Is wrong doctrine harmful?

10689554_10152962028391984_973139959441526327_nThe employment tribunal concerning Jeremy Pemberton is over, but it is far from finished. As Jeremy himself comments on the previous post on this, final submissions will be offered in July and read in September, and the judgement will be made after that.

I had not realised that the tribunal would be taking place down the road, nor that it was open to the public, else I might perhaps have planned to attend and listen for myself. (The picture here is of Permberton’s legal team outside Nottingham Castle.) So I have had to rely on reports from others—though I think they have been reliable. For me, the low point came in reading the testimony of Richard Inwood yesterday. I need to exercise some caution here—until very recently Richard was my Acting Diocesan Bishop. My strong impression is that he has been put in a very difficult position, in effect the key player in the most pressing issue of the moment for the Church, on which national Church issues might hinge, but perhaps without the support from the centre that one might have expected. Even Alan Wilson comments (on his Facebook page):

It would never do to presume on the judgment of the tribunal. Nor to imagine matters must end in this court. Cross examination is a cruelly forensic business, of course, that probes deeper than synodical grandstanding and politics. That said, with all the resources, legally, for which any respondent could hope, all major heads of resistance crumbled out of their own witnesses’ mouths (as can be seen from many press comments). This was mostly from their arguments’ own internal incoherence and contradictions. I am very grateful to +Richard, who is a good and decent man, for his lack of guile and truthfulness about what was, IMHO, an HR Hell’s Kitchen, not entirely of his making.

We all need to take Alan’s first point very seriously; none of us can know the outcome until it is announced, and it is not clear exactly what difference it will make in the end. But a key turning point appeared to arise on the question of ‘harm’. The dialogue is reported in the The Guardian as follows, but there is no reason to question its reliability.

Inwood was asked by Sean Jones QC, acting for Pemberton, what harm he thought it would do the Church of England to have granted a licence to allow the 59-year-old to be appointed as chaplain. “We know that Canon Pemberton wanted to join. In your view he was perfectly capable, you had no reason to believe he wasn’t. He was the trust’s preferred candidate, and that when you refused the licence, at very least, the man responsible for making recommendations to the trust was anxious to get you to think again. We know the House of Bishops guidance did not require you not to grant. And you say you took the decision. What was it you feared would happen? What harm would arise if you gave Canon Pemberton the licence?”

Inwood replied: “It is not a matter of danger but by my own oath of honour and obedience, under authority, to maintain the doctrine of the church. It’s my own personal decision.”

Jones asked: “You weren’t anticipating any harm, whether to him, to you, or the trust? The bishop replied: “Certainly no harm to the trust or the church.”

The tribunal judge, Peter Britton, picking up on this answer, suggested it left him with a conundrum. He asked the bishop: “If it would be no harm to the church, and the doctrine is about protecting the beliefs of the church, then haven’t you got an innate conundrum? If it so fundamental to the doctrine, thus the breach would cause harm. But if you think it is of no harm to the church surely that means the reliance on this being fundamentally doctrinal, as to otherwise bring down harm on the church, is a busted flush isn’t it?”

I am not a lawyer, but I was once a Personnel Manager. I would imagine that the lack of harm had the appointment been made might well be a crucial one, since, along with the apparent lack of requirement from the House of Bishops (which is surely mistaken), it makes Inwood’s decision look arbitrary and therefore vindictive. (This cannot, of course, be an accurate description of the reasons why Inwood took the decision he did.)

But what strikes me more is the theological significance of this, something the tribunal will have had no interest in. Just look carefully at the claims being made here in this dialogue:

1. There would be ‘no harm’ done to the NHS Trust had he been appointed. And yet (as David Shepherd points out), the NHS’ own guidance comments: ‘Chaplains must abide by the requirements of their sponsoring faith or belief community, their contracting organisation, the Code of Conduct and all relevant NHS/NICE standards’. This is clearly not the case, so at some level the NHS must believe there is a problem here.

2. Inwood comments that is it ‘his own personal decision’ to uphold the doctrine of the Church. In fact, this is integral to the role of a bishop. The Ordinal expresses it thus:

Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ’s flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles, proclaiming the gospel of God’s kingdom and leading his people in mission. Obedient to the call of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are to gather God’s people and celebrate with them the sacraments of the new covenant.

It was surely a mistake for Inwood to suggest either that he had freedom in this, or that he did it merely out of personal decision. If the House of Bishops have issued a clear directive on this matter, how can any bishop have freedom to ignore this or fail to respond to breaches of it?

3. Inwood then goes on to suggest that ‘no harm’ would come of this breach of the clear instruction of the House of Bishops (who made a very clear statement as recently as February). This seems to me a very odd statement at two major levels.

First, if there is ‘no harm’ when clergy defy their bishops, then we are heading for a time of institutional chaos, when everyone ‘does what is right in his (her) own eyes’. As we move into a more clearly post-Christendom context, where residual loyalty to the institutional church is disappearing faster than the bath-water down a plughole, this is going to be a practical disaster.

But the underlying issue is (intriguingly) the one that the tribunal judge intervenes on. If doctrine has been breached, but no harm will come, what (he asks in effect) is the point of doctrine? If the bishops of the Church of England have lost confidence in the importance of right doctrine, and the danger of wrong doctrine, then we are all in deep trouble.

The moment I mention ‘doctrine’ I can see the rolling of eyes, in part because of the history of doctrinal dispute the has scarred European history for centuries, and in part because of a reaction against the kind of post-Enlightment rationalist approach that reduces doctrine to propositions. But, as Anthony Thiselton points out in The Hermeneutics of Doctrine, for the first Christians doctrine was about their fundamental disposition in life; the claims of the creeds and credal statements weren’t simply claims about facts, but what they based their life on. They really believed that ‘The truth will set you free’ (John 8.32). That is why doctrine matters, not least in this area of what it means to be created, male and female in the image of God, and the implications of that for sexual behaviour. If the bishops do not believe that wrong doctrine in this area is harmful, then now is the time to abandon any theology of marriage. In fact:

“Christianity is based on revealed doctrine, enabling individuals to live rightly before a Holy God as followers of Jesus Christ. He tells us how to live in all areas of life, including in areas of sexual behaviour. No denomination is at liberty to invent its own doctrine or to sacrifice revealed doctrine on the altars of contemporary fashion. We cannot be authentically Christian whilst simultaneously rejecting the teaching of the one we claim to follow.” (Rev Simon Austen, Rector of St Leonard’s Church, Exeter Diocese)

That is why the ministry of teaching is at the heart of Anglican understandings of what it means to be deacon, priest (presbyter) and bishop. That is why, in the Articles, preaching and the sacraments go hand in hand—teaching must lead to action, but action without teaching is like a ship without a rudder.

I sincerely hope that senior bishops in the Church will now speak up and correct the impression that has been given. Doctrine does underlie this issue; doctrine does matter; wrong doctrine causes harm. If they don’t speak now and publicly, I cannot see but that it will be the end of the Church of England as we know it.

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71 thoughts on “Is wrong doctrine harmful?”

  1. “Christianity is based on revealed doctrine, enabling individuals to live rightly before a Holy God as followers of Jesus Christ. He tells us how to live in all areas of life, including in areas of sexual behaviour….” Simon’s comment begs the issue as to what “sexual behaviour” Jesus has called us to live. Paul, you’ve been graciously clear on your understadning of this, and I guess Simon shares your understanding. But some of us do not see the teaching of Jesus a being so clear.
    But more than this, the revelation of God in Christ is in a person, literally incarnated; our faith is not primarily revealed doctrine, but Logos made flesh. So Jesus’ behaviour and teaching, his crucified and resurrected divine humanity, this is who we follow and strugginlgy seek to embody by the Spiriit. That necessarily involves faithful uncertainty – even by Bishops – and family disagreement, but it is most deifnately personal before and above doctrinal.

    • Thanks John. I don’t think it matters that Simon’s comment begs a question; what he is asserting is that it is to Jesus that we need to look and his teachings. (Actually, I think his teachings on sex are fairly clear and reasonably important; see

      But in setting a wedge between the doctrinal and the personal, I think you are making the postmodern mistake I allude to above. When you use words like ‘incarnation’, ‘word made flesh’, Jesus crucified and resurrected’, ‘divine humanity’ you are standing four-square in the centre of (relational) doctrine.

      Christian faith is not personal over against doctrine; it is both in an integrated way. What we are in danger of doing is losing the doctrinal and reducing faith to ‘authentic relationship’. That’s not Christianity; that is existentialism.

  2. “Christianity is based on revealed doctrine”
    Where does Simon get this from exactly? That is simply an opinion. Christianity is based on a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, isn’t it? Doctrine is something that has followed and has developed. We are surely not saved by doctrine are we?

    • ‘Where does Simon get this exactly?’ Here’s a few places:

      . God’s word of power that speaks creation into being

      . the gift of the Law on Sinai as God’s gracious offering to his people

      . the ‘word of the Lord’ that ‘comes to’ the prophets

      . the ‘teaching of the apostles’ which nourished and held together the early church

      . the ‘things of first importance passed to me, which I pass on to you’ from Paul in 1 Cor 15…

      …and so on.

      of course we are saved by ‘faith’, that is, by trust in what God has done for us in Jesus. But for all the NT writers, this is never in isolation from a right understanding of who we are, what it is that God has done, and what the implications are. In one sense, doctrine follows from this—but I don;t think it is any more or less than a systematic study of the biblical witness.

      Historically, this has been central to the identity of the Church of England.

      • I don’t think any of that is really strictly ‘doctrine’ Ian. It’s salvation history – which is rather different. And different again to ‘salvation’. The understanding of who we are and who God is is something that clearly evolves in the scriptures. Why would it have stopped evolving when the canon of scripture was closed?

          • I know nothing Peter. That’s the best way. as Richard Rohr puts it so well:

            “Entering the spiritual journey through the so-called negative, or what seems like the back door, takes all elitism out of spirituality, which is its most common temptation. We are not to be rewarded for our virtue later; virtue is its own reward–now–for both me and for others. The usual claims which appeal to our ego self (“I am an advanced person”) are of no use whatsoever and are actually revealed as much of the problem. The quickest ticket to heaven, enlightenment, or salvation is calmly acknowledged littleness. Then you have nothing to prove, to protect, or to promote. You are already at home base. Our conscious need for daily mercy is our only real boarding pass for heaven. The ego does not like that very much, but the soul fully understands.”

            That’s all that needs to said in reply to your ‘trick’ questions

          • I seem to remember that the Greek for ‘not knowing’ is ‘agnostic.’ I am not sure there is a strong historical tradition of identifying this with ‘faith’.

          • Peter: I commend a book by Francis Spufford to you called Unapologetic. I’m unapologetic about my affirmation of who Jesus was and what he did. I am, however, endlessly apologetic about what the Church has done in his name since, and continues to do.
            It’s still a mistake, Spufford writes, ‘to suppose that that it is assent to the propositions about Christianity that make you a believer. It is the feelings that are primary. I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I don’t have the feelings because I’ve assented to the ideas.’

          • Ian hasn’t said, nor inferred “solo scriptura”.
            Scripture cannot be erased or dismissed as was said elsewhere you need BOTH Jesus and Scriptue.
            What is so significant is that BOTH Jesus’ words and Scripture are being dismissed here, not just Scripture.
            It is not insignificant that the words: “Those whom God has joined together let no-one separate” appear in every marriage service and are Jesus’ words from Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ questions and the words that Jesus uses show that marriage is between a man and a woman.
            Don’t simply dismiss everyone else’s views.

        • ‘Why would it have stopped evolving when the canon of scripture was closed?’

          Because the canon of Scirpture was closed. That’s what closing the canon means!

          • Ian: I don’t think so! Closing the canon of scripture does clearly not mean closing the development of doctrine. How do you make that gigantic leap? The ecumencial councils happened rather later…..

          • I didn’t realise you took a solo scriptura approach Ian. But thanks for making that clear.

    • Andrew,

      Salvation is an act of God’s sovereign will that activates a specific kind of response described in the gospels. Paul expressed of those Jews who had rejected the gospel: ‘For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ (Rom. 10:2)

      Christ took that same position regarding the Sadduccees who disputed his teachings about the resurrection : “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’ (Matt. 22:29)

      The purpose of doctrine is clear: ‘so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Tim. 3:17) Such good works don’t save us, but they do make the grace of God discernible in our lives in much the same way as fruit makes discernible the plant species that bears it.

      So, I’m not sure why you have a problem with Christianity being based on revealed doctrine. If you consider apostolic teaching to be optional, on what basis is the authority of the Christ in the Great Commission still applicable?

      • David: I have a problem with it because I don’t think as claim it is the whole truth, that’s all. Doctrine developed and develops. When did it stop developing?

        • Andrew,

          Paul leaves room for further consonant insight by saying: ‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (1 Cor. 13:9,10)

          However, congruous revelation is very different from the perpetual skepticism regarding what was already revealed to the apostles.

          1. If ‘developing’ doctrine can undermine apostolic testimony, what authority eventually distinguishes authentic development from false teaching?

          2. Why can’t such a development dismiss apostolic testimony to Jesus’ messiahship?

          3. And if so, how is such doctrine called Christian that can jettison Jesus’ saving messiahship?

      • “Our conscious need for daily mercy is our only real boarding pass for heaven.”

        Isn’t that statement itself a doctrine? Can it be shown to be either true or false.?

        • Come on Chris, you don’t expect Andrew to be consistent do you? Here’s a man who says the creeds on a Sunday but during the week flees from any public affirmation of Jesus.

          • Nowhere am I ashamed and nowhere do I deny that Jesus is the incarnate son of God. I’d be delighted if you want to show where I do not publicly affirm the incarnation.

  3. Indeed, we are saved by repentance and a belief that Jesus Christ is who he says he is; the Son of God.

    I do hope though, that all concerned remember one very important thing. Right doctrine needs to be upheld otherwise how do we know what is a sin and what isn’t?

    You can plead any case you like in a court run by human beings. It will be a very different matter when we stand before the Judge of all things in heaven and earth. I suspect he will not ask the question ‘Did you get your doctrine right?’, but rather ask ‘Do you repent of your sin?’ In order to do that you have to take responsibility of your sin. There are many different forms of sin, none of us are immune.

  4. Puts me in mind of the pastoral epistles, where right doctrine and right living are inseparably bound.

    “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim 4:16) for example.

  5. Hi Ian, Thank you for this post. If the court ruling goes against the church, can the church appeal, if it wishes to do so? I hope so.

    • Yes, but most people think it would be unwise to do so, for two reasons.

      First, I am not sure that tribunals are empowered to enforce employment. All they can do is award compensation.

      Secondly, the rulings of an ET are not binding, and set no precedent. But if it goes to appeal, the ruling of the appeal body *is* binding and *does* set precedent.

  6. It seems to me that to draw a distinction between doctrine and relationship is rather to miss the point. Relationships are based on truth. If I thought that my wife was called Stephanie, was 43 years old and came from Wolverhampton, then I wouldn’t have a meaningful relationship with her, as none of those are true. [Of course, I might get her favourite colour of nail polish wrong, and still have a valid and meaningful relationship with her.]

    Ditto with God. If our conception of God is radically different from what God is actually like, then we’re not having a relationship with the real God; we’re having an imagined relationship with our conception of God. Relationship without doctrine is pie in the sky.

    • The point is that we have a relationship with the person and not the doctrine. It’s simply a mistake to assume that the person of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the Church are the same thing.

      • Andrew,

        ‘It’s simply a mistake to assume that the person of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the Church are the same thing.’

        But that’s not what’s being said. Instead, it’s that the apostolic doctrines of the Church are consonant with the person of Jesus Christ.

        Otherwise, you might as well be Joseph Smith, or Mary Baker-Eddy.

        • The point, David, is that doctrine has developed. That’s why we refer to distinctions like early Christian doctrine, systematic theology, etc. Scripture, tradition and reason are tools for the discernment and development of doctrine….

          • Andrew,

            Yet, despite those tools for the discernment and development of doctrine, you haven’t explained why scripture, tradition should have any credibility among Christians (alongside reason) in arbitrating the distinction between a God-wrought development and a departure from the faith.

            If you treat them as having any credibility, then they have, at least, a measure of authority: something that you assert that we should eschew.

  7. St Paul tells us that he is constantly a sinner in Romans 7:19.
    If even St Paul constantly sins and is constantly a sinner himself then it reveals what a childish question from the barrister it was to ask about sinners and sin. We are all sinners. It also reveals that the barrister was not a Christian to even understand that and relies on the head of the tribunal not being a Christian either.

    The NHS guidance requires that a chaplain follows the doctrines of the faith and we have heard Jeremy Pemberton himself admit it is not a Christian marriage. We can only hope that the NHS requirements are taken seriously by the tribunal. Hiwever, we should expect them not to be.

    The truth is we are now in an era where those who believe in Jesus’ words and Scripture interpreted (as required in the XXX1X articles) will often be dishonestly called horrible words such as homophobic or bigotted when none of it is true.

    This article sums up both the truth and the problem well:

  8. How is “right” belief decided? Appeal to a source of authority. How do we know it’s revealed truth? It claims to be, and a gained majority support centuries ago.

    Personally, I consider this abdication of reason and personal responsibility to be the harmful thing.

  9. Both the living word (Jesus incarnate) and the written word (the Bible, the Scriptures, doctrine, the apostles’ teaching) are essential to eternal life. You cannot and will not have eternal life with just one or the other.

    In John 5, Jesus confronts those who have studiously studied the scriptures thinking that eternal life is found in them. Yet, Jesus tells them they cannot see He is eternal life standing right in front of them. They had the scriptures and studied them carefully. But, because they did not know Jesus, did not have a relationship with Him, they wouldn’t have eternal life. They wouldn’t know God in the end.

    At the same time, the entirety of the gospels reveals that a relationship with the living word alone will not bring us to eternal life (that probably did not come out correctly, but I hope you will see what I mean). The disciples were uneducated in the scriptures. They lived with Jesus for three and half years. They spent almost every waking minute with Him. Jesus constantly told them what He was doing, particularly that He was going to die on the cross. But, the disciples didn’t truly understand what He was saying. They had the living word but not the written word. They were equally as lost as those who the written word but not the living word.

    But, after Jesus was resurrected, He came to the disciples and showed them where He was in the Scriptures. He showed them how the Scriptures from Moses through the prophets testified of Him. They weren’t just narrative history, a bunch of nice stories, but a testimony of Christ, a revelation of the living word, a revelation of God. When the living word was put together with the written word then the disciples’ hearts burned within them. Then they knew the Truth. Then they turned the world upside down through the power of Christ, the Holy Spirit, that was dwelling in them.

    You can try to live with just the living word if you want, but you will fall into feelings and emotionalism without a foundation that comes from the full assurance of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding on which your faith can be built. You can live on just the written word if you want, but your life a dead intellectualism, a mental assent to an idea, faith without works.

    Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Those words are contained in the Scriptures and are affirmed by the incarnate word in whom God has said He is pleased with and we should listen to.

  10. Canon Andrew,

    If I understand you correctly you believe that doctrine is necessary but it should be allowed to evolve.

    Could you explain for us by what authority you think doctrine can be changed? At what point do you think it becomes unrecognisably christian?.

    In your view, is the authority to evolve doctrine personal or corporate? Does the Synod decide doctrine or do we each individually do so?

    Could you give an example?

    • Great questions Chris.
      The authority is in the Church, not personal. Two examples are clearly the trinity and the Eucharist. Neither of these doctrines are taken literally from the scriptures and were the subject of discussion over several centuries.
      Then the reformation itself was clearly a movement to develop doctrine.
      Different approaches to baptism and confirmation are also an example of how churches can develop doctrine.

  11. The most important part for me is that true doctrine is not a set of (intellectual) propositions to assent to, but the being, character and identity of the church and of each person as a living member of the church.

  12. Isn’t part of what’s going on in this thread a confusion between ‘development’ in the sense of ‘changing’ development in the sense of ‘clarification’? So, my understanding of the classic Anglican position (which, in this case, does actually exist!) is that the conciliar doctrines of the person of Christ and the Trinity add nothing new to what is in Scripture, but represent a clarifying development of what is actually there in Scripture. In other words, St. Paul and St. John would – after taking some time to digest the new language and conceptuality -recognise their own teaching in the conciliar affirmations.

    My view is that revisionists (not a ‘boo’ word, btw) will find it hard to show that the approval of same-sex relations is a ‘clarification’ of what is in Scripture. It is, to my mind, an instance where ‘development’ means change of substance. However (and I know Ian takes a different view on this) this is no more so, and no more unacceptably so, than in the parallel case of the nature of women and their authority in the church.

    How do we tell what kind of development as change is OK, and what is not? By the standards of the Creeds, in which the essentials of Christian faith were recognised. Show me a development that contravenes these (e.g. a belief which sets Jesus on the same level as Buddha and Mohammed as a great spiritual teacher. or the denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ) and I’ll show you something that needs to be rejected vigorously. But on the question of sexual ethics? That cannot be a first-order issue, and therefore is open to the kind of debates we have had on this thread before without the breaking of communion.

    For what it’s worth, despite being (a little hesitantly) in support of same-sex marriage, I still think it is a bit rich for a priest at this stage of the church’s discussions to enter one and still expect to retain his license.

  13. This is plainly now a matter of legitimate dissent.
    Just as those in these iles who hold woman may not be bishops are seen as legitimately dissenting from the accepted doctrine, so those who dissent from the doctrine that marriage is only between a man and woman are expressing a legitimate view.

    Since Welby invited bishops to express their different views in the run up to the Equal Marriage debate and initiated the facilitated conversations it must be seen as legitimate to hold a view that agrees with that expressed by the bishop of Salisbury and others.

    In this way the bishop here is only reflecting what is now the case, there is no harm in such dissent.

    • For anyone who doesn’t hold to very specific beliefs about the Bible, sexuality has always been a matter of legit disagreement; for those who do, it isn’t, but if they want to stay in a mixed church, they can’t reasonably expect their beliefs to hold sway on all.

  14. Vice versa James

    Those who hold this innovative view of marriage “can’t reasonably expect their beliefs to hold sway” when they have no reasonable evidence to support their position even in Jesus’ own words.

    • Clive, right now, it’s not even a question of liberal beliefs holding sway: if the Church of England’s bishops proposed, say, to leave the marriage canon as-is, but allowed individual clergy freedom to contract civil same-sex marriages, and to be intimate with their spouses, a majority may well support the compromise.

        • I can’t comment on ‘liberals’ in general because I don’t know enough about it, but I do get the impression that some ‘liberals’ can tolerate anything except for people who don’t agree with them about everything!

          • Same as anyone else, then, Christine!

            Clive, which “liberal views” are being “seriously forced upon everyone,” and by whom? To give a recent example, in its discussions on equal marriage, the Scottish Episcopal Church is going out it’s way to include dissenters: its rectors will be free not to officiate at same-sex weddings, and marriage isn’t being explicitly defined as a covenant between two persons.

          • James,

            The Scottish Episcopal Church is the exception. How is TEC doing in the magnanimity stakes?

            How about the Coalition government’s sham ‘how not whether’ consultation on same-sex marriage? or it’s reneged promise not to consider same-sex religious marriage?

            How about the judicial activism is the U.S. overriding voting majorities against re-defining marriage in various states?

            How about the Mozilla CEO having to step down for contributing to the Propostion 8 campaign against re-defining marriage?

            How about American florists bring compelled to supply celebratory flower arrangements for gay weddings?

            How about Transport for London banning the Core Issues Trust slogan (‘Not gay, ex-gay, post-gay? Get over it!’), whereas a judge in Northern Ireland penalises a bakery for not sloganning a cake with ‘Support Gay Marriage’?

            And the rationale in the latter case was very clear. Same-sex marriage is so inextricably linked to the protected characteristic of sexual orientation that to decline to slogan a cake with support for gay marriage is to discriminate directly against the homosexual orientation protected characteristic.

            In contrast, the Core Issues Trust slogan, however sincere their belief, is not a manifestation of their religion, and therefore not protected.

            The dice is legally loaded in favour same-sex marriage supporters and you know it.

            Oh, but simply trundling over opposition while loudly repeating the mantra ‘this is a justice issue’ provides political cover for a multitude of sins, doesn’t it?

          • PS: Almost forgot about the closure of Catholic adoption agencies and the elderly couple from Derby, who were banned from fostering for saying: ‘We are prepared to love and accept any child. All we were not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing.”

            The law is skewed to ensure that disagreement with liberal orthodoxy falls short of what is judicially considered a manifestation of belief, while even tacitness as a sign of conservative disagreement is deemed to be direct discrimination. And how dare these mere mortals hinder the everlasting juggernaut of the progressive liberal agenda?

          • PPS: and finally let’s not forget how even bible quotation in public has been skewed by the police as ‘hate speech’ because an LGBT hearer asked a question about the preacher’s understanding of the bible perspective on homosexuality, but felt their protected characteristic to be demeaned and insulted by the answer.

            Remarkable forbearance, indeed!

          • David, wow, that’s verging on a Gish Gallop! 😉

            Businesses exist to provide goods and services, not express opinions, so as their owners have alternative outlets for that, non-discrimination should take precedence.

            I believe in free speech, as does Peter Tatchell, who campaigned, successfully, alongside Christians and secularists to modify England’s public order laws. I disagree with banning the Core Issues ad, but equal marriage is irrelevant to that.

            As for TEC, no congregation or rector has been forced out for taking a traditional line: just the opposite, they chose to leave, and tried to walk off with church property in the process.

          • James,

            Perhaps…but your own rant over the ‘liberal perma-frown’ lacked your usual calm and reasoned tone, leaving little room for debate. There’s a place for declamatory expression.

            To your points: ‘Businesses exist to provide goods and services, not express opinions’

            Good. So, the Mozilla CEO’s personal donation to the Proposition 8 cause should not have endangered his job.

            Of course, Brendan Eich stepped down, just as dissenting TEC congregations ‘chose’ to leave. That’s just so much ‘spin’ about the resultant actions and not the political pressures, events and triggers that led to it.

            I can only hope that you’re not suggesting that his personal donation vicariously expressed Mozilla’s opinion and made his position untenable? I mean, we could debate the free speech implications of that.

            Great to hear your support for non-discrimination, but your elision of the legally endorsed link between same-sex marriage and homosexuality is breath-taking.

            You say: ‘I disagree with banning the Core Issues ad, but equal marriage is irrelevant to that.’

            How can banning the ad be irrelevant to equal marriage when a British judge has just declared that same-sex marriage is *indissociable* from the protected characteristic homosexuality (that the Core Issues ad addresses)?

            While your disagreement with TfL’s decision may be mildly heartening, it really doesn’t stem the tide of judicial activism. As Bogart might say, it doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in the real world.

  15. One suspects that the majority already believe marriage should not be withheld, Ireland gives us a useful guide, and so there is a reasonable expectation that the Church will do for equal marriage what it has done for women in Holy Orders. Probably this inclusion will be incremental, but again one suspects it will not take the same time as the journey women endured from diaconate to episcopate and the ability to dissent will be open so creating another group not entirely overlapping those who cannot accept women as priests and bishops.
    Gay people have a reasonable expectation of full inclusion in the next few years, many would be happy to see the protection of those who dissent from that eventuality.
    Most people already see marriage will be a blessing and a source of grace both to the couple and to the family of the Church. If there should be any future discipline with regards the clergy it should be the same, for couples, marriage is a requirement.

  16. Redefinition of marriage should not be forced upon everyone else in such an intolerant way.

    It is clear that it really isn’t gay people joining marriage as gay people are using the politics to destroy marriage for others.
    “Inclusion” is a pretence.

    • I can understand that some people might think that two people of the same sex being married isn’t a so-called ‘real’ marriage and is some sort of charade created by civil law. I, myself, have an acquaintance who has four of her five previous husbands still living and is now on her sixth – one could question quite how she manages to say the marriage vows with any real intention at her frequent weddings. That’s her business. But in what possible way does it ‘destroy marriage for others’? You may believe that my marriage deserves scare quotes or is in some other way ridiculous or unwholesome – fine, ignore it then. What actual detriment has it caused to *your* marriage or the marriages of other Christians? I genuinely don’t get it.

      • Laurence,

        Your question: ‘what detriment has your marriage caused to my marriage or those of other Christians’ is a legitimate one?’ And If the effect of marriage recognition could be restricted to the couple alone, I’d be inclined to agree with its rhetorical answer.

        The fact is that the effect of marriage is far-reaching. It establishes you and Jeremy as establishes a couple as the legally recognised co-founders of a family unit with legally protected autonomy from external interference.

        So, the ultimate impact of same-sex marriage is that every effect of marriage will now be applied in a gender-neutral fashion. In article 12 of its policy, the International Lesbian and Gay Association wants co-parenthood to be defined as: ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth *regardless of genetic connection.* [emphasis mine]

        That re-definition of presumption of paternity will have huge implications for straight marriages and unwed fathers.

        The effect is seen in this judgement from the California Court of Appeal: ‘Applying the Uniform Parentage Act in a gender neutral fashion, the juvenile court concluded Irene qualified as presumed mother under both section 7611, subdivision (a), due to the marital presumption, and subdivision (d), because she had received M.C. into her home and openly held her out as her natural child.’ (In Re: M.C.) The natural father’s assertion of paternity was rejected .

        Hopefully, you can see how legitimising same-sex marriage equivalence promotes a gender-neutral interpretation of the marital presumption of parenthood and that it undermines the natural parenthood of anyone external to the marriage.

        If the mere parental intention of an unrelated spouse can be legitimised through same-sex marriage to override the child’s genetic connection in every case, the logical extrapolation of that policy undermines natural paternity.

        Centuries of marriage policy have never sought that for straight couples.

        • More important is the spiritual effect. Paul asks the Corinthians, “Dont’t know that you are members of one another?” In reference to illicit sexual activity. Not only are we in Christ but He in its. Therefore we are all in each other to some extent. Therefore, what you do most certainly effects all other believers. Believers suffer and rejoice with each other.

      • Dear Laurence,

        you only have to look at many cases brought specifically by gay people to enforce their views on others to realise that this isn’t inclusiveness at all and nor is it tolerance at all.

        • On the contrary, what is remarkable is how few cases have been brought by gay people pressing for their liberty while many of the more well known were prosecuted by those who wanted to continue discriminating against gay people.
          In general what has been demonstrated is the generosity of spirit that accompanied the changes in the law..

          • Couldn’t agree more, Martin: given the Church of England’s decades of openly discriminatory behavior, it’s remarkable that this is (to my knowledge) the first lawsuit by a minister.

          • We have had Jesus’ own words being rejected.

            We have had Scripture being rejected.

            Out of “Scripture, tradition and reason” some want to dispose of BOTH Scripture and tradition,
            …. so let’s see … that only leaves “reason” and the case can’t even be made on “reason” without destroying parenthood … and it is bizarrely described as “generosity of spirit”.


            I even linked to an article showing that understanding that every one of us is sinners and being guided by a loving hand that tells us the truth and has a genuine set of principles and doesn’t simply tell us its OK to anything we want has true value to everybody, including gay people.

  17. In article 12 of its policy, the International Lesbian and Gay Association wants co-parenthood to be defined as: ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth *regardless of genetic connection.* [emphasis mine]

    I am not a member of the IL&GA and don’t agree with the intention of Article 12 of its policy, as quoted above (and I notice that the IL&GA ‘wants’ it to be the case, not that it *is* the case at present). Insofar as you believe that the genetic/biological ‘other’ parent should have rights too, if they want them. I agree with you. I am not a legislator and don’t know how that would be achieved in law, but, like you, it would be my desire that it was.

    For me,I would not wish the mother of my children to be considered to be anything other than their mother. My husband’s relationship to them is ‘step-father’ – no more, no less. And as the ‘children’ in my case are all adults, they can disregard that relationship if they wish (not that they do).

    • Laurence,

      You noticed that ILGA wants it to be the case. I should explain that it is already the case in several states that support same-sex marriage, including the Netherlands, the U.S., Canada, Australia. The Council of Europe is giving serious consideration to the ILGA’s proposal for a completely gender-neutral marriage policy. Since your children were not born while married to Jeremy, the marital presumption cannot affect them.

      Adoption, medically assisted sperm/egg donation and surrogacy (whether for a heterosexual or same-sex couple) all require the consent of the natural parent external to the marriage (e.g. by donor forms). Any presumption of parenthood arising from these arrangements involves (and therefore does not override) that natural parent’s consent.

      Adoption itself is subsidiary to natural parenthood. It is only possible where the latter has been surrendered or defaulted upon. There is no conflict between the presumption of paternity and adoption.

      Nevertheless, the marital presumption still prevails for spouses who might (intentionally or otherwise) involve another person in having children without recourse to medical assistance.

      The difference is while the presumption remains rebuttable by proof of natural parenthood, it doesnot frustrate the family intentions of most heterosexual couples (since most are the children’s natural parents anyway).

      The reason for ILGA seeking to make the presumption gender-neutral and conclusive is that the presumption’s rebuttal would threaten the family intentions of most same-sex coupes who do not resort to medical assistance or adoption in trying to have a child.

  18. PS. I’m no ethicist, but surely the difficulties you foresee with ‘gay marriage’ and any resultant offspring also arise with heterosexual couples who marry and then have children via donated eggs and/or sperm or via surrogacy? There’s also a danger, in adopting your view, that families with adopted children are also seen as somehow ‘falling short’, or perhaps I have misunderstood your point.

  19. It’s Father’s day here in the UK.

    In the UK we have arrived at the really odd position that only the Church is left supporting Fathers, the family that includes them, and children and yet the Church is now facing heavy persecution.

    We had the hymn “How deep the Father’s love” at Church this morning.

    For God so loved the world the He gave His only son.

    Listening to others in society love iis spoken about in such a completely childish and immature way. The love spoken about in the hymn is real love in which God so loves the world that he allows His son to die for it. It is the real love that when Jesus talks to the woman at the well that He tells her the truth and risks hurting her because love matters and it is real love. It is NOT the shallow of kind of love that demands we are allowed to do whatever we want. To condone that isn’t to love someone. If even St Paul is a sinner and constantly sins (Romans 7:19) then real love is not hiding the sin but telling us what we need to be saved.

    There is an organisations in the UK “Fathers for Justice” because even the judiciary here has sown its bias. I am not a member of it all but the fact that it even exists shows that we cannot even trust the judiciary to be impartial any more.

    Only the Church is left supporting Fathers, the family that includes them, and children and yet the Church is now facing heavy persecution.

  20. Clive,

    “It’s Father’s day here in the UK”

    I know – and I was delighted that my children gave me such lovely cards..

    “In the UK we have arrived at the really odd position that only the Church is left supporting Fathers, the family that includes them, and children.”

    I’m not a member of any church/Church and I support fathers, the family that includes them and children

  21. Ian,

    Your post begins with the question “Is wrong doctrine harmful?” I believe the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”.

    Not being a theologian, I have found the theologyidiot blog a useful place to understand what doctrine and orthodoxy actually are.

    The way I see it, all doctrine must be able to stand up to the scrutiny of our God inspired scripture. There are some areas where differing positions on a given doctrine could both be considered orthodox – infant baptism v adult baptism being an example.

    However we must be careful not to shoehorn scripture to suit our own agendas, or the agenda of the society in which we live. There are many things which are legal in our country, which are not compatible with good Christian living, e.g. pornography. There will come a time when I will be judged against God’s standards, rather than the world’s standards. As a fallen human, I will be found guilty as charged, but for the Grace of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus (God incarnate). I, like the rest of us am a sinner, my sin being not better or worse than anyone else’s. But I think we all need to ‘try, try, try again’ to live in a manner which pleases God. Doctrine is not God, not is it a relationship with Jesus; but living by orthodox doctrine is a way to know God better and deepen our (already established) relationship with Jesus.


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