article, and listed all the conversations and debates I had had, he and Gareth raised their eyebrows, said I was very unusual, and that they had not heard of similar such discussions, and could they talk to me some more.

    • Steve and Ian – are either of you going to be posting a review of Song’s book? It is eirenical in tone, and seems to me to understand and engage directly with many of the driving concerns behind a more conservative view, in particular the place of “male and female” in the created order; but also challenges us as to whether we are really giving enough weight to the fact that there won’t be marriage or procreation in the new creation.

        • Hi Ian,
          ….but you gave a similar, non-committal reply when I made the same suggestion on the thread about Bp Alan Wilson’s book. Engagement with Robert Song’s argument would be welcome, not least because I’m not aware of any reviews of it thus far (please correct me, anyone who has a link). Please prove wrong my cynical thought that, with the Alan Wilson thread and now this one, you’re giving a lot of space to arguments you can easily dismiss, and very little to more cogent discussions (even if they too don’t convince you).
          in friendship, Blair

  4. I think we need a clarification of “hateful”:

    If I hold the “traditional view”, i.e. that Scripture does not approve of same-sex sexual relations, and Steve Chalke says this is hateful, does he mean –

    — that I am full of hate for people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex?

    — that I am full of hate for people who engage in same-sex sexual acts (and I don’t understand why Gareth thinks this is putting it “crudely” — it’s simply a factual description of what we are talking about)?

    — that people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex or who engage in same-sex sexual acts hate my position?

    — that people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex or who engage in same-sex sexual acts feel hated by me, whether or not I actually hate them and regardless of whether I treat them with respect or not?

    It’s just such a loaded term that I don’t really know what to make of it. But the way Steve uses the term (and the recent Christian Today headline makes that clear) certainly shuts down all discussion and dialogue.

    It is not really surprising that a lot of people who believe in the “traditional” view think Steve Chalke’s position is “hateful” — with all of the same ambiguities I am asking to have cleared up.

    • I think I would sum it up as saying that the ‘traditional’ view leads to actual hatred and abuse of gay people—inevitably—and therefore to hold this view is to collude with acts of hatred and abuse.

      It asserts that it is simply not possible to hold the ‘traditional’ position and create pastoral space for people who are same-sex attracted.

      • Well, then give instances where the trad position has led to welcome. Even the “Living Out” crowd only felt comfortable enough to come out quite late in their life and ministry. Plus what Steve said on this point, stands: though they claim that the Bible is clear on the matter, even conservative churches differ as to what the text says and what the solutions are.

        • Hi Lorenzo – actually, the Living Out people haven’t necessarily only just come out, you can be out without necessarily having a website saying you are out as I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone! I have been out for about 15 years since the age of 19, it’s just in the last year or so that I’ve spoken and written about it in a more publicised way. Sean

      • The apostolic position regarding the enduring Jewish rejection of Christ has also led to charges that several excerpts from St.Paul’s epistles, e.g. Romans 2 are anti-Semitic because they have led to actual hatred and abuse of Jewish people.

        Perhaps, few Jews felt welcome in our churches before the rise of ecumenism. Is that a cue for Christians equivocate on the effect that a return to the circumcision rite would have on the life of grace?

        No. While we’re happy to ‘exclude’ those who hold circumcision as part of their heritage identity from Abraham, once again, the special pleading of same-sex relationships rears its ugly head.

          • ‘Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ (Rom. 10:1 – 3)

            ‘I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.

            As it is written:
            “The deliverer will come from Zion;
            he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
            And this is my covenant with them
            when I take away their sins.” Romans 11:25 – 27.

            Presumably, from apostolic times, 2000 years of *hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in’ could be viewed as an ‘enduring rejection of Christ’. I would note that I didn’t claim it was wholesale, or irretrievable.

            Anyway, I’m ready to hear an alternative to that.

    • I think that “hateful” is one of those words which can mean different things, depending on whom or what it’s applied to, a bit like “suspicious”. If I say that I’m suspicious, I mean that I suspect something, but if I say that someone else is a suspicious character, I mean that I suspect THEM of something or other, not that THEY are suspecting anything. Suspicious circumstances do not suspect anything, they cause PEOPLE to suspect something. “Dubious” is another word in this category.

      Anyway, if one says that the view that all gay sexual relationships are morally wrong per se is hateful, that certainly does not have to mean that all those who hold that view are hateful in the sense of being full of hatred for people in such relationships. I have no doubt that some are (including some who deny that they are); I am equally sure that plenty more are not. The more likely intended meaning is that, since that view is erroneous and harmful, it is a view that deserves to be hated. If, as I suspect, that is what was meant in this instance, then I entirely concur. Which does NOT mean, of course, that one must hate the people who hold that view, any more than hating the sin means that one must hate the sinner.

      • William, thanks for that careful exploration. I am not entirely persuaded by your conclusion, because of both the stories Steve told to assert this (which were stories of gay people experiencing hate) and the conclusion, which is because the view is ‘hateful’ is cannot have a place in the church of Jesus who is love.

    • For me it’s because a conservative view makes the conservative do hateful things: for example if a conservative vicar won’t allow someone to be nominated to the PCC because they are in a gay relationship then this would be hurtful and considered hateful.

      • Also my life has been under constant scrutiny and discussion by religious people for eons. It hurts and is so tiresome that it can be considered hateful. Surely there are more important things to concentrate on than abusing an oppressed minority?

  5. Reading this, it just seems to confirm to me that any real conversation between the two sides of this ‘debate’ is impossible. All those who would take a line similar to Steve C – in my limited experience at least – seem to take the view that traditionalists are backward, bigoted, homophobic, hateful, on the wrong side of history and so on. It’s the same with Alan Wilson, Vicky Beeching, Matthew Vines… almost everyone I can think of who takes a ‘revisionist’ line on this.

    It just makes me think that these people – Steve included – haven’t got the first clue about the church’s traditional teaching on discipleship and sexuality. They don’t want a debate, because for them it’s simply not debatable – the Bible is wrong (or, its interpretation is wrong) and that’s all there is to the matter.

    I think it’s quite revealing, actually – as much as Steve C might claim the Bible as his authority, he doesn’t want a debate about the Bible – because for him the Bible is not the authority on this matter.

    A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law graduated from Oasis College. Steve C did the graduation address. Given that Oasis is a Christian college, the graduation was in Steve’s church at Waterloo, and it was part of a Christian service – I thought it was interesting that Steve’s address didn’t mention the Bible once. (Come to think of it, I don’t think he mentioned Jesus either.)

    • Hi Phil

      I think we really do want genuine discussion.

      Do you understand that when you say that people like Steve ‘haven’t got the first clue about the church’s traditional teaching on discipleship and sexuality’ do you understand why it doesn’t sound like you are open to genuine conversation?

      Not meaning to have a go. But perhaps when it comes to language, there’s been error on both sides.

      Searching for truth rather than tribe,


      • Hi Gareth,

        My point is, no genuine conversation can happen unless each side actually understands the other’s position. Just by calling the traditional position ‘hateful’ (etc) it seems that Steve C and the like have demonstrated to my mind that they haven’t understood it. It’s a highly loaded and emotive term, no-one on the traditional side would agree with it, and it basically sets the parameters of the debate before it’s even started.

        As soon as Steve C and the like can articulate the traditional position fairly and accurately, then dialogue is possible. But until then it seems to me that they are simply not listening.


    • That’s interesting.

      I guess my view (not necessarily Steve’s) is that any pastoral situation that encourages people who are attracted to the same sex to deny themselves the fullness of that expression (given the immense benefits a good marriage can bring) is inflicting as sort of hatred on people. My personal view is that it’s psychologically damaging

      But I know that my above statement would be something that you would disagree with on many levels.

      I think this discussion is helpful. All we want to do is create other opportunities to happen

      • Gareth, that’s a helpful articulation of the view, and this needs exploring—though has been in a good number of places.

        What I was getting at in the meeting was that such a statement needs teasing out. It implies that people who are single, who would like to be in a sexual relationship, are likely psychologically damaged by the church’s traditional teaching on marriage.

        It could also be read as implying that people who wanted to be in a three-way relationship, either committed or ‘adulterous’ were also psychologically damaged by the current teaching on twoness in marriage.

        And many would say that it sexualises human being in arguing that only sexual expression offers fulness of life (Dan Via’s argument); without sexual expression, we do not have life in its fulness.

        And you would then have to justify this in the light of Jesus’ own celibacy.

        But again, I would say, I have been engaged in discussing these kinds of questions for a long time, in numerous places. I just don’t know where Steve has been during this time.

        • The problem with the adultery comparison is that adultery implies cheating on your partner. Gay people find this comparison offensive as we believe in monogamous relationships too!

          I’ve been a Christian most of my life and I think you can be “psychologically damaged by the church’s traditional teaching on marriage” – if that is the only thing that is taught.

          And yes, as I’ve said above, these discussions have been going on for eons. But they’ve been largely negative and hateful. The difference with Steve is that he is having the conversation in a positive light!

      • The issue here is that once we accept that God’s love is unconstrained by any law of His being, the biblical record of His exercise of justice becomes either one long arbitrary aberration, or a vast catalogue of human distortions about divine nature.

        The notion that the scripturally revealed acts of divine justice were arbitrary undermines any idea that we can learn anything reliable about God’s nature from them.

        Alternatively, others will call into question whether God could ever exact retribution on anyone but the most egregious evildoers, or whether He could ever command human agents to restore justice by exacting retribution on his behalf. Ergo, God, while capable of permitting the widespread destruction that affect mankind, (they say) He could never command it through human agents.

        On that basis, some will go even further to assume that love is always consonant with an invariably affirming stance toward behaviour that arises from any predispositions that modern Western society has deemed the sacred and well-nigh immutablecharacteristics of identify.

        So judged by modern ideals of indiscriminate affirmation, very little of what is revealed of God in scripture, especially the OT, might be considered by them to be love. Well, at least, except where God restores the sick, sparingly corrects those we unanimously consider wayward and bestows supernatural providence to elevate the excluded and under-privileged.

        So, what revisionists appear to be saying is that even the direct speech declarations of God (whether by the Law, the Prophets or the New Testament apostolic witness) represent distorted perceptions of God, diffracted as they are by the very imperfect lenses of the Bible’s vengeful and jaundiced ancient narrators.

        Of course, what escapes their biased scrutiny are the equally distorted lenses of modern ‘laissez-faire’ protagonists: those who will not waste a single moment in self-doubt, assured as they are that their consciences (honed to a sharp point by a modern, erudite and progressive ethical discourse) are far more capable of discerning the truth of God than a bunch of Bronze Age brutes hailed as the heroes of holiness in the Old Testament.

        We are expected to accept the patronising assertion that they’re just patiently hoping for laggards, like us ‘trads’ , to wake up to their wondrous world of moral innovation.

        Of course that’s a world apart from what they deem to be our fleeting glimmers of divine truth in scripture;. Instead, their world, bathed in that artificial light of self-affirmation at all costs, is a patent falsehood that can sear away scruples and cauterise conviction.

        The Psalmist’s rebuke: ‘Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself’ is as apt as ever!

  6. Thanks again for your thoughts.

    Okay – let’s clear this up! No one is suggesting (or has suggested) that church leaders, theologians and academics have not discussed this issue before or even that there isn’t a lot of information out there.

    What Steve has argued – and I agree – is that we need a new model of evangelicalism that accommodates a conversation that includes people regardless of the personal conclusions that they come to.

    • If the information is out there, how come none of it has featured in Steve’s thinking so far?

      And are you suggesting that we should have a model of evangelicalism which includes people regardless of what they believe?

      In which case, what is evangelicalism…?

      • ‘What is evangelicalism?’ great question Ian!
        This raises a massive issue. Once we have defined evangelicalism as being x, y and z, we begin then defend the boundaries of evangelicalism.
        We can then ask: who defines evangelicalism as x, y, and z?
        And then we can ask: who then defends the boundaries of evangelicalism?
        Sadly, we soon begin to imprison ourselves within evangelicalism, seeking to protect our definition.
        Evangelicalism is then in danger of becoming a curse rather than a blessing for both those within and those outside the defined boundaries.
        Love, on the other hand refuses any such boundary…

        • ‘We can then ask: who defines evangelicalism as x, y, and z?’

          Yes we can, and if the answer is ‘no-one’ then the term becomes meaningless. The opposite of power struggles over boundaries is *not* a free-for-all, it is a sensible discussion about:

          . what the term might mean (centring on the proclaimed evangel)
          . how it is had been understood in the past (focussing on scripture as supreme authority)
          . what might and might not be faithful to these first two answers.

          ‘Love, on the other hand refuses any such boundary…’ Edward, that is just tosh and you know it! Did you set boundaries for your children? Why? Did Jesus set boundaries?

          Come on, you can do better than that!!

          • Ian, I had to laugh… ‘tosh’ – no, I don’t think so, and I don’t think you should stoop to dismissing something in this manner without thinking more carefully about what is being articulated.
            ‘Love, on the other hand refuses any such boundary…’ This is not a discussion about parenting!
            In this specific discussion of the contrast with the boundaries of evangelicalism, I maintain love refuses any such denominational, segregating, excluding, boundaries… After all we are speaking here about separation from other (apparent) members of the body of Christ…

          • I thought quite hard about it—and I think your saying is tosh!

            Every sphere of human life expresses love through the drawing of boundaries. Yes, we are talking about parenting here—God is Father.

            Think of the marriage vows. Lots of boundaries.

            One of the great problems in this debate is the kind of sloganeering that things like ‘Love refuses any boundary’ leads us to. I am sure you didn’t intend it—but I think that’s the effect.

            It’s really hard to read very far through the NT without coming across the idea that love sets boundaries. Even Jesus did it!

      • I guess I can of am saying that.

        To me, an open evangelicalism is about a commitment to live like Christ and to continually grapple with how he wants us to do that.

        It’s not really about doctrine for me.

        • Gareth, that’s fine if you take the Tweedledum approach to language, where words mean whatever you want them to.

          ‘a commitment to live like Christ’ is called being a Christian. I don’t have any problem with that (!) but that is not the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’

          • Surely – if it’s the root of the word you’re interested in – than an evangelical is someone that brings good news?

            (PS – should I be worried that I’m finding these arithmetic verifications quite challenging…)

          • Yes, but not ‘some good news’—’the good news’ i.e. the good news about what God has done in Jesus death and resurrection as recorded and explained in the Scriptures.

            On the maths? Yes you should 😀

          • But we all know that there are lots of different types of evangelical: there’s the re-formed types that hate women, there’s the ‘open’ ones who like women but hate gays. I guess I’m more ‘liberal’ evangelical..

  7. Ian, thank you for your report on the evening. It clearly was an ‘interesting’ and stimulating evening. I have been in two minds over whether to sign up for the ‘Conversation’ next year. Part of my concern lies in whether there will genuinely be a conversation on the issues…

    Here’s a thought or two…

    To state the blindingly obvious: there are folk who class themselves as naturally homosexual. Some of whom feel ‘hated’ by the church. This feeling of being ‘hated’ may either be through personal experience of a specific church or through a more general awareness of church doctrine that traditionally been ‘against’ a particular sexual preference. This seems to me to be a problem – both for the church and for those who feel ‘hated’.

    On one level there also seems to be a divide between those who hold up the bible/doctrine/tradition in defence of their perspective and those on the other hand who prioritise a law of love and compassion. The former stance has I think some very real difficulties when seeking to deal with the ‘hatred’ that is perceived or experienced. Because, when all is said and done, unless there is a preparedness to prioritise love and compassion over and above the bible/doctrine/tradition…there is the danger that the ‘hated’ will always feel ‘hated’. As I have heard on a number of occasions in one form or another during my years in church, ‘God loves you, and we love you…, but…your preference/lifestyle, however ’natural’ it may be or feel, is inappropriate for a Christ follower.’

    On another level I do think that the bible calls us precisely to the higher law of love and compassion. The problems occur when we (rightly or wrongly…?) assert the various mentions of homosexuality in the bible as a divine teaching that takes precedence over the call to love and to act with compassion.

    Having said all that: a deeper concern and befuddlement I do have is that while we spend so much time and energy debating homosexuality and same-sex relationships and go back and forth on bible texts, interpretation, application, tradition, love and compassion and so on I can’t help feeling that we are ignoring or relativising other far more important issues. What bothers me more profoundly than the issue of homosexuality are other issues that I think Jesus plainly taught: So for example, the issue of war when Jesus taught, ‘love enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ Or, the issue of possessions when Jesus taught, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…’ Or, ‘why do you worry about clothes…?’ Or, ‘Do not judge…’ Or even the teaching of John the Baptist, ‘The man with two tunics [cars/houses/TVs/excess of income…] should share with him who has none.’ My own sense is that it is way too easy tend to relativise or ignore the plain teaching of Jesus and concentrate instead on what may be a lesser issue – same-sex relationships…

    • Thanks Edward. I entirely agree with you that these are the questions to explore. But they give rise to some other ones:

      What is the status of the things that I feel I am ‘naturally’?

      Is my identity inseparable from the actions that I feel consistently drawn to, or is it wrapped up in them? In other words, if someone draws a line and my action takes me across that, is that a negative evaluation of who I am?

      What is the relation between regulation and compassion? It is possible to exercise law without love, but is it possible to exercise love without law?

      Did Jesus express inclusion and compassion by eliminating law? Did his radical reinterpretation of law means dispensing with commands in general, or commands of the OT in particular?

      Can we discuss and act on more than one ethical issue at once?

      You might notice that I haven’t mentioned ‘sex’ once in these questions! But this is why the issue, whilst at one level is unimportant, but at another level is the most important.

      My conclusion so far is that so adopt Steve C’s position, you have to give particular answers to my above questions—and they are answers which lie outside the mainstream of Christian thinking about theology and ethics.

      • Ian – thank you for your swift reply…

        I’m intrigued by your questions about law and love/compassion: ‘What is the relation between regulation and compassion? It is possible to exercise law without love, but is it possible to exercise love without law?’ and ‘Did Jesus express inclusion and compassion by eliminating law? Did his radical reinterpretation of law means dispensing with commands in general, or commands of the OT in particular?’

        God is love. Therefore, love is before law. Law arises out of love as a practical example of how to live lives of love and compassion. Jesus makes clear that in order to inherit eternal life we must love God, neighbour, and self. Jesus affirms, ‘Do this and you will live’ (Luke 10:28). This threefold love is thus the most perfect expression of the law…because law is a practical expression of love.

        The issue then is not about eliminating law, but seeing love as a being ‘before’ law. I think that Jesus did not so much obey the law as simply love God, neighbour, and self. In living according to love Jesus kept the law and was pleasing to God.
        Laws are helpful because, as I say, they make clear what love should look like in a particular community, situation, or relationship. It is therefore very possible for us to overemphasise and over-focus on a particular law or regulation. Love and compassion must take precedence…

        • ‘God is love. Therefore, love is before law.’ Sorry, I don’t think follows. God creates humanity and before they can say a word he issues a command.

          I think the biblical testimony is that God is love, therefore God’s commands express his love. To use commands ‘unlovingly’ is therefore a contradiction—but not to follow commands is to miss out on God’s loving, life-giving pattern for us. The Ten Commandments are a good example of this; they start by rehearsing God’s gracious rescue of his people, and offer a gracious (though demanding) discipline for their pattern of life. (Grace is always demanding.)

          Jesus reapplication (not abandonment) of ‘law’ testifies to this, as do Paul’s ethical injunctions in his letters.

          • Ian…
            ‘God is love. Therefore, love is before law.’ What I was seeking to communicate, was God is love in his essence. God is fundamentally, essentially, inextricably love. To speak of God is to speak of love. God is love. However, it is not true to say (and I don’t think the Bible testifies to this) that God is law. Law arises from love as an expression of love, but it is not true to say that law is the same as love. Therefore, love is before or precedes law…

          • But the logic of your position is that love can be expressed without law, and in fact we might even be better off without law if we are to encounter love.

            I am not clear this is much more than antinomianism; it is often wheeled out to suggest situations ethics is superior to other forms of moral thinking; and I don’t think a responsible reading of the Bible supports it.

          • I’m probably a fan antinomianism but Jesus did say that everything is summed up by loving God and loving your neighbour and St Paul says that the law was only there to point the way before grace came along. So yes we are “better off without law” now we’ve encountered love!

  8. In terms of your point on my statement: I agree it needs teasing out. Here are some thoughts.

    – I agree that society AND the church places far to much emphasis on sex. However, I wonder if you would agree that people in a healthy marriage find an intimacy that is empowering and beneficial. This intimacy cannot be dissected from the sexual expression that forms a part of it. I believe that this is one of the reasons God gives us the gift of sex and I agree that this gift is misunderstood by our culture (and indeed most cultures throughout history, if we’re honest)

    – If someone is told by their church that their sexual orientation means they cannot find this relationship – and I’m aware they will be told they can form other kinds of relationship -I think it’s harmful on two levels: 1) It might stop them forming a relationship which is beneficial to them and glorifies God. 2) It hugely implies that there is something wrong / abnormal / perverse about some of their most basic instincts. This is psychologically damaging.

    – I believe this is different to a heterosexual asked to remain celibate for two reasons: 1) The church is not causing the singleness (at least, I hope it’s not) and there is still the potential/hope for such a relationship in the future. 2) The celibate heterosexual is not finding their basic instincts questioned (some argue that the heterosexual’s lust – which must be maintained – could be a questioning of their basic instincts. But I disagree. There is a difference between lust and being fundamentally drawn to a gender).

    – I don’t agree with the comparison with three-somes etc. This is because I believe that a monogamous homosexual relationship CAN be healthy and beneficial whereas I do not believe these models can. I am happy to talk you through why I am against promiscuity and adultery if that’s helpful.

    So, that’s why I think a pastoral system that encourages gay people to be celibate can be hateful. Because I think it inflicts pain.

    I recognise that you may disagree because:

    1) You might not agree that homosexual instincts are naturally etc
    2) You – almost certainly – don’t agree that homosexual relationships can be beneficial or fruitful (and glorifying to God).

    I’m not particularly looking to dissuade you from that view – just to break my statement down and to explain why we reach different conclusions re pain and hate.

    • Thanks Gareth. Taking your comments in order:

      How do you define ‘healthy’ marriage? Scripture appears to include in this ‘male-female’.

      ‘ This intimacy cannot be dissected from the sexual expression that forms a part of it.’ Really? So there can be no deep connection without sex? See

      ‘their sexual orientation means they cannot find this relationship’. This presumes that orientation defines our identity. On this see

      Whether such a relationship ‘glorifies God’ surely depends on what Scripture says about them…?

      Is there something ‘wrong / abnormal / perverse’ about SSA? The most extensive assessment of same-sex marriage appears to support this idea.

      ‘Heterosexual marriage was significantly linked to having young parents, small age differences between parents, stable parental relationships, large sibships, and late birth order. For men, homosexual marriage was associated with having older mothers, divorced parents, absent fathers, and being the youngest child.’

      ‘The church is not causing the singleness’ Really? Have you talked to unmarried Christian women about this?

      If you agree with Brownson that Gen 2 is about kinship, not gender difference, on what logic grounds is it about twoness? See

      I have never said ‘that homosexual relationships cannot be beneficial or fruitful (and glorifying to God)’; we are all sinful, yet God works through us. The question is: is SSM an equivalent to other sex marriage as ‘way of life made holy by God that all should honour’?

    • Again, worth pointing out that there has been long conversation on all these issues, contrary to Steve’s assertion.

      What did you make of the engagement on these things in
      Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill
      The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris
      Straight and Narrow? by Thomas Schmidt
      The chapter on homosexuality in The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays.

      These are all well-known, accessible and clear contributions to the debate.

      • Again, I am not denying that there has been discussion around these issues,

        I am arguing that in many churches, the conversation is not truly open because if you reach different conclusions to the leadership, you risk being put outside the tent (what ‘outside the tent’ looks like, does indeed differ from church to church of course.’

        • ‘Again, I am not denying that there has been discussion around these issues,’ perhaps not, but Steve’s paper very much suggests that.

          If Steve hasn’t read these as part of his thinking, and cannot articulate a reason why they are all fundamentally wrong, there I think we have a real problem.

          Are you familiar with them?

          • Even if you are right about Steve’s paper (and I don’t personally think you are – he charts many historical conversations in them) when people like me call for an open conversation, we mean a conversation where:

            – Anyone is the church is allowed to express their honest views and concerns
            – The church should facilitate discussion rather than ‘give a position’
            – People are still include and not subject to any level of discipline regardless of the view point they come to

            I recognise that you don’t agree that this sort of conversation is necessarily, helpful – perhaps even possible.

            But I think it’s time you stopped being offended over something that nobody has actually said 🙂

          • Gareth, I am not expressing offence; I am establishing that Steve hasn’t engaged in the existing debate, which I think is a problem.

            I take it, from what you say, that neither of you have read these texts. That does seriously undermine Steve’s credibility in saying he is interested in dialogue or conversation.

          • I should add that the academic discussion on this issue is completely ‘open’, in that there is definitely no ‘right answer’ and the full range of views is present in the literature.

      • I haven’t read these as I’m not obsessed with this discussion – I just want to get on with my life. Most gay Christians I know won’t have read them either. Maybe we could read them in advance of the Open Church debate – if that would help!

    • Hi Gareth – it’s with real trepidation that I enter into this discussion, as it is so easy to be misunderstood, but I have a genuine question. It’s something that’s kept me awake at night worrying about & I haven’t known who to ask about it, but think you might be that person. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a serious response to this question. Here it is:

      You say, ‘If someone is told by their church that their sexual orientation means they cannot find this relationship – and I’m aware they will be told they can form other kinds of relationship -I think it’s harmful on two levels: 1) It might stop them forming a relationship which is beneficial to them and glorifies God. 2) It hugely implies that there is something wrong / abnormal / perverse about some of their most basic instincts. This is psychologically damaging.’

      Could you help me understand the thought process here? How is it that monogamous homosexual relationships are prioritised in this way, while other sexual orientations are excluded? I stress, this is a genuine question, but I really hesitate to flesh it out in case doing so causes offence, but here goes: What about the person who truly feels sexually oriented towards a sibling, and this is reciprocated, so there is no issue of consent? (And in this case, let’s assume the siblings are of the same sex, so there is no prospect of procreation.) If we tell such a couple they cannot form such a relationship are we not telling them there is something wrong/abnormal/perverse about their orientation? And isn’t this then psychologically damaging? And if it is, what right do we have to say they cannot be ‘married’? At what point do you draw the boundaries between what is and what isn’t an acceptable sexual relationship, and on what grounds?

      If I dare push this question out onto even thinner ice: what of the 30 year old who has a real orientation to those who are much younger? And say such a 30 year old met and fell in love with a 13 year old who was oriented towards those much older (again, no issue of coercion here – consent on both sides)? If we tell such a couple they cannot form such a relationship are we not telling them there is something wrong/abnormal/perverse about their orientation? And isn’t this then psychologically damaging? And if it is, what right do we have to say they cannot be ‘married’ if the relationship is actually going to be beneficial to them?

      You give a semi-answer to these questions: ‘I don’t agree with the comparison with three-somes etc. This is because I believe that a monogamous homosexual relationship CAN be healthy and beneficial whereas I do not believe these models can. I am happy to talk you through why I am against promiscuity and adultery if that’s helpful.’ But in my example we are not dealing with promiscuity or adultery, but potentially life-long loving relationships. So what would be the difference from a monogamous same-sex relationship?

      As I say, this is a genuine question, and I’d really appreciate your response. Thanks.

      • Hi John

        I do not believe that a sexual relationship between a 30 year old and a 13 year old can be healthy and beneficial. You might think this is just a modern construct, but I refer you to the case of Margaret Beaufort who scholars widely agree retained psychological scars throughout her life as a result of being bedded at 12 by a 25 year old.

        The case of same-sex incest is generally deemed to come from a place of mental-instability (as to be fair, homosexuality once was). If you have thoughts or evidence that this is not the case I will happily review.



        • Gareth,

          There are competing hypotheses regarding the incest taboo. The natural selection theory focuses on the desire to produce fitter progeny and avoid inbreeding depression.

          Alternatively, the Westermarck effect describe the sexual desensitization of those growing up in close domestic proximity. Although the evidence of its discovery has been criticized, it does serve to explain how siblings who encounter each other long, after separation in early childhood, experience the medical phenomenon of genetic sexual attraction.

          There’s evidence that many such couples adhere to the PSF (permanent, faithful and stable) mantra. But then again, the fact that not all same-sex couples are PSF didn’t prevent Parliament from legalizing same-sex marriage, did it?

          Now that the SSM Act has become law, there’s no longer any consistent legal rationale for not recognizing all other types of consensual adult PSF sexual relationships as marriage.

          The Father of the English common law, Blackstone concurred with Thomas Cromwell on the State’s interest in marriage::

          ‘The main goal and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong’.

          There are two presumptions that accomplish this.

          1. Conclusive maternal (birth mother) presumption: Mater semper certa est, pater semper incertus est(“The mother is always certain, the father is never certain”)

          2. Rebuttable presumption of paternity: “Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant’ (‘The father is he whom the marriage indicates.’

          So, the public purpose of marriage is not a political device to end homophobia and affirm equal love. It is to establishes a prima facie assumption (and all that accords to that) of the husband shared responsibility for and identity of any children born to his wife (barring genetic evidence to the contrary).

          If you look at the same-sex marriage (SSM) act, it doesn’t deliver marriage in this sense because there will always be genetic evidence to rebut the parental presumption:

          ‘Schedule 4, Part 2: Common law presumption.

          (1) Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband.
          (2) Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that presumption is of no relevance to the question of who the child’s parents are.’

          SSM may grant some legal recognition to committed LGBT relationships. It doesn’t grant legal or societal recognition of the couple as founders of an autonomous family unit in which, after marriage, one same-sex spouse is the automatic co-parent of any child born to the other.

          Whatever same-sex couples want, to do the latter would authorize the injustice of usurping natural unsurrendered fatherhood. The current restriction is a blow for fairness and common sense.

  9. Steve C’s basic assertion is fatally flawed. On his analysis that the church cannot speak against same-sex relationships, activity and marriage and also be welcoming, he would also have to assert the same against the welcome that is given by the church to people who are, for example, thieves, prostitutes, drug users (this analogy requiring a holding to orthodox teaching on sexuality, of course). Would he also say it is impossible to comment on the lifestyle and, at the same time, be welcoming? In effect this is what he would have to do and it is clearly an absurdity!

      • Gareth

        If (and that is the ‘if’ that is at stake here) same-sex relationships, activity and marriage are sinful, then to engage in such is also destructive and contrary to ‘love’, but rather it is merely the giving in to desire that is contrary to God’s ideal for humankind. Therefore, the argument I submit is not flawed. Your position assumes that such conduct is loving and relies on an interpretation of Scripture that such conduct is not contrary to Scripture. That’s a very big assumption that many would argue is flawed.

        • Hi Graham

          I don’t know if you have ever been in a healthy same-sex relationship. If not, I can assure you that they can be very loving.

          This is not of course true of all homosexual relationships. Nor of course of all heterosexual relationships.

          • Hi Gareth

            Your assertion that same-sex relationships can be ‘loving’ requires an assumption that they are not sinful or contrary to Scripture. If (and, as I stated above, this is the ‘if’ that needs to be resolved) such relationships or activity is sinful or contrary to Scripture then your position requires an assertion that it is ‘loving’ to engage in something that is sinful. In what way can engaging in sinful actions be ‘loving’ in its fullest sense rather than merely the expression of desire?

    • I’m not sure that’s the question, since it assumes a certain answer. The real issue is: is sexual orientation foundational to human identity in the way that these other things are not?

      For example, there are arguments that prostitution is both a social necessity and good (when regulated) and empowering to women. The harm is when men exploit through pimping. A similar argument has been made about pornography.

        • Hi Gareth

          I cannot answer for Ian, but of labelling all ‘anti-gay views’ as hateful is an extremely broad brush stroke designed to grab headlines. Even the term ‘anti-gay’ makes an unfounded assumption of the intent and motivation behind the expressing of views regarding homosexuality.

          If correct interpretation of Scripture results in a conclusion that same-sex activity is sinful, then to put it in a list with other sinful activity is not offensive but is simply describing it within the correct grouping. Those within that group may be offended by being so described, but isn’t that often the case when people, myself included, are faced with our own sin. The question then is do we choose to continue to sin or do we repent, seek forgiveness, look to be transformed and ‘sin no more’?

    • Luke 15:1-2   ‘Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”’

      • Or more extensively:

        So Jesus’ association with ‘sinners’ was not simply a question of hanging around with undesirables, or even welcoming them, but being prepared to take the risk of being with them in order to preach the good news of the transforming power of God’s presence in his kingdom. If anything marked him out from the Pharisees, it was his belief that even these ‘sinners’ could change and be transformed.32 This is typified in the encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. In this encounter, Jesus simultaneously confronts the hypocrisy of the accusers, pronounces forgiveness to the woman, and affirms the possibility of change and transformation: ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ (John 8.11).33

        • Ian
          In the Church of England, and even I presume St Nic’s, we adhere to the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage, and I quote here from paragraph 18:
          18. We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshiping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.
          So, in the Church of England, we are really not saying to civil partnered and same-sex married couples ‘go and sin no more’, we are actually saying:
          ‘We recognise why you wish your relationship to have a more formal status, including the joy of exclusive commitment and the importance of legal recognition’
          ‘We will welcome you into the life of our worshiping community’
          ‘We will not subject you to questioning about your lifestyle’
          ‘We will not deny you nor any children you care for access to the sacraments’
          If we’re all singing from the same hymn-sheet we stand a better chance of presenting a cohesive and effective pastoral approach. Do you agree?

          • to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.’

          • I take it that you also agree with:

            21. The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on *the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it.* Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.

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

            Therefore, I wonder about the kind of pastoral discussion that any vicar should have with same-sex married couples who ask for prayer to mark the occasion of their same-sex wedding.

            Does the unqualified welcome of same-sex married couples and the argument for a change in the Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality mean that vicars should pastorally dismiss the Church’s current teaching as misguided and in favour of a discussion aimed at unqualified affirmation of same-sex marriage?

            And with ‘current teaching’, I include Canon B30 that upon which a cleric is admonished to fashion his life and ‘to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.’

            That’s all part of the same hymn-sheet. So, let’s all sing those verses too!

          • Jane

            You’ve hit on the naivety of the Bishops’ original support for civil partnerships. If recognition of those partnerships was in order to celebrate and support homosexual relationships how could the Bishops support that? If it was nothing to do with homosexuality why were the legal advantages of civil partnerships denied to others who have equal commitment such as two best friends or a grandparent and orphaned grandchild etc? The whole thing was always an illusion which would merely pave the way for gay marriage.

            Having originally given their support to civil partnerships, any subsequent backtracking by the Bishops would have revealed their foolishness; thus you get paragraph 18 which you quoted.

            My own view is that Churches should welcome all comers and not distinguish between one sin and another since we are all sinners. Nor do I think a prurient interest in the private lives of Church members is helpful. However, no Church can condone or support intentionally sinful lifestyles and therefore that which the Bible says has to be conveyed without fear or favour. How this affects the behaviour of those who hear it is a matter between them and God – so long as there is no public undermining of the Church’s leadership. I should have thought that any sensible gay people who could not agree with the doctrine of their Church would simply go elsewhere. (None of this needs to be characterised as ‘hateful’)

            You are right about the pastoral challenge here when church organisations are divided on an issue, but can you name a time in history when human beings and Christians in particular all agreed on everything?

          • Jane, I think that your observation and David’s together rather neatly express precisely ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ That’s one of the many reasons why I think, in this instance, the bishops did the right thing.

          • David, thank you for your comment (below)
            Couples who enter same-sex marriage (have a civil wedding) and ask for prayer to accompany this (presumably at some point on the same day with the same people and the same photographer) will generally have asked a clergy member whom they know to be supportive to their situation rather than someone who might hold your viewpoint (and there are plenty of supportive clergy available). If the discussion on their decision to depart from church teaching is mandatory (and requires signatures and witnessing), then my assumption is that it will have been held at a much earlier time in the wedding planning process in order that it does not overshadow the happy couple’s big day.
            Civil partnered and same-sex married couples join our churches and expect to receive the same respect that we would extend to opposite-sex married couples (and this really isn’t an unreasonable expectation to hold) and this for the weeks, months and years following their wedding. Individual vicars will hold the views that they hold regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality but this should not and hopefully will not contravene the policy statements in paragraph 18. Vicars are having the discussion, as we are all having the discussion, ad infinitum, about these issues, but discussion apart, we welcome same-sex married couples into our congregations.
            My comment did not include the situation that we find ourselves in regarding clergy who wish to marry, Canon B30 and the ‘wholesome example’ caveat. The Church is where the Church currently is on that one. Apparently we are all singing from the same hymn-sheet – Canon Jeremy Pemberton and Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain will both testify to this.

          • Don
            My understanding is that at the time (2004-2005?) the bishops gave no support at all for the introduction of civil partnerships. They support them now, but only because same-sex marriage is available. Many people in society and in the Church hold the view that civil partnerships were ‘separate drinking fountains’ for gay people and that as gay people commit to marriage, they should be allowed to marry.
            We do have segregated churches with respect to the opinion on whether gay people committing to marriage are still in a sinful lifestyle. Gay people benefit from committing to churches which respect their discipleship and respect their marriages and strenuously avoiding those churches which do not. It’s just unfortunate for the many straight people in non-affirming churches that they will not invite their gay friends, family members, work colleagues and neighbours to their own church but need to recommend their local ‘inclusive’ church, where they feel gay people will be treated with respect.
            No, I cannot name a time in history when human beings and Christians in particular all agreed on everything – and thankfully where issues on inclusion and exclusion threatened to divide us, on the whole we resolved them in favour of inclusion (leaving God to sort sin and effect transformation).

          • Dear Jane

            Acceptance of civil unions for gay people by the Bishops happened before same sex marriage, (indeed acceptance of unions by Christians probably happened before the Bishops). Please don’t change the timing of events to suit your argument.

            This subject matters more than any other because marriage is mentioned in the Bible, and particularly in the NT, and what is proposed is the destruction of the Bible as an authority contrary to the 39 articles that is the foundation of the Church.

            (By contrast the NT doesn’t mention priests anywhere other than Christ himself in Hebrews – so that change didn’t question the Bible as authoritative).

          • Clive
            I don’t have access to the original relevant pages in Hansard but I will admit it was this article that I found very persuasive:
            Many Christians and Bishops still, even in 2014, don’t accept civil partnerships on the same basis as opposite-sex marriages (and certainly to the extent that the latter are blessed in churches but the former are not).
            The subject matters more than any other because while our churches are at any level discriminatory, they undermine God’s wider Kingdom purposes to see people come to faith and find salvation (and not just gay people but the many thousands of LGBT-supportive straight people in modern society). The Holy Spirit will not leave our churches in the position whereby they hinder mission – we might as well all pack up and become Buddhists. So, if indeed we are seeing an Acts 10 movement in our own generation, we will find in time, that the Bible supports our way forward, rather than obstructs us.

          • Dear Jane,

            You haven’t mentioned Scripture once.

            If you leave out the Bible from your Church then who knows, perhaps Buddhism is right.

            The Bible matters. If we act upon the Holy Spirit alone then we have no reference point to understand what we are being shown. The Holy Spirit doesn’t really go against the Bible.

  10. Ian, thank you for engaging with Steve C on the biblical texts. I too am puzzled at the insistence that the orthodox view is hateful, because this seems like an attempt to rule it out of court.

    I find in myself many desires, some good, some bad; but I am still responsible for my behaviour and actions. Having a desire cannot itself justify behaviour – this seems basic to my mind.

    My daughter is involved with Sally Hitchiner in a group called Diverse Church, which seeks to give a pastoral welcome to Christians who have suffered in this way, while still allowing for different viewpoints on the theology. This seems very valuable in the present climate.

    • Interesting. That was not the impression I had of Diverse Church: it appear to believe that you needed to accept SSM as equivalent to male-female marriage—or at least that it is an adiaphora.

      • All the pro-gay Christian groups that I’ve been involved in over the years accepted diverse beliefs. Yes the predominate one was pro gay-relationships but my then celibacy and adherence to traditional teaching was acceptable. In fact at Greenbelt we even promoted True Freedom Trust alongside LGCM and got our books and leaflets from both organisations.

  11. In a theology of marriage how is SSM supposed to fit in with the picture of Christ and the church being his bride? It seems to me that it would be akin to Christ marrying Christ or the Church marrying the Church. You would need to introduce a new doctrine of marriage that would be alien to that the Bible presents.

    • Chris, I’ve heard this argument a few times, but I am not convinced by this one.

      It seems to suggest that the two partners in marriage need to be ontologically other, as Christ and the church are—but which male and female surely are not?

      Both are human, and both are clearly and equally made in the image of God. I think this is pushing the analogy too far.

  12. Ian,

    Christ and the Church are not “ontologically other”. Christ is fully human and the Church is fully human. That’s not to negate the fact that Christ is also fully divine, but isn’t the whole point of the incarnation that Christ became a man in order to represent other human beings? So I find the Christ/Church comparison with marriage to be useful. Not only this, but Christ and the Church as an analogy for marriage is clearly biblical (Ephesians 5). Since it’s clearly a biblical analogy, on what basis can we reject it?

    • OK–but if Jesus is married to the church because he is the same as the church, not different, where does that get us? And if he is also our brother, isn’t that incestuous?

      It’s a biblical analogy, but in a context and used for a purpose. The way I have heard it used is to argue that the whole reason for marriage and the two sexes in creation was so that one day Paul could write Ephesians 5. I don’t find that very plausible.

      Paul’s point is that, if Christ who is Lord of all can empty himself in love for his people, husbands who are a bit up themselves should be able to manage it too. (though he takes 116 words to say it…) Analogies and metaphors must be contextualised.

      I just don’t think it adds persuasively to the argument for differentiated sexes in marriage.

      • I agree that scripture uses a variety of analogies, but the husband-wife analogy is primarily corporate (applying to the whole church, or to local congregations), whereas the brother metaphor is primarily individual, applying to the brother or sister in Christ. Jesus is ‘married’ (covenantally bound) to the Church as a man, so that we might be adopted into the family of God. It’s the whole “God became man so that man might become like God” thing.

        My point is that ‘Christ and the Church’ is the eschatological fulfilment of what marriage means. If marriage wasn’t meant to be fulfilled in that, then why else would marriage cease to be in the eschaton? In scripture, it’s there in many places, for instance, Song of Solomon has historically been understood (at least on one level) as a parable of the relationship between Christ and the Church. The book of Revelation begins with a Revelation of Christ and ends with a revelation of the Church. Jesus is the “new Adam” (Romans 5), who undoes the curse brought about by the first Adam – and this makes the Church the new Eve. In 2 Corinthians 11, you have this understanding of the Church (or a local congregation) as a bride betrothed to Christ. So it’s not just Ephesians 5, this theme is extremely prominent throughout the bible.

        • Hmmm, so the Church is the new Eve, eh? In which case Eve is a multi-celled intersex colony organism made up of all members of the Church, and in marrying “her” Christ will be entering into a polygamous opposite AND same-sex relationship.

          I find it interesting that Christian men who are so set against same-sex marriage and polygamy all seem to dream of the day when they’ll be marrying Christ themselves. Good luck to you and all your brother-wives…

  13. Thank you for Gareth and others response.

    I have read them and I noticed that neither the Bible, nor Jesus, is mentioned, which is disturbing. Nor is the definition of love given.

    Scripture matters. Whilst I have previously “crossed-swords” (metaphorically) with James what I offer here is NOT science because I only know of one survey and that’s for TEC Anglicans in the USA. Same sex marriage was asked but not same sex unions and the answer will be different. Nonetheless 61% believed in scripture and believe that SSM should not be allowed in Church, 9% are undecided and 30% believe that SSM should be allowed. So scripture matters and, in the “conversation” scripture has to be addressed (this is a long, long way from Bishop Alan Wilson’s book claim of a tiny minority / rump). Gareth and others are going to have to include a serious discussion of scripture because a large percentage in Church do believe in the Bible.

    When tackling scripture they are going to have to talk about the New Testament because the CofE operates on the belief that Jesus himself spoke about marriage. If you look at Mark 10 verse 8 (if you study the variants of this text you are still left with Mark 10:8 in tact) this can only be between a man and a woman.

    Scripture says that marriage includes the family.

    I note that Gareth claims that love supercedes everything else (including scripture) and, even if that were true, one has to answer the question of “what is love?”. Love is not sex. Love changes over time. Love matures. So it is not straightforwad to try to define love.

    The current government openly practices prejudice and discrimination againt the family and against children in the bizarre name of so-called equality. The law still requires consummation between a man and a woman and the law still defines the relationships that are allowable in marriage to avoid incest. Therefore the law still allows for traditional marriage as well as SSM. Yet the government has given a directive to OFSTED that rides roughshod over anyone who dares to believe in traditional marriage even though the law allows it.

    The latest set of examples is in The Sunday Times, which is a paying website, so I offer another instead. There are many examples of the above. The link to The Jewish Chronicle about their schools I have given in your website and is here:
    (Notice, please, here that not one of the “Trojan-horse schools was religious, not one)

    The government directive to OFSTED also discriminates against children by seeing children as nothing more than commodities of a marriage.

    I have personal experience as a child of discrimination. I needed to tell my doctor about diseases inherrited from my Father but my Father had died when I was a child. That’s normally OK because your grandfather speaks on your Father’s behalf. Unfortunately my Grandfather had died when my Father was a child, so he could not. It was only when I was married and had children that relatives told me of glaucoma in the family. I told the doctor and was then told that Aunts and Uncles didn’t count in the regulations. So I have always had my eyes tested every year and I have always had to pay full price whereas those with glaucoma in the family are supposed to get the glaucoma monitoring eyetests for free. I have had to put up with that discrimination.

    A child should be able to tell any doctor who the parents are. The acual parents of the child are not a secret.

    Whilst there was previusly no law as such, but it was left to the common sense of families, increasingly the government feels it makes better parents of children that the parents do. This is wrong.

    Scripture believes in the family and believes in natural parents. Gareth, Steve Chalke, and others, are going to have to take the scripture of the new testament seriously.

    The NT and OT are different and I have noticed that those who try to attack the Bible spend the vast majority of their time on the OT and carefully avoid serious comments on the NT.

  14. ” ‘Would you say that this “orthodox” position on sexuality is, of itself “hateful” (to use a term you [Steve Chalke] have introduced) to gay people?’

    ” ‘Yes.’ ”

    Regardless of whether “hateful” is the right word, Ian, surely you see the point? A devout believer in the Curse of Ham could be horrified by lynching, and treat individual African-Americans with kindness, but regardless of his sincerity and decency, in supporting segregation s/he’d be perpetuating a damaging ideology.

    We of course disagree about whether the traditional position on human sexuality is damaging, but I think it’s asking too much of LGBT people, alongside their family, friends and allies, to want them to speak neutrally about a doctrine that openly discriminates, and has underpinned so much homophobia throughout our history.

    It’s to your credit that you want all to be welcome in church, but if it’s on these terms, that ideal cannot be met.

    • 1. Genesis 9 never says that Ham was black.
      2. It is that Talmud (oral rabbinic traditions) that provided the legends that Ham was ‘smitten in his skin’.
      3. The further ‘elucidation’ of the Yalkut Shimoni declares of only one of Ham’s sons: ‘”Ham, that Cush came from him”.

      Someone who devoutly believes that the curse of Ham is the basis for supporting segregation is deriving his views from oral traditions with which Christ Himself took issue (Mark 7:13), rather than Torah that Jesus described as the word of God. I’m not sure how that can be attributed to a sincere difference in *biblical* interpretation.

      Based on Genesis, the church’s doctrine of marriage maintains a distinction between sexual expression within the vow of lifelong heterosexual monogamy and all other forms of sexual expression. The teaching upholds the Genesis ideal against the whole continuum of divergence from that archetype, including divorce (Matt. 19:8). So, those who want to re-marry in church (even victims of adultery) are questioned about their previous marriage and are expected to accept that divorce falls short of God’s ideal.

      What some people do with that doctrine may be wrong, but the charge that the doctrine prejudicially distinguishes homosexual orientation and justifies hostility towards LGBT people is false. It might be better to have said that it has been used to justify the vilification of LGBT people, but, if you compare atheism, would you also that it underpins aggression towards Christians?

      According to church doctrine, those in close-family sexual relationships and the re-married are equally considered to fall short of God’s ideal for marriage. The acceptance of this is the basis for pastoral accommodation.

      In contrast, LGBT people, alongside their family, friends and allies want a special pleading whereby they don’t have to accept that.

      • David, I don’t believe that gay couples should benefit from special pleading: I believe a consistent ethic should be applied to all, regardless of sexual orientation, and as I don’t share your belief in biblical authority, we approach this from perspectives that’re polls apart.

        • James,

          Fair point and we’ve discussed this, in the past, from a purely secular angle as to how the vehicle of marriage founds families and has the power to automatically prioritise unfair parental claims of the spouse of the birth mother above the unsurrendered rights of the natural father.

          That’s not reliant upon biblical authority.

      • We have, for all intents and purposes, accepted divorce and remarriage these days so I don’t think your arguments stacks up on this one.

        • Okay, I’ll take the bait.

          I said: ‘So, those who want to re-marry in church (even victims of adultery) are questioned about their previous marriage and are expected to accept that divorce falls short of God’s ideal.’

          The official motion of the 2002 Synod preserved Canon B30 intact:

          “That this Synod
          a) Affirm in accordance with the doctrine of the Church of England as set out in Canon B30 , that marriage should always be undertaken as a “solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman”;

          Under section 3.1 (a): Do the applicants have a clear understanding of the meaning and purpose of marriage?

          Do the couple understand that divorce is a breach of God’s will for marriage?
          Have they a determination for the new marriage to be a life-long faithful partnership?

          If, as you claim, ‘we have, for all intents and purposes accepted divorce’, it involves the re-married (including victims of adultery) understanding that it’s a breach of God’s will for marriage. That’s the pastoral accommodation, however hateful it may seem.

          So, let’s say, for a moment, that the Church decided to formally recognize civil partnerships.
          In like manner, would you ever allow Canon B30 to remain intact with the understanding that homosexual relationships are a breach of God’s will for marriage?

          • As far as I’m aware Steve Chalke is a Baptist so I don’t think any of these Canons apply!

            But my faith is based more on a relationship with God than a strict adherence to Scripture – so I think that our understanding of God changes over time: for example in the OT people were told ‘an eye for an eye’ but then in the NT Jesus tells us to love our enemies. And so in the same way, since we live a lot longer these days, I think that some relationships will come to an end and we would want to start another.

            I don’t feel tied to Scripture in the same way I used to and I believe God speaks today rather than having stopped speaking 2000 years ago. It seems to limit God to say that the cannon of scripture is closed.

          • Mr. Adams,

            If not by the principles established through scripture, I do wonder what you think objectively distinguishes Christianity from any other monotheistic religion.

            ‘My faith is based more on a relationship with God rather than a strict adherence to scripture’

            That’s a false dichotomy. Like saying ‘my marriage is based more on a relationship with my spouse rather than a strict adherence to my wedding vows’. The two go hand-in-hand.

            Why should a faith grounded in a relationship preclude a strict adherence to scripture?

            We know that the prophets accurately predicted the suffering of Christ. Psalm 22 is a detailed written prediction of the crucifixion of Christ.

            Christ’s own witnesses, the apostles, recounted his adherence to scripture as testifying of His mission and destiny.

            How can a disciple exempt himself from the discipline of scripture that Chrsit impose on Himself and the apostles?

            Even if I agree that the Old Testament was a provisional framework, that’s no reason to put an X-acto knife to the bits of the New Testament that you don’t like.

        • Dear Origen,

          Matthew 22 verses 24 to 30 deals with divorce and remarriage whereas same sex marriage would openly challenge Biblical authority and the 39 articles.

  15. This conversation is a great example of why these so-called “facilitated conversations” between conservatives and revisionists are an incredible waste of time and energy. It’s a vain attempt to delay the inevitable split that’s looming quite close now. You’d be better advised to cut your losses, go your own ways and try to keep your own particular vision of what the Church should be afloat for a few more years.

    You already understand each other’s position and you understand how irreconcilable they are. Neither camp will budge an inch and traditionalists will not allow revisionists to implement their beliefs within existing Church structures, so really you’re in the position of a married couple where a traditionalist husband is trying to impose his will on a liberal wife, who quite simply refuses to be dictated to.

    She’s going to live life her way but he just won’t accept that. So it’s either capitulation or divorce. Which is the most likely outcome?

    Divorce is coming sooner or later. There’ll be two Anglican Churches in England, one a super conservative, almost fundamentalist sect where Evangelicals will dominate, women will be tolerated through gritted teeth (by some, whereas others will pressure them to return to their “natural” roles of baby factory and/or domestic slave), gays will be expected to castrate themselves (figuratively or not) and Anglo-Catholics will slowly seep away to the Ordinariate.

    The other Church will take the form of an English version of TEC and slowly dissolve into a woolly mass of post-Christian “spirituals”, with no fixed beliefs other than “Jesus was a great teacher”, “whatever feels good, is”, and “Gahhhd lurves me because I’m beautifahhhhl, in ev’ry single way…” I’m told there are already moves afoot in this liberal wing of the Church to canonize Christina Aguilera – or is it Lady Gaga? – as the patron saint of self-actualization, but maybe that’s just an unfounded rumor …

    Anywho, as I watch this from the outside, I’m reminded of some famous words by a French emperor when he said “n’interrompez jamais un ennemi qui est en train de faire une erreur”, which loosely translated means “never interrupt an enemy when he’s in the process of making a mistake”. I should really keep quiet I suppose, but the process is far too advanced for a random blog comment by a French nobody to change anything. I don’t undervalue the irritant value of my comments, which I feel it’s my hereditary duty to make (n’oublions jamais la pauvre Jeanne d’Arc et ses souffrances aux mains des Rosbifs !), but this situation far outweighs any ancient rivalries because it presages what’s coming for the Church as a whole. We’re witnessing a tectonic shift in the structure of all churches that mirrors the breakup of the Arctic ice sheets. As great floes detach themselves from the polar ice cap and melt into the warm ocean waters, the process of dissolution accelerates to a point where it becomes unstoppable. As an Atheist I greet this with much satisfaction, although I do realize the distress it must be causing amongst Christians. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing on the shores of Hudson Bay watching two groups of polar bears fighting over control of the ice sheet. No matter who wins, they’ll both be taking a warm bath soon. And they won’t like that, poor things…

    • Etienne,

      I wouldn’t be too complacent if I were you. Should your dream come true and the Christian Church (the Church which is having this civilized conversation) simply fade away, don’t think the vacumn will be filled by some secular and sexually permissive liberal utopia. Look eastwards and listen carefully; can you not hear the jackboots of Salafist Islam marching your way?

    • I don’t know whether I’d heard that maxim of Napoleon before. Anyway, it’s a jolly good one; I like it. One of my favourites – although I’m not an atheist myself – is the reply attributed to Laplace when Napoleon asked him what place God held in to his conception of the world: « Sire, je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse. »

      • Hmmm, he also said “l’homme n’est jamais si grand qu’à genoux devant Dieu” (Man is never greater than when kneeling before God).

        I think he tailored his comments to his audience: the mark of the true politician.

        My favorite is “pour être heureux, le mariage exige un continuel échange de transpirations” (to succeed, marriage demands a continual exchange of perspiration).

        Puts all this abject nonsense about “spiritual friendship” in perspective, does it not?

      • Zut ! You were talking about Laplace’s reply, not the emperor’s. One day I’ll get my head around English syntax. If it kills me I will…!!!

        To quote the scientist: “l’homme, porté par les illusions des sens à se regarder comme le centre de l’univers, se persuade facilement que les astres influent sur sa destinée, et qu’il est possible de la prévoir par l’observation de leurs aspects au moment de la naissance.” Which is something that perhaps even most Christians might agree with.

  16. Ah, the assumptions of Christians! All Atheists believe in a secular utopia, do we? I obviously didn’t get the memo…

    I have no more idea than you do how we’ll be governed in the future or what enemies we’ll face. I don’t believe in utopias any more than you do, although I do think our best way forward is to follow the path of science and logic rather than mysticism and superstition.

    That doesn’t mean there’s a secular paradise just over the horizon. I think we will progress, but slowly, just as we always do. Abandoning religion doesn’t make us perfect, but it does set in place the conditions for further progress to be made.

    And as for Islamic bogeymen, yes, there are some who want to impose religious rule on us. There are also some Christians who want us to live in a Christian state. Theocrats have always existed and they probably always will. Certainly for as long as religion keeps on addling the minds of humanity.

    [edited by IP]

    • Who said I was a Christian? Who’s making assumptions now? And in any case I didn’t claim that all atheists (if that is indeed what you are) believe in a secular utopia. My remarks were addressed only to you.

      So you think that ISIS is fighting a regional war? Do you mean a regional war like the one that confined itself to Sarajevo and surrounding districts in 1914? Or perhaps a regional war like that little conflict in Manchuria in 1931? If you care to pay a visit in the near future to the various Jihadi sites on the internet you might find that the Jihadis see the conflict in Iraq as a mere skirmish. I can assure you that their intention is for the entire world to be under the rule of Sharia. Don’t take my word for it – take theirs. And in what region of the Middle East did the events of 9/11 take place? Or 7/7? Still if you want to bury your head in the sand, I can’t stop you. ISIS might!

      Finally, if Prince Charles ever became a Muslim he would no longer be heir to the throne. The Sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England, that is a full, confirmed member. If you are going to make flippant remarks at least do a bit of research! Having read one too many of your comments on this blog I think that it is fair to say that you are not widely read. You really should make more effort if you want to be taken seriously.

    • Gents, could you both please conform to the standard of respect expected on this blog. And Etienne, please keep your comments concise and relevant to the blog post. I don’t want to have to delete comments again.


      • Ian,

        I didn’t think I was in anyway rude to Etienne and re-reading my comments I still don’t think I was rude. If I have failed to reach the standards you have set, then I must confess, they are beyond me; I will therefore cease to comment here. It’s your site and you’re entitled to set whatever standards you like, but it’s more than clear that Etienne’s comments are purely vexatious and contribute nothing.

        One final thing Ian, I do think that you should restore the deletions to Etienne’s post; perhaps you could display the deletions in bold together with a commentary on why they are unacceptable. But as I said, it’s your blog…

        • Tony, I don’t think you were rude either, and I would happy for you to continue contributing. It adds a lot to the blog.

          I do think your responses are probably unnecessarily polemical, and when online, polemic takes discussion in a particular, often unhelpful, direction. (I know; I have done it myself!)

          I’ve explained to Etienne that his posts need to be more concise and more relevant; we have discussed this before. I also hope that he will continue to contribute to discussion.

          • So you don’t think ad hominem attacks about lack of education are rude, eh?

            We clearly have very different ideas about what constitutes politeness.

            I’ve often observed that ad hominem insults are directly related to shortcomings the insulter recognizes in himself and feels particularly insecure about. The badly educated man can’t wait to tell others how bad their education is; the coward frequently impugns other people’s courage, etc., etc. So however irritating such remarks may be, it’s important to remember they usually stem from a place of perceived inadequacy. It really helps with “turning the cheek” when you realize your attacker is probably much more critical of his own abilities than he is of yours. Just not aloud or in public, that’s all…

            As for the relevance of my comments, isn’t the subject of this post the infighting between two rival factions within a declining church? I thought my comments were relevant enough to that. But perhaps perspective is different inside the slowly draining goldfish bowl…

  17. Etienne,

    The whole of your third paragraph is a thinly disguised ad hominem attack, but I will, as you suggest, turn the other cheek.

    It may suprise you to know that I am in partial agreement with your analysis of the future of the Church of England, although I think most Anglo-Catholics, whose ultimate destination is Rome, have probably all ready left. However, it could be, to borrow and adapt Mark Twain, that “The report of the CofE’s death is an exaggeration”. I do hope so.

    • Tony, speaking as a (traditional) Anglo-Catholic, I think that you are wrong to assume that most of those who will go to Rome have in fact gone … the current provision that has been made by the C of E has just been enough to keep many of us on board for the time being. I’ve personally decided to give it another five years and see how things work out. We have been promised that we will be able to thrive even with women in the episcopate, but only time will tell whether these good intentions will in fact be honoured. However, the appointment of Fr Philip North to be the new Bishop of Burnley (Blackburn Diocese) is a good sign though. We are also hopefull of an similar appointment to the suffragan See of Plymouth in Exeter Diocese.

  18. While you may have a point about the need to be compassionate towards homosexuals and lesbians you cannot re-write the Bible. Romans 1 v 18-32 and 1st Corinthians 6 v 9-11 are crystal clear.

    In my work as a street evangelist I sometimes have conversations with “gays” over this matter. My line has been simple – it is wrong what they are doing but the good news is that, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, they can be changed.

    What Mr Chalke is doing is encouraging people to continue in a lifestyle that God says is wrong and, in so doing, he is rendering himself liable to be “on the wrong side of God” on the judgement day. He truly needs prayer that he will come to repentance.

    • Unfortunately I am one who swallowed this “they can be changed” pill hook, line and sinker 🙁 I was very “psychologically damaged” by following the ‘healing’ path and had a breakdown of which affects I still suffer. So I’m very offended by the “hate” that you purvey and I would implore you to at least say to the “gays” that they should be celibate!

      • It is not “hate” to express Biblical truth on this matter. I disgaree with Muslims but it doesn’t mean I hate them; the same applies to Atheists, agnostics and so on. Simply saying that one’s beliefs and/or lifestyle are wrong in God’s sight is not hateful.

        You say that you were “damaged” by your experiences. I seriously wonder if you were genuine in your desire to change. All those who truly submit to Christ will be given power to be “overcomers” (see Revelation 2 v 17) but it is hard. We all have sinful desires and we need, daily, to live in a spirit of repentance and submission to Christ.

  19. Mr Oliver

    I believe the Church of England will subsist in some form or another for a while. But eventually it will disappear.

    Once the split is officialized and the remaining Romans have wafted off to Walsingham in a cloud of taffeta, lace and papal incense, the liberal Church will start its slow disintegration into a post-Spongian pile of organic vegan leaf litter. So we can largely forget about them, I think…

    The traditional Church will still be there, made up of a hard core of intractable Evangelicals spitting venom at the gay community as the rock that broke their barque in twain. And for a while pure anger will make them seem much more formidible than they really are. Hell hath no fury like a Mrs Beamish evicted from her comfortable residence by a revolutionary mob, after all.

    But fury won’t last. Once they’ve banished gays from among them and visited the vengeance of eternal and tightly policed celibacy on the poor “same-sex attracted” blighters who stay, they’ll find something else to argue about and then turn on each other over whatever that doctrinal difference turns out to be. Probably women priests at first. Or something like that.

    So soon enough there’ll be another schism amongst them, and like an atom caught in an unstoppable nuclear reaction, they’ll split and split and split again until only a thin cloud of disassociated leptons is left. A lot of heat and toxic radiation will be generated in the process, but not much light.

    Will they then recombine in a new form, or will the Roman black hole swallow them up one by one? I suppose it’s possible they might fall into orbit around some other planetary body first. Who can tell? I don’t claim to be able to predict the future, but I do think the balance of probabilities supports my vision of things. However only time will tell.

    As most if not all of this post will probably be edited out of existence by the Worshipful Doctor, you may never see it. In which case you’ll just have to labor under the misconception that I didn’t deem your last contribution worthy of a reply. But that won’t be my fault…

    • Etienne,

      In response to your comment about “intractable Evangelicals spitting venom at the gay community”, all I can say is first remove the beam from your own eye…

      You really do write the most lurid prose, more akin to a penny dreadful than anything I’ve ever read elsewhere on Psephizo. In the end it just gets so dull that in the event of you saying something of note, then I, and I’m sure other readers, are going to miss it. Anyway that’s not an ad hominem attack, just an observation, which I hope conforms to the standards of this blog.

      • Mr Oliver

        It is an ad hominem attack, but such a paltry and inconsequential one, I’ll just shrug it off with the contempt it deserves and consider this conservation closed.

        • Etienne,

          Well contempt is something at which you excel, so I’m more than happy not to feel obligated to chat with you anymore.

  20. Think this Fred Clark article offers further insight into the “hateful” comment. As its title puts it, “You can’t deny people their rights and be nice about it.”

    Traditionalists won’t agree, of course, and will put their view across.

    If we’re to have these conversations, it surely benefits us all to express our opinions frankly and honestly. Instead of shutting it down, saying the traditional view’s hateful could open things up. Why is it hateful? Is there any way to express it lovingly? And so on. Yes, it’s painful, but some painful things need saying. Traditionalists surely benefit from knowing how many LGBT people feel.

    • The only thing that benefits traditionalists is the maintenance of the status quo. They’re not interested in knowing how we feel. They just want everything to stay as it is. And for us to stop whining and accept that things will never change.

      • Etienne, you are very wrong. “Traditionalists” (your terminology amongst others, and not one with which I am happy) want the authority of Scripture.
        The language of “hate” is unhelpful but it is actually useful to know.

        • Clive, what alternative to “traditionalist” would you prefer? I’ll switch if it gets the meaning over. 🙂

          Etienne, I don’t generalize. Some undoubtedly care (including, obviously, those who “experience same-sex attraction”). Many would gladly take an affirming stance, but feel bound by the Bible.

          • I avoid the “same-sex attracted”. I’m not interested in knowing what Uncle Tom thinks or feels, or whether he cares about the people he betrays.

            Marcus Tellius Cicero says it better than I can:

            “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”

  21. Dear James,

    Earlier in this same post you have already said that you don’t believe in Biblical Authority. It has now been added that for some reason you think that the Bible is hateful.

    I am merely pointing out to that Biblical Authority is the reality of this disagreement not any other spurious reasoning. If the Bishops / Synod walk-away from Biblical authority then that is the end of the CofE because it will cease to be a Church. Etienne has simply pointed out that he thinks the CofE is sinking anyway.

  22. It must be close to a decade ago that I recall Steve And Oasis approaching LGCM with a petition to listen to what we had to say.
    Suspicion hardly covers the reaction they got from Richard Kirker and the rest of us ……..

    What struck me then and strikes me again now, was how genuine their desire was for dialogue.

    The suspicion now seems to be coming from a different direction!

  23. There is no hypocrisy in the position that we accept imperfect clergy.

    The issue is Biblical Authority. That is what we are going to fight hard about.

    The Bible itself says that we are imperfect people, all of us. Even St Paul can write in Romans 7: 19 that he is constantly getting things wrong then all of us can, including clergy. This means that God comes to us where we are and accepts us and that God changes us. The two Biblical truths are not seperatable. We are gradually transformed into Christ’s likeness. Therefore we accept everyone where we are and we expect them to be changed if they become Christians. This means that the Bible is not hostile to anyone at all. This also means that the Church’s stance of accepting imperfect people as clergy is not hypocrisy at all. We accept people knowing that they are imperfect. So there is no value pointing at the current imperfections because, as it says in the Bible, all of us are being transformed into Christ’s likeness. We are getting better constantly if we accept Christianity.

    The issue we will fight is the authority of the Bible, Without the Bible we are not a Church and we are not Christian.

    • “The issue is Biblical Authority. That is what we are going to fight hard about.”

      Where do you get this idea of Biblical Authority from? And which Bible are you using? Is it the one that Jesus used? It it the one that evangelicals use? Is it the Catholic one or is it the Orthodox one? According to Wikipedia: “Christian Bibles range from the sixty-six books of the Protestant canon to the eighty-one books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church canon.”

      And did God really stop speaking 2000 years ago?

      • Where did you or the modern church get any belief in Jesus from?

        I mean, was it all by word of mouth? No? Then I guess they relied upon what was written down as even Jesus quoted from the scrolls of the Law and the Prophets, claiming He was fulfilling their predictions.

        A strange disciple, indeed, who can cherry-pick from the only coherent record we have about the same Jesus he claims to follow.

        • Yes I cherry pick, but I think we all do! For example if someone stole your car would you give them the keys of your 4×4 too? Or would you go to the police and try and get it back? Jesus says not to demand it back. Or what about when Jesus told the rich man to sell all he has and give to the poor. Have you done that?

          • You’ve gone beyond cherry-picking to complete distortion.

            The text says: ‘And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’ (Matt. 5:40) It follows on from Christ’s discourse on the blessedness of accepting persecution for righteousness’ sake. Instead of avoiding the legal penalties heaped against Christians who challenge the mores of society, we should accept them, while exposing their injustice.

            It’s not about ignoring theft. Instead, it refers to how we should respond to those who exploit the legal system as revenge for offence proved by Christian reproof.

            It’s actually very pertinent to the recent case of Asher bakery’s refusal to bake a cake in support of gay marriage.

          • Actually the text says “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:30-31) And what about when Jesus told the rich man to sell all he has and give to the poor. Have you done that?

          • Christ was responding to a request of the rich young ruler: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

            After recounting the law, Christ identified his specific obstacle: ‘”You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

            If, as you intimate, this was a universal command enjoined upon every Christian, rather than specifically addressed to those, like the ruler, addicted to their affluence, we would expect its entirety to be Christ’s unvarying stance.

            Instead, Christ says the opposite to the exorcised man desirous of accompanying him: “*Go home* to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18, 19)

            So, it’s cherry-picking (again) for you to treat one part of Christ’s instruction to the ruler as having universal applicability, when it’s clear the latter part about joining Christ’s itinerant following was specific and individual.

            You have to be consistent.

          • Thanks for correcting my inconsistency! I wonder what you make of Jesus’ assertion to Nicodemus that he needs to be ‘born-again’? Do you think that was “specific and individual”?

            I’d rather admit that the text says what it does and admit that sometimes I don’t live up to it – rather than trying to bend it to fit my lifestyle.

          • A demonstrable example of divergence in instruction from what is presumed to be absolute is all that is needed to prove that the command is specific and individual.

            Given that there was no such divergence in the need for regeneration we can conclude that the command for that was absolute.

            Following the context of Christ’s sayings is not bending it to fit one’s lifestyle.

          • If all of the rich were expected to divest themselves of all means, how is it that rich Christians are addressed in James’ epistle:

            ‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;’ (?1 Timothy? ?6?:?17? KJV)?

            Clearly, if wealth was a bar to following Christ, the apostles would have insisted that the wealthy aristocrats, like Joseph of Arimathea divest themselves of all assets before participating in church life.

          • The way I see it is different people had different ideas about what it means to follow God’s way – much the same as today. At the end of Matthew, for example, Jesus says all those who don’t feed the hungry or visit the sick etc aren’t Christians, but others say that all those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

            Your answers are a perfect example of how some evangelicals try and make the Bible a coherent whole. The Bible is a library of different books with a whole variety of differing viewpoints. Trying to make it all coherent is a complete mistake because it contradicts itself all the time.

          • That may indeed be ‘the way you see it’. In contrast, the apostles preached a gospel that demonstrated that the life, death and resurrection of Christ were coherently predicted by all the prophets: ‘to Him do all the prophets bear witness’.

            When Jesus himself challenged the Pharisees, his charge concerning scripture was that they nullified what he called ‘the word of God’ by their own tradition and in another instance regarding the prophets: ‘now scripture is not broken’.

            On the Emmaus road, Jesus Himself explained ‘beginning at Moses’ how everything that had happened was predicted. On what basis could the Jews ever view Jesus as the Messiah and not an impostor, if His claims to fulfil all of the scriptures was hit-and-miss.

            In terms of your example about what it means to be saved, again the apostles explain that merely mouthing a commitment to Christ is no evidence of salvation. The evidence of salvation is transformation to a life of practical compassion: ‘Let everyone that names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’

            There is no contradiction. Your position involves an a priori assumption that the Bible must be (conveniently) incoherent because God worked through human agents and that belief provides you with moral latitude.

            On that basis, a person could also justify almost anything to be Christian.

            Ultimately, the real issue here is that you treat the principles of scripture as a bunch of aphorisms, far inferior and primitive by comparison to modern ethics: the same moral framework that are largely responsible for the great evils of this era.

            How fortunate for you that the latter just happens to exonerate and affirm your life choices. Just don’t assume that the unseen agent behind those frameworks is God.

      • Dear Origen,

        The Bible didn’t stop speaking 2000 years ago, as you suggest, but the bit you really don’t seem to get is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit never contradict the Bible – they only interpret it.

        The Bible, the original, is available compete with the few slight variations in greek and can be studied in detail.

        I stand firmly against your dismissal of the Bible.

        • I’m not dismissing the Bible – I think it’s useful for teaching and training in righteousness but I’m wondering why you think the canon was finalised 2000 years ago? It seems a bit arbitrary and I believe that God can still speak to us today!

          I disagree that God never contradicts the Bible: St Paul for example argued against circumcision, and so did the Jerusalem elders when they decided that they wouldn’t impose the Bible on Gentiles but only ask them to refrain from blood. Incidentally do you refrain from blood? Or does your practice contradict that bit of the Bible?

          And which original Bible do you use? Is it the Protestant one or the Ethiopian Orthodox one?

          • Dear Origen

            Circumcision is Old Testament. The argument is not even complete there, but I am not surprised you have gone straight to the OT because most detractors from the Bible quote the OT even though the OT and NT are fundamentally different.

            The Old Testament is God revealed in Israel’s history (whereas the NT is God revealed on earth). It is not difficult to find parts of the OT, including circumcision, where what happened in history might either be for the time of Israel’s history or wasn’t what God wanted. Both still reveal God if anyone cares to look.

            Circumcision is a shining example of the symbology of circumcision being completely confused with the act itself as St Paul’s argument reveals.

            My statement:
            “The Bible didn’t stop speaking 2000 years ago, as you suggest, but the bit you really don’t seem to get is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit never contradict the Bible – they only interpret it.”
            … still stands

          • So do you refrain from blood? Or does your practice contradict that bit of the Bible?

            And which original Bible do you use? Is it the Protestant one or the Ethiopian Orthodox one?

          • So, let’s clarify this. The apostles sought to convince the Jews that Christ was the ultimate goal of everything said through the Law and the Prophets.

            In particular, the apostles demonstrated from the OT prophecies that the Law was consonant with, yet provisional to the New Covenant.

            ‘For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.’ (Acts 3:22)

            Even before taking possession of the Promised Land, in re-affirming the Old Covenant, God was already promising the physically circumcised that the rite would be superseded by a deeper and more lasting means of marking their devotion to HIm:

            ‘The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.’ (Deut. 30:6)

            So, St. Paul rightly argued that the OT promise of the circumcision of heart by the purifying work of the Holy Spirit superseded any need for physical circumcision:

            ‘Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

            A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Rom. 2:25 – 29)

            This is a no more a contradiction than when our own civil law allows the provisional imposition of martial law in certain instances.

            The Jerusalem Council wisely established a balance between Christian discipline, Gentile freedom and the remnants of Jewish Pentateuchal scruples.

            St. Paul explained that fornication was a desecrating reversal of our physical redemption. In contrast, abstinence from blood and food sacrificed to idols was expected of Gentiles as an equitable relatively ‘low-cost’ concession to prevent offending Jews, who would need time to overcome their fear of ritual contamination. (1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14).

          • I like the “‘low-cost’ concession” bit! Some Christians refrain from blood transfusions and black pudding because of this directive. I wonder if the writer of Romans was just making a ‘low-cost’ concession to the Jews when he outlawed homosexuality?

  24. Church Mouse (aka Phil Ritchie…unless I am confused?) comments

    Thank you so much for this. I have nothing of value to contribute to this debate other than to plead with you to continue. It is crushing to read the comments that you are not sure that meaningful dialogue can continue, given some of the comments made. It seems to me that the only possible way forward on this issue is for folks with different views to sit down and say what they feel. You are quite right that these issues have been talked about a lot, but Steve is also right to say that the debate hasn’t really happened yet too. If we only discuss it with people who agree with us, we’re not debating it at all. Your gracious and intelligent contribution is really important, and I dearly hope you will continue to meet with people like Steve and others you disagree with, listen to them and tell them what you think.


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