Is ‘Living in Love and Faith’ largely a failure?


Andrew Goddard writes: This is the first of three articles exploring responses to Living in Love and Faith, particularly among evangelicals committed to the current teaching and discipline of the church. This piece engages with the recent detailed account and critique of LLF offered by Martin Davie arguing that his primary objection is that LLF fails because it was wrong to do what it set out to do. A second article will examine and reject the claim that LLF is designed in order to move the church to an “agree to differ” position. In contrast it will highlight how the resources help us to recognise where and why we disagree and in so doing also show the potential significance of our differences and their possible implications for our common life. A final article will offer ten questions that might help constructive engagement with the LLF resources.


Since its launch in November 2020, there have been a range of responses to the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources. These have included numerous comments on social media, more detailed blog posts on places such as Via Media, Psephizo, and The Possibility of Difference, and significant theological evaluations from people like Oliver O’Donovan, John Barton, Adrian Thatcher, and Diarmaid MacCulloch (these last 3 from Modern Church). I recently discussed the book in some detail with Jordan Hylden on The Living Church podcast.

Among evangelicals committed to the church’s current teaching there has been relatively little public comment or analysis. Although Ian Paul did offer his reflections early on and generated approaching 700 comments on his blog, he was clear that “I don’t want to comment on the content itself (though I have read some sections, and from this sampling would agree with a view from outside the Church of England that it is something of a proverbial curate’s egg), but on the context in which we find ourselves”. He has recently offered some more reflections on the content as well as the context.

The publication in March by Latimer Trust of Martin Davie’s Living in Love and Faith: A Concise Introduction and Review and his more detailed and lengthier study in early April from Dictum Press (free PDF available here) means there is now a substantial critical evangelical response. These are based on papers Martin presented for the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) when it discussed LLF in January. What follows is similarly based on a paper I then wrote for CEEC members in response. I am very aware that my perspective is shaped by my involvement for three years in producing the LLF materials and have joked with evangelical critics of it that they probably think I’m a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. Nevertheless, I think that while LLF is not perfect and that critiques of it need to be carefully weighed, some response to Martin’s review and an alternative perspective need to be offered. The focus here is on the shorter Latimer study but most of what follows also applies to the longer study which is a significant expansion of it. That explores in more detail (in chpts 1, 2 and 4) the points made in the Latimer study and adds in chpt 3 a helpful account of apostolic teaching (focussed on 1 Peter and Ephesians) and cultural analysis (drawing on Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self) and in chpt 5 a study of Anglican teaching on Scripture and critique of LLF’s approach to Scripture.

As always in his writing, Martin provides his readers, in his “concise introduction”, with a helpful, objective summary of the structure and content of the LLF book and the background to its production. Any summary of over 400 pages is going to be selective and I have the odd quibble but the only major surprise is that there is no mention of the Pastoral Principles which are highlighted in the important invitation (LLF, 4-5), commended again in the concluding appeal (424) and play a key part in the LLF Course. It is in when he moves to evaluation in his “review” and answers the question “What are we to make of the LLF book?” that I find myself concerned about his presentation.

Martin’s critical review

The evaluation Martin offers of the LLF book is overwhelmingly negative. It does begin by setting out “the positive teaching in the LLF book” but this contains only 3 points which are expressed in just under 900 words, about two-thirds of which are quotations from LLF. This is then followed by 9 negatives expounded in almost 6,000 words in which there are few quotations and limited detailed engagement with the text of LLF. His book length study is similar with pp. 99–104 summarising his 3 points with more extensive quotations while his discussion of 9 problems covers pp. 105–24 and is supplemented by nine areas of concern focussed on Scripture (pp. 155–66).

It would be possible to comment on each of the 9 critiques Martin raises. So, for example, in relation to the first one that “The book fails to give a proper account of the contemporary world and contemporary science” it is fair to say that though there is much description of contemporary culture there is little evaluation or philosophical or theological interpretation of our context (such as that found in Carl Trueman’s recent book which appeared about the same time as LLF) as the LLF book acknowledges on p. 60. The introduction to Part Two ends by asking readers to consider their own reactions and noting the range of possible perspectives on the complex social developments explored but it does not examine these in detail or evaluate them. In relation to science, some important criticisms are raised that the book is “one-sided and misleading” but there is no engagement with the scientific evidence cited in the book or, importantly, the detailed supporting papers in the online library. In contrast to the work of the LLF Science group, most (perhaps all) of the works cited by Martin to support alternative views are not peer-reviewed, academic scientific studies.

In contrast, another serious methodological criticism strikes me as demonstrably wrong:

The LLF book does not acknowledge the need to evaluate experience, conscientious conviction and culture in the light of the witness of creation and the Bible.

Various parts of the LLF book encourage such critical evaluation and note the limits of appeals to experience, conscientious conviction, and culture. To offer just a few examples, we are told that “Our task now, as always, is to see the culture we inhabit through the lens of the gospel” (LLF Book, 46), that stories are not used “as a basis for validating a particular way of life” and are not “by themselves the means by which the church will arrive at a Christian ethic of sexuality or of gender identity” (49). In listening to the world, Stott’s “double listening” is noted so that we “might see where any particular culture could (perhaps in surprising ways) already be working with the grain of God’s purposes in creation, and where it has consciously or unconsciously rejected these” (348). Similarly, personal convictions “require processes of testing and discernment as they are related to all the other ways we have of listening for God’s voice” (356) and conscience is “not infallible” (357).

The Bible’s role in such evaluation is clearly stated in various places. The introduction to Part Four (which explores different ways we hear God) says – “God doesn’t speak through all of them in the same way, and they don’t all have the same priority for us—we will, for instance, be talking about the Bible’s unique authority” (272). The opening sentence on the Bible is “The Bible holds the central place in our accounts of how we hear the voice of God” (274) and the conclusion to Part Four explains how in listening to God (including in relation to the areas Martin says we need to evaluate), “The Bible stands at the heart of that process. The Christian faith is uniquely revealed in its pages: God uses it to witness to the saving work that reaches its fulfilment in Jesus, and to draw us into holiness” (367). The book’s reference to polygamy as an example is also criticised by Martin in this section with the claim that LLF

fails…to make the critical point that this development did not involve any change in fundamental ethics or the Church’s understanding and practice of marriage.

But the pages referred to conclude the short summary of the history by stating “while still clearly teaching monogamy on the basis of Scripture (despite famous examples of polygamy in the Old Testament) and tradition, a less strict pastoral discipline was developed” (347).

Rather than explore all the other specific criticisms in similar detail it is I think better to ask three more fundamental questions which help clarify Martin’s overall critique and enable an assessment to be made of it:

  1. On what criteria is LLF judged a failure?
  2. What was LLF trying to do?
  3. Was LLF right to try to do this?

1. On what criteria is LLF judged a failure?

When talking with fellow evangelicals about LLF and how to respond to it I’ve often said that I think it is important to distinguish two types of critique. One critique is that LLF fails to do what it sets out to do. Another, quite distinct critique, is that LLF fails because of what it sets out to do. In other words, it succeeds in what it sets out to do but it should be doing something very different. Martin’s critique is overwhelmingly (although not solely) in this latter category. This becomes clearer in his book where he identifies three key areas (who God is and how we know his will for us, the idolatrous nature of our society and how to confront it, how we live distinctively as Christians) and says that the key question in relation to LLF for those who hold to traditional teaching is “Does the material…offer clear teaching in these areas…?”. He then notes that “Its architects will object that this was not the purpose of LLF, so it would be churlish to criticize it for failing to accomplish what it never set out to do”. Rather than engaging with that objection he simply asserts that “the question of what LLF actually teaches is not out of place” because “the initial proposal from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York was to provide a ‘teaching document’” (Living in Love and Faith: A Biblical Response, 96).

Working with that framework, Martin’s critique is then expressed in summary statements that are stark and damning and suggest the LLF book has little or no value e.g. “The book fails to properly acknowledge what we learn from creation”, “The LLF book lacks clarity about the nature and authority of the Bible and about the overall biblical witness about human sexual identity and behaviour”, “The LLF book fails to take proper account of the teaching of Jesus”. His book-length critique adds similar statements in offering nine criticisms of LLF’s handling of Scripture each of which begins “LLF fails…”.

The more detailed discussion of these and other criticisms reveals that the fundamental complaint is that the book does not give a determinative ruling on many of the contested issues in the Church of England. Although the LLF book sets out what Martin believes, and sets out in his review, it does this alongside other beliefs. In doing this the book consistently distinguishes between what is the current, unchanged teaching of the Church and England and other beliefs present within the Church of England, but it does not offer its own argument as to why those other beliefs are wrong. It is, therefore, very different from Martin’s own “Glorify God in Your Body” or earlier Church of England statements such as Some Issues in Human Sexuality which Martin was involved in writing and which set out different views but in the context of defending current teaching and practice and so rebutting alternative perspectives.


2. What was LLF trying to do?

The key question here is what LLF was trying to do and why it was doing that rather than something else. Martin’s “concise introduction” offers a short account of “the purpose of LLF” which basically quotes, without comment, from the bishops’ invitation about disagreements existing among themselves and the wider church (LLF Book, 3) and from their concluding appeal. There they speak of the “need to go on learning from each other and from all who seek the way of truth” and state that the purpose of the Living in Love and Faith learning resources is “to help us to learn and discern together so that right judgements and godly decisions can be made about our common life” (422). Although this summary is accurate it gives a very thin account of the purpose and does not do it justice. This is crucially important as what is being done in LLF is rather novel. It does not fit standard categories of CofE reports. It is also vital in relation to much of Martin’s critique of the material. In both his summary of LLF’s purpose and his critique of its content, not enough attention is given to numerous key factors, including that:

  1. LLF was not designed to adjudicate between opposing views but to set them out, making clear where it was explaining “the Church’s inherited teaching on Christian living in love and faith, especially with regard to marriage and singleness” and where it was setting out “emergent views and the Christian reasoning behind them” (this from Learning Outcome 3, these learning outcomes are online here and really merit consideration in any evaluation of the materials – is the problem with these outcomes or with the failure of the resources to deliver them?)
  2. LLF was to produce material for teaching and learning that could be welcomed and used across the whole church and a range of different opposing viewpoints, with those holding different viewpoints seeing their own views fairly represented.
  3. LLF sought to avoid simply setting out fixed and opposed positions and attempted instead to explore the areas on which there are differing views and to set out the various positions and rationales for those positions.
  4. LLF brought together those with a range of views and sought in its resources to show respect to all those views even though clearly they cannot all be true as they contradict each other and some are the church’s teaching (or consistent with it) and others are not.
  5. LLF resources are to enable the whole church to listen to one another and to God and to embark together on a learning journey. The learning from that process (through 2021) will be significant in shaping the bishops’ response to this process which they will offer in 2022.
  6. LLF tried, where possible, to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. In relation to disagreements it sought to clarify the nature of disagreements and see if there was some agreement possible about what we are disagreeing over and why we are disagreeing (again without seeking to rule definitively on these disagreements). This will be explored more fully in a subsequent article.
  7. LLF was seeking by these means to enable a better informed and more theological discussion and greater mutual understanding. This in turn involved highlighting key questions that need to be addressed in the decision-making process.
  8. LLF goes beyond the presenting issues to apply this approach to the deeper theological issues and to questions it has identified as in turn shaping the disputes over particular pressing concerns.

Personally, through my involvement with LLF, I increasingly came to see its approach and its resources as in part a case of truth-telling about where we are as a church. This is crucial when this whole area has often been one marked by half-truths at best and at worst by hypocrisy and the other “evils” identified in the Pastoral Principles. This means being truthful about the terms of our teaching but also truthful about objections to that teaching, our very varied practice, our failings, our differences and disagreements.

Sadly, very little if any of these aspects of LLF’s work are conveyed by Martin’s introduction and review and yet it is his disagreement with these that largely drives his negative assessments. It is important to realise, however, that in a number of cases this means there is critique of LLF for not doing things which it was impossible for it to do given its task. Indeed, if it had done what Martin argues it should have done, this would have often meant LLF failing to do what it was tasked to do.


3. Was LLF right to try to do this?

So, the question is whether LLF was wrong to approach its task in the way that it did. Have the bishops, as Martin argues in his ninth critique, simply failed in their calling, in particular to ‘banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same’?

Evangelicals and others committed to the traditional teaching of the church will clearly believe that, in an ideal church, there should be no need for LLF as the whole church would recognise and live out the clear teaching of Scripture. It is, however, very clear that we do not live in such a church, that many (including in senior leadership) do not believe that the church’s current teaching is God’s will. In the past the bishops have set out that teaching (Issues in Human Sexuality) and defended it by airing other views but in the context of explaining why they are not held to be persuasive (Some Issues in Human Sexuality). The bishops’ attempt in GS2055, following the Shared Conversations, to reaffirm existing teaching and explore more generous pastoral practice was rejected by the House of Clergy and thus General Synod.

In the light of this, some questions in terms of whether LLF is doing the right thing are:

Is it seriously thought that

  1. given the realities of division within the church, another document which sought to “decide on the issues” and settle them simply by episcopal pronouncement of “clear teaching” was what was needed and would resolve our tensions?
  2. the group producing LLF was properly representative and had authority to propose its own resolution to the disagreements?
  3. if such a diverse group as that producing LLF were to seek to decide the issues it would reaffirm the current teaching as clearly and thoroughly as Martin and other evangelicals would wish?
  4. if it did so decide, the document would fair any better than GS2055 in Synod and the wider church?

The judgment of the bishops and those devising LLF was that this approach of thinking the church could “decide on the issues” by issuing yet another report with definitive recommendations and conclusions was not the best way forward. At no point in the LLF process, following the vote at General Synod, was it thought that the task now was simply to restate traditional teaching more clearly. What was needed was not the handing down of an “episcopal teaching document” which claimed to make a decision but an educational process for the whole church. This would use resources which through their teaching content would enable all those committed to the Church of England being faithful to God’s call, including the bishops themselves, to learn more on such matters as:

  • the current teaching of the church and the basis of it in Scripture and tradition,
  • the reality of the church’s current life (and the context of society and the wider church) and the lives of Christians within it,
  • the alternative views on presenting contentious issues,
  • how to recognise and reflect upon the deeper underlying theological questions (and disagreements) which are often left unaddressed concerning what it means to be human and to be the church,
  • the areas of agreement and especially the areas and nature of the disagreements we find among ourselves in the CofE
  • the different approaches to discerning God’s will, especially in relation to Scripture, that might help us understand better the different discernments being reached concerning that will on issues of sexuality etc.
  • how to discuss better across our different understandings

This understanding developed through the process of LLF but that this was its goal was already clear in its Terms of Reference and in its Learning Outcomes determined and published early in the process. The hope was and is that if this could be done well then it would enable greater mutual understanding across the church, facilitate a more informed, richer and deeper theological conversation than has happened in the past (even in the Shared Conversations) and so enable the bishops in conjunction with General Synod better to “decide on the issues”. Such decision should not be by means of LLF members making those decisions and issuing a report with the answers. Nor should it be by rushing into confrontational debates leading to divisive votes for and against different positions. It should instead be by following a church-wide teaching and learning process of prayerful discernment using the LLF resources.


Conclusion

We might perhaps think about what is being done in LLF as learning from ecumenical conversations and adapting some principles from these into a significant intra-denominational disagreement. In the face of inter-denominational differences there is a place for restatements of the distinctives of each denomination and the reasons others are in error. In ecumenical conversations, however, there is a need for historically divided groups of Christians to be clear and honest with each other as to what they believe and to explore their agreements and disagreements, seeking to find more of the former and fresh light on the latter in the hope that such a process may enable deeper communion to develop.

In our situation we face the challenge of potentially having a reverse process. This is because within the same denomination we have a received tradition but a significant and seemingly growing group of Anglicans who have a different understanding with the risk of this resulting in impaired or broken communion between us. What LLF seeks to do is to be clear and honest about both received teaching and the alternatives, identify the continued agreements, and explore together the nature and significance of the developing disagreements, seeking to find a fresh light on them. This process is now drawing worshipping Anglicans across the CofE into this conversation.

Martin is right that

The question of teaching cannot be indefinitely postponed. Sooner or later the church will need to decide what the church of Jesus can teach in the name of Jesus (Living in Love and Faith: A Biblical Response, 96).

LLF sets out the church’s teaching (which remains unchanged by LLF) and its basis. It also sets out the alternative teachings (and their bases) which many are praying and campaigning the church will now embrace. Its expectation is that, having engaged the church more widely, the bishops will then be able to offer (as we usually find at the conclusion of ecumenical dialogues) some clarity as to the reality of our differences and the implications of these for our life together as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

The question for those, like Martin, who believe that the root problem with LLF is its decision to follow this sort of path, and in so doing fail to offer “clear guidance on a range of matters”, is:

What better, practical, alternative path would you offer the Church of England in order to enable us to address the divisive questions and theological and pastoral challenges we face in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage?

 


Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anglican Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.


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361 thoughts on “Is ‘Living in Love and Faith’ largely a failure?”

  1. Please read and respond to my December 9 2020 post on
    Excerpt: Mapping the Terrain for Engagement on Human Sexuality | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk)
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  2. Some people seem to think that if you speak at sufficient length and with sufficient vagueness about a problem then it will go away. That doesn’t work. There may be a temptation to avoid alienating certain people but when their views are clearly wrong, the only option is to make this clear.

    Reply
    • Well, the February 17 General Synod certainly said to the House of Bishops and both Archbishops that they were going the wrong way and compromising on issues that should not be compromised on. That is why the House of Bishop’s paper was voted down. It’s why the Archbishop made his extraordinary speech to synod. It’s why LLF was started. So yes, people have used common sense and said what you suggest.

      Reply
      • Philip: pretty much everything you say could be said, and has been said, by those on both ‘sides’ of this debate. Hence the stalemate. I don’t happen to believe that your position on this debate is the majority position, or the right position. But I respect it, whilst disagreeing with you.
        There are only two possible ways forward: accommodate both ‘sides’ or arrange for a split. See other comments of mine here for why I don’t think an arranged split will happen. The only way a split will happen is for people who hold your views so passionately to leave and begin their own Church – as happened in North America. Or join the Free Church of England.

        Reply
      • Thanks Philip. Let’s try to stick to the topic of this post. It isn’t about everything that’s wrong with the CofE but about whether LLF can succeed in the task that was set. You will easily find my comments about wider matters, and why I think you are mistaken.

        Reply
      • “I am suggesting that people not accept the right of Welby, Cottrell and bishops to run the C of E”
        And if you read my comment you will see that people do not accept the right of the bishops to run the CofE. The House of Bishops presented their (very conservative) position on sexuality in a a paper to the February 2017 General Synod. That paper was rejected by Synod.
        The bishops may present a lead to the Church. But the clergy and laity are able to reject that lead. That’s exactly what happened.

        Reply
      • You may have strong feelings about the current leadership of the CofE, but in my opinion your language in the above post in relation to Archbishop Welby is unChristian and entirely inappropriate.

        Reply
      • If the debate (a) has ‘sides’ and (b) has precisely 2 sides which (c) are far apart from each other, then it is clear that substantial numbers cannot be looking at evidence but just stating their preferences. Looking at evidence never produces 2 polarised ‘sides’ – what it produces is a refining. Whereas the battle between evidence and preference typically does produce 2 polarised ‘sides’. Consequently what is going on is the latter not the former. And since that is the case, it is a colossal waste of everyone’s time, since the initial minimum should be a concern for evidence that trumps preference.

        Reply
      • A very important point Christopher. There are of course several ‘sides’ apart from the two obvious ones. And this is another reason why a ‘split’ is absolutely impossible.

        Reply
    • Indeed, Philip. There are some issues on which neither side should be too confident of its position. And then there are other issues. In my opinion there can be no compromise on something like transgenderism. A man who thinks that he is a woman is suffering from a delusion. Compassion is needed in such cases but it is not compassionate to acquiesce in such a delusion. The fact there is even a debate about this is itself astounding.

      Reply
      • A man who thinks that he is a woman is suffering from a delusion. Compassion is needed in such cases but it is not compassionate to acquiesce in such a delusion. The fact there is even a debate about this is itself astounding.

        I dunno. We know that in this fallen world people can suffer from all manner of birth defects: spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, androgen insensitivity syndrome, as well as degrees of congenital blindness and deafness.

        Is it really totally impossible that a male soul’s body might develop wrongly such that it is female?

        I’m not saying that I think that it is possible, just that I don’t think it can be dismissed out of hand as you suggest.

        In fact my big problem with the trans lobby is that they refuse to commit to an ontological view of what they think ‘being trans’ is: is it that a male soul (for example) has, through a defect of birth, ended up in a female body? That seems plausible. On the other hand is it that people simply are whatever sex they identify themselves as? That’s obvious nonsense. But the trans lobby seems to want to have it both ways, despite that meaning that they end up in a paradox of mutually incompatible positions.

        Take for example the question: is it possible for a person to be mistaken about what sex they are? If a person thinks, honestly, that they are male; then realises that they are in fact female; were they mistaken during the period that they thought they were male? If yes, then clearly it is possible to be mistaken about one’s sex. But that contradicts the trans lobby idea that one’s sex is what one thinks it is: ‘a man is anyone who identifies as a man’. But if no, that contradicts the trans lobby idea that one has a ‘real’ inner sex that is separate from the sex one was ‘assigned’ at birth.

        It’s this logical inconsistency that is my big problem with the trans ideology. I can’t see any way to take it seriously until they reconcile these paradoxes.

        Reply
        • I imagine that most advocates of transgender rights have little time for the notion of “souls”. I have heard it argued that there may be some neurological basis for gender dysphoria. I don’t think the science on that is clear. There is no sharp divide between a male and a female brain. But let’s say that neurology plays some part. Does that mean that a man who thinks he is a woman really is a woman? No, it doesn’t. The existence of a neurological basis for the delusion would not alter the fact that it *is* a delusion.

          Reply
  3. This is very interesting. Having not read the document it sounded to me like it was an attempt to generate constructive ambiguity; ie, to try to come up with a form of words that all sides could sign up to.

    Reading this makes it sound like the opposite: an attempt to identify the specific differences between the various camps, to make it clear exactly where and on what they disagree.

    Is that the case?

    And given that it seems inevitable to me that the end result of this has got to be (given that several of the camps have utterly incompatible views on foundational principles) a split, does this document then provide a massively useful function in clarifying exactly where the lines of that split ought to be?

    Reply
    • I understand the principles of what you are getting at S but your comment does not take into account the problems that any form of split would entail. For one thing, the C of E would be forced to dis-establish itself if the kind of split you envisage were to come about. The lines of the split may be drawn out in theological terms by the document. But the document doesn’t even begin to draw out the practical lines of any split – and the practical lines are far more complex. Who would have the buildings? Who would have the ‘Parish’? What would happen to historic resources of money? These three questions alone could occupy the C of E for the next 30 years at least. So in calling for a split, I don’t think anyone yet knows what they are really calling for.

      Reply
      • Yes, I agree Andrew – huge questions and not at all what the LLF is aiming at .

        I have speed read it & zoomed in closer here n there. I was pleased with what I thought was an even hand – very Anglican, on the one hand & on the other and it certainly didn’t seem to be driving to a shared agreement. But it does put in clear relief the polarity of views – and unless everyone is content to live with such tension – I think various groups will utter: “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.”

        Perhaps our own history will show how things will unfold: over 400 years ago when the Church when through a huge shaking, some Catholics left for Rome & some Puritans set sail for America & the majority stayed put, muddling through, trying to be true to themselves – held by the same Church yet divided on theology & spirituality.

        Reply
        • That’s because you can believe what you like about the Real Presence or Total Depravity but the liturgy can stay vague about that and people can stay formally together.
          But you can’t do that when A says same-sex marriage is possible for Christians and B says it isn’t. You can’t conceal this in ambiguity – although some Anglicans will try to,

          Reply
          • You can’t do that when A says it isn’t possible for women to be Priests and Bishops but B says actually, it is! We haven’t concealed that. We’ve addressed it head on with five principles.

      • The lines of the split may be drawn out in theological terms by the document. But the document doesn’t even begin to draw out the practical lines of any split

        Oh, no, indeed, and it would undoubtedly be highly complex. But how can it be avoided? You simply can’t have even two camps who disagree at such a fundamental level trying to pretend for ever that they are following the same religion, and the Church of England contains at least three such camps.

        It would be like trying to organise a single league with some teams playing association and some playing rugby football, pitting them against each other and trying to pretend that they were all playing the same game. You might be able to do it for a while by fudging things like how the handball rule is enforced, but it’s obvious to all the spectators what’s going on, never mind the players.

        Or it would be like trying to solve the problem of a disputed territory claimed by two states by pretending that it is part of both, that inhabitants are citizens of both countries, that all laws passed by both parliaments apply there, that it is bound by all treaties signed by both states, even the ones that conflict with each other. Again you might get away with it for a while, but what happens when one states enters a customs union and the other doesn’t? What happens when one of the states declares war on a third state, and the other doesn’t?

        A split would undeniably be exactly as disruptive as you suggest. But the alternative, of continuing to pretend for ever that two mutually incompatible things can both be true, is just impossible. So however disruptive it is, it has to happen, and denying that will just mean that it is all the messier when it does eventually happen.

        That’s even laying aside the principle, which surely all Christians should be able to agree on, that commitment to true theology trumps practicality, always and every time.

        Reply
        • Well, I think Simon’s assessment addresses your points S. The reality is that theology should trump practicality, but I think the evidence in England is that it is always the other way around. Practicality wins every time.

          Reply
          • Well, I think Simon’s assessment addresses your points

            Do you mean:

            ‘ over 400 years ago when the Church when through a huge shaking, some Catholics left for Rome & some Puritans set sail for America & the majority stayed put, muddling through’

            ?

            Surely that’s exactly the kind of split I’m talking about — except this time there won’t be The ‘muddling majority’ because that group only existed due to the social pressure on many uncommitted hangers-on and, frankly, non-believers to be nominal parts of the church not because they believed it but because it was expected of them. Those — the majority — obviously weren’t going to leave the institution that gave them the social cachet that was their entire reason for being part of the church over points of a doctrine that they didn’t even believe.

            That social pressure no longer exists, obviously, so the only people left in the Church of England are those who actually take it seriously. This is obviously a good thing for the Church (if not necessarily a good thing for society), but it means that the only people in the church are those who really believe in what they’re saying.

          • You are making two assumptions
            1. Is that those who get to keep the Church of England are those who share your conservative view on the issue. There is no possible evidence with which to make such an assumption. In fact the evidence is to the contrary. Parliament would never allow that.
            2. That theology trumps practicality. As I said, it just doesn’t in England.

          • 1. Is that those who get to keep the Church of England are those who share your conservative view on the issue.

            Oh no. Not at all. In fact I think that by far the most likely outcome is that the conservatives are the ones to nominally ‘leave’.

            2. That theology trumps practicality. As I said, it just doesn’t in England.

            It did for, for example, the thousands ejected in 1662 who chose to stick to their theology over the far more practical option of becoming vicars of Bray (is he your ideal role model, then?).

            But that was in a much different context; when, as I wrote, the Church of England was packed with those who didn’t really believe but were there for social reasons, and who obviously therefore would not put too much stock in theology. The situation now is totally different.

          • “In fact I think that by far the most likely outcome is that the conservatives are the ones to nominally ‘leave’.”

            Again, the only evidence I have seen is totally against that scenario. Ask the conservatives who post here. I doubt any one of them would leave.

            Accommodation for all views will have to be made. It’s the only possibility.

          • Again, the only evidence I have seen is totally against that scenario. Ask the conservatives who post here. I doubt any one of them would leave.

            That’s not my understanding, which was at least some conservative congregations had ‘escape plans’ as to how to go it alone that they could trigger if certain red lines were crossed.

            There is, after all, recent precedent in all those congregations which left to join the Roman ordinariate, at least some of which seem to be doing okay.

            Any conservatives care to weigh in?

            Accommodation for all views will have to be made. It’s the only possibility.

            But it’s an impossibility. Some of the views are mutually incompatible at a foundational level. It’s not possible to accommodate views which are mutually incompatible even in principle. The example of ordaining women as bishops is not a good precedent because that (for most people) didn’t go to the very heart of the world-view, in the way that the disagreements over things like the nature of sin and the authority of scripture of which the differing views of same-sex relationships are a symptom are.

          • ‘Accommodation for all views will have to be made. It’s the only possibility.’

            I agree with S; you cannot accommodate mutually contradictory view. In fact, LLF does note this in ch 19: churches have either affirmed the historic understanding of marriage; or they have re-written this; but no-one has made ‘accommodation’ work.

            As Andrew Goddard points out, what LLF does is highlight the depth of our disagreement, and that sexuality is just the symptom of a deeper disagreement. I don’t see any obvious workable way to address this…

          • “sexuality is just the symptom of a deeper disagreement. I don’t see any obvious workable way to address this…”

            There are only two choices. Either split or accommodate. A split, as I have noted above, is simply not practical. It would occupy the CofE for the next thirty years at least and decimate an already struggling Church. Accommodation, whilst messy, is the only serious option. It has been worked before, as Simon notes.

          • A split, as I have noted above, is simply not practical. It would occupy the CofE for the next thirty years at least and decimate an already struggling Church. Accommodation, whilst messy, is the only serious option. It has been worked before, as Simon notes.

            A split is not practical; but accommodation, when the difference are so fundamental, is simply not possible.

          • Ian, as a matter of some serious interest do you agree with S that “In fact I think that by far the most likely outcome is that the conservatives are the ones to nominally ‘leave’.”
            This is really fundamental if you agree.

          • Ian
            I still find it strange that the CoE can agree to disagree (not well, but with some success) on so many contentious issues and theological differences, but this (by no means a first-order issue) threatens to split the church.
            Unless, of course, it is merely a presenting issue – the symbol of a deeper difference between a modest, provisional ecclesiology and a purified church certain that it holds the truth.

          • I still find it strange that the CoE can agree to disagree (not well, but with some success) on so many contentious issues and theological differences, but this (by no means a first-order issue) threatens to split the church.

            I think it’s clear that the actual differences are over the doctrines of the Fall, of sin, and of the nature and authority of scripture — and by any measure these clearly are first-order issues.

            Unless, of course, it is merely a presenting issue – the symbol of a deeper difference between a modest, provisional ecclesiology and a purified church certain that it holds the truth.

            Both sides, surely, are certain that they hold the truth, and that the other is wrong and must be made to recognise that they are wrong. You can’t have a church where some couples are regarded as in totally valid marriages by some and in sinful irregular relationships by others. There’s no amount of ‘modesty’ or ‘provisional ecclesiology’ that could make that work.

            For instance, take the case of remarriage after divorce. Vicars do not have to marry divorcés, but they can’t regard such marriages as invalid, can they?

          • Andrew,
            To make a comparison with divorce, practicalities can play a part in a decision whether to remain together, with the shear weight of the emotional, and financial unravelling and living new independent lives having a bearing in a decision to stay together.
            But where the marriage has truly “irretrievably broken down” practicalities although prominent and painful, such as place to live, untangling finances, and property pension divisions, take second place.
            The law used to recognise the almost unlivable practicality, though it did in fact happen, of husband and wife living “separate and apart” under the same roof; completely independent lives that would be a factor in showing *irretrievable breakdown*.
            To extend that to the CoE there would in fact be no communion; it would be a sham *marriage* a marriage of convenience, for outward appearances.
            It is only necessary for one party to consider the marriage to be at an end, irretrievably broken down and it is, no matter what the other may want.
            One of the hardest things for a spouse to do was a admit, to an outsider, a solicitor, that the marriage was at and end.
            Does that not bear some relation to the CoE at present?
            In questions of *ancillary relief* financial matters, a clean break was not always possible, with income or maintenance payments continuing, usually for a set period of time or until certain conditions are fulfilled.
            An almost impossible aim was to place both parties in the financial position as if they were still married.
            So the question for the CoE, is, is there an irretrievable breakdown, a question that is at root theological, an existential one, if you like.

          • S

            Clearly priests can believe utterly contradictory things. Some believe in women’s orders; others that this is a theological impossibility.
            Both are accommodated in the CoE.

          • Clearly priests can believe utterly contradictory things. Some believe in women’s orders; others that this is a theological impossibility.
            Both are accommodated in the CoE.

            Women’s orders are a matter of church order and governance; not a first-order matter. It’s perfectly possible to remain in accomodation with someone whom you think is mistaken in their interpretation of scripture.

            The question of same-sex relationships, on the other hand, goes to foundational matters: the doctrine of the Fall, sin, and the nature and authority of scripture. It’s not just about different interpretations; it’s about people having totally different, mutually contradictory views on things like the reliability of the Bible, or the nature of Creation. You can’t accommodate differences like those, because they aren’t just different interpretations of the same religion, they are effectively different religions.

          • S

            Nonsense. Sexuality is a trivial matter compared with the ontological im/possibility of priesthood.

          • Sexuality is a trivial matter compared with the ontological im/possibility of priesthood.

            Wait, hang on. I thought the Church of England was clear (contra the Romans) that ordination had no special ontological significance, and that clergy were not in any sense different from the laity other than that they happened to be called to a particular kind of service?

            I can see that if you thought that there was a special class of person called ‘priest’ who were distinct from ordinary people in a theologically significant way, then who could attain that status would be a first-order matter, yes. But I thought Anglicans had no truck with that Roman nonsense, so who can be a member of the clergy (not ‘priest’ — we need no priests other than Jesus) is a mere administrative matter, best to get right but not of first-order importance.

            Whereas things like the doctrine of the Fall, of sin, and of the nature and authority of scripture — which is what the current disagreement is really about, not ‘sexuality’ — clearly are foundational matters.

          • S

            No it isn’t!
            However learned and wise Ian is, his opinion on priesthood does not overcome CoE liturgy.

          • Penny, my observations about ‘priesthood’ were indeed based on the ordinal and the liturgy.

            The reason why sexuality threatens to split the C of E and ‘priesthood’ doesn’t is severalfold

            a. You can have variations of practice on ‘priesthood’ in adjacent parishes, without any mechanism demanding uniformity. That cannot be the case with legislating for same-sex relations to be called ‘marriage’.

            b. The former relies on different interpretations of the same words. The latter will involve changing the actual words (of the marriage liturgy and canons).

            c. We are faced with a determined campaign on sexuality which we have not had on ‘priesthood’ which is making absolute demands.

          • Hi Ian

            I know you were. I think you are wrong.

            Changing liturgy to extend marriage to same-sex couples is entirely possible if we accept that marriage is a lifelong bond between two humans of the same flesh.
            Liturgy, like doctrine is pliable.
            Of course, there will still be those who see this as impossible, just as there are those who believe women’s orders are impossible and remarriage after divorce is impossible and priesthood doesn’t involve an ontological change and Communion is merely a memorial and the church shouldn’t say prayers for the dead and male headship is a creation ordinance and contraception is immoral……the church makes accommodation for these. There is no reason She can’t accommodate those who would restrict the gift of marriage to other-sex couples.

          • Changing liturgy to extend marriage to same-sex couples is entirely possible if we accept that marriage is a lifelong bond between two humans of the same flesh.

            Again, you’re begging the question. You’re basically saying there ‘if you accept that I am right about the nature of marriage, then there is no problem’.

            But not everybody does accept that you are right about the nature of marriage, and that’s the whole point at issue. You can’t simply assume your view of the nature of marriage as a premise and then use that to draw your conclusion.

          • “c. We are faced with a determined campaign on sexuality which we have not had on ‘priesthood’ which is making absolute demands.”

            I think this is a selective reading of the last 40 years. The campaign to open priesthood to women more than touched on the nature of what that priesthood was. That is the whole reason we had the Act of Synod and alternative episcopal oversight. It’s the whole reason some people left the C of E. I think you, like I, were part of that determined campaign. And I believe we were right.
            The campaign on sexuality will not be going away. Just as Parliament considered intervening in the case of women in the episcopate, there is every chance that a future Parliament will push us to come to some conclusion on this issue that is in closer accord with the society it calls Priests from and to minister to.
            Doing nothing is not an option. Splitting is not an option. A group leaving the C of E over the matter, as they did over the matter of Priesthood, is an option. Accommodation clearly is an option. LLF is there to help people choose how they would like to proceed.

          • Splitting is not an option. A group leaving the C of E over the matter, as they did over the matter of Priesthood, is an option.

            What is the difference between ‘splitting’ and ‘a group leaving the C of E over the matter’?

            Surely ‘a group leaving the C of E over the matter’ is exactly what ‘splitting’ means?

          • I think when some talk about splitting they imagine agreeing to divide the C of E up in some equitable way. That’s rather different to a number of people leaving the C of E as a matter of conscience to join another Church – such as the Free Church of England, or the European branch of ACNA, or the RC Church – to name three possible options.

          • I think when some talk about splitting they imagine agreeing to divide the C of E up in some equitable way. That’s rather different to a number of people leaving the C of E as a matter of conscience to join another Church – such as the Free Church of England, or the European branch of ACNA, or the RC Church – to name three possible options.

            Since when has any schism been ‘equitable’? Every church split in history has been achieved by a number of people leaving as a matter of conscience to join, or set up, another church. That’s what ‘splitting’ means.

        • But a considerable question in this case is who would retain the C of E ‘brand’. As I have said, many conservative evangelicals have made it plain in General Synod that they do not think they should be the ones to leave buildings, parish structures and ‘status’. And I can understand that.

          Reply
          • But a considerable question in this case is who would retain the C of E ‘brand’. As I have said, many conservative evangelicals have made it plain in General Synod that they do not think they should be the ones to leave buildings, parish structures and ‘status’. And I can understand that.

            So you think that you’re going to end up with the Church of England becoming a bunch of increasingly antagonistic factions all of which distrust and hate each other more with every passing year, but they’re together in a sort of Steptoe and Son Hell for ever because none of them is willing to be the ones to walk away?

            Sounds delightful. And I wouldn’t say it’s totally implausible either. But I do think it’s less likely than one of the factions eventually having a ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ moment and deciding that the brand isn’t worth it.

  4. What is the doctrine of the Church of England?
    It is naïve to think that the LLF process can be conducted from beginning to end in complete and painful honesty and integrity without this question also being answered with the same painful honesty and integrity.
    According to Canon A5:
    “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”.
    This Canon is supported by Canon C15, which sets out the Declaration of Assent (which all Ministers of the Church are required to make) and its Preface.
    Are all agreed that these two Canons do enable us all to agree that the Doctrine of the Church of England does include the doctrines set out in the Articles?
    Alas, No.
    In two posts to
    Walking Together at Lambeth 2020? | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk)
    I trace the trajectory from the Reformation onwards to water down the assent to the Articles and conclude that it cannot be assumed that all who have made the Declaration of Assent mean the same thing in what doctrines they believe.
    In the LLF book on pages 317-318 there is a section headed ‘The Articles of Religion’. It mentions the new form of the Declaration of Assent introduced in 1975 and quotes from the Preface to it and from the Declaration. It then concludes with
    ‘Opinions around the Church of England differ about the implications of this form of the Declaration for appeal to the Articles in disagreements like ours. Similarly, although the church’s canon law says that the doctrine of the Church of England is ‘found in’ the Articles and the other historic formularies, recent legal cases have raised similar questions about the implication of that wording for the Articles’ status in the church’s disputes.318’
    I am clear that a thorough engagement with LLF will involve the relevance of Article 9 (The Fall and Original Sin) of the 39 Articles for this whole debate. This raises the question of how that Article and the wording of the Declaration of Assent should be understood and the Articles’ status in the church’s disputes. In my view a key question is whether an appeal to Article 9 is absolutely rock-solid from a legal point of view in the light of the legal case referred to in note 318 of the LLF book
    “(Arches Court of Canterbury, In Re St Alkmund, Duffield: Judgement (2012) Fam 51; available at https://www.ecclesiasticallawassociation.org.uk/judgments/reordering/ duffieldstalkmund2012appeal.pdf (accessed 10/03/2020). Citing also Re St Thomas, Pennywell (1995) Fam 50, section 58; and Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross (2002) Fam 51, section 25)”.
    This refers to a Consistory Court appeal concerning an item of church furniture but includes several references to the Articles. This is an extract :
    “Then in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross [2002] Fam 51 at para 25 the same chancellor said:
    “ … the Articles of Religion are now to be seen primarily in the same way as the other historic formularies, although Canon A 2 of the Canons Ecclesiastical 1969 states: “Of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.” They are no longer a definitive formulation of Anglican doctrine, even though they bear witness to that faith.”
    (h) In other words, “the Articles of Religion are no longer seen as definitive arbiters of the doctrine of the Church of England” (per Chancellor Bursell, QC in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross at para 24). With this we agree and would point out that the view expressed by Sir Jenner Fust in this court in Gorham v Bishop of Exeter (1849) 2 Rob. Ecc. 1, 55; 163 ER 1221, 1241 (“Prima facie, …the Thirty-nine Articles are the standard of doctrine; they were framed for the express purpose of avoiding a diversity of opinion, and are, as such, to be considered, and, in the first instance, appealed to, in order to ascertain the doctrine of the Church.”) preceded the repeal of the 1571 Act and was necessarily based upon the wording of the relevant Canon then in force.
    25. It follows that, although Dr Pickles believes and is entitled to affirm (as he does) that his own theological position is still defined by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, other clergy of the Church of England may equally affirm that those Articles are not for them the definitive arbiters of the doctrine that they are required to believe. This is of importance not only for all clergy who have to make the Declaration of Assent with a clear conscience but also in relation to the jurisdiction of the consistory court. In so far as it may, the consistory court must strive in the exercise of its faculty jurisdiction to ensure that any decision it makes permits the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of the priest and congregation. Equally, however, it must strive to ensure that nothing is done in the exercise of that jurisdiction which may limit the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of a different priest and congregation within the confines of the same ecclesiastical building.”
    I have asked Church Society whether there are any similar cases and whether the cases in Note 318 have ever been challenged. I have not read in detail all 45 pages of the Judgment but on a quick analysis I don’t see that the phrase ‘…in particular…’ in Canon A5 is given its due weight.
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  5. Philip Almond,
    While I’m not an Ecclesial lawyer but a former solicitor, from your comment, if I ‘ve followed it correctly, I’d suggest that the 2002 case cited, of itself, from the abstract you cite, is obiter dictum, not ratio decidendi, so would not form a legal precedent for interpretation or understanding. (Though from its reference in LLF it would seem that its authors accept it as such.)

    Reply
    • Geoff
      Thanks for your observation. I agree with your “Though from its reference in LLF it would seem that its authors accept it as such”. I would expect the understanding and challenge of the LLF view to be a key issue which would be addressed by Andrew Goddard, Ian Paul and Church Society. Is it being addressed? Will it be addressed?

      Phil Almond

      Reply
      • Phil,
        Does not the *assent* confer a vested interest in whatever may have been subjectively *assented* to. Therein may lie an immovable fixedness, immovable, but not beyond a stress – testing breaking point.
        Before fences are taken down, firstly the reasons they were put up need to be dismantled, dismissed! They are not there to be seated on.

        Reply
        • Very simple answer to that pertinent question Geoff. The fences were put up to settle a civil war. Only a tiny handful care about that particular war any more, and many many more than a handful hang their heads in shame at the reasons the war was fought in the first place. The fences have, in fact, rotted away in the last 400 years and are no longer standing in any case.

          Reply
          • At the risk of upsetting you Andrew, I think that is an over simple and view. It also dismisses huge swathes of Protestant Church history and doctrine (including the substance, if not wording of 39 Arts.) and creeds which continues throughout the world.

          • And at the risk of upsetting you Geoff, the Creeds go back rather longer than the word Protestant. I’m quite content with the Catholic Creeds. The 39 articles are simply a marker in a bloody battle.

          • The 39 articles are simply a marker in a bloody battle.

            Well yes, but do you not think that they were the right side in that bloody battle? If not, why are you an Anglican rather than a Roman?

          • Who knows where I would have ended up 450 years ago.
            I’m an Anglican because I welcome the breadth of that tradition. And I’m English. If I lived in France, I’d go to a RC church.

          • ‘And I’m English. If I lived in France, I’d go to a RC church.’

            I find that such a strange approach to faith. If you’d go to the RC in France, why not here? It is doing rather better than the C of E numerically.

            I joined the church where I found the truth about God taught.

          • To suggest that the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth about God is bizarre and extremist.

          • To suggest that the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth about God is bizarre and extremist.

            It would be, but I’m not sure that’s what was meant.

            What also is bizarre is to suggest that the Roman church and the Anglican church are interchangeable.

            But I think the question is valid: if you would be a Roman in France, what’s stopping you being a Roman here?

          • “It would be, but I’m not sure that’s what was meant.”

            I’m sure that is what was meant. Ian used to be a Roman Catholic.

          • I’m sure that is what was meant. Ian used to be a Roman Catholic.

            Well, Ian will have to answer for himself. For my part it seems clear to me that there are irreconcilable differences between the Roman church and protestant churches such as the Church of England on many matters, but not on the nature of God.

            However, given that those irreconcilable differences do exist, again, I wonder why, if you would be a Roman in France, you are not a Roman here, given there are certainly enough Roman churches around for you to find one?

          • I don’t see the Anglican Church as Protestant S. It is a Reformed Catholic Church.

            I think the RC church is wrong about a number of things – such as celibate and make only clergy. Being ordained, that is significant.
            If in retirement, say, I went to live in France, there wouldn’t likely be an Anglican Church to attend. And so very little choice. Plus the RC Churches there form an integral part of the community in the way CofE churches are.
            I’m simply thinking out loud.

          • I don’t see the Anglican Church as Protestant S. It is a Reformed Catholic Church.

            I don’t think the Romans agree with you on that, either.

          • Maybe not officially. But I know many Romans who do.

            I’m pretty sure that what they believe ‘unofficially’ is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what the Magisterium teaches, and if you disagree with that principle then you aren’t a Roman Catholic. It’s not a pick-and-mix denomination.

          • And I would not be a Roman Catholic. I’d simply be going to mass at a RC church, and be welcomed to do so.

          • And I would not be a Roman Catholic. I’d simply be going to mass at a RC church, and be welcomed to do so.

            I thought Roman teaching was that non-Roman-Catholics were not welcome to have communion at a Roman church; when did that change?

          • S, you aren’t an Anglican but your comments here suggest you want a say in what the CofE should and shouldn’t do.

            As I say, there is official teaching and pragmatism. France isn’t full of RC police checking if their Priests abide by the rules.

          • S, you aren’t an Anglican but your comments here suggest you want a say in what the CofE should and shouldn’t do.

            No, they don’t.

            As I say, there is official teaching and pragmatism. France isn’t full of RC police checking if their Priests abide by the rules.

            And again as I understand it the Roman church is not a pick-and-mix denomination where you get to decide for yourself which bits of teaching to follow and which you are going to ignore. Did it change? If so when was the official pronouncement than Roman Catholics were free to ignore bits of Magisterium teaching?

          • Roman Catholics believe in the sensus fidei

            Yes, but the Magisterium overrules it:

            ‘77. The magisterium also judges with authority whether opinions which are present among the people of God, and which may seem to be the sensus fidelium, actually correspond to the truth of the Tradition received from the Apostles.’

            http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_20140610_sensus-fidei_en.html

            So again we come back to, the Roman church isn’t a pick-and-mix denomination where you can decide which bits of the Magisterium’s teaching you are going to follow and which you aren’t. Unless that changed. Did it change? When?

          • Anyone is welcome to attend mass at a RC Church.

            Oh, attend, yes. Of course you wouldn’t be thinking of receiving the Eucharist though, would you?

          • I’d only ever do what I was invited to do

            Ah, the good old ‘I was only following orders’ defence. That always works.

          • S

            The sensus fidei is made visible through the process of reception.
            Its rather more nuanced than you assume,
            And RCs, like many Anglicans, are free to question/seek to reform church teaching and tradition.
            For example, I know very few Catholics who regard artificial contraception as morally wrong. Very few believe in compulsory celibacy for clergy. Many would like to see women priests.

          • Oh, and I receive communion in a Catholic church if the priest does not know me, when abroad, and if the priest does know me and allows/invites me to.

          • And RCs, like many Anglicans, are free to question/seek to reform church teaching and tradition.

            I’m sure they are. But are they not supposed to abide by the teaching in the meantime?

            Just as we British citizens are free to question / seek to change the law, but we are not free to simply ignore laws we don’t like?

            For example, I know very few Catholics who regard artificial contraception as morally wrong.

            Maybe you do, but they are still expected to abstain from it, aren’t they? Just as someone who regards, say, the UK’s drug laws as wrong is free to campaign to have them changed, but is still expected to abide by them until and unless they are changed.

            Oh, and I receive communion in a Catholic church if the priest does not know me, when abroad,

            That is an incredibly rude and disrespectful thing to do, akin to — perhaps worse than — walking around mosques in your shoes, or something. My opinion of you has lowered.

          • I do too, but then I am a trans-denominational mere Christian. So why can’t I receive RC communion? The body to which I belong is Christ’s church on earth not any institution of man.

          • Sorry, S, I’m with Christopher on this.
            Why is responding to Christ’s invitation rude?
            He did not institute Supper for one denomination.

          • So why can’t I receive RC communion?

            Because it’s not up to you. The Roman church is the host, and it is up to them (not up to the individual preist) who they invite to their table.

            It’s only communion if it is freely and openly given and freely and openly taken. If you barge in and demand it — or if you sneak in and take it under false pretences, knowing you ought to be refuse if you told the truth — then you are not taking communion at all. You are violating the codes of hospitality.

            To be clear, I think the Romans’ stance on this is totally wrong. I think they ought to offer communion to all Christians. But it is up to them to whom they offer it, not up to me to demand, or to obtain by deceit, what they do not wish to freely give, even if I think that they ought to give it. The Roman church is wrong in this respect; but that does not give you, me or anyone the right to disrespect their right to be wrong.

            I’m, to be quite honest, appalled that people think it’s okay to trample over Roman doctrine in such a way. Would you stamp around a mosque in your Doc Martens? If not, what’s the difference?

          • But that does not address the point that if a person is a mere Christian then that includes RC.

            Otherwise you are thinking of denominations as a greater thing than the Church of Christ, whereas, to the contrary, the latter is an awesome thing and the former are beautiful, flawed, and functional. Is it not clear that this is precisely the wrong order of priority? You are exalting man’s way of looking at the Church above Christ’s way.

          • Otherwise you are thinking of denominations as a greater thing than the Church of Christ, whereas, to the contrary, the latter is an awesome thing and the former are beautiful, flawed, and functional. Is it not clear that this is precisely the wrong order of priority? You are exalting man’s way of looking at the Church above Christ’s way.

            Oh, I agree with you. But the point is that the Roman church doesn’t, and that is their right, and it’s wrong of us to force our understanding on them by deceit — and keeping quiet and letting them thing we are entitled to receive their communion when according to them we are not is certainly deception — even if their understanding is wrong and ours is right.

            For instance I think that the Muslim religion is totally wrong and that their holy book was made up by a failed sixth-century merchant. I don’t think there is anything special or holy about a mosque floor. But I would still take my shoes off if I were to enter one, out of respect for their beliefs.

            You didn’t answer the question: would you tramp your muddy boots all over a mosque? If not — and I hope you wouldn’t — what is the difference between respecting the Muslim’s incorrect beliefs and respecting the Roman Catholic’s incorrect beliefs?

          • ‘I don’t see the Anglican Church as Protestant S.’

            That is such a bizarre view! Rejection of the papacy, rejection of the language of ‘sacrifice’ in Communion, affirmation of Scripture as the supreme authority for faith…what on earth do you think 1552 and 1662 are about?!

            ‘It is a Reformed Catholic Church.’

            That is what being Protestant means! That is certainly how all the Reformers understood themselves and what they were doing!

          • S

            Actually, it’s not up to the RC church to invite. It’s up to Christ.
            I respond to His invitation to take Communion in the holy, catholic church.
            Sometimes I have been invited by RC priests to do so. The RC church is not so exclusionary as you seem to think.

          • Actually, it’s not up to the RC church to invite. It’s up to Christ.

            That hardly makes it okay to lie (and to be clear that is what you are doing if you turn up and pretend that you are entitled to take communion in their church, you are lying by omission by withholding an importance, relevant fact) in order to get in to accept Christ’s invitation.

            Sometimes I have been invited by RC priests to do so.

            Were they not, in that case, acting against the express orders of the authority of their church? I hardly see how their sin in disobeying their solemn vows excuses yours in sneaking in. If anything it just makes you and they accomplices in breaking faith with their denomination.

          • “..what on earth do you think 1552 and 1662 are about?!”

            They were about working out where the pendulum would stop swinging. You conveniently miss out 1549.
            I find your interpretation of Anglican history equally bizarre Ian. Try reading Stephen Neill. There is a massive gulf between the theology of 1662 and Common Worship. The pendulum didn’t stop swinging altogether.
            I find your views about Roman Catholicism, especially your view that the RC Church does not teach the truth about God extremist. What do you think ARCIC has been all about?

          • No one is ‘entitled’ to partake of communion S. We are invited to participate by Christ in His one, holy, catholic church.
            Priests are able to extend Eucharistic hospitality. The Pope has done so on a number of occasions.
            I fear you have a very sectarian view of Christianity.

          • No one is ‘entitled’ to partake of communion S. We are invited to participate by Christ in His one, holy, catholic church.

            And we are invited by the temporal host of the meal, too, who gets to decide who to invite and not to invite — and that is a matter between them and God.

            Priests are able to extend Eucharistic hospitality. The Pope has done so on a number of occasions.

            Do you have a reference for that?

            I fear you have a very sectarian view of Christianity.

            If by that you mean I respect the views and beliefs of others even when they don’t agree with me, then that is true. I know you have no respect for those who disagree with you and would rather force them to accommodate themselves to your views.

          • S

            From what I have seen of your views I have little respect for them.
            However I have no desire that you should accommodate your views to mine.

            You follow your way.
            And I’ll follow God’s (as the saying goes).

  6. I think the intention of LLF was to facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding in the C of E between groups at opposite ends – and at various points – on a theological and moral spectrum, probably in the hope that some kind of settlement could be found in which diverse views could eventually be accommodated. This, since Elizabeth I, has been the Anglican way. Via media with tolerance for eccentricities seems hardwired in Anglican identity.

    From the outset though this process, however well-intentioned, seems to me doomed to failure. What you find at either end of the spectrum is not two viewpoints as, for example, on the nature of priesthood. It is in fact two religions with no intention of coexisting, as their differences are not cosmetic or even merely important. They are unbridgeable and fundamental.

    As J. Gresham Machen said nearly 100 years ago in his book Christianity and Liberalism: “The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”

    Reply
    • John
      Yes. As I keep on saying, a key disagreement, perhaps THE key disagreement, is whether or not the Doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin and its results set out in Article 9 is or is not the Doctrine of the Church of England.
      Phil Almond

      Reply
  7. Thank you to Andrew Goddard for his very thorough and helpful critique of Martin Davie’s response to LLF. It is extremely good to have such a critique from someone who was not only involved in the production of LLF, but who might come to the same theological conclusions as Martin. I agree that Andrew’s ultimate question is the prime question that Martin simply fails to address.

    The Feb 2017 General Synod was a turning point, and Andrew more than hints at that in his article. Clearly all of the interested constituencies will try to to pack the next membership of General Synod with their members. I think another question that needs addressing is:

    How can the newly elected members of General Synod be enabled to address the matter as more than a choice between one or other alternative? I have maintained all along that the only way forward will be some equivalent of the ‘five principles’ that enabled the C of E to welcome women into the episcopate. There is no other way in which this question can be settled without some historic split in the C of E. And as I comment above, the practical working out of any split will involve the C of E in a much greater battle than any battle over sexuality. I don’t believe the C of E would ever work that particular battle out without a very serious and long fought war.

    Reply
    • Once again I find myself in agreement with you.

      I contributed to the many comments on the post last year, and I stand by what I said then; I like LLF, I think it’s a valuable resource, constructed with wisdom and care, and so while I have a couple of criticisms I thought it was pretty even-handed and largely achieves what it sets out to do, which is supply a framework for debate.

      The real problem is that the two loudest voices in the debate wanted it to be an authoritative judgement in favour of their position, and when it turned out to be neither they’ve washed their hands of it.

      Some sort of split seems inevitable.

      Reply
        • Not quite.

          Andrew recognises (like many commentators) that the choice is fundamentally between accommodation and schism and that LLF, in highlighting the differences and laying out just how vast the gulf of understanding is, has made that gulf even more starkly apparent.

          While he clearly remains more hopeful of a compromise resolution than many, myself included, he is not ignorant of the ever-increasing likelihood of the latter.

          That’s what I agree with. Andrew and I disagree on much, but he is clearly a pragmatist entertaining the unwelcome prospect of a messy resolution. I don’t think there’s any other way to read this:

          “There is no other way in which this question can be settled without some historic split in the C of E. And as I comment above, the practical working out of any split will involve the C of E in a much greater battle than any battle over sexuality. I don’t believe the C of E would ever work that particular battle out without a very serious and long fought war.”

          Reply
          • Thanks Mat.
            A split, as I have noted above, is simply not practical. It would occupy the CofE for the next thirty years at least and decimate an already struggling Church. Accommodation, whilst messy, is the only serious option. It has been worked before.
            If Ian has a proposal to make a schism possible then it would be helpful to hear it. The only way I can see it happening is as has happened in North America, where ACNA has provided a small base for those who do not wish to remain in TEC. But ACNA has its own problems. A split is never as easy as some would think….

          • I don’t know of a way that schism could work. But the US is not a model, since we have retained 1662 which they had long abandoned. So those resisting change are leaning on the current constitution of the church, which ACNA were not.

            But neither is there an obvious way to accommodate irreconcilable views.

          • What you are suggesting Ian is therefore an endless stalemate. That is no longer possible.
            We have models for accommodation. Unless you can come up with a workable proposal for schism I remain sure that accommodation is what we will be presented with.

  8. Phil,
    Does not the *assent* confer a vested interest in whatever may have been subjectively *assented* to. Therein may lie an immovable fixedness, immovable, but not beyond a stress – testing breaking point.

    Before fences are taken down, firstly the reasons they were put up need to be dismantled, dismissed! They are not there to be seated on.

    Reply
    • Indeed, it also reveals the motives, drivers, philosophy, theology, including scripture, yes doctrine, of those seeking to dismiss and dismantle.

      Reply
  9. Living In Love and Faith’s claim to be fairly comprehensive is incorrect. In ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’ I gathered the standard statistics on matters like whether people are born gay, promiscuity, STIs, longevity, rates of risky or unhealthy ‘sexual’ practices. These are central matters. Being central, they should figure centrally in LLF. Do they?

    Reply
    • statistics on matters like whether people are born gay, promiscuity, STIs, longevity, rates of risky or unhealthy ‘sexual’ practices. These are central matters.

      They’re not really central to the theology, are they? They are observations of what is, but as this is a fallen world what is is not a reliable guide to what ought to be. For that we need special revelation — scripture — and therefore only scripture can be central to the matter. All else, whether ‘lived experience’ or statistics, cannot be considered central but only supporting evidence.

      Reply
      • But that is the whole point. LLF was supposed to be a multi-angle, interdisciplinary document. Hence the different study groups within it and the different sections.

        If life, health, sin are not central then what is? While the ‘born gay’ question is probably the most fundamental of all since it establishes from the outset how far we are speaking of behaviour, how far of pathology, how far of biological or hormonal essence, how far of psychology based on early family set-ups, how far of the influence of society, how far of the influence of individual circumstances.

        Reply
        • While the ‘born gay’ question is probably the most fundamental of all

          It’s not though. The question of whether people are ‘born gay’ is totally independent of the theological question of whether same-sex activity is sinful or not.

          Reply
          • S
            The key issue is whether same-sex attraction is sinful and like all sinful inclinations (we all have some and all Christians are commanded to mortify and refuse to obey the sinful inclinations we have) is a result of the Fall and Original Sin.
            I may have missed it in my reading of the LLF book (if so please correct me) but I don’t remember seeing this issue explicitly and fully covered in the LLF book.

            Phil Almond

          • The key issue is whether same-sex attraction is sinful and like all sinful inclinations (we all have some and all Christians are commanded to mortify and refuse to obey the sinful inclinations we have) is a result of the Fall and Original Sin.

            I don’t think anyone thinks same-sex attraction is sinful, any more than being attracted to someone who is married to someone else is sinful. Acting on or indulging the attraction would be sinful, not the attraction itself.

            But given that, yes, that is exactly the issue (and goes to the real heart of the disagreement, which is not about same-sex attraction at all but about the doctrines of the Fall and of Original Sin, as well as the authority of special revelation in scripture); but that has nothing to do with whether anyone is ‘born gay’.

          • Yes – but I don’t mean that. What I mean is that the born/not-inborn question is the one that has to come first in time. It is like defining terms at the start of any informed discussion. Otherwise people will be at cross purposes about what the phenomenon is that is being discussed.

          • What I mean is that the born/not-inborn question is the one that has to come first in time. It is like defining terms at the start of any informed discussion. Otherwise people will be at cross purposes about what the phenomenon is that is being discussed.

            I don’t think that in general it is necessary to make a determination on a phenomenon’s aetiology in order to clearly identify it. Certainly in this case I can’t see what the confusion could be over what the phenomenon is that is being discussed, that would be clarified by specifying a precise aetiology; could you explain what confusion you think could arise?

          • If we begin by assuming that we are talking about an unchanging intrinsic state like being female or being brown-skinned we will come to very different conclusions than we will come to if we proceed on the basis that homosexual behaviour may have all kinds of origins, none of which are as innate as all that (hormonal, formative-experience, initial-Hobson’s-choice-becoming-ingrained, hypersexuality and boredom with vanilla, thrill of the transgressive, cultural…the list goes on).

            Therefore it is imperative that before the start this question is asked and studied.

          • If we begin by assuming that we are talking about an unchanging intrinsic state like being female or being brown-skinned we will come to very different conclusions than we will come to if we proceed on the basis that homosexual behaviour may have all kinds of origins, none of which are as innate as all that

            No, we won’t. Why would we? Why would any of that be at all relevant to our conclusion?

          • Because the one is based on a lie and the other on researched fact. That is not only a difference but a very important one.

          • Because the one is based on a lie and the other on researched fact. That is not only a difference but a very important one

            I’m afraid I don’t understand. My point is that it is not relevant to whether, for example, same-sex activity is sinful, whether the desire for such is innate and unchanging, or learnt and malleable. Do you not agree? If not, what difference do you think it makes?

          • It may be – but LLF is not a theological document but a multi-faceted document emanating from a variety of complementary working parties. If it were a purely theological document, (a) I might agree with you, (b) LLF would be more justified than it is in failing to cover centrally important matters in 480 pages, while claiming to take a more comprehensive approach.

  10. S
    “I don’t think anyone thinks same-sex attraction is sinful”.
    Making a general point: Paul writes in Galatians (5:16) “Now I say, in Spirit walk ye and the lust of the flesh by no means ye will perform….”. The ‘lust of the flesh’ is a result of the Fall.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Except that’s clearly wrong. I know of lots of people who walked in the spirit but still succumbed to a variety of lusts of the flesh. King David was one of them.

      Reply
      • I know of lots of people who walked in the spirit but still succumbed to a variety of lusts of the flesh. King David was one of them.

        King David pretty obviously didn’t always walk in the spirit.

        Reply
        • My point exactly. Nobody walks in the spirit all of the time. Everybody is human and therefore a sinner. But God still uses such people. (And I suspect Paul knew this absolutely. He was just, as he often does, overstating his case).

          Reply
          • Nobody walks in the spirit all of the time. Everybody is human and therefore a sinner

            Then I remain unsure what you meant by:

            ‘I know of lots of people who walked in the spirit but still succumbed to a variety of lusts of the flesh’

            Surely you do not, in fact, know anyone who walked in the spirit? Because, as you rightly point out, nobody walks in the spirit. We are all sinners.

          • My point was simply that it is not possible to walk in the spirit all of the time. But I have certainly known of people who walked in the spirit some of the time.

          • My point was simply that it is not possible to walk in the spirit all of the time.

            So when you wrote:

            ‘ Except that’s clearly wrong.’

            What exactly did you mean by ‘that’? Because it looks like you meant it was clearly wrong that if you walked in the spirit then you would by no means perform the lusts of the flesh.

            Except we’ve just established, haven’t we, that it’s not wrong at all? Indeed it’s totally right. If you could walk in the spirit, then you would indeed by no means perform the lusts of the flesh. It’s just that nobody (save only our Lord) does truly walk in the spirit.

            So… what did you mean was clearly wrong? Because it looks to me like we’ve agreed that Paul was in fact totally correct, have we not?

      • Andrew
        Are you saying that my assertion “The ‘lust of the flesh’ is a result of the Fall” is clearly wrong?
        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • Philip: I think the answer to this is so complicated and it needs a book, rather than a few sentences.
          Paul seems like he was either afraid of, or didn’t get, any intimacy. That’s why I think lust figures so much in his teaching. When he talks about lust, he seems to be talking about sex and sexual lust. Maybe that was the personal thorn he talked about? Anyway, I don’t think Paul is a very reliable witness about the issues of lust for those reasons.
          And he locates the problem with lust as a problem of the flesh. I think he’s wrong about that. Lust is a spirit problem, more than a flesh one. If we have intimacy, which involves both the spirit and the flesh, then lust isn’t a problem. It’s a way of directing our sexual desires quite naturally. If we lack intimacy, then the spirit and flesh can easily get separated. Our spirit then wrongly craves the intimacy that flesh and spirit together could give us. The flesh becomes an agent – but isn’t the culprit.
          So – it’s very complicated. And I think Paul is simplistic about it. And that just doesn’t help.

          Reply
  11. The fact that LLF has 480 pages can be used against it. 480 pages and apparently no adequate discussion of what would hitherto have been the central question – whether homosexual expression is sinful. That shows the discussion is skewed, because historically central questions are not prominent even within a vast number of pages. The same applies to the several other centrally important questions I raised. Born-gay is dealt with, however adequately or inadequately – but anyone would be right to think that life expectancy, STI expectancy, promiscuity levels, levels of risky ‘sexual’ behaviours are of extreme importance and consequently (in tune with the spirit of the age) are not given their due.

    Reply
    • Those things might have some sociological importance. They have no theological weight at all. So, if they are absent from LLF, it’s because they havebjomplace there; the authors and editors have wisely eschewed pathologising sexuality.

      Reply
      • Penelope
        Are you saying that the view that same-sex attraction, like all sinful inclinations, is a result of the Fall is “pathologising sexuality”?

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • No.
          1) homosexuality is not a sinful inclination; like other sexualities it is not a result of the Fal.
          2) homosexuality is pathologised through enquiries into its aetiology. We do not pathologise heterosexuality.

          Reply
          • homosexuality is not a sinful inclination; like other sexualities it is not a result of the Fal.

            Begging the question.

            homosexuality is pathologised through enquiries into its aetiology. We do not pathologise heterosexuality.

            Again begging the question.

          • If you are selective in which questions you address and don’t address, how can you ever (a) get an accurate answer, or (b) avoid being seen as biased?

          • We are incapable of ‘pathologising’. Things have causes. It was not *us* that caused them to have those causes. But we can understand and define them better if we aim to understand the causes.

          • Christopher

            You pathologise homosexuality every time you write about it.
            Just as you claim a faise equivalence between the promiscuity of some gay men and the ethics of same-sex relationships/marriage.

          • You pathologise homosexuality every time you write about it.

            Do oncologists pathologise cancer when they write about it?

          • For the 2nd time, I never pathologise it. It has causes, like anything else has causes (and in this particular case the causes are various). Do you think it was I that caused those causes personally?

            If there are 2 people and one refuses to ask certain questions, does it not follow that a maximum of 1 of those people is honest?

            Promiscuity of ‘some’ gay men – ‘some’ is a jolly vague word, whereas good people without an agenda love precision. ‘Some’ could be anything from 0.01% to 99.99 percent. There *is* common ground theoretically (as well as the obvious common ground in practice) between promiscuity and homosexuality – namely the attack on marriage and family life that is so characteristic of the sexual revolution. It has always been crystal clear (a) where Jesus stands on this, (b) how polarised it is.

          • S
            Yes of course they do.
            But oncologists are not theologians.
            And homosexuality is not a disease.

          • Christopher

            Homosexuality has causes.
            Heterosexuality has causes.
            We pathologise something by imagining that those causes carry any theological freight. They do not.
            Furthermore, as I have pointed out, on numerous occasions, the desire for same-sex marriage is an obvious repudiation of homosexuality. The church does not ban other-sex marriage because of promiscuity amongst straight people.
            As Cameron remarked – same-sex marriage is a conservative ideal.

          • But oncologists are not theologians.

            You understand the concept of analogy, right? X is to Y as A is to B?

            And homosexuality is not a disease.

            But homosexual acts are sinful, and sin is a disease.

          • S has it right here – homosexual sexual behaviour is sinful (because our bodies firstly are not designed for it and secondly are designed for something else very particular), and sin is a disease. We could add more points to these 2, e.g. that no society that has approved homosexual behaviour has failed to see a falling off in marriage, fidelity, family life etc.. And that no such society has succeeded in stemming promiscuity, whereas marriage cultures have never reached average promiscuity in the first place.

            Homosexuality (the inclination) therefore classifies as a temptation.

          • Some homosexual acts are sinful.

            Some heterosexual acts are sinful.

            Some heterosexual acts, which are not intrinsically procreative, would be regarded by some (perhaps Christopher?), as sinful.

            Sin is the human capacity for evil, to act immorally.

            Your oncology analogy doesn’t work.
            It is not a disease.

          • Christopher

            The flaw in your argument is that if same-sex couples could be married in church, they would be part of your (vaunted) marriage culture.

          • So you think that every time a word (e.g. ‘marriage’) is used, it is used accurately? That is not something that anyone can actually believe.

            To say ‘your vaunted’ is to disparage. So you disparage a marriage culture? If you disparage that, then what are you exalting? That seems like upside-down values.

          • The flaw in your argument is that if same-sex couples could be married in church, they would be part of your (vaunted) marriage culture.

            That’s begging the question.

          • Christopher

            I don’t disparage marriage. I question your belief in a ‘marriage culture’ which protects society from promiscuity and homosexuality.

          • Then how come the last time we had a marriage culture we had far, far less of both? You are saying that something is not true which is undeniably true and real. Homosexual practice can only increase at times when it is not hidden and is able to be organised. As soon as it became out in the open in this way, HIV/AIDS soon followed.

          • Christopher

            Here we go again!
            When did ‘we’ last have something called a ‘marriage culture’?

          • Where do we ‘go again’? Why am I not allowed to say things that are (a) accurate and (b) uncontroversial?

            theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/feb/11/marriage-rates-uk-data

            – the plummeting figure of 10 years ago has plummeted further.

      • LLF is a multi-disciplinary project by definition. It includes both sociology and theology. And so does reality include both sociology and theology.

        In any case, the questions are still there whether one particular book addresses them or not.

        Reply
  12. Andrew,
    To make a comparison with divorce, practicalities can play a part in a decision whether to remain together, with the sheer weight of the emotional, and financial unravelling and living new independent lives having a bearing in a decision to stay together.
    But where the marriage has truly “irretrievably broken down” practicalities although prominent and painful, such as place to live, untangling finances, and property pension divisions, take second place.
    The law used to recognise the almost unlivable practicality, though it did in fact happen, of husband and wife living “separate and apart” under the same roof; completely independent lives that would be a factor in showing *irretrievable breakdown*.
    To extend that to the CoE there would in fact be no communion; it would be a sham *marriage* a marriage of convenience, for outward appearances.
    It is only necessary for one party to consider the marriage to be at an end, irretrievably broken down and it is, no matter what the other may want.
    One of the hardest things for a spouse to do was a admit, to an outsider, a solicitor, that the marriage was at and end.
    Does that not bear some relation to the CoE at present?
    In questions of *ancillary relief* financial matters, a clean break was not always possible, with income or maintenance payments continuing, usually for a set period of time or until certain conditions are fulfilled.
    An almost impossible aim was to place both parties in the financial position as if they were still married.
    So the question for the CoE, the world of Anglicanism. is, is there an irretrievable breakdown, a question that is at root theological, an existential one, if you like, or biblically to press John Connolly’s point above, it could be seen as a one of adultery (spiritual) a frequent theme and cry from God in scripture.

    Reply
  13. “ What better, practical, alternative path would you offer the Church of England in order to enable us to address the divisive questions and theological and pastoral challenges we face in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage?”

    I’d suggest that Oliver O’Donovan’s insight provides a worthwhile alternative.

    In his response to Pilling (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0953946814530239a), he wrote: ” Considered faithfulness must involve deliberation on possible courses of action, and it must involve reflection on the shape and practical implications of the truths the church believes.”

    In O’Donovan’s words, LLF was primarily reflective, i.e. it was tasked with reflecting on how the truths of the faith shed light on a new practical question, gathering the interpretative yield from the work of theologians, listening to those who reflect on it in the course of their lives and ministry, and synthesising it in a form that can facilitate deliberation.

    In contrast, a deliberative body is ”charged with recommending a course of action, summing up the practical situation, weighing alternative possibilities, implications, modes of implementation, difficulties etc.”

    Importantly, O’Donovan wrote: ” A good revision in practice cannot be supported by a ‘revisionist’ theology—on the contrary, it needs a thoroughly catholic and orthodox foundation. By articulating carefully everything theo- logical that two sides in a practical disagreement can say together, we can get the scope of the disagreement in proper perspective, and may open the way to agreement on experiments which have a chance of commending themselves in practice. So long as proposals for experiment come with the label of ‘revisionism’, on the other hand, no church with concerns for its catholicity can embrace them.”

    In essence, it means that, at the very least, LLF should have been able to acknowledge their differences, while articulating the scope of their agreement.

    The latter would provide a launching point for a further deliberative body (e.g. the House of Bishops) to identify a range of permissible catholic options which would likely be received as legitimate developments.

    At first sight, point 6 of the section entitled, What was LLF trying to do? appears to address this:
    “LLF tried, where possible, to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. In relation to disagreements it sought to clarify the nature of disagreements and see if there was some agreement possible about what we are disagreeing over and why we are disagreeing (again without seeking to rule definitively on these disagreements). This will be explored more fully in a subsequent article.”

    However, as an example I’d agreement, the Pastoral Principles do no more than articulate the manner in which followers of orthodoxy, revisionism and anything in between might co-exist beneficently and disagree amicably.

    While important, there has to be far more common ground than these principles can provide in order that any future deliberative body can propose permissible catholic options that would survive the process of Anglican reception.

    It’s becoming apparent that the Church will have to rely on this latter phase of LLF process to establish the kind of common ground upon which a future deliberative body can make ‘real world’ practical recommendations in relation to CofE doctrine and practice for human sexuality and gender identity.

    Reply
  14. Scripture on the other hand says the devil is an angel of light.

    Pretends to be an angel of light, I think, rather than is.

    Welby’s acting in a pattern of acceptance of homosexuality – and yet at other times saying he supports orthodox faith – as one aware of God’s mercy and grace – is his doing evil.

    Are you ascribing to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence? I’m not sure Welby is himself evil, so much as well-meaning but weak, in a way which allows actual evil forces to manipulate him as an unwitting puppet.

    Reply
  15. I have been through the LLF course as a pilot for our Diocese, and also read the big book in some detail. So, I read Andrew Goddard’s post with some interest, especially his comments on what LLF was trying to do, and whether it was right to do it. My feeling is that LLF has the potential to succeed in what it set out to do, but that this does require all parties to engage with it openly and honestly.

    My biggest disappointment with the group I was in was the absence of anyone from the Conservative/Evangelical side. I am towards the liberal end of the discussion myself, and the majority of (I think probably all of) the group were too. It is difficult to have an honest and constructive discussion if only one side show up. The biggest danger here is of a bubble mentality, where people only discuss the material with people of a similar mindset. I would very much like to repeat the exercise with a more diverse group.

    So, really, I have three appeals. Firstly, please do engage with this. Secondly, please don’t turn up with the attitude of simply stating your position and winning the argument. That is certainly not a way forward. Thirdly, please stop talking as though a split is inevitable. Some of the comments on here are, frankly, depressing. I find it ironic that those who claim to take the Bible seriously are failing to take note of the repeated calls for unity in the church. As the Bishops say in their appeal:

    “If the work of the Spirit is to lead us to new vistas on our disagreements and new perspectives on our differences, it will be through enabling us to ascend the summit of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.”

    For my part, I am committed to searching the scripture and seeking the will of God. I am committed to listening and to weighing the arguments. If LLF can do one thing it is will be to inspire a fresh listening to arguments on both sides of this disagreement.

    I’m trying to, tentatively, set out some of my own responses to the LLF material in my own blog, starting here:

    https://occasionalread.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/in-love-and-faith-and-hope/

    Reply
    • ‘I find it ironic that those who claim to take the Bible seriously are failing to take note of the repeated calls for unity in the church.’

      – yes but it shouldnt be unity for the sake of unity. If the church becomes little more than a glorified social club, with no distinction from the majority voice of society, then really what’s the point?

      – And of course the apostle Paul took action against those he deemed to be behaving sexually immorally, and we shouldnt forget Jesus’ words of warning to the churches in Revelation.

      It comes down to a fundamental question – does God, now, approve of same-sex sexual relationships, disapprove of those relationships, or just not care either way? I think He disapproves (or perhaps to put it a better way, He does not want it for me), and Im coming from the pov of a gay Christian who has studied numerous books on the subject as well as the Bible. I cannot in all honesty come to a different view, even though in many ways Id like to!

      If you are interested in why I take the view I do, I think Preston Sprinkle’s “People to be Loved” is helpful, at least as a starter. He exposes some of the falsehoods that I seem to keep coming across by those who are ‘affirming’. Speaking falsehoods does nothing for one’s cause.

      Peter

      Reply
      • No, it isn’t unity for unity’s sake. Ephesians 1:9-10:

        He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

        If the church cannot find unity in its disagreement, then really what is the point? How can it be a sign to the nations that there is a better way than splitting every time you disagree?

        Reply
        • How can it be a sign to the nations that there is a better way than splitting every time you disagree?

          How can it be a sign to the nations that there’s a better way if every time the going gets hard because you’re called to go against the prevailing culture, you compromise?

          Reply
          • I think the prevailing culture says we should split. The hard choice, here, is to find a way through this mess without splitting, and (indeed) I consider it to be going against Biblical teaching not to try to do this.

            I am not seeking to compromise over sexual ethics. I just don’t think the end result of “not compromising” is where you think it should be.

            Nevertheless, I can understand why you would come to the conclusions you have, even if I disagree with them. I hope that, if we were able to discuss face to face, that we would be able to part with a blessing to one another.

          • I think the prevailing culture says we should split.

            No it doesn’t. The prevailing culture says you should abandon the traditional Christian sexual ethic and accept same-sex relationships as being equivalent to opposite-sex relationships.

          • S: I can speak only for myself. My personal motivations are not at all to compromise with prevailing culture: I am more than happy to go against that.

            I am very much motivated by what I see as the position of justice, of love, and of compassion, and by how I understand that the Bible tells me to act.

            As a part of this, I see that there is an extremely strong Biblical call towards unity – it is present throughout the New Testament. In contrast to that, the prevailing culture says that when there is disagreement, when relationships break down, then we walk away and do not work at our differences. In this, you are very much following the prevailing culture. I am asking you to rethink your position on that, because it seems to me to be deeply unfaithful.

            I would add that, to “split” would necessarily be to split right down the middle of my own church congregation.

          • As a part of this, I see that there is an extremely strong Biblical call towards unity – it is present throughout the New Testament.

            There is also, though, a stronger call towards truth. And when truth and unity are in conflict, surely unity must be the one to give way?

            In contrast to that, the prevailing culture says that when there is disagreement, when relationships break down, then we walk away and do not work at our differences. In this, you are very much following the prevailing culture. I am asking you to rethink your position on that, because it seems to me to be deeply unfaithful.

            I see what you are getting at here, but I think you have to look past the superficial similarities to the deeper reasons for these things. The reason that is the message from the prevailing culture is because the prevailing culture values above all else individual happiness, and therefore if something is getting in the way of your happiness, be it a job, a duty, a relationship, a marriage, or whatever else, then you should jettison it so that you can be free to indulge your happiness.

            Whereas my point is the exact opposite: the reason to resist the prevailing culture’s views on sexual ethics, even if necessary to the point of splitting away form those who would have the church embrace those ethics, is not to seek freedom but rather to bind ourselves tighter to the truth.

            It is not the same thing at all. And rather than being ‘deeply unfaithful’, it is above all faithful to the truth, which is the most important thing to be faithful to.

          • Dear S:

            In any disagreement, anywhere around the world, and at any time, both sides will consider that they have “truth” on their side. This is no different. I believe you are in error. You believe I am in error. Where does that leave us? Yet we both place our hope in the saving power of Jesus, and we both are sinners.

            But, we have a ministry of reconciliation. And that is what truly makes us different to the world.

            I can tell you, in all truth, that the powers of this world will rejoice if we are divided. They will laugh at us. I appeal to you: do not take that path.

            But, if we do part, I wish you every blessing.

          • In any disagreement, anywhere around the world, and at any time, both sides will consider that they have “truth” on their side. This is no different. I believe you are in error. You believe I am in error. Where does that leave us?

            Right, yes. Where it leaves us is that we have to work out whether our differences are on foundational matters or not.

            For example, if we both agree that the Bible is the Word of God, God’s special revelation to the world, but we disagree on what it means, then we are coming from the same place and we can stay together while we try to figure out which one of us is correct.

            However, if one of us thinks that the Bible is a mere book written by humans, and therefore flawed, erroneous and partial; if we agree on the interpretation of the Bible but one of us thinks that it’s okay to ignore the Bible because we in the twenty-first century know better than a bunch of bronze-age farmers, then we simply have no common ground to even talk. Any unity we pretended to have would be a false unity; it would be a lie, not the truth.

            But, we have a ministry of reconciliation. And that is what truly makes us different to the world.

            A ministry of reconciling sinful humans to God, yes. Not a ministry of trying to pretend we’re all one big happy family.

            I can tell you, in all truth, that the powers of this world will rejoice if we are divided.

            Not half as much as they will rejoice if by abandoning the truth, the salt loses its essence and can never again preserve anything.

          • I can tell you, in all truth, that the powers of this world will rejoice if we are divided. They will laugh at us.

            Oh and another thing: if you don’t want to be laughed at by the powers of this world, then oh boy did you pick the wrong religion.

          • Interestingly, the LLF book gives (I think) about 7 different ways you might view the Bible, on a sliding scale between the two extreme positions you indicate. It concludes that position 1 and position 7 are not in keeping with the teaching of the Church of England, but that a case could be made for each of the 5 positions in between. It also indicates that people from any one of the views could reasonably argue that they are taking the Bible more seriously, on its own terms, than someone from one of the other positions.

            From what you say, I would think that we have enough common ground to talk, but that we would not be on the same position on the scale. Talking would be better than writing, it is easier to recognise the human at the other end of the communication.

            But I am arguing against necessarily being ever able to figure out which one of us is correct. I am arguing in favour of what we do in the meantime. In the meantime we talk, we forgive, we bless each other. We recognise that we both are seeking earnestly for truth even though we do not even fully agree on how to go about this.

            Reconciliation is both vertical (humans to God) and horizontal (humans to each other). We forgive because God first forgave us. Surely you know this? For someone who claims to be taking the Bible as seriously as you do, you seem (to me) to be very selective in your reading, and it seems (to me) that you prioritise one thing over another.

            This is not pretending to be a big happy family. It is recognising that we are not, and dealing with that fact.

            So, this is how I choose to be salt. May God’s blessings be upon you.

          • Thank you so much for this Daniel. It expresses my own position much better than I have ever been able to myself! And it expresses the approach that I believe we are mandated by the Gospel – by Christ himself – to take.
            I think it also the case that the truth – which S says he values so much – is found in both extremes, and not in compromise. I continue to believe the only option open to us is an approach that accommodates.

          • This talk about “Prevailing culture” is incorrectly stating that there is only one view. Later this week we are holding a funeral service for Prince Philip. Prince Philip is/was a Christian, just as is Her Majesty the Queen. Both of them are as much a significant part of “prevailing culture” as the anonymous others for whom yet other un-named people presume to speak and claim we live in an anti-Christian society.

        • Daniel – how then do you explain Paul and Jesus’ words to different churches, as I referenced above? It doesnt seem they were encouraging coming together in unity regardless of people’s behaviour.

          Also re the Ephesians quote, ultimately all that is evil and therefore against God will be removed by God so that the unity will be based on God’s good purpose. I dont think the text is implying that those people or other beings/things who fight against or simply disregard God’s good purpose will somehow be brought into unity with Him.

          Peter

          Reply
          • Hi Peter

            Since you ask, some quick responses.

            Paul in Corinthians: I think you are referring to 1 Corinthians 5? I’d not that this is for an extreme case of immorality, “of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate”. So, in this case, something that brings the church into disrepute, i.e. something obviously immoral which even the pagans can see is wrong. In all honesty, the two things which spring most to my mind here, which even those outside the church can see is wrong, are (1) cases of abuse in the church that get smoothed over, and (2) the way the church has historically treated the LGBT community.

            Jesus in Revelation: I’m guessing here that you’re referring to Jezebel in the church in Thyatira? “By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” and later “adultery” and again later “Satan’s so-called deep secrets”. Again, I see this is a case of obvious, clear cut, immorality, of someone deliberately and willingly creating a cult within the church where obvious promiscuity took place. Similar comment swould apply to the church in Pergamum, I think, those “who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality”.

            Re Ephesians… that Paul saw the church unity in the present is important is obvious from reading on: through chapter 2, culminating in 2:21-22: ” In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”, onwards into 3:10-11: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. So God’s eternal purposes for unity are represented by the unity of the church today.

      • But Peter, I would want to add: genuinely, I think you need to come to your own decision on what is right for you. If as a gay Christian you conclude in all conscience that you wish to remain celibate, I would wish you every blessing in that, and that you can be a blessing to those around you.

        Reply
        • Thank you, Daniel. But to my mind, it is not really about what is ‘right for me’ but what are God’s thoughts on the matter for everyone.

          Peter

          Reply
          • Peter: perhaps I was misled by an earlier comment from you where you said, “or perhaps to put it a better way, He does not want it for me”. In any case, I absolutely agree that God’s thoughts are important, and I do my best to discern them. I can see that you do too. Although we have come to different conclusions about what God’s thoughts are on this matter, I certainly would not wish to impose my conclusions on you, not least because you have arrived at yours at great cost.

            Again, blessings,

            Daniel

  16. What a sad, sad, arid debate! Some people have always been same-sex attracted (as some people have always been sexually attracted to children). In former times ‘the Church’ encouraged them to take vows of celibacy. Then it placed them in same-sex communities where they could practise their attraction together. If that thought horrifies you read the reports of Henry VIII’s inspectors into the state of the monasteries before he dissolved them .
    The burgeoning towns and cities of 19th century Britain (and elsewhere) witnessed an epidemic of sexually-transmitted infections for which there was no treatment and no cure, other than monogamous opposite-sex marriage. Draconian measures therefore had to be introduced to try to curb sexual promiscuity. Inevitably these included severe sanctions against same-sex activity (because, at certain times in their lives, some same-sex attracted people are indescribably promiscuous).
    In my limited 19-year experience as an incumbent of rural parishes, the sexual moral issues we face have little to do with same-sex behaviour. Rather, they concern opposite sex promiscuity (before and within marriage), the rejection and widespread breakdown of marriage with its harmful consequences for the mental well-being of children, and the tidal wave of freely-available Internet pornography with its similar damaging effects. Isn’t this last a safeguarding issue? What are we doing about it?
    If we evangelical Anglicans spent a tenth of the effort combating these issues and promoting wholesome opposite-sex Christ-centred relationships among our young people and within our families, as we do in arid debate about same-sex issues, I would have more confidence in the future of the Church of England and in the place of evangelicals within it.

    Reply
    • The same sexual revolution that produced the great problems of which you speak also produced the greater openness and organisation about homosexual activity, upon which the HIV/AIDS outbreak soon followed (and even today the same group, men who have sex with men, are by far the most likely per head to catch gonorrhea or syphilis, at ever increasing rates). This matters to caring people, but seems not to matter to most, or at least to be excluded from the approved topics for discussion.

      Reply
  17. The other reason for LLF could be ‘yet more expensive can-kicking of an insoluble problem’. Slogging through all 484 pages was draining, uninspiring and dissolving of hope. The impression one goes away with is the immensity of the gulf between irreconcilable views. I can’t see how the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman can be anything other than a primary issue of Christian belief and practice.

    Reply
  18. The fundamental issue that the Church of England has to contend with is its relationship with the State going back to the Elizabethan Settlement which ensured a Protestant succession to the throne. In the past, the CofE and the state worked together in providing services to the population such as Christian schools which are still seen today, although the level of cooperation is now much less.

    However it is the Sovereign who still appoints the Bishops in England. There are 26 Bishops who are ex-officio members of the House of Lords. The NHS by law has to appoint CofE Chaplains as to the Armed forces. There are other functionalities where the Church is constitutionally connected to the State. In this sense, both the state and the church have a stake in each other- with the church having an increasing less one. As one Cof E vicar on a recent BBC program on parish ministry opined “ Our main purpose is to hatch them, match them and despatch them.”

    All of this is against a backdrop of increased rejection of orthodox Christian belief by the populace, being replaced by ‘spirituality‘ different religions (through massively increased immigration in the last 50 years), or downright unbelief brought on my increased materialism. This has all been accelerated in recent times by the scrutiny provided by the internet and the rise of for want a better word, ‘pundit culture’. It is a fantasy to assume the notion that the populace of Britain is ‘christian’. Rather it consists society which is pluralized more intensely by a wide spectrum of different kinds of belief and this has been happening over prolonged length of time

    The problem for Welby and other Archbishops is that because of these (still strong) constitutional links, when this pluralisation effects the state to the degree that the state passes laws that to do not sit well with orthodox Christian teaching he has to take note of it. I am not sure if the LLF report ever addressed this. Christian hegemony in state affairs is being increasingly challenged, and in the current zeitgeist this can only continue. I wonder if Welby’s and the others Bishop’s fear is that if they speak too strongly against state legislation then the calls to disestablish the church will only be louder.

    I think that Andrew Godsall is correct when he says that the current dispute over sexuality can only end in accommodation or a split. If it is a split, then the nature of that split will be determined by whoever gets control of the CoE’s governing structures. If it is an accommodation then it is less likely to run into conflicts with the state. So maybe Welby’s response is a political calculation rather than a theological one. I noted in the CEEC video that some of the participants were talking darkly about alternative arrangements or provinces if the CoE accedes to the demands made by the LGBT+ lobbies.

    We are now nearing the end of the second Elizabethan era where by the grace of God we have been fortunate to have a Queen with strong orthodox Christian beliefs and has served us with them accordingly. What comes after is unknown but I imagine that we cannot expect the same. The Elephant in the Room is the almost blasé expectation by Bishops that in the 21st century that the CofE will continue to be the state church and they can enjoy the same privileges they have now.
    I wonder how a future Archbishop would react if a future government made destablishment as part of its manifesto in the name of equality and diversity – supported by a King maybe that wasn’t too bothered by it? Would the majority of the populace be? I doubt it.
    That there has been little or no evaluation of this among the hierarchies in the CoE (at least as far as I can see), I find truly astounding. If it comes, then it will make the current dissension seem minuscule by comparison
    (It may also offer a way out the current dilemma).

    Reply
  19. I have been through the LLF course as a pilot for our Diocese, and also read the big book in some detail. So, I read Andrew Goddard’s post with some interest, especially his comments on what LLF was trying to do, and whether it was right to do it. My feeling is that LLF has the potential to succeed in what it set out to do, but that this does require all parties to engage with it openly and honestly.

    My biggest disappointment with the group I was in was the absence of anyone from the Conservative/Evangelical side. I am towards the liberal end of the discussion myself, and the majority of (I think probably all of) the group were too. It is difficult to have an honest and constructive discussion if only one side show up. The biggest danger here is of a bubble mentality, where people only discuss the material with people of a similar mindset. I would very much like to repeat the exercise with a more diverse group.

    So, really, I have three appeals. Firstly, please do engage with this. Secondly, please don’t turn up with the attitude of simply stating your position and winning the argument. That is certainly not a way forward. Thirdly, please stop talking as though a split is inevitable. Some of the comments on here are, frankly, depressing. I find it ironic that those who claim to take the Bible seriously are failing to take note of the repeated calls for unity in the church. As the Bishops say in their appeal:

    “If the work of the Spirit is to lead us to new vistas on our disagreements and new perspectives on our differences, it will be through enabling us to ascend the summit of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.”

    For my part, I am committed to searching the scripture and seeking the will of God. I am committed to listening and to weighing the arguments. If LLF can do one thing it is will be to inspire a fresh listening to arguments on both sides of this disagreement.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this really helpful comment. Worth remembering, though, that at the ‘summit’ of John 17 is included: ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’. I always find it odd when people read John 17 as a plea for unity simpliciter

      Reply
      • Hi Ian:

        Yes, I do agree that sanctification is a big part of John 17, and in fact that aspect struck me strongly during the reflection on the passage during the last session of the LLF course. How do we hold together sanctification and unity? See this post for my own reflections from this:

        https://occasionalread.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/in-love-and-faith-and-unity/

        But with respect to unity in the church, I see this as very much a first order issue, and (for example) right at the centre of Paul’s thought (e.g. following Tom Wright’s arguments on that). We are very much saved “In Christ” in the incorporative sense. So, I am dismayed that people would seek towards disunity without pursuing other paths to their end.

        Reply
    • Thank you so much for this Daniel. You echo my own thoughts entirely. The ‘truth’ at the basis of unity in John 17 requires precisely the willingness to turn up, meet and wrestle with scripture together across differences that you are appealing for. And those who do not turn up can hardly expect to be involved in the discernment and decision making that follows.

      Reply
      • When you take that view, are you not considering it a boon when policy is made by the argumentative and politicking. Is there ever a point where the faithful can go back to dedicating themselves exclusively to feeding the sick, and reaching the lost, or does their always have to be some effort to defend orthodox Christian teaching from the church itself?

        Is that really wise or Biblical?

        I think it is also wrong to use the term ‘those who do not turn up’ when you consider the alacrity in which the affirming side rushes to call or threaten to call the state onto those who disagree with them, and speak clearly about it.

        Reply
  20. Presumably at the end of the LLF process the H of B will have to bring some proposals for debate in GS which may then go to Diocesan Synods and then come back, as with the ordination of women. It will be a slow-ish process and may even run into the next GS but one given the pace at which the C of E tends to move, Given the ages of the present Bench we are likely to have a new ABC and probably nearly half the present diocesans will have retired. Many parish clergy will have retired. And who knows what the C of E will look like if numerical and financial decline continue.

    Reply
    • Absolutely so Perry. It’s hard not to think this isn’t an expensive way of delaying any progress in this whole matter. DDOs will be forced to go on asking candidates if they subscribe ‘Issues’ for some time yet I suspect.

      Reply
    • Seems like a strategy laid bare, Perry, perhaps more succinctly put by Peter Mattacola as can- kicking.
      The whole idea of it being a new way of doing things, has a ring of the failed idea, of consensus management to it, rather than leadership by those supposedly in ontological decision- making positions, hand -washing!
      Particularly as pastoral ideology in Christianity is to be rooted in Christian doctrine, and it’s primacy. Otherwise, it is little more than the therapeutic secular dressed in Christian garb and gab. Or as has been described as (subjective) “moralistic, therapeutic, deism”.

      Reply
  21. Can we not recognise LLF for what it is – a completely new, consultative way of doing biblical, theological and pastoral reflection around key issues in the church? And it is happening simply because it is needed. Instead of those familiar ‘Bishops Reports’ outlining belief and doctrine for the faithful, with Synod asked to agree (or not), here is a resource for the whole church to meet together, debate, explore, share stories of faith across the Anglican range of views and convictions and to feed back towards a shared decision process. So I think there is so much here to admire. It is an amazing labour of love. The process has hardly begun of course – which makes the title of Andrew’s post somewhat preemptive. It needs the time it takes. I see no can-kicking or attempts at delay – still less an evil archbishop and his cronies forcing their wicked liberal agenda on the church. It is also much more than bishops and clergy. We will, out of this process, end up as a more biblically and theologically literate local church. Of course I could wish for a quicker process – but that is to ask for a different church. In the meantime I am very grateful for what is on offer.

    Reply
    • Dear David and Sam

      In going down this route we have lost site of reality.

      To be a Christian we follow Jesus Christ, that is what the word CHRISTian means. When we follow instead the wishes and wants of secular society and change Christianity to merely conform with whatever secular society thinks / wants today then what we are actually doing is calling Jesus Christ and God mistaken (that’s the polite version) and destroying his Church.

      Noticeably in Ezra 9 it is the leaders of the “Church” who are most keen to transform Israelite society to make it merely match whatever society around them wants.

      In Matthew 22 / Mark 10 Jesus is asked a question about tax. Does Jesus tell anyone what tax is? NO – Jesus uses a coin to ask who’s head is on it and says “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God”. Does Jesus avoid saying tax has anything to do with money? No.

      In Matthew 19 Jesus is asked about divorce. Does Jesus tell anyone what divorce is? NO – Jesus tells everyone marriage is! Does Jesus avoid saying marriage and divorce are related? No.

      Does Jesus only speak about marriage of the time? NO – Jesus talks about ONE woman marrying ONE man and not the accepted versions of polygamy. The expectation of the time was that the man would stay in the Father’s tribe (actual patriarchy and not the modern shallow invention) and that the woman would simply be with the man in the new tribe – but Jesus does NOT say any of that. Jesus talks about the man and the woman forming a NEW household together.

      So Jesus does not answer with any substantive details of divorce and nor was his answer irrelevant today by being the marriage of the time when what Jesus tells us about is a new form of marriage for everyone.

      As Christians – we either follow Jesus Christ or we do not – or we are not Christians and follow secular society’s mores and wishes instead. I, for one, as a Christian am not prepared to speak or act as if Jesus was simply wrong regardless of bizarre accommodating leaders might want.

      Reply
  22. Quite right David, but we still have 2 irreconcilable positions. Either the church recognises and affirms same sex relationships or it doesn’t.

    One possible compromise (which I think is being hinted at by Andrew Godsall) is allowing individual congregations/priests to take their own decisions but this won’t work in an episcopal church unless special arrangements are made (along the lines of the PEV’s and +Maidstone), and in any event it is not clear that either side will accept this. The conservatives (or at least some of them) see this as a salvation issue (unlike women priests/bishops) and the liberals are saying that any advocacy of the traditional position is a safeguarding issue or even a hate crime. It’s time to start discussing a split.

    Reply
    • The conservatives (or at least some of them) see this as a salvation issue (unlike women priests/bishops) and the liberals are saying that any advocacy of the traditional position is a safeguarding issue or even a hate crime.

      Also, of course, you know that as soon as any churches are allowed to conduct same-sex weddings, same-sex couples will be asking to be wed in churches which do not agree, and, when they are refused, they will bring suit under the Equalities Act and the church will be, even if it wins the case (which can’t be guaranteed) embroiled in costly and morale-sapping litigation for quite possibly years.

      Just ask Ashers.

      Reply
      • Indeed S,
        This is not only an internal CoE matter. It relates to the whole of Christianity.
        It is nevertheless a recognition of how Christianity in England might be seen through the lens of the CoE and it is little wonder that the issue is focussed acutely on it as society, where it is bothered about the church at all today will almost to the exclusion of all else base opinions of it and Christians in general on what the CoE decided.
        For evidence of what concerns media and politians most about Christians just look at Sir Keir Starmer and the Keys House debacle.

        Reply
        • Just like the remarriages of divorcees.

          No, not at all like that. Remarriages of divorcés didn’t open the churches up to lawsuits under the Equality Act, for several reasons. Same-sex marriages would, and that opportunity would obviously be weaponised against non-same-sex-affirming churches in the same way it has been against cakemakers.

          Reply
          • Churches (rather unfortunately in my opinion) have exemptions from the EA.

            Limited exemptions, to do with who they can hire for certain roles, not to do with to whom they can provide services. As they are not hiring the couples they marry but (arguably) providing services for them, there would certainly be a case able to be brought under the Equality Act, and activists would certainly bring it.

            It may be the case that the church would win the case under an exemption; but mounting the defence would be costly in many more than financial ways, though even just the financial cost would be significant.

      • True though Ashers won their case, as they should have from the start. I really couldnt understand the initial court’s understanding of the equality laws. It makes one doubt some QCs’ and judges’ competence.

        And I would be surprised even if some individual churches were allowed to carry out same-sex marriages that other churches would be forced by law to do the same. If it went to the Supreme Court, hopefully those more competent judges would see through such legal nonsense.

        Reply
  23. Hi Sam. Discussing splitting before we have taken time to discuss and understand actual differences is surely an odd way round. The priority at this point is to fully participate in LLF – to seek to understand theology, faith and each other, better. Only then can decisions about ways forward to explored.

    Reply
  24. Hi Philip, In your reply (2.44pm, 10th April) to my comment of yesterday about inappropriate language in your previous post you invited me to specify what in particular I objected to. It was this:
    “The thought that just came into my mind would be to paint Welby as a kind of Roman emporer? As the complete bastard that he is.”
    I invite you to retract this statement, which can’t possibly be justified on a Christian blog.

    In your comment above (10.44am, 10th April) you now suggest that Christians have a duty to ‘hate’ the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is ridiculous, and I suggest that you think very carefully before publishing further defamatory material which could fall foul of UK laws on expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person’s religion (in particular the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006).
    David.

    Reply
    • Thank you David. Like you, I am astonished that Philip should make these remarks. I am equally astonished that they have been allowed to remain published.

      Reply
  25. Ah, yes. Understanding.
    Just looking at this article and the comments, for example David Shepherd citing O’Donovan, it is sufficiently clear, not withstanding denial and obfuscation, where the substantial, faith-defining, fault lines fall.
    Just because there isn’t agreement doesn’t mean that there is no or little understanding, rather that the disagreement is the result of sufficient understanding.
    Or for me to again refer to divorce, a much used phrase at the time I practised as a lawyer was that one couldn’t put a cracked, broken egg, back into it’s shell.
    The position needs to be faced up to, not procrastinated.

    Reply
  26. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I think the whole LLF process is flawed. It’s clearly been well run and seems very well put together, thoughtful, prayerful and sensitive. Its aim is perfectly fair and reasonable, and it seems to have achieved that aim.

    So why am I pessimistic about it? After reflecting on Andrew’s article for a couple of days, I’ve concluded that there are two main reasons:

    (1) Like virtually every other attempt to address these issues, it doesn’t give an adequate account of why the current doctrine is what it is. I don’t mean simply stating it or asserting it. I mean setting out the rationale for it. The very act of setting out differing views so scrupulously without an explicit apologetic of the current doctrine actually undermines the doctrine. Therefore the type of reaction that Andrew engages with here is inevitable and actually quite reasonable.

    (2) One of the root causes of the kind of negative reaction critiqued here is Church of England’s failure to defend its own doctrine and discipline consistently. For example there are serving ordained clergy in active same sex unions; and at least one Diocesan Bishop has been (and very possibly still is) chair of his local Pride committee. Frankly many people who hold to the Church’s existing doctrine simply don’t believe that even such a carefully crafted resource as LLF is anything more than window dressing at most.

    The truth is that LLF is a very well crafted stable door that has been shut well after the horse has bolted. I’m not normally a pessimist, but I simply can’t see this having the desired outcome. ☹

    Reply
    • It is also flawed because we are asked to see listening as so key. Now, listening is indeed key – one should carefully listen to whatever is said. But each of us will sometimes be either (a) ill-informed, (b) illogical in the things we say. (c) Some will sometimes be dishonest too. If one is trained to discount these possibilities then that is setting things up for trouble.

      Reply
    • ‘Like virtually every other attempt to address these issues, it doesn’t give an adequate account of why the current doctrine is what it is. I don’t mean simply stating it or asserting it. I mean setting out the rationale for it.’

      Like many people, I was hoping to see a clearer expression of confidence precisely in this ‘why’…

      Reply
      • This is a major problem. The CoE (and other mainline denominations having similar debates) seems to be saying in the way this process has been developed that the debate is effectively starting with a blank canvass. It isn’t, but by giving this impression it sadly fosters mistrust. If you don’t start at the correct starting place, even the best of directions will be useless.

        Reply
    • “One of the root causes of the kind of negative reaction critiqued here is Church of England’s failure to defend its own doctrine and discipline consistently.”

      In this regard, the greatest failing is that the Church hierarchy have resorted to short-hand formulas that beg the question by merely re-stating Lord Penzance’s formula (“Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”) or do not emphasise public reason as the basis for marriage being “geared towards the possibility of parenthood.”

      In my recently published article for Fulcrom Anglican, I addressed the public reason behind marriage in detail: https://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/reflections-on-the-public-purpose-of-marriage/

      Ultimately, dispensing with the opposite-sex requirement for marriage is a Trojan horse that can and has undermined the primacy of the child’s “inalienable right to retain his true and genuine personal, legal and family identity” (in accordance with the original wording of the U.N. declaration of the child’s right to its identity).

      Reply
    • “One of the root causes of the kind of negative reaction critiqued here is Church of England’s failure to defend its own doctrine and discipline consistently.”

      In this regard, the greatest failing is that the Church hierarchy have resorted to short-hand formulas that beg the question by merely re-stating Lord Penzance’s formula (“Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”) or do not emphasise public reason as the basis for marriage being “geared towards the possibility of parenthood.”

      In my recently published article for Fulcrum Anglican, I addressed the public reason behind marriage in detail.

      Ultimately, dispensing with the opposite-sex requirement for marriage is a Trojan horse that can and has undermined the primacy of the child’s “inalienable right to retain his true and genuine personal, legal and family identity” (in accordance with the original wording of the U.N. declaration of the child’s right to its identity).

      Reply
  27. This post takes as a true ‘given’ the statement in Andrew’s article
    “LLF was not designed to adjudicate between opposing views but to set them out……………………”
    I note that on page 62/63 of his detailed critique Martin Davie asks the question “Does it (LLF) reflect a true understanding of the nature of
    fallen human beings?” It is a pity that in the rest of his critique Martin focusses primarily on “What is LLF’s vision of the church, and the church’s
    mission in the world?” rather than on this question of the effect of the Fall. Because in my view LLF does not “reflect a true understanding of the nature of
    fallen human beings”. My view is that same-sex attraction is sinful and like all sinful inclinations (we all have some of one kind or another and all Christians are commanded to mortify and refuse to obey the sinful inclinations we have) is a result of the Fall and Original Sin. I may have missed it in my reading of the LLF book (if so please correct me) but I don’t remember seeing this view set out in the LLF book.

    Am I completely on my own in holding this view? Well, not completely alone. In 12 Statements on Human Sexuality (thegospelcoalition.org) there is this statement:
    “4. Desire
    We affirm not only that our inclination toward sin is a result of the Fall, but that our fallen desires are in themselves sinful (Rom 6:11-12; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11).
    The desire for an illicit end—whether in sexual desire for a person of the same sex or in sexual desire disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage—is itself an illicit desire. Therefore, the experience of same-sex attraction is not morally neutral; the attraction is an expression of original or indwelling sin that must be repented of and put to death (Rom. 8:13).
    Nevertheless, we must celebrate that, despite the continuing presence of sinful desires (and even, at times, egregious sinful behavior), repentant, justified, and adopted believers are free from condemnation through the imputed righteousness of Christ (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21) and are able to please God by walking in the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-6).
    5. Concupiscence
    We affirm that impure thoughts and desires arising in us prior to and apart from a conscious act of the will are still sin.
    We reject the Roman Catholic understanding of concupiscence whereby disordered desires that afflict us due to the Fall do not become sin without a consenting act of the will. These desires within us are not mere weaknesses or inclinations to sin but are themselves idolatrous and sinful.
    Nevertheless, we recognize that many persons who experience same-sex attraction describe their desires as arising in them unbidden and unwanted.
    We also recognize that the presence of same-sex attraction is often owing to many factors, which always include our own sin nature and may include being sinned against in the past. As with any sinful pattern or propensity—which may include disordered desires, extramarital lust, pornographic addictions, and all abusive sexual behavior—the actions of others, though never finally determinative, can be significant and influential. This should move us to compassion and understanding. Moreover, it is true for all of us that sin can be both unchosen bondage and idolatrous rebellion at the same time. We all experience sin, at times, as a kind of voluntary servitude (Rom. 7:13-20).”

    What do Ian Paul and Andrew Donovan think about this view? What does CEEC think? I seem to remember that Ian told us somewhere that he had a private debate with Lee Gatiss (Church Society Director) about concupiscence which ended in strong disagreement. Surely those evangelicals who are taking LLF seriously need to make clear to us all where they stand on this issue. Don’t they?

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • I think I prefer the view of Scripture, in which ‘temptation’ and ‘sin’ are distinct. I think the RC church has this one correct rather than the Calvinist Gospel Coalition.

      Reply
      • Ian
        Yes, I realise that is your view. I have asked you before where you stand on the last phrase of Article 9 “…yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin” which, in the opinion of some (see Griffith Thomas on Article 9 page 173) “is clearly against the Council of Trent on this point”. But, setting that disagreement aside, where do you stand on the general question: “is what St. Paul calls ‘the lust of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:16-17) a result of the Fall” and on the specific question: “is the same same-sex attraction that some are born with such a lust of the flesh resulting from the Fall”?

        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • Who says one is ‘born with’ same-sex attraction? Although many gay people want to believe that, it has certainly not be established. So not sure why you are giving it theological significance.

          Peter

          Reply
          • The idea that babies have sexual attraction of any kind is sick, and if/since that is the case, it would follow that it is promulgated by the sick. But am I missing something?

          • Peter
            By ‘same-sex attraction that some are born with’ I mean those people who say that the only sexual attraction they have ever experienced is a sexual attraction to the same sex as they are.

            Phil Almond

          • The question of whether people are born gay is a bit of distraction. It is quite possible that an inclination to homosexuality develops at an early stage, even before there is an awareness of any kind of attraction. Some people would use this as a defence of homosexuality. It supposedly shows that being gay is “natural”. Another argument that I have heard is that homosexual behaviour occurs in the rest of the animal kingdom, which also supposedly means that it is natural.

            But this doesn’t follow. Bonobos engage in paedophilia, but I hope that no one would try to use that as a justification – although you never know in today’s climate. If we accept that the world is fallen then we must also accept that sinful behaviour may well appear to be “natural” in some sense. In other words, sinful behaviour may be the result of innate tendencies and there may be analogies between human sin and activities in the animal world. But let’s not forget that it *is* sin.

  28. One thing that I think is a pity, is the lack of focus on the celibate gay Christians, who are surely the most marginalised of the homosexuals and to whom the church owes the most help. The need to support them seems to me like it should be the aware we could best agree, rather than trying to agree on the Bible being ambiguous or silent on this front, when this whole debate has shown that it really isn’t.

    One crucial thing about the affirmers is – and this is very clear when you look at their definitions of ‘conversion therapy’ – the support is for same-sex promiscuity, which really simply isn’t Christianity at that point. If you object to a man asking another man to pray to protect him from – I dunno – gay porn then you’re no longer litter Christs or a church anymore (You might still believe some of the right things or have the right hopes, but people coming together to help each other live as Christ did is Christianity.)

    If we can’t all agree on the statement ‘a man shouldn’t have sexual relations with two men’ (and it seems that we can’t), then we’re never going to get any sort of clarity discussing whether a man should have sexual relations with one man.

    Reply
    • You are quite right about the ‘affirmers’ (these intransitives are highly mischievous). They are not on the same page as Christianity nor even in the same book.

      Reply
      • So David Runcorn is not a Christian?
        Andrew Godsall is not a Christian?
        Bishop Paul Bayes is not a Christian?
        Jonathan Tallon is not a Christian?
        Jeremy Pemberton is not a Christian?
        Rowan Williams is not a Christian?
        Mike Higton is not a Christian?
        Savi Hensman is not a Christian?
        Sarah Coakley is not a Christian?

        Reply
      • ‘Affirmers’ being an utterly meaningless term (when it is without an object) would not be, or certainly ought not to be, used by anyone of intelligence – and has been suspected of being a mischievous term like ‘progressive’ designed to demonise everyone else, despite being vague to the nth degree.

        Since it is so meaningless a term, I am quite incapable of using it or understanding it. I may therefore have misunderstood it, always supposing there is something to understand in the first place.

        What is it that ‘affirmers’ affirm? After all, they can hardly affirm everything, including everything’s opposite. But their name suggests that they do, which produces confusion. (As mentioned in What Are They Teaching The Children?)

        Reply
          • How can I confirm or deny when ‘affirming people’ is such a very dishonest and unclear (intrinsically meaningless) term. I have first to understand what it means. Surely you can see that?

          • Yes. I do not understand the word ‘affirmer’ nor can anyone understand it since one cannot affirm without an object. What is one affirming? Everything?? Things which are deliberately left unstated and smuggled in Trojan-horse-like? The word is meaningless and probably weasel.

            So I resorted to speaking of the group of people whom I thought you meant – namely, those who adjust that which Christians affirm in the direction what the modern west affirms (since it is an uncontroversial truth that most will be affected by the culture they inhabit) since I have noticed that once they set upon that route they tend to end up going a long way down it and ending up much closer to the world than to the church. Regnerus’s large scale studies tend to confirm this point.

    • Kyle. `marginalising celibate gay Christians’ … ‘support for same-sex promiscuity … ‘ This is a complete distortion of the Christian, biblically-centred affirming position I and others hold. You may not agree with it but please don’t crudely misrepresent it.

      Reply
      • I never said `marginalising celibate gay Christians’, so please don’t brazenly misquote me.

        Affirmers want to criminalise praying with someone who is tempted by same-sex promiscuity, it seems to me that ‘support’ is a very moderate understatement.

        Reply
        • Kyle. A typo. I should not have put it in quote marks. But you wrote of ‘celibate gay Christians, who are surely the most marginalised’. I hardly think I have distorted your meaning. But in your second paragraph you continue to crudely distort the affirming position as supporting promiscuity. I don’t. And all my gay Christian friends seek the same loving faithful chaste commitment in relationship that I do in my marriage. None support promiscuity in any form.
          But this is a discussion about LLF. Where do you find any of what you claim to be affirming views and behaviour expressed in LLF?

          Reply
          • You overstate the influence of affirmers, if you think that I could be blaming them for the marginalisation of the celibate gay Christian. Can you confirm that you do indeed disagree that theirs is the most marginalised gay voice? I find that legitimately baffling.

            This is about whether LLF is a failure. When it was released, I had hoped the stories of the celibate Christians would be a point of common ground (and if the typical lines about ‘being pastoral’, ‘loving’ and similar were true, then it would have been), but it clearly wasn’t. As shown by the loose and condemning language of the leading affirmer on ‘conversion therapy’.

            Can you clarify the ages of your gay Christian friends? If they’re very old, their hormones settled down then they won’t need the same prayers . Prayers that at least one leading affirmer does not want them to have. Can you clarify whether you would pray for a young gay man who wants to avoid the pressures of the world and remain celibate (and I don’t mean a passive-aggressive prayer)? Maybe you ought to try making a gay friend who believes in celibacy. The fact that you are still just putting forwards your friends, rather than thinking of those struggling is one way in which LLF has failed.

          • David,

            I don’t think that there is a monolithic biblically-centred affirming position‘.

            So, while you and some others may well reject sexual promiscuity, there are others, like Susannah Cornwall, describe permanent, stable faithful same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals and “hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do”

            https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/un-familiar-theology-reconceiving-sex-reproduction-and-generativity/ch1-introducing-un-familiar-theology

          • David (Runcorn),

            You originally took issue with Kyle Johansen’s statement: “One crucial thing about the affirmers is – and this is very clear when you look at their definitions of ‘conversion therapy’ – the support is for same-sex promiscuity.”

            The scope of proposals to ban on conversion therapy (as advocated strenuously by influential LGBT pressure groups, such as the Ozanne Foundation) even includes banning prayer in relation to any unwanted sexual attraction.

            That, alongside the other evidence that I’ve provided here in comments further up) would logically imply support for same-sex promiscuity; even if the more palatable euphemism is sexual choice or sexual autonomy.

            Dale Martin is just considerably more overt about his support for this.

            That may well be at odds with your own position and other affirmers that you know, but you can only assert that Kyle Johansen’s statement is a distortion by ignoring his careful qualification relation to affirmers’ definitions of conversion therapy.

        • This is utter tosh and offensive tosh too.
          I don’t know any Christian who supports promiscuity or a person having sex with two other people.
          Disagree with affirming theologies by all means, but don’t caricature them nor misrepresent what affirming Christians mean by conversion therapy.
          You are doing a great disservice to your ‘side’ by these attitudes and responses.

          Reply
          • Yes, but is two people sequentially or simultaneously meant? I was taking it as sequentially.

            Liberalism is almost the same as cultural conformity much of the time. A large noise is made about BLM when that is the flavour of the day. Not at other times. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Same goes for SSM which neither Obama nor Hillary supported even in 2012.

            Cultural conformity means that sexual mores are a matter of choice and sex is to some extent a matter of recreation (as opposed to marital play). That is light years from the Christian position. But the extent to which liberals are sold out to the culture and its every shift, and apparently scared witless of being in a minority, can be seen point by point. It is a ‘stance’ that would be laughed out of court in any evidence-based or university context.

          • Penny, are you serious? You really need to get out more! Have you not read Dale Martin’s ‘A Gay Male Christian Sexual Ethic’? I think you should

            Sex is an appetite like hunger, and just as we need a variety of food, we need a variety of sex. A Christian ethic is to have sex in a way appropriate to the relationship, whether that is committed, monogamous, casual, or multiple.

            https://www.clgs.org/multimedia-archive/inaugural-boswell-lecture-2008-a-gay-male-christian-sexual-ethic/

          • “I don’t know any Christian who supports promiscuity or a person having sex with two other people.”

            May I suggest you watch this video about one of TikTok’s most popular Reverends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkNKW7Dj0l4 In it the popular liberal Reverend says that polyamorous relationships are holy. Also, in the past year the Bishops of the Church of Wales released a statement about how scripture finds concubines acceptable.

            Let’s look at this middle of the road article: https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/i-do-not-want-to-see-clergy-and-church-members-criminalised-boris-johnson-offers-assurances-over-conversation-therapy-ban

            “Some LGBT campaigners have called for total ban of any practice which seeks to change or surpress someone’s sexual or gender identity. That would have included prayer and pastoral support.”

            And I haven’t seen you, or David or David say ‘Oh hang on, that goes a bit too far.’

            Indeed, I have looked and I can’t find anything from affirmers that would suggest that prayer is OK in their eyes. It mostly looks like trying to benefit from the ambiguity of the term. If you can show me an article that I’ve missed, then I would be grateful and would acknowledge my error.

          • OK Ian, I now know one Christian – Dale Martin.
            I would hardly call these views representative of affirming Christians generally. Would you?

          • David
            You, and others, misunderstood Cornwall’s argument, as, I think, Andrew Godsall pointed out.
            You are creating a straw man.

          • Christopher

            I hope people continue to make a very big noise about Black Lives Matter. Until black men are not shot and killed for minor traffic offences.
            I hope people will campaign for same-sex marriage in church. That it wasn’t supported by Obama or Clinton is completely irrelevant.

          • Penny,

            It’s hardly credible for you to assert merely that I’m creating a straw man out of Cornwall’s argument and, in support of that position, to citing none other than a revisionist.

            In fact, in response to my comment about the former LGCM.’s euphemistic endorsement of casual sex (“ we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace.’), you yourself wrote:
            “ there are no doubt people in the affirming groups who would agree with that, just as others will disagree and hold a more ‘traditional’ sexual ethic.”

            That’s exactly my point here in response to David Runcorn’s comment: to Kyle Johansen: “support for same-sex promiscuity … ‘ This is a complete distortion of the Christian, biblically-centred affirming position I and others hold. You may not agree with it but please don’t crudely misrepresent it.”

            There is no monolithic affirming position (however biblically-centred the adherents claim to be) that rejects sexual promiscuity and every euphemism for it.

            Also, those who agree with influential LGBT advocates, like Professor John D’Emilio, in rejecting marriage and native family kinship as outmoded curbs on sexual autonomy, are not insignificant minorities among affirmers.

          • Penny,

            It’s hardly credible for you to assert merely that I’m creating a straw man out of Cornwall’s argument and, in support of that position, to citing none other than a revisionist.

            In fact, in response to my comment about the former LGCM.’s euphemistic endorsement of casual sex (“ we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace.’), you yourself wrote:
            “ there are no doubt people in the affirming groups who would agree with that, just as others will disagree and hold a more ‘traditional’ sexual ethic.”

            That’s exactly my point here in response to David Runcorn’s comment: to Kyle Johansen: “support for same-sex promiscuity … ‘ This is a complete distortion of the Christian, biblically-centred affirming position I and others hold. You may not agree with it but please don’t crudely misrepresent it.”

          • Ian. I try to make it a rule to always engage with the best of my opponents arguments not their worst. So I would never do a ‘Dale Martin’ on you. There are extreme offerings to be found on all sides of this debate. His views have played no part in any serious theological/ethical discussions I have ever been involved with, nor in the LLF process itself, to my knowledge. That itself is surely suggestive. If you believe otherwise you will need to supply some evidence. To simply introduce him here as if he is in the room with affirming folk like me is a distraction, a distortion and – to my distress – could feel like an attempt to taint by association.

          • I don’t know any Christian who supports promiscuity

            You yourself claim to be a Christian and are on record as supporting one-night stands, which are promiscuity.

          • Define, though. At what level does something become ‘promiscuity’? It is no good making statements about something that has not been defined in the first place. Christians believe in chastity outside and inside marriage – hence, do not believe in fornication or adultery or serial marriage when the spouse still lives.

          • Hi there David and Penny

            David, I didn’t introduce Dale Martin in order to propose ‘taint by association’. It was primarily in response to Penny’s comment ‘I don’t know any Christian who advocates promiscuity’. Clearly there are some, and others have pointed to others who are vocal in the debate and do press this position.

            I don’t think ‘taint by association’ works, not least because I agree with a couple of others who have commented that there is no, one ‘affirming’ position. (I think there are also a range of views in the ‘traditional’ position, which is why I tend to avoid that label, or only ever put it in inverted commas.) Yes, I am interested in engaging with people’s specific positions, not merely what anyone might be ‘associated’ with.

            For me, this raises an important question: if we understand relationships to be primarily about qualities, rather than form (eg ‘permanent, faithful, stable’), then what is special about ‘two-ness’ since that is an element of form, not quality. Why should polyamorous relationships that are permanent, faithful, and stable not sit within a Christian ethic?

            You might have answered that elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve spotted it.

          • “I don’t know any Christian who supports promiscuity

            You yourself claim to be a Christian and are on record as supporting one-night stands, which are promiscuity.”

            S, can you substantiate that please?

          • I am highly supportive of people who suffer disproportionate harm upon arrest, I expect we all naturally are, albeit I would not like to be in the shoes of any arresting officer. I would also love to see more acknowledgement of the multiple black-on-black killings since if black lives matter those are often not given due weight and seem to ‘Matter’ less. Not to me.

          • “I don’t know any Christian who supports promiscuity or a person having sex with two other people.”

            Christian gay men have very different conversations between themselves than with women in the congregation or ‘out loud’ in a Christian setting.

  29. Taint by association.
    That frequently happens when terms a scattered about indiscriminately and even targeted such as conservative+evangelical+doctrine = sexual abuse.
    Could it be suggested that the CoE check out this for accuracy and if correct formally denounce and disassociate with all signatory organisations.
    It is barely credibly that those who seek to criminalise prayer for seeking, consenting adults zealously prosecute the cause of gender change in children. And how about those who have deep regret and are looking to detransition?
    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/is.paedophilia.a.real.danger/136651.htm

    Reply
  30. Not so long ago homosexuality wasn’t really talked about. Those who engaged in it kept quiet about their activities. That was far better than the present situation. We know that sin can’t be stopped but it is something if sinners at least have the decency to keep it under wraps. That is why gay marriage is such an outrage. Sexual relations between a man and woman can be sinful or not, depending on the context, but that can never be the case with homosexuals. Gays cannot be brought “into the fold”.

    Reply
    • Id appreciate if you would not use the word ‘gays’ when describing people. I am gay but celibate. Am I not ‘in the fold’?

      As for how things used to be, I think that was worse. You only have to look at the treatment of Alan Turing to see that.

      Peter

      Reply
      • Peter, another point is that a little hypocrisy is not always a bad thing. Consider a gay church-going man who unlike you is not able to remain completely celibate. By that, I mean that he has occasional lapses, not that he is constantly active. It is probably better if he keeps quiet about this. The man’s lapses are between him and God, and the congregation don’t need to know. It isn’t an ideal situation but I can’t see that there is better alternative. Trying to “normalise” the situation through gay marriage is not a viable option, and I think you agree.

        Reply
        • David

          Ok, though I dont think it’s hypocrisy for anyone, gay or straight, to go to a church after sinning! But yes it would be unwise if he/she confessed any sin to all and sundry, as that would be required of all, not just gay people nor just sexual sin.

          Peter

          Reply
          • Peter

            My gay people are already in the fold remark was addressed to David M (who seems to think he sits on God’s right hand!).

    • Gay people are already in the fold.
      Fortunately, it isn’t up to you to decide who is in the fold and you sin by judging who can and assuming Christ’s prerogative.

      Reply
      • Peter, what I meant about being in the fold was that gay marriage is supposedly a way of allowing homosexuals to have relationships without sinning. But that in my opinion is simply not an option. On the other hand, homosexuals who try their best to remain celibate (even if they lapse occasionally) are certainly in the fold.

        Penelope, given what you have said in other comments, it is clear to me that you simply have no conception of what sin is.

        Reply
        • Oh, David, I know very well what sin is.
          Sin is not consensual and faithful sexual intimacy between two married partners.

          Sin is greed, lying, corruption, violence, inequality, faithlessness, abuse, stealing, murder, misuse of power and privilege, prejudice……

          I see plenty of sin corrupting our beautiful world.
          However, I see marriage redeemed by the many loving and loyal same-sex couples I know.

          Reply
          • Sin is greed, lying, corruption, violence, inequality, faithlessness, abuse, stealing, murder, misuse of power and privilege, prejudice……

            … and sexual activity which is not in accordance with God’s plan.

          • Sin is not consensual and faithful sexual intimacy between two married partners.

            Which, again, is begging the question, which is: can two people of the same sex ever be married to each other?

          • Yes. They can in the eyes of the law. They are in the sight of a God.

            No. They are not.

            See? I can make baseless assertions just like you can.

          • Yep,
            Johnson, Trump and Prince Philip all guilty.

            You have proof of that, I suppose?

            Because otherwise that’s slander, which is… let me check… oh yes, it’s a sin.

          • Well, S, at least one of your assertions is entirely baseless.
            Same-sex couples are married in the eyes of the law.

          • Of course there’s proof.

            Perhaps you could point to it, then?

            at least one of your assertions is entirely baseless.
            Same-sex couples are married in the eyes of the law

            The law is not morally relevant. Many immoral things are legal.

      • Was that comment addressed to me or David Madison. I didnt say anything about who is or isnt in the fold. In fact I think there will ultimately be quite a few surprises…

        Peter

        Reply
  31. Kyle, David S, Ian and Christopher

    So, I now know of two Christians (neither Anglican) who support polyamory. What does this prove?
    I also know of a number of ultra conservative Christians – both Catholic and Evangelical – whose opinions and beliefs are heterodox and toxic. They can easily be found on Twitter and YouTube. I do not assume that their views are representive of those conservative evangelicals and moderate evangelicals in the conversations here.
    I do also realise that there is a spectrum of views in the affirming camp, as there is in the excluding camp. But none of the inclusive voices here would, I believe, support polyamory or promiscuity (and S’s frequent references to my supposed unnuanced support for one-night stands just make him look rather foolish).
    Likewise, it is rather silly to dismiss Andrew Godsall’s point about Cornwall’s argument because Andrew is, himself, affirming. Have you seen him support polyamory on this blog?
    I, myself, have written elsewhere that the campaign for equal marriage – in both the secular and the religious context – is a conservative and assimilationist move. No one could have predicted this from the gay ‘community’ 50 years ago, and some gay people still resist the embracing of patriarchal and heteronormative forms. I have some sympathy with this view, but that does not mean that I do not support same-sex marriage.
    Yes I do think prayer in the context of praying to remove or ameliorate same-sex attraction is potentially harmful and abusive. I have just read an article online (Premier about the PM not proposing to ban prayer as part of the proposed conversion therapy ban) which illustrates (without meaning to) the dangers. Power will, almost always, be at play here and the asymmetrical situation with an older pastor/leader and a vulnerable younger person can result in spiritual and/or mental abuse. It is naive to ignore the fact that prayer can be deeply manipulative and offensive.
    Christopher appears to believe that sequential monogamy is promiscuity. I do not agree. Do others?
    Ian – to be honest I feel that permanent, faithful polyamory could sit within a Christian ethic. My objection would be, I think, that polyamorous relationships are very unlikely to be permanent and stable and that this could cause great harm, both to the partners and to their families. It also strikes me that the models of polyamory have always been asymmetrical. But then, some ‘biblical marriage’, so was any western marriage until very recently. One would have to return to the model of a couple as a creation ordinance, affirmed by Jesus (but then I also have a problem with the concept of marriage as a creation ordinance).

    Reply
    • frequent references to my supposed unnuanced support for one-night stands just make him look rather foolish

      I’ve never referred to your ‘unnuanced support for one-night stands’ — your admitted nuanced support is quite bad enough.

      none of the inclusive voices here would, I believe, support polyamory or promiscuity

      to be honest I feel that permanent, faithful polyamory could sit within a Christian ethic.

      Took you nearly the whole length of the comment to contradict yourself that time.

      Reply
    • When did I say that serial monogamy was promiscuity??

      (1) Serial means 2+ whereas promiscuity usually means many.
      (2) Both compromise the Christian ethic in a similar manner: the marriage bond and/or virginity is broken by one in the same way that it is broken by many. But only when the serial monogamy is not for example after spouse’s death.
      (3) By setting yourself against promiscuity (many) you are ignoring the fact that that is not the same place that Christianity draws the line. Christianity says ‘one’ not ‘not many’. Much of modern society says ‘not many’, and others say ‘many’. Which is probably why the Bible – unlike discussions like these – never says ‘Do not be promiscuous’ since that would imply that 2-3 sexual partners are absolutely fine!

      Reply
    • Is there not a contradiction in what you have said?

      In a post above you said “Sin is not consensual and faithful sexual intimacy between two married partners.”

      But then you seem to endorse polyamory as possibly legitimate and therefore not sinful.

      Peter

      Reply
  32. Addendum I see Kyle cited, with a link (thank you), the Premier article I just referred to.
    Kyle thinks it is middle of the road.
    I think it is problematic. I find the prayer at the end rather worrying.

    Reply
  33. If it is the prayer at the end of the article, beginning Father –
    please specify what you find worrying about it.? Especially as it is a general prayer not addressed to a specific person. Maybe, it is the orthodox Triune God you object to, from the Prayer Jesus taught us.
    And you who advocates queer theory, and the tired, discredited, Neitche’s will to power and slippery power, word play and postmodern denounced Foucault ; who does not find polyarmoury outwith Christianity who does not seek to establish what you find foolish about S’s reference to your one night stand stance, and sees nothing suggestive in your recent Twitter handle that you would find beyond the pale if the tables were turned and there were a similar suggestive handle from a male to female address, in influential Christian or even secular circles, such as teaching.
    When you are in a hole, stop digging is usually seen as good advice. It doesn’t do the cause of LLF any favours.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      As I suspected, although you didn’t have the courtesy to reply to my question about my Twitter bio, you did not recognise that it was a quotation from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. ‘Make love to’ means, of course, to woo, not to have sex with. So, it is not in the least suggestive. Unless you have a dirty mind.
      If you have dug yourself into a hole because you didn’t recognise the quotation, I’d put the spade down if I were you.
      Please cite where I support polyamory and Neitzsche. Please cite where I have supported or criticised LLF.
      I have often written about why I find S’s reference to my comment on one-night stands foolish. He ignores or glosses over the very particular context.
      Yes, I am a theologian who works, often, with Queer Theory and Queer theology. I find it a life-giving corrective to the white cisheteronormative theologies and hermeneutics which have colonised biblical studies and the Christian tradition. It is also a corrective to the late capitalist models of productivity which have infested the church.

      Reply
      • Oh yes Penelope,
        1 how many ordinary people do you think recognise an obsure quotation from Mansfield Park. Or your interpretation of it?On the face of it what ordinary perception is given. It has nothing to do with dirty mind. And it seemed that you had to have the help of Mat to help you with the answer, which wasn’t forthcoming. Your twitter handle also configured with your stance on one night stands.as S referred to. Answer the question- if the tables were turned?
        2 you know where the term, will to power came from that you used in a comment above?
        I’m afraid your inersectionalism has come unstuck. As you will to power with use of an unknown, inner sanctum gender language. What has capitalisim got to do with any of this. It is achingly patronising to me with a coal – mining grandad and totally irrelevant to LLF unless the authors are overwhelming beneficaries of public school and Russell group universities! Keep digging!
        BTW I suppose you have seen the linked Christian Today article.

        Reply
        • Geoff

          The answer wasn’t forthcoming because you failed to ask the question. Mat recognised the quotation (I don’t know if he is ordinary or extraordinary). I chose the quotation because my handle used to be Mary Crawford and, yes, many of my followers have read Mansfield Park.
          As I have explained making love to meant wooing and there is therefore no connection at all between this quote and one-night stands.
          I did not use the phrase ‘will to power’ in my comment above.
          Queer theory can seem somewhat obscure and abstruse at first. As can legal language. Reading and training help, as with most disciplines. Even for those of us who had grandfathers who worked in coal mines.
          One of the aims of my research is to queer projects (such as church reports) which aren’t accessible to people who don’t have an academic background. Indeed most of Ian’s blog and the resulting comments require a high degree of literacy and arcane knowledge.

          Reply
          • Such overblown pomposity, redolent of avoidance issues.
            Avoidance in your highly selective answers, not recognising the arcane practice of logic and consistency and clear language in pleadings; legal method in setting out a case: any points unanswered are deemed to be conceded. And matters of corroborative evidence, such as stance on one night stands + Twitter handle, leading to a consideration of inverted roles for male and female would see a male hounded out of office for similar conjoined points of view.
            Thankfully I inhabit a different world and world view and worship a different God from yours.
            Bye, Penelope.

          • Queer theory can seem somewhat obscure and abstruse at first. As can legal language.

            The difference of course is that legal language is difficult to understand only because it has to express what is meant precisely, with no room for ambiguity.

            Whereas queer theory is explicitly meant to obscure, to muddy the waters, to blur distinctions, to question what was precise and to make what was clear incomprehensible.

          • Blimey, Geoff, most of the texts i read on queer studies are far more pelucid than your replies.

          • S

            There is no question of ‘my’ interpretation.
            It is a female character (a very flawed one) asking who has been cast to appear as her lover in the amateur theatricals at Mansfield Park. She get the lover she wanted in the play, but not in ‘real life’.
            Mat got the reference without reading any smut into it. I don’t like smuttiness. And I don’t care for people who are smutty.

        • how many ordinary people do you think recognise an obsure quotation from Mansfield Park. Or your interpretation of it?

          More to the point, it’s clearly being used precisely for its modern double meaning. I can’t stand people who deliberately do things to shock and then, when people are shocked, act all innocent as if that wasn’t exactly the reaction they were looking for.

          Reply
        • ‘Could’ S. And thn read the rest of my ‘thinking aloud’ reply to Ian. Context and nuance see?
          Well, you won’t see. But that’s your problem not mine.

          Reply
          • And thn read the rest of my ‘thinking aloud’ reply to Ian.

            I’ve read it. I can’t see any other way to parse it than that you don’t think that there’s anything in principle wrong with polyamory, provided it could also meet the tests of being permanent, faithful and stable.

            Perhaps I have missed something. Could you explain why it is not the correct reading that you don’t think there is anything in principle wrong with polyamory per se?

          • S

            No, I couldn’t. If you can’t understand I’m not prepared to help you.
            I think we’ve derailed this thread about LLF quite enough.

          • No, I couldn’t. If you can’t understand I’m not prepared to help you.

            No, you couldn’t because there is only one possible interpretation of what you wrote: that you have no problem in principle with polyamerous relationships, provided they are permanent, faithful and stable. You have doubts that they in could practice be permanent, faithful, and stable, so you would not recommend them on those grounds; but your reservations are only practical, you do not think that polyamerous relationships are wrong in themselves.

            That is what you wrote, in all its context and naunce, isn’t it?

        • S, I agree with you. It very much looks as if Penelope has no objection in principle to polyamory. There may be practical difficulties but, presumably, they need not be insuperable. There is also the question of just how much “licence” Penelope would allow in sexual matters. After all, one could get through quite a lot partners in a lifetime without ever cheating on any of them.

          I have debated quite a few atheists who hold Penelope’s views, but not too many Christians.

          Reply
          • David and S

            I said that I wouldn’t reply, but since you are both misrepresenting so egregiously my reply to Ian, I feel I must.
            I wrote that polyamory ‘could’ exist in a Christian ethic. Not that it does. My reasons for thinking this wouldn’t be possible would be the near impossibility of being faithful and stable (though a Victorian Archbishop managed it!), the creation covenant of coupledom (although I find marriage as a creation ordinance somewhat problematic, and the asymmetry of such relationships.
            None of this is outwith orthodox Christian theological reflection and practice.
            You can hold up your theological skirts and pretend that it’s shocking. It really isn’t.
            I suggest you both grow up and read some serious theology.

          • The creation covenant is not coupledom any more nor less than it is man-woman. Can you cite your evidence that the number is more important than the gender?

            So the Biblical writers were just immature and needed to grow up and learn from our age that has such an outstanding record in family matters?

          • I wrote that polyamory ‘could’ exist in a Christian ethic. Not that it does. My reasons for thinking this wouldn’t be possible would be the near impossibility of being faithful and stable (though a Victorian Archbishop managed it!), the creation covenant of coupledom (although I find marriage as a creation ordinance somewhat problematic, and the asymmetry of such relationships.

            Again, though, that reads to me that you don’t think that polyamorous relationships are, inherently, by their very nature, wrong. It looks to me like you think that a polyamorous relationship that was permanent, faithful, stable, and symmetric, could be perfectly fine?

            Is that not what you are saying?

            Or would you like to confirm that you do, in fact, think that polyamorous relationships are, inherently and by their very nature, wrong, and would be wrong even if they were permanent, faithful and stable, and symmetric?

          • Why are polyamorous relationships wrong? The objection that you considered was the “near impossibility of being faithful and stable”. Well, that’s one way of putting it. However, if everyone agrees to sleep with everyone else then it is difficult to see how the question of not “being faithful” would arise. If my girlfriend had agreed that I could sleep with four other women, would she really be devastated to discover that I had been sleeping with a fifth?

            The whole thing is a nonsense, of course. A lot of people would like to sleep with more than one partner at a time. But they are usually unhappy when someone with whom they are in a relationship does the same thing. That is human nature. So a lack of “stability” in polyamorous arrangements is virtually guaranteed.

            Only those who are completely in thrall to modern sexual liberalism would even consider ways in which polyamory might work – even if they end up rejecting it.

          • My thoughts exactly David. Which you would have gathered if you had read my reply to Ian attentively.
            We are still awaiting S’s answer.

          • since you love questions: why are polyamorous relationships inherently wrong?

            Because the only correct context for sexual activity is within marriage, as instituted by God: one man and one woman. Polyamorous relationships do not fit that model so are wrong.

            Now you answer the simple question: do you think polyamorous relationships are inherently wrong, or don’t you?

          • I have answered above in my reply to David M.

            No you haven’t. That reply does not say whether you think that polyamorous relationships are inherently wrong by their very nature, or only because of the possible practical outworkings of them with regards to faithfulness, stability, etc.

            So could you answer the question: do you think polyamorous relationships are inherently wrong, or don’t you?

          • For the second time. I agree with David M.

            So you’re going to refuse to answer the question. That means we get to draw our own conclusions from the fact that from what you’ve written it seems clear that you do not think there is anything inherently wrong with polyamorous relationships.

            If you disagree with that characterisation of your beliefs, you are free to clear up the misconception by answering the simple question.

  34. There is a deeper disagreement to be faced before there is any talk of a split over this disagreement.

    On Dr. Martin Davie’s ‘Reflections of an Anglican Theologian’ there is an article ‘The Thing that Matters Most’.

    It starts with “ ‘It’s the economy stupid’ is a well-known American political catchphrase that had its origins in the 1992 presidential campaign in which Bill Clinton was running against the incumbent president George W H Bush….. and it became the de facto campaign slogan for the whole of the successful Clinton campaign. In 1992 America was in recession and ‘It’s the economy stupid’ successfully communicated the message that the key issue in the election was the US economy, and that Clinton would do a better job of handling the economy than Bush.

    What this piece of American political history reminds us is that any successful communications strategy has to have a clear focus. Those seeking to communicate need to decide what really matters in terms of the message they are trying to convey, and then work out how to get this across in the clearest and most memorable fashion possible.”

    Dr Davie tells us that he was prompted to think about this issue “by the fact that in the past week the comments by Church leaders that have been reported in the media have been of a political nature”.

    He continues, “Church leaders commenting on political issues is not a problem. Indeed, Church leaders have an obligation to do so. The temporal well-being of human beings, i.e. their well-being in this life, matters, and so Church leaders need to warn against political policies which seem likely to cause people temporal harm.

    However, a problem occurs when the messages coming from Church leaders focus primarily or exclusively on temporal matters. This is because Christian theology tells us is that what matters most for human beings is not what happens in this life, but what will happen in the life to come”.

    Dr. Davie summarises his reflection thus:

    “To sum up, it is appropriate for Church leaders to comment on temporal matters as Anglican archbishops and bishops have done this week. However, it is even more important that they talk about eternity. When all is said and done, the Church’s core business is saving souls, and the only way that souls will be saved is if people come to realise that this life is not all there is, and that they need to put their trust in Jesus in order to avoid an eternity of damnation and enjoy an eternity of blessedness instead. The Church’s calling is to be God’s instrument to bring people to this realisation, and for this to happen the leaders of the Church need to switch the focus of their message to the thing that matters most, the life of the world to come.”

    Finally, he suggests as an appropriate clear and memorable ‘campaign slogan’ for the Church

    “It’s eternity, stupid”.

    I offer my own view on what this “switch of focus” should mean:

    I have not counted them but I am told by those who have that Christ’s warnings of hell for those who don’t repent are more than his promises of heaven for those who repent and believe. Surely, then, to focus clearly on ‘The Thing that Matters Most’ the Church must believe, teach and preach both the terrible warnings as well as the wonderful invitations and promises which are the two essential parts of the Gospel, the Church’s core message.
    As Warfield commented on Elijah’s experience in the cave,
    ‘….it is not the Law but the Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of love, which saves the world. Wrath may prepare for love; but wrath never did and never will save a soul’
    But wrath may prepare for love. And an honest, faithful preaching of the gospel has to include that warning. After all, Christ and his apostles gave us the warnings as well as the loving invitations and promises. The Church needs to believe and teach and preach both to be faithful.

    I can’t prove it, and would be humbled and put in my place but glad to be proved wrong, but I surmise that the terrible part of that Gospel is believed, taught and preached by only a minority of Anglican Theologians, Bishops and Ministers. Of course none of us believes in the terrible God and Christ of the Bible unless and until we are convinced from above, and no doubt we are all praying that God in his mercy will send that convicting breath from heaven on the whole church, evangelicals and non-evangelicals. But if I am right in my surmise, this situation is the most serious failure of the Church of England as a whole; she cannot say with Paul, ‘Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’; and she is facing the prospect, as the appointed Watchman who ‘does not blow the trumpet to warn the people’, that God will hold her accountable for the blood of the unsaved.

    With the publication of the LLF material the Church is about to spend considerable time and effort on the Human Sexuality disagreement. This disagreement is important. But it is definitely not “The Thing that matters Most”. What matters most is that the whole Church should believe, teach and preach both parts of her core message, the terrible part and the wonderful part, and the failure, as I see it, of the majority of the Church to preach the terrible part – the warnings.

    The LLF disagreement and this more fundamental and more important (as I see it) failure are linked: by the doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin. So I think that the present LLF situation is an opportunity for those who agree with me to challenge the rest of the church, both evangelicals and non-evangelicals about this most serious failure. I realise it is easy for me to suggest this challenge – I am not dependent on the Church for my livelihood and I have not promised to be obedient to any Bishop in all things lawful and honest. But I want to see that challenge take place, because I want those I dearly love to hear that warning, not just from me, but from the whole Church, perhaps by an open letter to all Ministers and Bishops, before there is any talk of going separate ways on the sexuality disagreement. Put it this way: suppose at the end of the LLF process the church reaffirms the ‘traditional’ view on Human Sexuality. That would leave this most fundamental and most important failure unaddressed.

    I suggest that if conservative evangelicals are ever going to challenge the rest of the Church about what she believes and preaches about Original Sin, the need to preach the warnings as well as the Good News, about wrath and retribution – this is the decisive moment to do it, by pointing out in the LLF debates that LLF is part of a wider, deeper issue. I suggest writing an Open Letter to challenge all ordained Ministers, including Bishops and Archbishops, and please, please, let the ensuing debate be on the internet open to all, and not behind closed doors.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
  35. I was invited to give a lecture this morning to a group of CofE ordinands. My topic was the Bible and same-sex relationships. It was part of a day on the subject that included an introduction to LLF. There were a mixture of views in the group. Several admitted to feeling vulnerable about the day. They were honest, open and courteous with me and with each other as we engaged with scripture together. Differences were listened to respectfully. It gave me hope for LLF and the ongoing discussions in the CofE at this point. I commend their example. It was an honour to be with them. And I hope others here have the same opportunity.

    Reply
    • They were honest, open and courteous with me and with each other as we engaged with scripture together

      How do you know they were honest, and that those who didn’t agree with the consensus weren’t keeping quiet out of fear of word getting around?

      Reply
        • Sounds like you have never had any experience of a ministerial training college

          Is it really very different from other lectures, seminars and classrooms?

          Reply
          • Yes. It’s a religious community for a start. Openness is needed for the whole training scheme to work

    • David I made the comment above but it has got lost in the less helpful exchange:

      David, I didn’t introduce Dale Martin in order to propose ‘taint by association’. It was primarily in response to Penny’s comment ‘I don’t know any Christian who advocates promiscuity’. Clearly there are some, and others have pointed to prominent folk who are vocal in the debate and do press this position.

      I don’t think ‘taint by association’ works, not least because I agree with a couple of others who have commented that there is no, one ‘affirming’ position. (I think there are also a range of views in the ‘traditional’ position, which is why I tend to avoid that label, or only ever put it in inverted commas.) Yes, I am interested in engaging with people’s specific positions, not merely what anyone might be ‘associated’ with.

      For me, this raises an important question: if we understand relationships to be primarily about qualities, rather than form (eg ‘permanent, faithful, stable’), then what is special about ‘two-ness’ since that is an element of form, not quality. Why should polyamorous relationships that are permanent, faithful, and stable not sit within a Christian ethic?

      You might have answered that elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve spotted it.

      Reply
      • Quality depends on form. A relationship can be faithful and stable only if it is between two people. But if two-ness is essential then other forms may also be essential. Sexual complementarity is the obvious example.

        Reply
          • Isn’t the belief that sexual complementarity is essentially PIV intercourse rather reductive?
            I mean, if complementarity is necessary for coupledom, can complementarity not be part of same-sex relationships?

          • Isn’t the belief that sexual complementarity is essentially PIV intercourse rather reductive?

            Isn’t the belief that the essential differences between male and female can be summed up as ‘PIV intercourse’ rather reductive?

        • There is a bit more to complementarity than that. Perhaps the biggest difference is in the contributions that men and women make to child-rearing. Just in purely physical terms, women contribute far more than men. Because of that a woman must make sure that a man is committed to her before she enters into a relationship with him (which would have been very important in the days before contraception and the welfare state). That sets up the dynamic for the way in which men and women interact. Those of us who believe in God see this as a reflection of the divine plan.

          You say that a similar complementarity may exist in same-sex relationships. At the crudest level, sex between two men will mimic what happens between a man and woman. But that is the strongest reason for thinking that something is deeply wrong. Complementarity is required but instead of the real thing, there is a crude facsimile.

          Reply
          • Women contribute in the bearing of children, but not necessarily in the rearing. That’s rather a late, western bourgeois ideal.
            I can’t see a divine plan in that unless God’s divine plan is primarily for certain ‘middle class’ women in particular cultures.
            Secondly, sex between two men does not necessarily ‘mimic’ other-sex sex. And sex between two women certainly doesn’t!
            Not all men engage in anal intercourse. Not all straight couples engage primarily in PIV sex. Some (many?) enjoy anal intercourse.
            Figuring complementarity as purely functional (insert tab A into hole B and/or this cultural practice is your God-given role) seems, to me, to be thoroughly crude.

          • ‘Women contribute in the bearing of children, but not necessarily in the rearing.’ What an odd claim. Are you suggesting that the fact that a mother has carried the child in her body for nine months, and probably breastfeed as well for some time, so that the child is physically attached to her body, has no impact on the nature of the maternal relationship and does not lead to greater involvement in key aspects of child rearing?

            I think that claims flies in the face of testimony, history, and psychology.

          • I don’t know where you get the idea that women’s greater involvement in child rearing is a late, western bourgeois ideal. The idea that women can give birth and then hand the children over to nannies is one that has become increasingly common in modern times, and it is perhaps one that you approve of.

            But purely in terms of child bearing there is a marked differentiation. That is the basis for a whole suite of differences between men and women. One aspect of complementarity is the purely sexual (plug A into socket B). It is not the most important, although it is the one that you have concentrated on, while accusing me of seeing things in crude terms.

            You were also the one to ask whether complementarity could not be present in same-sex relationships. The implication was that if complementarity was desirable then it need not be missing from same-sex relationships. I point out that there is often an (inadequate) attempt in same-sex relationships to mimic the complementarity of heterosexual relationships and you respond by saying same-sex relationships need not have complementarity. All rather odd. Incidentally, there is often an attempt in same-sex relationships to mimic the psychological complementarity of heterosexual relationships. As with purely sexual complementarity, it is a pale imitation of the real thing.

          • Figuring complementarity as purely functional (insert tab A into hole B and/or this cultural practice is your God-given role) seems, to me, to be thoroughly crude.

            As others have pointed out, this is another example of you begging the question. You are the one who reduces all sex differences down to the purely physical action, by assuming that male and female are totally interchangeable except for genital configuration; then you use that assumption, which you made, not anyone else, to accuse others of being reductionist.

            The truth is that the (re-)uniting of the two complementary halves of the human species in one flesh is far deeper, on a spiritual level, than the physical genital action.

          • David

            Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I inferred from your comments on complementarity, particularly your reference to gay male complementarity being a crude facsimile, that you were writing about female/male sexual complementarity.
            Now you introduce something called psychological complementarity. I have no idea what that is, except that couples might complement one another by having different emotional attributes. This could equally well apply to same-sex partners.
            I don’t recall writing that same-sex relationships need not be complementary. I think I argued that, if complementarity is necessary for coupledom, it can be as much a feature of same-sex relationships as it can in other-sex relationships.

            I also believe that you – and Ian – completely misunderstood my comment about child rearing, which is odd since I emphasized tyaynimwas not, primarily referring to the modern western world. Though even here, child rearing (or, at least wet nursing) was almost always contracted out by gentry; this is by no means a contemporary phenomenon. However, in most societies in the two thirds world child rearing is, and has been brief. In agrarian societies free women could sometimes take their infants to work with them, but not in industrialised societies. In both, with large families, elder siblings did (and still do) much of the rearing. Women have always worked; the stay at home mum is a modern, middle-class phenomenon. In western societies, it is largely in the white middle classes, and in the merchant classes and lower gentry before the middle class arose, that children were reared by parents, primarily women. The aristocracy and the peasant/artisan had little to do with (hands on) child rearing.

          • Yes, child-rearing is contracted out but to whom is it contracted out? Generally to other women, who then become surrogate mothers. In other words, there is an acknowledgement that women are best qualified for this. There is a differentiation of the sexes that goes beyond basic anatomy. And one of the things that attract a man to a woman is her nurturing qualities. Hence the idea of psychological complementarity, which you apparently find mysterious.

            There is often an attempt to duplicate this in same-sex relationships. One party will adopt a more feminine role and the other a more masculine role. What they do in bed may also be an extension of this. And this proves the point. There is a “natural” way in which relationships work. Even when the relationship is clearly unnatural, there is an attempt to duplicate what is natural.

          • David

            Was Denis Thatcher attracted to Margaret Roberts because of her nurturing qualities, or Prince Philip attracted to the Princess Elizabeth? My husband was attracted to my embonpoint and my fierce arguments about the licitness of strike action.

            Again you see all relationships in cisheteronormative terms. If you believe that gay sexual intimacy play acts straight roles, I suggest that you need to find some gay friends and look at this cartoon
            memebase.cheezburger.com/tag/chopsticks

          • Penelope, I think my point about psychological complementarity can survive the counter example of Margaret Thatcher. In addition there is also genetic complementarity. A man and a woman can have a child who is part of both of them, genetically speaking. Men and women complement each other in numerous ways. Their bodies are designed to fit together – yes, even the “crude” plug and socket business is important. Their gametes are designed to come together and form new life. They complement each other psychologically.

            And many of us believe that men and women complement each other spiritually. All this is in accordance with the divine will.

          • Everything here is wrong. What you characterise as A into B is infinitely precious, intimate and intricate to millions of people. Somehow you manage to reduce the heights of magic to mundane engineering. It is truly chilling what impulse would do a thing like that.

            It is exactly the same to minimise virginity as elsewhere. Again what is happening is reducing something infinitely precious and intricate and especially interconnected with numerous other matters, to a matter of no importance.

            Is nothing sacred? The more awe the better – whether in an art gallery, on the hills, or in the above contexts. Lack of awe needs healing and has psychological roots, I have always believed.

          • Christopher, I don’t know whether that was directed at me or Penelope. If it was to me then I must object. I don’t accept that I am reducing something infinitely precious to mundane engineering. For one thing, there is nothing mundane about it. The human body is a marvel of engineering. Moreover, we are very much embodied beings and we should celebrate that. I believe that there is a spiritual dimension to human relationships but when I debate with someone who denies that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman I have no choice but to appeal to aspects of reality that are plainly visible to the senses.

            If your comment wasn’t intended for me then I apologise in advance.

          • Christopher

            Awe is good. A man responding ‘flesh of my flesh’ to another man is as magical and awesome as a woman responding thus to a man.
            Same-sex relationships can be intricate, infinitely precious and sacred.
            It is you and David who insist upon the mundanity of a ‘fit’ between the ‘opposite’ sexes, not I.

            P.S. virginity is a social construct.

          • So why do you not respond to my point that your appeal to biblical norms for partnerships of 2 is redundant since you do not believe in biblical norms. If you believed in them you would believe in the biblical gender pattern. You emphasise the number and de-emphasise the gender pattern. But why should the one matter and the other not? It is illogical. Most are just being 100% with the Bible on both matters. You are being 100% with it on the one and 0% with it on the other (quite a difference) but without providing a justification for that.

          • A man responding ‘flesh of my flesh’ to another man is as magical and awesome as a woman responding thus to a man.

            Question-begging.

          • In any case, if ‘virginity is a social construct’ ( I note that you assert this rather than arguing for it), then:

            (a) why is it a biological reality?

            (b) does it not refer to anything in the real world?

            (c) why have so many societies found it a real and useful concept?

            (d) why is it held so extremely precious? People are not in the habit of holding social constructs extremely precious.

            (e) is this not a doctrine of convenience, just like all those who keep saying that the hymen can be broken during exercise etc.. They are biased in that they wish to emphasise the exception *over* the norm – one of the easiest ways to tell a biased person.

          • Christopher

            The hymen is a biological reality.
            Virginity is a social construct.
            Many things which are social constructs are precious: money, for example.

          • Christopher

            And (c) virginity is a useful concept in patriarchal societies. It guarantees an untouched wife who will then produce legitimate offspring. A young woman who wasn’t a virgin wasn’t worth much, cf. Mary the mother of God.

          • The whole sentence

            I still don’t understand what you’re asking. You know what a spiritual reality is, right? And what virginity is? Well, it’s one of those.

  36. 1 I recall my first CoE minister saying that he was advised before the start of his training to always remember his conversion, to get him through it. And where does that place those who are not converted with no prior theological/scriptural training being trained by liberal liberal schools of theology?
    2 I was part of a support group for a friend in ministry training in the Methodist church on an ecumenical course at Durham uni who was ridiculed and marked down for his exclusive Christian beliefs. The question is, what is being taught and by whom?
    3 From my time in senior management in the NHS it was clear that the push was to train new people in new improvement (different from research) methods, (sometimes new broom, flavour of the month) which did not always bear up to analysis from those who had some prior management theory knowledge and practice.

    Reply
    • Geoff I posted a story of Christian faith and learning that had touched me. It encouraged Ian too, did you notice? He, like me, has spent many years involved in ministry selection, teaching and training (for several very enjoyable years we were on the same faculty together). He knows the holy joy of watching people growing in faith and the call of Christ. By contrast you respond with very strange comments about non Christian ordinands (?!) in liberal colleges, you pause to kick some passing Methodists, and finally have a go at the NHS! Lord who can stand?
      ‘Hold fast to what is good’, is my text in these conflicted times. I remain encouraged and grateful and I’d love you to catch just a little of it.

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      • Catch a little of it! Far more than you might know, David. Our Triune God is overwhelming, or in the words of Mike Reeves “Rejoice and Tremble” and we may know something of the Beauty of (His) Holiness.
        Apart from that, I have merely related experience of my former now retired CoE minister, and my friend who you may not have noticed was on an echeumenical course, invluding Anglicans.
        And are you really saying that the NHS should be replete with unthinking and analytical senior managers! And as it happened on a senior managers training course which featured not only Myers Briggs and 360 degree anonymous review with independent course provider feedback, it was acknowledged that the cohort of senior managers came from within an narrow Myers -Briggs bandwidth.
        And non of that is to decry the commitment of those working in the NHS even with the difficulties of working as multi-disciplinary teams and heirarchies, with professional rivalries
        And if the comments on Ian Paul’s Blogg are anything to go by the difficulties encountered in the past that I’ve reported, would only be multiplied today with liberal domination.
        My wife and I are part of a wonderful multi-ethnic lively Bible believing young Anglican church thank you. Marvellously encouraging and refreshing in comparison to the frequent moribund, sterile and frankly depressing comments from the liberals here: there is no Good News of our life transforming Triune God and relationship with him.
        Whereas there is much to benefit from Ian Paul’s articles on scripture which, significantly, largely brings no comment from liberals whereas they often, for me move me from scholarship to doxology. I can not think of one comment from liberals that so affecting even in the slightest.
        We are outliers in church due to age.

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  37. I find the expression: “Parliament would never allow that” interesting in a seeming final appeal to a secular and worldly entity but then the LLF is a manifesto for syncretists (with the spirit of this age – the “Zeitgeist”) from a Real Evangelical perspective and accommodation is a very Nicolaitan turn.

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