The General Synod of the Church of England (of which I am a member) met last week in York, and there were many good things about it. We spend most of Saturday afternoon exploring some exciting developments from the ‘centre’ offering resources to dioceses and churches in the task of evangelism and the making of disciples. There was a motion allowing the flexible use of vestments, bringing canon law into line with the reality of variety of practice on the ground. A private member’s motion (PMM) (by Tiffer Robinson) proposed making a sensible change to the allocation of school places, so that clergy moving into tied accommodation are not unfairly penalised. I co-presented the report of the Archbishops’ Council (AC), and it was notable that both suspicion of the Council and reluctance to engage with Renewal and Reform had mostly dissipated.
But there were two other items of business that consumed disproportionate amounts of emotional energy and which have sparked debate ever since, and they tested the competence of Synod. I am not sure that the test was passed.
The first was another PMM, this time from Jayne Ozanne, asking for Synod to agree with psychiatric medical opinion on the harm done by ‘conversion therapy‘ and requesting the AC to take further action. Many viewed this as a ‘Trojan horse’, since the particular resolution we were being asked to endorse also made references to transgender issues, and Synod cannot actually ask AC to do anything, since AC does not report to Synod. The second motion was from Blackburn Diocese proposed by Chris Newlands asking that the Church affirm their welcome of transgender people, and that the House of Bishops ‘consider whether it might prepare liturgy’ for such a welcome.
There are several reasons why these two motions should never have been debated. The first and most obvious is that both issues will certainly be addressed in the teaching document that the Archbishops have commissioned, so the motions are trying to short-circuit a wider discussion. The second is that both take the form of false binaries; essentially they say ‘Do you agree with me—or do you hate gay and transgender people?’ No matter how faulty the wording, failing to pass either motion would not have looked like good PR, and there would have been howls of protest from various quarters. In the voting, it was evident that the bishops were acutely aware of this, and taking both motions by a vote of houses (so that they had to pass separately in each of the bishops, clergy and laity) which would normally make it harder for a motion to pass, in fact made it easier, since the bishops could not afford to be seen to be the ones who were blocking.
The third reason was the poor wording of both motions. The PMM talked of ‘conversion therapy’ but used this as an ill-defined catch-all which made proper debate very difficult. Every single speaker, including those who proposed and supported significant amendments, agreed that any form of forced or coercive treatment of people who are same-sex attracted (whether they are happy with that or not) is abusive and must be rejected. But another part of Jayne Ozanne’s agenda is to have significant movements in the Church, including New Wine, Soul Survivor, HTB and Spring Harvest labelled as ‘spiritual abusive’ and therefore illegal. This is why the motion was seen as a Trojan horse. Her motion was also asking Synod to ‘endorse’ a medical opinion, and a controverted one at that, which is simply not within Synod’s competence to do so. But suggesting that Synod ‘does not have the competence’ to express a view is like holding up a red rag to a bull (or any colour rag—bulls are colour blind). In the end we passed an amended motion that ‘endorsed’ a different medical view—but few had read the details, still less understood the issues within it, and such endorsement is meaningless except as tokenism.
The transgender motion asked for the bishops to ‘consider whether’ they should formulate some new liturgy, and in one sense that is an empty statement; they might well ‘consider’ it for five minutes and decide not. But to even raised the question of liturgy, before we have any consensus of understanding on the issue, is putting the cart so far before the horse that the horse has lost sight of it. And for both motions, the briefing papers we had ahead of the meeting were wholly inadequate, lacking proper detached assessment (Ozanne ended up bombarding us with a series of papers in response to counter-evidence) and without any real theological input at all. The worst things is that, after all the heat and energy that have gone into the debate, and though the votes might ‘signal’ something, neither motion makes any formal difference at all. The Church’s position has not changed one iota on either issue—not least since the motions were carefully worded so as to formally change nothing.
But three issues were highlighted by means of the debate, and they are ones that seriously undermine the standing of Synod.
The first is the almost complete absence of any theological thinking, and the lack of purchase of whatever decent theology was there. David Baker eloquently lamented:
So why, then, do I feel rather bleak? The answer is simple: the apparent absence at synod of real theology – in other words, the ability to reflect on complex issues with calmness, depth and clarity from an explicitly Christian perspective.
The absence of theological reflection is disturbing. The Rev Mark Lucas – a usually mild-mannered and irenic evangelical Synod member – was moved to thunder on his blog: ‘The debating chamber has been, almost solely, a pink fluffy, theology-free, Bible-mocking, sin-affirming, solipsism of multitudinous, anthropocentric anecdote!’
Stephen Lynas from Bath and Wells made a similar observation:
A number of discussions I’ve been in (in the bar and in committees) bewailed the fact that much of the debate (on both motions) was personalised and story-driven. There was little theological reflection (apart from a few nods to Scripture, Tradition and Reason). While we were intensely pastoral, then, we were not as analytical as befits a major Synod with carefully-designed processes of scrutiny and decision-making.
There were two low points for me which both occurred in the transgender debate. The first was a retelling of the Genesis creation narrative:
Genesis tells us that humanity was made male and female, in a clear binary. But we are also told that there are similar binaries of day and night, and of land and sea. Of course, we know in reality that there is such a thing as twilight, and that there are liminal places between land and sea, such as wetlands and marshes—and God is in them all.
I find it astonishing that anyone could imagine this offers us any insight whatever into a biblical theology of sex difference or sex identity. It is treating the Bible as an adult colouring book, in which we can use the lines to paint whatever picture we want. The serious theological issue here is that, in treating it like this, we are simply silencing God, and remaking the text of Scripture in our own image.
The second low point was Tim Hind’s comment, when he described any pause for theological reflection as ‘dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and we spend far too much time doing that. We just need to act.’ What have we come to when there is so little tolerance for actually thinking? Synod appears to have been completely sucked into the trivialisation of the social media age, the ‘shallows’ of the age of the internet.
The second issue was the widespread use of personal attacks and ad hominem arguments within the debate. Adrian Hilton has also catalogued some of the abusive language surrounding the debate, including that of Andrew Foreshew-Cain who tweeted in the chamber as I was sharing my experience of transgender people in my own family, amongst friends and in church:
Ian Paul now. If you can watch. ‘See how he loves himself’ to paraphrase a famous saying.
This is certainly a breach of draft guidelines on conduct within Synod, if nothing else.
But even more serious was the emphasising of false binaries to dismiss, rather than engage in, debate. Chris Newlands dismissed any debate about his motion with the phrase:
There are two views on gender dysphoria, those who believe it is real and those who believe it is a fiction.
So no-one is allowed to question his own approach? I wonder how that would look in the close parallel of how we deal with those with anorexia—for both conditions are a kind of body dysphoria, where the person’s perception and their bodily biological reality are at odds. Do we welcome anorexics into our churches? If you don’t believe an anorexic’s account of their physical state, does that mean you don’t welcome them? Or that you don’t believe anorexia is a serious and challenging pastoral issue? How should you respond if an anorexic asked for your support for surgical intervention to make their body conform to their anxiety about it? Is refusing to do this a rejection of them or a trivialising of their condition? This just illustrates how damaging the false binary of debate is.
In Jayne Ozanne’s response to Sean Doherty’s (in my view very good amendment), she objected to the idea that we should ‘note’ (rather than endorse) the professional evaluation, and believed that the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Advisory group were already dealing with the question of guidelines for prayer. But she also included these two comments:
The strength of opposition and the views expressed in communications you received in the run up to synod show the mindset of those who want this practice to continue, (and we have heard it also in speeches), and why therefore my PMM is so urgently needed…
Sadly, this is a very sincere, well-meant wrecking motion from those who still don’t seem to understand the deep trauma that Conversion Therapy causes is behind this and I do urge you to resist it please.
Describing Sean’s proposal as a ‘wrecking motion’ is, I think, an unfair impugning of Sean’s motives. And she appears to claim that Sean is a puppet for those who wish ‘conversion therapy’ to continue, when Sean made clear in his speech that he opposes this practice, and has stated his opposition publicly on the Living Out website. This represents a very unfortunate ad hominem criticism, and it felt like a failure of chairing that this, and other comments, were not picked up.
[In the original post, I had made a shorter summary comment about Jayne’s rejection of Sean’s amendment. Jayne wrote to me to complain, believing it was a misrepresentation, and I am very happy to replace my summary with a quotation from her own notes which she supplied.]
This leads to the third issue: the role of the House of Bishops and the Presidents of Synod (the two archbishops) in the framing and content of the debate. On both motions, the Archbishop of York used his privilege to speak last and advocate acceptance, which many thought was a misuse of his position. And generally the bishops did not contribute much to the debate—except those advocating change. So Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, stood to declare that ‘we believe that LGBTI identity is God-given’, contradicting all agreed Church of England statements on the question. Stephen Lynas comments on this:
Where were the Bishops? There are more than 50 of them on Synod, but we heard very little from them on either of these motions. Some will still be nursing bruises from February, but the suspicion is that they are keeping their heads down. Apart from Archbishop Sentamu and the Bishop of Liverpool, they largely remained quiet.
In fact, several bishops did stand to speak but were not called—inexplicably in the case of James Newcombe, Bishop of Carlisle, who is the Church of England spokesman in the area of the debate. David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, made an extraordinary statement following Synod:
What the [House of Bishops’ February] document failed to deliver, the Synod itself immediately began to put in place. Many of the speeches in the debate that rejected the paper exemplified what a new and distinctly more welcoming tone would sound like…
We follow a God whose ultimate revelation of himself was not in words on a page, or in commandments inscribed on stone tablets, but in a fully human person…Our answers to crucial questions of belief and practice, both then and now, must be grounded in scripture and consistent with its overarching messages. But they cannot ultimately be determined purely by the choices we make of how to interpret a small number of specific texts.
What happened to the connection between the person of Jesus and the gospels which testify to him? Are the gospels mere ‘words on a page’? What does Walker then make of the consistent Anglican commitment to the authority of Scripture? And did he not notice that lack of theological engagement, so that this ‘tone’ of emotionalism is what is needed? And does he really think that those who disagree with him are merely following a ‘small number of texts’? Has he not read Hays, Loader, Brooten, Gagnon, Wes Hill, or any of the others who have set out the over-arching message of Scripture? How can such a view do anything to be a centre of unity, let alone sound teaching, when other views are so casually dismissed? And he really thinks that the Shared Conversations process succeeded in enabling us to listen to one another, even whilst it failed to engage properly in the Church’s current teaching position?
For me, all these factors show very clearly why this issue is worth contending. The change that is wanted, and which is welcomed by David Walker, is a change that can only come if the Church of England decisively detaches itself from its historic roots, and from its commitment to Scripture as a reformed part of the church catholic. More than that, it is a change that will only come by means of the oppressive illiberalism of revisionist thinking which silences and dismisses alternative views without any real listening or engagement.
If Synod is not going to be dysfunctional and divisive, we are going to need a better way forward. Action is needed by the Business Committee, by the House of Bishops, and by the Presidents of Synod. The superficial binaries might work fine in the zero-sum debates of Synod. But they won’t wash in the careful process of reflection towards the teaching document. We need to avoid jumping the gun on the teaching document; we need motions that are clear and not enmeshed in false binaries; we need some theology; we need the basics of respect in debate. And, I venture to suggest, we need better episcopal leadership here. I don’t say that as a criticism of the House of Bishops—it is easy for anyone to criticise, and it is easy for them to feel got at. But I say it as a plea: those undermining the teaching of the Church are not shy to speak up. We need to hear some other voices, and we need to hear them very soon.
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294 thoughts on “Is Synod competent?”
Thanks for posting this Ian, I think you’re absolutely right. Particularly the point about the bishops leading.
I’ve just finished reading “God’s Leader” by Andy Mason, who said this about Aaron after the golden calf incident:
“The whole line of reasoning is ridiculous, and is fundamentally the words of a weak, corrupt anti-leader. He’s led rather than leading, and pleases the people more than pleases the Lord. Of course, each person bears responsibility for themselves, but leaders can’t simply absolve themselves of the sins of the people they lead. Each person dies for their own sin (Ezek 18:4), but a leader can’t pretend that their people’s behaviour has nothing to do with them. We have responsibility to teach, lead and guard the flock.”
The bishops, if the church continues on this road, will have blood on their hands (Acts 20:26).
The Romanian Orthodox Church could not believe how little theology we do, and how knee-jerk the C of E’s decisions are. Their first (and some would say, their only) instinct when faced with societal changes that challenge church teaching is to go to their theology. No decisions are made without doing so. I tell you, it was an embarrassment sometimes to be an Anglican here -we were left without a theological leg to stand on.
Thank you Ian, especially for the the section on Bishop David’s blog. As a member of the clergy in Manchester, I despair and weep…
As a member of the clergy in Manchester, I would just note that what Bishop David wrote was fully orthodox. God’s revelation is Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate.
His blogpost does not deny any ‘connection between the person of Jesus and the gospels which testify to him’, neither does it deny ‘the consistent Anglican commitment to the authority of Scripture’, despite the implied accusation by Ian. He specifically says:
‘Our answers to crucial questions of belief and practice, both then and now, must be grounded in scripture and consistent with its overarching messages.’
He is clearly calling for ‘an integrated theology of creation and sin which draws from the whole of scripture, as well as specific texts, and is couched in rational terms’, to quote Will Jones from below.
What a sweeping generalisation. Is there no revelation in the created order, or conceptual or written revelation of any kind?
To say that anything else reveals God in the same way that Christ does is idolatry.
Obviously the Incarnation reveals God in a special way. But the person of Jesus Christ, when considered in isolation from creation and scripture, is not the sole and complete revelation of God, which seems to be what you are suggesting. God is also revealed in his creation (general revelation) and in what he has said and done in history and is recorded authoritatively in scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (special revelation). Christ in isolation is not the whole of revelation any more than he is the whole of God.
I am suggesting no such thing. I am simply saying that to put anything else on the same level as Christ as a revelation of God is idolatry. Christ is the creator; everything else is creation.
To say this is not to suggest that God is not revealed in creation (whether special or general).
These are slightly misleading statements. Christ cited scripture. We meet Christ in scripture. Christ can only be understood through scripture – scripture is the only reason we understand what ‘Christ’ means. Christ isn’t ‘more true’ than scripture. We’re not pitting one source of revelation of truth about God against another. What is true about God and the world he has made is true about it whether we discover it through knowing Christ, studying the Bible or studying the world. Scripture was authoritative for Christ and it is authoritative for us. Perhaps you don’t mean to deny any of these points, but I mention them just in case that is what you were intending by emphasising the revelation of God in Christ.
Jonathan, that is irrelevant unless anyone ever disagreed with it. It wasn’t even the point that we were making. Jesus is not opposed to the scriptures since (a) the scriptures were venerated by him, and (b) they are how we learn about him in the first place. The very Jesus that is the main revelation of God has his content from what is learned about him in the Scriptures.
But the worst of it is that people falsely oppose the two Words of God, and partly prefer Jesus only because what is not written down in black and white is more easily manipulable to their own ends. Even Luke is not so touchy feely as they think, however. Think Ananias and Sapphira; gradations of beatings. Selectivity is dishonest unless there is some scholarly principle at the root of it. We don’t expect those who are always trying to get the result that suits their ends rather than the result that emerges from disinterested objective scholarship – we don’t expect them to apply scholarly principles. We expect them, from long experience, to put the cart before the horse and the so-called conclusion chronologically before the thinking from which any actual conclusions must necessarily derive.
‘These are slightly misleading statements.’
How? I am genuinely puzzled as to what is misleading in what I wrote.
‘Christ isn’t ‘more true’ than scripture.’
This, I do find misleading.
‘We’re not pitting one source of revelation of truth about God against another.’
And no-one has suggested this.
Hi Jonathan. It was (potentially) misleading because it seemed to imply a denial of some of the statements that I wrote above. You say that the statement ‘Christ isn’t ‘more true’ than scripture’ is misleading. I don’t see why. Truth is truth whether recorded in scripture or revealed in Christ (or discovered in the world). But as long as you are not seeking to appeal to revelation in Christ to disregard revelation recorded in scripture then we are not in disagreement.
It is scripture that reveals the revelation of God in Christ
I don’t agree, Jonathan Tallon. + Walker by being so opaque about Scripture allows an unorthodox position. Luther in the Great Reformation dispute with Erasmus accused Erasmus of dissimulating. For Luther, Erasmus’s position of hiding his views on key questions, suggested dissimulating – he try have his Roman cake & eat like a Protestant. The same question can be posed to +. Walker: Does Scripture = the Word of God? Or is Scripture a historical record of human experiences of the divine? Does he believe in the identity thesis? A Simple yes or no would make clear where he stands. Otherwise, he is guilty of obfuscation.
He was writing a short blog post, not an academic treatise. Yet this ‘suggests dissimulating’, means he is potentially ‘guilty of obfuscation’, and ‘opaque about Scripture’. You then ask for simple yes or no in response to a blog post which argues against false binaries.
Yes short post, but a simple yes or no would suffice. He now has the opportunity to write explaining clearly that he does not mean to seprate the Word from the words of Scripture & state unequivocally that the subscribes to the Doctrine of Scripture in the Arts & the Homily of Scripture. If he does not do that then we are justified in saying he is being deliberately disingenuous.
Jonathan, I wish I could read what Bishop David wrote as you did. But this sentence:
“We follow a God whose ultimate revelation of himself was not in words on a page, or in commandments inscribed on stone tablets, but in a fully human person”
seems a false distinction. We all believe that Jesus was the pinnacle of revelation, but Jesus himself ties his words and the words of Scripture to that revelation of the word (as John himself really emphasizes as you look through his gospel, e.g. John 5:24, 38; 8:31; 10:35 etc.). This is especially true as the access we have to the incarnate word is through the inscripturated word, hence the great importance of the Spirit’s coming to the apostles (John 16:12-15) and the significance of the gospel for those who will not see Jesus (John 20:29-31).
So to use John 1 to move an emphasis away from the written word seems to make a distinction that goes against the flow of John’s gospel.
I would also note the section that while Bishop David says:
“answers to crucial questions of belief and practice, both then and now, must be grounded in scripture and consistent with its overarching messages”
which it must be said is fairly vague (grounded in Scripture in what sense?) He goes on to say you cannot decide difficult questions by interpreting texts, but rather we look to our experience of relationships (ironically he gets to this point by interpreting the texts he chooses about Jesus and relationships – these it could be argued are a relatively small number of texts!). Here he allows experience to trump Scripture.
I’m not sure Ian’s evaluation is at all unfair in this light.
May I suggest that the statement ‘We follow a God whose ultimate revelation of himself was not in words on a page, or in commandments inscribed on stone tablets, but in a fully human person’ is utterly orthodox (and Orthodox, come to that).
You also say ‘the access we have to the incarnate word is through the inscripturated word’. This is certainly one means of access. It is not the sole one (or the church couldn’t have survived for the first few hundred years of its existence).
Surely the main access we have to the incarnate word is through our union with him through the Spirit of Christ in baptism? We are clothed with Christ, Christ is in us, we are in Christ. It is scripture itself which points to this.
Does any of this deny the importance of scripture? No.
Bishop David (in the excerpt quoted by Ian) nowhere says that experience trumps scripture. He does say that our experience of relationship is important. How does this deny scripture?
Have you read the blog Ian links to Jonathan – I note you refer to only what Ian quoted? It’s worth looking at it to see where Bishop David goes with that quote.
You’re welcome to your view of course. I think it’s a highly unlikely reading. I don’t think anyone is disagreeing that Jesus is the high point of revelation, but the point being made is that Bishop David seems to be putting a wedge between Scripture and Jesus – hence the reference to “specific texts” and the negative with respect to words and commandments then contrasted with the incarnate Jesus. This is different to how Scripture expresses it, both in John as I’ve suggested – it is important isn’t it how the Spirit continues to reveal Jesus through the apostolic word – and also the lack of negative and contrast with Scripture in Hebrews 1.
Also I think your church history might be a bit off. They had Scripture OT from day 1 and well within the first few hundred years they had Scripture NT. As I was trying to point out in my comment from John, Jesus ensured his words were accessible to the church through the apostles…
I’m not sure of your understanding of baptism but the articles would teach that the grace of the sacraments is to be received by faith and as Paul says faith comes by hearing. The sacraments cannot be separated from the words of Jesus and Scripture unless you want to make it up as you go along, which seems to be the argument of the blog.
Stephen, yes I did go back and check the entire blogpost. I would suggest that Bishop David is not putting a wedge between scripture and Jesus (he says any approach must be grounded in scripture). I suspect he may disagree with you over the interpretation of specific texts and how they fit into scripture’s overarching message – but that’s a different argument, and I don’t presume to speak on his behalf.
I also think it is an unfair characterisation to say that Bishop David was saying ‘make it up as you go along’ – this is almost the complete opposite of what he seemed to be saying.
On church history – I think we would both agree that for the first couple of hundred years (probably until Constantine) many churches (except at the major centres like Antioch etc) would have had extremely limited access to any of the books of the New Testament, and limited access to the books of the Old Testament. We can also factor in arguments about literacy rates and how rich/poor early churches were likely to be. We can also factor in a pattern in the early church of some missionaries wandering from place to place preaching Jesus and setting up households of faith (as suggested by the Didache). Some may have been ‘god-fearers’ and had some knowledge of Judaism; others maybe little or none.
Complete scriptures (OT & NT) probably weren’t available to any but a handful of churches until after Constantine.
Despite this paucity of scripture for many, the early church grew from being an insignificant few in AD33 to becoming 50% of the empire by about AD350 (Stark (1996) is excellent on this).
Scripture is a great gift. But the incarnate Word is the gift.
Thanks Jonathan. It looks like we aren’t going to agree on this, but I’ve appreciated your points and you making me think more on this.
The precise collection of books we now use (none added and none left out) may not have been available to churches till around that date. But the Christian churches long before that time had the main NT books that we now have (and of course the OT).
As a fellow evangelical Christian, can I ask you and those in the parish to which you belong to consider the brave move of the Holy Trinity Barnet’s PCC.
In 2004, they unanimously agreed, as a protest against Jeffrey John’s appointment to Bishop of Reading, not to pay the parish share. Their vicar, Rev Charles Dobbie (who is still in good standing) stated:
‘We have suspended the quota in its entirety with immediate effect and until further notice until the situation changes for the better.’
“It is our expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy.’
“We are just an ordinary parish church in the Church of England and we hope other churches will follow our lead.’
Instead of giving the money to the diocese, the parish donated the withheld quota to the True Freedom Trust charity.
How is this brave? How did it affect the church? Or was it all the other churches in the diocese who suffered because of this ‘bravery’?
Well, the parish share revolt was a democratic decision of Holy Trinity, Barnet’s PCC, which is still thriving under Rev. Dobbie’s leadership.
Mark Hill, the ecclesiastical lawyer, explains that the Parish Share is ‘a voluntary taxation known variously as the diocesan quota or parish share. Each parish is asked to contribute towards diocesan expenditure in accordance with that parish’s needs and ability…The payment of quota is probably not a legally enforceable obligation, since its lacks the qualities of a binding contract. Indeed, the levying of the quota which is in the nature of a quasi-tax may be unlawful, since it is not done under the authority of Parliament..” (Section 3.85)
In contrast with this voluntary taxation, canonical obedience is a legally binding obligation…no wait, the truly ‘brave’ same-sex married clergy can invoke ‘in all things lawful and honest’ to exempt themselves from that.
And to paraphrase, was it all the other clergy in the diocese who suffered because of their bravery?
You haven’t explained how it was brave. The church didn’t suffer, Rev. Dobbie didn’t suffer, and because it’s voluntary they took the decision knowing that they wouldn’t face any consequences.
It doesn’t sound brave to me.
Given that parish share is a way of sharing the cost burden of an entire diocese, it was the other churches who suffered for this church’s ‘bravery’.
You wrote that parish share is a way of sharing the cost burden of an entire diocese.
Yep, and Rev. Dobbie made it clear that, for the duration of the revolt, neither he nor the parish would expect any upkeep or financial support from the diocese or the Church Commissioners. That was brave and reduced the cost burden shared by the other parishes. Back in 2003, the electoral roll for Lyonsdown stood at just 97. By 2011, it had risen to 223.
If other parishes were content to draw upon the financial benefits accruing to those who participate in the parish share, while turning a blind eye towards the appointment of a patently false teacher to the position of Dean of St. Albans, then that was their not particularly brave choice.
My understanding is that revd Charles Dobbie was paid by the parish out of the withheld parish share, and that he continued to live in the vicarage owned and provided by the diocese. So he didn’t suffer. The church was no worse off.
It doesn’t sound brave to me.
And it was still all the other churches which would have suffered from this church’s actions.
As you’re aware, the
Parish share consists of ministry costs and a contribution to shared costs.
The ministry cost is paid to cover the cost of core ministry in the parish. The parish covered this by paying it directly to the incumbent. The remainder was paid to True Freedom Trust.
Once payment of the parish share was restored, I’m sure that other less thriving parishes benefitted from capped increases and Lyonsdown being ‘taxed’ on its phenomenal growth, which continues to this day.
In terms of bravery, I’m far less impressed by clergy who abdicate their solemn oath and defy canonical obedience to enter a same-sex marriage.
But that doesn’t seem to stop you from lionising them, does it?
As I thought, not brave at all.
Brave is when you do what you think is the right thing even though it will be costly in some way.
I am prepared to recognise bravery from either side. But this was no such thing.
‘Brave is when you do what you think is the right thing even though it will be costly in some way.’
And the only way that you’rev defining ‘costly in some way’ is pecuniary.
And by that yardstick, to incur the displeasure of the bishop and consequent denial of preferment (just like brave same-sex married clergy) according to you, required no bravery on Dobbie’s part.
As I thought, totally biased.
O tempora! O mores!
How many Anglican divines must be spinning in their graves? Not least Hooker, who would surely lament how his plain scripture, necessary reason, and the voice of the Church (in that order), seem to have been trampled with hob-nailed boots, and turned by all too many into subjective experience, current culture, and the Bible so long as it doesn’t contradict my experience (in that order).
Please, please, Archbishops’ Council, insist on good theology. Whatever the outcome of these debates long-term, how can we hold our heads up amongst our Christian brothers and sisters if we can’t at least say “We did the hard work to get here.”?
Quite. But it is not the role of Archbishops’ Council (which functions as an executive) to do these things—it must come down to the leadership of the bishops. That is what they are there for.
Come on Bishops ‘Be Moses not Aaron!’
What a ridiculous statement. Might as well write “come on bishops, be Jesus not Paul”.
The Jesus of the Gospels cannot be summed up in one or two adjectives anyway. He was not a ‘type’, behaviour-wise or personality-wise. He was sometimes this, sometimes that. Paul likewise defies stereotyping.
Don’t worry Christopher, Andrew G regularly rips chapters of the Bible out if he doesn’t like them. In this case it’s Exodus 32.
Christopher: that was exactly my point. I am glad we agree with each other.
If it is true that we agree with each other on this point, which I doubt, then it is overweening of you to think you have the right to conclude *unilaterally* that we agree.
Barney – brilliant! Aaron bent to the mood of the mob – Moses went with the will and word of God.
But completely ignores other aspects of the biblical narrative on Aaron and Moses. It’s a silly stereotype, as Christopher points out above. As I previously commented, you might just as well say “come on bishops be more like Jesus and less like Paul”. It’s unscriptural, and doesn’t match up to tradition or reason.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, it remains a fact of history that oppressed minorities are only ever heard and ultimately freed by having their stories heard – so less narrative knocking please. Time to admit there is no such thing as presuppositionless exegesis and hear how patriarchal hegemonies have interpreted Scripture in oppressive ways. The ‘usually mild mannered’ Rev Mark Lucas may choose to characterise ‘theology-free, Bible-mocking, sin-affirming, solipsism of multitudinous, anthropocentric anecdote!’ as also ‘fluffy and pink’ but to many of us the current conflict seems much more related to asserting power than arriving at agreement.
You wrote: ‘Whatever the rights and wrongs, it remains a fact of history that oppressed minorities are only ever heard and ultimately freed by having their stories heard – so less narrative knocking please.
Actually, the rights and wrongs do matter. Narratives are important, but the issues here are:
1) the patently false notion that there’s only one kind of LGBT narrative worth hearing, so that all other narratives (for instance, from members of True Freedom Trust, Living Out and Core Issues Trust) are routinely and skeptically ridiculed and condemned as harmful.
2) undermining and glossing over the authority of the scriptural meta-narrative by giving undue weight to the post-modern appetite for subjective ‘true for me’ stories, the presuppositions of which, we are told, should just be heard and affirmed without similar scrutiny.
I’m sorry – I don’t recall implying that rights and wrongs don’t matter, just that that was not my point. The Bible was used by both sides in the anti-slavery wars, for example, so I guess we didn’t get to our present understanding of slavery through trading Bible verses. I may be wrong, but one of the fruits of the Spirit is the sadly lacking ‘gentleness’ while none of them is ‘proving you’re right’.
Your preface, ‘whatever the rights and wrongs’ simply sets them aside to prioritise personal narratives.
‘I guess we didn’t get to our present understanding of slavery through trading Bible verses.’
Actually, anti-slavery movement relied quite heavily on trading bible verses. And I know enough of my heritage as a black man, to be aware that the Supreme Court ruling relied on social science testimony which proved that segregation had a harmful (and not a just potentially harmful) effect on the psychology of African-American child.
And that all-important ‘gentleness’ about which you write was not particularly apparent during Synod when one contingent took to booing Andrea Minichiello Williams, or tweeting about Ian: ‘see how he loves himself’.
No doubt, some will think that Andrea and Ian are the ones who should develop more patience and kindness (as other parts of the fruit of the Spirit) in the face of revisionists’ righteous indignation.
I find Archbishop Justin’s entreaty for Christians to ‘disagree well’ insightful. I think it involves listening to the other person and not assuming you know what they are saying. I have not set aside rights and wrongs, I set out my position.
So they didn’t rely on trading Bible verses, they also recruited informed social science. Is that what you are saying?
Your final point is a non sequitur, unless you assume that I intend only one side of the debate to show gentleness. As you do not know me that would be a completely unsubstantiated assumption.
Of course we disagree well – the only alternative is to disagree badly. Why people have rightly objected very strongly indeed to ‘good disagreement’ is for another reason. The reason is that people are saying we should seek good disagreement above agreement. But if we are evidence and truth people, agreement is what we will seek. The injunction to seek primarily to disagree well is therefore also an injunction not to be evidence people or truth people. That is not only wrong, it is about the most wrong thing imaginable.
I think we need to get the slavery argument in some proper theological & historical perspective. The 19th C Southern Presbyterian argument that Scripture was pro-Southern American slavery was seem as distinctly odd by UK Presbyterians & other Christians. In fact, the use of Scripture to justify American slavery was seen as innovative & new, not the theological opposition to Southern slavery. If proponents of LGBT inclusion believe that Christian theology was pro-slavery before the rise of 19C American slavery, I would be interested in the references. Thanks.
My point was about use of Scripture, not linking two agendas. I carefully said ‘I guess’, therefore claimed no particular knowledge.
My point that ‘rights and wrongs’ do matter just emphasised their relative importance. It was prompted by your contrasting focus on the importance of personal narratives, ‘whatever the rights and wrongs’.
Regarding the 19th C anti-slavery movement the phrase ‘relied quite heavily’ doesn’t mean ‘relied exclusively’. Fast forward 150-odd years and the 1960’s civil rights movement did recruit informed social science to prove harm, instead of alleging potential harm.
The final point is not a non-sequitur. On a public blog, declaring what ‘some will think’ doesn’t assume that you’d agree with them.
1. Clearly TFT etc have been listened to, as Sam Allberry (Living Out, Gospel Coalition, considers the issue a ‘gospel issue’ of ‘first order importance’) is part of the Pastoral Advisory Group.
2. Some meta-narratives may be based on scripture, but that doesn’t make them ‘scriptural’. The presuppositions of some of these meta-narratives also need to be scrutinised rather than just heard and affirmed. Experience is part of this scrutiny.
‘Experience is part of scrutiny’, exactly. So debates that include stories of experience are not ‘fluffy and pink’, but a very valid part of scrutiny.
1. So, just appointment to that group is proof of being listened to? Yet, after months of participation in Shared Conversations, members of One Body One Faith were unequivocally declaring that it didn’t add up to listening.
2. You should note that I didn’t discount the fact that meta-narratives based on scripture might not be scriptural. Instead, I referred to ‘undue weight’, which can be given to either. Yes, experience is part of scrutiny, but the scrutiny cannot simply be for a number of activists to declare ‘not true for me’ and ‘not in keeping with my personal narrative’ = objectively untrue.
Ironically, Synod bypassed the kind of theological reflection which preceded the pastoral accommodation of divorcees, by directly asking the HoB to consider whether (read, commission) some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender
The whole enterprise is just a contemptible liberal power grab, so don’t try to dress it up in virtuous garb.
Given lex orandi, lex credendi, where has the Church articulated its theological reflection on gender?
Very sound point Liz; I have had an interest in the history of the abolition of slavery. Those who opposed Wilberforce and Lincoln leaned heavily on Church Traditional teaching that the Institution of slavery was neither good nor bad per se, all turned on how it was conducted. The Scriptures were cited as universally supportive of the practice.
Those studying ” Natural Law ” noted that just as marriage, a prohibition against murder, theft, incest etc were found in every place at all times and were therefore evidence of God’s will expressed through the created order, so too was the Institution of slavery.
My point is that if you restricted your intellectual tools only to Church Tradition and Scripture ( excluding modern scientific understandings and reason – as per the Archbishops’ letter) it was not possible to have ended up on the right side of the slavery debate. This is precisely why so many good conscientious Christians ended up on the wrong side.
Martin, this is a very incomplete account of the relationship between Christian theology and slavery, which makes it appear that the church universally and unequivocally supported slavery from scripture and theology until the 19th century. This gives the impression that the church wholly misread scripture and natural law on this issue for 1900 years and only then saw things aright. You surely know this is not the case.
The NT itself does not affirm slavery as an institution, affirms the humanity of slaves, proclaims freedom and equality in Christ for slave and free, urges slaves to obtain their freedom where possible, and an apostle even urges a slave owner to free his runaway slave.
Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin held that slavery was not part of the natural law, though was permitted in some circumstances given the fallen nature of the world. In line with this, while the Church allowed slavery in certain circumstances (especially of non-believers), it repeatedly prohibited the enslavement of Christians in most circumstances, and in some circumstances of non-Christians as well. The slave trade was banned in England by the Christian Normans as early as 1102, and likewise largely died out in Europe (especially the north) by the later Middle Ages. The appearance of the Atlantic slave trade in the 17th century was a terrible reassertion of an institution that had generally been kept in check in Christian Europe.
It is sadly true that the unequivocal condemnation of slavery in all its forms had to wait until the 18th century, and its abolition until the 19th. So there is here a clear example of moral progress. However, it is misleading to suggest that somehow established understandings of scripture and natural law had to be radically reversed in order to make this change. It was much more the final assertion of a principle always latent in Christian attempts to limit, ameliorate and suppress the institution.
This means it simply isn’t true that if you restricted your intellectual tools only to Church Tradition and Scripture (excluding modern scientific understandings and reason – as per the Archbishops’ letter) it was not possible to have ended up on the right side of the slavery debate. Scripture and tradition were quite capable of furnishing ample arguments against slavery, and frequently had throughout Christian history. (Though no one is proposing of course that we forswear reason or science.)
I hope this helps to make clear why slavery is a poor comparator for overturning understandings of scripture and natural law in relation to other unrelated areas such as sexual ethics. Upon examination, the similarity is only of the most superficial kind.
Will, you are right that these matters cannot be easily debated in the comment section of a blog.
You are too kind to the Churches. Whilst you are right that slavery disappeared early in England, Cartwright’s case and Sommerset’s case illustrate how property rights were initially respected when dealing with imported slaves – it took bold litigation to turn the corner. In Somerset’s case the highly conservative Judge Lord Mansfield ( aka ” the father of the Tory party”) confounded expectation in his decision. He was exceedingly fond of his nephew’s child Dido, by a black woman and many speculate that personal relationship affected his ability to make an uncharacteristic leap of radical jurisprudence. Who said personal stories don’t matter!!?
You overlook that in Southern Europe slavery was established well into the 18th Century – Casanova wrote of consorting with a Greek slave girl.
In Italy as late as the 1870’s Saint Josephine Bakhita – the patron Saint of Sudan was having her slave history judicially considered in the 1870’s. The only State that recognised the Confederacy was the Vatican – the Pope plaited and sent its President the gift of a Crown of Thorns!
If you read the intellectual defences of slavery on both sides of the Atlantic they are rooted in the Church Tradition and Scriptures. Paul was well capable to a wasp like rebuke when embroiled in controversy: in Philemon, he rather meekly asks for the extended loan of the property. In Galatians, contemplating heaven he plainly sees earth’s divisions lasting to the end days including the Institution of slavery as a specific chosen example of the ” up til then immutable”.
The texts and bible stories for the support of slavery are easily found. Wilberforce was making a theological leap of faith largely founded on the golden rule. ( much like today’s reformers)
It is also worth recalling that the abolitionists were tarred by the faithful with the sins of their secular and atheistic bedfellows. They were conforming to the ungodly whims of the age, consorting with John Wilkes, Tom Payne and those wicked iconoclasts of the French Revolution.
These are not comfortable comparisons but they cannot be lightly discounted.
I don’t think anyone has said that personal stories don’t matter! Only that they must be subject to proper moral and theological enquiry in order to be incorporated into fully rational deliberation.
I don’t doubt, and did not deny, that the Church (not least the papacy) was complicit in slavery. I did not claim that it sought to abolish it completely pre-18th century, and so if it was not abolished it was accepted and had to be regulated, and so it was.
There was nothing ungodly about much of Enlightenment philosophy – many of its greatest figures were believers, Christians and Deists. John Wesley wrote an emphatic pamphlet condemning slavery. (See https://grovebooks.co.uk/products/e-185-evangelical-social-theology-past-and-present).
I am well aware that the ‘texts and bible stories for the support of slavery are easily found’. But that wasn’t your claim. Your claim was that ‘if you restricted your intellectual tools only to Church Tradition and Scripture’ it was ‘not possible to have ended up on the right side of the slavery debate’. Surely you must accept that that claim is not true. Christianity had the internal resources to abolish slavery, just as it had always limited it and suppressed it in some measure. Indeed, it was a Christian civilisation which abolished it, spurred on by, among others, evangelical Christians.
If I am too kind to the Churches (and I don’t think I am), you are too dismissive of Christianity’s record in opposing and limiting slavery.
1. There is a difference between the racial slave-trading & slavery of the American South & other types of slavery, such as bond-slavery & slavery in ANE times & the Greco-Roman era.
2. What I would like to see is references by Christian theologians pre-19C making theological arguments for the institution of slavery, not merely references accepting or tolerating the institution or even owning slaves, but considered, extended, theological arguments for Slavery pre 19th C.
3. If 2 does not apply, then Christians were using a new & radical arguments for the institution of American racial slave-trading & slavery.
This is an interesting exploration from a Catholic perspective http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/common-misconceptions/a-necessary-bondage-when-the-church-endorsed-slavery.html
I have a good quote from St John Crysostrom which is in a book in another place! I can’t access it immediately.
It is within a biography of Jefferson Davis, a fascinating read which fired my interest in this subject. Davis was in many respects a fine and deeply religious serious man which prompted my question “How did he get it so wrong?”
Time and again one encounters the argument ” Christ had every opportunity to condemn slavery – yet chose not to do so”. They note Ham , Abraham the ” father of faith” who owned slaves, Joseph saved his family having been sold into slavery, Jesus never called for manumission of slaves etc etc
Those of an Evangelical bent have within their tradition one of some great Saints in Wilberforce and his supporters who transcended the text to liberate the miserable captive against received wisdom from a Church Tradition and narrow shackling to the texts. It is a deep irony to find their successors adopting the very methodology which Wilberforce would have instantly recognised and one which he needed to overcome to free the slaves. As I say, the historic precedent is instructive on many levels – and discomforting.
As can be understood from anti-slavery pamphlets, like The just limitation of slavery in the laws of God’, the evangelical methodology in this debate is very much in keeping with biblical anti-slavery arguments: http://ota.ox.ac.uk/text/5208.html
In contrast with the revisionist penchant for elevating a few verses and themes into overarching precepts that undermine overt proscriptions elsewhere in the Bible, the arguments against slavery are brought home by drawing upon the breadth of scripture.
Martin, there is no equivalence. The NT and Christian tradition have always been uncomfortable with slavery and the churches have always sought to limit it where they didn’t ban it. It was only really permitted as a form of punishment for criminals, non- believers, the bankrupt or war captives (I’m obviously not defending this) i.e. it was regarded as an evil, fit for a punishment. The NT does not encourage it, and tacitly discourages it. It was not regarded as part of the natural law. The story of Israel is all about freedom from slavery.
None of these points apply to SSA and same-sex sex (SSS). SSS is repeatedly expressly condemned in scripture, has always been condemned in Christian tradition, and is so under the natural law for sound and easily understandable reasons. The only equivalence is in the minds of people keen to find some kind of justification for something so inimical to Christian teaching as homosexuality.
Will and David,
However you contextualise the gavotte which the Church danced with slavery you cannot avoid the simple fact that it did not grasp the nettle which Wilberforce and others did when they simple declared that the Institution was wrong.
Paradoxically, some of the Southern defenders of ” their Peculiar institution” seemed to grasp it better and more honestly than the theologians. Fearful of the economic chaos and social violence that would break out if they just freed their slaves, they ceased defending the morality of the Institution long before the Church theologians.
One strikingly summed up their practical dilemma ” We have a wolf by the ears” – and they simply feared to let go.
Holding to biblical texts and Church traditions, too many in the Church failed to make that simple statement ” the institution is wrong”. Their hesitancy was partly because the Bible offered so much support to the socially conservative even as John Newton and William Clarkson were laying before them the hard evidence of what their theology looked like in its implementation in the slave ships.
One of the great images from the time was of the kneeling slave lifting his chains and saying ” I too am a man”. That simple ( non biblical) statement proved to be more Christian than many a weighty tome.
Many a sinner was shunned in the Churches – but never the practitioners or investors in ” the peculiar institution”.
Martin, the abolition of slavery was demonstrably an outgrowth of Christian sentiments about slavery by Christians and others in a Christian civilisation. The sentiment that slaves are equally people is quite obviously a biblical one. Your eagerness to make the abolition of slavery something detached from Christianity and biblical teaching is perverse and historically and theologically untenable.
I can only conclude that your aim to find a way to justify something so clearly proscribed in scripture is skewing your rational judgement in this matter – you must discredit the internal moral resources of Christianity in order to transcend them to validate homosexuality.
I am continually amazed by the revisionism of some as regards Christian teaching on slavery and the interaction with the state.
From the Fathers onward, slavery has been condemned by the Church. As we moved into the C18 and C19, those who took the Bible seriously took up the call for emancipation as a necessary rebellion against the mores of society, whilst those who believed that the contemporary structures of society were ordained by God (and indeed that he spoke through them) supported the institution of slavery. There was no radical rereading of Scripture on the slavery issue – rather the issue was the refusal of large parts of the Church to obey God’s word on the matter and instead to modify it to suit their own desires and purposes.
Quote: ‘From the Fathers onward, slavery has been condemned by the Church.’.
I am only aware of one Church Father outright condemning slavery (take a bow, Gregory of Nyssa). Otherwise, not so much. Chrysostom advised owners to sell all but a few slaves, but this was because having too many slaves was social gluttony – that is, his concern in recommending this was for the master. Augustine saw slavery as a just punishment from God. See Flint-Hamilton (2003) for a brief overview.
It is no surprise that Christianity did not think that slavery was part of the natural law – neither did the Roman empire generally (see Digest Justinianus 1.5.4).
As for ‘those who took the Bible seriously took up the call for emancipation’ – many who took the Bible seriously made exactly the opposite call, including:
Charles Hodge (Princeton, taught BB Warefield): condemned contemporary mistreatment of slaves, but did not believe (on biblical grounds) that slavery was always and necessarily evil.
Moses Stuart (Andover Theological Seminary): thought current practice was morally wrong, but that slavery as an institution was allowed by the Bible.
Bishop John Henry Hopkins (Vermont): ‘…if it were a matter to be determined by personal sympathies, tastes or feelings, I should be as ready as any man to condemn the institution of slavery… But… as a Christian, I am compelled to submit my weak and erring intellect to the authority of the Almighty…’
Raymund Harris published a pamphlet in 1788 (for Liverpool Council) on scriptural arguments for the slave trade, ranging across the whole of scripture.
Robert L Dabney (Union Theological Seminary): poured scorn on idea slavery might be unbiblical.
James Thornwell (Columbia Theological Seminary): said this about abolitionists: “The parties in the conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders. They are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity at stake.”
To sum up, we have a selection of those who took the Bible most seriously, and were engaged in teaching it at various theological seminaries, interpreted the Bible as allowing the institution of slavery.
It is revisionism to suggest the issue was a deliberate decision to ‘modify [God’s word] to suit their own desires and purposes.
One of the reasons that American abolitionists found it difficult to produce scriptural arguments was their reluctance (ironically) to challenge the mores of society in areas beyond slavery.
Parts of the Church played a major role in emancipation, and we can be thankful for those parts (Wilberforce in England, Samuel Sharpe in Jamaica, and countless others). But let’s not pretend that there wasn’t a massive, serious debate about how the Bible should be interpreted, and how reading it as being against slavery was seen by many as a dangerous novelty.
Thank you Jonathan. Since the appeal here is often to the ‘plain teaching of scripture’ on these threads where, anywhere in the NT, is there a knock down, unambiguous text that plainly condemns slavery as against the will of God? Can anyone help? And if there no text what biblical basis do we have for our agreement here that slavery is unChristian, evil and against the will of God? Anyone?
You wrote: ‘the appeal here is often to the ‘plain teaching of scripture’ on these threads’
As Oliver O’Donovan wrote in his review of Pilling: ‘ It is true that there are in currency certain well-entrenched pettifogging ways of handling certain texts, yet the wider discussions of hermeneutic principle over the past half-century have come a long way towards convergence: everybody understands that reading Scripture involves encountering a historical situation that is not our own; nobody thinks that our contemporary experience is irrelevant to what we draw from that encounter; nobody thinks it can simply dictate what we draw from it.
Why does this convergence not soften the radical hermeneutical opposition that is supposed to bedevil the area of sexuality? And why does that opposition only show up in this area? We would be frankly surprised to be told that disagreements about capitalism and socialism, nationalism and internationalism, truth-telling and lying, and so on, all sprang from disagreements about the meaning and use of Scripture. It is, I am afraid, something of a displacement myth, current among those who, in disagreeing deeply about sexuality, would like to find some more dignified grounds for doing so.’
That last sentence pretty much nails the intent behind your line of rhetoric questioning.
Yes, there are some straightforward texts that apply to the question of slavery. The most significant is the creation narrative in which all humanity are made in the image of God, and that combined with the ownership of creation by God (with humanity as tenants, not owners) doesn’t allow the ‘ownership’ of one person by another.
The second major text is the centre of the Exodus narrative, which offers ‘freedom from slavery’ as the primary theological exposition of God’s work.
The universality of the gospel in the outpouring of the Spirit on ‘all flesh’ is of fundamental importance in the NT, and the implications of this can be found in the letter to Philemon.
There are also some interesting specific texts. I think the most explicit is Rev 18.13. The there are two terms in the list to describe slaves: ‘bodies’ (somaton) is the common term for those being bought and sold in the slave market, but John adds to that (as an explanation) ‘human lives’ (psychas anthropon) taken from Ezek 27.13. In doing so John is offering a critique of the slave trade; these are not mere commodities to be bought and sold, but human lives made in the image of God.
Thank you Jonathan for such a comprehensive list of sources : to those I add this from 1850s America. http://fair-use.org/debows-review/1850/09/slavery-and-the-bible
David asks a very acute question and the straight answer is that whilst there is a multiplicity of Biblical texts in support of the slave owners claim to Biblical authority, there is not an unambiguous statement of authority against.
In the Hull Wilberforce museum they quote another contemporary –
” I was shocked at the first appearance of human flesh exposed to sale . but surely God ordained them for the use and benefit of us, otherwise his Divine Will would have made manifest by some particular sign or token”
A quote I cannot immediately locate referred to Jesus healing a slave without having raised the issue of manumission. That is troublesome to us all if we are honest.
I have to say Ian, that for such a plain and manifest evil, your proffered explanation of where the Biblical texts in and of themselves point to the evil of the Institution of slavery seems frankly obscure and unconvincing. Was that ever the argument presented by the Abolitionists? I sincerely doubt it.
They got it right by setting aside the many Biblical texts which by implication or directly supported slavery and by grasping the full liberating implications of the Golden Rule. The problem is that that methodology is indeed a dangerous and liberating idea in its implications, and thus highly suspicious for, and threatening to, the inherently socially conservative.
Martin, your understanding of the relationship between Christian theology and slavery and abolition is very skewed. You’ve created this picture in your head of Christians all being keen on the idea because of the Bible until some C18 radicals come up with the idea of ignoring some texts in favour of the Golden Rule. It really wasn’t like that at all. Why else had Christian states been variously suppressing and prohibiting slavery throughout the Christian era? You’re looking at it through a prism. Christian ethics in this and in any area is not about using the Golden Rule to set aside biblical teaching.
I know I won’t convince you of this but I thought I’d explain it once more anyway because it’s true.
David Runcorn -you asked for an unequivocal verse condemning slavery – I think Paul’s comment in 1Tim1v9-10 about “lawless and rebellious people… ungodly and sinners…the unholy and profane” and then lists among these male homosexual acts and slavery 1Tim1v9-10
Simon: thank you for this. 1 Timothy 1:10 refers to andrapodistais, which the NRSV translates as slave-traders. For the background, see Harrill (2005). In summary, slave-traders had exceedingly low reputations (think second-hand car dealers but worse), but this did not mean that slavery itself was being condemned (in the same way that the reputation of second-hand car dealers doesn’t mean that we think cars are necessarily bad).
In having a go at slave-traders, 1 Timothy is not particularly different from the rest of the culture at the time.
Will, you have got this the wrong way around. Christian ethics was indeed generally negative towards slavery. However, in general this was despite, not because of, specific biblical support (rather than general principles such as the golden rule).
We have also shown you a range of sources showing that when the issue was live in the eighteenth and nineteenth century (it hadn’t really been debated much before that), a significant number of influential biblical scholars in charge of institutions training ministers came out in support of the institution of slavery, even when they could see the damage it caused.
They did so because there are a plethora of specific biblical texts which can be used to support slavery. (See http://www.portagepub.com/dl/causouth/dabney.pdf for a flavour).
Ian, your reply is really telling. You are relying on a broad sweep of a Biblical theme. In doing so, you have to ignore the many specific biblical texts that could be used to support slavery. Two hundred years ago, you would be accused of ignoring the plain texts of the Bible.
A quote from Dabney (who supported the biblical case for slavery) from one hundred and fifty years ago. It hasn’t aged well:
“To the rational historian who, two hundred years hence, shall study the history of the nineteenth century, it will appear one of the most curious vagaries of human opinion, that the Christianity and philanthropy of our day should have given so disproportionate an attention to the evils of African slavery. Such a dispassionate observer will perceive that, while many other gigantic evils were rampant in this age, there prevailed a sort of epidemic fashion of selecting this one upon which to exhaust the virtuous indignation and sympathies of the professed friends of human amelioration.”
To the detriment of your argument, what missing from your attempt to cast the anti-slavery movement as 19C revisionism is the fact that, whereas they sought the banning of a practice for which there is no overt dominical or apostolic denunciation in the NT, revisionists are seeking the affirmation of behaviour which is explicitly condemned.
A revisionist could use the same kind of argument to assert that contrary to their explicit (‘plain meaning’) condemnation in the NT, the cultural context in which idolatry and a Corinthian close-family sexual relationship were denounced by the apostles is no longer valid.
The added requirement for revisionism is that, even if that line of argument succeeded, it would not follow that behaviour previously condemned can now be declared holy.
The whole purpose behind this thread of non sequitur revisionist comments is patently obvious: casting revisionist camp as the heroic 21st century successors to the brave anti-slavery campaigners.
LGBT activism has come to the CofE in the very opposite of the spirit and power of Wilberforce and other anti-slavery campaigners.
David, you are a revisionist. Just a revisionist when it comes to slavery. Abolitionists weren’t just accused of banning a practice about which ‘there is no overt dominical or apostolic denunciation’. They were accused of going against scripture itself. Their position was described as:
‘a denial of inspiration; it is infidelity; and indeed abolitionism is infidelity.’ (Dabney, 1867, 124).
They were also described as not caring for Moses or Christ in comparison to the ‘fanatical idol’ of abolitionism.
A hundred and fifty years ago you would have been accused of twisting and ignoring scripture to fit what you want it to say, and it would have been professors of theology in reputed institutions telling you this.
I am not seeking ‘the affirmation of behaviour which is explicitly condemned’ as the Bible nowhere directly considers the issue of faithful, lifelong same-sex marriage.
Jonathan, that’s a very odd argument. `just because someone labels another as ‘revisionist’ Is no evidence as to whether they were or not. You have to compare their position with the theology of the biblical texts to demonstrate that.
And again, the false negative. Scripture addresses same-sex sexual relationships on the grounds that they go against God’s creation design in Genesis, and not on the basis of exploitation, which is not only never mentioned, but the asymmetric terms are specifically avoided.
I am really glad to be having this debate in this context. It enables us to explore the methodology of changing Church attitudes and doctrine in a context removed from a current controversy.
This was my purpose. At least everyone contributing to the discussion agrees on the ” right outcome”.
It’s slightly amusing that even when Christians agree, how they agree can be the subject of quite passionate disagreement!
This too tell us something.
Ian, you would have been labelled a ‘revisionist’ a couple of hundred years ago if they had had the term. It is essentially just a negative label to insinuate that your opponent is wrong. Its continued use is at best irritating and at times just insulting. But I generally ignore that point.
As to which of us will be labelled a ‘revisionist’ in another two hundred years, history will tell.
In the meantime, as you know I interpret Romans and Genesis differently from you, and consider you wrong in your interpretation. And I do so based on good old-fashioned historical-critical approaches.
Argue all you want about labels, but what you haven’t been able to demonstrate here is a substantial correlation between the arguments exchanged in anti-slavery debate and those in the sexuality debate we’re having today.
You cannot credibly reduce that correlation to the barest minimum that, if Ian was around in the 19C, then he, along with heroic abolitionists, would also have been ‘accused of ignoring the plain texts of the Bible’.
Yet, you’re happy to accept the label (implied by your comments) of theological successors to the anti-slavery heroes, which is ‘at best irritating and at times just insulting.’
Thanks Jonathan – clearly you have done some detailed research on this subject – and I have no doubt persons who traded in suffering were hardly upright in other areas of their life and became a categorical bi-word for disreputableness. However, just a simple reading of how Paul employs the term in context does not allow us to divorce the actual slavery from the slavers so easily and lead us to think that what Paul is condemning in slavers is not their slavery but their wider shifty dealings (as per your second hand car dealer analogy). Here’s why: all the other categories of people Paul lists who are under God’s condemnation are there for their actions described in their titles: when Paul condemns murderers it is presumably for murdering, when Paul condemns the sexually immoral it is for their sexually immoral acts, when Paul condemns liars it is presumably for their lying, when he condemns arsenokotais it is for their acts of sodomy – so it surely makes logical sense to think Paul has the act of slaving in mind when he condemns slavers, notwithstanding the associated disreputable matters (violence, abuse, deception, greed, deceit etc .that were associated hallmarks of those who traded people like cattle.
Jonathan, of course people used the Bible to defend slavery. Christians had always permitted slavery and this was based in part on the fact that the Bible permitted it. We need, however, to attend to the specifics of the theological understanding of this, what was permitted and why, what those and other verses say, and how that relates to the possibility of abolition. The main point is that each issue needs to be understood in its own terms, and not in simplistic terms that try to draw unjustified inferences and parallels.
Simon, thanks for replying. The ‘slavetraders’ reputation included forcibly kidnapping free people and making them slaves – in other words their poor reputation was not only about how they traded, but how they procured slaves. Hence the KJV translation ‘menstealers’, or the NET translation ‘kidnappers’.
In other words there is no straightforward denunciation of slavery. And anti-abolititionists could (and did) point to 1 Timothy 6, which instructs slaves to serve Christian masters particularly well. Plainly, they argued, Paul was upholding the institution of slavery. Slaveholders were admitted to the church without any requirement that they give up their slaves. Yet on other issues, repentance and change of behaviour was required. The anti-abolitionists would have said that 1 Tim 1 may refer to abusive behaviour within slavery, but not to a denunciation of slavery itself.
We generally assume that the biblical case against slavery is strong, obvious and plain. It isn’t, unless you use something like the golden rule as a ruling principle for proper biblical exegesis.
Thanks Jonathan – that is helpful clarification. However 🙂 I don’t think ‘Paul upholds slavery’ – that suggest a positive support rather than a pragmatic accommodation. Slaves were procured through violent subjugation of enemies in war or as you suggest kidnapping. I cannot think Paul ‘upheld’ slavery but recognised that the Roman Empire ran on slaves and his injunctions in 1Tim6 are surely a pragmatic response to the givenness of the situation not a principled support of it. But I do agree that one cannot marshall a whole host of unequivocal texts to make the case against slavery. Yes, the golden rule is a powerful ordinance to be applied to this issue but for me, its a matter of first principles: God created humankind in his image with a mandate to rule and subdue nature. To subjugate a person made in God’s image is blasphemous as well as a perversion of our creation mandate. Humankind subjugates nature not each other – to do so is evidence of the Fall.
Will, it was the earlier intellectual movement behind the American and French revolutions that changed the anti-slavery climate. Part of the resistance to both extending the franchise and freeing the slaves had its roots in fear of the societal change of those events. You might even go back a couple of generations. Both the English Civil War with its overthrow of the ” divine right of kings” and the 1688 “glorious revolution” asserted the rights of the common man.
Both of those events, of course, had their theological/religious components. The dissenting conscious began in the religious conscience but did not remain in that sphere.
It is no coincidence that the morality of slavery comes under scrutiny as intellectuals and working folk alike began to challenge the social order.
One of the most impressive acts of self sacrifice was the support for the Abolitionist Northern blockade of Southern cotton exports during the American Civil War offered by the Lancashire cotton workers who accepted real hardship for their families at a time before the Welfare State.
Yes that was kind of my point. The intellectual movement was the natural rights movement. It was grounded in ideas of natural law that had a long pedigree in western and Christian moral philosophy, with a strong egalitarian element injected by the Gospel. Not least the Gospel reconception of the status of slaves. It did eventually lead to democracy, but not in the UK till the 20th century, with some movements towards it in the 19th. But the Civil War was not ‘a couple of generations’ before abolition, it was more than 150 years!
It wasn’t democracy that initiated abolitionism. It was the Gospel imperative of equality and freedom under the natural moral law that did so, and which initiated democracy as well.
Jonathan,you didn’t address the point that exploitation is not once mentioned in the relevant texts (whereas if you look at the male-female pattern,it is everywhere); nor the second point that the vocab of asymmetry is not found either.
David, it was never my intention to suggest that those who adopt a more literal approach to reading the Bible would have supported slavery, only that the methodology in its “purest” form would have placed them in an enhanced likelihood to have done so. Who knows- I might have been in that camp myself!
thanks for clarifying, I think that what you call ‘the methodology in its “purest” form’ caricatures the position of those who oppose the Church affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships.
Considering your last sentence, I think that it may be worth reflecting on the quote from Professor Oliver O’Donovan’s review of the Pilling report here: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/is-synod-competent/comment-page-1/#comment-346679
I have looked at the O’Donnell quotation and reflected upon it but don’t find it terribly helpful in this conflict. I could construct a fair case on behalf of all the concepts listed except truth and lying where I would need persuading that the Bible was unclear as to the more godly option.
The problem with looking at the cases of slavery and enduring committed and loving same sex relationships, is that examples of the former abound and yet still we are today utterly clear that “approving” texts need to be ( as lawyers say) “distinguished” from our plain ( modern?) discernment of God’s will. In the latter case – and NB the very precise terms in which I define the subject matter under debate , one sees little direct engagement yet extrapolate principle from some pretty negative contexts.
I think when one considers the premised relationships as “committed” ” loving” ” voluntary” ” faithful” “enduring” etc and then reflect on the traditional bible based justifications of slavery ( + of course commentatored tradition) one cannot help but feel that many in the more narrow interpretation camp choke on a gay gnat but swallowed the slavery camel whole because it was seasoned with a vast array of approving biblical texts.
The less learned would have read the golden rule and figured it out pretty quickly. That seems to be the best bible based argument of the lot.
Premising relationships with “committed” ” loving” ” voluntary” ” faithful” “enduring” is simply a gloss on the perceived mutuality of the couple themselves.
In terms of mutuality, consider Herod Antipas and Herodias. Here was a woman with the terrible misfortune of being married off to her half-uncle, Herod Philip, after her father, Aristobulus IV, was executed by Herod the Great.
Yet, when Herod Antipas was exiled by Caligula after being accused by Agrippa of conspiracy, Caligula offered to allow Herodias, as Agrippa’s sister, to retain her property. Instead, she chose to put her love for Antipas first by joining her husband in exile.
So, a second marriage which was “committed” ” loving” ” voluntary” ” faithful” “enduring”
I suppose that some Herodians might have felt that John the Baptist was, to paraphrase you, ‘of the narrow intepretation camp…choking on a Levitical gnat (Lev. 18:16; 20:21).
Yet, Jesus declared on hearing of his execution: ‘John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.’ (John 5:35)
How could He declare that if JTB’s condemnation of the Herods’ PSF relationship was misguided and violated the Golden Rule? Why should our response to PSF same-sex sexual relationships be any different to JTB’s response to Herod’s marriage to Herodias?
Have you seen the latest Tyn Bull? The article says that Col 4:1 ought to be translated ” Masters, treat your slaves with justice and equality, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” I guess you have not come up with any theological arguments by any orthodox theologian pre-19C arguing for Christian slavery.
Are not the controversies only 19th century because that is when a democratic challenge to the institution arose?
The controversy was raging in the 18th century, well before the Great Reform Act when Britain cannot be described as democratic.
Thank you, Ian. Yes I think we ended up in all sorts of fixes, as these pastoral and theological concerns met, and as you say the Bishops are very mindful of last February.
To add a couple of points:
Some of the atmosphere was not helped by the ‘unhelpful rhetoric’ (to put it mildly) ahead of Synod coming from Christian Concern, which took the focus away from the substantive issues around conversion therapy to quite personalised attacks on Jayne Ozanne, drawing in her personal life. As evangelicals we need to call out that sort of attack.
Secondly, I think those debates raise all sorts of safeguarding issues as well. Firstly, Synod found itself in the position of shaping safeguarding policy – so rejecting guidelines to help with Trans and CT issues, but calling for a ban on conversion therapy. But also we found that so many of the stories we heard were about people who were clearly ‘Vulnerable People’ in a statutory sense. Is a debating chamber with its inevitable polarisation the place to be discussing these people’s complex needs and setting policy? Hardly.
I agree with your point about safeguarding.
On the other point about ‘unhelpful rhetoric’, Jayne Ozanne was happy to encourage support for GS2070A/B by characterising a significant part of the Church and its approach (what she calls the ‘Charismatic Tribe’ model) as chiefly responsible for perpetrating ‘spiritual abuse’ in the CofE. http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/Ozanne Jayne – Spiritual Abuse – April 2017.pdf
Jayne is a public figure who, in advocating this motion and revisionism, disclosed aspects of her personal life. Thereby, she also opened the door to scrutiny of how this revisionism is being played out in her own domestic situation.
People who live in glass houses…
David – as a charismatic evangelical I share your concerns about Jayne’s own rhetoric, but when kids are mentioned in press releases it crosses a line.
Well, Paul, I’d agree that a line was crossed by putting details about her partners’ kids in the public domain, since it made those children personally identifiable to the public.
if a married Synod member proposed a motion challenging the 1999 declaration that: ‘sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively’, it might be pertinent to be aware that the proposer was having an affair. No information need be disclosed about any children born out of wedlock.
It’s a non-negotiable breach of ethics for any organisation to put information in the public domain which makes children personally identifiable.
I think most likely the press release referred to the children to draw attention to the fact that by involving a child in her *public* facebook and then calling anyone who quoted it an invader of pricacy, JO was showing herself as without shame.
I’ve got to agree with Christopher Shell here – whilst I do not think Christian Concern should have shared the details of Jayne’s partner’s child and it did them no favours, Jayne had absolutely no problem with plastering her public facing facebook feed with photos of someone else’s child.
Yes I’m aware of the point Christian Concern were trying to make. But in doing so they lost friends, and much more importantly drew an innocent kid into a heated public argument. Indefensible in my view.
Peter, they did not draw in an innocent kid, since the public nature of the facebook page coupled with the fact that JO is well-known was what had already done that.
Indeed, your point challenging and questioning kid-publicity is much the same as Christian Concern’s thumbs-down to new-family and new-family publicity.
David Walker says:
Our answers to crucial questions of belief and practice… cannot ultimately be determined purely by the choices we make of how to interpret a small number of specific texts.
I think the critical word here is choose. The implication is that the text doesn’t have a meaning that we are to discover by understanding it properly, but that the meaning of scripture is an interpretation that we choose to make. This inverts the proper approach to scripture and makes the reader the determiner of meaning.
It is also disingenuous to suggest that orthodoxy in sexual ethics rests on proof texting and not on an integrated theology of creation and sin which draws from the whole of scripture, as well as specific texts, and is couched in rational terms.
Given that pretty much every western professional medical association condemns conversion therapy, Synod was entitle to rely on that professional competence. The motion endorses a medical professional memorandum of understanding of conversion therapy, as shown in the motion:
That this Synod: (a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence; and 3 (b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; (c) and call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.
Why would Synod not accept the professional opinion of the medical body concerned? How could Synod possibly be competent to go against such an opinion?
‘Endorse’ is a strong word that implies some sort of a peer relationship between endorser and endorsee. I’m not a professional psychologist, and Synod is not a professional psychology body, so ‘endorsing’ a Memorandum like this is IMO beyond the scope of what Synod can do here. I’d be very happy if it had said something like ‘share concerns’.
For full disclosure I voted against the final motion not because of (a) but because of (c), an amendment that was added at the ‘last minute’, with little discussion allowed, and indeed no speeches against allowed. My gut instinct – was that the Church of England is currently in no position to give any other body lectures on the treatment of vulnerable adults. I’d also add that we had rejected an amendment calling for guidelines for churches in their ministry in this area – so Synod had rejected an amendment to give churches guidelines, but felt they could lecture the government in this complex area.
As a postscript, I discovered later that the Health Secretary in fact has looked at the matter of a ban very recently, in March this year. He declined to ban CT in favour of the affirming the 2015 memorandum – clearly he felt the Psychologists profession could self-regulate on this. That’s pretty crucial information that should have been put before Synod as it weighed whether to call for a ban, surely?
So Ian is quite in order to question Synod’s competence on this.
Peter, I think it worth flagging up that how the medical world works in these matters need to be understood – and I don’t claim a comprehensive understanding but I can give an example from my safeguarding specialism when I practiced as a Solicitor in the field.
You may have heard of ” false memory syndrome”. For psychological reasons you truly believe x happened and speak convincingly of it. The medics know this happens; the lawyers know this happens, and we warn ourselves to evaluate testimony with this in mind.
Here is the problem.
To establish it as a medical diagnosis, admitted onto the formal list of permitted identified medical syndromes, you have to first compile a list of features, recognise traits and then decide how many need to be present before the practitioner can then pronounce the presence of the syndrome.
What happened is that the various contributors could not and still cannot agree on the initial list or how many traits in a cluster make up a safe diagnosis. So for now, we agree on the problem but it does not feature on the published list – ( but everyone acts as if it does – ish!).
The problems can still be called factors to be taken into account.
Thus the fact that Conversion Therapy is not yet shunned officially does not mean that the vast weight of opinion is so problematic that the Church should not act. The definitions may be in dispute, and remain under consideration, the potential for harm is not, even amongst those still in disagreement on formal definition.
Yet, we already know why the government has not banned CT (or, for that matter, any other therapies of questionable efficacy, such as bereavement counselling). From Hansard: ‘As accredited voluntary registration appears to be gaining momentum and is proportionate to the risk, we believe that statutory regulation would not be appropriate and the costs to registrants or the taxpayer could not be justified.
Instead, GS2070A was a stalking horse, so that the impact could be assessed in advance of safeguarding declarations which ban any kind of pastoral practice which does not affirm same-sex sexual orientation identity and gender identity.
The 2015 MoU is very specific about what counts as CT. It does not include Jayne Ozanne’s extension to prayer and deliverance ministry, nor her attempt to demonise what she calls the ‘charismatic tribe’ model as an occasion of ‘spiritual abuse’.
RCP is not a ‘medical’ body, nor is psychiatry as hard a science as medicine.
What are your views, Jonathan, on the way that Dermot O’Callaghan and CIT have not had to change an iota of their position whereas they have forced backdowns and/or rewordings more than once from the professional body? And on an extremely central point: whether ‘orientation’ is inborn.
That is pretty much one-way traffic.
I often wonder how many people are actually involved in the wording of documents supposedly issued by an entire professional body. That could be why they are issued anonymously – to give an air of authority.
To be a psychiatrist you must be a qualified doctor. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is ‘the professional body responsible for education and training, and setting and raising standards in psychiatry’.
In other words, the RCP is a medical body. To suggest otherwise is bizarre.
You consider psychiatry to be precisely as hard a science (i.e., as scientific) as biology? as medicine? as anatomy? Or less so? Or more so?
This one is, I suppose, the one I would most like an answer to.
Jayne Ozanne added prayer when prayer does not exist in any of the other definitions, so she made up her own definition so we cannot pretend it is only the same as others.
Worse than that, prayer is fundamentally Christian yet here we have Synod proscribing prayer.
If an LGB person approaches a Christian and asks for prayer then Synod were proposing that prayer be declined.
So the LGB person is treated with contempt and hatred by Synod’s motion.
Just how anti-Christian can Synod get?
Clive, I do not see any reference to prayer in the official motion passed by Synod. Please point me to an official source that says Synod proscribes prayer.
While the January 16th 2017 statement indicates that ‘Conversion Therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis’
However, in the GS2070A PMM, under ‘What is conversion therapy?’, point 7 declares:
‘The term covers a wide array of approaches designed to change a person’s sexual behaviour or gender identity. These can include talking therapies, prayer, deliverance ministry, hypnosis, aversion therapy – such as electronic shock treatment. In some cultures in the UK many young LGBT adults are threatened with “corrective rape” therapy.’
So, just to be clear, your position is that, despite Ozanne’s description of CT in the GS2070A, Synod is only endorsing a ban against CT as defined in the MoU 2015.
Surely it is merely standard Christian teaching that SSA is inferior to natural sexual attraction and a person ought, on that basis, to suppress it where possible? (Assuming that the disordered is inferior to the well-ordered, which is surely true.)
If that is what is supposed to be condemned and banned then we are in trouble.
According to catholic theology, the three “sources,” which comprise the morality of human acts are the object, the intention, and the circumstances. A morally good act requires goodness of the object, of the intention, and of the circumstances together.
A sexual attraction per se doesn’t necessarily engage a person’s intention to secure the object of attraction.Until intention is engaged (Matt. 5:28; Rom. 7:7)), no attraction is any more disordered than another. Instead, all human affections are tainted by that propensity towards sin (James 3:2; Heb. 12:1)
It’s standard Christian teaching that we are all not only ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, but also ‘born in sin and shapen in iniquity’ (Ps. 51:5)
The distinction between same-sex attraction and other-sex attraction is that, for the former, the end is intrinsically disordered ab initio, whereas for the latter, there is a propensity to be disordered. Apart from that, the intention and circumstances can compound the guilt of acts arising from either attraction.
There’s a fine distinction between an intrinsically disordered end which, with the best of intentions and circumstances, cannot be ameliorated and an intrinsically ordered end which all mankind has a natural propensity to mar with erring intention and aggravating circumstances.
You say Until intention is engaged no attraction is any more disordered than another. But then you say The distinction between same-sex attraction and other-sex attraction is that, for the former, the end is intrinsically disordered. Surely these contradict? The attraction is disordered because the end is disordered (i.e. of the wrong kind) irrespective of whether intention is engaged.
You say no attraction is any more disordered than another. But surely that isn’t true: attraction to the opposite sex is well-ordered (though corrupted), attraction to the same sex is disordered, attraction to children is more disordered, attraction to animals more disordered, attraction to the dead more disordered etc. It’s true I would be hard placed to put the later items in this list in an actual order. But that doesn’t mean I need to be committed to saying they are all as misplaced as each other. I think SSA is disordered, but I think attraction to children is more disordered etc.. You claim that There’s a fine distinction between an intrinsically disordered end… and an intrinsically ordered end. Surely this is not a fine distinction at all but a fundamental one?
I noted that in a similar vein Sean Doherty in his speech to Synod denied that homosexuality is inferior to heterosexuality. But do we really want to be committed to that? Does it not flatly contradict the idea that one is ordered and the other disordered? Yes, heterosexuality is also corrupted by sin – no one would deny that. But does it not defy good sense to argue that something that is disordered is not inferior in the created order to something that is well-ordered? Furthermore, if the two are equal in status in the created order then on what basis do we urge people to suppress/resist one in every circumstance, but allow a proper place for the other? It just seems an odd stance to say yes SSA is equal to natural sexual attraction but no you can’t express it.
What I think is missing from your reply is the contribution of intention and circumstances to moral disorder. As a result, the end becomes the focus and arbiter of moral good by which your hierarchy of sexual disorder is established.
On that basis, you could go on to suggest that, based on that moral hierarchy of ends alone, that to be sexually attracted towards an end which is always disordered is morally worse than to be sexually attracted towards an end which is mostly disordered.
That would further suggest that the heterosexual (albeit corrupted) attraction experienced by a ‘straight’ adulterer is superior to the homosexual attraction experienced by a celibate gay Christian. The end is important, but to exclude any recognition of intention and circumstances is far too reductive.
To say that heterosexual and homosexual attraction, absent intention (i.e. any movement of a person’s will towards the end), are equally disordered simply means that any intention towards the former is sometimes right and that any intention towards the latter is always wrong.
Nevertheless, if we must establish a hierarchy, we must evaluate a combination of end, intention and circumstances.
Thanks, David. I think we’re talking at cross purposes. I’m not speaking of moral disorder. Morality is a matter of free human action, so attraction of itself cannot be morally disordered. I’m speaking of physiological and psychological disorder, the proper constitution of the human being in the natural created order. The moral order is just the part of the natural created order concerned with rational human action.
I agree that there is no moral distinction between forms of attraction in and of themselves. But I would say there are degrees of psychological disorder in sexual desire and drive, just as in any other area of human anatomy and psychology.
I wonder if we need somehow to be clearer with our language in order to make these kinds of distinctions.
Your clarifications are useful. However, my greater concern is with Synod’s inability to distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity.
Orientation identity has an added political dimension which orientation per se doesn’t. So, as one writer puts it: ‘Sexual orientation is immutable not because of its cause, but because it is both extremely difficult to alter and so central to a person’s identity that no one should be asked to change that part of themselves. In short, whether sexual orientation is in fact immutable, many individuals experience it as such and it forms a constitutive part of their identity.”
It is on this basis that advocacy groups purport that LGBT people have a public collective identity which is exhibited as: ‘a “quasi-ethnicity” ‘complete with its own political and culture institutions, festivals, neighborhoods, even its own flag. Underlying that ethnicity is typically the notion that what gays and lesbians share – the anchor of minority rights claim – is the same fixed, natural essence, a self with same-sex desires. The shared oppression, these movements have forcefully claimed, is denial of the freedoms and opportunities to actualize this self. In this ethiniclessentialist politic,clear categories of collective identity are necessary for successful resistance and political gain’. (Gamson, Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct?, p.516)
This is why any ensuing HoB declarations which are predicated upon GS2070A will be so important to LGBT activists, like Ozanne.
For the HoB to make a declaration or to approve liturgy in furtherance of LGBT identities would reify the notion of their immutability. This not only contradicts the APA Task Force findings, but would also impose a duty on the whole Church to change its doctrine in recognition and affirmation of the actualisation of those identities through behaviour.
Whatever empty promises are made about ‘mutual flourishing’, they ended with the Philip North debacle. Instead, affirming LGBT identities would also require the eventual gender-neutralisation of Canon B30, since, as the Supreme Court noted in the Obergefell ruling “immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment,”
So, on the basis of actualising lesbian and gay identity, the purpose of marriage as an institution ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’ (as the European Court declared) would be subverted. This would just make it easier for marriage to be perverted into a legal mechanism for separating newborn children from the birthright of their natural parents also being their legal parents.
Whatever the next secular consensus that Synod decides to endorse, our main goal should be to resist all attempts to insinuate this groundless political assertion of immutable and indissociable LGBT identities into future HoB declarations.
Sean Doherty’s position (straight, gay, whatever) ignores practically everything. It ignores:
the whole created order,
where we all come from,
the reason for there being male and female in the first place….
And even then it doesn’t raise the question why most societies have never felt the need for a category ‘gay’ let alone the even more questionable ‘straight’.
Prayer is not Therapy.
Prayer is Christian and Synod has proscribed it which is profoundly anti-Christian
I think “Just pray” captures the spirit perfectly and will get nobody into trouble.
Judgmental intervention however is best avoided in a situation where there have been too many tragic suicides.
As someone once said to me on here ‘you have been told’ that prayer hasn’t been proscribed. Read the motion. Or shall I just say that ‘conservatives’ always twist and misrepresent texts?
I tell you what Penelope why don’t you read the motion? David Shepherd has even quoted it for you to make it easy for you to do.
I’ll tell you what, why don’t you look at the voting records rather than telling me what David Shepherd has quoted:
SPECIAL AGENDA III: PRIVATE MEMBERS’ MOTIONS CONVERSION THERAPY (GS 2010A and GS 2070B):
‘That this Synod:
a) endorse the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK of November 2015, signed by The Royal College of Psychiatrists and others, that the practice of gay conversion therapy has no place in the modern world, is unethical, potentially harmful and not supported by evidence;
b) call upon the Church to be sensitive to, and to listen to, contemporary expressions of gender identity; and
c) call on the government to ban the practice of Conversion Therapy.’
See any mention of prayer?
And how is CT defined in point 7 and 8 of the PMM GS2070A?
7. The term covers a wide array of approaches designed to change a person’s sexual behaviour or gender identity. These can include talking therapies, prayer, deliverance ministry, hypnosis, aversion therapy – such as electronic shock treatment. In some cultures in the UK many young LGBT adults are threatened with “corrective rape” therapy.
8. People offering conversion therapy are rarely licensed mental health professionals. Many are in fact religious officials – such as church leaders or prayer ministry members, most of whom are self-taught advocates or people who claim to have changed their own sexual orientation using conversion therapy. They therefore have little or no training in this highly sensitive area. In a few cases conversion therapists may have originally trained in psychology and mental health, and so offer conversion therapy alongside other therapies.
Thank you for your fair and informative post, Ian.
And now a brief response to Martin:
‘Prayer is not therapy?’
It is my understanding that therapy can be healing. It is also my understanding that we have a healing Lord and that healing sometimes takes place following prayers for healing. However when we pray such prayers, we put them in the hands of our Sovereign Lord, and accept that we cannot direct the outcome of our prayers. God’s ways are not our ways.
Thank you David for your post at 9:20 on 17th and now this latest one. It is sad that Penelope wants to be inappropriately selective instead.
Well said Christine.
Clive and David. It is sad that you cannot see the motion that was actually passed, but instead have to impute some nefarious anti-Christian motive to Synod. Even to the ABY. But go ahead, play fast and loose with texts and interpretations. I can understand that you’re upset that your ‘side’ has lost. That’s natural. But misrepresentation isn’t doing you any favours.
So, the Church has taken the prospect of amending canon law (B30; B26.2) completely off the negotiating table and has opted for ‘maximum freedom within the law’. GS2071 is a stalking horse to discern whether the HoB is open to providing for some kind of sexual identity recognition liturgy in Church.
But, you consider it a loss to our ‘side’ for Synod to:
1. Agree on deferring completion of the Teaching Document until 2020. Although, several revisionist commentators have seen this as kicking the issue into the long grass.
2. Pass a PMM endorsing a ban against CT. Although, according to your position, such a ban is limited to the MoU 2015 description, instead of Jayne Ozanne’s.
3. Pass another motion which asks the HoB to consider whether it might prepare liturgy to welcome transgender people.
I would suggest that your assessment of loss and victory is somewhat skewed.
It is not I who is claiming ‘victory’. I simply don’t see it in those terms. But it is your ‘side’ who are now speaking of loss. From this vey blog, to the statement of dissent just published, to Peter Ould’s podcast which suggests blackmailing the ABC by not paying parish share. If you were all so pleased with the voting on these motions why are you now threatening to sabotage the CoE?
It is not us claiming loss or victory. You talk about others playing fast and loose with words and yet your messages the hypocrisy that is actually you doing exactly that!
Are you one of those who say that doing something mild like (not even necessarily) changing one’s desires (but merely desiring to do so and taking steps to do so) is scandalous and must not be allowed…
…whereas simultaneously to go 100 times further down the same trajectory and submit to body surgery, amputation etc in order to go the whole hog and change one;s entire gender – that is positively to be applauded?
Maybe you’re not. If you are, there are lots of people who agree that the illogic of that is as obvious as one can get. But illogic is what one will get if one takes the (what seems to be) carnal route of going for the conclusions one *desires* without doing the thinking first.
(The above is directed at Jonathan.)
CBT helps the management of unwanted desires. The problem lies in seeking to change fundamental identity which the various professional bodies are worried about not least because of the well documented sequelae of failure.
Can I ask, have you talked to Transpeople?
I made a point of visiting a young Trans support group before Synod and it changed many of the pre-suppositions I had which were not dissimilar to perhaps yours.
Many are not seeking surgery.
When trying to find common ground talked of the variety of Trans identities ” male to female male attracted”
” male to female female attracted, pansexual bisexual asexual etc- all presenting different issues to us.
I then said that when we join Synod we are presented with a variety of religious identities Traditional Catholic Liberal charismatic, Complementarin Evangelical etc – aren’t there about 16 versions.
I said I ticked a box but sometimes I felt greater attachment or partial attraction to a different perspective .
” that’s it exactly they said – its complicated! ”
Gender Association, Religious Association there can, they tell me , be some fluidity which outsiders won’t immediately understand.
I learnt that it’s good to talk to the people we are talking about rather than assuming we know what they are saying.
I wouldn’t even begin to assume that, since clearly we are talking about several different people and there is no way they could all be the same as each other.
You wrote: ‘The problem lies in seeking to change fundamental identity which the various professional bodies are worried about not least because of the well documented sequelae of failure’
In making their cases, both the 2015 MoU and GS2070A cite the authoritative APA Task Force Report, Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.
The report rejects the notion of a fundamental identity, instead distinguishing sexual orientation from sexual orientation identity, encouraging an approach which explores client-determined goals for the latter:
‘In terms of formulating the goals of treatment, we propose that, on the basis of research on sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity, what appears to shift and evolve in some individuals’ lives is sexual orientation identity, not sexual orientation. Given that there is diversity in how individuals define and express their sexual orientation identity, an
affirmative approach is supportive of clients’ identity development without an a priori treatment goal concerning how clients identify or live out their sexual orientation or spiritual beliefs.’
‘We define an affirmative approach as supportive of clients’ identity development without a priori treatment goals for how clients identify or express their sexual orientations. Thus, a multiculturally competent affirmative approach aspires to understand the diverse personal and cultural influences on clients and enables clients to determine (a) the ultimate goals for their identity process; (b) the behavioral expression of their sexual orientation; (c) their public and private social roles; (d) their gender roles, identities, and expression; (e) the sex and gender
of their partner; and (f) the forms of their relationships.
That sounds nothing like Jayne Ozanne’s assertion in GS2070A, that they [the medical profession] believe that the correct course of action is to provide gay affirmative therapy.
I’m sure that Ian can answer you. But, what’s could be more calculated to evoke an emotive response than, at the conclusion of debate, declaring of a significant group of evangelicals: ‘I feel terrified of going to an EGGS meeting because of what I’m likely to face.’?
I said it because it feels that way David. I along with other people feel we have to go together to EGGS because of the atmosphere it creates. To give you one example, a member of Synod (whom I didn’t know) turned to me at EGGS at said, “how are we going to get rid of these evil homosexuals?”. If the culture of a meeting is such that this sort of comment is seen as a legitimate expression of view – in a room full of strangers – I think ‘terrifying’ is not an inaccurate description of the feelings created in the room. I’ve been taken to task already for this remark I made at Synod but I stand by it: it is not the description of individual evangelicals, but of a culture that permits abuse to go unchallenged.
I’m all for emotive debating – passion and rhetoric are important (Tom Wright of all people once told me that rhetoric was sometimes more important than theological accuracy!)- but if you’re going to critique Synod for its lack of theology, you probably need to have brought some theology to the table yourself.
” To give you one example, a member of Synod (whom I didn’t know) turned to me at EGGS at said, “how are we going to get rid of these evil homosexuals?”.”
I think I’d like another witness to that allegation before I take it seriously. It’s very important to accurately reflect conversations, isn’t it Simon?
Take it seriously Peter (although for clarity’s sake, I should make it clear it was not at the most recent sessions). I was rendered speechless – which is saying something.
I am on record – as you well know – for taking a stand against my ‘side’ when speech becomes poisonous (and have borne the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ accusations from this side of the aisle as a consequence). I see no reason why similar such behaviour should not be critiqued when it comes from EGGS.
If liberal intolerance is a risk on my side, intolerance of homophobia is a risk on yours.
Let’s think about that carefully. I’d be grateful for you to explain how a stranger turning to you and saying to you: ‘how are we going to get rid of these evil homosexuals?’ is tantamount to the culture of that meeting legitimising it?
Of course, if, as Peter Ould asks, it was overheard by others and still went unchallenged, then I’d be inclined to agree with you.
To my mind, the connivance at Andrew Foreshew-Cain’s tweet about Ian Paul, and the booing of Andrea Minichiello Williams are tantamount to a revisionist culture and biased chairmanship which legitimise such behaviour.
Because David, for someone to feel free to air that view in a meeting implies very strongly that she thought it was both safe and legitimate to do so and that the view expressed was so ‘normative’ to the meeting that it would be acceptable to a stranger, who could be assumed to be an evangelical.
As to the stuff about tweets and booing, the tweet about Ian was inappropriate and the booing has been explained – going for the partner and child in public is unacceptable. But I’m all for Andrea M-W getting up and saying what she likes. Every time she does so – and I’ve told her this – more of the middle ground are put off by her. What’s more, the reason why people gun for Jayne Ozanne – apart from the obvious, unspoken sexism – is she is both an effective campaigner and has the pulse of the evangelical middle ground, especially among lay people where a lot of people have sat quietly and quietly ignored their clergy’s teaching on this subject for a long time. Now, they have their spokesperson and, dare I say it, champion. I’m not surprised Jayne is the target of so many attacks – often personal in nature. Jayne can be very assertive – and that is not alwasy comfortable – but she wins people to her in a way that people find convincing and in a way that I’m afraid is not matched on the conservative side.
If I may also comment on the claim of a ‘revisionist culture’, I think that is fanciful. What there is – and three cheers for it – is (as Rob Munro accurately identifies) a change in the middle ground. The shrill voices – who think that the whole edifice of Anglicanism is under threat – are getting shriller because their influence has decisively waned since the Shared Conversations. People understand one another better, people accept that theologically it is possible with good grace to hold to a progressive position on what they see now as a second-order issue. Evangelicals who feel it is first-order (and whose rhetoric is – to use Ian’s phrase – full of false binaries of salvation/exclusion and false/true teaching) are having to realise that they are no longer as influential over the middle ground on this subject as they once were. And they’re right – because theologically and pastorally, their case is increasingly found wanting, not by me who has not believed it for decades now, but by the silent voices in congregations. And as result, Evangelical conservatives are getitng louder, noisier and more prone to conspiracy theories.
I’ve no idea where this will all lead but, for myself, I feel LGBT clergy and laity are at last being heard. That’s good enough for me at the moment. And I’m proud to have been called by God to play a small part in that change.
Again, I’m reading what you’ve written carefully. You wrote that ‘a member of Synod (whom I didn’t know) turned to me’. That is not synonymous with someone to feel free to air that view in a meeting. So, did the person actually air that view in the meeting or just express it to you individually?
Jayne’s motion was passed because a majority at Synod wanted to send out a message that was symbolic of a significant change in ‘tone’. The change in the middle ground and relegation of this to second-order issues is because consensus has been reached on ‘maximum freedom within the [current] law’. Taking Canon B30 off the table was a major concession granted by those who previously argued against the quadruple lock which exempted the CofE from solemnising same-sex marriages.
Additionally, many of the ‘moderate majority’ are relieved by the 2020 deadline for the Teaching Document, which many see as kicking the issue into the long grass.
What will come across as shrill is going beyond the symbolism of the new tone struck by GS2070/71 to pre-empt the Teaching Document with Jayne Ozanne et al bringing to Synod yet further motions in a similar vein.
Please don’t try and exegete my statements David. It’s an avoidance of the point I’m making.
I would caution you against assuming what was in the mind of Synod when it voted.
I’m sure we shall see more motions coming to Synod. Whether they are debated is a matter for the Business Committee.
Thanks for engaging but we’re not going to get anywhere are we?
It’s about precision, not exegesis. And the point you’re trying to make about EGGS depends precisely on whether the offensive remark was tolerated, or connived at.
You caution me about making assumptions about what’s in the mind of Synod, while you happily declare your x-ray quality insights about the shift in Synod’s middle ground.
Thanks for engaging too. We’ve got far enough to know that you’ve made conflicting statements about the homophobic view which was expressed to you, but was not aired without censure to others in the EGGS meeting.
Simon, how can you justify your use of the word ‘progressive’?
1 – It is elementary, as you would surely agree, that people disagree on what constitutes progress – and it therefore follows that no one group can claim to be progressive, since by definition they all consider progress to lie in the direction championed by their own group!
2 – Your use of this word means that those who disagree with you are probably being seen as ‘regressive’ or at best stick in the mud. That is insulting, and ought to be withdrawn surely.
3 – point 2 is all the worse for being covert and appearing to be aiming to sneak in under the radar. That scores no marks for honesty or transparency.
4 – failing 1-3, you can only be using ‘progressive’ as an unthought-through cliche, which does not engender confidence in the rest of your thinking.
I was not there, so cannot comment. However, as someone who would still prefer to think of myself as ‘evangelical’, but is a) an ordained woman b) a feminist theologian and c) accepting of all to the best of my ability, I am very familiar with the concept.
Thank you, Ian, for your discussion about what was happening in the CT debate. I was told afterwards that I don’t know what I am talking about, but the trouble is, I do. Not only becaue of my training but also because of my own experience: I’ve also been brain-washed and ‘exorcised’ in the past, by people who thought they knew what I should be, from a literalist interpretation of Scripture, which almost led me to suicide, so I actually have empathy, and not only sympathy, for people who have been abused by well-meaning but abusive Christians. The point is, though, that while our personal experiences inevitably motivate us we cannot use them as the basis for generalised action, as if we know what is happening in every other similar-looking context. We need a much bigger world-view. Over time my own scriptural hermeneutic has become gay-affirming for reflective reasons, not emotional ones. Reflection on experience is a right use of our work,, but not simple generalisation from it. The motion we were being asked to approve was not about our hermeneutics, or even about our pastoral care. It was wrongly worded, and words matter when it comes to a statement made by the governing body of the Church. We need to think clearly and theologically about what we say, so that what we pronounce in public is not dismissed by others who are looking for a Christian steer on things, but taken seriously as a good contribution to contemporary ways of thinking and acting in our context from within our own unique gift to the world. We should not adopt the haughty tone of outsiders who are using their experience as a spring-board from which to comment on a professional world that already has quite enough difficulty with religion, and is working hard to police itself. The wording of the motion that Synod eventually passed could even stop professional therapists from trying to help transgender people! I think that we are and were well within our rights to speak to our pastoral concerns within the work of the Church, and to condemn poor practices in so-called ‘prayer ministry’ and so-called ‘Christian’ but non-professional therapies, but in that motion we were trying to legislate against letting people decide what kind of help they are allowed to seek, let alone what other people are allowed to offer. Something much more nuanced was needed, and if we’d had it then we could have united around the need for church’s to be places where people are signposted towards good, genuinely professional care, whatever our standpoint on sexuality is. It was an opportunity lost.
Quite extraordinary stuff. It seems your real fear is that these motions are ‘a trojan horse’, since you say that in themselves they don’t change the church’s position on anything.
Could you expand on this a little please? What exactly do you think is inside this horse? The motions are quite specific – are you concerned they will somehow be expanded upon now passed (which you know is quite impossible).
It strikes me that these two motions were in fact entirely sensible and practical pastoral measures – one to attempt to stop churches referring people to psychological ‘therapies’ which the profession considers unethical, using the profession’s own position papers on the matter to define the term (and there was a definition in the MoU), and another from a diocese looking for guidance on what to do when transgender people ask for a service to mark their gender transition. It may well be something the bishops consider needs more work, but it is surely fair for those facing this question to ask the bishops to consider an answer. They are perfectly at liberty to say that the church can’t create such a liturgy if the theological position isn’t clear.
Your complaint about false binaries is of course very valid. Your conclusion, for example, that either your position is held to or “the Church of England decisively detaches itself from its historic roots, and from its commitment to Scripture as a reformed part of the church catholic” is a classic of the genre, but with added hyperbole.
Dear Church Mouse,
That isn’t true is it.
“and practical pastoral measures – one to attempt to stop churches referring people to psychological ‘therapies’ which the profession considers unethical, using the profession’s own position papers on the matter to define the term (and there was a definition in the MoU), ”
When Jayne Ozanne gave a different definition which uniquely included prayer – and by including prayer it certainly wasn’t what other professions consider unethical, indeed it wasn’t even anything like what other professions even considered at all.
Hi. I’ve responded to your comment below (4:55pm). It appeared in the wrong place – presumably user error.
What’s inside the ‘Trojan Horse’?
1. From our July 11th Twitter exchange with Andrew Foreshew-Cain, I’m inclined to believe him when he asserted that the National Safeguarding Team are looking at spiritual abuse at the moment.
2. Given that GS2070A was carried, I’m also inclined to believe that Jayne Ozanne’s will continue to promote the notion that spiritual abuse is strongly associated with those who belong to what she calls the ‘charismatic tribe’ model: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/Ozanne%20Jayne%20-%20Spiritual%20Abuse%20-%20April%202017.pdf.
Her examples included Alpha, Evangelical Alliance, New Wine and Spring Harvest..
3. So, all in the interest of safeguarding, it’s a fairly easy step to propose a future motion which consequently condemns any Church organisation or ministry in which the pastoral approach is not affirming of LGBT sexual identity and any sexual behaviour which could be predicated upon it.
Spot on, Church Mouse.
And the trouble with the appeal to “leave it to the bishops” is that people have lost faith in the bishops to deliver any decent theology themselves. GS 2055 was lamentable, Men and Women in Marriage was assertion piled on weird assertion. Why should they be trusted to be reliable guides. Articles XIX and XXI warn of the dangers both of trusting Churches that are very episcopally led to provide a guide to the truth that may be relied upon, AND to beware of the capacity of Synods to get it always right. But they certainly affirm the right of Synods to try and get it right, and they locate theological work with the Church as a whole which includes all the baptised.
So the two sensible and moderate motions which Synod passed were a good start, and I hope herald a lot more of the same. All perfectly proper.
There is in the argument to wait for the bishops an unusual level of deference towards bishops from evangelicals who usually sit very light to episcopal claims to authority when it suits them. Now that they are seen as a bulwark against frightful “revisionists” we are told that we must defer to them. But I think their theological acumen and the quality of their theological thought has been called into question severely, and that deference will meed to be earned.
In what world is it perfectly proper to call on bishops to produce liturgy for a controversial and divisive area in which the church has no established and agreed theology? Nothing proper about it. Pure politics.
I’m sorry if it comes as a shock to you, Will, but I have to tell you that theology always has a political dimension. If you read your Bible you will discover this shocking truth. From Pharao’hs perspective, Moses’a cry of “Let my people go” was pure politics and an attack on imperial construction. The ministry of Jesus, and his arrest and crucifixion were massively political, and not only on the side of his enemies; some of his own actions could be and were seen as politically challenging. And Paul pulled the ultimate political stunt in his revelation of Roman citizenship and his appeal to Caesar.
So please drop using politics as a boo word. It is nothing of the sort. Because human life is social and embodied, as well as being suffused with spiritual significance then theology will always be, and always should be, political.
Yes, Jeremy, but those were provocative actions against an enemy. Not ones intended to express respect. They’re not the model for ‘proper’ church governance. Politics has its place. But it isn’t in the good governance of the church. General Synod should not model itself on the House of Commons or a students’ union. It is not there to present a string of awkward challenges to the episcopal leadership. It is there to participate in governance under the leadership of the bishops.
For once, I’d agree. As well-funded conservative parishes embark on diocesan quota revolt, while planning alternative episcopal oversight, and the CofE’s Reform and Renewal grinds to an unseemly halt, you can rally MPs behind your cause.
We can now see Jeffrey John’s rescinded episcopal appointments and routine denial of preferment to same-sex married clergy in the light of what you state here:
‘theology will always be, and always should be, political’.
David: care to estimate the number of conservative parishes? A handful. And what’s going to happen when the vicar of this well funded parish moves on and they haven’t paid their common fund? They won’t get another vicar until they pay up. And so they will threaten to leave the system. And go where? Renting space in the local school or village hall whilst the original parish realises that they need to re think their protest.
And a model for all of this? The ordinariate. And how well is that really doing?
Is that scenario what you really want?
Oh and do you somehow think common fund revolt and alternative episcopal oversight ISN’T political? Makes me laugh!
No, Andrew, withholding money will be for many individuals 100% a conscience matter. Alternative episcopal oversight will be for many individuals 100% about the care of souls and not wanting them to go astray.
Fightin’ talk, but, hold on, this is the CofE that’s so desperate to stave of the decline in clergy numbers they’rve put measures in place for the approx. 25pc of clergy over 60 to defer retirement at the previous compulsory age of 70.
Meanwhile, to cover the cost of training the encouraged influx of ordinands under Reform and Renewal, the Archbishops’ Council 2018 Budget forecasts eye-watering diocesan apportionment increases of 9.4% in 2019 and 11.1% in 2020 (compared to 9.3% over the past three years).
And, despite Reform and Renewal, most dioceses, are continuing to report numerical decline.
now, in that context, every single parish share penny will count.
Of course, although the Church Estates Commissioners won’t bail them out, perhaps, the Church will rely on the kind of commercial sponsorship which is plastered across Exeter diocese’s 2017 calendar-cum-annual report. In fact, the CofE should build on that as a bulwark against declining revenue.
I can see it now, clergy kitted out in vestments with the cunningly interwoven logo of each parish’s corporate patron. Taken further, since the HoB are keen to adapt liturgy to changing times, why not insert respectfully worded promos into common worship:
‘This Sunday’s collect is brought to you by Google: since 1998, providing every ‘other’ answer for those who searching.’
Now that makes me laugh!
Well David, the other alternative, as I have been saying for a rather long time, but which you won’t ever seem to think might happen, is some compromise and both ‘sides’ residing within the same broad church. The kind of approach James Byron keeps advocating. It’s the only way forward. There is no real alternative. Unless you want to go the ordinariate route.
I want the church’s teaching to change, Church Mouse, but agree with my opponents that Ms. Ozanne’s using this as a softening-up exercise, taking out low-hanging fruit one-by-one until the life’s sucked from the church’s teaching, and the rotted tree collapses. Credit to her, she’s playing a difficult hand exceptionally well.
As I’ve said before, I always thought that change would be driven by affirming evangelicals, and so it’s proving. Affirming evangelicals aren’t impeded by liberalism’s self-imposed restraints, nor the natural hesitancy of moderates. They understand power, organization, and politics, politics they play to win, and win quickly. They’re sure not gonna wait around for decades, wringing their hands, and privately weeping over the policies they help impose. They’ll get it done.
As someone who believes in a broad church, I don’t want it to happen like this: but so long as compromise is closed off, guess it’ll have to.
‘Politics’ is right. Good people are not manipulative nor games-players nor tacticians. They are transparent. The fact that someone shows the typical traits of the politician is most definitely not a good sign.
However, one can see how Synod might attract such people in the same way as Parliament attracts them
Ms. Ozanne’s been transparent in her desire to change church teaching, a desire I share. She also, I have no doubt, is sincerely opposed to conversion therapy, and sincerely wants to welcome trans people. Everyone knows her objectives, which she’s entitled to pursue in as effective a way as possible.
As for good people not being tacticians, are you also leveling that charge at conservatives who excel at game-playing, from border-crossing, to using money and numbers as cudgels? If not, consistency please: if so, you’re holding all to a higher standard than I ever would, which is of course your prerogative.
James, I think you need to qualify your claim here since everyone, even Ms Ozanne, ought to moderate their conduct according to moral norms of integrity, honesty, consistency, fairness and accuracy, among others. Effectiveness is not by itself justifying; the ends don’t justify the means.
Correct, the ends don’t justify the means. Ms. Ozanne’s means aren’t at all improper — she’s working through the CoE’s legislature — and she’s made no secret of her objectives.
What else would you have her do?
How is withholding money game-playing? It is just listening to your conscience. Border crossing? They simply care about the souls in each region and therefore want to make sure that they do not go without leadership. Abortion clinics? Er – because they don’t want little human babies to be killed. (An astonishing position to take?)
All of those actions are just common sense. Not tactical except in the minor sense that whatever is done ought to be done in the best and most effective way.
You wrote: ‘conservatives who excel at game-playing, from border-crossing, to using money and numbers as cudgels’
Well, if games are gonna be played, con evos good at hard ball. From the success of a few motions, you happy predict the success for her strategy. Her chief problem is that, however revisionists try to pass her tactics off as innocuous, her CT ban stalking horse is way too obvious.
Important as the symbolism may be that the CofE endorses the ban on CT as defined by the MoU, Ozanne now needs to forge a link between what she calls the ‘charismatic tribe’ model (who just happen to be well-funded and vociferous opponents of revisionism) and spiritual abuse.
That would involve the National Safeguarding Team ratifying the definition of spiritual abuse throughout guidance, particularly in relation to LGBT pastoral ministry.
Of course, the real prize would be to enforce it through a CDM case after a complaint of spiritual abuse is championed by an LGBT activist against a high profile leader involved in what Ozanne calls a ‘charismatic tribe’ (e.g. New Wine, Alpha, Spring Harvest, etc.)
These tactics by which LGBT activists leverage the expressive ends of banning any activity which rejects affirmation of sexual orientation identity are way too obvious.
I predict that this issue will go off the radar as the Reform and Renewal programme continues to flounder and the Church tries in vain to stanch its unabated haemorraging of pensionable clergy.
About the CofE impasse on sexuality, You always said you wanted a quick and amicable, if possible, divorce.
That’s one of the more naïve comments I’ve seen for a while. As Ian explains, it is a step towards things such as the following:
– Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, stood to declare that ‘we believe that LGBTI identity is God-given’, contradicting all agreed Church of England statements on the question.
– David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, made an extraordinary statement following Synod: ‘What the [House of Bishops’ February] document failed to deliver, the Synod itself immediately began to put in place.’
– The first [low point] was a retelling of the Genesis creation narrative: ‘Genesis tells us that humanity was made male and female, in a clear binary. But we are also told that there are similar binaries of day and night, and of land and sea. Of course, we know in reality that there is such a thing as twilight, and that there are liminal places between land and sea, such as wetlands and marshes—and God is in them all.’
– Another part of Jayne Ozanne’s agenda is to have significant movements in the Church, including New Wine, Soul Survivor, HTB and Spring Harvest labelled as ‘spiritually abusive’ and therefore illegal. This is why the motion was seen as a Trojan horse.
Both motions appeared to be nakedly political, intended prematurely to force Synodical stances on issues which are to be part of the teaching document. They can hardly be described as helpful. They were also presented in a hostile spirit to part of the church, intending to discredit it as far as possible. The problem with the motion on conversion therapy in particular was that while the MoU that was endorsed gives one definition, Jayne’s background to the motion expands the scope of concern to many Christian pastoral ministries. Certainly no opportunity was taken to reassure those involved in such ministries that their pastoral practices were not being targeted or threatened by the motion. This was the crux of Sean Doherty’s amendment, and it was rejected. In many ways such a reassurance, coupled with the removal of all references in Synod papers and speeches to Christian ministries which have no connection with conversion therapy as it is defined in the MoU, would have gone a long way to reassure many people that this motion was not intended to cause mischief. However, given the way it was introduced and defended, can it really be doubted that it was in fact aimed at far more than just conversion therapy as defined in the MoU? It was aimed at the Christian pastoral ministry of those who are orthodox in matters of sexual ethics. That wasn’t even concealed.
“… Synod cannot actually ask AC to do anything, since AC does not report to Synod.”
Say what? The Council’s the CoE’s executive branch: if it doesn’t answer to the legislature, who does it answer to? As legislature, Synod can presumably change this, and direct the A.C. to answer to them (or abolish it entirely, if they wish).
“… it is a change that will only come by means of the oppressive illiberalism of revisionist thinking which silences and dismisses alternative views without any real listening or engagement.”
I fear you may be right on this, Ian; but if so, it’s not the fault of moderates and liberals, who’ve been crying out for a compromise for decades. I’ve asked before for one to be suggested, and suggested several myself that fall a long way short of equality, to little if any avail. If compromise is closed off, this’ll move to extremes.
“The change that is wanted, and which is welcomed by David Walker, is a change that can only come if the Church of England decisively detaches itself from its historic roots, and from its commitment to Scripture as a reformed part of the church catholic. More than that, it is a change that will only come by means of the oppressive illiberalism of revisionist thinking which silences and dismisses alternative views without any real listening or engagement.”
That’s a correct assessment, I think. Who is to say how likely. But, in your view Ian, what should be the response – or range of responses – in the event of those outcomes?
when we are in the business of playing “cultural catch up” rather than seeking to be God’s people together, seeking the guidance of the Spirit and diving deep in to scripture we are lost. Our Bishops, those who chair Synod are in the business now – it seems – of reacting rather than planning, preparing, teaching and leading 🙁
Yes, and there is no rational reason to change our beliefs. It is quite reasonable to assert that we are biological not just psychological beings, and that permanent male-female marriage is the only right context for sex (look at the sexual and relational mess so many people make of their lives, and their children’s lives, nowadays). What’s more, religions are quite within their human rights to assert their own beliefs.
Maybe of Bishops just need to accept that if they follow Jesus they wont always be loved by this world?
Marcus, I am not Ian but I will attempt to reply.
1. The points made above about the orthodox loosing the middle ground to the revisionists are true.
2.. Human speaking it seems unlikely that the middle ground can be won back for the Gospel.
3. The Bishops were essentially silent at GS. They are followers not leaders. To coin a phrase they are “weak & wobbly.” They have abandoned their role as theologians & pastor-teachers. They will follow the direction of the wind.
4. The Teaching Doc due in 2020 has as its stated goal that it will not decide what is theologically right or wrong but merely describe contradictory positions as all equally Anglican.
5. if the above 3 is true, then the Gospel is in serious trouble in the COE.
6. Some of the orthodox will leave & join new structures. Other will finish their ministries & then sadly leave their pulpits to the revisionists. The orthodox who believe God’s call to ministry will join other groups.
7. After the LGBTI agenda is successful, the same hermeneutic will be used to start a campaign on other issues, perhaps on other types of human sexuality, but perhaps even more importantly on a revision to the doctrine of the Trinity: God will become transgendered in His persons & name.
I suppose these motions, though they officially carry no authority, will be used as leverage further debates via “pastoral emotion” rather than Scriptural theology.
Unfortunately, for the protagonists, Jesus didn’t agree with their view on identity (primarily biological not psychological) and sex (defiles you unless in a permanent male-female marriage). And this is the problem – because it means the liberals are asking the church to *abandon or renounce* the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles on a question that everyone understands (for different reasons) is of crucial importance…
Which reminds me of a joke on Alpha about the CofE’s response when God announces He had decided to leave the church!
Any serious analysis is welcome and this is interesting even if one does not agree with everything. Synod does mutter if they think something is controversial or borderline out of order- I have suffered this myself when raising Safeguarding issues- I seem to be taken rather more seriously now!
I disagree about theological seriousness. Our shared conversations were theological and lively and these motions are not divorced from that context.
On the transgender issue some argued that we did not need specific texts as ” enough” is already in place. If so, so too is the theology. The motion was carefully and proportionate. if the Bishops support or reject a theological basis for a specific liturgy then we can have the debate then. Directing their minds to what will inevitably be a small minority of cases which might otherwise be overlooked is neither revolutionary nor improper.
On the Conversion Therapy debate let us be clear. It is a “cure” without a medically recognised disease. Of course anyone troubled by the actions which their sexual ( or other) impulses lead them into is free to seek Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – well established and ethical therapy. Nobody need be left unassisted.
If you want to get involved in any “alternative therapy” whether homeopathic, crystal electrical or whatever, you are free to do so – and this includes conversion therapy.
However the Established Church is entitled to heed the advice of the major health and Counselling providers and say that it does not lend its name to it.
If you want it or to provide it to willing participants that is a free choice, but you neither need nor have the imprimatur of the Established Church. You must bear the loss with as much fortitude as you can muster.
Surely it is clear from all the commentary on this, and the contributions in Synod itself, that the concern with the motion is not from a wish to defend medical conversion therapy (which nobody is), but from the nakedly hostile nature of the motion towards orthodox sexual ethics and those who seek to uphold it in their ministries, the lack of any reassurance to those people by Synod or the bishops, and the ambiguous relationship set out by those defending the motion between conversion therapy and Christian pastoral ministry. This surely isn’t that difficult to understand.
I’d like to add a personal reflection from an ordinary parish, that doesn’t involve itself in strident argument, that just quietly gets on with the business of the Kingdom in our (reasonably well off, admittedly) corner of England. It feels as if Synod, as a body, has taken leave of any understanding of the reality of life in a parish like this. Most people, inside and outside the church, are getting on with their lives as best they can. Some will be exercised by the issues that are highlighted here, some very profoundly and personally, some as a matter of principle. However, most (the vast majority) are trying to make ends meet, dealing with troublesome teenagers, trying to work out childcare issues, worrying about the security of their jobs, about elderly parents, and how they’ll get to work on time through the traffic. That’s the focus of most of daily life for most people in my parish today. How connected does Synod seem to them today? I expect to be shot down for being anecdotal rather than theological, but I despair of the disconnect.
David Chamberlain, I realise it can seem like that, but these headline issues which exercise people in and around Synod mask the vast majority of Synod’s work, which is to ensure that the church is properly governed. So for example we spent as much time debating the budget for next year (by which the church will fund the training of its ordained ministers, fund the work of the national church – much of it to sustain the life of the parishes – and much more). Most of the people on Synod serve in ordinary parishes – yours sounds much like mine – and our concerns we bring to Synod are informed by our parochial experience. The trangender debate, for example, arose out of a specific ministerial encounter in Lancaster. I guess you could say that much of what Parliament does is not very relevant to life in local communities, but take it away and you would soon discover what wasn’t happening.
The ‘disconnect’ comes because the governance of the church needs better communication – if you were to read this thread and the wider media I can understand the sense of despair, but with better information provided about what Synod spends much of its time doing for the local church – I think you would sense more hope.
The vast majority of Synod’s work i.e. what it is supposed to be doing. Not behaving like an unruly students’ union, passing symbolic motions designed to bypass episcopal leadership and undermine disfavoured parts of the church.
Nonsense Will. Synod is structured to give voice to bishops, clergy and and laity. Each can block the others. If it bypassed episcopal leadership, why did the bishops vote in large majorities for both motions? The transgender motion was passed by the Blackburn Diocesan Synod (i.e. one of the more conservative dioceses), not one of its centres of metropolitan elite. You’re welcome to disagree with the vote; you’re not at liberty to say that it wasn’t a decision we took with our eyes open.
Why did the bishops vote in large majorities for both motions?
Appearance. The motions were clearly set as traps for those seeking to uphold biblical teaching. Ian explains this above.
Oh come off it Will. There is a whole synodical process which simply doesn’t allow for that kind of explanation and whilst I understand that you and Ian are sore about the outcome, the process just isn’t the problem. And if you seriously think the bishops do things simply for the sake of appearance, then I think you need to go and talk to your own bishop about that. The idea is a nonsense.
The vast majority of people in the church would clearly have backed these motions. The vast majority simply didn’t see the issue with women bishops and won’t see the issue with making pastoral accommodation for same sex marriage. And that is not about cultural conditioning or ‘zeitgeist’. It’s simply about better understanding, both theological and psychological.
Andrew Godsall: ‘The vast majority of people in the church would clearly have backed these motions. The vast majority simply didn’t see the issue with women bishops and won’t see the issue with making pastoral accommodation for same sex marriage.’ The ‘vast majority’? Really? What evidence do you have for that? It’s sweeping statements like that that wind people up. I’m pretty sure the ‘vast majority’ of people that I have contact with in the church would want a whole lot more information and theological reflection before making their minds up. And please don’t conflate women bishops and same sex marriage – I thought we had got past that category error.
David: there is no conflation. They just happen to be two areas of life that have changed dramatically during my lifetime. Remember Angela Rippn? Women weren’t even allowed to read the news on TV before her. Remember when homosexual activity was illegal? Not long ago either. All in my lifetime.
No conflation. Just human and theological development of two issues side by side.
As to vast majorities…what percentage of the population actually go to church?
Andrew, the relevance of your observations about ‘what people think’ and ‘how many go to church’ to responsible theological and scriptural reflection is unclear. Or are these our authority now?
Our authority is scripture, tradition, reason and experience Will. Same as it ever was.
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever”
(Hooker; Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14).
That looks a rather uneven stool to me.
Andrew your amazing for being so inaccurate.
Angela Rippon wasn’t the first female newsreader.
The real answer to “How many go to Church these days”……is more than ALL the political party membership put together. All institutions have falling membership,
But then you same to make the jest true in your case that 68% of all statistics are made up on the spot!
Clive: ok let’s be accurate. Angela Rippon was the first woman journalist to become presenter of the BBC national news. Widely understood as the first female newscaster in Britain.
Peter Ould: using a proof text from part of our tradition to prove that tradition isn’t so important is a novel idea but doesn’t quite work. But it’s novel!
I also wonder how Hooker came upon this particular piece of wisdom. Did he discover it by reason by any chance? In which case…….
Peter’s quotation from Hooker addressed the implication from your reply to Will on the relevance of ‘what people think’ and ‘how many go to church’ to responsible theological and scriptural reflection.
Your last response relies on false dichotomies between scripture, tradition and reason. To some extent, they actually contain each other, so that Hooker’s point is that, where moral reasoning from different sources are in conflict, Christians should give precedence to following the explicitly explained and reasoned moral conclusions found in scripture.
However, your assertion that ‘the vast majority of people in the church would have supported these motions’ has no relevance to the normative commissioning of theological reflection in advance of any Synod motion to amend liturgy.
David, I chaired a Deanery Synod debate, in a very rural deanery, several years ago on same-sex marriage (before the SSM Act). The vast majority of middle-aged and elderly members were pro equal marriage; some passionately so. It surprised me. And reassured me that equal marriage is not ‘owned’ by progressive metrosexuals.
Well, that settles it then. Tiverton and Collumpton Deanery is now the indisputable arbiter of grass-roots support for same-sex marriage in the CofE.
And I think you’ll find, David, that the latest poll is the guide to grass roots support for SSM in the CoE.
Oh, you didn’t mention that. So, you must mean this poll: http://bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/39147/bsa34_moral_issues_final.pdf
Presumably, from table 1 on page 8, you also accept this poll as the guide to grass roots support in the CofE for the belief that pre-marital sex is ‘not wrong at all’.
And just like saying that ‘the vast majority of people in the church would have supported these motions’, these polls have ‘no relevance to the normative commissioning of theological reflection in advance of any Synod motion to amend liturgy.’
Penelope, your point about your local deanery is exceptionally small-scale. Whereas an indication that the same pattern prevailed nationally would be large-scale enough to be worth a lot. It can’t prevail nationally, since if the trad position is not widely held by the older generations,then whom *is* it held by?
Ian and I were clearly in different debates. He is plain wrong. Sincere, but wrong.
Are you implying that Ian Paul is seriously befuddled? If he is sincere but so wrong then he must be well, “nuts.” Is that what you are saying?. Nothing that Ian was written would, to me, warrant the description that he is on a “different planet.” Many think that Ian is quite sane, sober, well-argued, & quite moderate!
Ro, you are right. A footnote: sane and sober and well-argued are good; moderate is usually neutral, although it will often display the good ability to see different ‘sides’.
If taking a moderate position were an actual virtue, as opposed to being entirely neutral and depending on the facts of specific cases, then two bad results would follow.
(1) There would be no need for debate at all. We cut straight to a moderate position, which is by definition right.
(2) There would be a furious rush to move the goalposts and frame things so that one’s own radical position (argued or unargued) is defined as moderate. Which actually is what is happening with organisations like via media etc., etc..
Inventors and pioneers are by definition in a minority of one and their position will often not even resemble anything mainstream or moderate. The question is whether they are right,or following the evidence. Following evidence (which is always a great adventure with an unknown destination) can lead to provisional conclusions varying from radically traditional to utterly moderate to new. There is no pattern here.
Good try David. Do a bit more research next time. Funny how anecdote is Ok when used by your ‘side’, but not by mine.
Anecdotes on either ‘side’ are okay, but conclusions from them can only be provisional.
Give us research that proves something…next time.
‘Proves’? Like the New Atlantis article? Very funny.
Penelope, you have gone too far. Far too far.
David has consistently shown you quotes and evidence and you have wrongly and falsely accused him of giving anecdotes when he has done no such thing.
You claimed that a survey supports you but, as usual, you failed to reference the survey and when eye does to try to respond to you in a respectful manner you dismissively (and hatefully to be honest) say “Good try David. Do a bit more research next time….”
I too was at a Shared conversation in my diocese (which I wasn’t chairing) and the meeting was very clearly against same sex marriage as being equivalent to “traditional” marriage and one person even pointed out that the law itself says they are different with different forms of dissolution as an SSM can’t be consumated.
Please stop being disrespectful and show us evidence of your views.
Look at the timing of my posts. Then work out which ones were a reply to which comment of David’s, despite them appearing in different places in the thread.
And then reflect, for a moment, how people have been insulted on this blog in the past and ask yourself, is waspishness really Going Far too Far?
Penelope, the New Atlantis article you refer to speaks of many papers and makes many points about them.
You somehow lump all of these papers and points into one.
How are we to assess the intellectual level of such a claim?
I’m very sorry. My comment about you doing more research (which was posted before my comment on the latest poll, to which you replied on the BSA survey) appeared for some reason below your reply about the survey.
So my ‘do a bit more reasearch’ was a reply to your comment about Tiverton and Cullompton Deanery (I’m flattered, BTW), not about the BSA poll. I don’t know how the postings got skewed on the thread, especially since the one which I posted earlier appeared later down the thread.
Anyway, someone has already misunderstood. So oops.
No worries. I think that being somewhat ‘thick-skinned’ is an essential requirement for debating topics on this blog.
That was supposed to be a smiley, not a question mark!
I am interested in the accusation of there being no theology on the debates, alongside the interesting paraphrase of my speech which was an attempt to do some biblical theology albeit within the constrictions of a 3 minute speech limit. Is it not theology if someone disagrees with it? Is the idea that in a text which has poetic/ liturgical elements and which presents a series of binaries not all of which are as binary as all that so completely wrong?
If people would like to see what i actually said it is on my blog
Priscilla, thank you for sharing a link so that people can read what you actually said—that is always helpful. I don’t suggest that something is not theological simply because I don’t agree with it; there is plenty of substantial theology which I don’t agree with, but I am happy to recognise the case that is being made.
Near the start of your piece you comment: ‘I would like to offer an interpretation of the Genesis account which could help us move from a purely binary approach to gender.’ I think that in itself is a problematic way to start—it is always an issue when we seek to find something that we are looking for in a text, rather than seeking to hear what it is that the text says in its own terms. At best, it means we are putting the text to uses that it was never intended to bear; at worst we end up treating the text as plastic, and finding what we want there. I think that is what you end up doing.
What does the author of Genesis appear to be communicating in this text, and how was this text received down previously generations? (I am here deploying reason and tradition to assist our reading.) The answer to both questions is that this text communicates a clear binary of the sexes, but one in which there is both difference and equality, in a strikingly counter-cultural way (in terms of ANE texts).
In the discussion on Facebook, Thomas Renz (an OT scholar and parish priest) helpfully commented:
I do not consider the observation obviously stupid although its relevance to *transgender* rather than intersex questions is less clear. There is something to think about here but possibly not what the speaker intended. The suggested parallels are imprecise. (1) God is not said to have created darkness; he created light. This means “day” and “night” are not created equally. Day is the result of a direct act of creation, night is the result of an absence (of light) and twilight far from being a *third* in the line of three equally created states is the relative absence/presence of light during a time of transition. (2) Similarly water is not said to have been created in Genesis 1, land is. And again wetlands and marshes are transitional states that partake to a greater or lesser extent of God’s direct act of creation (land). One would want to be careful about forcing a parallel to the male-female distinction in the biological realm. There is no sense of “female” being the absence of “male” or the other way round in Genesis 1 (nor, I would suggest in Gen 2 because the male-female distinction there is prior to the creation of man). What one could argue, maybe, from Gen 1 is that the existence of intermediate states or conditions that to some extent partake (incompletely) of both sides of a binary division do not as such annul the binary. In other words, the existence of wetlands does not invalidate the land-water binary, nor should the existence of intersex people lead us to abandon the male-female binary. But Gen 1 would discourage calling the day “night” or the sea “land” or male “female”.
If you would like to argue that the passage does *mean* what you suggested, or that there is a history of interpretation prior to the last 30 years that supports this, I’d be interested to know. Otherwise it feels like a ‘reader-centred’ interpretation—and such approaches are seriously problematic because they actually prevent the text saying anything to us we are not already looking for.
Ian, Priscilla’s concern is the way she hears the category of ‘male and female’ in Genesis being ‘used as a reason not to accept the issues around gender that are raised by trans people’. I share that concern.
In your response to her you do not start where she starts though. You begin by expressing concerning about her approach to the bible when she says ‘I would like to offer an interpretation of the Genesis account which could help us move from a purely binary approach to gender.’ You claim this can only mean she is seeking ‘to find something that we are looking for in a text, rather than seeking to hear what it is that the text says in its own terms’. When we do this, ‘at best, it means we are putting the text to uses that it was never intended to bear.’
I do not reading Priscilla as doing that at all. I think you make an assumption and then proceed as if it is true. So ‘At best’ you think this approach simply cannot reveal the true meaning of the text. Her speech is therefore theologically/biblically holed below the waterline. End of …?
This approach is simply a necessity at times. For pastors it is a tried and tested way of approaching the bible for meaning when we are faced with human dilemmas – especially when the questions are new and so the ‘received’ interpretations need further questioning. I agree it must come with a warning. But there are dangers is not doing this either – which I think is part of Priscilla’s concern.
Thirdly, I am close to Thomas Rentz’s approach. So can I assume that you and he were uncomfortable with the Bishop of Birkenhead‘s dissenting appendix in Pilling? That all creation has a binary structure was the central theological plank of his argument there. ‘From Genesis to Revelation there is a bi-focus trajectory. The Bible tells the story of heaven and earth, the two halves of God’s good creation. They belong together and …. are designed to be finally united in Christ. This coming-together of two parts of the good creations is reflected in the nature of creation: sea and dry land etc; and ultimately male and female, first in animals and then in humans … in the coming together of Jew and Gentile, and in the union of husband and wife’. Pilling Appendix 3:2
I still think his piece raised more question than it answered for the conservative cause on this.
The constraints of a three minute speech limit mean that some of the working needs to be cut.
when i say
“I would like to offer an interpretation of the Genesis account which could help us move from a purely binary approach to gender.”
in my head i am not putting the cart before the horse and seeking my own interpretation within scripture but trying to explore the male- female binary. (or not).
The question that was put in the questions session of synod seemed to suggest a prescriptive view of gender. I was musing as to other possible understandings and ways of looking at the text.
Reader response is at times in the eye of the beholder
I found your contribution new and interesting.
I am coming to dislike the culture of a couple of 5 minute speaches then everyone having to edit what they had carefully crafted over hours to condense into 3 minutes. I would rather hear fewer fully constructed arguments than a multiplicity of sound bites.
“Pack ’em in, keep it short” is not a healthy attitude for a Synod which ought to give people the opportunity to develop thoughts . It especially suppresses true reactive debate to the flow of the argument and becomes a succession of disjointed statements.
This was a subject many knew a lot about, there was real knowledge passion and pastoral stories to be shared. We would have been far better having this debate at proper length rather than the post election debate which was an unnecessary pale reflection of political contention happening in greater detail and better informed, elsewhere. .
On my recent post, Penelope Cowell Doe asked whether the pairs in Genesis could be understood as merisms rather than binaries, which I think is what you are also asking. You might be interested in my comment there:
In literary terms, the primary theme in Genesis is ‘separation’: God separated light from darkness in v 4; God separated the water above from the water below in v 6; the water is gathered in v 9 to separate it from the land; the lights of the sky separate day from night in v 14; and interestingly it is that separation that then immediately leads to fruitfulness. If you are going to grow a crop, you need dry land, not a marsh or hinterland.
In the second creation account, in Gen 2, there is again the theme of separation, though the language is different. As the best literature on this explores, the phrase ‘ezer kenegdo’ is an unusual one that expresses both similarity *and* difference, connectedness *and* separation. The animals are separate but not connected; another adam would be connected but not separate; the creation of another, but who is connected, comes about precisely by an act of separation by God.
Culturally, the intermediates within the merism either don’t exist, or are seen as a bad thing. In Israel there is no dusk; it just goes from day to night (which you’d know if you’d lived there.) Marshes are unproductive and harbour disease; many kibbutz settlers coming to the unproductive land which the local Arab populations had failed to make productive died of malaria until all the marshes and swamps were drained so they could be cultivated. And desert is infertile; it is God’s bringing of order and blessing that makes it bloom.
So your imposition of an alien idea to the text is firmly resisted by it. The binaries are there in Genesis, and both in the later use of those texts within the canon and in the history of interpretation, they have rightly been seen as central to a biblical anthropology.
Pricilla Thank you for posting this – which I had previously missed. It is helpful and a necessary to counter the claims that theology was not present in the synod debates. I agree that binary thinking needs challenging in this context. I like your language of the ‘hinterland’ of human identity where God is creatively present. This is where we are needing to continue out theological exploring. I do have questions about your use of Genesis text at this point but hope the discussion will continue.
The claim wasn’t that theology was not present, but that normative theological reflection did not precede the motion (GS2071) which asked the HoB to ‘consider whether it might prepare liturgy’ to welcome those who are transgender.
By comparison, there was considerably greater theological reflection which preceded and followed Synod’s 1994 motion asking the bishops to “consider the present practice of marriage in church after divorce, and to report”. We had:
Root Report – 1971
Lichfield Report – 1978
Standing Committee – 1983
‘Marriage – a teaching document’ – 1999
Winchester Report – 2000
And this did not even require the introduction of new liturgy.
So, since you maintain that theology was present at Synod, where is there even remotely comparable evidence of Synod’s normative theological reflection preceding GS2071.
Or Synod should treat normative theological reflection as demeaning to LGBT identities?
David Greetings. Well I find repeated quotes on this blog pretty unambiguous …. ‘the almost complete absence of any theological thinking’ …. ‘the apparent absence at synod of real theology’ … ‘the absence of theological reflection’ …. ‘theology-free, Bible-mocking’.
But don’t lets talk as if Synod members turn up ‘theology free’ to such debates. Theological thinking in Synod and the wider church has been happening steadily and painstakingly for a considerable period of time now.
1979 Board of Social Responsibility report to synod on Sexuality
1987 ‘Higton’ debate
1989 Osborne Report (pub 2012)
1991 Issues in Human Sexuality published
1998 Lambeth conference debates on sexuality
2003 ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality: a guide to the debate’.
2013 Pilling Report
2014 onwards – ‘Shared Conversations’ run nationally
2017 Bishop’s report: Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.
A further Bishop’s teaching guide and related material is now in preparation.
In addition, over this period, numerous groups, from all corners of the church, have added their own responses to the mix (including the influential evangelical ‘St Andrew’s Day statement’, 2003). Websites like Fulcrum were places of lengthy, careful and influential debate for some years – as are blog sites like this one.
Synod debates always happen within a wider context.
Thanks for your reply. The focus of my response was the GS2071A motion relating to liturgy for transgender people.
So, in relation to transgender, let’s look at some of the theological thinking which you’ve cited:
1. Higton motion – no mention of transgender
2. Issues in Human Sexuality – section 2.5 contains a brief exploration of male and female in relation to scripture. Transgender is not explored.
3. Some Issues in Human Sexuality – Chapter 7 expressed hope that Church of England would engage in a debate about transpeople[sic], and set out the arguments pro and con from a theological perspective.
4. Pilling – 38. This report focuses on questions concerning same sex relationships. However, the group believes that the experiences of those with transgender and intersex conditions raise important theological and pastoral issues. Some of these issues were outlined in chapter 7 of the 2003 House of Bishops report Some Issues in Human Sexuality and the Church of England needs to address them.’
However lengthy, careful and influential this debate has been, none of these provide the normative theological reflection on transgender that both ‘Some Issues’ and even the Pillling Report recommended.
Why did GS2071 Synod motion bypass the normative theological reflection that was recommended by these Church-commissioned reports?
The issues have been discussed by the House of Bishops (marriage 2002, ordination 2003). In both cases, the view has been that it is an entirely appropriate to marry or ordain transgender individuals, with the proviso that individual clergy/bishops have a conscience clause.
In other words, for the last fourteen years it has been standard Church of England practice that transgender individuals may be married in church or ordained.
Given that the Church of England therefore already fully recognises gender transition, it is not inappropriate to also asks bishops to consider a liturgy to mark such a transition.
And none of those HoB discussions involved liturgical innovations.
What part of lex orandi, lex credendi do you not understand?
I understand lex orandi, lex credendi well enough thank you.
If we marry people who are transgender (and we do), I consider that as part of lex orandi (as marriage is a liturgical service).
We have therefore already accepted in principle that it is right and proper for such transitions to take place.
Asking for the bishops to consider a liturgy for such a transition therefore makes logical sense.
That’s like saying: ‘if we re-marry people who are divorced (and we do), I consider that as part of lex orandi (as marriage is a liturgical service’.
‘We have therefore already accepted in principle that it is right and proper for such divorces to take place’.
You’re just plain wrong and you can’t even muster a defence.
Your analogy doesn’t quite work for me. Transitioning is clearly seen positively by the church, by implication. Divorce isn’t.
‘Transitioning is clearly seen positively by the church, by implication’
By implication from what? The Right Reverend Barry Rogerson stated that ‘There are no ethical or ecclesiastical legal reasons why the Rev Carol Stone should not continue in ministry in the Church of England.’
So, transitioning is not considered an ethical or ecclesiastical legal bar to ministry, and divorce is not considered an ethical or ecclesiastical legal bar to re-marriage. That statement doesn’t imply theological support for an affirming liturgical innovation.
The 2013 Pilling Report would not have echoed ‘Some Issues’ recommendation that the Church should ‘set out the arguments pro and con from a theological perspective’, if it had already been completed.
What is ‘normative theological reflection’?
As a non Anglican I wonder if both sides of this furious schism within the Anglican Church realise how absurd you look to the rest of the world – both Christian and non Christian.
To non believers your obsession with sex and sexual identity must make you appear as, at best, compulsive obsessives, and probably rather creepy.
To believers the Church of England seems to be a post-Christian organisation that has become spiritually utterly irrelevant.
Tim Farron recently resigned his leadership of the LibDems in the grounds that he felt it was no longer possible to lead that party and remain faithful to Christ. Those believers who remain in the CofE – both clergy and congregation, must be faced with a similar choice as Farron.
How is it possible to remain in such a Church that as so many clergy on this very string have declared – has abandoned both scripture and theology?
Well, since you’ve just contributed to one side of it, welcome to the absurdity!
The sex agenda is driven by revisionists who want to see change. The orthodox would be more than happy to stop talking about it and leave things be.
Will – the desire of the “orthodox” wing of your church to just “leave things be” is the root of the problem.
The spirit of worldly compromise is what has killed the CofE.
You guys seem so terrified of stating the blooming obvious – for fear of giving offence, or “being irrelevant” or being thought impolite, that you can’t stand up for your faith or stand on scripture.
Sin is sin for heavens sake, and what constitutes sin is clearly and repeatedly described in scripture. Who we are and our identities is clearly and repeatedly described in scripture. There is no debate about either.
There are different ways of approaching sin – but what we absolutely should not be doing as believers is entering into a debate as to whether we can twist God’s words so that sin is no longer sin.
Satan’s very first words in the bible are “did God really say..” That now seems to be the teaching of the CofE, “did God really say” which is facilitated by its “orthodox” wing who are too terrified to stand up and plainly state the obvious truth.
Which is why you now have a very important decision to make Will. Are you and your friends in the orthodox wing of the CofE going to remain in agreement with this, or come out from this ungodly mess of a “church”?
Why is orthodox in scare quotes?
Well said Patrick (Will is actually also right even through you have picked him up on an important detail)
Hallelujah!! Synod demonstrates competency (reason and compassion too).
Even the briefest of historical surveys shows that the Church of England has dragged its feet on just about every major issue since it was first established. It has been pro slavery, anti Catholic emancipation, anti women’s suffrage, anti evolution, anti marriage equality, anti feminism, and much more besides, so it is no surprise that the LGBTI issue has evoked the same response in so many of its adherents.
Is this because the Church of England has been and still is part of the establishment – the ruling classes, the military, the school system, the Royal family, and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it? It not for nothing that it was called ‘the Conservative party at prayer’ by Agnes Maude Royden, preacher and suffragette, and it has never shaken off its deep connection with the establishment’s conservative view of the world, which boils down to resisting the modern for as long as it possibly can. Its still has vast wealth and many privileges but these seem to be no impediment to its pontificating on all kinds of social and political issues. One might ask: ‘Where is Christ in all this?’ And given the appalling history of getting it wrong, it is hard to see where their authority comes from.
It is claimed that this authority comes from scripture, which has been invoked to defend these otherwise untenable positions, and it is no surprise that some sections of the CoE are doing this now. But again the historical record is not encouraging. Let’s take slavery as an example: the Bible clearly has a positive view of this, but abolitionists took a broader, less literal view of scripture, and Christianity, and the world, was the better for it. However there is no getting away from the fact that the CoE was one of the biggest plantation owners, and even when slavery was abolished in the UK, was compensated for their losses by the government. Nowadays, thankfully, even the most literalist interpreter of the Bible isn’t willing to endorse slavery.
The same applies to marriage equality and women’s suffrage, which the CoE opposed for hundreds of years. It has been hostile to women’s progress every step of the way. No doubt the Bible literalists will still find scripture to support the subordinate position of woman rather than applying reason to the argument. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence that the CoE is still a misogynistic organisation where sexism and prejudice are institutionalised.
The list goes on: evolution is another area where the CoE fought ‘tooth and nail’ to discredit theory that explains so much of our past. From the second it became evident that the Biblical story of creation was wrong and that life on earth had evolved over millions of years of random mutation, the CoE argued vociferously against it. Only in 2008 did the CoE finally apologise and admit it had got it wrong. 150 years too late. But no doubt there will still be some arguing that scripture says otherwise.
And now the CoE is struggling to come to terms with the issues of same-sex relationships, gay marriage, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex identities. And some of its members are, without apparently having any qualifications to do so, defending the use of ‘conversion’ therapies. Thank heavens Synod are beginning to see the light, and by doing so, are making the CoE relevant to the world we live in.
The CoE’s long history of getting in wrong and supporting what now seem to be laughable positions if they weren’t so tragic, should be the best reason for not invoking scripture now. We all know – let’s be honest – that there are just so many examples of when it doesn’t work: Luke 16:8; Deut 23:2 and 23:1 and 22:20-21; Timothy 2:11; Psalm 137:9; Corinthians 11:5; Leviticus 12:5 and 26: 27-30 and 21:18-21; Mark 12:19 et al.
You post included: “One might ask: ‘Where is Christ in all this?’”
I ask you the question I often ask in response to posts like this:
Did Christ say all the things that the New Testament asserts he said – including all the things about God’s judgment and his judgment on sin, on the Day of Judgment?
Let’s just accept that you aren’t a Christian, and as a result you don’t think Scripture has any authority.
That is a perfectly reasonable view which is held by a large number of people in this country. Most Christians would respect your opinion and wish you well.
It would be wrong however for those who are not Christian to seek to influence the theology of a church which they are not members of and whose beliefs they do not share.
Finally, I think you missed out a “Q” from the ever growing acronym of LGBT… that you quoted at the beginning of your comment. Do try to keep up old boy!
I’m afraid the tone of your post is not helpful. Christians can be astray and go astray in their doctrine just like they can be astray and go astray morally. These debates/disagreements are about what are the truths of Christianity, not about who is or is not a Christian. The two things are closely linked but distinct. And your rather sarcastic last sentence is….not helpful.
How is my tone off? My reply was friendly, respectful and lighthearted.
It is clearly and obviously possible (and appropriate) to distinguish between believers and non believers when considering inputs into a debate on theology.
Someone who does not believe in Christianity may have many interesting, challenging and intelligent things to say, but we should take what they have to say about theology with a big pinch of salt, as they are likely to be guided by an agenda that is at odds to one of faith and scripture and it is very unlikely that they are guided by the Holy Spirit.
That is simply common sense – which seems to be not so common in the CofE.
Why are you guys all so scared stiff of even the thought of being considered impolite?
How loving is it to allow someone to persist in sin and error? Would you really prefer to stand before your maker and have to give an account of how you had smilingly allowed others to persist in sin and false teaching while you reassured them that they were saved – you just disagreed on a few minor points of doctrine? Just so that everyone thinks your are a groovy, sensitive guy now?
That makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
Philip – I am not aiming these points at you, rather at the compromise and mealy mouthed half truths and unwillingness to just tell it straight that I have so frequently witnessed in the CofE.
I am not reassuring anyone that they are saved. As I have said before, I would never say to anyone ‘You are not a Christian’. But I would say, and I have said, ‘What you believe is ruled out by the truths of Christianity’ and/or ‘What you don’t believe is an essential truth of Christianity’ with the hope and prayer that such a person would think about whether the God and Christ they believe in are the God and Christ that the Bible gives us – the real God and Christ. My challenge to Steve B is to explore where he stands on these essential truths.
Steve was pretty clear that he didn’t believe in the Church of England; he nowhere said he didn’t believe in Christ.
Steve B. Not just the CoE. I once had a very interesting conversation with a Catholic nun in which she pointed out that most progressive legislation came about through secular, not religious, lobbying. The 1967 Act on the partial decriminalisation of make homosexuality may be an exception. There have been radicals in the church, the church has not been radical.
Penelope,surely you’re not still using the word ‘progressive’?
Are not people allowed to disagree about what *constitutes* progress?
We are going off thread but I have to point out that in Steve B’s last paragraph ‘it doesn’t work’ is about the Bible, not about the Church of England.
“The CoE’s long history of getting in wrong and supporting what now seem to be laughable positions if they weren’t so tragic, should be the best reason for not invoking scripture now. We all know – let’s be honest – that there are just so many examples of when it doesn’t work: Luke 16:8; Deut 23:2 and 23:1 and 22:20-21; Timothy 2:11; Psalm 137:9; Corinthians 11:5; Leviticus 12:5 and 26: 27-30 and 21:18-21; Mark 12:19 et al.”
Two points. First, Steve gives some perfectly good examples where invoking what may seem to be ‘the plain sense of scripture’ clearly doesn’t work. He doesn’t actually say what his attitude to the Bible is. I would rather let him speak for himself than make what may turn out to be unwarranted assumptions.
Secondly, his attitude to the Bible has little to do with whether he is a Christian or not. We are saved by faith in Christ alone, not by our attitude to the Bible. But you know that, from Galatians.
To summarise: I have no idea whether or not Steve is a Christian. I can’t even tell from his post his attitude to the Bible. But I’m pretty sure he’s unimpressed with the CofE.
What ‘good examples’ in his post are you referring to? In his last paragraph? Or elsewhere – if so where – I don’t see any text references elsewhere in his post. I have already agreed with your second paragraph.
i simply meant that it would be very easy to take the verses he had quoted out of context. No more, no less.
Thanks for that clarification.
I was at an induction service last night. Being a parent of the new clergy I had a front-row seat. I brought home the service leaflet.
Two things to say:
1) The oath made by the clergy
2) The sermon by the suffragan bishop
In the light of General Synod I was struck by the words of the oath:
The Church of England is part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures …..
The Bishop goes on to reference the 39 articles, the BCP ….
The Incumbent designate then says before everyone:
I, N, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness ….
The Incumbent designate is holding the Bible at this point and this is not the first time they swear before everyone their belief in the Bible because they do so at their ordination as well.
The Suffragan Bishop preached on Exodus 3: 13-20 on the Name of God being I AM. His sermon pointed out that God does not name himself according to society around Him, He is above and separate to society. The Bishop pointed out that when the Israelites took the best of the world around them and made a golden calf and worshipped it they found it was disastrous for the people.
Well here we are with General Synod finding what it thinks is good in society, raising it up and venerating it just like the golden calf. Simultaneously, supportive of GS, numbers of clergy, bishops and even Archbishops are abandoning the very Holy Scriptures that they swear that they believe in. This is dishonesty.
In my Reader licence transfer service at the Cathedral, ALL Readers (new and those transferring) swore an oath that they believe in the Holy Sriptures as the PRIMARY authority and we swear our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Having been the liturgical designer and organiser of the service in my previous diocese for nearly ten years I saw what other diocese do and I am aware that many diocese elsewhere omit the reference to Scripture being the primary authority and only swear that they believe in the Bible. Yet I was very happy to swear my belief in the Bible as the Primary authority and in the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that Jesus Christ showed that He believes in Scripture fully and holistically.
The Shape of This Disagreement
We disagree on:
1. Sexual orientation identity being fundamental, immutable and indistinguishable from sexual orientation.
The authoritative APA Task Force Report, Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, is cited by both GS2070 and the 2015 MoU on CT. It explains that: on the basis of research on sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity, what appears to shift and evolve in some individuals’ lives is sexual orientation identity, not sexual orientation. Given that there is diversity in how individuals define and express their sexual orientation identity.
Also, it recommends ‘an affirmative approach is supportive of clients’ identity development without an a priori treatment goal concerning how clients identify or live out their sexual orientation or spiritual beliefs.’
2. The notion that GS2070 is just about CT alone and does not open the door to further bans on any LGBT-related ministry which is not affirming of LGBT identities.
GS2070 does not merely endorse a the 2015 memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy. Instead, the background information provided with the PMM and Jayne Ozanne’s presentation connecting Spiritual Abuse to the ‘Charismatic Tribe’ model shows that this motion is a pre-cursor to seeking a ban, on pain of CDM, against mainly conservative evangelical clergy, organisations or LGBT-related ministries which are not affirming and reifying LGBT identities.
3. Correlating modern-day revisionist arguments to those of 19C abolitionist campaigner’s, like Wilberforce, on the basis that they both relied on the ‘broad sweep of a Biblical theme’ and ‘the full liberating implications’ of the Golden Rule to set aside ‘plain meaning’ texts which accommodated a practice.
It would not follow that setting aside a previously prohibited practice makes the case for it to be declared holy and affirmed by God. The analogy fails because, in the case of slavery, Paul may have provisionally accommodated, but did not uphold it.
4. The omission of Synod’s normative theological reflection, was been an essential pre-cursor to motions, since there must always be a coherent doctrinal basis for introducing new liturgy (which, in turn, expresses the theology of our common life).
Examples of Synod deliberations preceded by normative theological include church re-marriage of divorcees (Root, Lichfield, Winchester, etc.), Women bishops (Rochester), homosexuality (Osborne Report, Issues in Human Sexuality, Some Issues, Pilling). Synod is asked for HoB to consider the possibility of producing liturgy without recourse to the very kind of theological reflection on transgender that Some Issues and Pilling had asked for. Commissioned theological reflection has always preceded Synod debates on motions relating to liturgy.
The notion that the theological case is made for introducing new liturgy to commemorate transgender identity by there being ‘no ethical or ecclesiastical legal reasons’ (Bishop Barry Rogerson) why those who are transgender continue in ministry or marry or in the Church of England.
The only credible response from the HoB should be lex orandi, lex credendi: any changes to liturgy should be preceded by the commissioning a thorough theological study on gender identity, or deferring to its inclusion in the Teaching Document.
5. The presumed reluctance and impotence of conservatives to ensure that the Church does not abandon due process in the Archbishops’ zeal to implement ‘maximum freedom within the law’.
While we should always be open to discussion, the abandonment of due process and attempt to demonise conservative CofE theology and ministry as inherently abusive towards LGBT shuts down futher debate. The statements and joint letters of dissent, for instance, Peter Ould’s radio broadcast now make our position perfectly clear.
At a time when the diocesan apportionment will increase to 9.4% (2019) and 11.1% (2020) (compared to 9.3% over the past three years), parish share revolt is now more than a distinct possibility. Unlike Esau, we will not sell our birthright for a bowl of pottage. We will not allow you to destroy the legacy of the Church and corrupt the ‘faith once delivered unto the saints’ without a fight.
What is the paramount disagreement? I suggest it is: that same sex attraction is a sinful inclination like any other sinful inclination (we all have sinful inclinations) and like any other sinful inclination it is the result of the Fall of Man. Hence the need to add the doctrines of the fall and original sin to the ‘key assumptions’ in the production of the Episcopal Teaching Document.
Hi Philip – I recognise that the Fall/Original sin is a foundational theme for you (and indeed me) in understanding the human condition per se and shedding light on many issues discussed on this blog. I wonder if you have written at length anywhere on the subject or can point me to what you regard as the best work.
Agreed. However, revisionists would argue that, since all are not in a procreative relationship, like Adam and Eve, the Genesis narrative does not provide an all-encompassing description of sinless sexuality before the Fall.
On that basis, the argument is that we cannot assume that a sexual relationship is wrong because it diverges in some respect other than divorce from this less than all-encompassing ideal of human sexual goodness.
So, revisionists will happily acknowledge the Fall, but argue that the Genesis narrative does not provide an all-compassing theological understanding of the sole manner in which sexuality can be expressed. Ergo, they claim that the Church can affirm same-sex sexuality.
This argument involves restricting any inductive reasoning from the Genesis narrative solely to Jesus’ rejection of divorce for any cause. The error is that to limit the principle behind this hermeneutic of inductive reasoning from Genesis to the specific issue in the text (divorce) is a literalist restriction.
Now, isn’t that’s something that any self-respecting affirming evangelical is supposed to eschew?
The point of my post was to identify what I believe to be the paramount disagreement. The case for what I posted needs to be made in detail. As I see it, there are two main lines of argument, supported no doubt by others:
The right understanding of Romans 1:26-27 in the context of Romans 1-5. In Romans 1:26-27 ‘natural’ means the ‘very good’ male-female sexual attraction as created by God before the Fall intervened. Homosexuality by women or men is ‘against nature’ and in the context of Romans 1-3, which must be Paul describing the sinful results of the Fall, and God’s judgments (‘God also gave them up to uncleanness…’ (1:24); ‘God gave them up to passion of dishonour…’ (1:26); ‘God gave them over to a reprobate mind…’ (1:28)) must be a result of the Fall and sinful. This is true whether homosexuality is practiced by heterosexual men or women or by homosexual men or women. Because sex between members of the same sex is still ‘against nature’ even when it occurs in a stable, loving, consensual relationship.
In the words of Francis Schaeffer in his book ‘The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century’, ‘So there is a very strong intertwining of teaching about the two relationships, the man-woman relationship, and the relationship of Christ and the Christian, and Christ and the Church’. Those in Christ, male and female, (whether married, remarried, single, divorced, separated, widows, widowers) are all ‘female’ in the Christ-Christian relationship; the relationship is asymmetric, as is the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5 (Properly understood, Ephesians 5 (the tightly coupled Christ-Church/Husband-Wife analogy based on kephale), via 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 and Genesis 2-3, establishes that male headship, and therefore male-female asymmetry, is a feature of God’s good pre-Fall creation). In the light of this ‘strong intertwining’ it is inconceivable that same sex attraction and fulfillment could have been part of the ‘very good’, asymmetric, pre-Fall human nature described in Genesis 1 and 2.
Lewis’ essay ‘Priestesses in the Church? (1948)’ was written from an Anglo-Catholic perspective. Despite this I agree with him when he says, ‘One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our natures and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures’ and with his final words:
‘….With the Church we are farther in: for there we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or, rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us’.
To prepare the ground for putting the best case forward in the production of the Episcopal Teaching Document I do think it is essential that the Archbishops and Bishops to be humbly and courteously challenged on the omission of any reference to original sin and the fall in the ‘key principles’.
Great summary, David.
My only question is whether we really want to concede that sexual orientation itself is always immutable. Doesn’t research suggest that it can have some fluidity, especially in the young and in women?
There is then of course a separate question of what, if anything, can intentionally alter it, were that thought desirable.
In terms of fluidity, the report states: ‘recent research on sexual orientation identity diversity illustrates that sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation identity are labeled and expressed in many different ways, some of which are fluid.’
I think that we have to focus on ensuring that people understand the simple fact that church ministry is not doing any harm by encouraging the same-sex attracted to receive prayer and counselling to achieve their personal goal of a life which is congruent with the orthodox faith.
Thanks David – I’m a bear of a small brain – pls can I have that in a geared down level.
I can only gear down so far, but how about this?
1. There is no medical or theological authority which insists that it’s harmful when Christian ministry towards LGBT people does not affirm same-sex sexual behavior as an essential part of their identity.
Based on the widely accepted American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force report, the medical consensus is that, while a person’s instinctive sexual attraction (whether gay or straight) is unlikely to change, it is not harmful to support a person in managing their sexual identity: how those attractions are expressed in actual behaviour.
Nevertheless, in dealing with this sensitive aspect of personal life, there are an important and necessary pastoral and ethical obligations to exercise respect, sensitivity and safeguard the vulnerable.
The APA-recommended approach is known as sexual identity exploration. This approach does not pre-determine that a lesbian or gay identity is best for someone experiencing same-sex attraction. It simply respects and supports a person in their self-determined behavioural goals. These may include the spiritual goal of being celibate or faithful in an existing straight marriage.
2. Beyond just proposing that the Church endorses a ban on conversion therapy (GS2070A), Jayne Ozanne’s background information and other presentations can be easily interpreted as implying a link between CT, spiritual abuse and conservative or charismatic leadership and ministry in the CofE.
GS2070 is a launching pad for future Synod motions and HoB declarations, which will effectively ban as piritual abuse any LGBT-related pastoral ministry which does not affirm a person’s same-sex sexual behavior as part of their supposedly fixed lesbian or gay identity.
3. Those who call for the Church to affirm same-sex sexual relationships are not the spiritual successors to the anti-slavery campaigners, like Wilberforce.
Making the case that God actually condemns slavery does not correspond to making the case that God affirms same-sex sexual relationships.
4. GS2071 sets a dangerous precedent: Synod has bypassed the due process of commissioning theological reflection before considering the introduction of new liturgy. CofE belief is definitively expressed through liturgy.
This was true for re-marriage of divorcees and women bishops. So, once again, it was for Synod to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ a commissioned theological reflection before asking the bishops to consider whether new transgender liturgy could be introduced.
The motion makes a direct request to the bishops, while bypassing a key Pilling Report recommendation that the Church should engage in serious theological study relating to transgender.
5. It now falls to those who care as much about the scripture and tradition as reason to fight against these brazen efforts to put the affirmation of LGBT identities before any consideration of the theological implications of this for the entire Church
Hope this helps.
Revisionists often childishly call faithful orthodox people “literalists” even where, following Jesus Christ’s example, they are trying to look holistically yet revisionists’ treatment of Jesus Christ’s own words is confined literalism at it’s worst. It’s Pharisaical. (They are often saying it of people who actually have PhD’s and MA’s and so in the subject and yet they still call them “literalists” in order to prevent any response).
When Jesus answered the question from the Pharisees in Matthew 19 about ‘can a man divorce for any reason’ Jesus told them the meaning of marriage itself precisely so that the Pharisees had nowhere to go and could possibly ask another legalistic question, yet revisionists are now trying to pretend that the answer that Jesus Christ gave is only about divorce. it is not. You either believe in Jesus Christ as Lord without any “ifs” or “buts” or you don’t – There is no conditional or partial belief for a Christian.
For “….could possibly ask another legalistic question…” please read “….could NOT possibly ask another legalistic question…”
I’m sorry that my brain was ahead of my typing!
It is apparently childish to use the term ‘literalist’ (which personally I don’t use) but not to use the terms revisionist or pharisaical. Some pharisaical revisionists might also have MAs and PhDs.
As always, these lengthy threads and sub-comments are worthwhile to read, but my goodness they are sticky sometimes too! It is a real effort wading through a significant debate on slavery, only to be bogged down immediately in another tangent regarding nomenclature! (Revisionist/Traditionalist) They are worthwhile debates, but only of passing relevance to Ian’s two vitally important questions.
1. Is Synod Competent?
For which the answer seems to be “it depends where you sit”, but for me personally, no, it isn’t. And,
2. What can be done about this?
For which the answer, unspoken as it is, seems to be “Prayer and Petition!”
I am very much in agreement with Ian, and for the most part with Will Jones too. My particular frustration this time is highlighted by these words:
“The worst things is that, after all the heat and energy that have gone into the debate, and though the votes might ‘signal’ something, neither motion makes any formal difference at all. The Church’s position has not changed one iota on either issue—not least since the motions were carefully worded so as to formally change nothing.”
Yeah, I guess aim the worst offender for sticky sub-comments!
What can be done about that?
1. Parish share revolt. Only fools persists in supporting a system that is preparing to demonise them and nonchalantly bypasses its own due process of doing proper theology before doing liturgy.
2. Contact all diocesan synod members urging them to challenge the General Synod reps who supported these motions at their next diocesan synod meetings – Just like any other elected representatives, General Synod members are accountable to their constituents.
If you want to see what happens when there’s sufficient ‘heat’, then look at the outpouring of indignation at emergency meetings up and down the country when in 2012, the House of Laity failed to achieve the two-thirds majority in support of Wonen Bishops.
Sometimes, but actually you have some of the most helpful and enlightening comments on this particular thread. As I said, it is not that the tangents are ‘bad’ per se, it is that they distract.
Just re your suggestions, is there anything I can do, as a non CofE christian. I have no Parish Share to withold, and no diocesan synod rep to petition. My options seem fairly limited.
I think that you have a point about distractions.
Typically, these comments and statements of dissent can either be too intellectual or too dumbed-down, or just not resonate with the average Joe pew-warmer.
Having seen recent statements of dissent, such as Susan Leafe’s on behalf of the CEEC, I think your skill in combining insight and rhetoric would be ideal in helping organisations, like the CEEC to formulate a statement (single side of A4) which would mobilise a broad coalition with a reasoned call to action and goes to the heart of why these issues matter for the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’.
AS an example, WATCH was able to do this more effectively than Reform and Forward in Faith during the debates on Women Bishops.
In contrast, I doubt that openly challenging Archbishops on any of the 39 Articles would be as effectively, given the ABY’s reacting with ‘Word, word, word’ to shut down those highlighting the authority of scripture.
“I think that you have a point about distractions.”
I hope so, I’ve made it often enough. *wink*
“Typically, these comments and statements of dissent can either be too intellectual or too dumbed-down, or just not resonate with the average Joe pew-warmer.”
I think you are right about this too, as a broad observation anyway, though I would argue it is not so much that things go ‘over (or under?) people’s heads’, but that people are often sold an incomplete, or distorted, picture of the debate; from false either-or polarizations, to slander and argument by association . I know that’s similar to what you’re saying, but I think it would be wise to be specific and avoid a generalization: it is not an issue of intelligence so much, but one of exposure to information.
“I doubt that openly challenging Archbishops on any of the 39 Articles would be as effective”
I agree, though I do think that challenge does need to come, and come soon. Phil Almond is right to keep flogging this horse. This debate goes much deeper than the presenting issues (SSM/Transgender), right to the core of what it means to be an Anglican.
For all our deliberations, in my Church this Sunday gay and straight people will share the peace and the sacraments.
Most will not know the words of Elizabeth I whose words embody my vision of the tolerant CofE
“The Word it was that spake it
He took the bread and break it
And what so’ere He make it
That I believe and take it.”
How does that poem by the Protestant Elizabeth I connote tolerance when it contends so blatantly for Calvinistic theology against the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation?
I struggle to see why the sexuality of the attendees of your service has any relevance to the rest of your comment since (a) there is no ban on sharing the peace or taking the sacrament around being gay and (b) the Biblical prohibitions are on sexual acts, not sexual orientations.
Help me out here.
Whatever her theological position, Elizabeth 1 was not a calvinist.
I didn’t claim that she was a Calvinist. However, this poem (apparently written when she was Lady Elizabeth and imprisoned at Woodstock) and another, A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, both embodied Calvin’s theology regarding the sacrament.
Possibly…but it’s pretty vague. As you probably know quite a lot has been written about Elizabeth’s religious views not least by Patrick Colinson and Susan Doran. Like her chaplain George Carew who probably celebrated the mass at her coronation and Edmund Guest who drafted article 28 she probably inclined to a Lutheran view of the sacrament..hence the supression of article 30 until 1571.She was no friend of Calvin, hence the non promotions of Genevan exiles and notably John Knox. Probably most of the Elizabethan bishops believed in the symbolic parallelism of Bucer…or something along the lines of the Consensus Tigurinus. Thankfully the knots of these Reformation controversies have been largely undone by the ecumenical work Anglicans have been engaged in , notably ARCIC…though how far all this has influenced the thinking of the parish clergy is moot.Ecumenical convergence has lost out to ecclesiastical retrenchment.
There things interest me because I teach it…..but it’s all rather off piste as far as this thread is concerned…the “gay”debate rumbles on ….and clearly generated more heat than church history…though for some of us , as Henry Chadwick once said to me..it is a “cordial for dropping spirits”..and for clergy of my age the current state of the C of E does indeed engender dropping spirits.
Thanks for your scholarly insight!
Thanks David…i do my best. Last week i was at the Uni of Exeter for the annual conference of the Ecclesiastical History Society..I’ve been going since 1971. I venture 2 observations. Although the number of practicing Christians and certainly scholarly clergy participating over the years has fallen,a significant no still are. I sense this is an enormous resource for the Church that is underused.
Also the amount of history in clerical formation esp on the courses has significantly diminished over the years…for example when I taught on SOC in the iOS they got 20 2 he class sessions and wrote 6 essays…no longer. Having been hauled out of retirement to do 3 yrs POT I was amazed just how little new clergy knew about the history of the Church even the one that were being ordained in . I’ve always felt that esp in the C of E you can’t make much sense of it except historically. Amnesia reigns.?
For iOS read 1980s !
It is clear from the July 2017 Church of England Synod that 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4 has suddenly become very real and very active and we are all going to have to choose. Is Ian Paul an Evangelical? Most Evangelicals would see him as “sympathetic” but without Real Evangelical Commitment, Fire and Vision. Evangelical Leadership requires three things – you have to be Fearless; Cross Bearing and On Fire…he should come with us because we will Prevail – do you want to see Evangelicals all ablaze then watch us burn.
‘Most evangelicals would see him as ‘sympathetic’ but without Real Evangelical Commitment, Fire and Vision’. Really? I will need to check out with all my evangelical friends who elected me onto Archbishops’ Council to speak for them. I wonder if you are mistaking Commitment, Fire and Vision for clumsiness and crassness in debate?
‘Evangelical’ is just a label and I am not convinced that there is sufficient agreement regarding doctrine among those who wish to be known as ‘evangelicals’ to make it a useful label. I think a better question is about what agreement there is among ‘evangelicals’ on the doctrines. I suggest we start (but not finish) with the doctrine expressed by article 9. I personally think that article 9 needs rephrasing. I can enlarge on that later. But the plain meaning of article 9 is that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil. I believe that is true and a summary of what the Bible says. Do you agree Ian, David, Matt et al?
That truly awful. I do not see how anyone who has followed Ian Paul’s blog or knows even a tad about him can come to this conclusion. It’s a ‘hasty’ judgement to be mild.
I think an apology is in order.
Ian. I know. Punk Evangelical and culpable of intentionally using certain types of perceptual psychology to trigger perceptual shifts. I apologise to Ian Paul. Evangelical unity in the Spirit and I mean the Concord of the Holy Spirit is more important. I am picking up your Righteousness – it has a certain energy. Good. It is communicating with me pneumatologically. So you have Cardiagnosis. Interesting.
Is anyone going to answer my question in Philip Almond July 25, 2017 at 6:02 pm #?
I will answer you. Article 9 (of the thirty nine Articles) turns on “Phronema Sarkos” – which is not just “the lusts of the flesh” – it is the whole perceptual phenomenology of the literal “mind of the flesh” – to be Evangelical you have to be prepared to become “Phronema Pneumakos” – which changes the core ontology and epistemology of the hermeneutical-perceptual grids we use – which is what it really means to be crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ in perceptual terms of reference – you literally become “the Mind of the Spirit” – anyone who has not done this is not Evangelical.
Mark – my question was:
‘But the plain meaning of article 9 is that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil. I believe that is true and a summary of what the Bible says. Do you agree Ian, David, Matt et al?’
I make no comment on your reply other than: I don’t think your reply answers the question: ‘Do you agree’, which was intended to be addressed to all contributors to this thread.